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My Biggest Realization After Having A Preemie Baby? Do Not Overestimate Your Body
PHOTO BY courtesy of Aileen D. Uy
  • I knew something was wrong when I saw blood in my urine 27 weeks into my pregnancy. I felt contractions but assumed it was only Braxton Hicks. I asked to be brought to the nearest hospital, and the resident ob-gyn there said I was already 4 cm dilated. I kept telling her that it can’t be possible, so I called my ob-gyn, who told me to go straight to the delivery wing of St. Luke’s in Quezon City.  When we arrived, I was already 5 cm dilated and confined in the High-Risk Pregnancy Unit of the hospital. 

    My baby is 1.1 kilos

    My ob-gyn had to slow down my contractions and my cervix from dilating for the next three days. I was also given several medications to help the baby’s lungs to mature faster. On the third day, I was almost fully dilated, and my ob-gyn decided that I will deliver in a few hours. My sister, also a pediatrician, explained to me how small and underdevelop my baby will be, but everyone assured me that there are experts who will help take care of my baby.

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    On the afternoon of July 25th, I gave birth to Lucas by natural delivery. He was only 1.1 kilos.
    We had to prepare ourselves for an extended stay at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It was physically exhausting and emotionally draining. Every day, my husband and I would wake up early to be at the NICU by 7 am. We took turns giving Lucas Kangaroo Mother Care or KMC (in my husband’s case, KFC), a skin-to-skin contact method proven to help preemie babies develop faster.  When he carried Lucas, I would pump to make sure we had enough supply of breast milk.

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    For the first four weeks, I was not allowed to do direct latching since the ability to suck and swallow in babies develop at 32-33 weeks. Somehow, I felt guilty and disconnected since I was providing milk for my baby, who I can’t directly nurse.

    Lucas was fed through a fine, straw-like hose that goes directly to his stomach called OGT/NGT (Orogastric/ Nasogastric and Gastrostomy Tube feeding).
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Aileen D. Uy
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    Caring for Lucas

    The most heartbreaking part for me was the number of times Lucas had to be inserted with needles for IV and antibiotics to prevent him from having infections and pneumonia. His eyes were also regularly checked for Retinopathy of Prematurity, a potentially blinding disease caused by abnormal development of retinal blood vessels in premature infants. To do this, the ophthalmologist had to place a wire device to ‘open’ Lucas’ eyes wide enough to view the veins of his retina. It was a one-minute per eye procedure that felt like forever. 

    On his 35th week, Lucas reached the 2-kilo mark weight requirement and was able to manage his body temperature. At 36 weeks, we were given the ‘go’ signal to go home, one month short of the recommended stay of the doctor. What made bringing Lucas home more special was it happened on my birthday. This, by far, was my best birthday gift!

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    Eventually, all procedures for his ears, eyes, and brain were cleared, and we were assured that there will be no permanent effect on his growth and development.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Aileen D. Uy
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    Advice to preemie moms and dads

    My biggest realization in all these? Do not overestimate your body. I was (and still am) working full time during my pregnancy and probably pushed myself too much. But rather than over-analyze what I might have done wrong, I tried to focus my energy on making my baby healthier and stronger.

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    Lucas is now 2 years and 4 months and 11.5 kilos. He’s still smaller compared to toddlers his age, but the gap between his weight and height compared to the ideal is decreasing. He is catching up. 

    He loves biking, reading books, and singing. Every day, he “reads” his book of transportation, which he memorized already. He can identify all sorts of transportation and construction equipment. He likes playing with his dump truck, mobile crane, excavator, and cement mixer.

    To preemie mommies going through a tough time, know that God made your body stronger so you can produce more breast milk to boost your baby’s growth. God made your mind wiser so you can learn and understand the challenges of prematurity and convert them to a lifetime of learnings. God made you a preemie mommy because He knows your heart is big enough that it can give so much love and care for a tiny baby.

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    For preemie dads, maintain emotional stability so you can support your wife. If both mother and father will cry and crumble for every mishap, progress will be minimal. Keep calm, and remain positive.

    Aileen D. Uy, 32, is a visual merchandising manager and is married to Bryan. Lucas is their first child.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Aileen D. Uy
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