After the heart-pounding drama of trying to find my ‘misplaced’ child, I immediately noticed that a few other things had changed for Vaughan overnight. Someone had attached a set of sunglasses to his little face and he was sprawled out, sunning himself under a UV lamp! Ah the life of a jaundiced preemie, catching rays and Zzz’s at the same time. This is probably the most adorable thing I’d ever seen…nothing like seeing an itty-bitty baby rocking a set of itty-bitty fabric shades. Sure jaundice is serious business but it’s hard to get stressed out about it when your kiddo looks so darn cute getting the treatment!
Vaughan had also been taken out to the giraffe, oscillating isolette and put into a regular isolette! This meant that he was regulating his own breathing much better and only needed a little ‘nudge’ once in a while to keep it going. He was able to do little ‘sprints’ off the machine twice a day, and the nurses would save those for cuddles during our visits. Way to go V! You know you’re a proud parent when you feel like taking out a newspaper ad to let everyone know that your kid can breathe all on his own! Well….almost.
He still had his umbilical IV lines, but he’d now also been upgraded to an additional IV line in his foot, through which he was receiving lipids and fluids. I have no idea how they found a vein in that skinny little appendage but all that mattered was that they were starting to get him all fattened up! If he tolerated the IV well the umbilical lines could be out by the next day. V’s weight bottomed out at 2 lbs 12 oz (all infants will loose a portion of their birth weight in the days following delivery) but he had started receiving my ‘liquid gold’ through his feeding tube as well, 13 mL every 3 hrs! This was a huge step because his stomach would start to learn how to accept and digest ‘real’ food. He didn’t spit up a drop and was taking it like a champ. This amount would slowly increase, as his weight did, every two days, assuming he continued keeping it down. They had also given him his very first tiny green soother to help him develop his sucking reflex…again another step to eventually teach him to feed himself.
Preemies are a little behind their full term peers in several ways, but one big one is that they still haven’t developed the ability to breath, suck and swallow at the same time. So, when you first start trying to feed a preemie without their tube they tend to choke…a lot. The soother helps them self-soothe as well as learn the sucking motion and the nurses always made sure he had a good grip on it before they fed him through his tube… blatant conditioning so that he associated a full tummy with the sucking action!
I sat beside V for the day, met with various visiting family members, read a book, watched what was going on around the busy NICU, all between quiet times in the pump room. I got to watch the nurses feed him, change/weigh his diaper and flip him from side to side. Another little known fact about preemies is that their skulls are still very, very smushy and if they lay on one side too long it can become all flattened and misshapen, never a good look.
The diaper changing was probably a highlight for me because it was so funny. All of his diapers were weighed on a scale to make sure what was going in was coming out in the right amounts. Bowel issues (perforations or obstructions) are also a common complication for preemies, yet another thing to worry about on that very long list of ‘maybes’. Vaughan was wearing the smallest diapers I have ever seen. He literally wore a preemie size diaper…cut in half…I really wish we’d kept one for his baby box but luckily he was soon fitting into regular newborn diapers, a size he would wear until he was almost 6 months old.
The day ended on another high note when Andrew finally got to come and spend some time with his little guy. I was so excited to share the great news about all of the progress that V had made in just 24 short hours. As we left that night we saw the cutest and saddest moment of our new parenthood, Vaughan reaching his spindly arms out and snuggling his receiving blanket…looking for physical comfort as he went to town on his new green soother.