A Personal Adventure Into Parenthood

Tales of a Preemie ‘Graduate’: V at Age 4 May 26, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 4:19 pm
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It’s much harder to keep up to my blogging schedule now that the nice weather has arrived! We’re spending most of our time outside and away from technology so blogging will definitely be a bit more sporadic until the fall!

This is a quick update on V and how we continue to deal with issues from his prematurity even 4.5 years down the line. This blog encompasses some newer challenges V faces related to his early arrival and I can’t wait to start sharing yet another one of his successes!

Some background if you will: V started school this past January. We made the decision to hold him out for half a year for 3 reasons.

  1. We were moving mid-Dec and we didn’t want to start him in school just to pull him out 3 months later!
  2. My health issues weren’t going to be resolved until November of last year and unfortunately I wasn’t physically capable of walking him to and from the school closest to our old house. It also wasn’t realistic to expect A’s company to adjust his schedule so he was able to duck out twice a day for a 5 minute walk!
  3. V just wasn’t ready in Sept. We may be judged by other parents for this but honestly we know our child best and he was struggling with some skills that made it apparent a few more months at home would only be to his benefit. We’ll get to those later!

Now V is typically a happy, energetic child who loves to be around people, especially children his age. We knew that socially he would have zero issues going into the classroom but we were a little worried about his health. V was born underweight and, after 4 years of waiting, I’m starting to think this mythical ‘catch-up’ growth just isn’t going to happen for him. His lungs have also taken their sweet time maturing and sadly I think I’ll be hearing the sounds of croup and bronchitis in my nightmares for years to come.

Waiting for his buddies to arrive at Spring Fling...

Waiting for his buddies to arrive at Spring Fling…

**FYI for those of you non-preemie parents; catch-up growth is often seen in smaller babies and preemies. They gain more than the typically expected grams per day as an infant that allows them to end up closer to their peers on the growth chart. V on the other hand has never cracked the 5th percentile…ever… and now that he’s quickly approaching 5 years old he isn’t even on the chart. He is now a whopping 29 lbs and 39 inches tall. About the size of your average 2 year old. Just as a comparison…our 8 month old…who hovers around the 20th percentil is almost 18 lbs and is 28 inches tall. V better savour his time as the ‘bigger’ brother!**

First Day of JK!

First Day of JK!

When V started JK in January he weighed 29.2 lbs and was healthy as a horse. By the end of his first week we were in the ER receiving steroid and epinephrine treatments for croup. In the 5 months he’s been at school he’s had croup at least 5 times, a fever of 105, strep throat, a double eye infection, 2 ear infections and too many colds to count. He actually dropped to 27 lbs (yup that’s a 10% body weight drop!) and was a whiney, snotty mess. It was miserable. Sadly with his preemie immune system, a regular cold for his classmates kept him home with a fever for days. It’s a good thing I’m on a year mat leave so it wasn’t any trouble to keep him home with me and Baby A! I’m hoping he’ll get sick less often next year but I’m not holding my breath! And I thought my days of worrying about him catching anything were over…apparently a simple cold can still land us in the local after hours!

First ER trip after starting JK!

First ER trip after starting JK!

Another issue that just came to our attention is that V has some other developmental issues that are setting him apart in class. Since he started in January we didn’t get the typical ‘meet the teacher’ night so during a classroom open house I was fortunate enough to claim a few minutes of his amazing teacher’s time. He has a great team in his classroom between his teacher and his ECE who really strive to take the time to focus on each child in his 24 student classroom. She told us that he’s excelling academically which made me so proud! He loves math and has caught up with his peers in literacy. He has a passion for reading and looks forward to library time. Behaviourally he’s on par with his peers. Some days he’s got his ‘listening ears’ on and other days they tend to get misplaced. He is popular with his classmates and hasn’t had any trouble fitting in. He likes chase games and is the first out the door to play at recess! She was really happy with his progress since joining her class.

She did have a few concerns though. She asked me, point-blank, if he’d ever had any Occupational Therapy for his gross and fine motor skills. I was a bit taken aback but not totally surprised. When we’d been seen through the Developmental Follow Up Clinic through the NICU at our local hospital they had mentioned that he was a little below the curve in his gross motor skills but never enough to require any follow-up. We had also had him checked at our family doctor around his 2nd birthday because we noticed that V continued to fall more often than not as he walked or ran. We were told it was because he was so tiny and his ligaments in his legs hadn’t stretched enough. This was making his joints loose, causing his ankles to turn in, and therefore causing him to literally trip over his own feet especially when he got tired. We figured he’d grow out of it as he got taller.

Water table fun in his classroom.

Water table fun in his classroom.

Back to his classroom! His teacher told me that their classroom OT (who comes in to work one-on-one with another child) had asked her about V when he’d happened to run by her. She noticed that his stride was uneven as he scooted past. The teacher then said they’d done a bit of a closer evaluation and noticed that he was having some troubles with a few things. The gross motor list included the fact that he isn’t able to skip properly, jump rope or catch a ball consistently. He also was struggling with his fine motor skills. He has issues with the 3 point grasp of a pencil, tracing fine shapes, and cutting along a line. She told me that it was too late in the school year to have OT work with him but it would be something she’d recommend for next year if we were okay with it. Obviously yes! Having spent time teaching myself I know that V’s teachers are going to be an invaluable and well-trained resource for him to ensure his success in school. They are able to interact with him on his level and are able to determine the difference between ‘defiance’ and ‘delay’ which was sadly overlooked in previous relationships. I also understand that early intervention is key for these type of skills and with the right exercises he’ll be back on the level of his peers in no time.

Playdoh manipulation is great for fine motor...too bad Playdoh is probably the messiest, most annoying childhood toy invented...

Playdoh manipulation is great for fine motor…too bad Playdoh is probably the messiest, most annoying childhood toy invented…

When she mentioned all of this I came home and talked with A about it. We also pulled up developmental charts to see where V fell with his gross and fine motor skills from what we’d been able to observe at home. From our end we know that V prefers to each with his hands, struggling to co-ordinate utensils. He also gets frustrated trying to pedal a bike. He can’t co-ordinate the pedals, the steering and watching where he’s going! He can’t do up or undo buttons at all and still has issues zipping up his coat or sweaters. All little things that will come with time and patience if he works on coordinating those little fingers of his!

Artwork is a fun way of practicing his fine motor skills too! An ode to Daddy.

Artwork is a fun way of practicing his fine motor skills too! An ode to Daddy.

One big thing though, and the main reason we held him out of school for a semester, was that V was late to potty train. This is apparently a huge indicator for children with gross and fine motor delays and something we never realized until now! It never bothered us too much honestly. I knew he wasn’t going to college in diapers, but we did have others try to tell us that it was a behavioural issue….and we adamantly stood up for our son. We may not have known that it was a motor skills issue, but we know our child best and were adamant he wasn’t still in diapers as a form of toddler defiance. Trust me I know my child isn’t perfect and admit that sometimes he can be whiney or stubborn, but he isn’t a ‘bad’ child which was a label that honestly was thrown in his direction.

Now V’s issues are luckily small and fixable. We’re actually waiting for an Occupational Therapy referal and evaluation to see if he’d benefit from appointments outside of school time or if it can be addressed easily next Sept. This situation did open my eyes to the fact that ‘preemie’ status doesn’t end right at 3 when the doctors assure you it does. V will likely deal with some issues related to his post-natal crash, his low birth weight and early arrival for several years but we’re blessed to have a dedicated team who loves and cares for our boy as much as we do! After his rocky start I can say for certain that we can handle anything and come out the other side smiling and stronger! Sadly there have been a few people we’ve lost along the way. It’s definitely hard to keep in touch when you’re bouncing between various specialist/doctor’s appointments or canceling playdates due to a sick child, but we are blessed to know that we have a core group of family and friends who are there for us when we dig our way out from under the pile of blankets and kleenex.


Why We Chose To Vaccinate November 12, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — maternalmusing @ 3:28 pm
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One of the most controversial topics on those Mommy ‘support’ group blogs and message boards, beside the great formula vs breast debate, is the decision on whether or not to vaccinate your child. It starts with one mommy posting that she is taking her 2 month old for their first round of immunizations and asks which pain reliever is most recommended in case of discomfort. Suddenly the wall explodes in a series of exclamation points, capital letters and links to various websites either extolling the ‘virtues’ of vaccines or condemning those who chose to ‘inflict’ that ‘unnecessary’ pain on their infants. As I’ve mentioned before, everyone can find a website backing up their particular brand of crazy so in this case you need to do your own research and find the path that you and your family are most comfortable with.

This was another topic that Andrew and I discussed while I was pregnant, what we were and were not comfortable with medically when it came to our son. Our conclusion? Vaccinations would be done as suggested, including dates, dosage and type, for those that are universally recommended for infants and children. This includes whooping cough, measles etc and are administered at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 12 months and 18 months I believe. The ones we decided to hold off on were the atypical vaccines like chicken pox and the flu, seeing as we’ve both had those illnesses and never experienced any difficulties.

V was a special case because he was a preemie. Vaccines are not pushed back to his ‘corrected’ age, they are done based on his actual birth date. Therefore V received his first round of immunizations before he was actually supposed to be born! No harm, no foul, and we never experienced even the slightest crankiness or fever from any mediation he received. He also qualified for the special RSV vaccine that children with weak immune systems, or preemies born before 36 weeks are eligible for. RSV can be present with any type of cold or respiratory infections and while it’s not dangerous for most of population it can land a preemie a long trip back to the ICU. That particular vaccine was given monthly between Nov and May of V’s first year and again we never had any issues.

The doctors were amazing each time it was time for V to receive his needles. They would have a nurse practitioner and a doctor in at the same time to make sure he got both needs simultaneously and quickly. Blink and it’s over, and when it came to V, after a big cry he’d forgotten about it less than 10 minutes later. When he got to the year mark they switched from giving the immunizations in the thigh to his upper arms so that when he was trying his best to learn to scramble around the soreness in his legs wouldn’t discourage him from using his legs to get around. Being a parent it was always hard to hear him cry but honestly it was over so quickly and A and I truly believe we made the best decision we could for our child. V has honestly cried more when the doctor has tried to look in his ears than when he’s had his shots, what a little drama king!

Checking out his IV accessory in the hospital

Checking out his IV accessory in the hospital

Why immunize you ask? Who’s even heard of small pox/whooping cough/mumps these days? Well being a biology major in university you learn about this amazing thing called herd immunity. Basically what it boils down to is that SO many kids have been vaccinated to prevent a certain illness that it almost never occurs anymore! Not that it has been irradiated but that there are so few people who are susceptible to it that it is unlikely to show in your general population. You’ll still hear about the occasional outbreak, probably somewhere were vaccines aren’t as readily available, but here in Canada? Not so much.

A lot of parents use this as a reason to not have their children vaccinated but the ONLY reason you don’t hear of it is BECAUSE so many kids have had the vaccine! This type of immunity only works if the majority of the population is protected and by choosing not to vaccinate you only antagonize the issue. Personally I’m not about to trust anyone else with the health of my child. Why trust others to vaccinate their kids and then cross my fingers for my own? To me at least, vaccination is the only way to ensure my child isn’t that human interest piece on the news who’s been hospitalized and treated for some illness people only hear of in history books.

Another reason that parents are reluctant to immunize their child is the widely publicized and widely discredited study that linked infant vaccinations to the prevalence of autism and autism spectrum disorders in our community. Many parents focus on the ‘Jenny McCarthy’ circus where parents of children affected by autism, understandably, look for a cause and decide to pin it on immunizations. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to have a child dealing with such an illness, one that really cuts them off from society and their peers, however there have been countless studies discrediting the former and I believe that research funds would be better directed elsewhere, like a treatment or cure. Of course people will believe what they want to and if they are not honestly comfortable vaccinating their children then there isn’t much you can do to sway them, nor should you, because its a very individual choice for each family.

One main reason we decided in favour of vaccination was that we would never ever forgive ourselves if V experiences any serious, preventable illness, regardless of whether he suffers lifelong complications or worse. Honestly, even as an adult I go in for my regular tetanus vaccine every time it’s needed so why would I deny my child the same right? As parents we wanted to do anything possible to protect our child from everything, including the germy environment around us! After watching him go through a long hospital stay last year there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to prevent that from happening again! After that hospital stay Andrew and I also changed our stance on the elective vaccines and V will be receiving both the flu and chicken pox vaccines this winter/spring.

Another thought on vaccinations that we’re aware of now is that IF we are ever successful in having another child and IF that child ends up being preemie then V would not be able to visit a sibling or relative in the NICU without proof of an up to date vaccination record. Hospitals don’t mess around with that stuff, so maybe we shouldn’t either!

Now some parents, especially of preemies, delay their vaccinations. I know some of our NICU companions didn’t get their immunizations until their corrected dates and some families don’t plan on vaccinating until their children move more outside the home for daycare or school. This ensures they have the protection they need when interacting with their peers but doesn’t put the vaccine in their system while they’re still so young. Personally I think this would be harder on the parents and kiddos! V doesn’t remember any of his vaccines so visits to the doctor never bother him. He loves the RN that delivered every one of his injections so not post traumatic stress for this little man. After he had his IV put in at the hospital he even thanked the nurse who did it. Always our polite kiddo!

Playing around at the Dr's office!

Playing around at the Dr’s office!

I think that parents are so vocal when they choose not to vaccinate because they’re usually called out on it or feel they need to justify their decision, but us parents who decide to go with the status quo tend to be a little more reserved. I just wanted to throw in my personal two cents and come out as a parent who, having done my own research and soul searching, sides very strongly with our doctors recommendation to vaccinate. If you respectfully disagree with my position on this topic that is your right as a parent and I would never tell anyone how they ‘should’ raise their child. I’m only sharing my view on this particular topic as a parent who tends to lean a little more on the ‘helicopter’ side when it comes to my baby’s health! What is that saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? LHSC has had more than enough of our time in the last three years and I’m not eager to give them anymore!