Friday, February 18, 2011

Kangaroo Care: Why it's so Important

NICU Can be the Four Most Terrifying Letters

We were ecstatic when we found out we were finally pregnant. After two years of trying to conceive I had been starting to go to the doctor to have fertility tests done. Normally after six months they say you should get checked but it didn't really start to worry me until about a year and a half later. The funny thing is I never really got around to the advanced rounds of testing. Almost like magic on our 2 year Anniversary we found out we were expecting. I can still remember the almost dreamlike state I was in. I couldn't believe it had finally happened. At this point you don't worry about all the things that can go wrong. And while I know my NICU experience wasn't as long and as devastating as many others, those five days and the week following were scary enough for any first time mom.

My pregnancy went perfectly until 13 weeks when I began to have problems. Spotting had me rushing to the OBGYN (when it's your first baby you'll jump and go over the littlest things), however upon examination they said there was no active bleeding but that clearly there had been some earlier. Speculation was it was my body expelling what had probably never been a viable embryo, something that never would have popped up on the ultrasound, but that my other child was doing very well. Basically I had lost a twin.

After this I started having contractions and cramping that were severe every month when I should have been having my period. I never spotted again but it was enough for me to raise concerns. The doctors I went to told me not to worry about it even though research said I was 13-20% more likely to have a pre-term baby because of these events. At 20 weeks I was diagnosed with mild placenta previa that managed to resolve it's self by my 26 week check up that would have placed me on bed rest. Still I continued to have signs of preterm labor. At 34 weeks my labor had to be stopped with three shots and a prescription for Terbutaline. At the end of 35 weeks I was having every adverse side effect of the drug and was taken off of it. Needless to say I was told it'd be less than a week before I'd be having my child and I knew it was still too early.

At 36 weeks and 3 days my son demanded it was time to come into the world. Children born after 34 weeks but before 37 are considered late preterm. They often look like healthy full term babies but can be very deceiving and be very sick. My son was born with a nuchal cord, respiratory distress, an insanely high Bilirubin count, and suspected abdominal sepsis. They placed him on my chest for only a moment before rushing him down to NICU. I barely had time to say hello. Four hours later I was finally wheeled down to see my child. A scalp IV, cords everywhere, and nasal cannula terrified me but the fact that he wasn't on a ventilator was a blessing. However his vitals still weren't that great. I was only able to spend 15 minutes with him before they wheeled me away to my room.

The next time I saw him he was in an incubator. No one had bothered to call my room to inform me of the change in his condition and it was clear to the first nurse who saw me staring at my baby through the plexi with a terrified look on my face. She was able to explain that it was for photo-therapy and that it was nothing to be too worried about but honestly you can sometimes only think the worse when you're caught off guard like that. It was this visit that I noticed something amazing. When I took my child out of the incubator to hold him after a few moments I happened to look at his vitals. They had gone up. I'd only heard of Kangaroo Care in passing before this and seeing it actually working before my eyes was the most amazing thing on the face of the planet.

Every opportunity I had after that I spent with my baby in my arms. I was loathe to hand him over to anyone else but did so reluctantly when requested. My husband having noticed the difference also took to holding our son without his shirt on. Despite my son's difficulties, his fighting spirit pulled him through faster than all of the NICU Doctors and Nurses had expected. After the first two days he stopped crying like a NICU patient and really showed off the set of lungs he'd been given. The nurses constantly joked that he certainly didn't SOUND like a NICU baby. They also said he was one of their fastest recovering patients to date. When we brought him home his Bilirubin counts were still on the high side but with plenty of sun and a LOT of cuddle time in the Moby Wrap he recovered perfectly within the week.

Because of how much baby wearing and Kangaroo Care have helped my child advance from the premie he was to the healthy ten month old he is today I recommend it to anyone I can. Baby wearing and skin to skin Kangaroo Care has been a blessing to my little family and I'm not sure we would be where we are today without it.

Spending some quality time with Daddy

Mr. Happy Go Lucky at Ten Months!

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