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Michael - born at 31 weeks

Pregnancy and Birth | In the NICU | My first year |
My second year | My third year | My fourth year

Pregnancy and Birth

I had a basically uneventful pregnancy. Sure, I was morning sick all day long, and had gained only 2 kg by 31 weeks, but I had managed an overseas trip, and was looking forward to finishing up at work - I planned a long 7 weeks off between my last day there and when the baby was due so the abrupt ending to my pregnancy was quite a shock.

I was lying in bed one morning, wondering if I would get back to sleep before the alarm went off. I had just a week and a half left at work before my long break (with so much planned to do!). I had woken at about 5 am to go to the toilet and had been tossing and turning ever since. Suddenly, there was "water" everywhere. I looked at the clock (just something I do), 6:13am, and my life was about to change forever.

I woke my husband, Anthony, and told him cryptically that "something just happened that really isn't supposed to just yet". My waters had broken and I didn't have my bags packed ("Have your bags packed by 30 weeks" was what they had been telling us at ante natal classes - I hadn't got around to it yet). I didn't have the phone number of the hospital near the phone either. Anthony found it for me ("Get me a towel first, please"), and I rang them.

"Hi, I am 31 weeks pregnant with my first baby, and my waters just broke"
   "Are you sure?"
   "Is there a lot of water, or just a bit"
"A lot"
   "You need to come in, but we won't be able to keep you here, we don't take babies that early. You will be sent somewhere else, but just come in here and we'll see. Are you having any contractions?"
"I don't think so, I feel a bit crampy though, a bit like period pain"
   "Well, come in"
"I don't have my bags packed"
   "Just bring things for yourself, you won't need anything for the baby"

Then I rang Mum - "Ring me when you go to the hospital, no matter what time it is" - she wasn't expecting this call for another couple of months though. "It's a bit early" she said.

I grabbed a few things (forgot the dressing gown, something I really regretted the next day), and we left.

I don't really remember the drive there, I was shaky and scared. I didn't know what was going to happen.

When we arrived they asked me how I was: "damp" was the reply. I got on the bed and they monitored the baby, and me and asked endless questions. They called my doctor, and an ambulance.

The ambulance officers were Mick and Mike (rather funny when if we were to have a boy we would call him Michael), and they were very nice. They asked if anything unusual had happened that day. Apart from the obvious, I hadn't vomited! They were impressed that this was unusual. We went to the next hospital, with Anthony following in the car behind the ambulance.

Whereas the previous hospital was quite keen to see me on my way, fearing I would give birth at any minute, the Level 3 was content to just observe me and "We will send you over to the ward shortly and then monitor you daily for three days, and then twice weekly" or something along those lines, all I could think was "How long am I going to be here?!".

The doctor came and spoke to us, it was about 1pm by now, he was with us for half an hour or so, although I don't remember a lot of the conversation, just things along the lines of the baby might need help breathing, and will probably be in hospital for six weeks or so. He left saying that he thought I would deliver that day. I had received a steroid shot at the first hospital, to help the baby's lungs develop.

Shortly after the doctor left, the baby came. It was a very quick labour "I thought you would deliver today, but I didn't think I should just stay an extra few minutes".

Michael was born at 31 weeks gestation weighing 1278g (2lbs 13oz) and was 43.3cm long. He arrived at 1:55pm, about 8 hours after my waters broke. No attempt was made to stop the labour or birth. Michael stayed in hospital for 7 weeks before we got to take him home, and has been fairly healthy since. He does have some ongoing issues related to his prematurity. It has certainly changed me, and my life.

In the NICU

(as told by Michael's dad)

Good Evening!

Here's an update on the biggest ( smallest? ) thing in our lives at the moment:

Michael Anthony was born at 1:55PM on Wednesday 25th September 1996 weighing in at 1278g (2lb 13oz).
We only got a brief look at him, before he was rushed off to intensive care in the Newborn Services department, where he has been ever since.
He was a little depressing to look at immediately, owing to the mass of tubes and wires attached to his tiny body ( he didn't look at all comfortable ).
At it's worst, he had:
* A drip in his right hand.
* A splint on his right arm to stop him knocking the drip around.
* A blood line in his left hand ( for blood test, etc ).
They put this in because his heels were so badly battered from the early blood tests...
* A splint on his left arm to stop him knocking the blood line around.
* A morphine drip in his left foot ( to calm him down - he was very active ).
* A splint on his left leg to stop him knocking the drip around.
* An infra-Red sensor taped under his right foot.
* A bootie on that foot ( with protruding cable ) to stop him knocking his foot/leg too badly against the splint on the other leg.
* Three small electrodes on his chest, with trailing wires.
* One larger sensor taped to his chest, with trailing cable.
* A ventilator tube down one nostril into his lungs to help him breathe.
This tube was the size of his nostril!
* A smaller feeding tube in the other nostril down into his stomach.
His movement was understandably restricted! The ventilator tube was attached to four larger tubes by a sizeable ( compared to him ) plastic junction box just in front of his face, and his splints were often fastened to the bedding with large safety pins to stop him banging himself with his own splints.
He couldn't even cry, because the ventilator tube into his lungs prevented any sound being produced by his voice box. He'd try to ( the face would screw up, the arms would bunch up, the mouth would open appropriately ) but... no sound... so he'd always give up after a couple of seconds.
He was so sad to watch...

But he's so much better now.
The morphine drip is gone ( as is the splint on that leg ).
The ventilator and its tubes are gone.
The blood line is gone ( as is the splint on that arm ).
The larger sensor on his chest is gone.
They tell us that the drip will probably be removed ( along with its splint ) either today or tomorrow...
The small feeding tube doesn't restrict or bother him.
He was weighed yesterday at 1677g - a 400g increase ( 1/3 weight increase in a week! ).
He has graduated out of the open crib he was in initially to an isolette ( the "humidicrib" ), and he has been declassified "intensive care", and reclassified as "special care". All in all, he's coming along in leaps and bounds.

Initially, they fed him 2ml of milk each 2 hours, and much of it came back. Then he went up to 4ml each 2 hours, with the same result.
Then one of the nurses mixed up reading the charts, and accidentally gave him the dosage listed for the baby in the crib next to him... 14ml!
It all stayed down! And he's now tolerating the milk much better!
He's now up to 12ml every 2 hours, and they are increasing that dose by 2ml every 6 hours.

We've had 3 opportunities to cuddle him so far ( this is a major drama, to get him out of the crib, with all the tubes and wires, wrapped up warmly enough, and far enough from the crib that we have room to hold him! ). We also got to help bath him yesterday; and he loved the bath! ( but not the towelling dry afterwards... ).

He's very small, and very cute. He pulls some marvellous faces, including a beautiful smile
( though the nurses tell us that they don't smile yet at that age! It looks absolutely unmistakeable to me! ).
He's also very quiet. He has never really cried ( or even grizzled ), with the exception of when some major handling is happening.
The worst time is always when one of the tubes is being put into his lungs or stomach ( through his nose ) - particularly the ventilator tube - but then I'd hate that too... Even then, he settles down quietly again very quickly. Aside from this, he has rarely even grizzled a little bit.

He is expected to be transferred back to the hospital he was supposed to be born in in a couple of weeks, for "fattening up" (that's what the nurses call it!).
He should be home in about 5 weeks from now.

Kirsten is home now, and getting in to the routine of daily trips into the hospital to see him ( and deliver his milk! ). She's really good ( a quick "recovery", undoubtedly due to the speed of the delivery, and how small Michael was! ), but we're both feeling a little strange/sad owing to not having any baby around... We can't wait for him to be allowed home.

My First Year

(told by Michael himself!)

Michael age one

As you can see, I have grown heaps during the year, and I am a big boy now. I am able to crawl and can pull myself up to standing. I am just beginning to work out how to move my feet and cruise round the furniture - I'll have this walking thing worked out soon.

I have been fairly healthy during the year, I have had quite a few colds and nasty coughs, but nothing too serious. My reflux has gone and I no longer vomit regularly (Mummy and Daddy are very pleased!). A cardiologist listened to my heart murmur and looked at pictures of my heart and declared everything to be just fine. I have seen a physiotherapist a few times - she helped me learn to sit and to get from sitting to crawling without having to fall over first!

Mummy says I eat quite well, just not enough. I am allergic to dairy foods so I can't have any of them, but I like most other things. I just fill up fast, and crawling all over the house burns up a lot of energy. I weigh over 8kg now (8.23kg at 12 months actual, 8.39kg at 12 months corrected), so I have increased by more than 7kg since I was born. I can feed myself finger foods, but not with a spoon. I can drink with a straw, or out of a cup, although Mummy gets cross if I turn the cup upside down and I get all wet.

My Second Year

(told by Michael)

I have been very busy this past year. About a month after my first birthday, I finally worked out how to wave goodbye! But I only did it for a few weeks and then I wouldn't do it any more. Mummy was very relieved when I started waving again, just before my second birthday. I started having baths in the big bath early in November - it is so much fun, I get to wallow around and play (I couldn't sit up very well before then which is why I was still in the baby bath). I worked out the cruising around the furniture thing in December, everyone thought I was so clever (I could have done it sooner, I just didn't want to!).

I spent a long afternoon in hospital in February, with a chest infection and a high temperature but I got better and was allowed home. In April I started WALKING!!! It was so much fun. I love being able to get around (I can run now, too). I had my first haircut in May (long overdue, by my standards!).

In June I got to go in an AEROPLANE all the way to Perth! It was great fun, I thought taking off and landing were funny (Mummy and Daddy seemed to think my ears might hurt, but I was too busy laughing and looking out the window to notice whether they did or not)!

I am able to feed myself now, although this does have some problems I discovered. Another child at where I get looked after gave me a cup of milk. I took a few sips, like you do, and then I couldn't breathe properly. I was taken to the doctor and then in an AMBULANCE to the hospital where they gave me some medicine to help me breathe better. Scary stuff. I had to stay there for ages and ages until they were sure I was okay, but then I was allowed to go home.

I don't seem to be able to work out this talking thing very well (lucky I can type - isn't it?).Everyone thinks its very clever that if they count up to seven I will say "eight". I can also say "bah" if I'm asked "What does a lamb say?" and I say "awah" to get people to tell me what something is and "Idi" when I do something. But that is all. Sometimes it is frustrating when nobody seems to understand what I want, but I am going to have someone help me learn what to do.

I recently worked out where all my body parts are, and can point to them if someone asks me (this seems to be a favourite game of people, and I play along, but I just don't see the point in it, I mean, my nose is always in the middle of my face, right?).

I love looking at books, and having stories read to me. Some favourites are "One day in the jungle" by Colin West, "The very hungry caterpillar" by Eric Carle, "Hand, hand, fingers, thumb" by Al Perkins, "Dr Seuss's ABC" by Dr Seuss and "But not the hippopotamus" by Sandra Boynton. Mummy and Daddy know these off by heart, and Gran and Grandpa have dreams (I think they call them nightmares) about Dr Seuss's ABC!

I weighed 10.86kg at my 2 year check up, which is kind of light and I was 88cm long, which is almost exactly average for a 2 year old, so I am doing a pretty good job of catching up. I just need to work on the talking now.

My Third Year

(told by Michael)

I have had a busy year again! In November I worked out how to ride my ride on tractor - it goes backwards AND forwards, great fun. Just before, Christmas I managed to climb up onto my rocking horse, Cloud, all by myself; and I could get off again too! I also stopped using my highchair about then, and had my last breastfeed on Boxing Day.

The middle of January: I was abandoned by my parents for a whole night. Actually it wasn't that bad, I got to stay with my Nana and Grandad and they looked after me well.

February saw my first bandaid. I fell over and my knee was all bleeding. Then, as if that wasn't enough excitement, I thought I would try the cow's milk at child care again (I took it off another child when no one was watching). I got another ambulance ride to the hospital and both Mummy and Daddy came to be with me (Happy Birthday Dad!). About a month later, another child spilt their milk on me and I had to stay at the doctor's for an hour or so to check that the swelling and redness weren't too serious. After this I decided to keep a lot further away from that cow's milk stuff.

In March, I went to stay with my cousin (Mummy and Daddy came too) and thwarted good plans at bedtime because they put me in the portacot to sleep, but I climbed out! My cousin had to sleep in it, and I got her cot!!! Soon after, Mummy and Daddy let me stop sleeping in a cot, and let me sleep in a BIG BOY BED! Now I can get up whenever I want to, instead of having to wait for someone to come and get me.

About this time, on my 2 1/2 year birthday to be exact (why don't we have parties every 6 months?), I said a two word sentence "more bubble". I had been slowly working on one word at a time, but everyone seemed to want more so I complied. It worked really well! So I started doing it all the time. And then I started making longer sentences and it was great.

Late in April, Mummy went away for a few days. It seems that I am to have a sibling! Mummy was very sick (I would never have done that to her - would I?) and she had to go to hospital. But Daddy and I managed okay. Mummy was sick for a long time (but she was only in hospital for a little while) - I was very good and let her rest a lot. I would even go around the house carrying the bucket and lean over it and say "Michael sick". Mummy thought that was funny. Daddy was away for a while in May and June, and we stayed with Nana and Grandad for a few days. I read Auntie Emma a story while we were there, Mummy was very surprised that I could remember it all (it was The very busy spider,by Eric Carle).

In May I had to spend a day at the allergists eating peanut butter. Torture. It was to check that I wasn't allergic to it, but I didn't even want to eat it. Turns out I'm not allergic, but I don't want to have it again anyway!

I was quite sick for a while in July and August with a nasty cold/cough/chest infection/ear thingy that wouldn't go away. I shared it with Mummy (she wasn't impressed) but we eventually got over it. Mummy's tummy keeps getting bigger, but I tell everyone that asks me "Where's the baby?" that it's "in Daddy's tummy" - they get to laugh, and I laugh too (what a silly question to ask me, I mean where do they think it is?), sometimes I tell them it's in Michael's tummy, just for variety.

Mummy and Daddy took me to the Zoo for my birthday. We had a good time, I loved the sprinklers -there were three orange ones, and one green one!!! The animals were good too!

So, my speech has improved a lot (I'm especially good at being a parrot!). I have a few motor planning problems - sometimes it is very difficult for me to work out how to do things, but I see some special people to help me with this stuff. Next year I won't be going to child care anymore, but I will be going to three year old kinder - it sounds fun to me.

Thanks for sharing my year with me!

My Fourth Year

(told by Michael)

Hi again! I've had another fun year! I celebrated Mummy's last day at work by having a second breakfast at child care, which they unfortunately put cow's milk on. I had another trip in the ambulance to the hospital and a few hours being observed.

On 6th December, I went to stay with Gran and Grandpa, I stayed the whole night there and the next day I saw my new baby sister, Rebekah, at the hospital. She came home with Mummy, and she is still here.

I had a great Christmas and shortly after stopped wearing nappies during the day - Mummy and Daddy were very pleased, and so was I.







In January I started going to Kinder. I wasn't very sure about it for a while, but I generally think it is great fun! Here are some photos of me on my first day:  

I have been slowly progressing with various skills during the year. I see a speech therapist and an occupational therapist regularly, and I get to do really fun things with them. I have been going to Kindergym this year too, which is sometimes good. I had to have some tests done, and even an MRI where I went to a big hospital and had a nice sleep and then I woke up and wanted to have some kiwi fruit. Everything was normal but I am waiting to have some other assessments done. One thing which made Mummy and Daddy very excited was that I will sometimes give them kisses now!

I love to look at words and numbers, I am quite good at telling the time and very good at reading things. I know lots and lots of words, and I always want people to spell words out to me.

Below is another photo of me, this time sitting in the sand - everyone was very excited when I did this as I have never liked touching sand much.




You can read about Michael starting school in the Superheroes area.

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