“We thought this day would be so different. Maybe we’d have a newborn. Maybe I’d be 40 weeks pregnant. Instead, we’re praising God for our 12 week and 2 day old sweet little miracle. Happy due date baby girl.”
I loved the idea of a September baby. Back on January 16, everything felt cookie cutter perfect. It was a new year, our lives were on a new track, we’d have one last summer to go wherever and do whatever we please, and by the holidays, we would have a newborn to dote on.
But by April 7, we knew we were on a different trajectory. We stopped looking forward to September and started praying for at least August, eventually even just July. And then at the end of June, Oaklee graced us with her minuscule appearance, 12 weeks and 2 days early.
By the time we got to that September due date, Oaklee had been in the hospital for 69 days and home for 18 days. She’d grown heaps since being home. She weighed about 7.5 lb – which seemed huge to us considering she started at almost a third of that weight. While we were still frantic and trying to figure out how to take care of a baby, let alone, a long term NICU graduate, Oaklee was doing great.
In these first weeks at home, I largely spent my time pumping, washing pump parts, sorting ounces of breast milk, mixing bottles, giving bottles and cleaning bottles. We were at the beginning of our bottle-to-breast journey and I was already getting burned out.
“I so badly wish I could cut pumping out of the equation. It requires extra gear and extra time, but I want so badly to nurse Oaklee, so it’s a must until we meet in the middle. I’m trying to navigate that change, but it’s hard. I want to know she’s getting well fed and not play this guessing game.”
At this point I was letting Oaklee try to nurse one time per day. Stop watch in hand, I’d time her and record how many minutes she was successfully breast feeding. She generally ranged anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Upon NICU graduation, we were advised to follow a breastfeeding sliding scale. If Oaklee nursed 0-8 minutes, we were to offer a full bottle after nursing. If she nursed 8-15 minutes, we were to offer a half bottle after nursing. If she nurses 15 or more minutes, we could consider it a full feeding and skip the bottle.
15 minute nursing sessions were rare, but when they happened, I cried. When they didn’t happen, I also cried.
When I didn’t try to nurse, Oaklee was getting precisely measured 80 ml (approximately 2.5 oz) bottles of breast milk mixed with Human Milk Fortifier (HMF) for additional calories/nutrients. We would gradually increase this number as we felt she could take more, constantly encouraging her to eat more, gain more weight and grow faster. The pressure for more, more, more was very real.
Yes, she’d been discharged, but on the condition that we’d push her hard, if not harder than the NICU had pushed her. We had to prove she could thrive to the several doctors and nurses who would be following her post NICU.
Eat. Gain. Grow.
No, she wasn’t a feeder grower anymore, she was just a baby, but one who’d been asked to do things for the past 12 weeks and 2 days that she wasn’t supposed to do until today.
Just focusing on growing was a colossal task in itself, but 12 weeks and 2 days ago the focus was merely on living and Oaklee achieved that, so…
In the stats:
Birth weight: 2lb, 12oz
Last known weight: 6lb 9oz (9.5.17)
Gestational age: 40 weeks
Actual age: 12 weeks, 2 days
Days in the hospital: 69
Days home: 18
Appointments since home: 2