Looking ahead from a bit over a year ago, Thursday, June 19th would have been the day to celebrate Ander’s first birthday. Instead, Ander arrived 8 weeks early and so we celebrated his birthday on April 27th. If you have been with me for over a year, then you probably read about Ander’s early birth.
My daughter was 7 months pregnant when she developed preeclampsia. She was very ill—her blood pressure was scary high, her liver and kidneys were not working well, her vision was blurry and she had a searing headache. It was deeply disturbing to me to be completely helpless, watching my daughter suffer. I felt as though my own brain was shutting down into survival mode and all of my nursing knowledge and skills went into hiding. I was just a regular mom with the lives of my daughter and unborn grandchild at stake.
Tricia’s tummy at 31 weeks gestation.
Ander arrived 8 weeks early, safe and sound, weighing 3 pounds 14 ounces and was 16-inches long.
But, hey, that was so last year. Ya know?
Not a life-altering experience or anything like that.
Heaven forbid that near death experiences should be life-altering. (Yes, I’m being facetious.)
I haven’t written anything about Ander since May 6, 2013. Well, not in-depth. I’ve posted a few pictures of him, but that’s about it. I didn’t even write about the day that Ander came home from the hospital—May 31, 2013. He had spent a month in the NICU, learning to breathe and eat.
Ander’s first 5 minutes at home. He still needed to have supplemental oxygen when he was in the car seat or eating.
Did you know that at 32 weeks gestation (full term is 40 weeks) a baby has not yet fully developed breathing and sucking reflexes? Did you know that either one of those activities takes an enormous amount of energy for a preemie and they often can become too exhausted to do either one of those? Healthy humans don’t give eating or breathing a second thought. We breathe automatically…a lot of us do the same with eating.
This past year went by so quickly, one day blending into the next. Each day was a blessing which blurred into a single, richly colored blessing: Tricia and Ander are alive and happy and healthy.
Ander made it through the winter without getting RSV, which is the big scare every winter for babies and young children. What would amount to a cold for most of us, could develop into a life-threatening illness for at-risk babies and young children (and the elderly). Tricia was careful about the places that she took Ander and kept him away from crowds. Because of his preemie status, Ander was approved for a series of RSV shots (Synagis) during the RSV season.
The shots are outrageously expensive—averaging $8000-$16,000 for a series of 5 shots—and not all insurance plans cover these shots. I’ll spare you a diatribe on pharmaceutical companies vs. insurance companies vs. equity in health care vs. government involvement in health care.
One of the interesting things about preemies is that it is quite common for them to be a bit behind their cohorts in reaching developmental milestones such as rolling over, crawling and walking. It felt as though Ander was a baby for an unusually long time. It took him quite a while to figure out that he could be autonomous. We carried him and loved on him for a good ten months and he played the part of cute, snugly, smiley baby the whole time. It did not occur to him that he had options—like crawling.
When Ander was about 10 months old and was not demonstrating any serious intentions towards crawling, Tricia and Tim started working with him to teach his brain, muscles and nervous system how to crawl. Every day at home Tricia and Tim would try to help Ander catch on to the art of crawling. One day while Tricia, Tim and the boys were over at our house, John and I decided to do our part by working with Ander on his crawling lessons.
Tricia had the idea of using small treats as an incentive for movement. We spaced out some baby niblets on the floor between John and I. Ander loved these treats and would stare at them intently. We kept each treat just outside of his immediate reach so that he would have to struggle forward to get each one. As he squirmed and wiggled and stretched towards the treats, we would offer resistance to his feet with our hands or forearms so that he would get the idea of pushing with his legs and feet to propel himself forward.
Bless his little heart, he did not give up the struggle a single time. No crying out in frustration, no quitting. He kept his eyes on the prize and worked hard until he was able to reach each treat. His efforts looked more like exaggerated swimming than crawling, but he finally got to where and what he wanted. There is an obvious life lesson for all of us in this story.
That day, however, we awoke a sleeping giant. Nearly overnight Ander went from being a helpless, dependent baby to being a determined pre-toddler with definite ideas of his own. During the baby phase his favorite game was “let’s just look at each other and smile a lot in mutual admiration”; the pre-toddler phase has become something altogether different.
The name of the game is now, “I’m going to smile at you for a moment, throw myself out of your arms, crawl around like greased lightning, then suddenly think of something I want and whine and cry until you figure out what I’m thinking—and hurry up because I AM WAITING! And then I’ll either smile at you in approval or impetuously knock your clearly incorrect and substandard offering out of your hand.”
I love cookies, I love cookies; I love cookies, hey-hey hey hey. And I take my Swig’s straight up without frosting.
By and large, however, Ander still has a great, loving personality. His smiles are genuine and frequent. He is definitely a people person.
Close on the heels of learning to crawl came pulling up and standing and scooting around the walls and furniture. He will stand alone for a few seconds, but there ain’t no walking yet. From what I have seen of his crawling adventures, the family is probably not truly ready for Ander to walk. I have a very sneaky suspicion that trouble will increase exponentially from minute to minute once that little guy gets his walking groove on.
Through this year, Heavenly Father has been very generous to our family in many ways. For me, whenever my family is together, I feel overwhelming gratitude for each precious moment. One of my favorite sights is when we are all gathered on the family room sectional like a pile of puppies. We talk and play and wrestle and tease and cuddle up under our favorite blankets. Thank you, Heavenly Father, thank you.
Tricia and Ander, April 27, 2014