"My Story…" Monday: Am I Qualified to Care For My Preemie?

Once C. had gone through all her tests and we knew the results and what we’d be dealing with, it was time for Mommy and Daddy to step up to the plate. I always thought it was almost scary how, when you have a full-term baby, the hospital staff basically makes sure you have a car seat and then sends you on your merry way. It is just assumed that you know what to do to care for this tiny life. And, for the most part, people figure it out and babies do just fine. It’s a whole different scenario when you’re about to bring your tiny, ultra-early baby home…

Before we’d be allowed to leave the hospital with our little girl, we’d have to prove that we were capable of managing the special care she would require. This included:

  • Knowing how to tube-feed: measuring the tube, inserting it correctly, checking its placement with a stethoscope, attaching the vial, accurately measuring, “pushing” the milk to start the feed, etc.
  • Knowing how to manage her oxygen needs: attaching and fitting the cannula, filling the tank, adjusting the pressure, etc.
  • Knowing how to use to use the apnea monitor: learning how to attach the leads and wires, how to log any events, how to interpret real issues vs. false alarms, etc.
  • Learning how to perform all her everyday needs with all this equipment present– bath, bed, feedings, riding in the car, etc.
  • Learning who to call to order all the ongoing supplies we would require to meet her needs– tubing, adhesives, tape, leads, oxygen fills, etc…

There were basically three things that needed to happen to make sure we had all these things down pat. First of all, we needed to insert her feeding tube independently, but under the guidance of a nurse so they could see we were capable. Second, we needed to attend a special two-hour class covering oxygen tanks, apnea monitors, and CPR on infants. Finally, we were to perform a “room-in” at the hospital where we would stay through the night and take care of all of our daughter’s needs ourselves; a nurse would always be on-hand, but we were expected to take care of things on our own.

I had actually already done the “tube thing” awhile back. Fortunately, it went very smoothly for me and, once I had accomplished it, I felt comfortable with the process. That just left my husband to prove he was capable. He did, but it didn’t go without a hitch. It was long, drawn-out, and miserable. We knew most of that job would be falling to me anyhow (as a stay-at-home mom), so that was okay.

My husband was at a brand-new job and had trouble getting time off, so we got approval for just me to attend the O2 class. The instructor was fabulous and I felt very-well informed when I left there. We had to demonstrate in front of him and the other parents that we could handle all manner of emergencies. I know that part was stressful for some of the attendees, but I think it was vital information. That evening, my husband and I pored over that material for hours together so he felt “up to speed”.

All that remained was the “room-in”. Well, truth be told, we never did it. Because I had another baby too (who would not be allowed to stay in the hospital with us), it was a huge juggling act. The nurses and neonatologists had seen me often enough and knew that I had taken on every single aspect of C’s care during my visits. They were confident that there was no aspect of her care that we would be unable to meet…

Our daughter was born December 24th. It was now early April.

We prepared to head home as a family of four.

Next week, I’ll tell you about the preparations we had to make in anticipation of our baby girl’s homecoming.

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