Life completely changes when you become a parent, especially when you become a parent 6 ½ weeks earlier than expected.
My daughter, Amina will be 6 months old this week and it’s about time I wrote this blog post about our experience being the parents of a premature baby. Amina was born on August 1, 2011, 6 ½ weeks premature weighing just over 5 pounds. My wife Farzana woke up one day crying that contractions have started, but it was too early – only 33 weeks. Coincidentally, just before sleeping, we had attended our pre-natal class and the instructor had taught us about “fake contractions” called Braxton-Hicks and stressed that they are common and that we shouldn’t worry if we encounter them. I thought that she was experiencing Braxton Hicks with the lessons of our class fresh in my mind. I tried to get her to relax and did not take them very seriously. When the contractions kept getting closer and closer towards the morning, she called her doctor and they told her to get assessed at the hospital. We got to the Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga and the contractions were not fake … they were the real ones.
Farzana was admitted in the hospital and closely monitored. I slept on the bench/couch beside her bed for 4 days and took time off work. She was given a drug, Indocin, to stop the contractions and was told it could suppress contractions for as little as a day or last until full term . She was also given Celestone injections to develop the baby’s lungs because before 34 weeks of gestation, babies’ lungs aren’t fully matured. On the fourth night the contractions had stopped so they discharged her the next morning. We felt pretty confident and were hoping the drug would continue to work but the contractions started again the next day and Baby Amina was ready to push her way out.
The labour ended up taking almost 12 hours in the hospital and I was pretty scared to see my wife looking like she was possessed and in extreme pain . I tried to convince her to get the epidural or try laughing gas but she refused due to what she had read about side effects and recovery times. All I could do was feed her cold water and encourage her throughout the process. It was scary, but at the same time exciting and I was really proud of my wife.
Farzana and I wanted the sex of the baby to be a surprise but I was pretty sure we were having a boy from one of the ultrasound printout we got at the hospital months earlier. When Amina came out, I was surprised when I saw it was a girl. Amina is the cutest thing I ever saw. Thankfully the drugs the hospital had injected had worked and she was able to breathe on her own but required a feeding tube through her nose. My daughter was in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) for 11 days. She was poked with several needles and had an IV drip feeding her for the first couple of days. It was really hard to see her like that and not the way we would have pictured seeing our baby shortly after birth. As a first time father, I was clueless about how to take care of her. Farzana and I visited her every day while rushing to get together all the baby stuff we hadn’t bought since we thought we had lots of time before the baby would come. The Credit Valley Hospital nurses were generally nice and taught us how to change diapers, swaddle her, bathe her, and feed her. While there, I was really grateful that we live in a country with free and equal access to healthcare for everyone.
Amina improved every day, became more reactive and started to regain the weight that she had lost over the first few days. The final step was to pass a car seat test before being released. She had to sit in her car seat for 1 ½ hours while being hooked up to the monitors to monitor her breathing. She was able to breathe well so they discharged her. My baby was finally coming home and I was so excited!
My life has completely changed. I am a parent! I feed Amina, change her diaper (only number 1 when possible because number 2 is just too gross), enjoy playing with her, and rock her to sleep. She is doing really well and already reaching some milestones. She started this weird back crawl at 4 months but according to her adjusted age (since she is premature), she really started crawling at 2 ½ months! She started flipping over at 5 ½ months but according to her adjusted age, she really started flipping over at 4 months! We started solids with her (rice cereal) and it’s going ok so far. I fed her the first spoon. The only downside of being a parent is the sleepless nights because of a crying baby who seems to wake up a million times in the night to feed or play. She’s a handful even during the day now that she is developing a strong personality. It’s okay though because I love her so much! My job keeps me really busy and doesn’t allow me as much baby time as I want so I’m going to take 2 months of paternity leave this summer to help out more. I eagerly look forward to spending time with my baby girl.