One Year On – Life with My Preemie

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One year on, it’s quite frightening how quick the year has gone by, Freya is sat beside me pulling herself up to her feet on her little tub chair, she just can’t sit still, but I don’t mind. She’s come along way since that tiny little 3lb dot lying in her incubator. She can’t yet walk but is showing signs as she cruises along the furniture. I thought I would write this as there will be lots of mums and dads just like me asking similar questions; when will she crawl, when will her first tooth come,when shall I give her solids, her corrected age or actual age.  So I’m hoping to answer these for you although I know every baby is different.

Right, so, one year ago, hmmm can my baby brain go back that far? Yes, baby brain is still firmly here, my excuse is I’m just trying to store so much more information now that it’s fairly overcrowded!

Brings Tears to My Eyes - We're Going home

Brings Tears to My Eyes – We’re Going home

The day we brought Freya home from Durham Neonatal was such an emotional high for both myself and daddy Mark, we’d waited 6 very long weeks and the time had come.  We were on outreach care so we weren’t totally discharged from hospital, but that didn’t bother me in the least. From leaving the neonatal unit with Freya to fastening her into the car for the very first time, I was just so overwhelmed i felt like i had won the lottery, my baby was coming home, I could cuddle her when I wanted, lie on the couch with my PJ’s on and my sleepy girl. I could take her out in her pushchair for the world to see, I was so excited.

Amongst the excitement were also feelings of being nervous and scared, Freya still had a tube for some of her feeds and she was still tiny at only 4lb.  The day we brought her home we were constantly checking the room temperature, checking Freya’s temperature, how many clothes were too many.  What if her oxygen levels dropped or she forgot to breathe again, there was no monitor to tell me what was happening.

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One of the biggest worries was Sudden Infant Death syndrome which is high risk for all premature babies and something the doctors and nurses make you aware of. We made sure Freya never slept in our bed, she was kept cool at night, any precautions we could take, we did.

After only a couple of days of being home, Freya built up the strength to have all of her milk via bottle and after speaking to the hospital, they suggested i remove the feeding tube from her nose myself. I wont lie, it was a little scary but seeing her pretty face with no more tubes was so nice. We only needed one visit to the hospital to make sure Freya was doing ok and she was discharged, we knew we had numerous hospital appointments to attend with consultants and doctors but we were making progress. Freya would attend hospital every 6 months to check development, she would also have various other appointments dotted in between and this would be right up until she started school. One of the main appointments was for her eye screening, her ROP (retinopathy of prematurity).

ROP Appointments
Premature babies born before 30 weeks are at risk of the tiny blood vessels behind their eyes, stopping growing and surgery is often needed. The doctor and nurse advise you to stand outside as it’s such an intrusive procedure where the eyes are pinned open and they have to be quite firm when holding them so they don’t move, i know, it’s sounds like torture doesn’t it. No wonder she is so tough now! So daddy and I stayed outside although we heard every scream, you just feel so helpless praying that it’s over soon so you can grab hold of her and comfort her. When Freya reached 38 weeks she was discharged and didn’t have to go through it again, happy that her eyes were in good working order.

I love milk
Night time feeds
Freya slept a lot for weeks and i mean a lot, there was such excitement when she opened her eyes for the very brief amount of time each day, we had to wake her for feeds at the start because we couldn’t afford for her to lose any weight. You get used to working with very little sleep and i was lucky that myself and daddy took turns at feeding, that was one of the reasons i was happy to express milk as it meant that daddy could share that feeding bond too, i still love it now. When the house is still in the middle of the night and there’s just me and Freya cuddling on her rocking chair, i may be tired, but i know that they grow up so quickly, so i make the most of those times. She very rarely wakes during the night now unless poorly. I had to integrate a special formula into Freya’s feeding routine which was packed with calories to help Freya put on weight, eventually this became her every feed as expressing every few hours and feeding took it’s toll after only 2 or 3 months.

The first time…

Everyone remembers their babies first time, i think for preemie parents there’s just that little more anxious feeling, mainly because your worried it might not come and then you know something is wrong. It gets very confusing when discussing development with doctors and nurses, i use Freya’s actual age but they use her corrected age, so the age she should have been was she born on time. For ease, i minus 3 months, that’s her corrected age but when writing this i have used her actual age.

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Rolling Over
At around 6 month Freya was starting to show signs of trying to roll over but she just couldn’t figure out how to get all the way over and move her arm out of the way. She spent a few weeks like this and eventually she figured it out, the next step was rolling back over, she just cried to be picked up and didn’t even attempt at rolling back over, a little lazy i suspect, just like her big brother. She had lots of tummy time but wasn’t a huge fan, finally at around 8 month, one day, she just started rolling over and back again.  Freya is very much like that, everything happens all in one day, like magic.

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Sitting Up
Freya was around 9 month when she started sitting up, for the first couple of weeks she needed cushions behind her as she would lose her balance, but it didn’t take her long to figure it out.

First Tooth
So, i’ll keep this brief, as i am writing this Freya is 13 month and is still yet to get her first tooth. Yes we have a little gummy princess! Being the paranoid mummy that i am, at our last hospital appointment i frantically questioned the consultant on why she didn’t yet have a single tooth. She found it very amusing and explained that many mum’s are exactly the same and that they will come, just be patient. So i’m trying hard to be patient, i don’t think Freya thinks i’m being patient as i thoroughly check her gums each day.

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Weaning
I discussed weaning with several consultants and waited until Freya was 9 months (6months corrected) before i started. When you have a preemie baby you follow everything by the book as you don’t want to set a single foot wrong. Starting weaning at 9 months was mainly down to her digestive system not being fully developed. I started Freya on baby rice and porridge but quite quickly added finger foods such as cucumber and toast. It is hard when you see them gag and you want to start smacking their back immediately assuming that they are choking, but they have to learn how to get food back up when needed, as a result Freya is great at finger foods and eating. Even with no teeth! She loves Sunday lunch with all of the veg and can eat bananas until they are coming out of her ears. I do try and give her all home cooked food but i won’t lie, she does sometimes have the odd jar of baby food too, eek shoot me now, bad mummy!

Poorly lady

Poorly lady

Nursery
Freya was 10 month when she went to nursery and i returned to work, many checks were carried out before the right nursery was found. Luckily it is only 2 days per week but at first she hated it. She screamed every time i left her and couldn’t control her emotions when picking her up either but i certainly got lots of cuddles each night. This continued for the first 2 months, i think it is because she had been glued to my side for 10 whole months and looking back i think maybe i should have started her a little sooner. Luckily, when we arrive at nursery now she holds out her arms for her carer to grab hold of her, bye bye mummy. One thing that we have found very difficult with Freya starting nursery is how often she is poorly, we panicked when she left hospital that she would pick up different illnesses but in fact she didn’t catch a single cold until she started nursery. She has been attending nursery for 3 months now and she has had a runny nose for pretty much the whole 3 months but sometimes is has been a lot worse with temperatures reaching 40 degrees. We are hoping in another 3 months time she will have built up a tough immune system, fingers crossed.

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Crawling
So it wasn’t a normal crawl, that would be very unlike Freya, instead at around 9 months Freya would use her arms to drag herself across the floor. We found Freya was very frustrated as she knew what she wanted to do, but she just couldn’t figure it out. Since learning to crawl properly a month later Freya is much less frustrated and twisty and loves to just explore everything.

Saying mama and dadda
I honestly can’t remember when Freya started to say mamma and dada but i know it was dada first but as soon as she became poorly, it turned to mamma and still is mamma when she’s not feeling to well. I would estimate around 8 or 9 months, she’s just started to say hello too, although in her language it’s ‘eho’. She tends to say this when holding mummy’s mobile phone.

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Holiday Abroad
6 month and Freyas travels started, we jetted off to the South of Spain for some sunshine and family time and it was amazing. Very different to the usual as we had a little baby but we managed to each have some relaxation time too which was needed. Freya was absolutely fine in the heat, lots of extra bottles of milk to keep her hydrated and she loved the pool. She has the South of France and Dubai to see her Auntie Gemma to look forward to this year, lets hope we can keep her entertained for 7 hours on the plane!

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Christmas and First Birthday
Two very special days for us, we thank our lucky stars all of the time but on occasions such as Christmas and Freya’s first birthday we couldn’t help but look back and realise how lucky we are. She loved ripping off her christmas paper, she preferred playing with the paper rather than the toys but that was fine. She even had her first taste of chocolate which she loved. We kept her birthday very intimate with friends and family and she loved being the centre of attention, no idea where she gets that from.

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There’s not a day goes by when i don’t feel lucky and i try not to think of the ‘what if’s’ as it’s quite a dark place to go. Just over 1 year ago, i felt like my world was falling apart going into labour at 29 weeks, sat here today i just have this feeling inside that i’m the luckiest person alive, i cherish my family even more than i did and our little fighter continues to amaze us every single day.

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