Thursday, February 10, 2011

That Whole Last Trimester Thing

Pregnant moms often sign up for those daily e-mails that tell you what your fetus is doing each week like growing fingernails, growing eyelashes, developing lungs, etc.  When I was pregnant with Brenna, I always found those e-mails amusing.  I could sit on the couch and tell Jimmy I was busy.  He would say, "Busy doing what?"  Then I would smartly reply, "I'm growing fingernails.  Top that!"  When you miss that whole last trimester, you don't sit on the couch doing nothing while your fetus effortlessly develops.  Instead you watch them develop all of those little amazing things with the greatest effort imaginable. 

I recently read a book called Half-Baked written by a mother who delivered at 26 weeks.  She writes that her baby had no nipples at birth.  Of course, that got me wondering if ours had any.  Crazy thought, I know!  I asked Jim if they had nipples.  He sort of laughed and said that no they did not have any.  He said he noticed it right away and was worried but with brain bleeds, maxed-out oscillator settings, and collapsed lungs he didn't think it was appropriate to worry about their nipples.  Talk about mothers thinking that their baby is the most beautiful baby in the world.  I didn't even notice that my babies didn't have nipples!  I looked back through those first-days photos and was shocked by what I saw.  Love is blind.  I knew they were not well off.  I remember their skin was very thin.  I remember they were tiny.  I remember thinking that I didn't know babies could even be that little.  I remember that their eyes were still fused shut.  I was told that they both had a valve in their heart that was not closed.  What I didn't notice was just how fetus-like they really were.  After all, they were fetuses that happened to join the world 16 weeks too early.  Mostly, I remember thinking they are beautifully and perfectly made, albeit very tiny, and they are my babies - not fetuses.

Cade's feeding therapist explained to us that a lot of Cade's feeding issues are sensory related.  In the last trimester, babies fine tune their entire nervous systems.  This allows them to accept and categorize sensory input.  As you can imagine, babies who miss that whole last trimester don't have beautifully operating nervous systems.  It may take some time.  When they should have been in the womb safely developing their nervous systems, they were instead introduced to the lights and constant beeping of the NICU.  They had tubes down their throats, IVs, arterial lines, and central lines covering them, and probes stuck to their thin skin.  Talk about shocking an underdevloped nervous system!   

The babies' physical therapist also mentioned that both Camdyn and Cade prefer extension to flexion.  This means they like to be sprawled out instead of curled up.  The problem with this is that the curled up position is what is needed to roll over, crawl, and even to bring your arms to midline (i.e. eating position with hands to mouth).  The reason they don't like flexion -you guessed it- all goes back to that missing out on the whole last trimester thing.  What position do babies assume in the womb?  Flexion.  There's a reason they are all cramped up in there.     

I was too distraught at the time to share these pictures, but seeing how far they have come, I feel compelled to share.  It is quite simply AMAZING!

Camdyn is just skin and bones.  She had no fat at all.  Also her ears were just skin shaped like an ear.  They had very little cartilage.

Camdyn's tiny fingers against Daddy's hands as he changed her diaper.  How in the world did those little delicate fingers not break?  They told us that when we changed the diapers, we should push the diaper down into the bed so as not to lift their legs up.  Lifting the legs up could cause a stroke.  We were also told to squeeze the middle of the diaper between their legs because the micro-preemie diapers were too big and it could cause their hips to get displaced.

You can see all the little veins on Camdyn's tiny body.  Her elbow is completely transparent.  This is the picture I had to look at to see if she had nipples, and no nipples - just a little red area where a nipple later formed.  You can't see it here, but Camdyn had no eyelashes nor eyebrows either.

Cade's tiny body is just covered in bruises.  Again  no nipples, just red areas.  See all that tape on his tummy.  At some point during these early days, when they pulled the probes off to change them, they pulled his skin off with them.  He has a big scar on his tummy from that.  His skin was just so thin that it came right off.  Camdyn has a matching scar on her tummy as well, but it is a little smaller.

Cade's hand with translucent skin.  I always thought this picture looks like those 4D sonograms only he is not inside the womb.  I never understood why women get those.  I always thought they looked weird. 

Cade is still covered in tons of tiny hair all over his body.  Notice his ears in this picture.  There is no cartilage at the bottom, only floppy skin.

After all of that, look at this!  Perfect ears, perfect eyelashes, perfect eyebrows, beautiful skin, beautiful smiles, AMAZING babies! (and yes, perfect nipples too! - They are going to hate me for writing about their nipples and former, lack thereof, when they are older.)


Sarah Weishuhn said...

it is so incredibly amazing how far those miracles have come! it's hard to believe now that they started so tiny and delicate! i think they have done so well thanks to the power of prayer and thanks to everyone believing in them. i just cannot wait to meet them and cuddle them in person!

Heather Muesse said...

Thank you SO much for helping us to put things into perspective; it is truly an amazing miracle to see how far they have come! I love them both so much, and I haven't even met them yet!!! And I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT WAIT to meet them and to hold BOTH of those living miracles in my own arms!!!!

Andrea and Jason Farrell said...

What a great post! Thanks for sharing that and showing how far your miracle babies have come.

Bridget Brandt said...

That is crazy...I never noticed at all...I was just so in love with them both from day one. I remember being able to see through their tiny fingers and thinking what a fight they had ahead of them.

I am so glad we are where we are today....picking them up and tossing them in the air (obviously holding them) to make them laugh and smile.

It doesn't make those first touches and squeezes any less memorable though.

I know how hard it was, but I wouldn't change having touched an angel for anything in the world!

Love you both!! Aunt BB

Michelle said...

SIS- I agree. It was like touching tiny angels. They were as close as you can get to touching something from heaven here on earth. After all, they were only sent from heaven 24 weeks prior.