Sorry for the delay on the Mateo update. Truth is, I barely have enough time to sit down and write this because Mateo has been home for over a week now! My how things change when you don’t have a team of nurses helping you care for your child 24/7! While I will certainly talk about the little guy here on my personal blog, this will be the last official update on his NICU progress. So here’s the latest:
Once he started taking full feedings from a bottle at the NICU, it seemed like he was one a runaway train of progress. The NICU doctors and nurses saw his potential and seized every opportunity to challenge him. So within a few days of my Week 2 post, he was already 100% bottle fed and half way out the door. Despite his small size and general noobiness, he was perfectly healthy and the doctors could see no reason to keep him in the hospital any longer.
As it turns out, our little stud was a NICU favorite and several of the nurses clearly felt it was a bittersweet departure. Working in a NICU must be one of the most difficult jobs ever! They work non-stop nursing sick babies back to health and giving premature babies a shot at a normal healthy life. These are amazing people and I put them right up there with teachers and law enforcement on my list of occupations I have the highest respect for.
On Tuesday, Nicole and I were invited to stay at the hospital overnight with Mateo in their “nesting room”. It was a fairly uneventful night, barely sleeping in general and fully waking for feedings every few hours. As any new parent can attest to, every hiccup and gurgle knocks all the sleep right out of you! Finally at around noon on Wednesday, we gently nestled our little boy into the finest infant car seat Consumer Reports recommended we buy. Mateo immediately dozed off and quietly enjoyed the second most significant trip of his life: the journey home.
Since his homecoming, he has put on some weight (he’s now 5 lbs 3 oz up from 3 lbs 14 oz at birth) and he is eating like a champ! Breastfeeding is going well and Nicole and I have managed to come up with a time management plan that works. We essentially take overnight “shifts”. This way, we each get a solid 5-6 hrs sleep instead of a series of 2-3 hour naps. Even with this setup, the fatigue can still take over, and that’s when my mom steps in. She is always willing to watch the little dude while Nicole and I recuperate.
The Silver Lining
While we could fill a book with all the negatives that can result from having a preemie (and people have), Nicole and I thought it would be more our style to close this series off with a focus on the positive. This ominous cloud has a silver lining afterall. Here’s why:
Recovery/Transition Time: Having Mateo in the NICU for 2.5 weeks gave Nicole a chance to heal from her surgery. It also gave us time to get used to the idea of being parents. Unlike most new parents, we weren’t immediately challenged with diaper changes, feedings, and sleepless nights while still being shell-shocked from the birthing experience. By the time the boy came home, we were well-rested and physically and mentally ready for the challenges ahead.
A Well-Deserved Break: Anyone who followed our saga this past year knows that Nicole had an absolutely miserable pregnancy. I think it is safe to say it was the worst 7 months of her life. So getting off two months early was a blessing in disguise. No more nausea and she was able to avoid all of those other late-stage pregnancy woes (stretch marks, hemorrhoids, heartburn, back pain, etc…).
Taking Nothing for Granted: For some people, having babies is as natural as breathing and comes just as easily. But for us, there have been major challenges every step of the way. And every time I think about all that happened and how I could have just as easily lost both Mateo and Nicole, I realize I will never take any of this for granted. When I watch my boy sleep, I don’t see a baby in peaceful slumber. I see a chest rising and falling letting me know he’s still breathing. When he eats, I don’t see a child enjoying a meal. I see him taking in life-giving nutrition and immunological protection from infection. When I change a diaper, I don’t just see cute little poopies. I see signs that my son’s immature digestive tract is functioning properly. And when I see Nicole exhausted and breastfeeding at 4 am, I don’t see a mother doing her duty. I see a strong willful women realizing her maternal potential and enjoying a deep bond with her little boy.
Nicole and I would like to thank all of you for coming with us on our little journey. Your support during this process has been immeasurably inspiring and comforting.