Preemies Come in Every Size

Vicki Lesage
Written by Vicki Lesage

Thirty Quarter Pounders. 3,750 M&M’s. $34 in nickels. What do these have in common (besides the fact that I want them all right now)?

They weigh 7 1/2 pounds, the same as my preemie the day he was born.

That’s not even small, they might say.

True. Seven and a half pounds is average for a full-term baby, so it’s huge for a preemie. But size worked against my preemie because he wasn’t strong enough to feed his meaty body, and thus ended up on a feeding tube.

In addition to that apparatus, he was on a respirator since he couldn’t breathe well enough on his own, and had several other tubes and wires attached for this and that. I learned what each one was for and obsessed over the stats displayed on the numerous screens. Every beep and ding caused me to panic all over again.

That’s not THAT many tubes, they might say.

True. Some of my son’s tiny neighbors were in incubators and had more wires than I could count.

I was totally unprepared to have a baby so early. I mean, who is prepared, really? But I thought I’d have at least a few more weeks. My son had surprised us all by arriving at Week 35 for no apparent reason, other than he wanted to show me early on that my planning days were over.

That’s not THAT early, they might say.

True. That’s only five weeks before the full-term Week 40 mark, though any baby born more than three weeks before the due date is considered preterm. Most of the other babies had been born even earlier, and their cases were more severe. One baby had been born overseas while his parents were on vacation, and they had to fly back on a specially equipped plane so that he didn’t spend a minute disconnected from his machines.

My son spent 11 days in the NICU, which were the 11 longest days of my life. It didn’t help that I was stuck in an uncomfortable chair all day, not wanting to leave my baby’s side no matter how tired I was, no matter how much my own body ached.

That’s not THAT long, they might say.

True. Many families we met had spent months in the NICU, seasons, holidays. Watching the world change around them while their babies were stuck inside, their health improving at a snail’s pace.

Though it didn’t feel like it at the time, we were some of the lucky ones. We really didn’t have it that bad, though it felt bad for us. We really weren’t in there that long, though it felt long to us. The day we left, we were happy to be free, but sad to leave our new friends behind. When would they be coming home? I couldn’t even bear to ask that question without the “when” part.

November 17th is World Prematurity Day. You can help brighten a family’s hospital stay over the holidays with a care package by donating to the Graham’s Foundation’s “I’m a Little Miracle” campaign. The holidays aren’t the same when you’re in a cold, sterile hospital worrying about your baby’s health. But they can be a little warmer.

About the author

Vicki Lesage

Vicki Lesage

Vicki Lesage proves daily that raising two French kids isn’t as easy as the hype lets on. In her three minutes of spare time per week, she writes, sips bubbly, and prepares for the impending zombie apocalypse. She lives in Paris with her French husband, rambunctious son, and charming daughter, all of whom mercifully don’t laugh when she says “au revoir.” She penned two books, Confessions of a Paris Party Girl and Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer, in between diaper changes and wine refills. She writes about the ups and downs of life in Paris at VickiLesage.com.

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11 Comments

  • My twins were born 2 days shy of 35 weeks unexpectedly when my water broke. They were both around 5 lbs which is big for twins at 35 weeks, but to me it was torture. 6 days in the NICU was torture. I cried, felt sick and barely ate. I hate when people act like it was no big deal because they were very healthy, just small, and that we were there a short time. Yes, looking back we were the lucky ones. But at the time, going through it is horrible. I can really relate to this. Thank you!
    Heather Holter recently posted…Never EnoughMy Profile

    • Wow. I guess in a way we were lucky that this happened with our first. I can barely handle my two kids now, I don’t know what I would do if I was racing back and forth to the hospital, too! Though I guess when that’s your reality, you figure it out. It’s tough, but we find a way to do it! Glad to hear you have four wonderful kiddos!
      Vicki Lesage recently posted…The Biggest Preemie on the BlockMy Profile

  • My son was born at 36 weeks at a little over 5lbs. He also was on a ventilator and feeding tube for the first few days of his life, and I remember holding my breath every time his monitors bleeped, praying he was okay. He spent 10 days in the NICU, and came home 4 days before Christmas. It was the best present ever. (: I definitely count my blessings, and thank God every day because I know, while it wasn’t easy by any means, it could have been so much worse for my little boy, and for me. So, I can definitely relate. Thank you for this post!

  • Why any one would say such things to parents who have come home from the hospital with their newborn after such a difficult time is beyond me. It isn’t a competition who has got it worse..
    Glad to read you came home with your son. Love and Light to the parents who are still in hospital with their newborns.