Update from Preemieville

Our two-pound baby is now a thriving, healthy fifteen-pound giant. 3rd percentile on the growth chart, so maybe not a giant… but that’s 3rd percentile for his chronological age (7 months, 1 week), not his adjusted age (4 months, 3 weeks) — he’s on the chart!

It has been a long 5 months since he came home from the NICU. It has absolutely been less stressful this time than it was with our 4-year-old, perhaps mostly because we’ve been through it all before, but also because we may have gotten lucky this time with a cheerful, easily-soothed baby… who IS GOOD AT SLEEPING (hoping not to jinx it).

But I think the real secret is that we’ve lowered the difficulty level this time — it is a lot easier to parent a baby who never leaves the house. I’ve said this to a couple of people, but I don’t think they really understood what I meant. We really, really don’t take him anywhere. He goes to his doctor appointments… and sometimes in a carrier out for a walk in the neighborhood… and that’s all. Until this week, he and our 4-year-old had been in the car together just once, and even that was only a few weeks ago, when we bravely ventured out to a nearby sculpture garden for a short afternoon stroll.

We were lucky that my wife was able to take six months of maternity leave, and we’ve had good daytime babysitter coverage, so we’ve been able to avoid the scariest parts of our first experience as parents of a preemie — we haven’t had to worry about exposure to strangers and their germs because he’s never around anybody. When the plumber came to fix our water valve, or when the Verizon guy came to do some nonsense to our cable box, we hid the baby in the den and then Clorox wiped every surface they touched. I can count the number of friends we’ve had over to our house on, um, one thumb.

We miss people — we’re lonely! — but we also know how stressful it is to worry about our baby getting sick. At least for now. And I have to say, even putting the illness worries aside, it is so much easier to parent a baby when you’re not having to take diapers and bottles everywhere you go, trying to time outings with naps, worrying when burp cloths fall on the ground, trying to change a baby in a public restroom, trying to calm a crying infant in the supermarket. If you can structure your life to never take your baby out of the house — preemie or not — I highly, highly recommend it! Our first time around, 4 years ago, we once had to do an emergency pitstop at a baby clothing store and take our baby inside wearing a poo-soaked onesie after a ridiculous explosion in his car seat on the way to a birthday brunch for my wife. That was highly stressful, and extremely messy. I don’t want to do that again.

And with a baby who never leaves the house, you don’t have to!

He got his first cold this past week. The first two months our baby was home, I think our 4-year-old was sick for something like 7 out of 8 weeks with the garden-variety colds and sniffles of preschool. We kept him away from the baby in a complex dance of clearing out of hallways, eating in separate rooms, Clorox wiping light switches. It was arduous — our preschooler was fortunately quite cooperative — but we won the game — our baby magically escaped illness during his riskiest window, and we got through the winter unscathed.

And then he was healthy, and we relaxed just a little… and last week, the inevitable happened, our 4-year-old got a cold, and a couple of days later, our baby spiked a 102-degree fever. At fifteen pounds, he is hearty. He’s a little congested, but okay. (Still unbelievably cheerful. It’s a little ridiculous.)

We dreaded the first cold. We have made it through. He has made it through. It did not make our world fall apart. There will be more colds. He will make it through. We will go places again, we will see people again, hopefully soon. Surviving this cold may give us the confidence to open our world up again, just a bit. I will have to change a baby in a public restroom again, I’m sure I will. I will have to carry a bottle with me. A burp cloth will fall. It will be okay. The hardest days are hopefully long in the past, and I am grateful for it. Our baby is a fifteen-pound person, and I am grateful for him. One day, this won’t feel like Preemieville, and I won’t think of my sons as preemies. They’ll just be children. And that will be a very nice feeling.