"Abigail is so feisty! During her diaper change, she put her legs out in a plank position, and her stomach was rock hard! I don't remember Sophia being this way!" -Brian
He's right. Sophia and Abigail are VERY different babies. So different that it's almost night and day.... but that would make total sense based on their gestational ages at birth.
Sophia was born at 36.5 weeks. She weighed in at 6lb, 5oz and less than 6lb by the time we left the hospital. The doctors were concerned about weight gain and said it was imperative to feed her every 2 hours. Her bilirubin levels were high and remained that way until 2 months old (despite our efforts to filter it out with breastfeeding almost around the clock). Sophia slept through most feedings and diaper changes in those first few weeks. Eventually colic and reflux got the best of her, and she became a frequent crier who needed lots of cuddles and a permanent incline. It was hard work. Sophia required much more attention than your average newborn, but we thought it was normal. It was tough interacting with friends who had an attitude of "having a kid is hard, but not THAT hard" toward us. But now Brian and I understand.
Much like the reactions we got when we struggled with fertility, we learned that most words are said completely from a lack of understanding, not a place of cruelty or superiority. Abigail IS different! She wakes up when she is hungry and she downs her bottles of breast milk like a champ. She has peed on us no less than 5 times during diaper changes in less than 7 days - Sophia has done that maybe twice in 21 months! Abigail is alert, aware, and has a bilirubin level that is 9x less than Sophia's level at her age. The doctors didn't even talk to us about a feeding schedule for our 7lb, 9oz baby. Abigail was born at 39.5 weeks. Now we understand the perspective of our friends :) A full-term baby is completely different than a pre-term!
Babies born before 37 weeks face many obstacles. Here are some interesting statistics we've found:
- Risk for "respiratory problems, being admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, needing cardiopulmonary resuscitation or mechanical ventilation, developing a body-wide infection, experiencing low blood sugar or requiring prolonged hospitalization" increases as much as 4x for babies born AT 37 weeks as compared to babies born at 39 weeks. (Rethinking Term Pregnancy, NY Times)
- "Babies born at 36-38 weeks have higher risks for health problems than full term babies. These include increased risk for:
- Brain injury
- Breathing problems
- Hearing and vision problems
- Trouble controlling their temperature
- Feeding and sucking problems
- Neonatal intensive care (NICU) admission
- Difficulty staying awake
- Obesity later in childhood
- Behavioral problems, such as ADHD.
- Special education when they start school." (<39 Weeks Timing Is Everything, Alabama Department of Health)
- According to the March of Dimes, "Babies born too early may have more health problems at birth and later in life than babies born later. Being pregnant 39 weeks gives your baby's body all the time it needs to grow.
- Important organs, like his brain, lungs and liver, get the time they need to develop.
- He is less likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth.
- He has time to gain more weight in the womb. Babies born at a healthy weight have an easier time staying warm than babies born too small.
- He can suck and swallow and stay awake long enough to eat after he's born. Babies born early sometimes can't do these things." (Why At Least 39 Weeks is Best for Your Baby, March of Dimes)
Both girls are happy, healthy, and deeply loved despite their different gestational ages at birth. We're so grateful for the grace that God has demonstrated through Sophia's life as we've faced feeding problems, jaundice, and trouble staying awake and the protection He's provided against blood sugar issues and potential breathing problems. We also praise God for the protection He provided in allowing Abigail to bake for just a few extra weeks!