Premature Babies: Are They Destined To Have Problems or Can We Make a Difference with Stimulation and Opportunity? (UPDATED 2017)
One father updates us about the challenges that he and his wife faced when their son was born 14 weeks before his due date. The developmental delay that was experienced with their premature baby is now almost non-existent! Now Koa finally comes home!
One day at a time. We did this 122 times as this is how many days it took for Koa to finally come home to us from the NICU. We have proven time and again that developmental delay can be reversed by intensive work with a child.
On the morning of the 12th November, we called the hospital at 5:55 am (as 6:00 am was the time they would decide he was all clear to come home subject to his sleep apnea). We were like kids the night before Christmas. We couldn’t sleep knowing that tomorrow could be the day Koa is coming home.
Koa needed to go 7 days straight without stopping breathing once to be able to come home. The month or two prior he would go up to 6 days without stopping and then would stop for a microsecond, but that “stop” would reset the count back to day 1. This was absolutely frustrating, but we had faith in the universe that when Koa was ready he would do the 7 days.
He was finally ready to come home. Skyy (his older brother) was just as excited as we were. As Skyy wasn’t permitted in the NICU, it was his first time to even see his little brother Koa in person. That first moment when they saw each other was magical. The uncontainable excitement, Skyy ran from the sofa we were waiting on to his mum, who was walking down the hall carrying Koa. The love Skyy has for his brother who he had just met for the first time. It was instantaneous. He was checking all his fingers, all his toes, his ears, his eyes. It was like he was checking that everything was there. This brotherly bond that would be with them forever. This was a very special moment. It was a privilege and so beautiful to stand back and witness.
Skyy & Koa meet for the first time
Our first week or so was filled with sleepless nights. It wasn’t from Koa crying–Koa slept like a baby; it was us that were constantly watching him and not sleeping. We were constantly checking on him, making sure he was still breathing, watching for any slight movement in his chest or back. Just the slightest twitch or movement in his nostrils, eyes, mouth or cheeks, all so we could relax for another few minutes when one of us would check again. It was terrifying…but he was fine. Never stopped once. We were beginning to feel the developmental delay he was experiencing was lessening with our diligence.
Now the real work would begin. We had made a plan, and while he was in the NICU, we had started preparing all the Bits we wanted to show him. We also had the crawling track ready to go.
My wife went straight to work with him. The Bits were in Japanese and English – why wouldn’t you start teaching a second language immediately? She started doing the crawling track 10 times a day. She was very consistent. A natural mother. A natural teacher. Doing everything she knew, everything she had learned, all to give Koa the best possible start. He was already very used to our voices. He loves listening to us speak. When we speak, he actually started to really watch our mouths move from a few weeks ago and he tries to copy the movement of our mouths and he talks a lot. Yes, TALKS. (Some people call it making lots of baby sounds). The early morning is my favorite time of day, when it’s “Dada time” and we get to have a great conversation about what he dreamt about and what we should do today. It also gives mum a chance to get a little more sleep.
His eyes watch us intensely, basically saying, “What are you going to teach me next?” He searches for things. He finds new things in the house every day. We carry him around the house and show him paintings on the walls and little statues. I suppose it’s like showing 3-D Bits. We talk about them to him and he looks for these things now when we say, “Koa, where’s the ________ ?” His eyesight is brilliant. He will look at my wife and smile at her from about 3 meters away. This week my wife noticed him moving his head in the direction she was walking and he was smiling at her all the way – right until she came up close and said, “Are you watching me? Can you see me all the way over there?” This is all thanks to the black-and-white Bits, the detailed Bits, and also now the Bits of Intelligence. Developmental delay can be handled with premature infants and we’re living proof!
We are extremely lucky as Koa sleeps well. So much so that my wife actually needs to wake him up to feed him, otherwise he would probably sleep right through the night. He is growing well, and he is getting stronger. My ears can feel it when he cries now. Before it was gentle and cute. Now it will burst an eardrum. This is the crawling track work paying off, for sure. We can feel the thickness in his chest now when we pick him up. He is solid. He is strong. His lungs are developing extremely well. This is definitely from spending as much time as possible on his stomach.
At first he did not seem to like the crawling track, but he is getting faster and also learning to like it. He likes to rest sometimes halfway down and look at the toy waiting for him at the bottom. Sometimes Skyy takes on a “teacher’s” role and encourages Koa down the track – as well as read the books to Koa that we used to read to Skyy when he was a baby.
Koa 8 weeks after coming home.
His hand and arm strength are increasing too. He pulls against your fingers when he is lying on his back and we say to him, “Koa, grab my fingers and let’s sit up.”He pulls, you can feel the strength in his tiny hands, you can feel his core muscles kicking in too. From there we say, “Let’s do some hanging.” He will hang for 3-10 seconds before we can feel his handgrip loosen (we lightly support his hands so he doesn’t slip off, of course). The smile he gives after hanging shows how much he enjoys it. It also works if he is crying and won’t stop. He loves to hang! Just wait until he starts brachiating – he’s going to love it like Skyy does.
Since a couple of weeks ago, we noticed that he would cry every time we would eat. He has started to become interested in food, so we let him sniff all the food we ate and would tell him about it. We also do this with detailed Bits, single words, and real fruit and vegetables and let him taste test (without swallowing). We know he will be a real eater when he is ready. He loves licking fruits and vegetables.
Koa loves to listen to all different sounds and instruments everyday. We use the xylophone, bells, bottles, a harmonica, drums, ukulele, the guitar, and anything that is a new sound to stimulate his hearing.
Skyy plays the harmonica for Koa
On his first monthly check-up, there were no problems. The doctor was surprised at how much he had grown in the first month (5 cm from memory). What took the doctor more by surprise was that he was expecting Koa to have some hearing and vision issues, but guess what?
Thank you, Doman.
All of this, all of the success we have been blessed to have witnessed and to have received, every single bit (no pun intended) is all thanks to the Doman family and staff of The Institutes.
You are all on the top of our gratitude list every day.
“One day at a time” – We are still living by it, but now it is more: enjoying one day at a time.