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!
About 18 weeks ago our world, as we knew it, got turned upside down. Our second son, Koa, was born at 26 weeks gestation, weighing 1030 grams.
Koa on the first day of life
Four weeks prior to his birth, my wife was admitted to hospital with what seemed to be labor pains, slight bleeding and leaking amniotic fluid. Our unborn son at that stage, was a couple of days before 22 weeks’ gestation.
We were faced with having to make decisions that no one should have to be asked to make. It was terrifying, sickening… …words cannot describe the emotions and the fear we were experiencing.
We had a million questions and concerns flying around in our heads.
I felt absolutely helpless. My wife was in extreme pain, hooked up to a few IV’s, monitors and a catheter. She was confined to bed and not permitted to move. Our child’s life was at risk. Possibly my wife’s life too and I could not do anything.
We were told that there was an extremely high possibility that he would be born in the next week or two weeks at the latest. We had a million questions and concerns flying around in our heads. We could not process anything we were told as it was all too overwhelming.
We were informed that if we could make it to week 24, there was a higher chance of survival. The 24th week became our focus one day at a time that became our motto. It was an extremely long two weeks however finally we felt a bit of positivity.
My wife would talk to our unborn child all through the day. She would communicate with him, play the tapping game with him. He was strong and responding well to her. Then, we were asked the question, what we wanted to do if he was born before 24 weeks - and down we went again.
There were no answers. There were no right or wrong answers. There were no explanations - we couldn’t think - we couldn’t process anything - it was all TOO hard.
At the end of the day, this is a life we have been asked to make a decision on.
Why is this happening to us? What did we do wrong? What’s our life going to be like? The quality of life for our first born, how will this affect him? The quality of life for our baby? Our life too?
At the end of the day, this is a life we have been asked to make a decision on.
No matter when he was born, or in what condition he was born, he needed to be saved.
It is a life, a life that was given to us for whatever reason. He chose us. And we have so much love towards him even though we hadn’t even met him yet. After all the thinking, all the going round and round in circles in our heads (that got us absolutely nowhere by the way) the decision was actually quite simple: We decided that we needed to take the constant “thinking” out of the equation as it was driving us insane.
No matter when he was born, or in what condition he was born, he needed to be saved. The doctors needed to do everything they could to save him.
He was strong, my wife felt it. He had a strong response to her. HE WAS TOUGH! We believed that with every cell in our bodies. This is where our mindset shifted.
We were thankful that we had the knowledge and we could start immediately with our new baby.
Besides, we were “Doman Savvy”. We had both done the “How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence” course prior to our first son being born and we were thankful that we had the knowledge and we could start immediately with our new baby. One day at a time, we grew more confident in ourselves and the well-being of our baby. Whatever we were faced with, it would all be ok - it would be more than ok, it would be fantastic. We had done it all before, “The Doman Method” with our first born. Our first born wasn’t premature but the program of stimulation and opportunity would be the same.
One Day at a time - One day at a time - what’s the use in overthinking what “might” happen? Let me save you some time. Nothing, absolutely nothing. Just focus on the now. So we put a plan in place.
We knew Koa was listening. He was responding to our voices.
From Day One, Koa was in an incubator (his little “castle” as the nurses called it). There were tubes, monitors, oxygen mask, and wires everywhere. But every chance we got, we would put our hand on him, talk to him, sing to him, read to him, tell him about our day, tell him about how fantastically he was doing and what he needed to do next. We would stimulate his auditory pathway as much as possible as they had covered his eyes with an eye mask the majority of this time.
The hospital and it’s wonderful staff were more than accommodating in allowing us to see him whenever possible. They actually encouraged us to be there as much as we could.
We knew Koa was listening. He was responding to our voices. He knew we were coming to visit him before we even got there. The nurses told us this on many occasions. He could sense us.
Then this happened - another miracle.
** Gestation Week 32 - 6 weeks old**: The day we had been waiting for - Kangaroo Care. When you get to do this, your heart is going to melt. Bring a big box of tissues no matter how tough a person you think you are.
Kangaroo care with mom was important for Koa’s brain growth and development
Our first hug, our first hold, feeling his warmth, our baby feeling the warmth of our bodies, our baby feeling us breathing, our baby hearing and feeling our hearts beating -he can feel all this. He can feel our love. He is learning from this. His sense of touch is getting stimulated.
Dad and Koa share a special moment during Kangaroo Care
To quote a message in an e-mail from a very special friend in regards to Kangaroo Care, “This can influence the baby to breathe in a proper rhythm. This, of course, is essential for good brain growth and development.”
Koa was 6 weeks old, but parents knew that early stimulation was essential – he enjoys learning math and quantities
Gestation Week 34 - 8 weeks old: We went to the NICU as usual, however, our baby was no longer in the incubator. He was sleeping in a normal hospital baby bed. When we saw him, he wasn’t just out of the incubator, he had the oxygen mask off as well and it was the first time we really got to see his face. There was only a little nostril tube assisting with oxygen in-take.
He would move his eyes to follow and find objects.
Yet another miracle.
This is when we were able to stimulate his eye sight properly. We would show him bits and talk about them. He would move his eyes to follow and find objects. His sight was developing very well. The NICU usually does eye tests every week. After the first eye test, everything was extremely good so the doctors said he didn’t need tests done weekly and instead they were carried out every two weeks.
Gestation Week 36 - 10 weeks old: During our daily visit to the NICU, we went through the routine of putting on the gown, scrubbing our hands clean, and then we went to the place our baby should be. However, our baby was not there. Yes, you could imagine the thoughts running through our head until one of the nurses said, “He is out of the NICU and next door in the GCU. We moved him today around 14:00”.
And yes, another miracle. My wife also got to bathe him.
Koa’s first bath at 10 weeks of age
Gestation Week 37 - 11 weeks old: He was doing really well on the bottle so the nurses said to start breastfeeding him this provided another chance for physical contact and visual and auditory stimulation.
Gestation Week 39 - 13 weeks old: His sleep apnea has been an issue from day 1. He would stop breathing up to 20 times a day or more. It was up and down for a longtime, however, this was the first time that he had gone 12 hours without stopping breathing once.
At 13 weeks of age, parents show Koa black and white outline Bits, from what they learned in the book “How Smart is Your Baby?” – this early visual stimulation is essential.
All the way through this, we were given the worst possible outcomes.
Gestation Week 40 - 14 weeks old: His sleep apnea has dropped to only once or twice a day and usually between 7 pm and 6 am. There was a bit of a pattern forming and we knew Koa was getting close to overcoming this too. Before they discharge a baby from the hospital, they carry out a MRI to check everything. This was scheduled which basically means the doctors and nurses think he is getting strong and stable enough to come home soon. Yesterday Koa only stopped breathing once and it was only briefly. Now it’s only a matter of time.
One day at a time.
All the way through this, we were given the worst possible outcomes - difficulties we would more than likely face, problems he would more than likely have. There were hurdles that we would have to be jumped over until the next issue came up. It was never ending, it was relentless and we couldn’t see the light but you know what - one day at a time.
In 14 weeks, Koa has come a long, long way – thanks to his medical care and his dedicated parents, who will stop at nothing to help him
Prepare yourself to do whatever you need to do to provide the best chance for your child
I haven’t mentioned all the challenges we faced because, if you have been through this, or if you are going through this, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The thing is, you can’t change that.
You can prepare yourself and educate yourself to do whatever you need to do as a parent to provide the best chance for your child. It is vital to stimulate all the sensory pathways in every way that it is possible to do so in order to knock any sensory problems out of the park.
We have been blessed.
If it wasn’t for knowing about The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, if it wasn’t for having the opportunity to attend their course five years ago, if it wasn’t for the support we had from the positive people all around us, people mind you, that didn’t have to, but did go out of their way to get extra information to us because they genuinely cared about us, I don’t think we would be where we are today.
We knew the bits program would stimulate Koa’s vision. My wife still takes bits to the hospital and shows them to him daily. We know the physical program will help to develop his lungs and body. When he comes home, he will be given every opportunity to move as much as possible. It works, it is working with our 3-year-old and it will work with him too. It’s all there. The best possible chance for our children.
Dad says, “Koa loves the shapes!”
There is hope, stay positive, find the positive in everything. It’s there, you just have to be receptive to it. Be strong, especially for your wife because this is all you can do but it’s HUGE. Earlier I said I felt helpless, I did, but staying positive and supporting her is beyond enormous and she still thanks me daily for that support.
Trust your wife, no one knows the baby better than she does.
Stay positive in front of her. Use The Institutes website (www.iahp.org) to research and educate yourself. I’ve done their course and I’ve read the books. Anyone can do it. They are so easy to follow. I even bought the latest book and started reading it and preparing for when Koa comes home.
While my wife was in the hospital, I would tell her what I learned and teach her what I was going to do. My goal was keep her positive and communicating with the baby. My advice: trust your wife, trust her instincts. No one knows the baby better than she does.
When the baby is born, stimulate the baby in every way possible. Don’t research the internet too much and don’t get caught up in it. I did, and it did no real good. There is a bad story for every good story. The Institutes website gave me much more hope with their success stories and motivated me with ideas on what to do and stories to tell my wife while she was in the hospital.
My wife is an ABSOLUTE CHAMPION. She held on for four weeks after being told she probably won’t last two weeks -four weeks of indescribable pain, four weeks of not seeing our 3-year-old son. Children were not permitted in her room and she was confined to bed so she could not go to the visiting area to see him. This almost destroyed her peace of mind, not to mention taking a physical beating 24 hours a day for four weeks.
My job was to be there for them, to be their “rock” and more - much, much, MORE. That very special friend I mentioned earlier, informed me in an e-mail about something his Grandmother says to him “This too shall pass”.
It will, it does.
Miracles happen. We have witnessed them. We are witnessing them everyday. We have one, waiting to come home very, very soon.
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.
On the morning of the 12th November, we called the hospital at 5:55 am in the morning (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 micro second, 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 on the crawling track
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.
This update is from Koa’s chronological age of 20 months (17 months corrected) up until now being 3 yrs 7 months (43 months) or 3 yrs 4 months (40 months) corrected.
Koa was an extremely active and energetic 20 month old. Regarding Koa’s health, everything has been very smooth. He is doing amazingly well with absolutely no concerns whatsoever. I think I may have said this before however we will be eternally grateful to the Doman family, their staff and the Institute as we believe with every cell in our body, that without their care, support, knowledge and love, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Looking back, one of the main things we did with Koa was spend as much time as possible on the track from day one of getting out of the NICU and keeping him as mobile as possible with every chance we had. This is so important for a babies development on every level. When Koa was about 6 months old, we were planning to move overseas. For the next 3 months we were busy arranging the move and when he was 9 months old, we were on our way from Japan to Australia. When we arrived, it was a busy and unstable period with many hours spent running around arranging different things which unfortunately took up precious time that could have been allocated to Koa and allowing more opportunity through out the day for him to be mobile. Instead, he was in a car seat or the pram or we carried him as we needed to get to different places to arrange different things within certain timeframes.
Although still having a lot of opportunity to be mobile, he could have had a lot more if we were settled and back into our routine. Koa is moving extremely well, is very active and is an extremely fit baby but we cannot stress enough (as it says in the book) the importance of allowing babies/infants to move as much as possible.
This is our biggest regret.
You cannot get that time back.
Keep them as mobile as possible as the benefits are enormous.
Not only the immediate benefits but in the long term.
Your child will be stronger, healthier and fitter for it.
We are fortunate enough to be living by the beach so we try and make it a habit of walking a least 2 km in the morning and again in the afternoon. Koa would walk at least 3 km by himself daily and sometimes the whole walk. Recently Koa is walking the whole distance by himself and has also started to run most of the way. He is lifting both legs above the ground and we can see that the early days of track work are paying off.
His older brother, Skyy, will also do a 2 km run on top of our walks either in the morning or the afternoon. Rather than something that needs to be done, we have tried our best to make it more of a life choice and a very enjoyable one not to mention priceless family bonding time.
Another benefit of living in a city that the sun shines an average of 300 days of the year, is that it is always warm so bare feet is the choice of foot wear wherever safe. Being bare foot has so many benefits in regards to body and brain stimulation.
Koa, always has, and still loves watching bits and we are witnessing the benefits. There have also been a couple of session where he gets so relaxed he dozes off to sleep.
He is so stimulated and fascinated by nature, there is never a dull moment on a walk. He will say the first sound of an object he finds and points at what he has spotted. He is very verbal on walks.
Absolutely LOVES dogs saying d, d, d and will then will let out a “woof”. Pigs - p, p, p and then a pig sound (not that we see them on walks). Ducks - for some reason doesn’t make any sound but will just keep quacking and quacking and quacking.
Leaf - he will actually say a full word, “happa” (which is Japanese for leaf).
He will spot an airplane way, way up in the sky (fantastic eyesight thanks to the visual bits) and will say “pl, pl, pl and then make a jet engine sound.
If he spots the moon during the day, he will let out a loud “moooooon” while pointing to it. We customized bits from things he will see on our walks and the excitement he shows when recognizing something is adorable. It makes it easy to come up with material to teach when you notice things that interest them.
Over the last week however, he has stopped saying the sounds and started saying full words clearly. His vocabulary is growing more and more every day. He has really had a sudden verbal growth spurt which we believe is a combination of the bits, reading books and talking to him normally and not like he is a baby as well as all the walking which has improved his lung capacity. He is connecting the bits he sees with his reality which reinforces the importance of showing the bits. His eyes will light up when he sees something he knows. He will grab my wife’s hand and point towards it saying what it is. Basically he is saying, with so much excitement, “ I know this!! Look, there it is!” A natural passion for learning has been introduced thanks to following the program of The Institutes.
Koa LOVES books (like his brother Skyy) and his knowledge of objects is unbelievable. His recognition is quick and comprehension is mind blowing (in both Japanese and English). He understands absolutely everything. Even if we are talking to Skyy about something, he will go and get or point to what we are talking about. A few weeks ago, he was sitting on the sofa having a book read to him about a teddy bear and my wife said to him at the end of it, “Koa, where is your bear?” Koa rolls on to his tummy, slides off the sofa, trots across the floor and down to the entrance (where mum’s basket was) pulls a few things out of the basket and finds his bear. Trots back to the sofa with his bear in a headlock and then holds it up to mum with a huge smile.
Koa can hang from the wooden dowel for almost 60 seconds now. It is a great introduction to brachiation. He loves to swim (with assistance) and is crazy about drawing and painting. He will drag out some paper and crayons at least 3 times a day saying, “kaku” which is Japanese for “draw”. We also have a few original art pieces drawn directly on our walls. Thankfully, all completed using erasable pencils and crayons.
He loves to play hide and seek with his big brother and just loves to copy and learn from him too. Big brother has also realized that he has a very special and unique “toy” to play with which seems to be very amusing and is quite joyful to watch.
The main advice we can give is to just follow the book. Everything is in there and all you need to do is follow it and personalize it to what your child is interested in when you get to that stage. The most important thing however is to be consistent. This is something I still need to work on however my wife has this mastered and just has a passion to teach our children. And as we all know, mothers are the best teachers.
Koa is currently 3 yrs 7 months or 43 months (3 yrs 4months or 40 months corrected)
His genuine interest in everything is amazing. He loves learning from his older brother Skyy who is and has always been fascinated with insects. Koa loves them too but has a larger love for bigger creatures especially dogs. Every dog we see must be pat and said hello to.
Koa is now fluent in both English and Japanese. Obviously having native speakers of both languages is an added advantage but the principal is the same if you follow the process. We did both languages with both our children and by the age of 3 they were fluent. We have also recently introduced French (we should have started this earlier).
Swimming… …what a water baby!! We started teaching him before the age of 1 and he has no fear of water. He started to swim by himself (treading water) when he was just over 3 years old. It is also such a great physical workout for them. Being lucky enough to live on the Gold Coast, we try to swim every day and every day he is more and more confident in his skills. He loves to dive deep and come back up spinning like a dolphin.
He is crazy about music. We always see him feeling the rhythm of a song and bopping along, clapping, tapping or add some kind of movement to it which will then turn into some kind of dance. He is always singing and just has a love and appreciation for any kind of music.
He still loves watching the bits and has recently started to read Japanese kanji. He also loves English and Japanese poems which he is quick to remember.
I mentioned earlier about the track work introduced from day one out of the NICU. We are continually seeing the benefits of starting this as soon as possible. Koa has excellent stamina and lung capacity. He can out run Mama on a 1 km run. His brother trains for a 2 km dash held every year in July on the Gold Coast and recently Koa trains with us. Unfortunately the minimum age to enter is 5 but we might be able to sneak him in next year although he will only be 4. At present he can’t keep up with his brother (who turns 7 in May) but is not that far behind considering his age and it won’t be long until he will keep up with us. My fear is that they are both going to out run me in the very near future (I will be investing in a bicycle soon).
In Koa’s mind and to his credit, he absolutely believes that he can do everything his big brother can, which to a degree, he can. He is extremely capable, incredibly determined and very, very independent.
The thoughtfulness and love for his brother and family is heart melting. He said to me in the car one day, “Skyy is my big brother and my best friend in the world”. Don’t get me wrong, it is never always perfect and peaceful, like any siblings they can have their moments too however it is more often than not quickly resolved followed by an apology, a hug, a kiss and then like nothing had ever happened, back to being brothers and best friends.
We were given worst case scenarios from the doctors when Koa was born 3 months premature at 26 weeks. They informed us of a number of health “issues” we would most likely encounter. We are fortunate enough to be able to say that none of these actually became an “issue”.
We don’t really know why we were so lucky but what we do know is, we were fortunate enough to know of The Institutes and even more so to be lucky enough to undertake the How To Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence course prior to our first son Skyy being born. We believe this armed us with the knowledge of what to do from day one of Koa’s birth. We are convinced that this is the reason the doctors predictions didn’t actually eventuate.
Watching Koa grow everyday both physically and mentally is like witnessing a miracle.
As mentioned earlier, we will be forever grateful to Glenn Doman and the passionate Staff of The Institutes for without them, their research, their expertise, their specialist knowledge, their love and support, we don’t think that Koa would be the boy he is today.
We are so blessed to have known about them. If you do know anyone that is in the position we were in, or is going through what we went through, tell them our story, forward on our blog. More importantly, introduce them to The Institutes.
Everyday is precious and a day missed is a day you will NEVER get back.
Some advice from my wife, _“at times it can feel a little overwhelming but just remember that a little bit of effort every day, pays off enormously in the very near future.”_
Just remember - one day at a time -