I’m the mom of a micropreemie, which is a whole different, scarier, kettle of fish. A baby born at 35 weeks (“5 weeks early”), if he has no other health conditions like a heart condition, is what they call a “feeder and grower” in the NICU. His dad is right, the prognosis for a 35 weeker is almost identical to a full term infant, he just needs a little extra time to finish baking under medical supervision. In fact, it’s quite possible that he’ll go home before his due date, if he learns to eat well and the parents are quick learners.
My daughter was born at 23 weeks, almost 24 weeks, from my last menstrual period, so 21, almost 22 weeks of actual gestation. Here’s the thread from when it all happened, which I updated for quite some time with our fears, triumphs and the occasional setback.
I’ll add this update for you: she’s 6 and a half (and quite insistent about that half!) now and doing wonderfully. She still doesn’t need glasses, much to our surprise. She’s reading at a 3rd grade level and about to go into first grade. She can add, subtract and is beginning multiplication. She has gross and fine motor skills right on target for her age, and is the star of her piano class. Yes, I’m bragging here! The only problem she has which is related to her prematurity is “delicate” lungs. She doesn’t have asthma, but she does still tend to get bronchiolitis once or twice a year when she gets a cold (although not nearly so often as she used to - we discovered she’s gluten intolerant (not related to prematurity) and when we took her off gluten, her bronchiolitis episodes decreased dramatically). She was in the hospital this January for a few days with pneumonia. She’s a little small for her age, but so was I, and so was her brother, so that may have nothing to do with her prematurity.
We were also incredibly lucky. Lots of micropreemies have short and long term disabilities, including blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy and other icky things.
One thing I’ll suggest: breast pumps are good. Get on those nurses to get her a breast pump if Jack can’t nurse yet. They can give him her pumped colostrum and breast milk, and greatly reduce his chances of getting NEC - an infection of the bowel that happens more often with preemies than full term infants. It took them 3 days to get me a breast pump, and I’m still pissed about it!
Depending on how things go, it’s quite likely that there will be nothing different for Jack at all once he goes home. If his pediatrician has any concerns about his development, there’s a program called Early Intervention (it may have different names in other states, but every state has some form of it) which can bring an Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist and/or Speech Therapist into the home for evaluation and therapy as needed. EI services kids up until age 3, and then will help the parents transition into the school system for extra resources as needed.
As a friend, just be excited for them. Coo over the pictures, and try not to look too shocked at any medical equipment you see. The thing I valued the most from my friends was joy in my daughter’s birth. I had to deal with the hospital, with things not going at all like I expected, with all that medical stuff…I just wanted my friends to say “congratulations!” and “what a beautiful baby!” and all that other stuff any mom wants to hear.
Also, gift cards and/or cash are great, if they’re not wealthy. My friends gathered about $80 to help pay for the parking at the hospital (reduced, but not free, for us) and it really helped a lot.