In our May edition of our Preemie Family newsletter we learned about Etienne Gould-Nunan, who was born at 26 weeks, weighed in at 558 grams and was in the NICU for 138 days before going home. Read more in an update by his mother, Carmen, below.
by Carmen Gould, Etienne’s Mother
They call it the honeymoon period. Those first hours after a very premature baby is awakened from his warm and shadowy world. Born at 26 weeks gestation and weighing just 558g, it seemed at first that Etienne had taken to his new surroundings with all the characteristics of a seasoned traveller.
It would be another 26 hours before I’d meet him (I was recovering from severe pre-eclampsia and c-section complications), but when I did, I remember being shocked that the tiny, blood-red thing quivering within a nest of rolled-up cloth nappies was indeed my baby. And then just a few hours later, the honeymoon was over because a nurse was asking my husband and I if she should call a priest to help us say goodbye. We clung to each other in disbelief, and numbly baptised Etienne within his isolette, but by the time a volunteer photographer came to capture his last moments, one by one the doctors seemed to disperse and it appeared that Etienne had won that round.
There were many, many more battles to come. A very large PDA, brain bleed, chronic hypoglycaemia and jaundice, ongoing sepsis (both bacterial and fungal), retinopathy of prematurity, bouts of pneumonia and numerous episodes of bilateral lung collapse that led to 9 weeks on an oscillating vent, and 58 transfusions of blood, plasma, platelets and albumen. They call the NICU experience a rollercoaster, but when your baby’s life is teetering so close to the edge, it’s anything but a fun-filled ride. And yet, we learned to celebrate the small milestones that brought us closer to the mythical ‘graduation’ to home. Every gram of weight, every cuddle, every successful feed. So tenuous an existence that we made birthday cards for our son and celebratory cakes for the nurses each and every week he was in hospital.
Etienne came home after 138 days in the NICU needing only vitamins and a little breathing support, which he grew out of within a few months. All his other issues were resolved, some spontaneously. It took no less than four ultrasounds to convince Etienne’s paediatrician that his PDA has closed without intervention, but we’d already been convinced of our son’s apparent superpowers.
Today, my beautiful golden child is 9 months old, hitting all his developmental milestones and then some, has climbed over 20 weight percentiles and demonstrates daily all the personality and spark that undoubtedly was behind his incredible will to survive. We don’t know what the future will hold for him or us, but his entrance into the world has more than prepared us for it. We’ve been taught lessons in parenting, acceptance, finding perspective, living in the present, humility, and above all, gratitude. Because every time I look at my son I’m reminded that it took a whole community – both within and outside the hospital environment – to come together to help save his life.
COOL!: Check out Etienne’s video here.
EXTRA COOL!: Check out Carmen’s organization to help breastfeeding mums – Milky Mums.
Holding On, Day 2: Jonathon Nunan; First Cuddle: Jonathon Nunan; Blowing Raspberries: Carmen Gould; Water Baby: Carmen Gould; Dad & Son About Town: Carmen Gould
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