I am going to compare our experiences with Ruth to our experiences with Samuel a lot, just to keep it in my perspective. Most people experience what we did with Ruth or something similar, but since Samuel was our first born and did not follow the norm, it was exciting to learn what the "norm" is (granted each labor and delivery happen a bit differently, but all in all they are a lot more similar to each other when the baby is term than when the baby is 3 months early). So here are some ways that Ruth and Samuel have been very different:
1. First off, we were excited for labor! In fact we were waiting (im)patiently and praying for it to start for a few weeks by the time I was in labor. This is a big difference from when Samuel was born. You see, when you reach term and labor is supposed to be happening instead of being in the throes of labor all of a sudden, 3 months early, you can view it as a good thing. When I was in labor with Samuel it came on suddenly and I labored through the night all the while thinking that this should not be happening (and it should not have, but did). Samuel is the reason I cannot in good conscience say that babies come when they are ready, he came early and was clearly not ready. Ruth was a completely different story! I was having contractions that were getting more regular and intense the night before her due date. We were ready to head into the hospital when labor stopped. For the next week I waited (im)patiently for labor to start again and all I got were random contractions periodically. When labor finally started (with the help of the doctor breaking my water) I was ready and excited for it!
During labor, which was hard, but fairly quick for me, I was able to look at the pain as a good thing. Granted I was really tired, as the off and on labor of the last week of pregnancy and inability to get comfortable made sleep very tricky, but labor was a good thing. Contractions really picked up around 3pm and she was born at 6:22pm.
2. When Ruth was born it seemed like she was immediately put in my arms (which she wasn't immediately, there was some fear that she swallowed meconium, but it was within minutes). That was the plan that she would be given to me right away, but after Samuel I wasn't ready for it. Of course I was happy to hold her and would not have wanted it any other way, but mentally I wasn't prepared for them to just give her to me. Samuel went straight from the doctor's hands to the NICU doctor. He was immediately covered up to keep him warm (as he was unable to control his own body temperature and would remain unable for a while) and the NICU team went to work making sure he was breathing. With Ruth all they did was a quick check over for the meconium and she was mine. It seemed too easy.
3. I actually had to recover from the birth. Both births were vaginal, but with Samuel I did not understand what all the fuss was. I stopped taking pain medications pretty much immediately with him and did not understand why people though I would be in any pain postpartum. Sure I was sore, but pain? Let's just say a 7# 15oz baby leaves a little more of a mark on her way out than a 2.5# baby. For a full two weeks I was more than simply sore, I definitely had pain. Granted as the 2 weeks went on the pain lessened and I tried to not do things that would make it hurt, but it was a full 2 weeks before I started feeling "normal" again. For those having babies now, invest in a boppy. It's not for nursing and it isn't to put the baby in, it's for you to sit on. Trust me, you'll probably want it.
4. Nursing Ruth has felt like a breeze compared to Samuel. In fact Samuel was about 6 or 7 weeks old before we latched him for the first time to try to nurse for himself. Up until then the pump and I were best buds. Anyone who thinks pumping is easy, hasn't probably done it to boost their supply or keep going (granted for some it is easier than others). Every time I pumped it was like 30 minutes + of time and I did that 10-12 times a day most of the time Samuel wasn't able to nurse for himself. I am really enjoying that I can simply just nurse my baby. This is part of why I believe a full-term baby is easier to care for than a preemie. Even when Samuel came home from the hospital and was eating for himself, I was still pumping 4-6 times a day. Now, if I feel like pumping I can, but I don't have to for fear of losing my supply. Another thing I have noticed is I sometimes leak when she cries. I never did that with Samuel and I have to believe that is due to how I built my supply with them. Ruth was an active part of that process whereas Samuel was not.
5. Ruth and Samuel have VERY different cries. Granted this does not necessarily have anything to do with Samuel being preemie, but still. Samuel's cry was way more subdued than Ruth's. Ruth is a loud squeaky shrieky crier. When she cries, you know it and so does just about everyone in a 5 block radius (ok maybe I am exaggerating on the 5 block radius).
6. Ruth is HUGE! Ok, not really. She's actually quite average when it comes to size I am told, but still she is HUGE! I guess your size reference gets skewed a little when big brother was only 2.5# at birth... I don't know how big Ruth is right now, but she fits 0-3 months sized clothes very nicely and I bet she'll be in 3-6 month sized clothes within a few weeks. Samuel could wear 0-3 month when he was 6 months old (granted he had probably been wearing them for a month by then, but still, Ruth started fitting in them at only a month of age). I have had to stop myself from thinking Ruth is "behind" developmentally because Samuel was doing so much more than she is when he was her size. :-) I have to remember Ruth is "normal" Samuel was not!
7. Bonding with my baby is so different. I did not comment on this much when Samuel was in the NICU, but it took me quite a while to process emotionally that Samuel was my son. I knew he was, but his birth and early infancy was anything but "normal" and definitely not what I pictured when we found out we were expecting with him. I try not to build up too many expectations because each situation is a little different, but I never expected to have a preemie. Even though I knew he was my baby and I would eventually take him home and I spent a TON of time in his room at the NICU (went home to sleep almost every night though), it took me a while to emotionally make that connection. That tiny baby in his giraffe bed, hooked up to all the equipment was mine and is mine. As I got to hold him more and as he came home and became more and more interactive that emotional connection happened, but it took more time. With Ruth, I feel like that connection happened much more immediately. That brings me to my last point:
8. When I was discharged from the hospital, so was Ruth! Oh and we did not set up visiting nurse appointments for when she was home (except for 1, they have a nurse come to your house, or you go into the hospital or they have a nurse call you a few days after discharge, but that is standard procedure). There has been no need thus far to closely monitor Ruth in any way. She was born, she was (and is) healthy and they sent us home, nothing to it. I actually had the thought of they just send babies home like this? Would I have been ready for Samuel to be home so soon after his birth if he were term? This is way too simple! Again I have the more involved process of being in the NICU as my point of comparison, not really fair, I know. We did not even visit with a doctor or a nurse again until her 2 week check-up (and Samuel got to have his 1.5 year check-up then too) and her doctor told us that he did not need to see her again until 2 months. That is approximately 6 whole weeks of zero monitoring! That has been so nice though. When Samuel came home we had a nurse at our house twice a week for check-ups, we had more frequent doctor visits and he had to see an ophthalmologist for his ROP (that thankfully went away on its own). It's been nice to just go home and be a family!
Lastly I want to comment quickly on the question that everyone has, "What does Samuel think of his sister?" Well, he's intrigued by her. He does not seem to understand what is happening, but he seems somewhat intrigued. When she first came home Samuel had sustained a minor injury that took him off his feet for almost 2 full weeks and was super grumpy, he wanted nothing to do with her then, he was in his own form of misery. But as he has felt better he is showing interest. We are practicing gentle touches when he's around her. He also acts somewhat concerned when she is close by and fussing. He has put together that we give her a pacifier at times to help calm her and will sometimes bring us a pacifier to give her when she is crying. Other than that he pretty much ignores her and does his own thing. His own thing lately includes wandering the house with some sort of kitchen utensil in his hands. Some of his favorites are the potato masher and the grill spatula.
|Samuel practicing his gentle touches.|
|Ruth is one whole month old!|
|Samuel likes to try to hang with Ruth and I on the couch.|
|Daddy with both kids! Samuel's trying to escape.|