I had an enlightening day at the hospital yesterday and realised I am starting to get to know my new children. As I was sitting with Alexander up my dress having our precious kangaroo time I was listening to a lady going around to the nurses teaching them about developmental care for premature babies and how to communicate with them. She is like the baby whisperer. Possibly a bit patronizing if you know it already, I sensed some of the nurses had heard it all before, but to
me it was fresh and valuable information that I found myself hungry for. Especially as the babies will inevitably be moved in the next few days and to a hospital where this sort of developmental care isn’t practiced as a matter of course.
The principle is to replicate the conditions in the womb so they teach the staff to build nests of blankets and towels around the baby so that they aren’t lost in the space of the incubator and they can brace their feet and hands against the sides. They always speak softly to them and tell them what they are about to do. The staff encourage you to do a comfort hold where you place your hands over the baby gently rather than stroke them which can be overstimulating with their thin skin. The most interesting thing she told me was about opening a dialogue with the baby, letting them know you are there, telling them it’s ok, then holding a foot and giving it it a single stroke to let them know where you are. Hands up or feet up or stretched out means I’m not ok, hands to mouth or curled towards the face means I feel safe.
She also told me Beatrix was feisty and seemed ‘very grown up for her age’. Faintly ridiculous at 30 weeks gestation ( a sort of negative counting but they don’t start talking in post gestational age till you hit your due date. She is in normal terms 12 days old.) It sounds like something you’d say about a teenager.
Anyway, it seemed true enough. She is old for her 12 days and seems very aware of her surroundings, certainly aware of me being there. She gets very cross when she can hear me but I am not paying her attention or holding her brother nearby. Today she pulled her feeding tube out of her stomach when no one was looking and lay there all innocent like nothing had happened. She fights to pull her ventilation mask off too and she is really strong and stubborn if she doesn’t want to let something go. The Baby Whisperer went further. Like a soothsayer she said ‘she will be strong and independent but she won’t know her limits and she will need you to ground her’. At this point my mother will be sitting at home reading this and chuckling to herself. Sound familiar?
I had the distinct feeling there was a bit of projection going on as the Baby Whisperer revealed she had a strong, independent daughter of her own who had also been premature. Plus she had no such future predictions for Alexander. When I told the husband this he said it was interesting because one of the nurses had said Alexander was going to be very masculine and strong and good at woodwork. Ha ha. Point taken. Still I have a hunch she could be right about Bea. We’ll see.