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Caleb was born on June 6, 2007, at 28 weeks gestation. My husband and I were immediately tossed into a whole new world in the neonatal intensive care unit and life with a preemie. Caleb spent his first two months in a Level Three NICU before being transferred to the NICU at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. It was there that we learned that developmental care practices would become a lifeline between us and our tiny son.
My first experience with NIDCAP was Kangaroo Care when Caleb was about eight weeks old. We had transferred to Cincinnati from the hospital where Caleb was born due to some problems he was having with his liver. The next morning, I was encouraged to hold Caleb Kangaroo style. At the time, I was so uncomfortable with all of the tubes, wires and noises of the NICU. That situation can really put a barrier of fear between a parent and child. I felt like I was disrupting the equipment and getting in the way of the nurses, and that I may cause my son pain or harm by holding him and taking part in his care.
During Kangaroo Care, I held Caleb on my chest for hours at a time. At first I was uncomfortable, but the closeness I was able to have with him during those times was amazing. The barrier of fear created by the equipment and noises was slowly removed. The skin-to-skin contact had an amazing effect on Caleb. His heart rate would calm, his oxygen level would increase and I could tell that Caleb was much more relaxed and restful. Above all, we were finally bonding. My husband even did Kangaroo Care a few times. It was a perfect way for a father to participate in his son's care.
Caleb was observed several times throughout our stay in the NICU using NIDCAP guidelines. These reports gave me a clear understanding of how the behaviors Caleb was exhibiting were in relation to the types of developmental care practices we used (parents, nurses and other caregivers). I learned how to put my hands on his head and body to soothe him, how to watch his facial expressions and heart/oxygen rates to read his comfort levels, and how to position his body to relieve discomfort. Even the simple act of speaking or singing softly to Caleb was something I could do at any time, knowing that I was calming my child. I could see on a daily basis the effect that these simple, but extremely important, techniques had on Caleb's comfort levels and in turn, the improvement of his health. As a mother, I felt that I had become an integral part of Caleb's team of caregivers, not just someone who had to sit in fear on the sidelines.
Our son was born three months early. He was in the NICU for the first four months of his life, on a ventilator for three months and has had five surgeries. My husband and I nervously brought him home in October of 2007, along with five medications and oxygen tanks. Today, Caleb is a happy, healthy boy.
I am so thankful that the individualized developmental care practices are in use at Cincinnati Children's. Because of the teaching and guidance we had through NIDCAP, we became partners on Caleb's healthcare team, not just parents watching and wondering. To this day I can see how developmental practices have affected Caleb's health and growth. Because of the way we were able to travel this road together, I am blessed to have a bond with my son like no other.
Caleb, one month old.
Caleb, five months old.
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