As if we weren’t already proud enough . . .
Today the Developmental Specialist came to evaluate Juliana. As an extremely premature baby, she has some challenges ahead of her because her “real” age is different than her gestational age. She should still be in the womb right now (38 weeks tomorrow), but instead, she is 3 months old. However, we can’t expect her to be doing what a full-term 3-month-old baby would be doing. So, it’s a tricky thing to analyze. Fortunately, they have specialists who can evaluate her progress and give us recommendations for how to help her progress and catch up to her gestational age by 16 months old, or earlier. The result of her evaluation? She is doing “amazingly well!”
The specialist looked at things like: eye movement and tracking with or without sound, hand, arm, foot, and leg reflexes, muscle tone, social skills (at this point that includes smiling–which she does!!), neck muscles, etc. Her leg and arm muscle tone is a bit tight, which is very common for premature babies, so the specialist gave us some massages and exercises to help her loosen up. However, with everything else she scored at 1-2 months!! This is amazing, since her gestational age is actually -2 weeks right now. Apparently she is a little superstar (but we already knew that). The specialist was very impressed with her and also credited the fact that she has had a lot of parent interaction from day one. We have already noticed that there are not many other parents in the NICU. It’s rather sad. For whatever reasons, the other parents are not able to be there, or else don’t want to be there. Juliana has benefited from our ability to spend hours, every day, with her. Her ability to smile ordinarily would not come in until 2 months after the due date, but she has had a lot of “face time” with us, so she has dramatically improved.
We are fortunate to live in a state where future physical therapy is free through the MD Infants and Toddlers program. We will be referred to our Washington County PT, and they will make house calls to continue working with her for the next 3 years, in addition to the University of MD NICU Follow-Up Program. This continued care should help ensure that she progresses well and catches up quickly to her “real” age. The specialist today said that she sees no reason to think that Juliana won’t continue doing brilliantly. The more we work with her, the more she will improve. We can do little exercises and massages with her every time we change her diaper, and we can work these in to other parts of her day as well. We are so excited to help her on her way. The specialist kept saying how impressive Juliana was. Of course I was beaming; I am so proud of her!
We are also going to begin a fun game called “The Sense of the Week.” Even though the specialist has never recommended it for a baby before the due date, she decided that Juliana is doing so well that she is ready for this exercise. Starting Monday we will get to bring in a different smelling item each day and give Juliana some exposure to the world outside the sterile NICU. Some interesting smells would be things like: perfume, marinara sauce, cinnamon, etc. We have to get approval for anything we bring in (some items might produce allergic reactions, for example, peanut butter), but the point is to have some fun introducing her to new things. Then we can move on to the sense of sound, or to visual stimulation or touch. We just aren’t allowed to work with the sense of taste. Obviously she is only allowed breastmilk. But we are looking forward to seeing her reactions to these new things! Maybe some fun pictures will result. 🙂
In other news, Nana Payne came to visit. She enjoyed holding Juliana today and watching the developmental tests. Juliana weighs 4 lb, 5.5 oz. She is slowly working back into her non-dairy milk feedings. Her hernia surgery is scheduled for early Friday afternoon. She is beautiful and sweet and the light of our lives.
It was a good day.