Life with a baby is never slow. There is something new ever yday; a new face made, a new sound, a new movement and a new aspect of their little personality that shines through. When a little baby is playing catch up after four months in the hospital, the seemingly small things to most parents are HUGE, monumental moments for NICU survivor parents. And our girl was no exception to this fact. A couple of months after she came home she began spitting up a lot. From one or two times a day to at the worst nine or ten times a day. We had her checked out by the GI doctor, her pediatrician, her pulmonologist and nutritionist. No one could come up with an answer to why she was doing this. It made going anywhere a struggle-packing extra burp cloths and wipes and outfits-and the poor little thing was miserable. It broke my heart and it kept us on edge all the time.
One of the absolute blessings of having a NICU survivor baby, was the support we received in the form of weekly, in home, Physical Therapy sessions. It was Luna Bell’s physical therapist that figured out what might be going on. When babies are born their ribcage is more box shaped, and over time and movement their ribs spread out to the shape we are familiar with. In doing so, the esophageal sphincter sets into place. Because Luna Bell had been so restricted in her movement, her ribs had not spread correctly yet. So, over a few months, Kevin did daily exercises with Luna Bell and her ribs finally spread out to their correct placement and the spitting up went from 10 times a day to zero times a day! Because she was not feeling great all these months, she basically refused to do anything we asked or encouraged her to do. Once she felt better though, we had a lot to catch up on, and she knew it, but she also has her own way of doing things! We worked with her on learning to sit up and lay down on her own, and after a few minutes of work, she was totally uninterested and had a very “let’s move on mom and dad” attitude. It was during this period that I learned something new about my little girl…She is sneaky!! During the day, while I was work, I would peek in on the monitor to see my little girl. I loved seeing her play with her little toys and hear her baby babble. And then, out of nowhere, she sat up. WHAT?!?!?! Ok, it was a new skill, not perfect movement, but she did it! About five minutes later she laid down on her own without just falling back, and then sat up again. My little girl was showing how like some she is; practicing things while no one watches until the skill is pretty good and then allowing others to watch. I was like that with piano and singing and writing and all the way back to riding a bike. I made my dad teach me during a rare day off in the middle of the week while the big kids in the neighborhood were at school so that they wouldn’t see me fail and fall a million times. And then I would practice while they were at school for the rest of the week until I could ride without falling, I could just miraculously ride a bike!
Luna Bell became determined to do all the things her body knew it should and could be doing. It was amazing to watch all the little things she was learning so quickly. As we neared her first birthday Luna bell had a few PT sessions centered around crawling, she was doing a modified army crawl, which pulled on her feeding tube site in her belly. Finally we did a session in front of the mirrors that are on our bedroom closet doors. She was doing what we asked as far as getting into a better position for crawling. We held her interest for a little while and then she was done. Later that evening she and I were playing in the living room and she saw a box in the kitchen. She got on all fours, lifted up her belly and proceeded to crawl the length of the living room and into the kitchen where she played with the box. I immediately praised her as tears welled up in my eyes. I sat stunned that my little baby had actually crawled. When Kevin came home I hit him with the amazing news and a few minutes later, she did it again. This time I was ready with my phone to preserve the moment with a video. It was like the sun had come out and all I could see was blue sky. Our little girl who had been forced to delay everything that should have come naturally in those first four months, was finally doing all the things we had asked her to at least try. She was definitely winning the game of catch up.