There aren’t many joys in life as intense and enduring as holding in your arms, as a parent or grandparent, a newborn infant just having arrived home from the hospital. But such was the joy we felt two days ago when my wife and I visited my son and daughter-in-law to welcome them home from the hospital with their, literally, bundle of joy.
Maverick was born pre-mature at 28 weeks, weighed less than half a sack of sugar, and was not much longer than a roast beef poboy. But he was so cute that anyone with half a heart couldn’t resist wanting to ‘eat him up’. Like most all preemies, he had a few bumps in the road but for the most part his bumps were tiny and his NICU journey was essentially uneventful, thanks to a top-notch NICU, doctor, and nurses – and of course, prayers.
Like all things, every name has a meaning. With Maverick it’s free-spirit, nonconformist, and independent. In the same way his name preceded his birth, so too from the very first moments before his arrival (very early premature contractions) it likewise portended the nature and essence of what Mom and Dad might expect from their first born. He nearly became one of those ‘elevator-babies’, in such a hurry was he to get here, but the nurses got Mama to the delivery room just in the nick of time.
Integral, without a doubt, to his steady and healthy progress was the fact he was breast fed from day one. His neonatologist urged breast feedings early on in his 12-week journey because there is now a convincing body of knowledge and experience that proves pre-mature babies fed on breast milk do better in all areas of development. Breast feeding confers markedly improved prevention from infection, better overall physical and mental development, and reduced stress. Breast fed babies even have higher IQs. Of course, babies do well on formula bottle milk, but there is a distinct difference, in general, in their outcomes.
In fact, Mama’s breast milk provides nutrients that are critical and different for a preemie than for a term infant. There’s a lot more protein and other nutrients especially made for the come-way-to-early baby. It’s like Mama’s body automatically, by reflex, knows and understands the baby was born too early and so provides the extra-needed nutrients for its special needs. (Hmmm. I wonder where this interesting notion came from. Does God come to mind?)
There’s not enough appreciation and gratitude that can be expressed in words or can be heaped up enough on the staff at the University of South Alabama Children's & Women's Hospital in Mobile. Dr. Zayek and Nurses Maggie and Rachel are consummate professionals. In expressing this thankfulness I think I speak on behalf of all Moms and Dads who’ve traveled the journey of surprises and worry with an infant in a neonatal unit. We really do have smart men and women working in these units.
August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, a good time of the year to take stock of an important health practice that can improve the health and life of a baby, who may grow up to maybe invent something, fix something, or even make an everlasting contribution to the benefit of our community. Not all mothers are able to successfully breast feed, and their babies of course still do well. But if afforded the choice, breast feeding is the preferred way to go.
I realize I might be a delusional grandpa in saying so but if our little Maverick’s life story to date is any indication of what’s to come we can expect (or reasonably hope) he will be a free-spirit, an achiever, and a heart throb. And that his start in life, aided and emboldened by being breast fed, will no doubt embrace a much better than average chance of succeeding, and besides, he also happens to have a doting and loving Mom and Dad – in addition, of course, to adoring and indulging grandparents.
Heck, he might just become a professional baseball pitcher because grandpa will be teaching him to throw a curve ball and splitter before you know it!