In a few recent discussions with other parents of preemies, the subject of what our babies missed by not having a third trimester, or even part of the second trimester, has come up. It makes for interesting reading.
Here are just a few highlights of the things our babies missed out on which I have gathered from a couple of different websites:
Week 26: Eyes remain closed. Although your baby's eyes are fully developed, they may not open for another two weeks.
Week 27: Second trimester ends. Your baby's lungs, liver and immune system are continuing to mature.
Week 28: Baby's eyes open. Your baby's eyes are beginning to open and close. The color has been established. Your baby is now sleeping for about 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
Week 29: Movement is more forceful. Your baby's bones are fully developed, but they're still soft and pliable. This week, your baby begins storing iron, calcium and phosphorus.
Week 30: Baby packs on pounds. Your baby weighs about 3 pounds and will gain about 1/2 pound a week until week 37. Your baby may practice breathing by moving his or her diaphragm in a repeating rhythm.
Week 31: Reproductive development continues. Your baby's lungs are more developed, but they're not fully mature. If your baby is born this week, he or she will probably need a ventilator to assist breathing. Complications such as bleeding in the brain are less likely than they were even a few weeks ago.
Week 32: Downy hair falls off. The layer of soft, downy hair that has covered your baby's skin for the past few months — known as lanugo — starts to fall off this week.
Week 33: Baby detects light. Your baby's pupils now constrict, dilate and detect light.
Week 34: Protective coating gets thicker. The pasty white coating that protects your baby's skin — called vernix — gets thicker this week.
Week 35: Rapid growth continues. Your baby continues to pack on the pounds and store fat all over his or her body.
Week 36: Baby can suck. Recent fat deposits have rounded out your baby's face, and your baby's powerful sucking muscles are ready for action. To prepare for birth, your baby may descend into the head-down position.
Week 37: Baby is full-term. As fat continues to accumulate, your baby's body will slowly become rounder.
Week 38: Organ function continues to improve. His or her brain and nervous system are working better every day. This developmental process will continue through childhood and adolescence.
Week 39: Placenta provides antibodies. Your baby has enough fat under the skin to maintain body temperature as long as there's a little help from you. The placenta continues to supply your baby with antibodies that will help fight infection the first six months after birth.
Not only did our children miss out on these crucial steps in development but their underdeveloped eyes were assaulted by too much light, their ears (which had no cartilage and were mere flaps of skin) were subjected to too much sound, their skin had no protective coating but instead was subjected to the pressure of the isolette, the touch of the sheets, blankets and tiny diapers, their imnmune systems which were so far from being formed were subjected to a thousand germs, despite everyone's best efforts to protect them, their nervous system was forced to endure the pain of PICC lines, umbilical lines, endotracheal tubes and feeding tubes and their bodies subjected to dozens of medications, all of which you as their mother were told to avoid during pregnancy.
I think that the next time someone suggests that preemies just need to put a little meat on their bones and get a little bigger, I'll just hand them this list rather than try to explain the effects of prematurity.