Iain was born at 24 weeks after several months of a difficult pregnancy. His two older siblings were born at 42 and 43 weeks, so I was completely shocked at his birth, this 24 week stuff was ridiculous – this kind of thing doesn’t happen to us. We were overwhelmed by the whole experience and really felt that we were in a completely different world from the one I had known till now (seeing my baby wrapped in what seemed like tinfoil under bright lights and whisked away didn’t meet my dreams or expectations). This new world of incubators, bleeps, drips, long lines and a medical language that everyone tried so hard to explain at times was all too much for me. I am sure I was a very tiresome parent who sought explanations upon explanations.
Our lovely wee boy had a pretty hard time in NICU; infections, grade 3 bleed, noro virus were part of our new everyday world. He was a fighter, it was definitely a story of 1 step forward and 2 steps back. It took a long time for him to tolerate feeds and he was on low flow oxygen for months. I quickly learnt that my contribution to my baby’s life was to be there, talk to him and feed him (darn breast pump) and make clothes that fitted him.
He came home a week after his due date, weighing 1800g in the middle of winter. He was breastfeeding with comp feeds and best of all no oxygen. Yes, it was VERY scary, armed with bigger brother and sister, an apnoea alarm, follow up visits from the home care nurse and neuro developmental therapist. And some new friends who were sharing similar experiences, that are still friends today.
Over his first year he was readmitted numerous times with chest infections, respiratory issues, and he developed severe reflux. The bombshell of the first year was when Iain got Hep B meningitis, until that time I never felt that we might lose him. It was hard, my thoughts at the time I think were enough is enough! Fortunately he made a full recovery and the one last hurdle was surgery for his reflux. His retinopathy plus astigmatism meant that he wore glasses from a very early age. These events brought us to his first birthday and what a party we had.
As a toddler he remained very small but physically very strong making many physical milestones at his corrected age, rolling over, crawling and walking. His speech was delayed, as were his fine motor skills. The reason for his delays were uncertain – was it the numerous illnesses, the meningitis or the extreme prematurity?
School was problematic. He started on his 5th birthday, although he wasn’t ready, but headed off with his friends from kindy to the local school. Often in neonatal terms we talk about catching up, my experience as a parent and teacher has shown that it takes time to catch up. At this stage it was clear he had some learning issues and this has had an impact on his journey through school. He had significant gaps in his achievement at the time. He was bright enough but not succeeding YET. I found I needed to be patient, give him all the support we could and LOTS of time.
In year 5 it was becoming clear that he needed some kind of intervention and found SPELD tutoring to be very successful for him at the time. And later on, some support in maths. He continued to have chest related ill health, we had difficultly controlling his asthma in the winter months, we did lots of swimming lessons and this did help and he got every flu going (maybe not), chicken pox and whooping cough. As he got older and stronger, his lungs and fine motor skills did improve.
The transition to College was very difficult and looking back was not that well managed, he needed to remember timetables, a new structure of the day and did not have a teacher aide any more. We had heard about the learner support department at his College but had not had any contact. We chose for him to have an additional literacy session rather than doing a second language. The head of this department proved to be the BEST TEACHER EVER for our son and explored the use of a laptop with him. The difference in his achievement was outstanding. So we dug deep and purchased him a laptop which initially he didn’t want to use because it made him stand out, whereas these days they all have laptops. The use of this technology and a teacher who understood him was the making of him.
In year 11, he won the Social Studies Prize at his College, as you can imagine this was one of the proudest moments of our life, seeing our once underachiever standing on the stage receiving his award. It was like finally he has caught up! With this new found confidence, Iain could choose subjects he wanted, he chose his subjects carefully with a mix of academic and practical subjects. He still needed support in organising himself and some tutoring for maths.
As he matured, he learnt to organise himself, gained a black belt in Kempo Karate which was huge as he had to remember two days worth of routines. His big brother and sister made a huge effort to be with him over this time and it was just amazing, at times all I could do was hold my breath hoping he would remember the routines!!! And he did. Seeing him put on that black jacket .. well it still brings a big lump to my throat. It was also a big achievement when he learnt successfully how to write an essay to a standard to submit to university. His late teens worked out well for him. He has had to work very hard to achieve his successes and is quietly determined in what he chooses to do.
He recently graduated from university with a BA in Classics and Anthropology. We are so proud of what he has achieved!!! It has been a family effort. These kids need a hand and it is well worth it.