Burleson mother Ann Kopp said she was surprised when doctors admitted her to give birth to her son, Austin, at only six months pregnant.
“The whole pregnancy was going great,” Kopp said. “We went in for regular sonograms to check up on him. They had started noticing he was measuring smaller than the weeks I was at. It wasn’t until the last sonogram that he was about four weeks behind where I was. Weight-wise he was at five months.”
Austin was born in September 2010, the size of a baby at 24 weeks gestation, weighing in at only 1 pound, 4 ounces. His skin was so thin, Kopp said, that you could see the tiny baby’s intestines.
“We didn’t know a baby could look like that,” she said.
After Austin arrived, Kopp found herself in a strange new territory. She said turning to friends who had not given birth prematurely wasn’t helpful because Austin wasn’t on the same developmental track.
Thankfully, Kopp said, during the three months that Austin was in the neonatal intensive care unit at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, Kopp made some lifelong friends who also had premature babies.
“Out of five of us, it was three of our first encounters with babies,” she said.
The group of women has used Facebook and text messaging to stay in touch since mid-December 2010. Austin was able to go home a week before Christmas, just a day after his original due date, when he reached 4 pounds. But on Saturday, the women didn’t have to depend on technology to catch up.
Each year, the hospital puts on a NICU reunion for families whose children were in the NICU, said Megan Brooks, senior public relations specialist with Texas Health.
“They have different activities, information booths, goodie bags for the children,” she said. “It’s a time for the families and children to catch up.”
Kopp said her second NICU reunion was exciting because she was able to see many of the nurses and doctors who cared for Austin after birth.
“We met a little boy that was pretty much the same size as Austin when he was born; he’s now 5,” Kopp said. “He’s the size of maybe a 4-year-old but he’s caught up really well. It’s good to see the kids who have been through the same thing that are doing great. I love the look on the nurses’ faces when we come back and they say, ‘Oh, he’s so big.’”
Kopp said she also attends classes for new parents of preemies. Austin serves as an example to them of how well a preemie can develop.
“He’s behind on where he should be with speaking, and he started walking a little bit later and things like that,” Kopp said. “He doesn’t talk a lot, but we can tell the light bulb is starting to go off. He’s real healthy and a very, very curious kid.”
Kopp said Austin is doing well for a preemie and is expected to continue developing a little behind his age-mates for several years.