Mother of smaller preemie advises unconditional love

Baby Jaydah, born weighing just 1
pound, 10 ounces and thought to have been the smallest premature baby born in
Cayman, was in fact 3 ounces heavier and two weeks later than a baby born in

Having read a report in the
Caymanian Compass on Friday, 16 July, about Jaydah’s birth at 24 weeks’
gestation and her progress, Ashley’s mother Ruth Ann Bodden contacted the paper
to say she had delivered a baby of a younger age and smaller weight.

“My daughter was born in December
of 1991 at 22 weeks’ gestation, weighing one pound, seven ounces. She was born
at the George Town hospital, the attending paediatrician was Dr. [Heather]
White, and I was under the care of Dr. Steve Tomlinson,” she said.

Following her birth, Ashley was
taken to Miami for treatment and returned to Cayman three months later. She is
now 18 and graduated from St. Ignatius High School last year.

Dr. James Robertson, Jaydah’s paediatrician,
said he believed Jaydah was the smallest preemie baby to be born and to have
remained in Cayman.

“There have been smaller babies
born to mothers from Cayman in Miami. Jaydah is the smallest to have been born
and treated here, without having to go off-island,” he said.

Ms Bodden had some words of advice
to Jaydah’s mother, who expects to be able to take her baby home from hospital
in the next few weeks, and to mothers of other preemie babies.

“Love your little miracle
unconditionally as they are a blessing to us. Be careful not to smother them because
you will find yourself doing that because they had to fight so hard to survive,
you want to protect them and sometimes this can hold them back from developing.

“But through it all, keep the faith.
God gave them to us for a special reason,” she said.

She recalled having to dress Ashley
in Cabbage Patch Doll clothes because at the time she was born, since there
were no clothes specifically designed for premature babies.

“I would cut the Velcro off the
clothes because [the hospital staff] had to be able to open the clothes quickly
to do CPR on her,” Ms Bodden said.

“They would wrap her in Saran Wrap
at the Miami hospital to keep her warm. To this day, I can’t smell food being
warmed with Saran Wrap over it without thinking of that,” she said.

Ms Bodden learned CPR so that she
could be prepared for medical emergencies involving her baby girl, but
thankfully, she said, she did not have to use it.

She said that as happens with many
premature babies, when she took Ashley home for the first time, the little
girl’s immune system was low so she had to try to ensure the child avoided
getting colds. “Otherwise, she grew like a regular baby. She walked before she
was one and made sentences before she was two.”

When Ashley was about two months
old, medical staff told her mother she was out of the woods.

“She came home on a heart monitor
because she still would go to sleep and forget to breathe, but by July of 1992,
she didn’t have to use it anymore. I guess she was tired of me flicking her
feet when the monitor alarmed. That was how we would wake her up for her to
start breathing again,” her mother said.

Ashley developed a kidney problem
when she was two and a half, which her doctors in Miami say is not connected to
her premature birth and have advised her and her mother that she is likely to
outgrow the condition.

“If you were to meet her, you would
never know she is sick, she is a very pleasant young lady, always smiling,” Ms
Bodden said.

She advised Jaydah’s mom to talk
and sing to her baby. “Babies know who you are and recognise your voice from
being in your tummy. Whenever I walked into the room when she was in hospital
and talked to the nurses, she would move around and open her eyes,” she said,
adding that if she touched her baby while she was upset or depressed, Ashley’s
blood pressure would drop. “The staff wouldn’t let me touch the baby when I was
feeling like that. It was as though my feelings were being transferred to her,”
she said.

Meanwhile, at Cayman Islands
Hospital, baby Jaydah continues to make good progress and tipped the scales at
3 pounds, 3 ounces on Friday.