November 17th is World Prematurity Awareness Day. One of the many stories of prematurity, and of the amazing level of care we have access to here in Moncton, is that of our boys, Alasdair and Rory.
When it comes to prematurity, ours is a bit of a fairy tale.
Unlike most parents who find themselves bedside in the NNICU, we weren’t shocked to be there. We had 12 weeks to prepare.
We found out in mid-November that we were expecting twins. I thought I was halfway through my second pregnancy, proceeding similarly to the first. I was wrong. Not only were we expecting twin boys, we also were in jeopardy of losing them to Twin-to-Twin-Transfusion Syndrome. We rushed – quite literally – to Toronto for a laser ablation surgery. We were at 20 weeks gestation. We were told the average delivery for ‘laser twins’ was 32 weeks.
We met our goal. At 32 weeks and 2 days, our two boys arrived, kicking and screaming and breathing on their own. That was our dream, and so we actually felt some elation about our premature delivery. That is a luxury not provided to most people who deliver two months before their due date.
Our time in the NNICU was also, despite all the emotional turmoil and intense learning curves, a best case. Our boys were what folks in the business call ‘feeders and growers.’ Within the first few days they were out of the most critical care area, graduated to ‘big boy beds.’ Their hearing and eye tests were not alarming. Their hearts and lungs were fine. They just needed to learn how to eat, so that they could grow. They were 3 pounds, 13 ounces, and 2 pounds, 5.5 ounces. They needed to be close to 5 pounds to come home. That took some time, but in the grand scheme of NNICU stays and life, our 35 days seems like a small number for the impact it’s had on our lives.
The next chapter in our fairy tale is being able to use our positive experience and outcome to help support others who find themselves walking through those big doors at the end of the Maternity Ward hall. My husband and I are both volunteering our time to be ‘buddy parents,’ part of a peer support system for parents with children currently in the NNICU. We sit on a steering committee with hospital staff, who are working to continuously improve the care and the patient experience they provide. We’re working with other graduate parents to turn our Moncton Preemie Power Facebook support group into a more active presence in the community, helping families transition from NNICU life to home, helping us all keep in touch as we continue this journey of a being a preemie parent. Because whether you have micro-preemies, feeders and growers, or late-term early arrivals, it’s not something that stops because you’re discharged. It’s part of your life and, while you don’t want to see more people join your group because you want to see the numbers for premature birth start to decrease, it’s an amazingly inspirational group to call yours.
And every time you do something, even the smallest thing, to maybe make someone else’s journey a bit less bumpy, that’s when you’re saying ‘thank you’ again and again to all those who helped you along the way. Because for me, there’s never enough times or enough ways I can say thank you to the doctors and nurses who saved my children’s lives, and to the friends and family who continue to stand by us through our journey.