Yesterday I was thinking to myself, ‘I really should move past this… it has had a hold of me for too long.. it doesn’t have to be this way anymore.’ But then a day like World Prematurity Day comes around and I remember why it is okay to feel and why it is okay to keep sharing. Because we are not the only family that prematurity has affected, we definitely won’t be the last, and in no way are we the most affected.
Every year, 15 million babies are born premature worldwide. More than one million of these babies die, and many more face serious, lifelong health challenges. Worldwide, one in ten babies are born too early – more than 25,000 each year in Australia alone. Raising awareness of preterm birth is the first step to defeating it (miraclebabies.org.au) and I believe that it can also help to shed light on how common it is and what the experience can be like.
Having a premature baby or babies in my case, is heart wrenching. It’s so frightening, frustrating, isolating and traumatic. It is something that no one should have to go through. NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) parents have experienced loss in one way or another. In many cases, NICU parents never get to bring their babies home. We were so blessed to bring home two gorgeous baby girls and not a day goes by where I forget how fortunate we are.
In NICU I constantly felt lost. Of course there were many ups and downs in the rollercoaster that is NICU life, but one thing I intrinsically knew, was that I needed to celebrate the mini milestones that most newborns never need to meet. Like when our babies began breathing with less support, when they started to breathe without support, when they opened their eyes, when their tiny little bottoms had just a smidge of fat, when they reached their birth weight, when they reached 1kg, when they went up a nappy size, when they beat an infection, when they wore clothes for the first time, when they turned off the heat in their humicribs, when they went into open cots, when we had our first touch and our first cuddle, when we finally had the first twin cuddle, when they reached full feeds, when they had a line taken out, when they graduated to special care, when they had their first breastfeed practice, when they had their first bottle practice, the list goes on and on. And with our girls, these milestones didn’t happen at the same time because, even from the very beginning, they have been very much their own person.
I know we have had it easier than other premmie families. I know that others do and will struggle more. I also know and understand that when we look at our babies, not only do we see their perfect gorgeous little faces, and their deliciously squiggy bodies. We also see warriors. Warriors who fought the fight of their lives and kicked but. Warriors who stayed strong and resilient, even when their parents found courage difficult and at times, near impossible.
Watching our baby girls fight every day, I would have given anything to see them healthy and happy like all newborn babies deserve to be. These days, when I get frustrated or when the girls have totally exhausted me, I remember how tiny, fragile and helpless they were and how lucky I am to have this crazy twin life! Now that we have our babies home, we have realised that it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things if they have delays or other prematurity related issues. The most important thing is that our children are alive. Whatever it is they need, we will be here to love, nurture and provide. Always. There is no need to be frightened anymore. My babies have given me strength that I never knew I had. We really are the lucky ones.
Being the mother of two extreme prem babies has undoubtedly been the hardest thing that I have ever gone through. In a way though, it has also been an eye opening and amazing experience. I mean, we got to spend an extra three months with our baby girls! And not only have we made our own little family, but we have also joined two others: the multiples family and the NICU family. Families who also know and understand, that even when the days are tough. Life really is a wonderful blessing.