Today is prematurity awareness day.
Here's the brief version of our difficult story:
Our daughters were born two months too soon. My OB ignored the many symptoms of pre-eclampsia. It was only when I went for a level 2 ultrasound with a specialist that someone finally listened to my concerns and my symptoms. Unfortunately, since I had gone untreated for so long, it was too late. They immediately sent me to the hospital to deliver that day.
Born via c-section, L. weighed 4 lbs. E. weighed 3 lbs 3 oz. They spent four weeks in the NICU. Looking back, that doesn't sound that bad, but it seemed to stretch on forever while we were in the middle of it. NICU's do not exist in real world time. Each day had enough emotional ups and downs to last a lifetime. Each week felt more like months.
L. initially had problems with her lungs and suffered bradycardia episodes. I watched her stop breathing in her incubator, heard the alarms and had to step back as the nurse ran in to rouse her. E. suffered heart problems. She was so easily over-stimulated that she was kept masked and we weren't able to hold her until she was over a week old. I later found this probably wasn't the best course of care and that bothers me to no end. I should have had my tiny baby against my skin, not locked away from me in an incubator.
In the NICU, they fell down to 3 lbs and 2 lbs. I didn't know if L would make it through the first night. B'H', she did. The next day, though, E. took a turn for the worse. For about the first week, I didn't know if E would survive. I vividly remember repeating, "She's going to make it" over and over again once we realized that would be the case.
Looking back, and then looking at the time since then, I realize just how amazing their story is. Ever since then, our kids have had an ideal recovery. I loathe telling our pregnancy story to pregnant women because I don't think they need that negativity. I love telling the girls' survival story to parents of preemies, though, because it really is as miraculous as one could hope for.
The girls didn't even suffer their first cold until just before their second birthday. By the time they were 2, they were completely caught up in size and development. In 2005, our girls were among a handful of preemies picked to be featured in the November issue of Parents Magazine as a part of their feature on the March of Dimes. Now, at eight, they suffer no lasting consequences of their prematurity. Their story often surprises people who meet them today.
Today, the only reminder of their awful early beginnings are the teeny doll clothes in frames, the stacks and stacks of medical paperwork from their first year, the pictures, my visceral reaction to the beeping of hospital monitors (to this day, I cannot hear them, even on television without being startled), and our involvement with the March of Dimes. We do the March for Babies every year.
75% of babies born weighing 3 lbs 5 oz (which, remember, is larger than E.) died just 30 years ago. It's through research funded by the March of Dimes that treatments have been created which help save these babies. My children are alive thanks to the March of Dimes. So, every year, we raise money and walk to help support them. In 2008, our girls were the local ambassadors for the March of Dimes March for Babies.
And so, today, on Prematurity Awareness Day, I remember, I cry, I celebrate, I thank G-d for what we've been given, I mourn for others who have lost, and I hug my kids close.