World Prematurity Day
Through my work I had met a few parents who had given birth to premature babies. I had shared their stories full of struggles and triumphs with the public and was very compassionate when it came to their situation. I was aware of World Prematurity Day before, but this year November 17th will hold a very special place in my heart.
After having a miscarriage my mindset was altered. After struggling to conceive for another year after altered it even more. Rather than wanting to scream from the rooftops that we had conceived again, I was nervous. I became even more nervous when I found out very early in the pregnancy that we were expecting twins. What if one of them doesn’t survive? What if they both don’t? What if one is still born? What if I go into labour early?
Don’t get me wrong, I was over the moon excited about becoming a mommy, but these fears lingered in the back of my mind for the majority of my pregnancy.
After being diagnosed with placenta previa and being put on bed rest I was reminded once again just how ‘at risk’ my pregnancy really was. No prenatal yoga for me, no cross border shopping for baby stuff either. I was to stay put in bed, and if that’s what my babies needed, that’s exactly what I was going to do.
But despite the bed rest, taking it easy and staying off my feet my babies decided to come early. At 31 weeks and 3 days I went into labour. My local hospital couldn’t even deliver my twins because I hadn’t hit the 32 week mark. I was scared for my babies and the unknown. I took a small sigh of relief when the Toronto hospital I was taken to by ambulance told me that 31 week old babies were considered ‘old’ to them and that we’d all be just fine. Luckily I had an amazing team of about 20 delivering the twins and at 31 weeks and 4 days they entered the world a full two months early.
I had no idea what it would be like raising a preemie, let alone two of them:
I had no idea that they were born before they learned the sucking motion so they’d have to be tube fed in hospital. Leading to breastfeeding struggles and very long feeds still to this day.
I had never heard the term GERD before but that’s exactly what they were diagnosed with: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, the flap covering their oesophagus hadn’t fully formed so some of their food comes back up.
I didn’t fully understand the ‘corrected age’ terminology prior to the twins being born. Now although they’re 8 months old, they look and act more like 6 month olds and that’s just fine with me.
I didn’t know that preemie clothes and diapers are hard to find and expensive and many of the outfits that we received as gifts wouldn’t fit them in the seasons that they should. Thank goodness for returns and store credits.
I had no idea that 15 million babies are born prematurely worldwide every year and that more than 1 million of them won’t make it to their first birthday. Even more surprising is that 75 percent of those deaths could have been prevented even without intensive care. Through many global organizations teaming together for World Prematurity Day more awareness is being raised and helping me and many others understand just how dangerous premature births can be and that we’re not alone.
Our girls were watched over very closely in hospital but that changed as soon as they were discharged. It was very tough as a parent to go from one extreme to another in a split second. From constant charts and monitors to none. I know that some hospitals have follow up screenings for preemies, but since our girls weren’t deemed ‘at risk’ the only follow ups they receive are with our family doctor and every few months they see their pediatrician.
Now that my husband and I know the risks that preemies can face we decided that we wanted to do more for our girls than just the regular doctors visits. Luckily the region where we live offers screenings for preemies and we see them every four months to make sure the girls are hitting their milestones and not raising any red flags. They helped me connect with other parents of preemies in my area and sharing stories has really helped.
For any parents of preemies; look for resources in your area, connect with other parents of preemies and know that you’re not alone.
And if you’re in the Toronto area on November 17th and wonder why the CN Tower is lighting the sky a pretty purple, just think of the millions of preemies being honoured and those being remembered on World Prematurity Day.