In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.
In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.
In January, my fraternal twin girls will turn five. I’ve been blogging for almost four years now, and I have published 951 posts. Not once have I written the girls’ birth story.
It’s not that I want to forget, exactly…but remembering can be pretty painful.
And as soon as I say that, I feel pretty silly. My girls were born at 34 weeks, and “only” spent 10 days in the NICU. The gift of time and perspective on my side, I realize we were very, very lucky. But it didn’t seem that way the first couple of weeks of January 2009.
I had a very healthy, uneventful pregnancy.
I’m a Type A personality. I took every one of my doctor’s words to heart. I religiously followed the advice in the number of pregnancy books I read. My doctor wanted me to deliver at 37 weeks, and that’s exactly what I planned to do.
I also had a very even-keeled pregnancy. I was just so happy! There were times I felt a little queasy, and times when I was more tired than usual, but I welcomed those signs of pregnancy with a big smile on my face. I always kept my emotions in check, believing that the babies felt what I was feeling. I never wanted them to feel stressed, or sad, and that definitely contributed to my attitude.
The one exception to my joyful glow came after my husband and I took a prenatal class at our hospital, specifically geared towards twins and more. As part of the class, we toured the NICU. I came home that night and broke down. Seeing those tiny babies with tubes and wires, amid the beeping of machines and the sterility of the environment…I couldn’t get it out of my head.
No, that wouldn’t be me. I was going to give birth at 37 weeks. My husband and dad would be there for the big day. I’d have my best friends come to meet the girls in the hospital. We would all come home together three days later.
Fast forward to Friday evening, January 2, when I couldn’t calm what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions by lying on my side and drinking gallons of water. I told my husband I was sure it was nothing, but maybe we should go to the hospital, just in case.
I went in and was monitored for a couple of hours. My contractions subsided, and I was told to follow-up with my doctor on Monday. My doctor didn’t hold office hours on Monday, so I had an appointment with him first thing Tuesday morning. On Monday night, the contractions came back, and I shrugged to my husband, telling him we should probably go in again…but 100% expecting to have the same outcome as a few days prior.
I was in total shock when, after being checked a couple of times, the on-call doctor said, “We’re about to have some babies!”
What??? Can’t you stop it?!!! You have to stop it!!!
I am not a hysterical person. As a business professional, I am known for my calm, assess-the-situation-and-decide-upon-the-best-course-of-action approach.
But I was nothing short of hysterical that night.
I remember shaking uncontrollably, crying out…while what seemed like teams of people buzzed around me in perfect harmony, as if this kind of thing happened every day.
And maybe it does.
But I didn’t intend for it to happen to me.
After the girls were born, I was in an absolute state of denial. I know this sounds cliché, but it was so true for me…there was some part of me that fully expected to wake up and still be pregnant…to reach down and still feel my precious girls kicking underneath my shirt. It took a long time…several weeks…before I came to terms that they were here, and there was no going back.
The girls spent 10 days in the NICU with only minor interventions. They came home and we picked up more or less where we would have if they’d been born closer to full-term.
I feel like this shouldn’t be a painful memory for me…just focus on the outcome, right?…but it is. Thankfully, almost five years in, time brings perspective. Writing this post is one more step in moving forward. I’m not sure I could have gotten through this in black and white a couple of years ago. I’m thankful now that I can.
MandyE blogs at Twin Trials and Triumphs. She focuses on the many adventures she enjoys with her fraternal twin girls.