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.
During the first 2 weeks of my boys’ lives, the NICU was our home-away-from-home. I was aware of the possibility of a NICU stay, just based on a multiple pregnancy being high-risk. We made it to 38 weeks gestation, so what could possibly go wrong? Our boys decided to throw a wrench in the we’re-just-here-until-we-can-gain-some-weight-and-maintain-our-body-temps NICU experience that I was prepared for. No parent wants their children to require a NICU stay, but if your children end up there, I now know that there is no better place. The care and concern of the neo-natal doctors and NICU nurses was unimaginably authentic and sincere, and they knew how to react to urgent situations in the blink of an eye. They are skilled in their profession, and skilled in compassion. (Read a little more about my boys’ unexpected NICU stay in the letter I wrote to them on their first birthday.)
For the first two years after the boys were born, my mom and I “went back to give back”. On their first birthday I baked 100 cupcakes and my mom knitted baby blankets to distribute to the current NICU residents. On the boys’ second birthday, they went with us to donate 100 infant and preemie handmade hats (again, the crafty work of my mom). The nurses loved seeing the boys and the families we encountered were grateful for the handmade items, and hopeful that they’d soon be home with their little ones. Every February, we also attend a fundraiser for our hospital’s NICU which raises thousands of dollars each year. Absolutely amazing.
Although my mom was prepared for their 3rd and 4th birthdays, I had a difficult enough time returning the first two times. Although miracles were performed during my boys’ stay, I got extremely emotional as we walked down that long corridor to the NICU with gifts; gifts thanking the medical personnel for allowing me the opportunity to bring my boys home happy and healthy. If anyone has ever seen me cry, you know it’s not a pretty sight. I cannot easily contain my emotions. I just couldn’t go back to the NICU again. It was just too difficult, and instantly brought back very emotional memories for me.
Fast forward to today. I have two very happy, very active four year old boys, and am now involved with our local multiples club. I was ecstatic to hear that our club’s Charity Committee was able to purchase a rocking chair second-hand, and is in the process of having a plaque made for each arm of the chair. The plaques will dedicate the chair to a local NICU and create name recognition for our club; a club which has been so supportive to new moms-of-multiples in our area. You don’t even have to be a member of our club to receive and benefit from the plethora of advice our members are always ready and willing to share. We want to let new moms know that we have ‘been there’, and that we are a strong, local support system that they can turn to.
Any small token of gratitue does not go unnoticed. Gifts, parental support via volunteering, updates on your NICU graduates…
Do you feel NICU gratitude? What have you done to give back to those that gave so much?