This is a piece written for us by a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community on Twitter.
I didn’t even have my hospital bag ready (despite being told to do so ‘just in case’) when I went into labour at 30 weeks, 5 days. I always knew that I wouldn’t make it to full term with my pregnancy, as I was carrying twins, but I never expected them to arrive quite so early. To say I was in shock when the consultant in triage told me I was 3cm dilated is an understatement. All I could do was burst into tears. I wasn’t ready for this, I didn’t have a birth plan, I didn’t have any belongings with me, but, most of all, my babies weren’t ready for the world just yet! Cue more tears when I was told that I had to be transferred to a hospital nearly two hours from home to give birth as my own was oversubscribed in NICU. I have to say I have never been so scared in all my life. I just wanted my babies to be okay; it’s only natural to start fearing the worst, and all sorts of bad thoughts started to enter my mind.
I was given steroidal injections to help mature the boys’ lungs and was also put on a drip to try and slow the contractions, as we wanted the babies to hang on in there as long as possible! But this didn’t help for long, as thirty-nine hours after I was informed that I was 3cm dilated, my beautiful babies were born at 30 weeks, 6 days at 9:00pm. They were taken straight from us to the room next door where a team of about ten NICU doctors and nurses were waiting to give the boys the helping hands they needed in those first few minutes of their lives. Most women cry happy tears seconds after they give birth and have their babies in their arms. I cried sad tears. I had no idea if my babies were stable or what they looked like. It was a long four hours before I was told that my babies were both stable, but they were requiring lots of help and we couldn’t see them until the following morning. Our lovely midwife did however take my phone to capture some photos for us to see. That’s when I cried my happy tears. We had produced two beautiful babies and even though they looked so vulnerable with a vast amount of tubes and wires attached to them, they were here and they were mine.
The time came when we were finally allowed to go and see the boys. I felt excitement shadowed by fear. Yes, I knew they were stable, but that didn’t mean they were well or that there wouldn’t be further complications along the way. I had no idea what to expect of NICU and didn’t really take much in when we first entered through the doors to meet our babies. I just saw two incubators, still surrounded by nurses and doctors, and sobbed. I was taken into the parent room by the nurse-in-charge who was shortly followed by the consultant who had been caring for the boys overnight. They sat my husband and I down to talk to us about how the babies were doing and what had happened since their birth. We discovered that Twin A’s heart had stopped for 4 minutes and he needed resuscitation, and that’s when it really dawned on me that we could have lost one or both of our babies. What I took from that meeting was that I had two very poorly boys but that they were in very capable hands and everything was going to be okay. Once I had composed myself, we went back to the incubators and I got to see how precious my boys were. I had never seen a baby so small (Twin A, 3lbs 10oz; Twin B, 3lbs 5oz) and all I could do was sit and admire them through the plastic of the incubator. It broke my heart that I couldn’t even touch their skin.
NICU were very accommodating to us as parents, and we had access to the unit 24/7. The only time we couldn’t visit was if they were performing any medical procedures. So over the next few days, my husband and I were at the boys’ sides for as long as possible, just looking in awe. It wasn’t until after three days that I was asked if I’d like to hold my babies. Of course I did, but I was so frightened of hurting them that I was quite reluctant. My husband had to return home that day, so it felt unfair that I couldn’t share the moment with him, but I was bursting. I couldn’t wait any longer to have my first cuddle! I can only describe that moment as magical and a moment I’ll never forget.
After a week, the boys had come on enough for us to be transferred back to our nearby hospital. I almost didn’t want to leave, as they were settled and being so well cared for where they were. Why change things? But it had to be done, so in came the special transportation team and the boys were taken in mobile incubators to the place they were supposed to start their lives. I found this change very unsettling. The hospital had different ways of doing things and seemed less caring towards us and our babies. The boys, however, were fine! I spent four weeks driving back and forth to the hospital every day, and most days I’d be out of the house for over twelve hours. The nurses repeatedly told me to stay home and rest, but I couldn’t spend one day away from my babies. I wanted to change nappies, I wanted to help with feeding, I wanted to have special skin-to-skin time, I was their mummy after all! The boys seemed to have a few good days and then face a setback, have another few good days followed by another setback, but with every big step forwards they did have came moments of pride and thoughts of home time being closer and closer.
The day finally arrived when we could take the boys home. Five long weeks in hospital were over and we were on our own! We hadn’t told our family and friends that we were coming home and surprised them with FaceTime calls or photos of us at home with the boys. More special moments that I won’t forget! I remember feeling so worried about the boys that first night they came home. Were they too hot or too cold, were they breathing? I don’t know if that’s a preemie thing or just a new mummy thing. When I look back now at those five weeks, I still get very emotional. I never knew the best time of my life would also be the hardest, but I am so grateful for NICU as without them my babies wouldn’t be here. They are amazing teams of people and I couldn’t thank them enough. I now have healthy and happy 10-month-old boys. They were always going to be our ‘miracle babies,’ but the term takes on a whole new meaning after what they had to go through when they entered the world.
We are sharing stories on premature birth out of respect for Prematurity Awareness Month, which runs for all of November and is coordinated by March of Dimes.*
“November is Prematurity Awareness Month® and when the March of Dimes focuses the nation’s attention on premature birth. The awareness month kicks off with the release of the Premature Birth Report Card. November 17 marks World Prematurity Day, and the March of Dimes and [their] partner organizations worldwide are asking everyone to help spread the word on the serious problem of premature birth.”
*Disclaimer: Rainbows & Unicorns does not necessarily endorse March of Dimes or any of their services, products, or opinions.