Thursday, November 15, 2012

World Prematurity Day

 Saturday is World Prematurity Day -- a day to focus attention on the global problem of premature birth.  And while raising awareness is wonderful -- and so necessary -- my desire is to also raise hope. Hope for the Mommies all around the world who have felt all alone sitting in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; hope for the mommies that don't have a chance to sit in a NICU because no such thing exists in their part of the world; hope for the Daddies whose hand can hold their newborn and who are scared to death by that fact; and hope for the teeny tiny babies who need life-saving medical care to survive!

Benjamin, Mason and Claire in the NICU baby swing.

The doctors told us we were expecting triplets the day before Thanksgiving 1996. In utter and complete shock, I began searching for support groups, information, books, anything that might prepare me for the future of our family. I signed up with a Triplets Connection group who immediately sent me a box of information. The box arrived while I was at grad school and Wade pored through the information and hid a lot of it from me. He knew the graphic images of teeny tiny micro-premies would frighten me.

I did not know anything about premature babies. The letters N-I-C-U meant very little to me and though our doctor warned that the babies might be born prematurely, I barely let the words register. I had a nursery to arrange and diapers to buy. I could hardly wait to start buying cute little matching outfits!

Our first family photo -- on the triplets' one month birthday.

When I started having contractions in the middle of a board meeting at 19 weeks, I was shocked. I left the meeting abruptly and called my doctor. He told me to drink a gallon of water and get horizontal immediately. I rushed home and did exactly what he said. And as I frantically drove across Chicago, I began panicking about what exactly premature babies might look like.

Benjamin was my big boy at 2 lb and 15 oz.

Later that week, when I was admitted to the hospital, I was given a rude awakening. No one was talking about premature babies at all. The residents taking care of me did not even bother monitoring the babies' heart rates. They shook their heads and told me they were not "viable". I began to fear not prematurity but losing my three all together. I spent that first night in the hospital alternately crying out to God for His mercy, singing Jesus Loves Me to my tummy and flat out sobbing.

Mason was the peanut -- weighing only 2 lbs 3 oz.

When by God's grace and an amazing hospital staff, we made it to 28 weeks, I began to envision being a Mommy again. And by that point, we had discussed prematurity at length. Wade had pulled out the hidden literature, brought it to my hospital room (where I had been for almost 10 weeks) and I had read as much of it as I could.

Sweet Claire at 2 lbs 8 oz.

Four days later, I would be in full unstoppable labor -- with my health at risk. The babies had to be born -- at 28 and a half weeks. The operating room was packed with doctors, residents and fellows. But the most important people were the NICU nurses waiting with open arms for my beloveds.

Ready for their Baby Dedication to the Lord at five months.

And all of a sudden the place that I had feared -- the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit -- became the place I longed to be the most!

Never too early to wear our maroon!

We had amazing care and made life-long friends from the nurses. I love them like sisters. But those were long, hard, dark days. Benjamin would have a great day while Mason and Claire struggled. Then the next they would change it up and Mason would have a great day while Benjamin and Claire struggled. We were constantly taking two steps forward and three back. I can look at the calendar today and realize the days were not nearly as long as they felt. But living them, they were unending. Unending. 

First Christmas!

I learned Kangaroo Care -- meaning I would button the little diaper clad baby against my chest inside my shirt. I learned amazing things about being the Mommy while doing this because my trio needed no extra clothing or blankets when we "kangaroo-ed", being skin-to-skin with Mommy regulated their body temperature and their oxygen levels. It was amazing.

Ready for their first birthday party!

If you are a friend to someone with a premature baby, be aware that life in the NICU feels all-consuming.  Every breath is monitored, every change in heart rate; every diaper is weighed and every drop eaten measured exactly. It is hard to focus beyond this teeny tiny baby (or all three) to even think about anything else.

My little super heroes at their second Halloween!

My precious three have been home from the NICU for more than 15 years. And yet, last week I opened a new facial cleanser and something about it slapped me in the face with memories. I was overwhelmed and had to just sit and remember for a few minutes. The second night I tried it, I realized that the smell from the cleanser matched something in my memory from the NICU. I can not even tell you what or how or why but opening that container unleashes a well of memories and leave my heart so heavy I have to go physically SEE my trio!

I will always be a Mommy that started my journey in the NICU. It is who I am.

But that is a blessing. The University of Chicago has one of the best Neonatal Intensive Care Units in the world. I have no doubt that God orchestrated all of our decisions regarding Wade's schooling in order for us to be in the right place for these three to get the best care. No doubt.

But oh my friends, there are so many babies being born too early around the world without the life-saving care my trio received. Will you join me today in praying for these babies, the Mommies and Daddies, the NICU nurses and doctors?  Pray for all the families to have HOPE for their sweet children!

Because, my friends, my three premies (and their sweet sister born full term) are God's richest blessings to me!


K said...

I love this post!! I am part of B/B/G triplets (I'm the girl) and we were born at about 27 weeks so I can really relate to Benjamin, Mason, and Claire. Thanks for sharing! :)