If you had told me two years ago that I would be blogging about my twin daughters and World Prematurity Day, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. But, that is often how life goes!
A year ago, Andrew and I were on our way to Chapel Hill to see our sweet girls in the NICU. They had been moved the night before to bed spots right beside each other, and we were so excited to see our babies close together rather than across the room. Prior to being a mother of two preemies, I didn’t know there was a World Prematurity Day. I didn’t know November was Premature Awareness Month. November 17th was just another day in the life. According to the iPhone app, TimeHop, I bombed a statistics exam four years ago today…tell me something I don’t know little TimeHop dinosaur! Today, November 17th takes on a whole new meaning. It’s a day to celebrate how far our miracles have come. It’s a day to celebrate the success stories of other preemie babies. It’s a day to celebrate the moms, dads, doctors, nurses, and medical staff who care for these tiny bundles of joy each and every day. It’s also a day to remember the families who see this day as another reminder of their unimaginable pain in the early loss of their child.
Last night, I walked out of our bedroom to find Andrew reading to the girls. I was reminded of the first day he got out a book to read to Amelia. In the NICU, we were highly encouraged to participate in care time, read to our girls, and do everything that made us feel like their parents in such a strange setting. As we have celebrated the girls’ first birthday this week, so many memories have flooded back to those early, critical days. I remember the morning after when our nurse, Angie, wheeled me up to the NICU for the first time to see our babies. I remember seeing past all the many tubes and wires, and trying to ignore all the beeps, alarms, and machinery as I saw my precious little ones for the very first time. I remember being so happy, yet scared and terrified of what was to come. I remember what it was like to hold my tiny babies skin to skin, adjusting all the wires and being able to hold their bodies with one hand as I used the other to wipe away tears of joy, sadness, and all the in between. I remember having to sanitize my hands every time I went to touch them. That’s a hard habit to break! I remember saying good bye to them, and each time having to ride home with two empty car seats in the backseat. I remember learning how to change their diapers… holding their tiny legs together and being so gentle not to mess up the tubes and wires that adorned their bodies. I remember learning how to change their preemie outfits in an incubator. I remember trying to juggle life outside of the NICU… their first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, and New Year’s without them home. I remember walking behind Amelia, our doctors, and nurses, as we wheeled her down to the operating room for surgery. I remember calling our nurses to check on the girls, and I remember their calls to me to tell me of what had happened while I wasn’t there… like when the girls went on room air and moved into open air cribs. I remember the process of learning how to feed, and having to accept that I had done all I could for them myself… that bottle feeding was our best option. I remember the anxiousness in those last few weeks before bringing them home. I remember every lunch I had in the cafeteria by myself, and all the other mothers I met and the stories we shared. I remember the wonderful feeling when I was changing Leah into her homecoming outfit, and unplugging all the monitors. No more beeps. No more sounds. What had felt so familiar for three months was coming to an end… and we were finally going home. I remember.
This is all to say that I know I am not the only one today. I know there are other mothers reminiscing on their days in the NICU with their babies. I know there are mothers in the NICU today doing all the same things, learning about World Prematurity Day, and wondering if life will ever be normal again. I know there are mothers today that are still grieving. And, I want all these mothers to know my heart is with you today. Although our stories may be different, we have one thing in common. We are mothers to the strongest babies in the world: preemies. They endure so much in the first few days, months, years, of their life that some people never have to endure in their lifetime. So today, I applaud you, my preemie Mama. You are stronger than you know, and braver than you realize.
On the girls’ birthday, my sweet friend, Holly, sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. We were connected through my mother-in-law who goes to church with a few of Holly’s friends. Holly and I were both going through the NICU at the same time with our daughters. Her daughter, Scarlett Grace, was born at 26 weeks in Texas. While we had never met, Holly called me one night and we talked on the phone for two hours! The very next day, Scarlett Grace, was having the same surgery that our Amelia had the month before. I remember praying with Holly on the phone, and being moms to our precious preemies created this special bond unlike any other. You and me, preemie mama… we get each other. So, when I received Holly’s flowers and saw the passage of scripture she had written on the card I cried tears of joy for our girls. “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” Mark 5:34
One year later, our suffering is over. Our 2 lbs. 13 oz. and 3 lbs. 3 oz. baby girls are crawling, blabbering, and oh so full of life. On World Prematurity Day 2013, I couldn’t think past the walls of Pod D. Today, my heart goes to the mother who is rocking her babies in bed spots 27 and 28. You will find joy and normalcy one day, Mama. And on World Prematurity Day 2015, you’ll look at your miracles and think… how blessed I am to be your mother.