Spoiler Alert: this is not your typical celebratory post.
Here we are “celebrating” World Prematurity Day. Another year of knowing how blessed our family is, in that our twins who were born 9 weeks early twins are now high school honor students. We recognize and are grateful that they
- survived being born too soon
- met their milestones and
- are thriving.
For all that we are thankful for, the experience of giving birth to premature babies robbed me of so many moments of joy. Despite missing out on the joys of pregnancy, I remained steadfast and focused on willing them to survive, willing my body to stay pregnant one more day. I did not dwell on all the missed special moments that all pregnant women dream about, long for, and often have the opportunity to experience.
My body rejected the pregnancy from day one. I spent the greater part of my short pregnancy in bed. I was put on bedrest at 19 weeks (after emergency surgery to sew up my cervix). Then I spent the last 7 weeks (24 – 31 weeks) of the pregnancy in the peri-natal ward of not one, but TWO hospitals. But I embraced each and every day during that time as it was my last. Every day those babies stayed in me, was 3 days less time they would spend in the NICU. I worked really hard to stay pregnant.
I was denied the joy and humiliation of buying maternity clothes; wearing a silly hat made of bows and streamers from all the presents at my own baby shower; picking out nursery decor and baby linens; nesting and fussing over decorating the nursery; sending hubby out at 2am to satisfy some outrageous craving. All of that was robbed from me. But I didn’t care, none of it mattered. It still doesn’t. All that mattered was that I would look forward to hearing my babies heartbeats almost every other day. The frequent monitoring of the babies was the one thing I looked forward to. That was all that mattered.
Their emergency delivery robbed me the opportunity to bond with them. They were cut from my womb, shown to me from across the room and quickly whisked down the hall and placed on lifesaving machines and monitors. There was no time for the quintessential placing my newborns on my chest and feeling the warmth of their tiny bodies against my skin; there was no feeling their tiny hearts beat against mine; there was not time to count fingers and toes; no time to discover birthmarks; no time to marvel if they looked more like mommy or daddy. All of that was robbed from us.
I was gutted, left with a literal hole in my womb. And in my heart. I felt empty.
The only thing that we had time for was for the doctors to insert needles and tubes into their tiny, frail little bodies to make sure they would have many more important moments in their lives – such as taking their next breath.
* * * * * * * * * *
All these years later and I am still, not doing a good job at accepting that my children will never outgrow the effects of being born prematurely.
The beast of premature births needs to be stopped! It steals, it robs, it turns your world upside down. And, in my case, each passing year, as my children are diagnosed with something new, it is a constant reminder that my children are the ones who are being robbed, and their world is being turned upside down. All because they were born too soon.
This past year has been a year filled with new diagnoses added to our already complex medical history. This past week we were at yet, another appointment with another new specialist. And she said 8 words that hit me so hard, that I almost started to cry. She was talking about my daughter’s new health crisis and said “this is a byproduct of being a preemie”. I haven’t heard those words said to me in a long time, and having my teenager being called a preemie stung. I felt offended. There was no mal-intent in her tone or in the manner in which she spoke, but I took it as a personal affront. I felt like the doctor defamed my family, as if the word “preemie” was an angry, hateful slur. I have been trying to hard so get my kiddos to be and stay “mainstream”, “stay on track”, be like all the other kids their age, and keep up with them. I have been trying too hard to ignore the fact that they will always have medical issues that they will never outgrow because they were born too soon.
So, no. I am not happy about “celebrating” World Prematurity Day. It needs to go away. I do not need to be reminded about the awfulness and trauma of giving birth to premature babies. We are reminded of their premature birth every time they get sick.
I don’t know how to express how much it sucks to be a preemie parent, but it sucks 1 million times more to be a teen who lives and wrestles with the consequence of being born prematurely.
We have to find a way to prevent premature births so babies can grow healthy and strong.