Tobias, Eleanor and Callista, born 12 weeks early at 28 weeks, 1 day gestation, will turn 1 year old in just 5 days.
All that haunts them now of their premature beginnings are the potential risks of future illnesses, developmental delays, behavioral issues and vision problems.
It’s important that I say that up front because they are healthy and have been, with the exception of Toby’s one, short illness this summer (roseola, I suspect), but their health hasn’t just been handed to them. They’re healthy despite their history, not because of it like term infants.
While I was being prepped for surgery the day they were born, my OBs assured me they’d survive – “You’ll all be fine,” they said.
Fine wasn’t good enough for me. I knew all the risks they faced, the test results we’d hold our breaths waiting for, the milestones we’d pray for.
They were all born with Respiratory Distress Syndrome, were intubated and treated with surfactant. The girls graduated quickly to CPAPs while Toby remained on a ventilator for three days. They were all treated with indomethacin for Patent Ductus Arteriosus. The treatments worked and saved them from heart surgery. We had to wait until their fifth day for head ultrasounds to reveal whether they had intraventricular hemorrhaging – brain bleeds. Only Eleanor’s results raised some concern, but multiple tests, evaluations and consultations since then have eased – if not erased – the worry.
Their health is due in part to the grace of God, but it’s also due to Rob and I being informed, diligent parents of three preemies.
The threat of setbacks and re-hospitalization keeps us on our toes with germ exposure. We limit out time in public. We try to avoid contact with potential illnesses. We wash our hands religiously and use sanitizer like it’s going out of style. We ask cooperation from our family and friends, and they’ve been gracious enough to share our protective stance.
One of the first things I heard while in recovery after their birth was that the best possible medicine they could receive was my breast milk. I started pumping that day and haven’t stopped yet. I had no expectations of breastfeeding my tiny babies, but I started working with them and my lactation consultants a month after they were born. I committed then to trying once a day with each baby – practice for them and practice for me. For months we worked at it together. There were endless sessions of frustration and struggle, tears from all four of us, helpless surrendering to a bottle of pumped milk, and finally – in June – I declared victory. Practice became pleasure, and I could confidently say I and all three babies enjoyed breastfeeding. We still do.
My point? Even healthy preemies have too many battles to fight.
It’s not good enough for me to know that my three preemies have a happy story. I know too many babies who were born too soon and died because of their early start. I know too many people who were born too soon and continue to fight related health issues through infancy and beyond into childhood and adulthood.
My own daddy is one of them.
We support World Prematurity Day, March of Dimes and walk in the March For Babies to give future tiny fighters a better chance at victory. We show our faces to show there is hope and there are happy endings, but there need to be more stories like ours.
Support the 13 million babies born prematurely each year worldwide and honor the 1 million babies who have died because of their early start. Click to find out more about how you can prevent premature birth or how you can help March of Dimes fight for preemies.
Preemies are the strongest tiny people you’ll ever meet, but they can’t do it alone.