SILVER LININGS OF A PREMATURE BIRTH

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. I am the lucky mom of two children who were born at 29 weeks and 4 days gestation, nearly three months premature.

Meeting my son, Jeremiah Dennis, in the NICU on the night he was born

Meeting my son, Jeremiah Dennis, in the NICU on the night he was born. I had only been allowed to stroke his cheek in the delivery room.

Seeing your children hooked up to machines to breathe, eat, and generally stay alive is horrible. Their little bodies are not ready to be “on the outside” and they have to endure so much.  My son Jeremiah could not breathe without intervention and needed a C-PAP machine and, later, an oxygen cannula. My daughter Avani received a life-saving treatment called surfactant the day she was born and was intubated.  They were subject to tests and treatments that ranged from uncomfortable (heart ultrasounds, EKGs, and gastrointestinal x-ray studies) to excruciatingly painful (retina exams). I know it is cliché, but I would never wish a premature birth on my worst enemy and I would give anything to turn back time and gestate my twins until 38, or even 34, weeks!

Meeting my daughter, Avani Lynn, on the night that she was born. I had not been allowed to touch her in the delivery room.

Meeting my daughter, Avani Lynn, on the night that she was born. I had not been allowed to touch her in the delivery room.

I could write an entire book on the fear, pain, guilt, and disappointment associated with my children’s premature arrivals. But now that my children are healthy 19-month-olds, I have a refined perspective on our time in the NICU and I would like to share some of these surprising “silver-linings.”

(Despite the positive nature of this post, premature birth is a very serious problem. Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age, responsible for nearly 1 million deaths in 2013. Please educate yourself on the warning signs of preterm labor and never hesitate to contact your health care providers with questions or concerns.)

Top 5 Silver Linings of Our Premature Birth Experience…

  1. Easing into parenthood with the support of a medical team! When my children arrived 12 weeks early, I was not mentally or logistically prepared to be their primary caretaker. In the NICU I learned how to burp and bathe a baby from the very best source: nurses! Instead of completing our scheduled four hour class on “baby care” at my local hospital, we had a two month, hands on session! When I finally felt ready to feed, clean, and dress my children without breaking them, it was almost time to bring them home!
    My son JD was born at 3lbs 12 oz.

    My son JD was born at 3lbs 12 oz.

    My daughter Avani was born at 3 lbs and 7 oz.

    My daughter Avani was born at 3 lbs  7 oz.

  2. Support with breastfeeding! Both of my children received intravenous nourishment when they were born, and later received my breastmilk through a feeding tube. It took weeks until we could challenge them to nurse because they could not suck, swallow, and breathe at the same time. When it was finally time to try nursing, I had the support of a team of lactation consultants, use of two hospital grade breast pumps, and access to donated breastmilk. When my babies were too tired to consume a whole feeding at the breast, they received the rest of their milk from a feeding tube, which helped us stay the course of working on their human nipple latch.
    The picture on the left was taken when Avani was 7 days old. Her brain scan was clear and I was allowed to hold her for the first time! From the top: holding Jeremiah for the first time of day of life 8, Avani and Jeremiah cuddling for the first time on their 1st month birthday and Jeremiah and Avani cuddling on our first Mother's Day, which was spent in the NICU.

    Left: Avani was 7 days old, her brain scan was clear, and I was allowed to hold her for the very first time! From the top: holding Jeremiah for the first time on day of life 8, Avani and Jeremiah cuddling for the first time on their 1st month birthday and Jeremiah and Avani cuddling for the second time on my first Mother’s Day, which was spent in the NICU.

  3. Instant preemie family! Making new “mom friends” is hard, but I have an instant connection with other moms of preemies. One of my best mom friends “lived” across the hall from us in the NICU with her boy/girl twins and she continues to be one of my biggest allies and a reliable sounding board because we totally “get” each other: from the NICU experience to raising boy/girl twins, to our shared parenting goals! Another one of my closest mom friends and I had an eerily similar labor, delivery, and NICU experience, and we continue to communicate almost daily about preemie-adjusted milestones and related health care decisions and services. Plus, my family gained an entire support system of nurses, doctors, nurse practioners, and physical-, occupational-, and speech-therapists who care for our children and continue to be our biggest cheerleaders.
    Top: Our NICU hallmates: Marina (mom), Tommy (left) and Valentina (right) with me and my twins. T and V were born at 32 weeks and 4 days gestation and stayed in the NICU for 35 days. Bottom: our buddy Brayden who was born at 28 weeks gestation. His proud mom is my friend Holli.

    Top: Our NICU hallmates: Marina (mom), Tommy (left) and Valentina (right) with me and my twins. T and V were born at 32 weeks and 4 days gestation and stayed in the NICU for 35 days. Bottom: our buddy Brayden who was born at 28 weeks gestation and is a true superhero! When Brayden was born we weighed 2 lbs 10 oz and spent 63 days in the NICU. His proud mom is my friend Holli.

  4. My kids are superheroes! Everyone rightfully thinks their kids are impressive, but premature babies have to prove it! In the first months of their lives my children demonstrated strength, perseverance, and bravery. They learned how to breathe, persevered through challenges learning to eat, and underwent countless painful exams, studies and tests. I can’t wait until Jeremiah and Avani are old enough to understand the resilience they showed in their first months of life.
    After 52 days in the NICU, my husband Brian and I took our babies home from the hospital! It brings tears to my eyes just writing that sentence!

    After 52 days in the NICU, my husband Brian and I took our babies home from the hospital! It brings tears to my eyes just writing that sentence! They had already survived and thrived through so many challenges! We were so relieved and excited, yet scared, to bring them home for the first time!

  5. Celebrating every milestone! When your kids were born prematurely, you don’t just celebrate every pound they gain, you celebrate every teeny tiny ounce! While my kids were in the NICU, we weighed every single diaper and celebrated every minute, then hour, then day without any breathing or heart “spells.” Beginning life with two premature babies taught me to cherish every moment and celebrate every milestone, no matter how basic and mundane!
    Our first day home from the hospital with our nearly two-month-old twins who weighed just above 6lbs each. We finally realized our dreams of dressing them up in coordinating Disney outfits and holding them whenever we wanted without oxygen tubes and monitor wires!

    Our first day home from the hospital with our nearly two-month-old twins who weighed just above 6lbs each. We finally realized our dreams of dressing them up in coordinating Disney outfits and holding them whenever we wanted without oxygen tubes and heat monitor wires!

Have you had an experience with premature birth or time in the NICU? How has it shaped your experience as a parent?

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5 Responses to SILVER LININGS OF A PREMATURE BIRTH

  1. Caitlin Yerington November 14, 2015 at 7:42 am #

    I know how all of this feels. I have twin boys that were born at 28 weeks exactly. My older twin weighed 2 lbs 1 oz and my younger twin weighed 2lbs 8 oz. My older twin had a lot more problems than his younger brother. He stayed in the NICU for 154 days. My younger twin only had to stay for 60 days. If you would like to talk to me more about it, feel free to E-mail me Kimberly. They are happy and healthy 6 year olds now, by the way.

  2. kimberlykim
    kimberlykim November 14, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    Thanks for your comment Caitlin! I am so happy to read that your boys are doing great now! Science and medicine are amazing! That must have been so hard having one home and one in the NICU – that is one challenge we did not have to deal!

  3. Tara November 15, 2015 at 8:01 pm #

    I know what you went my son was born at 25 weeks he only weighed 1lb and 11 ounces at birth we spend 83 days in the nice he had to have a clip but on his heart at 10 days old but now he is a happy 3 yr old we still have a few heath issues but he is here with us and that is that we need

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