Years ago, when we were newlyweds, my husband and I used to talk about having babies like it was as easy as baking a pie. The thought of having a premature baby never crossed our minds, because even if we don’t live in a perfect world, we tend to create our own and so we never thought we could end up having a premature baby (or four!)
Life is unexpected, as we all know. For my hubby and I, life followed an “untraditional” route and God choose us to deliver 4 miracles and to show His glory – for that we are forever grateful. Because it was such a unique situation, we knew from the early days of my pregnancy that the quads will be born premature. How many weeks was I going to take this high risk pregnancy? We hoped for as many as possible. Thankfully, we reached all the milestones we hoped for and we passed the 28 weeks mark which was so important. I did get some steroids shots in order to rush the development of the babies lungs and some other organs, which greatly increased their chances of survival. No one knew how much longer I’d still be pregnant.
At 29 weeks and 4 days, the quads were born. Tiny little peanuts, 2 and 3 pounds babies, that started their lives in a battle. We were not allowed to hold them, not even touch them right away. We couldn’t see their faces for days because they were covered with the CPAP tubes or oxygen cannulas. Healthy babies but small and fragile and not quite ready for the real world.
They all spent some time in their own incubator and they each had a special cushion that was soft and kept them warm and comfy. The incubators were covered with a large blanket, just to keep them dark. This way, they felt somewhat like in the utero. Usually babies move on to an open crib once they are able to mantain their body temperature; that happens around 34 gestational weeks, or even earlier. The incubator protected the babies from infections. A mother’s antibodies don’t cross the placenta until 32 weeks, so the immune system of a baby born before that doesn’t protect him much. We washed hands SO much. Besides that, we used hand sanitizer A LOT. By washing hands I mean a good 15-20 seconds of handwashing with soap and water, every time we entered the nursery and every time we wanted to get close to an incubator. Even when we were just moving from one incubator to another, without touching anything, we had to at least use hand sanitizer. If we touched our phones, purse, keys, a water bottle, pretty much anything and everything, even our own hair or clothes, we had to wash hands. It felt crazy in the beginning, nobody was used to that, I mean it was hard to teach ourselves and not forget that we always had to wash our hands. Even after we brought the babies home we continued this habit as crazy as it sounds. But we managed to keep the babies healthy through the flu season and throughout the first year of life.
It’s pretty scary to see your babies attached to all these machines. But it is even scarier when a machine goes off and the beeping doesn’t stop; that means something is wrong with the baby. There are many frightening moments in the NICU, everything is uncertain. As a parent, you would give ANYTHING to help your baby, you would do EVERYTHING that it takes to help their situation. But you can’t do much. Usually the nurses teach the new parents how to handle their preemies, but I remember that for a good amount of time we were only allowed to change diapers (at specific times that were called “touch times”) under their supervision of course. Later on, after spending a few weeks in the NICU, I felt brave enough to give my babies baths and both Oly and I were allowed to take them out of the incubators/open cribs by ourselves. Still, we felt better knowing the nurse is near by just in case we needed her. There are many things to be said about the NICU but thinking about those days that we spent there, is pretty hard on my heart.
Yesterday we went back to visit the Northside NICU and say another “thank you” to the doctors and nurses that took care of our babies. I knew there will be a lot of emotions and flash backs but I was really hoping it will not affect me that much. It did… Even though I was there with my family, our four thriving preemies that are now 14 months and absolutely perfectly healthy and beautiful! Seeing that first nursery where Isaac was admitted right after delivery… it was very hard on me. Even after we came home, the thoughts in my head were giving me a headache.
While we were there, many parents walked by to get to the nurseries where they had their babies. Moms of singletons that had emergency deliveries due to different complications, that were not prepared to bring a premature baby into this world. I could see the sadness on their faces. I could see their uncertainty and worry. There was a granddad in the lobby, playing with his grandson. He told us that his granddaughter was born at 24 weeks weighing 1 pound 8 oz. This micro preemie has been in the NICU for over 50 days now and she still has a long way to go but they really hope she will make it home in time for Christmas. 40 gestational weeks is a full term pregnancy. 24 gestational weeks is considered the point of viability and the baby has 50-70% chances of survival after reaching this milestone. Premature babies often deal with different conditions, some of them are treatable but some can stick with them for the rest of their lives. To have all four of our babies perfectly healthy is such a blessing and we know that only God was able to make that happen.
When you go through the NICU journey and have a preemie baby (or more), the only things that can help you from going nuts is a good support system and your faith in God. Many times the support system is not that strong and that’s just because people are not familiar with the NICU life and they don’t know what the parents of preemies have to deal with. And that is understandable. Without our God… we would have lost our minds, that’s all I can say. But believing His word and His promise, made us tackle one day at the time. He is in control at all times and that was proven to us. This is what the Bible says in Matthew 17:20 ~He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”~ and it is true! Instead of letting fear and desperation take over, we had our hearts full of gratitude and we embraced our faith will all our strenght.
Today is World Prematurity Day and it is special to us. There are a lot of parents of premature babies out there. People that never thought they will end up in this position. But premature births happen so very often. It could happen to any pregnant woman at any given time. But I am praying and hoping for less and less premature births. I am praying for the research teams and organizations like March of Dimes, that work hard to find ways to stop and help premature births.
Tonight, in honor of World Prematurity Day, at 5PM Eastern Time, Fox 5 News will air a story about preemies! And the story is ours! We are excited to tell the world about our miracles and how blessed we have been to have the March of Dimes Organization on our side.
Preemies are superheros!