My husband and I tried to get pregnant for 3.5 long years. Miraculously, after what seemed like every medical intervention available, we were finally pregnant - with twins. I was terrified for the first five months of my pregnancy that something was going to happen to the babies as I had suffered a miscarriage and endured two chemical pregnancies leading up to the twins and had also gone through countless failed attempts at IUI’s and several rounds of IVF. I cut out processed foods, went regularly to acupuncture, meditated, kept a mindfulness journal and did everything I could to ensure that I would have a healthy pregnancy. After about six months, I finally started to relax and embrace that I truly was pregnant and about to have not one, but two little babies. What I didn’t realize, however, was just how soon those babies were going to arrive.
It was an afternoon and I had stayed home from work because I was having a significant amount of lower back pain. I had been to the hospital twice in the week before, only to be sent home with instructions to take Tylenol and not to worry because I was “just small” and had what the ER doctor called, “an irritable uterus”. As my husband leaned over to give me a kiss before leaving on a bike ride, I felt a kick from within my belly and my water started gushing out of me like a bad scene in a slapstick comedy. Although this wasn’t funny, and I was only 29 weeks.
We rushed to the hospital in Friday afternoon rush hour from Marin County over the Golden Gate Bridge to my hospital in San Francisco. I remember watching all of the cars heading home in the deep orange glow of the end of the day, as my husband and I sat in eerie silence, both thinking that we had lost the babies. It’s what I feared all along, and if felt like I had somehow predicted this fate to come.
The hospital staff didn’t seem all that alarmed when I arrived, saying that they could keep me on hospital bedrest and with a significant dose of antibiotics. But, when the doctors did their exam, they discovered that my water had broken because one of the babies had kicked their foot out. It was time. My memories of the next 72-hours are fairly hazy as it was the most traumatic time of my life. Doctors, specialists, and nurses streamed in and out of my room doing their best to prep us for the unknown. I was given steroids to help with lung development, drugs to slow any contractions and predictions of what it meant to have my babies three months early. Unfortunately, I went into full labor shortly after arriving at the hospital and didn’t have enough time for the steroids to make their way to my tiny littles and I was rushed to have an emergency -section that night.
My delivery wasn’t like anything I could have imagined. There were easily 30 hospital team members in the operating room, waiting to take charge once the babies were born. I was numb through the whole terrifying ordeal and was so upset that I had not been prepared by my countless hours of watching “A Baby Story” on TLC for just how traumatic a premature birth truly is. I don’t know how long the operation was but I do know that I never heard that tell-tale cry of a newborn, nor was I overcome with joy or love or anything that you are “supposed” to feel when you meet your first born. In fact, I didn’t get to meet them at all as they were whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to perform countless interventions that miraculously saved their lives. I didn’t get to touch my newborn babies, let alone nestle them to my chest and I didn’t get to see them until the next day after I relentlessly kept asking the nurses who came to check on me, “are they alive?”
What followed were 77 days in the NICU of hospital rounds with the doctors, learning to perform kangaroo care (or skin to skin cuddling) with two 2lb babies who were hooked up to wires, monitors, and alarms. I would sit bedside for up to 14-hours a day just staring at my babies in their little heated glass boxes and cry more tears than I ever knew was humanly possible. Fear became a constant companion. I don’t think it’s ever really gone away really and anxiety has found a home deep within my core.
Despite this, however, I met some of the most beautiful women in our Neonatal nursing team and learned how to multitask better than anyone I know. I learned how to trust that things have somehow always worked out for me and most importantly, how to love two tiny 2lb humans more than I ever thought possible.
Through this journey, I have connected with women who had similar experiences and have met some of my closest friends. I have had the privilege of working with the March of Dimes as an ambassador family, spoken to thousands of people, and cut the starting gate ribbon at the March of Dimes walk in San Francisco and now, I am partnering with Pampers in support of the introduction of their new P-3 diaper for the smallest of preemies.
Pampers has partnered with Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurses and designed a preemie diaper that fits even the youngest and smallest babies, weighing as little as 1lb. Thankfully, advances in medical science have enabled younger and smaller babies to survive and these diapers promote positive touches to the most delicate of skin which is essential to the health and development of these babies. More than 10,000 hours of development and research across 3 continents went into developing these diapers, not to mention the opinions and feedback from over 100 NICU nurses. I still remember how incredibly excited I would be to change my babies’ diapers when they were in the NICU because it was a special time where the nurses would step back and let me care for my newborns the way a mother would and it allowed for extra time to touch and hold them before returning them to their isolettes.
Unfortunately, 1 in every 10 pregnancies resulted in premature births in 2015 and the numbers continue to rise. If you know someone who has given birth prematurely, it’s often a confusing time where you want to support your friends' need but just aren’t sure how.
Here are 5 Tips for Supporting Parents of Preemies:
- Send Food. The last thing parents of preemies have time to think about is what to eat for their next meal. Between the daily meetings with the medical team to the hours on end pumping and sitting bedside, coming home to a food delivery is nothing short of a miracle.
- Beautify. When I was in the NICU I had countless offers to meet for coffee or go for a mani-pedi with friends. In retrospect, I wish I had taken more breaks, but I simply couldn’t justify leaving my tiny babies to indulge in something for myself. My days were highly scheduled with feeds, diaper changes and cuddle time and leaving the hospital would have made things more complicated instead of less. To maximize time, send a beauty expert to the hospital for a mani-pedi or blow out.
- Drop Off Care Packages. I don’t think I could tell you what day of the week it was, let alone tell you what the latest news headline was while in the NICU. Put together a small care package with trashy magazines, a journal, silly photos or a pick me up like your friends' favorite chocolate. This low cost yet thoughtful gesture will go a long way in making your friend feel supported. If time is not on your side, there are also incredible organizations like The Graham’s Foundation who will send NICU care packages to families going through this experience.
- Don’t Expect Anything. Your friend is going through one of the scariest and most traumatic experiences of their life. While you may think you are helping by asking when they expect to come home from the hospital or when they can see you for a catch-up, having one more person to answer to is simply too much to process. Continue to send little notes of support but don’t expect to get a reply or answers - your friend most likely doesn’t have any.
- Take Their Lead. You may want to throw a baby shower or party when the babies arrive but depending on how early the birth is and how many complications there are, your friend may not feel like celebrating. The feelings are complicated, to say the least, as you are happy that your babies have been born but not sure about what the next day will bring. Many times NICU babies can’t have any visitors for risk of infection and parents may want to hibernate even when they do come home from the hospital.
In support of World Prematurity Day on November 17th, Pampers will donate to The March of Dimes for every photo shared on social media tagged with #touchesoflove. I honestly believe my babies wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the incredible medical advances funded by The March of Dimes and so, we at Glamamom are donating $500 to the organization, thanks to Pampers. Please join us to help save babies and end premature birth.
Thank you to Pampers for sponsoring this conversation.
NANCY DEANE is a former marketing and lifestyle maven now on her biggest project yet: raising twins in Manhattan. This Canadian via California girl enjoys exploring beauty, fashion, travel and design (for adults and kids alike) and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram as @toastncandy. Read all of Nancy’s posts.