World Prematurity Day

Reaching 20 weeks is a major milestone in pregnancy.  You’re ‘halfway’ through, you have a scan to check on bub (and find out the sex if you can’t wait like me!), the excitement builds and you start preparing for the arrival of your special baby.

If you are at risk of premature birth, this can change, with the arrival of 20 weeks bringing you all the more closer to the 24 week milestone, otherwise known as ‘viability’.

It feels like such a cold and clinical way to describe your baby.  However it is at this point that most Doctors and Hospitals will go ahead with lifesaving measures to help your baby survive (although I have heard of some babies being treated at 23 weeks).

We were introduced to the term viability during our first pregnancy, when I was admitted to hospital at 20 weeks.  In a short space of time, we went from being blissfully unaware of the complications which can occur during a pregnancy, to discussing how much further along I would need to be before I would be given steroid injections (to help our babies lungs), and at what point they would perform ‘life saving measures’ on our babies.  For us, we fell short of the ‘magic’ 24 weeks, with our daughter and son being born just shy of 21 weeks.

Knowing from the outset of our next pregnancy that it was going to be high risk, and the risk of another premature delivery was there, our goal was 24 weeks.  I started counting down the days to this milestone from the time our pregnancy was confirmed. We didn’t tell many people that I was pregnant, initially I didn’t want anyone to know until we were past that 24 week mark.  Then after numerous hospital admissions starting at 17 weeks, we started to share our news, with the thought that if something did happen to our baby, we wanted people to know about him, and acknowledge him.

I reached 24 weeks with the celebration being marred with the news I would be staying in hospital until Liam arrived.  We knew all the stats. We knew each week the chances of Liam surviving if he arrived early increased, as the chances of him developing a disability decreased.  We toured the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Special Care Nursery (SCN).  I met with lactation consultants who educated me about expressing and feeding a premature baby.

We thought we were prepared.  We weren’t.  When Liam arrived at 30 weeks + 6 days, he was quickly shown to us and whisked away.  It wasn’t until several minutes later that we could hear his faint cries, and while I couldn’t see him, and was straining to hear, that small sound bought me to tears – our baby was alive.

There were similar feelings when I became pregnant with Aiden.  Again the countdown to 24 weeks started, with this milestone coinciding with Easter, I again eagerly counted down the days, with a strange mix of apprehension and relief as the day drew closer. Then when I was still pregnant (and at home!!) at 31 weeks, we celebrated…  thinking it may be possible that I could go close to full term! Like our babies, our celebration was premature.  Four days later I was back in hospital – just two doors up from where I’d stayed prior to having Liam, and chatting with the midwives who had previously looked after me.  The sense of deja vu continued, when Aiden was born at 32 weeks + 1 day – we were in the same theatre, our same obstetrician, the same ob assisting and the same anethatist.  This time, Aiden cried when he was delivered (and also weed all over me!), and we got to spend a few seconds more with him before he was taken to NICU.  Being thrown back into the NICU/SCN world after only leaving it 16 months before felt like we had never left.  As soon as I walked onto the floor, the smell of the NICU hits you and all of the memories come flooding back with a huge force.

We are fortunate, we had relatively smooth journeys with both of the boys during their NICU/SCN stays and there are no long term issues that we are aware of.  Once home, there have been the odd bumps in the road, and the anxiety of having a prem baby/child never fully goes away.   You are often anxious, are they putting on enough weight, is their development delayed, will a simple cold put them back into hospital? Often this isn’t helped by well meaning people,  who will compare their full term child’s development with yours or strangers who comment on how small your child is, when they ask how old they are, and when you say they were born early they go so far as to ask what the cause of their prematurity was – I was once asked ‘what was wrong with you?’ by a complete stranger whilst shopping with Liam in Woolies.

Today is World Prematurity Day.  The aim of today is to raise the awareness of premature birth and the journey families go on not only whilst their little ones are in hospital, but often for the rest of their lives.  It is a day to celebrate our little fighters and an opportunity to remember those babies who didn’t survive, by lighting a candle at 7pm.

Today I will be giving our little miracles extra hugs, and reflect on the long and crazy journey we have been through to have them here with us.  We will also be lighting a candle tonight in memory of Amber and Riley, and all the other babies who were born too soon and taken from us.

Have a wonderful Sunday

xx

world prematurity day 2013

Linking up with the Multitasking Mummy for Mummy Mondays

Then and Now Inspiration

Yesterday when I saw FMS Photo a Day prompt – Then & Now, it took me all of two seconds to decide what my photo would be.  Those of you who know me, or have seen my photo on instagram will know that our two beautiful boys both arrived early – Liam at 30 weeks & 6 days and Aiden at 32 weeks & 1 day (as a premmie parent all those extra days sure do count!!!).  We are incredibly lucky to have two healthy boys, Liam is now 21 months old, and Aiden will be 5 months old this Sunday.

Liam loves his little brother

Liam loves his little brother

He can be a little too enthusiastic sometimes though!

He can be a little too enthusiastic sometimes though!

It is such an overwhelming experience having a prem baby – even if you think you are prepared for it, as we were prior to having Liam.  I spent 6 weeks in hospital before he was born, had visited the NICU, spoken to lactation consultants re: how to express/feed a prem baby, knew what would happen at his birth, understood he would probably require help breathing (despite the cocktail of drugs I had taken to help mature his lungs) and was educated about the ‘typical prem health issues’.  Each week I would check the handout I had been given by the neonatologist outlining the improving survival/disability rates for each week of gestation, and watch the odds slowly improve each week – but when he arrived at 4.12am on the 11th of January 2012, all of that preparation and information went straight out of the window.

We were thrown into a world that revolved around weight gain/loss, feeding tolerances, oxygen saturation levels, heart rate and breathing monitors,  and of course – expressing!  Liam was five days old before I was able to hold him for the first time, even then when his condition had stabilised, we still had to ask permission and seek assistance to hold our own baby and take him out of his humidicrib.  The day he graduated to a ‘big boy cot’ was one of our happiest days, we no longer had to ask permission or for help to hold him!

During this time we received a mountain of support and advice not only from the wonderful midwives at the Mater Mothers Hospital, but also from organisations such as Life’s Little Treasures, PIPA (Preterm Infants Parents Association) and Lil Aussie Prems – all of which helped us survive the NICU/SCN journey.  I found the online parent forums really helpful and also comforting to read in those lonely hours during the night when I was expressing.

When it became apparent that Aiden was also going to make an early arrival, the knowledge and experience we had gained from Liam’s journey was invaluable.  With every gain he made, we knew it was inevitable there would be a couple of steps backwards – as is the life of a prem (in Aiden’s case it was being diagnosed with Chronic Lung Disease at 12 days old and going back onto Oxygen).

Just looking back at the early photos when picking then out for the photo challenge, it bought back a flood of memories from the constant beeping and alarms of monitors, to the smell of antiseptic as you walked out the lift doors.

This Sunday our family is participating in the Life’s Little Treasures Foundation Walk for Prems.  This charity provides a wealth of support and information to families and friends of premature babies.  I am proud to say we will be walking together as a family of six – we will be walking not only for Liam and Aiden, but also their big sister Amber and brother Riley, who were also born prematurely and sadly did not survive. We will be walking for all of the premature babies and their families out there and hope we are able to raise much needed funds to support these families during this tough time.

Sending lots of love to all the families with a baby in nicu/scn xx

 

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT

First cuddle/family photo with Liam - 5 days old

First cuddle/family photo with Liam – 5 days old

First cuddle with Aiden - 2 days old

First cuddle with Aiden – 2 days old