I have read so many posts recently from moms of both singletons and multiples on social media groups about the worry of having preemie babies and asking for guidance and possibly more so, for some reassurance. Along my journey, I have crossed paths with quite a few special moms who have had preemie babies ranging from 29 weeks onwards and although I cannot speak for all preemie births, I can say that although not the easiest and most stress free period in your life, both you and your baby/ies will be just fine once the overwhelming birthing process has settled and you are able to take stock of the blessing you have brought into this world. Like mine and many of the others preemies, they will soon grow into happy and healthy children. The birth story and journey is only a slightly different beginning than one expects when welcoming a baby into the world in that instead of enjoying your moment with your baby/ies after birth, preemies are most often briskly whisked away to be cared for and while mom and baby would usually be able to enjoy some quality time outside of visiting hours, the Neonatal ICU (NICU) restrictions do not allow for visitors other than the mother and father and then grandparents one visit each. I only got a brief few seconds to give each of my boys a kiss before they were taken away for their APGAR tests and then off to the NICU and then could only see them again the following day because I wasn’t allowed to walk until the following day. In that sense, the ‘happy’ in the event of bringing new life into this world is slightly overshadowed by the niggling stress of hoping and praying that your baby/ ies will be born healthy and without complications.
As with many multiples, mine were preemies. Their home (aka my womb) got a bit crowded and at 35 weeks there was no more ‘room to grow’. My pregnancy was a happy and healthy one with only one or two hiccups along the way being early pregnancy bleeding and low blood pressure which lead to one or two bouts of fainting. Other than these scares (which were more than enough for me let me assure you), they grew happily together until the 35 week mark. There is nothing more concerning to a mom than her unborn child/ children’s safety and well-being. If I’m being honest, although my pregnancy was quite healthy, the stress that you take on as a woman responsible for the creation, development and well-being of another (one let alone two or more) human being is the most daunting experience of my life to date. The overwhelming need to monitor and track every movement, meet every milestone, take every precaution, is the most all-consuming, obsessive task as a pregnant woman. I found myself constantly researching every little concern ad nauseam on the internet to try and find some reassurance that all is on track and fine with my babies. Let me reassure you that there is no reassurance to be found on the internet. There is something to be said for the process of pregnancy and the toll it takes on a woman. Apart from all of the things that ‘happen’ to your body as part of the process, the emotional toll was far greater for me. I found that the constant worry dampened the excitement somewhat.
We were told from early on in our pregnancy that we would most likely deliver via c-section and the goal post was 36 weeks. Each week was a celebration of a job well done, the longer the babies were in the womb, the better of course. Each week, the anticipation of wondering if this was going to be the week was torturous and then the gynae tells you, good job see you next week. By week 35, I was ready for another ‘see you next week’ so when your gynaecologist tells you at 35 weeks (at which point you are exceptionally ‘over’ the beauty and magic of pregnancy) that your babies have not grown since the week before and you need to be booked into hospital for monitoring for a potential caesarean in the next day or two, reality of the lack of preparedness to welcome your blessings into this world sets in. Being last-minute.com checked into hospital and monitored hourly with your husband en route to collect the essentials for a hospital stay and of course the half packed baby bag because after all you still had at least 1-2 weeks left before delivery was imminent, is a whirlwind experience. It goes without saying that being given two steroid injections to help develop your babies lungs and being on a foetal monitor throughout the night is uncomfortable to say the least but as all moms near the end of their pregnancy know, this is nothing unusual and sleep is somewhat of a luxury most nights anyway. To add to the discomfort, Braxton Hicks is an added delight to third trimester pregnancy joys. So on a lovely Saturday morning at around 10am after a night of being monitored the gynae comes in for his morning rounds and checks in on us and checking the fetal monitor asks the nurse a few mumbo-jumbo questions about how long the spikes have been like this etc and after assessing her answers proceeds to announce that I’m in active labour and its ‘GO TIME’. Now, having had regular Braxton Hicks bouts for a number of preceding weeks, if I had been anywhere other than in hospital, I would have been in serious denial because it was honestly no worse for me than the usual Braxton Hicks discomforts. I was totally in shock! With my husband having broken the land speed record to get to the hospital as they were inserting the epidural needle for go time, our precious beautiful boys were born at 12pm weighing 1.99 kgs and 2.25 kgs, not bad for 35 weekers 🙂
Another thing to be said for pregnancy that no one can prepare you for, no matter how many people tell you their experiences, is the process of giving birth. To any moms-to-be reading this post, my advice is to take all you hear from your nearest and dearest, friends or strangers (myself included) with a pinch of salt because no matter whether you (or I, or they) have had one or five children, each birth experience is different and each person’s emotional experience, stresses and circumstances are different. I know that advice giving seems the natural thing to do because people constantly try to relate their situation to yours or their children to yours or their husbands to yours but the reality is that all and any advice, some welcome and some not, some asked for and some not, should be taken from whence it comes. Use of it what you like, and for the rest, shrug it off and smile sweetly. Everyone is going to have an opinion about everything we do no matter what, it’s the human condition. Having said that however, my small pearl of wisdom to add is the importance of a good support system. Support systems were my saving grace. No matter what form you choose, for me it was the other NICU moms who were going through similar situations, sharing the stories and concerns which was a huge support during our week in NICU. Thankfully, our boys were there precautionary rather than for any problems and once they were able to suckle properly on their own, we could go home which was only a week. Many of the other moms had been there for a number of weeks with no end in sight. Then of course the ultimate support system, family and friends. The key for me was strength in my partner and family. I would definitely recommend getting support from others sharing in a similar situation, it somehow helps you feel less alone or as if you are the only one in this trying situation. Lastly, my final pearl in terms of having preemie babies is to give them (your baby/ies) due time to grow and thrive. All in good time.
So my message to moms of preemies, and dads for that matter, is to give yourselves a break. Stop for a moment and take a breath and take in the wonderment of having created new life. It is a special and amazing thing that some people can unfortunately only dream about. Celebrate the good, the wonderful, and the beautiful that you have made together. The difficult days ahead will quickly pass. You will be fine, you will get through it and most importantly, your baby/ies will get stronger and be happy and healthy in no time. Use the support of those around you, take comfort in the safe delivery of your baby and your own well-being after the birth because that too is a blessing, embrace the time you have been given to adjust to this new phase in your life while your baby/ies is/ are in NICU, a rare opportunity I felt was invaluable J Soon enough you will be home with your bundle/s and happily getting on with your new lives together and let me tell you, your days will never be better spent than with your family ❤