In just a short time, on November 17, it will be World Prematurity Day. The March of Dimes, on it’s website, has said that for the first time, premature birth is the number one killer of children under 5.
Even now, almost nine months after my twins were born, I am still sporting my ‘Proud parent of a NICU miracle’ bracelet. These two girls are my miracles – given a 50% chance of survival, making it to 33-weeks and born healthy.
While they continue to grow and develop each day, I can’t help but compare my twins to their older sister. I knew when they were born it was going to be an uphill battle. They were seven weeks early and spent 22 and 32 days in the NICU, and much of that with breathing equipment (cpap and nasal cannulas) and feeding tubes. At one point, E had an IV needle in her head, right over her right ear, because all her other veins were shot.
In terms of the struggles of 33-weekers, my girls were blessed. By some miracle, their weights were really good: 4lb13 and 5lb7. Average their weights together and that’s the standard weight of a single 33-week fetus. And they shared a placenta and a sac. The had good days and bad days, breakthroughs and upsets. It was difficult to be discharged from the hospital and not to take them home. But it was even worse to take one home and leave the other for ten more days.
Even I forgot, in this early says at home, that they were premature. They looked, size-wise, and acted like any other baby. Sure, it took them 6 months to sleep through the night without needing to eat (10 weeks for their big sister), but that still seemed on track to me. Of course, every baby is different. And of course, I shouldnt expect that they will reach developmental milestones at the same time that their 40+2 older sister did.
But now, as we approach their 9th month, it’s never been more obvious to me that they are preemies.
I remember little about the early days with my now toddler. It’s a blur despite being just a year ago. But I do remember the moment when she stopped falling asleep on me. That was a rough. She was only a few months old when she started her two dedicated daytime naps, up in her own room. And once she had started sleeping through the night at 2 1/2 months, she was moved to her own room overnight. As soon as she started pulling herself up on furniture around 8 months I really started to see her drive for independence. A month later she figured out how to crawl and would take every opportunity to take off. She finally let go of our hands at 14 months and now there is no stopping her. She’s affectionate still, but she’s not a cuddlier. She’s a free spirit, through and through, and sometimes a bit of a wild animal. She’s nineteen months now and it’s been awhile since I really thought of her as baby. She made that transition a long time ago. But for the twins, that’s not the case.
At almost nine months, they are still babies. The only task that they can accomplish mostly on their own is eating large cracker-type foods. They do not sit up on their own, they are unable to hold their own bottles, and they are nowhere close to figuring out crawling or pulling themselves up. They are around 15lbs now, but are still every bit as dependent upon us as they were the day they came home from the hospital.
It’s a double-edged sword. I love their dependence. I love that A finishes all her afternoon naps by laying on me. I love being able to hold and cuddle them, and love it especially when they bury their heads in my neck. I love that I can still hold and squish them without them struggling to get away. I like being needed. But I also long for the days when they can play with each other. When all three can scale the couch and climb into the van on their own. My toddler loves the park and it’s especially great when their are other children there to interact with. It’s just difficult trying to follow her while maneuvering the double stroller over the wood chips. I mean what person thought it was a good idea to build the toddler park on the edge of pretty much open body of water? And within four feet of a road? Sheesh! But to think of the three of them, all playing together? It’s going to be so wonderful.
They are still babies. Adorable, squishy, lovely babies. Big babies too. And someday I will regret that I longed for them to grow up. But I’m also so excited to see the little kids that they will become.