Having a premature child is an enormously distressing and difficult experience. Even though you are aware that your baby is fragile, helpless, and tiny you still feel their strength, willpower and determination to fight for their life. Any baby born before 37 weeks is considered to be a premature baby or a “preemie”, and the earlier the baby the bigger the risks!
When I first found out that I was pregnant with twins, I realised that the possibility of delivering early was immensely high. During that time, I have read and heard some heart breaking stories about preterm babies who have spent a couple of months or more in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Although my little fighters only spent two weeks in the hospital, I was able to understand and comprehend the agony and suffering that parents go through.
My water broke at 33 weeks after spending the whole night with mild contractions. I knew there was no going back, and my little birdies were soon to be born. However, I was appalled by the whole experience of delivering 7 weeks earlier than normal so I did not know what to do or how to react, thus I “let the wind take my sail”. The moment I first heard their cry at 9:30 A.M., tears streamed down my face, wishing I could embrace them close to me to assure them that everything is going to be alright. The doctor held them a few centimetres away exclaiming they are gorgeous, but they cannot be given to me – not now, not yet! They had to go to the NICU and I was left waiting impatiently to reunite with my angels…
Later that night around 11:30 P.M., I was allowed to visit my new-borns in the NICU. The NICU was composed of over forty incubators stretching on both sides of a wide hall. The mild smell of medications and antibacterial cleansers nestled in the air. The lights were all off except for a few blue neon glows that were on top of some incubators. There were hushed tones and a calm stillness apart from the continuous beeping monitors which were attached to every incubator. The nurses, with colourful blue and purple scrubs, moved around soundlessly and calmly ensuring all babies are taken care of.
Looking anxiously for my twins, I saw that they were in separate incubators with wires attached to their petite chests, feet, and back. There were even tubes coming out of their mouths for feeding – of course they were still unable to suck properly at this age. So tiny and so small, the image of my little birdies in those plastic rectangular cribs simply broke my heart. Nevertheless, I was so grateful and thankful because the first few hours of their lives passed smoothly with no complications. In fact, I was told that the first 90 hours of a preemie’s life is a very accurate predictor to whether they will face serious impediments or not. So it was a matter of time and during that time, my mind and thoughts drove me into darkness, hysteria and loneliness. Here again, I found myself confronting yet another dilemma; surrender or fight! Of course, surrendering has never been my last resort, and I believed that if I want to help my babies overcome this phase, I needed to work on giving them positive vibes.
After three days of my emergency C-section delivery, I was discharged and had to leave my birdies in the NICU as they still needed one-on-one care from the health professionals. Unlike my previous experiences where I proudly carried our first three children as I emerged out of the hospital, this time, I left with empty hands, a shattered heart, a dry throat, and a churning stomach. I could not utter a word in the car as my husband drove us back home, and silent tears were the only mean that reflected my state. I was devastated.
However, deep down I found my strength and pulled myself up to show my boys their strong mom, who was always there for them. And so the adventure began…
I used to go to the hospital every morning once the boys set off to school. It was a 40 minute drive and I did it twice as I strongly believe that a mother’s presence next to her premature children facilitates and increases their cure. I also acknowledged the importance of breast milk, so I started to pump milk every three hours – even during the night – and have the bottles with me in the morning. At noon time, I would leave the hospital and go back home to be with my boys once they returned from school. Then around 7 P.M., my husband and I would go back to the hospital and spend the evening with our little fighters. We did that day in day out for two weeks, ensuring all our 5 children were receiving our unconditional love and care.
I was lucky that I had a great support from my husband, my family, close relatives, dear friends and colleagues, nurses, doctors, and medical consultants. Everyone helped in a certain way. Every single one of them motivated and encouraged me to go through this experience and learn from it!
During the time I spent at the NICU, I held my babies (using the Kangaroo Mother Care Method), changed their diapers, talked and sang to them and told them how much I adored their little innocent faces. I made sure they knew that I counted on them having faith in their strength and willpower to grow and come home. I even explained how marvelled I am by their will to fight for their right to survive. I always encouraged them and whispered how proud I am of their efforts thanking them every day for cooperating with me. I knew they were listening to me, even now whenever they cry or feel fussy, I hold them close and sing them the same songs I did at the hospital and they calm down instantly.
For two weeks, I did the same every single day, and I could see how my little ones were growing, and how they knew I was there for them. And for two weeks at night when I left the hospital, my heart ached and my knees buckled as I wished them good night and that we shall meet again the next day.
I learned a lot during those days. I learned that when we face any difficulty, we cannot just surrender to it. We have to live and learn from our experiences and make the best out of them. I learned that being strong does not only help you, but helps those who are around you and who depend on you. Finally, I learned that we are not alone as there is a secret power that once attained can make you move mountains and overcome hardships.
Here, I would like to take the chance and show our gratitude for everything that we have. It is shocking to realize, that even in our present time, there are babies who are deprived of having decent lives with proper medical care, nutritious food, and a warm shelter. In the hope that we provide our children and all the children in the world a better future, I leave it up to you moms out there to have your voices heard.
N.B: Pictures are taken from Pinterest