Today is National Prematurity Awareness Day.
I have experienced the extreme ends of prematurity being the mom of two sets of preemie twins. My first set, Sam and Emilie, died due to being born too early. My second set, Henry and Eleanor, arrived at 35 weeks and came home from the hospital with me. I had steroid shots to develop their lungs, and they were fortunate and never needed NICU time. They both had reflux, and never caught on to breastfeeding, but that was it. No developmental delays or lasting health issues that often accompany being born prematurely.
We dodged the proverbial bullet with Henry and Eleanor, to have babies a month early with no problems. We weren’t so lucky with Sam and Emilie, who were with us for only an hour, born too early to even try to revive. I don’t get to watch them grow up, so I cannot tell you about the issues we face with them. Instead, let me be selfish and tell you how their prematurity affected ME. I know that some of my lingering issues are due to the entirety of our reproductive journey, but the loss of my first set of twins is always at the core.
I did not enjoy my pregnancy with Henry and Eleanor. I never had a baby shower, nor did I send out birth announcements. I did not bond with them when they shared my body, finding it easier to keep a mental distance in case they, too, did not survive.
I did not feel like Henry and Eleanor’s mother until they were three months old. I kept expecting them to be taken away from us like their brother and sister. I still have a difficult time accepting their good health, always wondering when the other shoe is going to drop.
I have a hard time congratulating friends on their pregnancies, my happiness for them overridden by my mind racing with fears of what could go wrong.
I have difficulty being around pregnant women in general. My OB/GYN’s office and Babies R Us can still fill me with panic.
A lot of prematurity stories involve the life-threatening ups and downs of NICU stays. But our story shows that prematurity can affect a family in a myriad of ways. For me, it robbed me of my children, and of being able to enjoy and participate in one of the most basic of life’s functions.
Science and research has saved a lot of babies who would have been lost even a generation ago, but we still have a long road ahead. I hope that some day no parent is able to make a list of prematurity’s aftermath.