By their mother, Alana Romain
The day my twins, M and R, were born was easily the best day of my life, but it was also the worst. I’d been pregnant for 25 weeks and 5 days, and along the way I’d watched as things went from bad, to worse, to this is a nightmare.
We discovered at a routine ultrasound at 21 weeks, that I had what was called a dynamic cervix, or a cervix with a fluctuating length. What I learned that day was that I would almost certainly not carry my twins to term, but I might at least have a shot at carrying to viability.
I was admitted to hospital three weeks later with threatened pre-term labour, and managed to stay pregnant for another week and one day.
Once labour had begun, we had a visit from the neonatologist, who asked whether we wanted the babies to be resuscitated after they were born. “Do everything,” we said. “Please do everything.”
We spent 124 days in the NICU following M and R’s birth, trying to learn how to be parents under the most unnatural of circumstances: learning a new language of medical terms, watching our children struggle with complications, studying the statistics and grilling doctors and nurses for any and all tips about outcomes, kissing our children each night and leaving them behind as we returned home, only to do it all again the next day. We worried about our son, who had a PDA that eventually resolved. We worried about our daughter, who had a grade III intraventricular haemorrhage that didn’t. She developed hydrocephalus, and made it through two shunt surgeries before she even reached term. We worried about the future. We worried we would never leave the NICU. And then, Madeleine and Reid finally came home.
We are now approaching the twins’ first birthday, the first anniversary of their entry into this world (even if technically they’ll still only be nine months corrected), and the story of their birth and NICU stay has never left us and probably never will. At the same time, and as I’ve heard time and time again from other preemie moms, those days are behind us, existing now as one big, foggy blur that comes back in flashes and bits and pieces, almost completely unbelievable except for the fact that we know that we lived it. M and R’s prematurity is still a presence in our lives – it’s there at follow-up appointments, it’s there when we worry about shunt malfunction or signs of cerebral palsy, or even when we slather on the hand sanitizer for the millionth time to try and prevent the babies from catching a virus.
But what I’ve learned, almost one year on, is that while your preemie story never leaves you, while you will always carry with you the heartache and loss and sadness and endless what-ifs, once you get home, once you get to watch your amazing preemie warriors growing and laughing and throwing their yogurt across the room and feeding their rice rusks to the dog, you’ll begin to realize that the moments of joy and gratitude over your children – your children who could have died but didn’t – will start to balance out the pain, little by little.
While the stories of preemie families are all unique, we share so many commonalities. No matter how easy or hard a course we had in the NICU, no matter how long we were there, these stories have become part of who we are as mothers, and they deserve to be honoured. They are, after all, the stories that made us parents.