This week leads up to World Prematurity Day on Saturday 17 November highlighting an international campaign to raise awareness of the number of babies born around the world too early – and what this means for them and their families.
Fifteen million premature babies are born each year, 60 000 of them in the UK. This is our story.
Hobs and I had long wanted to be parents and were beyond delighted when we found out that we were expecting twins. We expected to meet them one April, but it didn’t quite work out like that.
Our guys were born in January, 13 ½ weeks before their due date. They couldn’t breathe unaided and both weighed in at less than 2lbs each. You’ve likely heard the phrase, they weighed less than a bag of sugar. Well, they did.
They were born late at night – I caught only glimpse of them before they were necessarily whisked away to be supported by machines and a team of doctors and nurses to try to save their lives. Hobs was able to pop to the neonatal unit after a couple of hours, I didn’t see them until the next day. I jerked awake every few minutes overnight because I imagined I could hear people talking outside the ward and thought they were coming to give me bad news. A nurse came in at one point with a photo someone had taken of Twin 1 for me. He was all woolly hat, wires and had a ventilator tube coming out of his mouth. But it had been a few hours since his birth and he was still alive…
Twin 2 was two weeks old before he was well enough to come out of his incubator for me to hold him. Twin 1 was three weeks and a day before I held him. We had some very low points and close calls but, because of the skill and care of the medical staff and the technology available to assist them, the close calls became fewer and further between. Machines monitored my guys breathing and heart rates for months and they had skilled medical attention 24 hours a day. They needed oxygen for a long time. They needed partial blood transfusions. They needed medicine. They needed operations (we travelled to Glasgow for Twin 2 to have an operation leaving Twin 1 behind in hospital in Edinburgh) and they needed the time that they should have had in the womb, but didn’t.
Our guys were in intensive care for nine weeks and special care for a further ten before they came home to us weighing in at 9½ lbs and 7lbs aged 4 ½ months.
This is them now.
They are happy, healthy and LOUD. Hobs and I are acutely aware of how lucky we are, how different things might have been and we do not underestimate the facilities it took to achieve the result we got.
World Prematurity Day is to focus attention on premature birth, to help improve care for premature babies around the world and try to find ways to prevent this from happening. Just now in many cases (including ours) no reason for it can be identified.
One organisation working for this in the UK is BLISS. You can find out about them here and what they say about World Prematurity Day here. We are forever grateful too for the fundraising efforts of Simpsons Special Care Babies, the charity that helps the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh’s neonatal unit – the unit that saved our guys.
If you can help either of these charities to mark World Prematurity Day, or a similar charity local to you, please do so. There are so many babies and parents not as lucky as us.