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Challenge: NICU Parenting

Cole & Chase, born at 28 weeks gestation

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Before I had Cole and Chase at 28 weeks, prematurity was something I did not know a lot about. When I found out I was having twins the risk of premature birth was higher, but that still was NOT going to happen to me. When they came crashing into the world unexpectedly within 35 mins at 28 weeks gestation, to say I was in complete shock was an understatement. We were flown out of our city to another hospital and there our journey began.

I spent the first few days of my babies lives wondering if they were going to live. Every morning the doctors would come and talk to us and when they would walk away I would look at my husband and my mom and say "do they think they are going to be ok? Do they think they are going to live?" It's still hard to think that I could say those words so matter of fact. But those were the facts.

In the beginning the nights when everyone was sleeping were the worst. I had a four year old daughter and an 18 month old son at home. I sat up in my hotel room missing them so much. I needed my children. Two of them were far away, and two of them were just across the street in intensive care.

My mom stayed with me in London and my husband started to make the 7 hour drive back and fourth. He brought my children to see me as much as possible and friends and family started to visit from time to time, which made my time away from home a little easier.

As the weeks went on and the boys were doing so well I was able to relax a little bit. I spent hours doing kangaroo care and I was taught how to take care of my babies in the NICU. The setting that at first felt so scary and unfamiliar started to feel like home. The doctors and nurses who were once strangers started to feel like family.

As the weeks went on I started to become overwhelmingly grateful. I had always been grateful for what I had, but this was like nothing I had ever felt. I was so thankful that my boys were alive and doing so well. Grateful for the doctors and nurses in my hometown who worked tirelessly, overtime, and doubles the night the boys were born in order to keep my babies alive at our hospital that doesn't deliver before 30 weeks. Grateful for the doctors who were continuing to care for Cole and Chase, keeping us involved and always making us feel like a part of the team. And there aren't even enough words to say how thankful I was, and still am for the nurses who took care of my babies day and night when I didn't have the ability to do so. After 42 days we were flown back to our hometown and on day 56 I got to bring Cole and Chase home.

Unfortunately the trauma of having a premature child is not something that ends when you leave the NICU. It is hard for friends and family to understand why you are still experiencing so much trauma and anxiety when your babies are now so perfect and healthy. You should just be thankful and grateful right? If there is one thing a parent of a premature child knows, it is gratefulness, but being grateful does not erase what we have been through. It does not erase the losses that we have felt when our babies came too soon. The loss of our pregnancy. The loss of the beautiful moment that we had dreamed their birth would be. It is now a terrible memory filled with fear and panic. The loss of those first moments with our babies holding them and staring at their beautiful faces. Instead we saw our babies for the first time in in an incubator in the NICU. We stared in disbelief at their tiny fragile bodies, bruised from needles and IV's. We tried to see their little faces that were covered with tubes, masks and tape. Instead of sleepless nights feeding and taking care of our newborn babies, we were dealing with sleepless nights missing our babies, pumping breast milk and sick with worry about brain bleeds, infections, and what our babies futures might look like.

Despite all of the stress and the fear, this experience changed me. It gave me a new outlook on life by showing me how fragile life can be. It showed me that life does not always go as planned, and nothing in life is guaranteed. It showed me strength in so many ways. Strength in the parents who take things one day at a time and stay strong for their babies who need them. Strength in the broken parents who never got to bring their babies home. Strength in our family and friends who are always there for us, and always there to listen, even thought it's hard to understand. And so much strength in the most fragile looking two pound human that you have ever seen, who fought to be here. Most of all our experience taught me true gratefulness. I will spend the rest of my life being thankful that our story had a happy ending. I can not imagine our lives without Cole & Chase 💙💙

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