World Prematurity Day and the Importance of Gestation in Multiple Births

Today is World Prematurity Day 2014. Of course this makes me reflect when my three tiny triplet babies who were born just over three years ago at 34 weeks plus 1 day. How small they were and how big they have grown.

3 year old triplets
3 year old triplets

When you are expecting triplets, the expectation of a preemie birth is certainly on the radar. The thought of preemie babies was very overwhelming for me. I can remember being given a book on prematurity and choosing not to read it because it would only make me worry more than I needed to. I looked at a table in the book which charted the various route markers of what babies could do if they were born prematurely at the various number of weeks pregnant. (Something like chart linking gestation and survival) That became my route marker. I would pray and focus to get past each checkpoint. I figured that if they were micro-preemies, I knew where to locate the information and I would deal with each issue as it arose.

At 26 weeks I blogged about how I was relieved that I had reached an age where they were ‘viable’ if they were born. It might have been a slim chance of survival but it was a chance that for the previous 26 weeks had not existed at all for them.

When I was 27 weeks pregnant with the triplets I visited the special care nursery at the hospital I would be staying at. All of a sudden the thought of having premature babies, although still scary, became more of a reality to me, and having met some midwives and seen the babies sleeping in the nursery, it didn’t quite seem as overwhelming to me.

At 31 weeks I was admitted into hospital overnight because I had started having contractions. Luckily the contractions subsided and I was able to go home. It was the only stay I had in hospital while I was pregnant with the triplets, and I was very grateful that I was not confined to bed rest in hospital like many multiple mothers are.

32 weeks was the greatest route marker during my pregnancy. Reaching this number meant that I now had the confidence that if I had to deliver my babies, I would not need to go to Brisbane because that babies now had a 95% survival rate, I cannot tell you what a relief this was.

32 Weeks pregnant with triplets
32 Weeks pregnant with triplets

When you are considering life with premature babies you know that every single day in the womb counts. Getting to the end of yet another day and remaining pregnant is an accomplishment in itself. Everything is focussed on keeping those babies ‘cooking’ so that they can have the best chance possible when they are ‘on the outside’.

When I was pregnant with my first two children. I never really stopped to consider exactly how much their lives were enriched by remaining in my womb. There is an assumption that the baby will stay there, and even though there is a concern that everything does stay healthy in there, it’s not what you think about every single day.

If things had not gone so well for my triplets and they had been born much earlier, at least I had the time to contemplate beforehand the possibility of micro or moderate prematurity. Many families unexpectedly have a little baby arrive way too early and have to start coping with a new reality of a baby who is often very sick and fighting for life. It is a dramatic plunge into parenthood.

When it became apparent that it was the day the triplets were going to be born I was so relieved that we had reached the 34 week mark. There was still so much unknown about how they would go, and I was disappointed that I hadn’t got them to the 35 week mark which was my personal goal. As they lifted each baby out of my womb, I was so delighted to see each tiny red life, fragile yet precious. It tore my heart that I was unable to touch them, that unlike my first two children they did not snuggle onto my chest and start breastfeeding immediately. The nurses lined up to show me the little children one by one after they were all wrapped up in their blankets and it was over far too quickly. I didn’t get any photo with my children on their first day of life. It broke my heart. They were whisked away to the special care nursery and eventually I went to the ward feeling empty without them being with me. I ached for them and seeing them the next day seemed far too long.

premature triplets day one
Day 1 – My heart was just aching when the big boys went to meet their siblings and I was not able to be there with them and to see their reactions.

If I were to give advice to triplet mothers, I would tell them to discuss with their hospital beforehand what happens after you give birth to premature babies. (Especially if your hospital, like mine does not see many triplet births) I’ve seen many triplet Mums with babies younger than mine that had a photo with their parents before going to the nursery. I wish I knew this so I could have asked. While I was in the special care nursery, I saw a mother wheeled into the nursery to see her premature child before she went to the ward. This is also something I would have requested if I had known.

We were lucky during our babies first weeks. They remained healthy. It was a blessing, and I’m always grateful for the prayers that covered their start to life. In the end, premature birth was not the tumultuous time it could have been. Of course it’s not the ideal, but I’m glad I had not worked myself up and been ultra worried about the experience, because I did not need too. If you are faced with the prospect of prematurity, I hope this is an encouragement to you that yes, they are so many complications that can happen, but things can go smoothly also with tiny little premature babies
also. Remain positive for your children.

And for the parents with premature babies that keep needing to jump the hurdles with their children as they arrive. Keep giving your child love, they are small, but they are still fuelled by that love you give them as a parent. Never underestimate the importance of your role in their life, starting right from their first tiny day.

Have you any personal stories about prematurity about your own child, or a child you know?

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