Blankets for PREMS (Pretty Remarkable Early Miracle Survivors)
The early arrival of Alexis and Skylar, as told by Mum Maria
Any parent who has had a baby (or babies in our case) in NICU knows that you are a premmie parent for life. Our MoDi twin girls were born at 30 weeks weighing 1300gms and 841gms. They had selective intrauterine growth restriction. I spent 3 weeks on bed rest at home, 2 weeks on bed rest in hospital and they spent 83 days in neonatal care. That time has completely changed me and shaped who I am as a parent.
We are extremely blessed to now have two 3½ year olds who are excelling physically and cognitively. But I am still that mum who panics when they get a cold, cough or develop a temperature. Most ‘normal’ children carry on with life when they get these symptoms, but not some premmies. We go on high alert; increase asthma medication; avoid public places, other children and anywhere cold; spend half our night sitting upright with a coughing child or getting up too many times to check they are ok. We bite our tongue when people tell us ‘they’ll be fine’ as we mentally prepare for the logistics of having one or both children unwell, and potentially in hospital (we’ve been there many times now!). We react like this because, even though our premmies ‘look’ perfectly normal now, they have lungs and an immune system that have issues. All those big words we used in NICU – respiratory distress syndrome, chronic lung disease – they didn’t magically ‘come right’ and we need to be vigilant.
When I ask you to wash your hands before touching my baby, it’s because I don’t want them back in the hospital we have just brought them home from at 3 months old.
When I say my children can’t go out in that cold wind, it’s because we may suffer for the next two weeks.
When I sanitise their hands after being in the playground or supermarket, it’s because they may pick up every possible bug that might exist there.
When you say I wrap them in cotton wool, it’s because I don’t know any different, they always had monitors telling me they were ok.
This winter we managed to avoid hospital with our girls. But they spent 5 weeks unwell, visited the doctor 7 times, completed 2 courses of antibiotics, used every herbal remedy known to man, burnt through the power bill running the vaporiser and heater at night, burnt through the firewood keeping the house extra warm, survived on less food than a sparrow, and watched too many DVDs of The Wiggles.
It is these hours on the couch with listless kids that inspired me to pay it forward. After time in the Wellington NICU, they were transferred to the Palmerston North Neonatal Unit – where each baby was gifted a pure wool blanket that had been donated to the unit. Skylar received the last one at the time as the blankets were going out faster than they were coming in. So I picked up some knitting needles and now do something constructive with my time as I listen to the “Big Red Car” for the thousandth time!
We have always been honest with the girls about their start to life, shown them photos, explained how they were tube fed and that mummy and daddy couldn’t always be with them in the hospital. They know that these blankets are going to sick babies in the hospital just like they were and they will come with us when we deliver them.