Each year, dozens of moms and dads in Southeastern New Brunswick begin their parenting journey surrounded by monitors, incubators, and healthcare professionals. They are the parents of preemies, babies who arrive weeks, and even months, before their due dates. We are one of these families.
Our sons were born two months before their due date, weighing 3 pounds 13 ounces and 2 pounds 5.5 ounces. We spent 35 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NNIC) at The Moncton Hospital. Before that, we spent 12 weeks being followed by the specialists in the Maternal Fetal Care Unit. This came after our boys were diagnosed as having Stage 3/Stage 4 Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. At 20 weeks, Baby A was given a 60% chance of survival without intervention. Baby B had a 10% chance.
Those are chilling words to hear, but we were lucky. We were viable candidates for an in-utero surgery that increased our odds to 60% and 80%. We flew to Toronto for the surgery and were able to return home to wait, because of the level of care available locally. We were able to tour the NNICU, research risk factors and complications of premature birth, and given time to come to terms with what was happening. We had the nursery ready and the hospital bag packed. That’s a luxury most preemie parents aren’t afforded.
Many Canadian preemie families aren’t as lucky as those in the Greater Moncton Area. We are privileged to live in an area with such a high level of care for high-risk pregnancies and premature births. I am thankful every day that we were seen quickly enough by specialists to be diagnosed, and that action was taken to get us the best care possible in the country. I am thankful that, because of the Maternal Fetal Care Unit here, we were able to return quickly from Toronto and be followed here, not separated longer from our toddler daughter. When our boys were delivered at 32 weeks, we knew the NNICU here was equipped to deal with their birth and we were confident in the care they would receive – and that we would be encouraged to be at their bedsides every moment we could.
One in 12 Canadian babies is born too soon. A shocking number of those do not celebrate their first birthday. Premature birth remains the number one cause of infant death in our country. There isn’t a magic cure, but there is so much that we can do to better prepare women for the possibility of premature birth. There are risk factors that can be monitored and mitigated. There are symptoms that are often dismissed as ‘normal’ pregnancy aches and pains that could be warning of danger. And there is so much more we can do to help families heal from the stress and trauma associated with the premature birth of a baby.
Our family will join dozens of other local preemie families, along with healthcare professionals, at The Moncton Hospital on Sunday afternoon (November 2016) to mark World Prematurity Day. We’ll gather to share our stories and ensure no one feels alone on this journey. Across the country, and across the world, other families will do the same. Please feel free to join us. The best way for us to battle premature birth is to talk about it with as many people as will listen, and to applaud the work of local healthcare teams. Without them, and without the ongoing fundraising efforts of events like the Trojan Trek and the Walk to Remember, our family story would be much, much different.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Times & Transcript.
Pickle Planet’s Jenna Morton is also the host & producer of With You in the NICU, a podcast for the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation. You can listen to episodes with other preemie parents, grown preemies, healthcare professionals, mental health experts, and more.