Today is Prematurity Awareness Day. And the issue of prematurity is something I hold close to my heart and for which I have a deep respect. Let me explain.
I have three children: identical twin 4 year old daughters who spent 93 horrifying days in the NICU when they were born at 27 ½ weeks, and a 20 month-old son who was less dramatic and only spent 15 days in the NICU.
In our modern world of advanced medicine and privilege, Americans today maintain ignorant expectations of childbirth. Every expecting mother (and father) expects to paint the nursery with animals and letters, buy cute and tiny little clothes, stuffed animals, have baby showers with family and friends doting at our waddle and generally go about the pregnancy with smiles for a stint of 9 months.
Little do they realize that giving birth to a child is one of the most dangerous things a woman will experience in her lifetime. And not all, not many at all, enjoy a full 9 months of construction.
When I arrived at the hospital after my wife had undergone an emergency c-section with the twins, the doctor point blank told us that he feared for little Zoe and did not expect her to make it through the night. Ava was in a similar situation, but not as grave as her sister.
If you have children, imagine a doctor saying that to you – that your beloved child is going to die.
If you don’t have children, you can’t feel that horror run through your bones. But I’m sure you can appreciate the inconceivable emotional pain that incapacitates your body like nothing you can imagine.
The sun rose the next day and the doctor came in to talk to us. He had stayed with her even though his shift had ended hours ago. He got right to the point…
She made it through the night.
For the next 93 days, those two little girls clawed their way to life. They fought, against all odds, and won. And at the end of their residency at the Brigham & Women’s hospital NICU, and after several surgeries and endless setbacks, they came home together, on Christmas Eve, 2006.
My life has never been the same since.
Our journey was horrifying and it changed me as a person. I’m a different parent because of it. I’m a different husband and friend. I know that and I accept and embrace it for what it has taught me.
Too many kids are born prematurely. Too many parents have to endure a NICU stay. It’s not something anyone should have to experience. And the work and research of the March of Dimes, Children’s Hospital Boston, and of course the Brigham & Women’s Hospital is essential in fighting prematurity.
So on this special day, please support the efforts of all those who work tirelessly to fight prematurity. When it all works, this is the result. And I thank you for giving me that gift and sharing our story.