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November 17, 2012

World Prematurity Day - November 17, 2012

Happy World Prematurity Day! It's just after midnight - my baby is fast asleep and I'm sitting here reflecting back on the last 9 months, the long days and nights spent in the NICU, the tears, laughs, deep breaths and hugs that were shared. I can still hear the beeping of the machines, still smell the hand sanitizer as if it was yesterday, still make out the lullabies that played in the nursery. As if it was yesterday.

I remember changing her diaper for the first time; she didn't even have a bum, she was all skin and bones. I remember when I bought my first preemie onesie and it was huge on her, and our nurse laughed and said, "Don't worry, soon it'll be too small." I couldn't even imagine it.

I remember my first ambulance ride; I remember her first ambulance ride -- my hubby and I following cautiously behind. I remember fondly the days and nights we spent cuddling skin-to-skin - we were in the hospital 63 days and we never missed a day. Ever.

Isabelle got her early start in life due to the amazing teams of doctors and nurses at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, who not only took care of me, but took care of her, too. The NICU there quickly became home, and the nurses helped celebrate our daily milestones like making it to the Kilo Club, and her first Kangaroo Cuddle. They took her footprints and decorated her isolette, and always made sure to ask us how we were doing. After only 2 short weeks at Sunnybrook, our time had come to say goodbye. It was a good thing, we were told, but as first-time parents we were devastated.

We moved closer to home, to York Central Hospital - now Mackenzie Health Richmond Hill. Our first few days there were long and hard; we had to learn new doctors, new nurses, new systems. They, too, had to learn who we were, and our baby. It was a slow and steady start, and some days, it felt like we would never leave. But in the days and weeks that followed, we were not only grateful to the nurses and doctors, we valued and respected them, and loved them for taking care of our angel.

They taught us how to bathe her, bottle feed her, soothe her; I learned how to breastfeed and was never rushed or made to feel inadequate. We joked around, and actually talked about other things besides having a premature baby. They were great at getting our minds off of the obvious. They respected that we wanted to be there for many hours of every day, but on occasions like my birthday, they reminded us to go out and have fun. They would take care of our baby.

When people would say, "It must have been so hard to leave the hospital every night without your baby", yes, it was, but it was also reassuring to have such wonderful people watching over her. We also knew that if something were to happen, they would call us, and we could call them at any time. And we did - at times calling in the middle of the night to make sure she was ok.

We were reassured day after day that Isabelle would not be discharged until she was ready. This was in her hands. And as eager parents, we sometimes wanted to push her, but our wonderful neonatologist reminded us that not only were we taking baby steps, we were taking preemie ones. We got over it. We learned we wouldn't go home until she was 100% ready.

Leaving the NICU and going home with baby - April 3, 2012
When we finally got word we were ready to go, we were elated, but it was also bittersweet. We were overjoyed to be able to bring our baby home - finally - but we would certainly miss our family at the NICU. We spent 7 weeks at York Central under the care of Dr. David Gryn and the exquisite team of nurses. And we couldn't have been more prepared - we left that NICU not as scared first-time parents, but as strong, confident ones. We were prepared for sleepless nights and doctors appointments and all that comes with raising a baby, let alone a preemie. Sometimes, I think it would be nice for all parents to have this training, but then again, I wouldn't wish anyone spend so much time in an NICU.

We go to visit the hospital and our NICU family from time to time and I try to send emails every month or so. I know they care about Isabelle and want to see how she's doing. After all, she was their baby, too.

Happy World Prematurity Day - from our little angel to yours. Let's celebrate the small heroes in our lives.


1 comment

  1. A beautiful story. My twin boys were born at 32 weeks. The hardest, scariest and happiest moment of my life. Those days in the hospital were hard. Really hard.

    Congratulations on your miracle!



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