Today is World Prematurity Day and I’ve been spreading awareness about it for some years. I was born 11 weeks premature, and weighed 2 lb 6 oz. I was born with my identical twin sister Natalie in Kingston-Upon-Thames, an area of south London in England.
Every time it’s world prematurity day, I feel happy to be here given what I went through at birth. Natalie went through the same, but she passed away.
Today, I imagine us, tiny babies fighting for our lives in the NICU at first Kingston Hospital and then Queen Charlotte Maternity Hospital.
Our births were spontaneous, and the fact we were two babies instead of one was unexpected. I am the baby who was the “surprise”.
The consequences of prematurity for Natalie and I were many:
We were in a very poor condition when we were born.
We weren’t breathing at all and so went straight on life support.
We had heart and lung complications, and our lungs collapsed.
Our hearts stopped on Christmas Day and we had to be resuscitated and baptised in an emergency service.
Natalie’s heart stopped again and the further consequences of prematurity for her were kidney failure and organ failure until she lost her fight for life on New Year’s Eve 1981.
The consequences of prematurity for me were more related to my brain, muscles, and ability to move.
I had severe (grade 4) brain bleeds on both sides of my brain which caused swelling and hydrocephalus and Cerebral Palsy. I had many eye infections in the form of conjuntivitis.
I have often asked myself how the consequences of prematurity would have shown themselves in Natalie had she survived. It’s not really known, and the word most used in my family was “probably”, like she probably would have needed dialysis for her kidneys.
The theme for World Prematurity Day this year is a mother’s hug. I do know that my parents visited Natalie and I every day in hospital, and that we were in incubators and in the NICU. I’m not sure when we had our first hug or when we were allowed to be held for the first time. I have heard of skin to skin contact from the time a baby is born and the value of that to get a mother and baby bond.I think it’s a good therapy.
Here’s more information about World Prematurity Day this year. Purple is the awareness colour for prematurity and it’s my favourite colour.