We were recently contacted by a nurse at Woodland neonatal unit at Watford General hospital, as they were looking for some printed t-shirts for the team, to celebrate world prematurity day. I had previously printed some hoodies for her daughter and her friends, for their leavers dance at a local dance school, and it was so pleasing that they had come back to us again to help them on this occasion as well.
On this occasion we were extra pleased that they asked us for t-shirt printing, as world prematurity day is something that means so much to me, due to the fact that my twins were born 8 weeks early, and the staff at Woodlands had been an enormous help to Emma and I in those early days.
As we were having twins, we were always expecting them to arrive a little early, and with an original due date of Christmas Eve, we were more than a little surprised when they were born on the 28th October, and to say we were not quite prepared would be a bit of an understatement.
What we were also not fully prepared for, was for them to spend the first 4 weeks of their lives in the Special Care Baby Unit, initially in intensive care, having been born weighing just over 4lbs each.
Instead of the usual period of joy, and spending time with family and friends, showing off our new babies, visitors would come and see us and them, with them both in incubators, like little museum exhibits, unable to be touched or held in their early days.
The one things that got us through that difficult time were the staff at the unit, and many of the other parents who we grew close to, and would be able to share our unique experiences with people who knew how we felt, and help them as well (I hope!)
As the weeks drew on, and Anthony and Juliet continued to gain their 'promotions' through the different nurseries, and moved closer to going home, we were able to reflect on the fact that we had been one of the lucky ones, and that whilst we never expected to be there, they had both made constant, regular progress, and with other children being born even earlier, with a number of medical conditions, being rushed to a a variety of other hospitals, and that we should think about those who had not been as fortunate as we had.
One of the great benefits we did not realise until we had left the unit, was that all the support and guidance we had from all the staff whilst we were there, had a allowed us to have a gentle transition into parenthood, and that we went home in a position of greater experience than we would have done otherwise. With twins, we quickly realised that routine was everything, and we left hospital with them both already in a regular one, and to this day, know that it made such a positive impact on us, and routine is something they both still need to this day.
I wish I had managed to get this post written prior to world prematurity day, but despite being late, I am able to think back to 13 years ago, when Ant and Jools would still have been in hospital, and remember all of those who helped us enormously (some of whom are still there) and the positive impact they have had on our lives. Many are not as lucky as we were, but this important day, and the awareness of prematurity is something we always hold close to our hearts.