Premature Birth Image

Most people assume that with the arrival of our third baby boy four months ago that our family is now complete, but that’s not quite true. Yes, our pregnancy days are certainly well and truly over now (I promise!), and we are content and have our hands full raising three adorable boys, however, our family is still and will always be incomplete without our twins, a daughter and son, who were born and passed away prematurely on the same day five years ago.

My husband and I were just 25 and 27, respectively, when we made the decision to start a family. We never could we have imagined that it would take us 11 rounds of IVF and four premature births to achieve our dream. Following the premature birth of our twins, each of my subsequent pregnancies were considered high risk. Along with suffering from the same complications that led to our son and daughter’s early arrival, additional complications also arose along the way.

For us, premature birth is our normal when it comes to pregnancy, with each of our pregnancies ending before their time: our twins at 21 weeks, Mr 4 at 30 weeks, Mr 3 at 32 weeks, and our newest baby boy at 36 weeks. When my daughter was born, I cuddled her for the entire time she spent with us in this world; her brother was born still shortly after she arrived. I was only able to have a brief cuddle with the aid of oxygen following the birth of our recent baby boy. Our other two boys were briefly held up for us to catch a glimpse of before being rushed to resuscitation rooms to help them establish their breathing and then whisked away to NICU.

We are fortunate that we now have three beautiful boys with us and that all three had relatively smooth journeys through their NICU stays, but I just can’t stop myself from wondering, What if? What would life have been like if we had managed to last a few more weeks of pregnancy with the twins, to reach the magical “viability” milestone of 24 weeks? I have these thoughts often, especially now that our eldest son is starting prep school next year, because our twins would also have been starting school, too. I know these thoughts are natural but they also make me feel incredibly guilty as I know we wouldn’t have our three precious boys if our twins hadn’t of died of prematurity.

So yes, while our pregnancy days are over, our family will never be complete. How can it be when two of our children are not here with us? We can’t watch them grow up, and celebrate their milestones. We can’t play with them, read them stories, and tell them how much we love them before tucking them into bed each night. They are not running around, causing chaos like a couple of 5-year-olds would (and should) be doing. I look at the bond and friendship (and yes, they do also fight like cats and dogs, too!) between our eldest two boys and wonder if our twins would have had a similar friendship and what the dynamics between the two of them would have been like. We talk to our boys about their big brother and sister in heaven and they know that they were born too soon.

All four of our premature birth experiences have left a lasting impression on both my husband and me, and I can’t drive past the hospital where all five of our children were born without reliving some of these memories, both good and bad. It’s shaped the people that we now are, as well as they way we parent our three boys. While I reflect often on how far we’ve come, today our family will be celebrating our little fighters and thinking about those babies born early who don’t survive. November 17 is World Prematurity Day , a time to raise awareness of premature birth and the journey that families go on, not only while their babies are in hospital but often for the rest of their lives. Major cities across the world will light up purple to honor the 15 million babies around the world who are born too soon and the 1 million who don’t survive. Join us at 7 p.m. tonight and light a candle to remember premature babies, along with us.

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Photo: Lauren Matheson