Monday, December 1, 2008

A Day of Thanks

This year we gathered with our families to celebrate Thanksgiving - and eat ridiculous amounts of food. In attendance, from left to right - top to bottom:
Ben, Natalie, Reagan, Abby, Jeff, Wayne, Jane, Mema, Grammy, Ya-Ya, Johelen, Grandpa

This year I am thankful for many things. Here are just a few:

I am thankful Natalie and Abigail were born at 26.1 weeks and not one day earlier. Something amazing happens at the 26 week mark. The rates for survival go way up. We discovered the girls' TTTS at 24.4 weeks. Had they been born then, the survival rate would have been less than 50%. At 25 weeks, survival would have been about 67%. At 26 weeks, survival jumps to 80-90%. In addition, children born at 25 weeks or less have a 50% chance of having a disability that would interfere with their lives. A 2005 long-term study showed only 20% of babies born before 26 weeks had no problems.

The day we discovered the TTTS (and the day after), I received steroid shots to help the girls' lungs grow. The fact that they were girls also helped them. Girls mature faster than boys even in the womb! Combined with the 10 extra days they spent in the womb, they had a chance for survival that they would not have had if born even a few days earlier.

I am thankful for the doctors at Duke who helped keep my babies in every day possible. I'm thankful the doctors helped us find the right balance between letting the babies grow and putting them at risk. I'm thankful for the research and drugs that allowed my babies to live. I'm thankful for the parents and precious babies that came before who were the catalysts for research and advances in neonatology. Having a premature baby gives new meaning to the phrase, "one day at a time".

I am thankful for the health of my daughters. As a member of a preemie forum, I am daily confronted with what could have been. As 26.1 weekers, Natalie and Abby did have a high rate of possible survival . And although after the 26 week mark, the rate and severity of disabilities begins to dramatically fall, the chance for mild-to very serious problems always remained. From the forum, I am aware of so many children who were born at 26 weeks or even later who have mild to severe disabilities. We are so lucky so far. Actually, technically, the chances still remain for there to be repercussions in the future.. The girls are still at risk for learning disabilities or behavioral issues as they get older. Compared to what could have been, however, their incredible good health, especially for twins, is miraculous to me. Even their ability to eat considerably less than they should and still gain weight and thrive is incredible. I am so grateful they are so healthy and have had nothing worse than a few colds, a stomach bug and an ear infection.

I am thankful for the laughter and joy that Natalie and Abby bring to our lives. Watching Natalie and Abby run down the hallway laughing and giggling is a joy more overwhelming than I can describe. When they look at each other and start laughing, my heart melts. When they hug each other, I want to cry with happiness. My girls are happy. That makes me happy. The wonder on their faces as they explore their world is so beautiful to me. Watching their delight when they see Kitkat come in to the room just makes me smile. It's the simplest things that delight children and their elation at all the world has to offer is infectious.

I am thankful for our family. Ben and I are both blessed with amazing families. The girls are so lucky to have such amazing grandparents and aunts and uncles. They are loved from all directions and with such devotion. Our families have also been very supportive of Ben and me as well. Doy has come up to help when I and the babies were sick (at the same time), my dad, step-mom, sister and step-sister rescued us last Thanksgiving when I was losing my mind by taking the girls to a hotel for the night. Grandparents and aunts and uncles have babysat so we could have a night off. Everyone has generously showered the girls with toys, clothes, books and lots and lots of love.

On the aforementioned preemie forum, I have also seen moms share about some of the horrible and insensitive comments they have heard, not just from strangers, but from their own families. It's hard for me to imagine some of the things others have been told. I can honestly say that since the babies were born, our families have been wonderful and given us so much support. We are very grateful.

I am thankful for our friends, church and neighbors. We have had great friends, many from our church, who have stuck by us through all of the drama with Natalie and Abby. Again, to the preemie forum, some parents have had friends abandon them because their situation seemed to much to handle. We have only had people willingly to see the babies in the hospital, stop by to keep me company after they were home, bring meals, offer to babysit, and call and email to make sure we were okay.
Our church family has been amazing; they were as happy as we were when they heard the news we were expecting, and as just as concerned when the girls were in trouble. They have offered prayers, meals, a baby shower, cards, and friendship.
We have also been lucky to discover we have great neighbors. I have thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with the moms next door. Kara, with 8 month old Bradley, and Felicia and 2 year old Ethan. It's been good for us all to share play dates, swap stories, lend an ear and do some stand-in babysitting. I am very blessed to have such a great support system right next door!

I am thankful for my Ben. My Ben is the most amazing husband and father. I simply adore him. He is so good to me and just the greatest father. I can't say enough how I love the way he lights up when he sees the girls and how they light up when they see him. We have the most wonderful little family, and I am blissfully happy.

Thanksgiving was a wonderful time this year. We enjoyed a 4 day visit from Mema and Grammy which was wonderful. It's hard to get to see them sometimes. We missed having Poppy and Nanny, but we are looking forward to seeing them at Christmas. My sister also missed the fun, but we had just seen her a few weeks earlier and would again at Christmas.

Thanks to everyone who cooked or brought a dish. Ahhh, there's nothing like leftovers.

No comments: