We’re honored to raise awareness about the challenges and triumphs that families of premature newborns face as part of Prematurity Awareness Month. Last week, we shared the story of Baby Grace and her family, and this week we are grateful to be able to share the story of an equally committed, dedicated and amazing family. Their story continues to bring us tears – happy ones! – and we can’t say enough about this remarkable family. We’re lucky to visit with many hospitals + NICU staff who share some of their most memorable moments and this family has forever left their mark with everyone at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. We’re certain their story will give support + encouragement to other families looking to become more involved in their baby’s NICU care.
“On February 1, 2015, Max and Lia were born 15 weeks pre-mature. Max weighed 1 lb, 6 oz and 12” long. Lia weighed in at a whopping 1 lb, 10 oz and 12.5” long. They spent 140 days in the NICU, most of which was at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH.
Day 1 in the NICU, we learned of the incredible benefits of skin-to-skin contact for the babies’ development. Determined to help our babies thrive during their lengthy NICU stay, my husband and I logged well over 1,000 skin-to-skin hours with each baby, especially thanks to the NüRoo Pocket. Max and Lia tucked firmly in place on our chests, we were able to hold our tiny miracles while staying productive with work and our growing task list…preemies generate a lot of paperwork. The Pocket allowed Eric to stand or sit, hands free while holding a baby and to continue working without missing a beat. For me, the Pocket was more of a luxury than necessity as I spent a majority of those NICU days on maternity leave.
Our babies had very different journeys. Max was on a ventilator for nearly 12 weeks. He had heart surgery at 7 weeks old, closing a valve that was preventing him from progressing. A few weeks following, he had eye surgery, leaving him with permanent peripheral vision loss. High doses of antibiotics and prematurity also created some measure of hearing loss. The extent of vision and hearing loss won’t be known until he’s older. Max made his triumphant journey home while on oxygen support and was only recently able to breathe without its aid. Lia was able to kick her oxygen needs a short time before leaving the hospital, though she does suffer from severe acid reflux…to this day. Because of this, we struggled to get her much needed feeding volumes up. She rarely tells us when she’s hungry…so we just stick to a schedule. Where she’s a finicky eater, Max is a veritable one way trap door. The boy can eat. So much so that he now weighs 2.5 lbs more than Lia!
Max and Lia have been exclusively fed breast milk since birth. We spent a significant amount of time attempting breastfeeds, which for preemies takes a lot more energy to accomplish. Both babies deferred to the easier, instant gratification of the bottle. We continue to work on breastfeeding mechanics because even if they never get the hang of it, they still spend precious skin-to-skin time with me!
They are now 9 months old (6.5 months corrected) and are masters of rolling from tummy to back and bee-lining ANY and EVERYTHING to their mouths. Teething bites! The past nine months of our lives have been filled with many ups & downs and several terrifying situations. But life finds a way (with our loving help) and through everything, it has been a joy watching them discover the greater world around them; the boundaries and scope of which grow with each passing day. Hands-to-feet, feet-to-mouth, smiling gazes at us, first laughs…all of it! The amazing compassion and care that we’ve received from every member of the NICU & hospital staff, from administrative folks to surgeons, helped get us to where we are today and for that, we are eternally grateful.”
Jennifer, her husband Eric, and now the twins; proudly call Columbus, Ohio home…GO BUCKEYES! Eric and Jennifer have been together for a little over 8 years, married for 6 (and trying for Max & Lia for nearly as long with many hurdles and losses along the way). Their family complete, they are now focused on world domination and beating the odds of flu season!