My identical twin girls were born at 34 weeks, 2 days. Three weeks prior to their "twin due date" and six weeks premature for a normal pregnancy. When I tell people this, almost always they will say, "Oh, that's not bad".
(insert sound of my blood boiling)
Not bad?? What is "not bad" about the terror that a new mother feels when her water breaks weeks or months early, knowing that her child's life hangs in the balance? When her newborn baby (or babies) are raced to intensive care moments after giving birth. What is "not bad" about three weeks - 21 fucking days - staring at my new babies through clear plastic instead of holding them in my arms?
Try to cuddle with a tiny baby with tangled cords tethering her to her isolet, knowing that you can't keep her warm enough because she cannot regulate her own body temperature.
Try to breastfeed a premature baby whose instinct to suck in order to stay alive hasn't kicked in yet.
When it comes to the NICU, one day is too long in the eyes of a mother (or father). I know mothers whose babies spent months in the NICU. While the angels disguised as NICU nurses take such good care of the babies (and the parents), it is not a fun place to be. Monitors beep incessantly. Fragile, skinny babies are protected behind clear plastic. Anxious family members pace the halls.
To be discharged from the hospital, preemies take a carseat test. Its heartbreaking to strap a too-small child into a carseat and watch the oxygen monitors hoping they can breathe while seated upright.
There are so many stories of babies born much much earlier than 34 weeks. I cannot imagine the heartbreak those parents must have endured. Surgeries, procedures and the uncertainty that your precious offspring will survive another day in the NICU. But, this isn't a competition. Every single mother-to-be hopes for a healthy, chubby baby to emerge from their womb.
So, go ahead. Try me. Tell me that 34 weeks is "not bad".
I'm stepping off my soapbox now. I know how lucky I am to have healthy daughters that began their lives with a combined weight under 8 pounds. Four a half years and 80 pounds later, they are thriving.
Want proof? The first picture was taken last December. The second one was a few weeks ago. Is it my imagination, or did they grow 8 inches??