19 March 2018
My journey to parenthood was a long one. After 3.5 years of unexplained infertility, countless interventions, and a failed round of IVF, I was pregnant. Not only was I expecting one baby, but it was twins. I was overjoyed and terrified. I had been dreaming of that moment for so long, and yet it was hard to relax and enjoy a high-risk pregnancy. The majority of my pregnancy was uneventful until around 27 weeks. At a routine appointment, signs of pre-term labour were noticed and I was checked into the hospital for indefinite bed rest.
Over the next seven days of hospital bed rest, we did everything possible to stop the babies from coming, whilst also preparing for the very real possibility that it might not work. On the eighth day, I had finally convinced the doctors that I would continue strict bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy, at home. One final fetal monitoring stood between me and my own bed. And then, one twin’s heart rate dropped. It continued to do so over the next six hours. I wasn’t going home, and in fact, an emergency c-section was necessary. Several doctors crowded into my hospital room and tried to explain the risks and potential outcomes of delivering at 28 weeks.
Our next stop was the NICU. Our passage through the NICU was not without moments of bliss and despair. We dealt with many of the common health problems associated with prematurity; jaundice, apnea, PDA, and infections. But after about 2 months, both babies were finally ready to come home.
As my twins grew, they loved hearing about their “origin” story and seeing pictures from their babyhood. From the very beginning, this always included discussions of life in the NICU, explaining that they were born early and were very small and needed additional time in the hospital to grow. I thought a book would be a nice supplement to the conversations we were having, so I set out to find a book about the NICU. I was looking for something that was a simple introduction to the NICU, was developmentally appropriate for younger toddlers, and reframed the NICU experience from scary to positive. I couldn’t find anything I loved, so I decided to write one myself. I wrote the rhyming text, added the illustrations, found a self-publishing company and sent it to print. My children enjoyed the book, we read it over and over to the point that they memorized it. I began to get requests for the book from friends and family. I thought that if this is something that helped my kids, perhaps others can benefit from it as well.
So I decided to start MeTwo Books, an organisation that uses books as an educational tool to help children recognize differences in themselves and others and to embrace it. My first book, I Was a Preemie Just Like You, celebrates what young preemies go through, and reminds them that they are not alone. I know that one of the things that I enjoyed whilst my kids were in the NICU was reading to them. It made me feel like a “normal” parent and I could block out all the noise and imagine that I was sitting in my children’s nursery reading to them instead of a hospital. It helped me forget about the stress, if at least temporarily. I would have loved to be able to read my preemie a book about being a preemie. So hopefully this book can provide that calming peaceful experience to help families escape in the pages of the book and enjoy time with their child while in the NICU.
Just last month, my second book One of Two, A Twin Story about Individuality was released. One of Two tells the story of twin sheep born on a farm. When telling them apart proves to be trouble, the twins set off on an adventure to make new friends who can tell them apart from each other. In the process, they learn that everyone is unique. Colorful geometric illustrations and rhyming text teach twins that it’s always okay to be an individual.
My journey to parenthood has been so much more than I expected. It has changed my life, my career, and my passion. Having preemie twins changed me forever, and for the better.
We'd like to thank Ali Dunn for very kindly sharing her NICU experience with us. To share your story, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org