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Training for City2Surf: Little Miss E – Week 6

10 Jul

To end a crappy week, last Friday afternoon was one of the most brilliant and memorable that I’ve had in a loooong time.

A special little girl came to pay me a visit.

It had been almost six months since I had seen her last, at her first birthday party.  But the moment she walked through the door, she still made my heart melt just like the first time I met her back in the days of NICU.

Little Miss E was born three days after the twinlets at the same hospital.  As the surviving identical twin, her start to life is a story of true inspiration.

This little tyke was born 13 and a half weeks premature.  And her birth weight was 720 gms (less than three slabs of butter).  After battling through three long months in NICU, Little Miss E beat the odds.

She started here…

And in 11 months, progressed to here…

To be the smiling cherub who came to visit last Friday…

On August 14, as I pound that pavement in the City2Surf, I’ll be running for Little Miss E – the Miracle Baby that holds a special place in my heart.

Please click here if you would like to donate to the Miracle Babies Foundation – a support group for parents and families of premature babies and sick newborns, and the hospitals that care for them.

A big thank you to Little Miss E’s mum for allowing me to share her daughter’s journey…Love you, Mama Tim Tam xxx

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Training for City2Surf: Running for Others – Week 4

25 Jun

This week’s segment is a little delayed due to a few reasons.

Time constraints, bad weather, lack of energy and a big serving of sleep deprivation have all led me into a lull.

But this was always going to be the danger.  Any slight skip of momentum can lead to a loss of motivation.

So, I thought hard about it.  What could swing me back into action?

Last year, I ran the City2Surf for the first time and my source of inspiration was my two boys.

My twinlets came into this world 5 weeks early.  They had a shaky start to life with their first two weeks spent in NICU.

The Miracle Babies Foundation supports premature babies and sick newborns, their parents, families as well as the hospitals who care for them.

We are forever in debt to the Foundation for their support and help.  Today, my boys continue to grow and thrive but I will never forget those fragile first couple of weeks.

So, this year, I’m going to run with purpose.

I’m going to run for the other families and their premmie babies.  I’m also going to run in memory for all the lost Angels who will always stay in our hearts.

Besides, don’t we find more meaning when we do something for someone else ?

Feel free to donate to The Miracle Babies Foundation through my fundraising page.

Yesterday’s Memories…

18 Apr

Tonight, I am compelled to write a blog post of reminiscences.

Recently, a friend announced the birth of his first child.  His FaceBook status updates filled with the thrill and joy of becoming a parent for the first time, sent me reeling back to our own first magical days.

It’s hard to believe that it was only over a year ago.  We’re going through that remarkable time when their reaching major milestones at such a rapid rate: walking, running, smiling, interacting, communicating.

As they develop into their own distinct personalities (Little K likes to play rough and tumble, Little N is a sensitive soul) and grow into actual little people, it gets harder to remember all the specific details of when they were first born.

But I just want to cling onto those precious memories.  Even if for just for a little longer.

What I can recall is out of sync.  The brain has no special function to retain any chronological order when you are completely swayed over by unconditional love and exhaustion.

How in one moment, I could feel swirly, swishy movements in my swollen belly, watching it harden with Braxton Hicks contractions.  Then what it seems like another blinking moment – my first born placed on my chest – looking straight into my eyes.  Before I can grasp any sense of reality, there is my second son.  Also, lying on top of me.

Surreal.  Two babies.  Two live beings.  In there.  Now, out here.  This is surreal.

I remember somehow finding the strength to visit the nursery to hold them later that evening.  An excited but nervous new mother.  Holding, helpless innocent little K.

Me holding Little K...just hours after he was born...

Trying to stay patient until the morning – when Little N is cleared from all the close monitoring and allowed out of the humidicrib.

The sense of relief of finally being able to hold them both in my arms, kissing their tiny little fingers, watching their beady little eyes, sleepily opening and closing.

Singing every single Indonesian lullaby  that my mother ever sang to me.  And when I finished singing them all, I would start all over again. Not caring if the nurses or other parents around me thought I was out of pitch.  Or tone deaf.  Or just wanted me to stop singing cheesy non-sensical melodies.

Tiny and fragile Little N

Just happily sitting in my own mummy daze with my very own boys.  Relishing in the fact that it was – at last – my turn to sing these very songs as a brand new mother.

How can one summarise the myriad of deep emotions when becoming a first time parent ?

How does one begin to explain the life-time experience ?

How do you make sense of the post-natal blur with distinct splashes of happiness, delight, nervousness, excitement and anticipation ?

Congratulating my new daddy friend, my message was simple:

Ah !  Nothing like a loved up brand new parent !  Enjoy !  These are the moments we live for.

Today (Little K driving, Little N pushing)

A Special Kinda Playgroup

26 Feb

I know that there are some Mamas out there that will “Tsk, tsk” me when I say this:  I’m not a big fan of mothers’ groups.

However, there is one particular group that I do my best to go along to every second Thursday.

It’s the Miracle Babies Foundation NurtureGroup which is especially set up for mums and their premature bubs.  There, I feel most comfortable because I’m surrounded by other women who have gone through the same journey of having an untimely birth and have dealt with the roller-coaster ride of the NICU (Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit).

Even when your premmie babies are finally discharged from hospital, there are still endless hurdles to overcome.

For instance, for our family, we went to extreme measures to avoid infections or contagious illnesses from the big, bad world outside.  We pretty much kept our 5 week premature twin boys quarantined at home until they were 3 months.  (Cabin fever much ???)

2 litre pump bottles of anti-bacterial hand gel were a big staple in our household.  If you were a visitor unwilling to co-operate in using the stuff…at the front door you stayed.

From the advice of doctors, we got our whooping cough and swine flu shots, we made sure that grandparents got the same jabs.

Then there is the constant concern of wondering when your baby will reach a comfortable position in that blasted percentile graph – badgering you that you’re child is still “catching up” to other “normal”, average-sized babies.

It is piece of mind that, for us mums of premmie pumpkins, there is a support group to turn to.  A crutch where all these worries are shared by all the mothers in the same room.

A couple of weeks ago, a television camera crew came along to one of the group sessions to do a story.  It was then aired last Monday morning on Channel Nine.  Hence, the attached video.

Even Little N&K managed to squeeze themselves in the limelight.  (Don’t blink though, you might miss them).  It’s just a shame that it was for a cheesey program like the Kerri-Anne Show…*ahem* *cough*

Anyhowdy-hoo…as they say, any publicity is good publicity.

No doubt, the Miracle Babies Foundation is deserving of every ounce of attention and community awareness.

They Say It’s Your Birthday…

27 Jan

Well, well, well my little munchkin monkeys of mayhem.  Tomorrow you are both turning the big O-N-E.  No more counting in miniscule weeks or the fly-by months.  You’re off to start your own adventures – living in years –  with the big wide world before the both of you.

It really does seem just like yesterday when Mama and Papa had to have a sit on the bench outside the doctor’s office and digest the startling news she had for us:

“I think I see two…*long pause* Yes, there are definitely two in there…”

Life and its pace has never been the same since.

For the past 12 months all we have known is that everything is times two.  Something squared.  To the power of two.

Double Love, Double Joy, Double Mess, Double Tears, Double Trouble, Double Nappy Changing, Double Chaos, Double Kisses, Double Hugs, Double Noise, Double Laughter, Double Tumbles, Double Donks, Double Bruises, Double Fun…

Of course, Mama has grown many more grey hairs and Papa has aged 10 years.  Friends, family and even random strangers frequently ask: “How do you do it ?” Some days have seen us as walking zombies.  But all of that is temporary, because we know:

All of this multiplying of two equals to Immeasurable Happiness.

From the day of your arrival, you have been our very own Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie…with attitude.

From premmie pumpkins in the hospital, helping each other become plump and strong:

To keeping you clinging close in the same cot.  Avoiding major changes, in fear of disrupting your sense of safety and comfort in each other’s company:

You have never been apart.  Not for a minute.

Inseparable.

Thank you for creating such beautiful memories.  Helping us rediscover the fundamentals of friendship and the magic of sibling love.

We have seen your absolute delight in discovering each other.

We have taken great pleasure watching you explore the world together.

Happy 1st birthday, my gorgeous boys.

May the years ahead be full of many more laughs. May you both continue to learn about the rare and beautiful blessing of being a twin.  Living the invaluable experience of having a constant.

The Bravest Little Pocket Rocket I Know

12 Jan

Without a doubt, it’s been a devastating start to the new year:  Freaky flash floods leave Queenslanders losing homes and even lives; Innocent people, including a 9 year old girl have been killed by random gun shootings in Tuscon, Arizona…I don’t need to continue.

It can be a cruel, senseless world we live in.  In difficult moments, we look for some light. There is the search for hope.  We embrace any inkling of positive news.

Let me introduce you to a courageous youngster who I like to call “Little Miss E”.  This little girl was born 3 days after our boys and I randomly met her mum, Mama Tim Tam – in of all places – the Mothers Only Breast Feeding Room.  Naturally, during their time in the NICU, parents of premmie babies would constantly meet and share their stories.  (Not to mention the complaints of sleep deprivation).  But Mama Tim Tam and I have established a bond beyond the doors of the hospital.  Along with her adorable daughter, we are almost family.

This is their story of undying hope, unconditional love, loss and unwavering strength.  I am deeply honoured that Mama Tim Tam has given me her blessing and her permission to share their journey with you.

Little Miss E was born 13 and a half weeks premature.  As the surviving identical twin, she arrived into the world weighing a mere 720 grams (That’s less than three slabs of butter) and only 32 centimetres long (Around the size of an A4 piece of paper).

From the very beginning, this little fragile baby was given the daunting task to learn how to survive. Immediately after birth, the doctor’s discovered she was not breathing and had a heart rate of only 20 beats per minute.  Little Miss E was attached to a ventilator immediately.  She started life being completely dependent on breathing assistance equipment.

First photo

So began her uphill battle to live – fighting against the odds.

Little Miss E spent 3 and a half months in the NICU.  (Our boys were only in the NICU for a smidgen of that time – 16 days).  When I think of this vast contrast, I am in complete awe and admiration for a teeny weeny infant who obviously has so much  inner-strength and determination.  (Funnily, she doesn’t even know it yet…)

Each day during those long months, both mother and daughter would face yet a new challenge.  Another hurdle to get out of the danger zone.

Here are some of the amazing facts and milestones:

  • After giving birth, Mama Tim Tam had to wait five days until she was able to have her first skin-to-skin cuddle with her baby.

    Some skin-to-skin-time with Mama, who is holding a puffer...just in case someone needed help with breathing...

  • On Day 19, Little Miss E had her first trial run of breathing by herself – she made it to an hour before having the breathing assistance equipment reattached to her.

    Heavily relying on breathing assistance equipment

  • Day 25 – a  joyous day – Little Miss E made it into the 1 kilo club !
  • “Let the Mountain come to Mohammed.”  After expressing her breast milk for 7 weeks, Mama Tim Tam was finally able to directly breast feed her little girl.
  • After 13 weeks and 5 days – her actual expected due date – Little Miss E was finally able to go home.  Despite all the drips, ultrasounds, canulas, blood tests, doses of morphine, brain scans, x-rays, transfusions, daily heel pricks and other painful medical pokes and prods, this little tyke was – amazingly – left with few scars.

    Finally out the door...

Alongside the above major achievements, Mama Tim Tam shared with me some of the special moments of the early days in the NICU.  Moments that kept the light at the end of the tunnel a little easier to see :

  • One particular midwife managed to get smiles, even sub-conciously, during every visit.
  • Mum’s voice or touch would slow her heart rate, creating a sense of calm and comfort.

    Day 13: With best friend, Zebra...who was bigger than her

  • The soft toy zebra that sat in Little Miss E’s crib was initially bigger than her.  To this day, it still has the little drops of blood stains from the daily heel pricks that most premature babies are succumbed to.

    "Finally...bigger than my buddy"

When the days get a little tough to bear and general moodiness takes its toll, I think of this brave little tot.  She is my source of inspiration.  When I get frustrated about how I can’t seem to shake off that stubborn last 5 (ahem, maybe 10 ?) kilos of post baby/ies fat or at a loss as to how I’m going to muster that self-confidence to chase my dreams and aspirations to be a professional writer, I think of my precious pocket rocket.

Little Miss E’s story of bravery and and her insurmountable will to cling onto life has taught me the endless possibilities of what we can achieve.

Fun and giggles in her favourite toy car

She came into this world with so much against her.  She will never know her twin.  Yet, each time she visits us, her infectious smile lights up our lounge room.  Little Miss E is a shining beacon of positive light.  For me.  For my family.  For many of us.

Gearing up for her first Christmas

In Loving Memory:

This blog post is dedicated to Little Miss Angel A who sadly passed away in utero at 20 weeks gestation.  We love you and think of you always.  We mourn over your lost chance of being an identical twin sister, a daughter, a grand-daughter, a niece and our friend.

Premmie Pumpkins: Little Miracles

22 Dec

42,000.  That’s the annual number of premature and sick newborn babies who need to be looked after in either a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN), throughout Australia.  Within this vast figure, 2 of these babies were mine.

Last week, I went to the Miracle Babies NurtureGroup Christmas get-together.  Catching up with other mothers of premature babies and seeing how much their munchkins have grown, I was compelled to write about those early days.  We have indeed come a long way.

I won’t lie.  This post is a particularly hard one to write.  It’s an exercise of re-tracing a journey that was full of anxiety, uncertainty and yet a LOT of hope.

Day 1: Little N

Little N and Little K were born 5 weeks premature.  At around 33 weeks, it was discovered that Little N had stopped growing (ie my placenta was just about going kaput) and due to the growth discrepancy between the twins, delivery was brought forward to 35 weeks.

Aware of our deep concern of what was to lie ahead, our obstetrician introduced us to one of the leading paediatricians at the NICU prior to the scheduled delivery date. To try and help ease our minds, he took us on a tour of the unit.

Same Day: Little K

There we stepped into a completely different world: Tiny babies in humidicribs, some connected to life support systems .  Tubes attached to small bodies, surrounded by midwives and doctors busily checking and monitoring each little patient.  There are the anxious parents vigilantly standing by.

It was then that I thought about how we live in a society where we naturally believe that bigger is better.  Cars, houses, bank accounts…and I realised that this mentality also applies to newborn babies.

Our chests swell up with pride when a “bouncing baby boy” is born well over the “average” birth weight.  Yet, we tend to shy ourselves away or left without words when, for instance, a friend, an acquaintance, or a relative announces that their little one has arrived 10 weeks early and weighing in at a fragile 820 gms.

At the last ultrasound, it was predicted that Little N’s birth weight would be around 1.6 kgs.  (A pip squeek !)  During the tour of the NICU, I specifically asked the paediatrician to show me a baby of a similar weight.  When he did, things started to shape into perspective for me.

I was one of the more fortunate mothers.  I had time to mentally prepare myself . There are some parents who don’t have that luxury.  Sometimes, Mother Nature takes its own course and without warning new parents are faced with their premature newborn suddenly having to learn a basic human instinct – how to survive.

So, on the 28th of January, 2010 at 10:33am, Little N was born at 1.8 kgs (a whopping 200 gms heavier than his predicted birth weight).  2 minutes later, Little K, our little “Fatty Boom-Bah” arrived at 2.5 kgs.

Day 2

Unlike mothers of full term babies, after I was discharged from the maternity ward, I went home, leaving our precious boys at the NICU.  I really can’t express in words how emotionally wrecked I was that day.  No new mother should ever have to leave a hospital without their babies.  It’s a heart-wrenching experience.

Day 5: Some skin-to-skin with Little N

Our boys were in NICU for 16 tough and extremely long days.  Some days there was progress.  On others, we would be at a standstill.  We just stayed focused, kept sticking to the routine and taking the advice from our paediatrcian and midwives as sacred.

Day 11

Almost 11 months later, we are – thankfully –  well and truly out of the danger zone.  Sure, the boys are still soldiering their way up the percentile graph.  But as a mum of premmie pumpkins, I decided to ignore whatever the books and all the “laws of baby averages” were dictating as far as what my children’s development should be.  Bugger it.

Instead, I take the time to pause and remind myself of Little N and K’s milestones – the early interaction, breast feeding, cooing, eating solids, crawling and more recently, their absolute delight in discovering each other’s existence.

While the twins are happily playing or crawling around and chasing each other, I look at them in awe and think, “Do you realise how far you two have come ?”

Despite their shaky start in life, I’m just grateful that my beautiful boys are healthy, happy and thriving.

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