Why Our Family Will Always Be Incomplete

Premature Birth Image

Most people assume that with the arrival of our third baby boy four months ago that our family is now complete, however this isn’t quite true. Yes, our pregnancy days are certainly well and truly over now (I promise!), and we are content and  have our hands full raising three adorable boys, however, our family is still, and will always be, incomplete without our twin daughter and son, who were born and passed away prematurely on the same day five years ago.

My husband and I were just 25 and 27, respectively, when we made the decision to start a family. We never could we have imagined that it would take us 11 IVF cycles and four premature births to achieve our dream. Following the premature birth of our twins, each of my subsequent pregnancies were immediately deemed high risk. So along with suffering the same complications which led to our son and daughter’s early arrival, additional complications also arose along the way.

For us, premature birth is our normal when it comes to pregnancy as each of our pregnancies has before their time: our twins at 21 weeks, Mr 4 at 30 weeks, Mr 3 at 32 weeks and our newest baby boy at 36 weeks. The only time I have ever been able to hold my children immediately after their births has been when my daughter was born. I cuddled her for the entire time she spent with us in this world; her brother was born still shortly after her. With our next two boys, each was briefly held up for us to catch a glimpse of before he was rushed to resuscitation rooms to help establish breathing and then whisked away to NICU.Following the recent birth of our baby boy, I was allowed just a brief cuddle with the aid of oxygen.

We are fortunate that we now have three beautiful boys with us – and all three had relatively smooth journeys during their NICU/SCN stays – but I just can’t stop myself from wondering ‘what if?’.What would life would have been like if we had managed to last a few more weeks of pregnancy, to reach the magical ‘viability’ milestone of 24 weeks. What would have happened if our daughter and son had lived? I think about this often, especially now as our eldest son prepares to start school next year. Had our twins lived, they would also have been starting school.  I know these thoughts are natural but they also make me feel incredibly guilty as I know we wouldn’t have our three precious boys if our twins hadn’t of died of prematurity.

So yes, while our pregnancy days are over, our family will never be complete. How can it be when two of our children are not here with us?  We can’t watch them grow up and celebrate their milestones. We can’t play with them, read them stories and tell them how much we love them before tucking them into bed each night. They are not running around, causing chaos like a couple of five-year-olds would and should be doing. I look at the bond and friendship between our eldest two boys (and yes, they do also fight like cats and dogs too!) and wonder if our daughter and son would have had a similar friendship. What would the dynamics between the two have been like? We talk to our boys about their big brother and sister in heaven and they know that they were born too soon.

All four of our premature birth experiences have left a lasting impression on both my husband and me. I can’t drive past the hospital where all five of our children were born without reliving some of these memories, both good and bad. It’s shaped the people we are now, as well as the way we parent our three boys. While I reflect often on how far we have come, today our family we will all be stopping to both celebrate our little fighters and think about those babies born early who don’t survive. 17 November is World Prematurity Day, a day to raise awareness of premature birth and the journey that families go on, not only while their babies are in hospital but often for the rest of their lives. Major cities across the world, including across Australia, will light up purple to honour the 15 million babies around the world who are born too soon each year, and the 1 million who don’t survive.  So join us at 7pm tonight and light a candle along with us to honour these premature babies and their families.

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Image: Lauren Matheson