NICU Awareness Week is designed to honor families experiencing a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and the health professionals who care for the them. Every year more than half a million babies are admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit, otherwise known as a NICU. Babies receive care for both prenatally-diagnosed conditions and emergent health issues.
As part of NICU Awareness Week (September 26-30) we are sharing the story of one of our MBFOM Member families, the Batters family. Brant and Janelle Batters tell their story below in their own words to help raise awareness of the important and life saving work the NICU does and give hope to those who may be facing a long NICU journey of their own.
Did you have a prenatally-diagnosed condition?
Janelle was diagnosed at 23 weeks with an incompetent cervix. An incompetent cervix occurs as pregnancy progresses and weak cervical tissue causes it begin to open too soon — sometimes leading to premature birth.
How long was your NICU stay?
Our twins were born at 26 weeks gestation. Frederick was in the NICU for 94 days, and Emma was in for 113 days at the SBGH NICU.
How were your days spent in the NICU?
After dropping our oldest off at day care, we would come in, drop off our lunch in the family room. Then we would head into the NICU, and ask about the previous night. We would try to make rounds, but it didn’t always work with our schedule. Janelle would pump when we arrived and I would send out an update to family and friends. Next we would do skin-to-skin or feeds, once they reached that stage. We would do skin-to-skin for as long as the twins tolerated it. This time was very important to us as it allowed us to spend close time with our babies, and to recharge. It was incredibly relaxing, and we would often fall asleep. During the day, we would do diaper changes, and help with anything else we could, as the twins progressed with the stages. We would leave in the afternoon to pick up our oldest daughter. We would call for an update before going to bed.
Do you have any other children? Do you have any tips for balancing children at home and NICU visits?
We have a 2 year old daughter. Early on, we decided to spend our days at the NICU, and our evenings we our daughter. We treated it like a job. On weekends, she would come with us to the NICU. It seemed to be a great way for her to get to know her brother and sister. She was well behaved which made it easier to do.
How did you handle one twin coming home before the other?
Frederick came home first. We found this to be very tough. Our oldest was no longer at day care, and it was difficult to split time at the NICU. Usually, one parent would stay home, and the other would go the NICU.
What was most valuable thing that people did for you and your family during this time?
I think for us, it was taking our oldest for play dates. We also appreciated getting vouchers for skip the dishes. Our freezer was full of breast milk, so it was difficult to receive prepared meals.
Did you celebrate holidays or mark special milestones in the NICU?
Every week was big for us. Every Thursday marked one more week that the twins had progressed.
What advice would you give to a family with twins in the NICU?
Take time for yourself.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Use the cuddler program.
Thank you to Janelle and Brant for sharing their story! The twins are now just over a year old and have started crawling and are close to walking. Over the summer, they had virtual meetings with OT and physiotherapy and everyone is very encouraged by the twins progress.