The Windschitl preemies: ‘Ours for the lovin’

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Sara and Nick are the new parents of twins Bryn and Nora, who were born at 27 weeks.

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When we heard that November was Prematurity Awareness Month, we thought, “Wow—people need a month to be aware of prematurity?” People who don’t have preemies probably never think about prematurity (unless they had a preemie Cabbage Patch doll like I did when I was 5), and people who do never STOP thinking about preemies. I know Sara and I haven’t! In June, the two of us wrapped up our school years. I said goodbye to my kindergartners, Sara said goodbye to her third-graders, and we jumped excitedly into a summer of Expecting Twins.

Sara prepared herself for getting huge, I started putting cribs together and we oscillated between excitement, disbelief and freak-out moments. At our 19-week ultrasound, we learned that Sara’s body might not want to hold these babies in as long as they needed to fully cook, and at 22 weeks she was sentenced to Hospitalized Bed Rest—her greatest pregnancy fear.

Five weeks later, the babes had had enough and decided to grace us with their tiny presences at 27 weeks. If you know anything about preemies, you know that 28 weeks is kind of the “safety zone” when it comes to avoiding a laundry list of long-term health issues, but despite Sara’s attempt to keep her legs crossed as tight as she could, the girls chose Aug. 6 as their birthday.

It was scary for us to know we had 27-weekers. Bryn weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces, and Nora weighed 2 pounds. But they were breathing on their own just a few short hours after birth and showing us their fighting spirits. This, along with the prayers being poured out from our friends and family (and strangers!), gave us an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. We also knew that at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we were in one of the best places in the world for preemies (yeah, we Googled that, too). The doctors and nurses that we encountered at Children’s were incredible. Each had skills that very few people in the world possess—the ability to not only care for these micro babies but also to work with parents who are scared yet extremely protective of the little lives they created.

Fast forward a month, and the girls were ready to move into the Infant Care Center at Children’s, where we continued to receive great individualized care. They moved into a class of “feeders and growers” with minor hiccups here and there—breathing issues, a hernia surgery, feeding struggles. There were days we just wanted to stick them in our pockets and make a run for it, get them home and start our new normal. After three months in the hospital, all we wanted was to tuck our girls in ourselves and read them a bedtime story without the constant background music of the monitors or to make farting noises on their bellies without wires getting in the way. That’s what every dad wants to do, right?

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(As we write this, we are going on Day 98 in the hospital and are preparing to bring our girls home the following day!) What we’ve waited for so long now seems like the most daunting and scary thing we could ever do. We are keenly aware of our blessings these last 98 days, as having 27-week-old twins could have had a lot more downs than ups, but here we are, ready to bring home a 5 ½ pound baby and a 7 ½ pound baby—both healthy and ready to keep their parents from ever sleeping again!

Fast forward another 24 hours and these beautiful girls are home, where Sara and I are doing the normal parenting things, like checking to make sure they are breathing at 3:31 am.  Yep, these girls are healthy!  They are no longer those little translucent red nugget preemies that blessed this world in August.  They are real, wireless, peeing, pooping, crying, smiling, wide-eyed (only at 3:31 in the morning) babies.  Yes, we still need to be very cautious with these girls.  No, we won’t be taking them to the store.  We won’t be able to have many visitors.  We will be hand-washing and “foaming in” so frequently that a person outside of Preemie Land would say, “You MUST be OCD.”  I guess Children’s did one heck of a job on us because, as all parents of preemies know, we need to be!

Just like Sara’s pregnancy, the future is scary and unknown, but thanks to Children’s, we have babies who are breathing, growing and finally ours for the lovin’.