Why giving back has given me so much more

Theresa

I never volunteered before I became a parent.  I guess I just never realized what it could mean, and I never really found a project that meant enough to me.  Possibly it was simply a part of being younger and not realizing how wide the world truly is and how giving of yourself - your time and your charity - really brings the world into focus.

When my children were just over 1, I attended my first multiples support group meeting through my local Chapter.  I think I was hooked the second I walked in the door, and most certainly by the end of the meeting.  By fate or by chance, that particular meeting the current executive members were looking for volunteers to help - a Secretary to be specific.  I came home to tell my husband I had volunteered and the rest is history.  The environment that surrounds multiple-birth families - how we always are ready to reach out and help each other, how it comes so easy for us to give back to our own community - it's a very special environment.  It's one I cherish each and every day, and I am very proud to say that I am a part of.  As I became more involved on the local level, eventually moving up to the position of Chair and I started attending MBC conferences, I realized how much more I could be doing on a national level.  By that time our family had also entered the environment of special needs.  For me, it was an easy transition to combine the two communities together and give back in both areas.

While certainly there is the obvious benefit of feeling proud of yourself for giving in the first place, there are some powerful but more subtle benefits as well.  Easily for me the joy of meeting so many different people from across the country is the number one reason for continuing to volunteer with MBC on the national level.  I love attending the conferences every year, seeing friends that I've now had for years, and meeting new ones.  Regardless of what is going on in your own life, and the differences we each have, the constant of having multiples, the challenges and successes we share, are what will always bring us together.  I've also discovered that age means nothing.  Whether your children are newborns, or grown up and moved away to start their own lives, as a multiple birth parent you will always find the things that you have in common.  I cherish those friendships, and I look forward every year to my weekend away with my MBC family. 

As a result of attending those conferences I am now more involved with the day to day running of MBC. I'm very aware of two important factors; one, how very hard the volunteers on the national level work to support families across the country, and two how vitally important the work that they do is to those families.  Sometimes it's hard to imagine how so few passionate volunteers can do so much, and I wish I could help them more. I know that if you take the time and think about your strengths and passions, you could find a few moments of time and join this group. 

Because the work they do is so very important, I also make sure that I donate to MBC whenever I can.  It never ceases to amaze me how much they do with so little financial resources, and literally every single dollar they receive is stretched to reach from one coast to the other.

If you think you have a talent or an area of interest, and you are interested in learning more about how you can help out, please contact MBC.  I promise you, the joy, the pride, the satisfaction you get back will be far greater - it will be multiplied over and over again!  If you simply can't spare a moment, then I ask that you consider helping MBC to reach families through a financial donation.  There are so many ways that your dollars would help!

Thank you for your support!

Theresa Sanders

Membership Coordinator, Finance Assistant, Special Needs Chair and Making a Difference Chair.

Posted by Lori Oldfield on November 30, 2013

Rose’s Story of Unconditional Love in the NICU

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I decided to share my story because I think all too often, the magnitude of emotions NICU parents face is something we all try to forget - and we rarely want to remember. I can sincerely say that my anger remains fresh and my guilt although still strong has dissipated just a little. In the NICU, our actions may conflict with our parenting views or even suggest we're unreasonable or selfish. But it's hard to stay sane while experiencing the complex emotional roller coaster involved with the NICU, especially in the case of extreme premature births.

At 26 weeks and five days gestation, I was transported by ambulance to a level three NICU, where only a few hours later - at 26 weeks and 6 days gestation - my twin boys were born.  One thing I can say for certain, in the NICU I learned what desperation meant. I learned about what losing a child may feel like and I learned unconditional love. And, the value of my family - my husband and children - increased exponentially before my eyes (not an easy task given they were already the most important things in my life).

Generally, I fully believed in prenatal testing. In my pregnancies, I had all recommended prenatal tests under the perception that I was to think of the unborn child's quality of life when presented with results and making decisions about terminating or continuing on with a pregnancy. Never having faced the situation where a problem is detected I am not sure of how I would have dealt with that reality but I would have considered all my options. In the NICU this logic became irrelevant.  There were no decisions to be made - all I wanted was for my children to survive and potential "problems" became something I knew I could manage.  

Unconditional love develops quickly in the NICU. Perhaps, it is a result of the human desire to want what they cannot have; perhaps it is a sense of urgency and devotion, or maybe just seeing "our" babies for the first time. When a child is born, facing challenges to any extent, I can explain (at least in my experience) that a strong powerful instant attachment emerges. There was a desire, a need to fight to save my child. The idea of asking the medical team to "do anything you can" to save my child was all that crossed my mind. As a parent, I knew that if my boys survived they would be happy. Fortunately, my boys were healthy and had an expected course with few if any hiccups along the way; recognizing that as a NICU mom this means they had spinal taps, a blood transfusion, infections, apneas of prematurity and bradycardias, and we-one horrific night I'll never forget-we're told we may want to say our goodbyes to my dear sweet Johny... an expected course, ironically almost ideal given they were no brain bleeds on the ultrasounds, experiences of septic babies, or heart surgeries required. But I can say, for certain, that if I was faced with any challenges to their health I would have wanted to fight for them and keep them alive. I learned to fight in the NICU.

As a NICU parent, I know firsthand that all rationality left me the second I knew my boys were coming prematurely - extremely prematurely. I could not think beyond the moment I was living in and the fight that was inside me to keep them alive and safe. I wanted them back inside me, and if they could not be I wanted to be there for them. I do recall, after about eight days in the NICU, thinking of how tired they must be trying to breathe so early in life, yet I never wanted them to give up.

In the NICU, perhaps due to the threat of losing your child, the yearning and love for our infant is intensified. I was not a rational parent, although I appeared articulate and in control more often than not. Parents of NICU babies experience intense emotions; emotions that invade all aspects of our life and are very very real. We view the life of our child as invaluable and the most precious gift of all gifts. The love we feel is intense.

For many, the experience in the NICU and the struggles of our children during that experience impacts how we understand "health". Such that, our understanding of what society considers healthy is challenged. Many parents may speak about cerebral palsy or delayed learning as something that is negotiated, accepted and lived with - not a drawback to human existence. Perhaps, it is the strength of our love drawn for the fear of losing a child that changes us. Yes, in some circumstances, perhaps it is best for a child to be free of pain and in peace in another place rather than in this world. But who are we to judge?

The NICU is where the child parent bond is instant and intense, and where unconditional love defines our relationship to our children. But it is also where we need to hide at times because the world is too hard to face. I have the utmost respect and devotion to the teams of professionals in the NICU, particularly the nurses of the NICU. They saved my children.

As a side note, I am the proud mother of healthy, happy, developmentally fine twin boys!  And their sister who is only a year and a half older than the boys!

Johny and Nate are now almost four years old. They were born in Women's College Hospital in Toronto (now incorporated in the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre), on January 5, 2010 each weighing 2 pounds give or take an ounce or two! Their sister Sadie was also born premature, at 34 weeks gestation - however as a little fighter she was healthy and only had a quick visit in a level two NICU for precautions. Johny and Nate lack any medical conditions tied to prematurity. They have, in all respects, beat all odds! Their vision developed perfectly, they never had a brain bleed, only Johny required a transfusion, they are free of Cerebral Palsy - a potential diagnosis that weighs heavily for a good year on parents after a NICU discharge. Our only challenges are those of light boys, they fail to keep to a normal curve of growth and are very light for their age weighing in each around 25 pounds. We stay sane by recognizing they eat more than any persons their size ever should consume, that their sister too is tiny but cute, and all three children are the genetic offspring of a very petite woman (just over five foot and around 100 pounds) and an average man (a couple inches under six feet and not a 'beefcake' in stature)-with some, well, "petite" grandparents!

For NICU moms, it's important to recognize that many of us will suffer the guilt of this experience. Even knowing that the pre-term birth of my sons was outside of my control, and I did the best I could within the confines of current medical knowledge, the guilt remains. It was also accompanied by Post Traumatic Stress which I, being an academic, used writing to navigate. It caused relationship friction and strength, and it revealed the depth of my love for those dearest to me in ways I could never have thought possible. But it also laid the foundation for select resentments toward persons who, I will always believe, let myself, my husband, my daughter and my boys 'down' during the NICU experience - it revealed the true colours and inners persons of people in our lives. Some people, one person in particular, who sadly today is not a predominant person in our lives, remains someone we will also respect and appreciate - and to her we are eternally grateful, and sorry we could not always be as strong for in the years afterward. Toward others, we just try to understand that the NICU experience, when one can 'opt' out, is not for everyone - so a special thank you to all persons who do find the strength to provide support, because they are needed.

A final note, to anyone out there looking for a gift for NICU parents - the thought and sincerity that came from one of my dearest and closest friends is a must have -a  gas gift card coupled with a Tim Horton's gift card. It was perfect. And eliminates the challenges associated with 'baby' gifts.

Now living in St.  John's Newfoundland, Rose is an Assistant Professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and her husband Steve is about ready to start a Post-Doctoral position at Memorial! They remain proud parents of three healthy children, and eternally grateful to the staff, nurses and doctors at Women's College, now at Sunnybrook! If desiring contact, please email rricciardell@mun.ca.

Posted by Lori Oldfield on November 17, 2013

World Prematurity Awareness Day

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This month we’re thinking about premature birth awareness as World Prematurity Day approaches.

World Prematurity Day takes place each year on November 17.

Did you know a large number of multiple-birth families experience premature birth of their multiple babies? Premature birth specifically refers to babies born before 37 weeks gestation. This can include both single and multiple births. Generally speaking, multiple birth pregnancies have a significantly higher rate of prematurity than single pregnancies. On average, most singleton pregnancies last 39 weeks; twins, 35 weeks; triplets, 32 weeks; and quadruplets, 29 weeks. Between 1980 and 2004, the number of twin births increased more than 70%, with higher order multiples increasing four-fold. The risk for premature birth is higher for multiple birth pregnancies where the mother is over the age of 30, obese, or has diabetes (gestational or preexisting). (Source: MBC’s Multiple Births: The Possible Risks Fact Sheet.)

Sometimes the idea of having twins or more is romanticized and it is often forgotten that a multiple pregnancy is not only taxing on the expectant mother, but also on the multiples on the way.

As parents of multiple-birth children, we can tell you firsthand that over the years we have received a wide range of information related to preterm birth awareness or preparation of the possibility. Some received little to no information about the possibilities of premature birth and only learned about it when they suddenly found themselves on bed rest hoping to prevent or postpone preterm labour. Others may find out about preterm birth when they are caught in the reality that their babies are on the way and are about to be born “too soon.”

Multiple Births Canada realized the significant need of having important information about preterm birth available for parents expecting multiples. We also know from experience and our offering of support networks that parents feel more confident when they can talk with other parents who have experienced similar situations, such as raising special needs multiples, lone parenting of multiples and as of 2012, the preterm birth experience.

In 2012 we launched the Preterm Birth Support Network for parents who are anticipating possible preterm birth of their multiples, are going through the experience and living in NICUs and special care nurseries, as well as for those who have older preterm birth multiples and looking for support or to provide it to others.

For information on this network, please contact pretermbirth@multiplebirthscanada.org.

For those interested in learning more about the symptoms of preterm labour, please see our Fact Sheet.
http://multiplebirthscanada.org/mbc_factsheets/FS-PN_SignsPretermLabour.pdf

Please consider making a donation towards
Multiple Births Canada’s NICU Project – You are Not Alone!

For more information please visit the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation .

Written by: Carolyn Leighton-Hilborn

Posted by Lori Oldfield on November 06, 2013

New / Updated Fact Sheets

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MBC is delighted to announce that 7 new/updated Fact Sheet publications are now available on the MBC website. http://multiplebirthscanada.org/index.php/education/publications/fact-sheets
Members, please log in to the Members Area to download your free copies.  

There are two brand new MBC resources:

Bottle feeding multiples – to help families who may choose to use bottles to feed with expressed breast milk and/or formula, in addition to or in place of breastfeeding. This Fact Sheet covers the benefits of breastfeeding, the importance of closeness and bonding during feeding time, how to prepare bottles, and the best techniques for feeding the babies.  This content was reviewed by Laura Corbett, a Canadian registered nurse and lactation consultant.

Speech and Language Development in Multiple-Birth Children. This Fact Sheet was written by two Speech-Language pathologists, Michelle Phoenix and BJ Cunningham. It includes a chart of developmental milestones for children from 6 months to 5 years old, and tips for parents to help their children’s language development, and when and where to find help if you want to get an SLP assessment.

And five updated MBC resources:

Three updated Fact Sheets on Breastfeeding: 11 Tips for Breastfeeding your Multiples, How do I know if my babies are getting enough, and Storing Breast Milk. These titles include newly revised content from author Lynda Haddon, chair of our Breastfeeding Support Network, with updated resources and references, and were also reviewed by Laura Corbett, RN, the Canadian nurse, lactation consultant and MBC Advisory Board Member.

Two updated Fact Sheets on Loss: Grieving Grandparents, and Getting through the Holidays and other celebrations – including revised content from author Lynda Haddon who chairs the Loss Support Network, with updated resources and links. These titles were reviewed by Wendy Kurchak, a Canadian nurse with certificates in grief counselling.

Many thanks go to the MBC Health and Education Committee, chaired by Jenna Kelland, with members: Kim Krueger, Carolyn Leighton-Hilborn, Tania McNamara, Anna Rendell, Rose Ricciardelli, and Jennifer Stephens, with reviewing and assistance from Sheila Catto, Shirley Combden, and Kimberley Weatherall.

Posted by Lori Oldfield on November 02, 2013

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