I will always remember October 30th, 2007 as a special day. For the first time, our 20-day-old newborn twins both had a good day (relatively speaking), and it is also the first time my husband and I ever saw either of our little ones in something more than a diaper. Our son Cameron was dressed in a little pumpkin hat and booties that day. We had looked at the tiny hand-knit treasures in their little package for many days, but it was not until this day that Cameron was stable enough to wear them. I cannot express how this experience touched my heart and soul. For the first time, our little boy seemed a bit like a baby rather than a critically ill patient. We could see beyond the many wires and tubes. Our daughter Kaitlin’s turn was the next day and it was just as special.
Our unique journey began earlier in the year though. Kurt and I felt very blessed to be expecting not one baby but two! My pregnancy had progressed uneventfully until I was put on bed rest at home on week 22. This was not unusual with a multiple pregnancy. Everything changed though on October 8th. I experienced signs of pre-term labor and was transported to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital by ambulance that evening. Nothing was to be as we had planned. I had an emergency c-section less than two days later. Cameron, our son, was born just after midnight on October 10th. His sister Kaitlin was born one minute later.
Cameron was 1 pound, 10 ounces; 13 inches long. Kaitlin was 1 pound, 8 ounces; 12 “ inches long. It is quite difficult to envision two babies so small and and also so critically ill. They were born at 25 weeks, 0 days. It was 15 weeks before a typical due date, only 62% of the way through a normal pregnancy, and still the 2nd trimester. Nothing was to be like we had planned or imagined. And like many premature births, we don’t know exactly why they came so early.
Since I had been fully sedated, it was awhile before I could see our new little babies. Nothing could have prepared me for that first glimpse. Cameron & Kaitlin spent their first 8 weeks of life in the most critical part of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It was 8 days before their eyes opened because they were so premature and their eyes were still fused shut. We waited 20 days to hold our daughter and 36 days to hold our son. It was 40 days before we heard either of them cry out, 82 days until we fed them for the first time. And finally, on day 106, all four of us went home together.
It is nothing we could have planned for; there are no words to fully describe the journey. Some parts were so bad, we don’t even talk about them to this day. We were fortunate though, to have an amazing support network of family and friends who, along with our Faith, supported us every step of the way. And through it all, we were thankful every single day that we were at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital when our little ones were born.
During this time, we saw medicine and miracles working hand in hand, we experienced the grace of humanity and the passion of professionals & volunteers in a way not many people see. Whenever we share the story of our little ones’ start in this world, we tell people about the amazing human beings who touched our lives every day: my labor & delivery team, the NICU physicians and nurses, the respiratory experts, the lab specialists, surgeons and surgery teams, nutritionists, custodial workers, NICU receptionists, and The Preemie Project Volunteers � all of YOU who make the hats, booties and blankets that we parents cherish dearly. We think of you so fondly and share with people how you deeply touched our lives in such a positive way. You are part of what makes this hospital a special place. You take part in helping people like us become a family. We are forever grateful.
It was always such a joy to receive a new gift from your organization. I remember vividly one day in Kaitlin’s room. One of our favorite nurses had yet a new pair of little booties for Kaitlin as well as a sweet little hat. She exclaimed that Princess Kaitlin could never have too many pretty little things to wear. Because our children were critically ill for so long, it was quite some time before they could wear clothes. Your precious hats and booties helped in a way that is difficult to explain. Cameron wore one of your hats and had one of your blankets when we held him for the first time.
Cameron & Kaitlin wore their Santa hats and booties throughout Christmas time and for our first family Christmas photos. Kaitlin had special bright pink booties and a bow in her hair after bath time following one of her surgeries. She wore a sweet cupcake hat and frosting booties while her daddy held her; it is one of my favorite photos. She had a darling hat and matching sandals; each sandal even had a tiny button. We have two wonderful blankets that appeared in our room shortly before discharge and we use them at home all of the time. We have more of these gifts and treasure every one.
Our two little ones amaze us every single day. We are grateful more than I can express that we were at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital when they were born and that we were able to bring them both home. You see, no one plans to have a baby under such circumstances. No one can prepare you for when life takes you or a loved-one on an unexpected and serious medical journey. We will go through our lives, forever thankful, sharing with others about this very special place in Iowa City and the staff and volunteers who make it that way.
The Zimmerman Family