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Happy Birthday — A NICU Journey

November 17, 2010
November 17, 1991
Isaac — 685 grams (1 pound 8 ounces), 30.5 cm (12 inches)
Molly — 750 grams (1 pound 10.5 ounces), 33 cm (13 inches)

My journal of Isaac's NICU stay.


Nineteen years ago today, I gave birth to twins Isaac and Molly. Happy birthday, my babies, you’ve come a long, long way.

After fertility treatments and a difficult pregnancy, we were terrified to meet them that Sunday evening. It was too soon and they were too small. But they were here, ensconced in the Infant Special Care Unit (the neonatal unit, or NICU) of Evanston Hospital. The day after they were born, the Parent-to-Parent support group of the unit gave us two small journals, one for each baby. Though a writer, I had never successfully kept a journal or diary for more than a few days, but that was about to change.

At first, I used the journals as a place to record the facts and keep things straight: who weighed what, which baby was getting what medications, who were the nurses and doctors taking care of them, what tests were run that day. Pretty quickly, though, the journals turned into a daily note from me to each baby. I still recorded the important information, but I also noted how I was feeling and what was happening in our family, as well as the occasional pep talk.

Isaac and Molly have never seen these journals. I’m not sure they even know about them. I offer them here as a birthday gift to them, so that they never forget their tenuous beginnings and how strong they really are. I also offer them as hope to parents whose babies are still on their journey through preemie-hood. I wish I had had this kind of information and support when my babies were sick.

These journal entries are not the whole story. They aren’t really even the beginning of the story, just a 13-and-a-half-week roller coaster ride we took together a long time ago — a time that still seems like yesterday to me.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month and today, November 17, is the 8th Annual National Prematurity Awareness Day. Coincidence? We think not.

Here are a few facts you should know about prematurity:

  • 543,000 babies – 1 in 8 – are born prematurely each year
  • Premature birth is the number 1 killer of newborns.
  • Premature babies cost 10 times more than healthy babies.

For more information on prematurity and how you can help prevent it, visit the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2010 7:20 am

    Happy Birthday Isaac and Molly! What a wonderful gift, these journals. Seeing this blog, the videos and the journals just reinforce what they said in their video for their B’nai Mitzvah, it was much more than medicine that brought them to this place.

    • Molly permalink
      November 17, 2010 10:18 am

      Thank you very much for your lovely comment, Julie, and for the birthday wishes!

      Thanks, Mom, for the website, and sharing your journals with me and everyone else. I look forward to reading them and I know others will appreciate them as well.

      • November 17, 2010 10:17 pm

        Happy birthday, my girl! I hope you enjoy these journals. This is the beginning of your story. You’ve heard many of these tales before.

    • November 17, 2010 10:19 pm

      Thank you, Julie. We have had so much support along the way, and now I’m grateful for your support as I give birth to their story in my memoir.

  2. Irene Freeman permalink
    November 17, 2010 9:26 am

    Happy Birthday, Isaac and Molly! Susan, looking forward to reading – your words will be an inspiration to others faced with these challenges.

    • November 17, 2010 10:18 pm

      Thank you, Irene. I hope they do provide hope, comfort and inspiration. We have been so lucky.

  3. November 17, 2010 1:34 pm

    Susan – what a wonderful gift you’re sharing with each of us. Thank you for telling your story. And happy happy birthday, Molly & Isaac!

  4. November 17, 2010 2:26 pm

    Happy Birthday, Isaac and Molly! I will be a great pleasure to meet you 🙂

    • November 17, 2010 10:16 pm

      Can’t wait. When are you coming by for birthday cake?

  5. November 17, 2010 3:27 pm

    Happy birthday Isaac and Molly! This is a wonderful post and a great gift. On behalf of the March of Dimes, thank you so very much for sharing your experience and for helping to spread the word about the seriousness of premature birth. We fight so that babies won’t have to.

    • November 17, 2010 3:34 pm

      Thank you so much for stopping by. This has been a joyous day celebrating Isaac and Molly’s birthday right along with National Prematurity Awareness day — a true example of synchronicity.

  6. November 17, 2010 10:15 pm

    I think it’s pretty amazing that you have never shared the journals with your children. What an incredible gift I’m sure they’ll find it.

  7. November 18, 2010 8:11 am

    Aww, happy birthday to them. They’re big kids now. It’s so comforting to know that other kids make it, even that small!

    • November 18, 2010 8:14 am

      They made it, big time. Hope their story helps other preemies who are on their journey.

  8. November 18, 2010 8:40 am

    LOVING this! Thank you for sharing!

    First, happy bday to Molly and Isaac…and happy day of giving birth, Susan.

    Second, I love all things medical, and this is riveting and fascinating. I’d love to post it on if you’re all willing. Let me know.

    Third: I had no idea there’s a Prematurity Awareness campaign. Thank you for enlightening people. It’s wonderful.

    Most of all, the writing, as always, is beautiful and so great to read.

    • November 18, 2010 8:49 am

      Thanks so much, Christine. Feel free to use any or all of it on, just let me know. I’m trying to track where it shows up. The medical aspect of it was actually very interesting (later, when we were removed from the emotional part). I kind of dove into learning about everything. It kept my mind busy to try to understand everything that was going on and helped me ask better questions. This paid off later during Molly’s open-heart surgery (but you will have to wait for the book to learn about that, since this blog will only cover their NICU stay. Even though some of the technology and practices have changed, I still feel like a pseudo-expert and am very judgmental of TV and movie depictions of NICUs and preemies. I find myself yelling at the screen, saying things like “That would never happen.”

      Please don’t judge the writing here. This is a direct transcription of my raw journal entries (with a little spelling clean up). I hope my real writing is better than my journal writing.

      • November 18, 2010 8:51 am

        Also, pass the word about Prematurity Awareness wherever you can. It’s a serious issue and the March of Dimes has designated the entire month of November as Prematurity Awareness Month. They do such good work.

  9. November 18, 2010 1:26 pm

    Happy Birthday Issac. Happy Birthday Molly. Thank you to your parents for writing this blog and sharing so much.

    • November 18, 2010 2:04 pm

      Hi, Laura. Thank you for your birthday wishes. We hope that sharing these journal entries can help preemie families who are at an earlier place along their journey. I know I would have liked to have read some success stories that included lots of slips and falls along the way.

  10. November 19, 2010 8:31 am

    Wow, way to bring tears to a gal’s eyes.
    Sweet posts, great idea.
    A nice gift for others as well as for your precious twins.
    A great reminder during this season of thankfulness:)


    • November 19, 2010 2:49 pm

      Bev — November is truly a month of thanks around here, between Molly & Isaac’s birthday (always a reminder of how lucky we are and how far we have come), National Prematurity Awareness month and day, and Thanksgiving, we are overflowing with gratitude. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. A few happy tears every now and again is good thing.

  11. February 18, 2011 11:08 am

    November 17 is my birthday too!

    • February 19, 2011 4:33 pm

      It’s such a good birthday, even though they should not have been born until March 1. You must be a kindred spirit. Do you know that it is also National Prematurity Awareness Day? Be sure to celebrate that, too, along with your next birthday.

  12. February 20, 2011 7:49 pm

    Even though I am seeing this long after the birthdays it still makes me feel mushy inside. While my kids were not premature they also faced challenges when they were younger and I can only imagine the depths of how scared you must have been. The good thing though is that all well prevailed and you can now look back and smile knowing that your young ones are fine and that your family is now stronger for the experience.
    Thank you for sharing with us and all the best to the twins.

    • February 21, 2011 10:48 am

      Thank you for your kind thoughts. Many families face challenges along the way and we know how very lucky we have been, and try not to take a single day for granted. Best wishes to you and your family.

  13. February 20, 2011 11:22 am

    Thank you so much for stopping by and for sharing our story on your blog.


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