I sat at dinner tonight with my four loves and Kirk. The usual chatter about their day, their comments on tonight's dinner, and the plans for this upcoming weekend and next weekends' 11th annual neighborhood ski trip to Michigan. We were just like any other family. Eating. Talking. Teasing one another.
Sixteen years ago my little family was Kirk, myself and 2 year old Ian. I was 25 weeks pregnant with twin girls and we had no idea where this road was going to take us. I was sitting in the hospital on bed-rest due to PROM. Kirk and Ian were likely visiting me, like they had done every night for the last two weeks, frosty and chicken nuggets in had as they walked through my hospital room door. We would snuggle in my hospital bed, watching A Bug's Life and dipping our fries in our Frosty. We would read books and do the same four puzzles. Eventually Ian would get antsy, as most 2 year olds do after two-hours confined to a hospital room. He and Kirk would take a stroll around the floor to get the jitters out. Once back in my room Kirk would change Ian into one of his many pairs of Bob the Builder pajamas and Elmo slippers, kiss me good-bye then make the forty-five minute drive back home to get Ian to bed on time. Little did we know that in just two days our story would take another turn and our twin girls would be here. Far too soon. And very sick.
Prior to 2001 February was just another cold, boring month in a long winter. And then sixteen years ago February took on an entirely different meaning. The entire month is marked with reminders of how our lives were changed in 2001. We have the highlights of Ian's birthday on the 11th, and the girls' on the 24th. But in between those dates there are reminders of a time that was filled with uncertainty and fear. In the early years I would become anxious as the memories of my very sick babies would rush back to me. Those early days and weeks of not knowing if they would live or die. And if they lived would they be significantly disabled. I struggled with so much guilt for all the girls were enduring in the NICU, as well as having to be separated from Ian for weeks during my bed-rest and then splitting my time between him and the girls in the NICU after the girls birth once I was discharged home. For years the girls care post-NICU continued to consume much of our days with medical and therapy appointments. Once again the guilt I had for Ian's days spent being carted around to all those appointments.
But we found our way. Kirk and I trying to find a balance of normalcy for all five of us. Spending time being sure to have fun amidst the girls medical and developmental needs. Family vacations, holiday traditions, little brother joining the mix and creating memories.
16 years later time has healed many of those scars on my heart. Some are still there and I suspect they always will be. They are a part of my story. Our story. This month still stirs emotion as I quietly mark milestones from 2001 along the way. But what was once a difficult month as become more celebration each year.
In just 2 days Hanna and Rachel will turn 16 years old. Sweet 16. From tiny, frail 1 pound babies to high school sophomores with great friends, likes and dislikes of their own and a world of dreams ahead of them. In their eyes they're like any other 16 year old girl. But to Kirk and I they are, and always will be, our miracles who fought to survive and have continued to fight and overcome a lifetime of obstacles since the day they were born.
On Friday we will take our family and go back to the place where it all began. We will be returning to the NICU where the girls were born and cared for for the first 12 weeks of their life. The girls made the decision to give back on this birthday and have made 150 no-sew fleece blankets to donate to the NICU for current families. Hanna and Rachel have heard their story and know that they are here today because of an amazing hospital and an amazing team who cared for the two of them. They want to give comfort to the babies and families who are enduring what we endured in 2001.
As I sit here tonight trying to fathom how 16 years has gone by so fast, I'm in awe of my two beautiful girls. They are fighters. They are inspiring to not only Kirk and I, but to all who know them. In 2001 when I sat in the NICU wondering where this journey was taking us it was the inspiration in hearing from other NICU graduate families that carried me through. I hope in sharing our girls with the world that they are the inspiration that another family may need.
I know Friday will be an emotional day for me. But this time it's all gratitude, love and pure celebration of my amazing duo.
Wow, what a powerful post Karri. It's so true about the scars being a part of the story, a part of the journey you and your family have been on. I often describe it the same way. Thanks for sharing.
Happy sweet 16 to your sweet miracles!!!!
Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story and kiddos with us through the years. They truly are an inspiration to all who know them.
Happy Sweet 16 Hanna and Rachel!
Hugs to you!
I hope that you all have a fabulous ski trip:) Happy Sweet 16 to your girls! Just WOW! You are all one amazing family!
Happy 16th Birthday to your amazing girls! I love that they are donating blankets to the NICU for their birthday. I still have the blanket that Hunter received when he was in the NICU and I remember how special I felt that someone had made that blanket for my little boy. I know other families will feel the same when they get the blankets that your girls are donating.
So beautiful Karri, just like your family! Happy Birthday to your girls ! They are truly an inspiration!
Love and Hugs
What an amazing way to give back! Sounds like it will be an amazing day filled with tons of emotion! Happy birthday to your girls!
This is such a beautiful story. Your story, their stories, the strength you and your beautiful girls exhibit is something extraordinary. I know...you do what you do because you're their mom and you just do it. But you are an example of love personified. You give so much and I'm honored to call you my friend.
So much love to you and your entire family.
This. I feel like you took the words right out of my heart...
I love you and your amazing family mucho.
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