In honor of November being National Prematurity Awareness Month and November 17th being World Prematurity Day, I’ve put together a few questions that many of my readers and fans have asked me over the years- questions in which the answers will help others know that they are not alone and will help them heal.
Today I’m thrilled to share Crystal Duffy’s story. She is an amazing woman.
Crystal Duffy is a writer, speaker, educator, parent advisor in the NICU, and mother of three little girls, including a set of identical twin girls. She now tours the country inspiring women across the United States recounting her ‘emotional tale of empowerment.’ Her essays on family life and parenting have appeared in Woman’s World Magazine, Twins Magazine, Scary Mommy, and Twiniversity where she is a senior writer and instructor for an expectant twins class. Crystal is a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. where she met her husband Edward. Crystal lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, three little girls and a yappy little yorkie.
Crystal is going to give away one signed copy of her book to one of my followers!
All you have to do to enter to win is comment on this blog post. The winner will be notified at the beginning of December. You can comment at the end of the article. Good luck!
- What led to your baby’s premature birth and how early was your baby?
My twin pregnancy was high-risk from the beginning. I had a hemorrhage at seven weeks that resulted in modified bedrest at home. At 23 weeks we were diagnosed with twin to twin transfusion syndrome, a dangerous disease of the placenta that affects identical twins. Blood was being transfused disproportionately from one baby to the other. I had a surgery while the girls were still in-utero to correct the problem and then my inner membrane was torn which left both babies in the same amniotic sac same placenta. I was then placed on strict hospital bedrest with around-the-clock monitoring for the remainder of my pregnancy. I had a placenta abruption that resulted in a C-section delivery to save me and my girls. My girls, were born at 30 weeks, four days.
- What surprised you the most, as far as others responses to your baby’s premature birth?
Despite having taken a tour of the NICU when I was an antepartum patient, I was still shocked and terrified when I visited the girls in the NICU. One baby was intubated and the other baby was placed on C-PAP. Friends and family kept asking me to send them pictures of the girls. I reluctantly sent them a few from my phone. Everyone kept asking me for their weight. The response was always the same, “Wow that’s tiny!” To me it was a great weight given where we started. I was proud of my little fighters.
- Do you believe you were educated about the possibility of a premature birth before your early delivery and if not, do you think pregnant moms should be educated better, in the event that they have to deliver prematurely? What would you tell them?
My pregnancy was a little different, because of the nature of a high-risk twin pregnancy we always knew we would most likely deliver preemie babies and therefore have a NICU stay. I do however wish I would have been better educated about the risks in identical twin pregnancies. I didn’t know that having the girls in one placenta could likely present a dangerous diagnosis. I would have been better prepared had I been more educated of the potential risk.
I would encourage all pregnant Moms, whether you are pregnant with a singleton, twins, or higher order multiples to do your research. Read books, look for articles by the experts, and really know your own body and medical history. It’s important for any Mom that has a chronic condition to be really on top of her care and collaborate with her healthcare team on any decisions.
- What do you think the NICU nurses and neonatologists could have done better (or more or less of) to have given you a better NICU experience?
I will always remember the first time I went visit my girls in the NICU, a nurse approached me and just started rattling off a ton of information. My head was not in the right space, I just wanted to see my babies. I had not yet had the opportunity to meet them because they were whisked away seconds after the birth.
If NICU nurses could really take into consideration what the parent is going through and check in with them. Even so much as asking, how are you feeling today Mom? Informing the parent that they have important information and checking to see if it is a good time or if they should come back in a little while. This would be helpful for everyone as parents do need to be engaged in their babies’ healthcare and work hand in hand with their babies healthcare team.
- What are some of the best practices that you experienced in the NICU? What did the staff do that made you feel good?
As a twin Mom, I appreciated it so much that the nurses put my girls isolettes side by side. They stayed together in the main NICU room for one week and then were transferred and moved to a different floor. They did everything to ensure that we had a private room with our both of our girls—side by side. It was so nice to have a private room and I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been had my girls been in different rooms or floors of the hospital.
- What milestones meant the most to you while your baby was in the NICU?
When the girls graduated from feeding tubes to drinking breastmilk in a bottle was one of the happiest memories I have in the NICU. As well as the day I came in and the nurses had taken off the masking tape from their little faces. I was thrilled to finally be able to see their whole face without anything covering it up.
- How is your baby now and please give us an update?
My girls, Katie and Lauren, are four years old and just started Pre-K. They are happy, healthy and active little girls. They enjoy ballet, soccer and reading books with their older sister.
- What was your NICU discharge experience like?
The girls homecoming surprised us. My husband and I came into the unit to see the girls one Friday afternoon and our doctor asked us if we were ready, the girls could go home that Sunday. We were shocked and ecstatic at the same time. On discharge day I was expecting something to go wrong or to have some kind of delay but we didn’t experience any problems. As soon as we placed the girls in the car seats, they passed the test and after some paperwork we were cleared to go home.
- What was life like 1 month after NICU discharge and 3 months after NICU discharge and when did you finally relax and feel like you were “out of the woods”?
Our girls came home without oxygen or any medical equipment. We felt so incredibly blessed. They had been born extremely healthy, they were just small and needed time to grow. By three months we were really thriving at home, settled into our new routine and trying to get as much sleep as possible.
- What advice do you have a for a parent who just delivered a premature baby that was admitted to the NICU?
To take a deep breath and try and get as much rest as possible. The NICU is draining in every possible way—emotionally, physically, and mentally. One of the best things you can do for your NICU baby is to heal from the traumatic childbirth and stay healthy. These medically fragile babies are going to need strong, healthy parents that are well educated and well informed and prepared for the long road ahead.
Wow. Thank you Crystal for opening up to me and for sharing some of your most intimate moments of your pregnancy and NICU journey. I also suffered through a high-risk pregnancy and long NICU stay with my daughter and I know how difficult it is. And congratulations on your book!
Everyone… if you haven’t read Crystal’s book yet, you must!
It called “Twin to Twin: From High-Risk Pregnancy to Happy Family” and you can find it on Amazon by clicking HERE.
Visit Crystal’s website at https://crystalduffy.net/
Check back to speakingformomsandbabies.com next Friday, because we’ll be sharing another Q&A with a NICU expert in honor of World Prematurity Day. In fact, we’ll be sharing one each Friday in November.
November is National Prematurity Awareness Month and November 17th is World Prematurity Day.
Please visit my social media sites throughout the month because I’ll be sharing a lot of personal stories and resources for families of premature and NICU babies. You are welcome to share them all.
Have a great weekend and please think about how you can spread prematurity awareness and help another family in honor of World Prematurity Day.