Annabelle and Delilah are my incredible twin daughters. I love them more than I ever knew possible, they are my greatest inspiration. Every day they give me several reasons to smile and show me the true definition of perseverance.
It is for my gratitude and the blessing of Delilah and Annabelle that I leave this legacy.
I was inspired to start the Annabelle & Delilah Foundation after my own family's experience with the Neonatal Intensive Cure Unit (NICU) of the Ottawa General Hospital. The care my family received was heartwarming and humbling, in the midst of the most difficult thing I have ever had to face.
It was a Friday morning. I had gone through all the signs and symptoms of early labor. We just so happened to be staying at a hotel near the hospital because I had developed pregnancy-induced cholestasis and needed to get two steroid injections 24 hours apart. When I went back to get my second injection, I asked the doctor about my symptoms. They ran the usual tests and concluded that "You are not going to have these babies at thirty weeks. You can go home."
We drove the two and a half hours home.
Monday, three days later. My husband gets home from work and says he is going to cut the grass. I am sitting on the couch. I say "Could you hang around for a few minutes, I think I am in labor, but I can't tell because I am not feeling much pain. There's just this tensing feeling every five minutes or so. I think I should call the hospital and see what the say."
Thankfully, we had had our bags ready from our previous trip.
We arrived at the hospital just in time. I was five centimeters dilated. Both sweet babes we're in a different breach position. I had to be transferred to another hospital because the doctors could not perform the surgery at this location.
I was transferred by ambulance to the Ottawa General Hospital. Slow, deep breaths all the way there.
My husband following behind in the car.
Our girls came into the world just two minutes apart via an emergency c-section at thirty weeks and one day.
I was so grateful at this moment that I had had those steroid injections. The steroid injections I had are the same treatment given to Mum's who are at high risk for delivering early to help the wee babe's lungs develop. I was told I was not going to deliver this early. In this way, I was grateful I had suffered from the cholestasis.
The girls were rushed away to be stabilized. I only caught a very quick glimpse of each of them as the doctor whisked them away to the operating room. They could not yet breathe on their own because their lungs were not strong enough at this point. A babe's lungs are the last thing to develop in utero. This meant they could not come home with us right away. They had to have oxygen pumped into their lungs, IV drips, nasal gastric tubes and be placed in a heated isolette to stay alive. My husband took a video that to this day I have only watched once because I find it so painful.
Many women picture their child birthing stories as a picturesque moment where they get to cuddle and nurse their baby right after birth. I was one of these women. This dream was effectively shattered. I didn't get to hold them for the first time until 24 hours after delivery. Even then, there were strict rules in place on when, who, where what and how they could be loved and cared for (all for the best reasons).
No one plans on having their baby stay in the NICU.
Holding my babies for the first time was every bit as wonderful as I could have imagined and hoped. I wanted to hold onto them forever.
Delilah and Annabelle were troopers. Fighters. They were both off oxygen within a week and breathing on their own. Their condition continuously improved. They grew. We celebrated every tiny baby step with them. They still are, and we still do.
I cried every time I had to leave their side.
They had to stay in the NICU for a total of seven weeks. Each evening for the first four weeks when my husband finished work we drove from our home to the Ottawa General Hospital. On weekends, we would stay at a hospital hotel, called Rotel for forty dollars a night.
Once the babes were stable enough to be transferred, and space was available, they were sent by ambulance to the Kingston General Hospital. I was able to get accommodations in Kingston for ten dollars a night at an incredible establishment called "Almost Home", for people with relatives in critical care. I am so grateful accommodations like these exist. Almost Home is exclusively volunteer-run, donation based. Their staff is kind, compassionate, and helpful.
Into the present day now. My daughters are home. They are happy, healthy, snappy little sprites who are, kind, wonderful, fun, and super smart. They have grown leaps and bounds and are learning to walk and getting teeth! You would never know they were born ten weeks early.
There is not a day that goes by that I am not immensely grateful, the kind of grateful that brings tears to my eyes, a flutter in my heart, and butterflies in my tummy.
My daughters are alive. Home with us. Healthy and thriving.
Not everyone's NICU stories have a happy ending. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to endure the NICU life, and not get to bring your baby home.
It is because of the care the NICU staff gave my family that my daughters are here today. I am forever in the debt of overjoyed gratitude for the love, compassion, and care my daughters, myself, and my husband received during our time of need.
I get to hold my daughters.
This is why I started The Annabelle and Delilah Foundation.
Even with OHIP, and private insurance coverage, having a family member in long term care is expensive. This is why The Annabelle and Delilah Foundation offers the NICU Family Grant. The grant application form is available at:
Thank you for sharing our journey and reading our story.
We wish you and yours the very best.