PREEMIE STORY: Imani & Penzi

We are honored to share the story of preemies Imani & Penzi who were born at 28 weeks (though this may have been later due to a variety of factors) and weighed 4 lbs (Imani) and 3.8 lbs (Penzi) and spent 5 days in the NICU before coming home.  Read more in an update by their mother, Paula.

by Paula K.

                                                                                                                                 In the NICU

(Editor’s Note:  With the mother’s permission we wanted to alert the community that 5 days in the NICU for 28 weekers is not at all the norm but in this case it is true though the gestational age may have been incorrectly calculated based on certain factors, something that happens all of the time worldwide).  This scenario surrounded the fact that the babies were born in Africa,  received the steroid shots needed to provide proper lung development.  Add in that they were twins and their systems were already preparing for an early birth.  And having them “room in together” and participate in Kangaroo Care non-stop with Mom and Dad, ended up with their thermoregulation needs to get under control faster.  All of this combined led to breastfeeding.  Because the babies met the basics fairly quickly and the beds were needed for more critical infants at the time, hence the stay being shortened. As we all know, preemies do better at home.  That is the prevailing theme in Africa where staying the hospital is not necessarily the best route. – Deb)

Having lost a son when I was 32 weeks pregnant due to high blood pressure, our twin daughters came at 28 weeks. The blood pressure was very stubborn to the extent that I was on medication but it refused to be controlled. The doctor was not taking any chances hence carried out a C-section to save all of us.

                         Learning to Sit

The twins looked so tiny and even shared the same incubator. They had been given steroids to enable them breath on their own once they are born, so they did not experience any breathing issues as previously feared. I thank God because they were tested for all suspected issues that they could develop as preemies and all tests have been negative to this day.

I truly believe that they are a miracle and also fighters because just after 1 WEEK, actually 5 days in NICU, we were all discharged. Even the doctors and nurses were amazed at how determined they were to beat the odds and how much they wanted to live!

We were advised to always keep them covered and not expose them to many people so as to prevent them from getting any sort of infections. They did not experience any health issues whatsoever and today they are healthy happy 9 year old twin girls.

          Today at 9 Years Old

Having gone through this experience (Not just having twins but also having them when they were premature), we found it as a need to start the Twins and Multiples Initiative (TAMI); the first of its kind in my country. TAMI supports families with ‘multiples’, whether twins, triplets, quads or more! The Initiative acts as an all-encompassing support for individual multiple birth families and support groups throughout the country. Our Mission is to provide advice, information and support to multiple birth families so that they can become self-sustained.  We have a Facebook page at the moment. You can visit us here.


Proudest Moment in the NICU:  When I saw and breastfed the twins for the first time on day two.

Parent Tip: There is always hope even in the darkest of times.  God is always faithful.
 Photo Credits: Emmanuel K.M.                                 

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4 Comments on “PREEMIE STORY: Imani & Penzi”

  1. I highly doubt that these babies are 28 weekers. Quite simply, 28 weekers can not take nourishment on their own.
    “Non-nutritive sucking is present in utero at 28 weeks gestation, but not fully coordinated until 32 to 34 weeks gestation. When a baby is born prematurely, non-nutritive sucking development is halted and it becomes a challenge to “teach” preemies how to suck productively”
    “A baby is usually ready to start practicing when they are:
    – At least 32 weeks gestation”
    “Babies do not develop the suck-swallow-breathe reflex that is needed for breastfeeding until they are about 32-33 weeks gestation. ”
    just to name a few.
    It is not a case of “all babies are different, so mine could do this even if yours could not.” It is a case that human development does NOT allow for nutritive sucking until at least 31-32 weeks. And human development does not change because of prematurity. We simply are seeing in the NICU what should have happened in the uterus. The developmental process IS the same, so in the NICU or not, 28 weekers can not suck enough to be live!

    Then let’s consider the weights. Four pounds is average for a 32 weeker! A four pound 28 weeker is unhealthy (probably gestational diabetes) and not something to be celebrated. In fact, here is info copied from a twin website:
    “8 months (34 weeks)
    By this time, your twins are probably somewhere between 17 and 19 inches long, weighing between 4 and 5 pounds each. You are now carrying more baby than most singleton moms carry at 40 weeks. ” So even twin websites say that 4 pounds babies are average for 34 weeks!

    Then let’s consider that “Almost all babies born at 30 weeks or less will experience apnea.” Only incompetent doctors would send home babies when it’s too soon to know if apnea has been controlled.

    These are just some of multiple ways to show that there is NO way that Imani and Penzi are 28 weekers. I wouldn’t bother trying to call this out, but leaders of a preemie support group should know better.

  2. Paula, thank you for your comment and I apologize because this post left out a few important facts (I just updated it with permission from the mother) that the family is in Africa and the neonatal ward was short on beds which could only go to the most critical of infants. However, I know the mother and indeed the twins were born at 28 weeks and they did go home after 5 days because they had already achieved the very basics (they were female which gave them a head start in many ways as we all know, they were twins and so had a higher level of lung development and could achieve thermoregulation standards faster with kangaroo care and they were recipients of the steroid shots and all of this helped toward breastfeeding). The vast majority of infants in the region of this family give birth at home and rarely go to the hospital save for immunizations or an issue that has developed. Also many of the preemies end up dying shortly after birth due to the lack of equipment and proper facilities. In the twins’ case the hospitalization was short because the beds were needed for more critical infants. The interesting part of all of this is that Kangaroo Care really showed its benefits here and I hope all of neonatology starts to re-think separating parents from their babies.

  3. “Kangaroo Care really showed its benefits”
    I am an ENTHUSIASTIC supporter of kangaroo care. I can list its research-proven benefits with out looking them up. I know that that list of benefits of kangaroo care does NOT include giving babies the physical ability to suck weeks before human development intended them to! Quite simply, 28 weekers can NOT breastfeed! As well, the weights prove these babies were not 28 weekers. Far more likely, they were born at 32-34 weeks. THAT would explain the weights. THAT would explain the lack of apnea. THAT would explain the immediate ability to breastfeed. Like it or not, 28 weekers can not do that, plain and simple. It has nothing to do with faith in God or miracles. Human babies are physically incapable of sucking enough to sustain life that early.

  4. Hi again, Paula. I appreciate your passion for preemies, Kangaroo Care and accuracy. :-)))) Agreed, the mother and I have been talking about the gestational age. I gather it is a biz fuzzy overall so you may well be correct on this. Afterall as you know, gestational ages are often incorrectly assessed during pregnancy. It happens all of the time worldwide every day. We’re doing another edit. Thank you! You are a blessing to this community and I would love to hear about your preemie(s). Feel free to contact me directly through the Contact Us page. – Deb

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