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John Jr., Rachel (mom), Addison, John (dad) and Parker Tabony (Photo credit: Melissa Jurisich with Sweet Honeybee Studios)

November is an important time for my family. Not only does it bring Thanksgiving, but also World Prematurity Month. In 2015, my husband and I became forever connected to this observance when we were blessed beyond measure with two miracle babies.

No one really talks about how difficult it can be to conceive and deliver a baby. For my husband John and I, we experienced more heartache than a newlywed couple should. After years of miscarriages, IVF cycles and disappointments, we were over the moon to find out we were having twins.

The day before Easter 2015, my water broke at 22 weeks and 1 day. I was rushed to Ochsner Baptist Medical Center, overwhelmed with fear of losing the children we’d prayed for. Ten days of bedrest and my amazing doctors and nurses delayed delivery as much as possible before Addison Grace (1 lb. 0.9 ounces and 11.2 inches long) and John Adrian (1 lb. 3.8 ounces and 11.4 inches long) were born at 23 weeks and three days.

This wasn’t the childbirth experience that I’d dreamed of and saw my friends experience. There was no family picture or skin-to-skin contact. It was more than 24 hours before I saw my babies for the first time in the newborn intensive care unit. Words can never explain the pain and emotions a parent goes through seeing your helpless child hold on for life with wires and breathing tubes attached.

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John Jr. and Addison Tabony (Photo credit: Melissa Jurisich with Sweet Honeybee Studios)

We had to abandon our expectations of parenthood, where we thought sleep deprivation would be our biggest hurdle. Weeks spent in the NICU were the hardest, worrying every time we left the hospital might be the last time we saw our children. But they kept growing, and we celebrated every little milestone. By the grace of God, they passed every test.

The most difficult time in our lives became our greatest blessing. After 116 days, John came home, and Addison followed a month later. In total, my twins spent 146 days in the NICU. The next year, our family grew again with the introduction of Parker who was born at 38 weeks with no NICU stay.

This Thanksgiving, we are overwhelmed with gratitude that our family was given two miracles who celebrated their fourth birthdays this spring. Our blessings have also empowered my husband and me to support families experiencing the same challenges and those who are not as lucky as our John and Addison. We want to encourage families touched by prematurity to advocate for your baby and support others who share your experiences.

The delivery and first months with my miracle babies were the last things I expected, but also what I am most grateful for. Thank you to the Ochsner Baptist team who saved their lives and treated us like family. Thank you to my husband, friends and family who truly were our village. And thank you to my precious John and Addison — the strongest little humans I’ve ever met. I’m so lucky to be your mom and to share your journey with other families.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rachel Tabony

business development specialist

Metairie