On Thanksgiving Monday in 2017, Alisa and Brandon went for a walk with their two year old son, Zane. Alisa was 29 weeks pregnant with twins, but starting to experience movements that felt similar to when she had started going into labour with her first. When she called Dr. Mark Rosengarten, her obstetrician at BC Women’s Hospital, he suggested it could just be active twins, but still recommended that she come by the next day.
Alisa, Brandon + Zane the day before it all began...
The next morning, as Alisa prepared to leave for her appointment, her water broke. She remembers the moment she told Brandon, and how he looked like a deer in the headlights. They made record time, only 15 minutes from their home in Steveston to the parking lot of BC Women’s Hospital. Alisa remembers walking through the doors and immediately feeling a sense of calm.
"Of course, I had a plan. But honestly, my main plan was to have my babies as safely as possible. I didn’t expect that to happen at 29 weeks. But the team at BC Women’s explained what would be safest for my babies, and safest for me. I always felt like the decision maker, but I also knew I was in such great hands."
Alisa recalls feeling like she was in complete shock until her babies were lifted over the drape. She was so fixated on finding out if they were going to be okay. The main thing that stuck with Alisa and Brandon from that morning was when Dr. Rosengarten smiled and said, “these babies will go to university.”
She laughs thinking back on that moment. “I wouldn’t even mind if they chose to not go to school! I just had no idea how their prematurity was going affect their lives. So when I was picturing those milestones, it could have been any milestone really, that reassurance was just such a nice, normal thing to hear.”
Madex and Lilac make the move from the old facility to their new private twin room.
Madex and Lilac were born on October 10, just 18 days before the grand opening of the new BC Women’s NICU at the Teck Acute Care Centre. They were one of the few families who experienced the move from the old to the new facility, in the span of their 91 day stay. They were also the first family in the new room specifically designed for twins. She describes how one of her nurses has since sent her a picture with the message, “this will always be your room.”
Alisa says the transition was like night and day. From the old ward that had a more traditional NICU model – with several incubators in a row in a large room – to all seventy incubators in private rooms. She noticed things you wouldn’t immediately think of, like having privacy as you learned how to breastfeed.
But the biggest difference in moving to a private room was how little it disrupted their life with a two year old. “If we didn’t have Zane, we would have stayed on that couch in their room every single night. But we tried to keep his life as normal as possible. He had his own little zone with his colouring books. It made it so that we could go to the hospital on a Saturday and he’d be able to stay there with us all day. In the old NICU, he would last for like two minutes!”
For Alisa, this time of year is inextricably linked to memories of being in the NICU. As a family that typically opted out of any big celebration each winter, in the past they had often chosen to travel, or simply spend quality time together at home. Now, the season has taken on a new meaning.
“This time last year, we were so close to being discharged. I know I’ll always think of Women’s every time December comes around. On their first birthday, we didn’t even want a party. We just wanted to go there.”
So they did. They were inspired by Mia’s Moccs, who had donated their moccasins to each NICU baby the prior year. “We don’t even celebrate… but who doesn’t like presents! We got little red ones. It was just so nice to see how giving people are, and made me feel so grateful.”
So they chose to pay it forward, with slipper socks from their business, Pudus. Alisa knows they’ll continue this new tradition of giving back for years to come.
Alisa visits with Madex + Lilac on their first birthday
"We’re so lucky to live where we live. Of course in Canada, but specifically here in Vancouver, so close to BC Women’s. Not only did I know that my babies were going to be taken of… I knew that I was going to be taken care of."
And what’s next? Alisa jokes, “I’m just trying to make it through flu season.”