Christine Maltese Yang was a tad apprehensive when she heard her husband Ted Yang was writing a book about the premature birth of their triplets and the loss and difficulties that followed. She worried about what would be revealed in Table For Five; A Father’s Story of Life, A Father’s Story of Life, Love and Loss.
“After I read it, I felt better about it,” Maltese Yang admitted. “There were only small things that I remembered slightly differently than Ted did.”
The memoir focuses on care for their surviving children — around whose lives their world solely revolved for years. The couple had no time to focus on their careers let alone marriage once the babies were born at 24 weeks.
“So much of that time was spent just getting through the minute, the hour, the day,” recalled Maltese Yang. “For a long time, I was on a treadmill and not able to see the big picture and focus on anything other than the kids.”
Aside from absence of couple time — and scarcity of time for anything but caring for children — one of the topics discussed in Table For Five is the lack of resources for fathers.
“I don’t remember anything at all geared towards dads,” said Maltese Yang. “Everything was very much geared toward moms.
“I don’t know that I realized at the time that there was a lack of support for dads, but I would say there was a lack of support in general for preemie parents. Thankfully things have changed for the better in that respect over the last 13 years.”
One of the ways parental support has changed is in thanks to a nonprofit group Maltese Yang became involved with, the Tiny Miracles Foundation out of Darien, CT. She remains a member of the board for the organization that provides support to parents of preemies. Her first exposure to Tiny Miracles, however, was less than enthusiastic.
Laser-focused on caring for her children Sofia and Daniel, Maltese Yang said she wasn’t particularly keen on attending her first Tiny Miracles meeting.
“Someone dragged me to it,” she laughed. “It was one of the first times I got out of the house and met other moms who had preemies.
“We weren’t really encouraged to get to know other moms in the neonatal intensive care unit. You were just sort of there — I certainly was — focused on your own children. You’d see people there one day and not another.”
Maltese Yang noted that at the time Yale-New Haven, where her children were, did not have much space to encourage parents to chat. And it wasn’t fellow parents who comforted one another, but nurses who comforted the parents.
“They were my primary source of comfort,” said Maltese Yang. “Nurses were the ones I spoke with when we had to let Raymond go. They were the ones by your and your baby’s side the whole time.”
Like her husband, Maltese Yang stresses that prematurity is more common than you’d think and wants preemie parents to know they are not alone. Parents need to be aware of possibilities and must be ready to advocate for their children and themselves.
“Nothing’s ever perfect,” said Maltese Yang. “I try to remember that when I see full-term healthy kids. Not everyone’s life is perfect. You never know what people are dealing with. But prospective parents need to be more aware that prematurity remains the No. 1 cause of infant mortality."
And most importantly, they need to know they are not alone.