November is Prematurity Awareness Month.
We sat down with Dulani Van den broek, creator of Preenut Premature Clothing Co. and mom of twins who were born at 30.5 weeks. In the midst of caring for a toddler, working a full-time job, and spending time with her babies incubating in the NICU, Dulani created a clothing line for preemie babies.
Dulani’s story is inspiring, her heart — big, and her clothes are adorable.
You have an adorable line of preemie clothes. What prompted you to start Preenut Premature Clothing Co.?
My twins Maya and Talitha were born at 30.5 weeks weighing in at 2.10 pounds and 3.5 pounds respectively. They spent 6 weeks in the NICU. Their early arrival was extremely unexpected and we found it very challenging to find clothing to fit their tiny frames. Also, a lot of the clothing that was available was plain and didn’t represent the toughness and resilience of premature babies. The sizing for Preenut clothing is based on the actual sizing of my girls in an effort to make clothes that better fit preemie babies.
How did Preenut get its name?
The NICU has some very cute, endearing terms for the babies. If you look closely at a premature baby snuggled up in an incubator they look like little peanuts and this is one of the names the babies are called. I merged this with premature to come up with Preenut. My husband and I actually brainstormed the name on one of our nighttime drives to visit are twins at the NICU.
How did you come up with the designs pictured on the onesies?
The designs on the onesies are based on some of the names that the tiny babies are referred to. One is Sweet Pea and the Princess Preemie design is of a pea and a play on the word premature and pea. The NICU holiday design represents the preemies having their bilirubin treatment with little glasses on under the UV light. Pretty Lil Preenut is also representative of a preemie with a play on the words peanut and preemie. Tiny Tuff Nut is based on preemie babies who are tuff and resilient.
How did the creative process impact you, especially in the midst of dealing with a toddler and preemie twins?
It is certainly a balancing act trying to sustain a full-time job and setting up a new business amidst taking care of small children. I always want to make sure my girls get all of my attention when I am spending time with them. Most of my work on Preenut was done after hours when they had already gone to sleep. The designs and the initial concept were put together when I was on maternity leave between feeds, pumping and the other daily chores. Working on it during this time gave me a release and an avenue to funnel my energy into something creative and good.
The cotton is especially soft. What made you choose this particular material?
Preemies are so delicate and their skin is still translucent and sensitive in most cases. I wanted to make sure the onesies were made for comfort so I wanted to make sure the cotton was the best quality, hence why we have used a poly cotton blend.
Best advice you received while your babies were in the NICU?
When my girls were in the NICU I spent a lot of time reading about the various risks of prematurity. I received a textbook from the hospital that I read from cover to cover during that time. My girls were doing great in the NICU but reading all the literature made me constantly anxious about what could happen.
When I was speaking to one of the neonatologists about their progress I asked him about some of the other risks and he asked me a question, he said: “Mrs. Van den broek, is your glass half empty or half full?” My response although not quite truthful at the time was to say my glass was half full but that conversation triggered a change in perspective for me. I continued to look for all the positivity of prematurity and NICU stays.
The resilience and toughness of preemies are embedded into their personalities, the bond between you and your partner strengthens incredibly and as a unit, you become a closer family that appreciates every little moment. The Preenut brand endeavors to pass on this message to other preemies/NICU parents.
Any words of encouragement or advice you’d like to share with parents, families, and friends of preemies?
Look at the positivity in the experience, acknowledge postnatal depression and PTSD in both the mums and dads who go through NICU stays and watching their preemie babies fight for their lives and give/ask them/for support.