It’s been almost 4 weeks and the girls are still in the NICU. I have been trying to stay busy to make the time go by faster and to not be idle. If I become idle, then I will start feeling under the weather. I need to be in a good mood for the other bundles of mayhem. School is finally out for the summer so I can get some relief schedule wise but now I have the demand of entertaining them around the clock and juggling making runs to the NICU to see the girls and drop off milk. These four weeks have taught me a few things and shown me a few things about myself that I never really paid attention to. It has also made me very in tune (more than ever) with my anxiety and I am tired of shaking hands with it. I actually had a panic attack the other day randomly. I haven’t had one of those in a long time, but I was able to handle it and it passed smoothly.
This is a time where I need support more than I ever have. The bond you instantly have with your children during pregnancy and after is indescribable. That bond is threatened when you have to spend time apart. You have to make up for the time lost and do the best you can. Seeing the girls frequently is challenging due to having other children to care for, and the distance of the hospital. Some parents make multiple daily trips to the NICU and some can’t go as often. Some can’t go at all due to different reasons. The hospital has a lot of resources for helping parents cope with the time apart and the guilt. The guilt of not being there. I get daily phone calls, and I can call whenever I want to check in on the girls. There are no visiting hours, but they usually like for you to be cautious about visiting during the times when the shifts change. When we visit, it is full of lots of snuggles and feedings. The girl’s feedings are an hour apart.
The other day when we visited, We saw a man carrying a baby car seat. He had the baby carrier and the base attached. We thought this was odd because most people just take in the carrier when they are getting ready to take their baby home, when the delivery is normal. We got onto different elevators. We joked that he must be a new dad since he had the entire car seat and base toting it around, and maybe he didn’t know that the base is supposed to stay in the car. When we headed back to see the girls, we saw the base dude beaming with excitement and looking nervous at the same time. He was a NICU parent just like us. The baby boy in the first pod, who we passed by on the way to the girl’s twin room each time, was going home. He was always swaddled in the cutest blankets. I heard the male nurse giving them instructions on proper car seat use as they were getting ready to do his car seat test as apart of the discharge process. I teared up a little. I teared up for two reasons: that baby was going home and who knows how long he had been there, and my girls weren’t going home yet. Seeing and hearing that baby get discharged from the NICU was bittersweet. We will know that feeling one day soon.
Lesson number 1: Appreciating where we are in our NICU journey and how unique it is. Even though it’s not where we thought we would be or want to be, every day spent there serves a purpose.
When you have a baby in the NICU, certain things are a BIG deal. Such as being in a open crib and finishing a bottle during feeding time. Preemies have to learn how to eat. The girls have feeding tubes until their desire and reflex to naturally suck to either nurse or drink from a bottle using a nipple is developed.
Lesson number 2: Celebrate things other people take for granted. Little milestones are just as important as big ones.
The device that delivers my breast milk into the girl’s bellies is done via feeding tube using a device they call “the pump”. They basically insert a large syringe that contains my milk into the machine and set a timer. The machine slowly pushes the milk through the baby’s feeding tube to complete the feeding.
Lesson Number 3: Biomedical engineering is such a underappreciated field of engineering. Without it many nurses would be extremely exhausted.
Speaking of breast-milk, I never thought that I would be able to produce enough for both of my babies. I am a mama who hasn’t always been hip to breast feeding and had a low supply whenever I tried. I exclusively breastfeed my 4th child for 6 months. My 5th, we didn’t have much luck and I had thrown in the towel after repeated latching issues, no desire to pump and a milk supply that dropped so low there was nothing that could be done to bring it back up. Once I was feeling up to it in the hospital, a lactation consultant came to visit with a breast pump and a full on tutorial about exclusively pumping. I had a very good & strong start and I have been doing pretty good so far. Exclusively pumping is very time consuming, frustrating at times, and exhausting. The nurses and my friends have been very supportive and encouraging. This has helped me stay motivated and not throw in the towel.
Lesson number 4: I am more than capable of feeding my babies as long as I continue to trust the process and my body.
My beau stepped right in when I was not able to bond with the girls after the surgery. He has changed a lot of tiny diapers and even dealt with a big blow out from Remy. Remy’s big blowout during one of our visits was a total life bleachable moment. Breastfed babies tend to projectile poop. He was in the middle of a diaper change when he lifted her up to put the clean diaper on and the shxt (literally) got real. It was EVERYWHERE. the cords, phone on the wall, the crib, her clothes, his hand… you name it! You would think that out of all the diapers we have changed, we would’ve been quicker. We had to work as a team to tackle the mess.
Lesson number 5: The best way to prepare for tomorrow is doing your very best in the moments of today.
The million dollar question is when are they coming home? Y’all we truly have no timeline of this. This question actually makes me sad. It is beginning to get a little mundane constantly answering this question. A lot of NICU parents all agree that this is a question a lot of us don’t really like being asked. We aren’t trying to be rude or secretive, we just don’t know. Some people ask in a way that is very insensitive. Actually some people are just insensitive period in a lot of the things they say and ask. Sometimes it is just best to be quiet or say let me know if you need anything. It’s not always what you say but how you say it.
Lesson number 6: Don’t let the way others behave destroy your sense of inner peace.
We are really hoping that our stay in the NICU is almost done. However, at the same time I would rather them be 100% cleared to come home instead of 80% to rush things along. They are working on their feedings and it is hit or miss…which is expected at this point considering how early they were born. Some days they finish multiple bottles, and some days they don’t finish any at all and are tube fed all day. We are remaining patient because regardless fed is best.
Lesson number 7: Find something positive in each day, even when on some days you have to look a bit harder for it.
We are so happy and thankful that our girls are progressing very well and have had little to no complications that most 33 weekers experience when they are born prematurely. They are plumping up each day and are super cute! They are well on their way to coming home…when the time is right.