My husband, Andy, and I will never forget our twins’ stay in the NICU. Our story is unique, but I believe other NICU parents can find commonalities with their own experiences.
After several third-trimester complications, our doctors decided to deliver the twins on short notice at 35 weeks. Due to some specific concerns that developed for each baby in utero, we had suspected that the babies were likely destined for the NICU. However, it was still very hard to prepare for, given the million or so thoughts that went through our minds during that crazy, exciting, and scary time.
When the babies were born, I was unable to truly hold them due to the C-section operation. Then, as we thought, both Drew and Celeste needed to be taken to the NICU—Celeste due to her low birth weight and Drew to monitor his in utero complications. I insisted that Andy go with the babies while I was in the operating room being put back together so to speak. I felt alone, but I wanted him to be with the babies. Once I was moved to the recovery room, poor Andy was juggling checking on me; checking on the babies; and, perhaps most difficult of all, dealing with my mother—a first-time grandmother concerned about her firstborn daughter’s state and unable to visit any of us due to the H1N1 (swine flu) restrictions.
In recovery, I began realizing that my post-delivery situation was a bit different. I could hear new mothers near me with their babies also in the room. I asked the nurse about it, and she said that if a baby does not need to go to the NICU, they can stay with the mom in recovery. That would turn out to be one of the most difficult things to handle while staying at the hospital—hearing babies crying while in recovery, and later in my room upstairs, was very difficult for me. I wanted the twins with me, and Andy and I would constantly wonder if they were crying or okay whenever we were not with them in the NICU. I’m sharing this because that was something I did not prepare myself for, and I hope it will help others to know in advance.
Meanwhile, in the NICU, the nurses did a great job explaining the status of each baby: why they were there, what specifically was going to happen, and how and when to visit them. The calm, friendly demeanor of the NICU nurses was so important. Andy immersed himself in the know-how that the nurses happily provided—taking temperatures, changing diapers, feeding, and bathing. He found the nurses extremely helpful and reassuring.
The days and nights spent in the NICU seem almost like a dream now. Fortunately, the babies were there only about a week. At the time, it was heart-wrenching. Leaving the hospital without them and coming home to an empty nursery was probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life. Though it was a roller coaster of a week, we realize that we were very fortunate that their stay was so brief.
We found true comfort and solace knowing that the babies were in the absolute best place possible. The nurses and doctors in the NICU were not only on top of their game medically but also showed great compassion for our children and for every child they worked with. They also showed heartfelt warmth and support for us in our fragile emotional state. They comforted us whenever we needed comfort; answered our barrage of questions thoroughly; and, if they did not have all the answers, they would make sure a doctor met with us as soon as convenient. We could not have dealt with our fears and emotions without their support. I would have had to be dragged out of the hospital kicking and screaming had I thought the twins were not receiving wonderful care.
In a way, we look back on the NICU stay as a silver lining in the occasionally stormy story of our pregnancy and birth experience. Through their wonderful care, patience, and guidance, the nurses helped us “first-timers” become much more confident in ourselves as parents. Andy in particular had very little experience with newborns, but they showed us that we could take care of these babies—on our own, no less! Even though it was a tough week not having the babies in my hospital room or at home with us, we think it really helped us start off on the right foot—calmly and confidently—when we did get to bring the babies home.
Want more Carrie? Follow her many musings, and check back often as the list will grow! You can also follow her on Twitter.