August 5, 2014

FIAO 6.1 - Navigating the NICU - Looking At The Bright Side When You Can't Bring Baby Home With You

A week ago tonight I was out at my last hurrah dinner with C's family, celebrating the fact that in less than 12 hours we would be having babies. It's hard to believe it's been nearly a week since we became parents. I guess that has a lot to do with the fact that we don't actually have our babies at home with us yet. That's right, I've been a mom for a week and I have yet to hold my babies in my home. We have yet to be woken up in the middle of the night by a tiny cry. We have not been able to break down over sleep deprivation. We haven't even had an epic poosplosion diaper change with a mad dash to the washing machine. Our hearts feel half full at this time, all because our baby girls were born at 35 weeks and are spending the first weeks of their lives in the hospital NICU away from their mama and dad.

We knew way back in January that this would likely happen. I think that's the only reason I am not a basket case over it. Having mono-di twins, depending on your care provider, you are usually told that your babies will have to come early. My MFM, Dr. Margono, said at that very first appointment that he would allow us to go no further than 35 weeks. He knew the risks of going longer all too well and had the research to back it up. At first I was less than convinced. I thought that my body would instinctively know what to do to care for my girls. I was sure that if it was really necessary to go early my body would take care of it for me. After all, I originally planned on an all natural home birth with a midwife and a doula. I hated to admit that my body might not know what was best. So I did research of my own and what I found was terrifying.

Mono-di twins (sharing a placenta) who are allowed to go on their own are can encounter a number of issues from placental degredation, uneven placenta sharing and intrauterine growth restriction. Problems could be as minute as small weight discordance or as severe as complete loss due to the death of the placenta. The more I learned the more convinced I was that going early wasn't nearly as bad was what could happen if I let my body do its thing. I simply was not willing to take the risk. So we set a date for induction (or in our case planned c-section) for exactly 35 weeks. I knew they would be small and would more than likely need NICU time. I also knew that no matter what happened it was absolutely better than the risk of the alternative, despite other peoples' attempts to make me reconsider.

I am blessed in that I was able to prepare for this. My old boss was not so lucky. Her pregnancy was hard, much worse than mine. She was sick almost the whole time, consumed with exhaustion and her third trimester was plagued with hip pain and an inability to walk as her hip slipped out of its' socket thanks to stretching of her ligaments and weight of the baby. Then she started to have contractions at 30 weeks. They were able to stop them twice but at 32 weeks after a very difficult labor in which she suffered placental abruption, her son Jack was born. Amazingly he was over 6 lbs but contrary to popular belief high birth weight does not in fact mean healthy. He had trouble with breathing, eating and temperature and ended up spending almost a month in the NICU.

She was devastated. I watched my friend, normally upbeat and positive, become a shell of herself as she spent her days in there with him, often from sun up to sun down. She hated the interventions that were forced on her and hated leaving every night without her baby. We hadn't even had her shower yet so when we had it a week after his birth it was clear that she wanted to be with him and not with us. I recalled all of this over the months of my pregnancy and prepared myself for the feelings of hopelessness that I knew would come if I had to leave my girls behind. But here I sit, two days after being discharged from the hospital myself and I am surprisingly peaceful. You may wonder how on earth I can say that. After all, it's unnatural. And my body knows that. My body was screaming that first day when they weren't brought to my room to be with me. But I am lucky. Really I am.

First, I am so lucky to have been prepared for this experience, so much so that instead of feelings of anger and sadness I have feelings of hope and gratitude. Mostly, I am lucky to live within 15 minutes of a hospital with a fantastic Level III NICU, comprised of neonatologists and nurses who absolutely love what they do and whose care for my children rivals that which I would provide myself. From the first second that I was wheeled in to Juliette's room and saw the faces of the nurses beaming at me I knew they were in the best possible hands and that I had nothing to worry about. I will not ever say it's been easy, but it has not been the uphill battle that I anticipated.

The Doctors and Nurses are so informative, answering every question I have. They are incredibly encouraging, allowing and expecting us to be as involved as we can be in the care of our girls. Above all else they are educated and experienced, to the point that I don't question for one second their ability to make the best decisions for my babies. I go to sleep at night knowing that if my babies can't be with me at least they are in the best possible place for them. For that I consider us the luckiest parents in the world. There are so many parents of multiples that receive inadequate prenatal care by doctors who just do not understand the risks and who are then thrown in to the hands of a cold, isolating NICU and forced to watch helplessly as their babies are cared for by strangers. Our experience so far has been more positive and wonderful than I could have ever dreamed and for that I am truly grateful.

As for my girls, the most recent updates are fantastic. They are both breathing on their own and are currently only hooked up to monitors and a feeding tube to supplement their bottle feedings. They are still in the isolettes but they are together in a room and each have only two degrees of temperature control to go before they are in open cribs. They are the most beautiful, amazing creatures I have ever laid my eyes on and I feel so incredibly blessed to call them mine. I cannot wait to bring them home but I want them to get as healthy as they can before that happens and I know that the NICU is the best place for that. Here's to happy, healthy babies being given the best start in life despite the circumstances.

Did your baby or babies have any special needs when they arrived? How did you handle being away from them?

Xo,
M.

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