November is always a strange month, full of emotion for me. It is the month that our twins were born prematurely and had to spend 20 days in the NICU. Celebrating a joyous occasion, the birth of a child (OR TWO!) can turn into a heart-wrenching, tear-filled, and terrifying time when your babies are born early. We were lucky; our babies only had to stay for 20 days. One of my best friends from college had twins who spent over 100 days in the NICU (because when your baby is that tiny, you count by days, hours, sometimes minutes). The first grandbaby of my kids’ generation was born at 28 weeks and weighed about one pound at birth. These stories are so hard to hear, so hard to fathom if you haven’t lived them yourself, and for that, November is also Prematurity Awareness Month.
Our story is not so terrible as others, and for that we are so thankful. But in that moment, living through it, it was hard enough. We found out we were pregnant with twins when our first baby was still only 1, and twins do not run in our families, so we were incredibly surprised to say the least. I gave birth to my singleton at 37 weeks and had a lot of issues with my normally perfect blood pressure throughout the pregnancy, so thought that we might have the babies early, as many twins arrive early, but we were prepared for that. What we were not so prepared for was that I would be hospitalized multiple times for short stints because of my blood pressure, given drugs to help the babies grow and help their lungs develop sooner rather than later and to stop progression of labor. I was not prepared to be in the hospital on bedrest for my daughter’s second birthday or for Trick or Treating a few days later. Unfortunately, through all of this, I was as mentally prepared as one can be to have “the babies” (as they are still called) several days later due to preeclampsia. My twins were born weighing 4lbs, 4oz and 4lbs 10oz and were quickly whisked into the NICU. My poor husband went from the surgical suite to the nursery with the babies and as my Mother-In-Law put it, ran around like a chicken with his head cut off. They each had their own teams of medical professionals working on them, and they were on different sides of the room, so hubs just spent the next 20 minutes running from one side of the room to the next. When he finally came to see me, I still couldn’t feel my legs from the epidural, and I told him that we were going to fake it, he had to lift me into the wheelchair because I had to get to that nursery and see my babies. As it would turn out, the babies never made it to my room because they were hooked up to oxygen, feeding tubes, and a ton of monitors.
Over the next 20 days, I learned a lot about myself. Postpartum Depression is no joke, and with babies in the NICU, my emotions were through the roof. I wasn’t able to hold my son for a few days. Getting to hold his twin sister who weighed more and was breathing and eating better wrecked me. When I finally was able to hold him, he didn’t eat as well, his stats would drop, he would gain then lose weight, he was just more fragile. When we started talking about my daughter getting to go home, we were discussing that my son might have to stay longer. There were days I just wasn’t sure how we were going to get through; a 2 year old at home, my husband at work, me just spending the day at the hospital, and then trying to make this our new normal. But we did. Because that is what moms do; whether they are able to hold and feed their babies or have to love them through incubators and feed them through tubes. Every time I hear of a friend of a friend who has a baby in the NICU, I try to help somehow (gas card, lanolin, food for the family at home, coffee during nurses switching shifts, whatever!) because I know how emotional I was, and how much love and support I didn’t even know I needed at that time. And my babies are still “my babies” but they’re 7 now and doing just fine.