It doesn’t matter if your baby spends hours, days, weeks or months in the NICU, it’s an extremely hard time for the whole family. Surviving the NICU can be very challenging because most often moms and dads aren’t prepared. It can be a very stressful and emotional time for all who are involved.
At 34 weeks, I went in for a regular appointment with my high risk doctor. The ultrasound looked well but I was noticing less movement with one of my twins. My doctor decided to send me to the labor unit of the hospital for an extended stay. This meant that I would stay there until they were born. The next morning, my doctor made the decision to schedule me for a C-section that afternoon. He told me, “I’ll tell the NICU to get ready.” My first thoughts were “Aren’t they healthy enough? Don’t they weigh enough? Are they going to be ok?”
September 12th at 5:30pm the twins were born. They were actually born within the same minute because one twin was holding onto the other. I heard shouts of excitement in the room but all I could think was “I don’t get to hold them right away? I don’t get to have that special bonding moment?” This is supposed to be an incredible moment. A warm, sweet, loving, tender moment. You wait 9 months to get to hold them close to you, but I didn’t get that special time.
I woke up hours later in a hospital room with my husband, but without our babies. In that split moment, I didn’t feel like I had just given birth to them. I didn’t feel like a mom.
A wheelchair was brought up to my room and I was told that we could go see our twins. So we started the journey over to the NICU. It wasn’t next door. It wasn’t down the hall. It was 2 floors down and then a few halls over. We finally got to their room. I could see their names on the outside of the door…Leah & Olivia. I saw these two little sweet angels lying in the beds with cords and monitors all over them. “How could this be? Why are my babies not okay? Are they not healthy enough? Are they not big enough?” So many questions were going through my head. I looked at the nurse and asked, “Can I hold them?” I can’t believe that I asked to hold my own baby. This situation was very unnatural... it almost felt like they weren’t mine.
So the nurse carefully gave me one of my twins. It was hard to hold her. I couldn’t easily lay her on my chest. I had to be so careful and maneuver around all the cords and monitors. After getting a few minutes to hold each baby I had to put them back because they had to run more tests. I was told it was a good idea to go back to the room and pump, since I was planning on breastfeeding. After pumping, my husband sent the milk down and again that unnatural feeling consumed me. “I want to feed my babies, I want to hold them constantly.”
The next morning I woke up to a quiet room, no smell of a newborn, no coos, no cries….no sense of 2 sweet babies nearby.
I called the NICU and asked how their night went. I asked if I was able to do skin to skin (kangaroo hold). During that 45 minutes, I probably cried tears of joy, happiness, sadness and everything in between because I knew I had a limited amount of time. I never ever thought I would be in this situation. I desperately wanted to bring them home. I just looked at their sweet little faces wishing I had the power to make them stronger.
On the third day, I was discharged. I was leaving the hospital but not with my babies. This was just devastating.
Leah and Olivia stayed in the NICU for two weeks. Those 14 days seemed to be endless. It began to feel like they were never going to be strong enough to come home. Being at home made the time even harder. I had to walk by their empty cribs several times a day. Of course everyday I visited them at the hospital, but it never got easier leaving them.
I was just waiting. Waiting to rock them anytime I wanted. Waiting to comfort them. Waiting to feed them. Waiting for them to fall asleep in my arms.
On day 14 the doctor called and said he was 100% certain that both babies would get to come home! I just cried. They were finally going to be our babies.
Yes, time spent in the NICU is an unnatural, emotional, heart-wrenching time for the whole family, but please know that your babies will be under amazing care. All the nurses and doctors we encountered were wonderful. I know that is where our babies needed to be so they could get that special care. I never thought that my babies were going to be in the NICU. I wasn’t prepared at all. It’s important to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally just in case your little one does have to spend some time in the NICU. If you are pregnant now or thinking of becoming pregnant, I hope that you’ll at least know what to expect.
Surviving the NICU is very challenging and emotional but please know that you will get through this time. Yes, it will be extremely hard but your baby will be in the best care. Before you know it, your baby will be back in your arms and on the way to their new home.