Managing Twins: The first two weeks, NICU

I started this blog after the peanuts were born and I haven’t yet had the chance to sit down to reflect. It seems appropriate to do it now as they will be turning one soon. Plus, I really need to get my experience down in writing before it’s forgotten.

I’m already drawing a blank at the first two weeks. It’s funny how at the time you think “I’ll NEVER forget this.” But it’s easily forgotten in the madness of it all. Here’s looking at you memory*.

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After labor and delivery, Charles and I stayed one extra night in the hospital so we could be close to our babies. The hospital was at North St. Davids, North Austin Medical Center, and it was about a 20-30 minute drive one-way for visits. At the time I was thinking it wouldn’t be much longer before the twins got to come home, so why hassle with driving if it wasn’t necessary. Little did I know, it would be quite a while until Ellisa would come home. We stayed at the hospital late that night saying our goodbyes.

Daddy with his son 9/14

Daddy with his son 9/14

Coming home empty-handed wasn’t easy–something I never expected to happen. I can’t remember what went on during the drive home. Most likely complete silence. Once we got home we rushed into bed to get some much-needed sleep.

Daily Routine: The first two weeks were rough. We woke up every morning and went to the hospital. We would stay for 2-3 “awake” visits and then come home. When we weren’t visiting the twins we would either be eating or I would be pumping. I didn’t want to give up on breast-feeding before I even had the chance to try it! After our visits we would come home, eat, I would pump, and down for bed. Repeat the next day.

On days that Charles had to go into work, my mom or dad would meet me at the hospital to spend time with their grandchildren. Thank God for family!

Visits: You can actually visit whenever you want, 24/7, but we timed it so we would be there during the twins awake times. The nurses woke them every 3 hours to do their standard routine: diaper change, temperature check, feed, bath, etc. They would keep our twins half an hour apart so that we could be there for each baby when they woke. Awake time was no more than an hour total before they would have to go back to sleep.

Mommy holding Hudson

Mommy holding Hudson

With Hudson we could do anything the nurses did. I was even breast-feeding him 2-3 times a day. Since he was a preemie and wanted to sleep all the time, we did his routine, bottle or breast feed him, and then held him while he went back to sleep. Spending time holding him was wonderful. He was so cute. I could have sat there all day snuggling with him. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be out of his crib for more than 30 minutes so we had to take turns holding him for 10-15 minutes at a time. Yeah, one of the reasons you can’t wait to leave NICU.

Unfortunately with Ellisa, we couldn’t do ANYTHING but look at her for the first few days. Eventually we could put our arms in her plastic “bubble” so that we could help with her routine. I think it was less than a week when we starting doing this but honestly my memory is failing me. It feels like it was months. During those times, I would touch her little arms and legs hoping it would do something. Anything. She laid there lifeless. Full of tubes and surrounded by beeping machines, her nurse would sit there and watch for signs of distress. Sit there. No human contact. I hated it. At first we hadn’t a clue what all the monitors where checking, but by the time Ellisa left NICU, I felt like I deserved a nursing degree.

I hate saying it but I remember not enjoying visiting Ellisa. Remember, at this point I hadn’t even held her. We couldn’t take her out of her “bubble.”  It felt so strange to go into a secluded room, poke your head in, and stare at her through plastic for 5 minutes. What help was that? It didn’t help her and it sure as heck didn’t help me. I felt horrible for what happened to her. An infection that I caused. Yet there was nothing I could do. There was such a disconnect “visiting” her. Plus, she looked so sick. Who honestly wants to see their newborn daughter look like that? It’s not like you know your baby when it’s born. They almost feel like strangers at first–even when they’re healthy. You get to know your baby with each new experience. Beautiful experiences, right? Staring at Ellisa didn’t cut it when it came to bonding. Seeing her just made the experience horrible. And it was. Ignoring the problem by not visiting her made me feel better. Briefly. Like it wasn’t really happening. I preferred not to visit her. But I did. I did it every day multiple times. My gosh, she was still my little baby girl. A beauty stuck inside a plastic box. Charles was better at handling this. At least he appeared to be.

Ellisa in her bubble

Ellisa in her bubble

Note: I have extreme empathy for women who give birth and can’t touch or hold their babies. I didn’t get to hold Ellisa until 9 days after she was born. Looking back, I still can’t believe they kept me from her for that long.

The Daily Experience: Once we got in the habit of the NICU daily routine, I looked forward to every diaper change and temperature check. It was the only time to connect with Hudson and Ellisa. Although doing this in NICU feels like your child is being held hostage. You’re always asking nurses, “Can I touch my baby? Can I pick him up? What time do we have to put him down? How many more minutes do I have?” Really. And they answer you, “You’ve got about 5 more minutes.” Great thanks. Wish I had a bit longer since it’s MY baby. So many things you wouldn’t question at your own home. The nurses aren’t mean or anything, and of course they are doing amazing work keeping your baby alive, but your baby doesn’t feel like yours in the sterile and quiet setting of NICU. It’s a surreal experience. One I don’t wish on anyone.

One thing I always think of when I think of the NICU is washing up. They have this 3 minute timer and these special sponges that you are supposed to use to scrub your hands and forearms with for three minutes straight. It doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you simply want to see your baby, and you’re already running late due to traffic or something else unexpected, three minutes takes forever. Not to mention the line behind you giving you evils the entire time. And really, I can’t imagine that process eliminating the spread of colds and illnesses. I saw plenty of people touching their eyes, nose, and mouths once inside. I will say, my hands never felt cleaner.

Doctors and Nurses at NICU: Okay, I have to gripe. I absolutely hated the fact that every time you go to visit your baby you almost always have a new nurse or doctor. Yeah, you end up seeing the same ones over and over since you’re there for so long, but so many different people handling your baby drives me crazy! We had some amazing nurses who really cared and did a great job, and then we had others that were horrible. I understand that one nurse can’t be with your baby all the time but I would think they could dedicate 2-4 nurses to rotate your baby. Plus, Ellisa had some very critical things going on and some nurses just didn’t seem to grasp what they were doing. I had to force one nurse to get a doctor at one point because Ellisa looked horrible to me. I was the only one that recognized something was wrong and that was one of the days she had big set backs. I wonder if things would have been different that day if the nurse would have noticed Ellisa’s change in appearance before I showed up. Lesson learned: Go with your gut and advocate for your children!

The whole family together for the first time

The whole family together for the first time: Day 9

And doctors, those were far and few between. Don’t get me wrong, the doctors–especially Dr. Wheatley–were incredible at making fast life saving decisions, but once your baby is there, you have to be on top of the doctors to check in and ask questions. And hopefully they’re available when you’re there. They really do try their hardest to be accommodating, but with so many babies in NICU, they only have so much time for each baby and each baby’s parents. And what’s with doctors who aren’t personable? We had one doctor, I kid you not, that I couldn’t even understand because their accent was so thick. We’re talking about the future of my child and I can’t understand what you’re telling me. So frustrating!

Breastfeeding in NICU: This was interesting. Starting something new for the first time in your life that is extremely intimate in a room filled with crying babies, parents, nurses, doctors, and beeping machines couldn’t be more uncomfortable. Oh yeah, they draw the curtains for you, but come on, it’s only so private. Plus, you’re sitting in their uncomfortable rocking chair in an awkward position and everyone’s looking at you like,”Is the baby breast-feeding?” The nurses and lactation consultants were great at giving me good advice. They were one of the only pros to being in NICU. I tried too hard with Hudson to make it work and finally after relaxing a bit, and not trying so hard, he took to it like a champ. I actually learned from Ellisa–once they let her try breast-feeding–that the baby knows what it’s doing. You can’t push breast feeding on a baby. You have to let the baby come to you. Letting my babies lead me was the most valuable thing I learned. My first lesson from my daughter.

The end of our two weeks: Hudson got discharged 15 days after being born. I thought that was pretty fast considering they were 7 weeks premature. I was so excited to finally be taking home one of my babies. But boy was I nervous! I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous before in my life. I was literally sick to my stomach and even had to leave the room during discharge instructions. I mean honestly, they just hand you your baby and wave goodbye. All the while I’m thinking, “What am I supposed to do with this thing now? I sure hope I don’t accidentally kill it.” I’m not exaggerating either. I was really worried I would accidentally kill my child. They are so little, especially Hudson being a preemie at 4.11 lbs. They’re just so fragile and a huge responsibility. The biggest responsibility you’ll ever have.

Hudson on his way home!

Hudson on his way home!

The day we brought Hudson home was a gorgeous day. One of the best all year actually. Sunny and in the mid 70’s. And I was on cloud 9. Except there was another cloud hanging over me. My sweet Ellisa. Do I just leave her there in that cold scary place called NICU while me and daddy go home and enjoy our son? It felt so unfair to be happy with one twin while another was suffering. But we went home. Hudson and all. Thrilled. And we enjoyed Hudson as much as nervous first time parents could enjoy their newborn baby.

After getting somewhat comfortable with Hudson at home, I remember thinking it won’t be much longer until Ellisa will be able to come home too. A few days after Hudson came home, Ellisa got transferred to Central St. Davids. It wasn’t for another two months before she came home.

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*Fair warning: I will most likely add content to this post as I remember more about the first two weeks in NICU.

One Response to “Managing Twins: The first two weeks, NICU”
  1. Grandpa Tom says:

    Kenz–I think your memory is pretty “right on” for this time in NICU. I know I will never
    forget the whole experience…from a much different perspective. Most of all was the
    fear of the unknown about Ellisa’s condition and her future. That was the hardest for
    me. Thank goodness she is doing so well as she approaches her 1st Birthday.
    Such a blessing…both of the peanuts.

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