Managing Twins Apart: 0-3 months

The first three months. Gosh. They were hard, no doubt. But sometimes I wonder if they were easier for me vs. a mom with completely healthy twins. I’m not at all suggesting I’m glad I had it the way I did, as I would prefer it to have been 10 times more difficult if it meant Ellisa would have been born healthy. Having Ellisa in NICU for 2.5 months was like having her in an institution. I know that sounds weird, but that’s how it felt. We were simply visitors to Ellisa while other people took care of her.

Here’s how a typical day went with one twin home and one in NICU.

8:00AM–Family members would visit Ellisa. This happened 2+ times a week. Those were usually the early morning slot that I never went to. I’m just not a morning person. I loved it when family would visit her without me because she got an extra visit that day and I aimed for family to interact with her as much as possible. Not just for my family but more importantly for Ellisa’s development. If I could have done it, I would have had someone there 24/7. I hate to think what went on when we were gone. Or shall I say what didn’t go on.

Aunt Courtney Visiting Ellisa

Aunt Courtney Visiting Ellisa

9:00–I would wake up, get myself ready for the day in about 10 minutes, and breast feed Hudson. Immediately afterwards I would pump–tricking my body into thinking two babies were nursing. I would freeze and store that milk for Ellisa. Usually while I was pumping, someone would show up. Aunt Courtney. Grandpa Tom. Grandma Walsh. The Purmas, or Uncle Frank, when they were in town. Once my help arrived and they were settled in with Hudson, I would grab a bite to eat–usually a pb&j to eat in the car–and rush off to the hospital.

10:45–Arrive at hospital. Park in garage. Walk to NICU (I swear this walk had to be at least 5 minutes). Sign in. Wash up. Walk to Bay 3, Bed 3. Breathe.

11:00–Visit Ellisa. I always dreaded walking in the door to the main room, wondering which nurse I would have. Did I like her? Could I understand her? Did she have a clue what was going on? It was a different experience with every shift. Ellisa’s bed was just left of the door so I could tell what was going on the second I opened it.

Sometimes Ellisa was already diapered, temperature checked, and was being feed before I got there. That was super annoying as I tried my hardest to get there in time so I could do all these things. These tasks were ALL I could do with her during visits other than hold her. They were important to me–to feel like a mom, that I could do something for my daughter. And it really got under my skin when they would take that “motherhood” away from me. Especially when I would miss a breast-feeding opportunity because THEY decided to go ahead and just give her a bottle. Not to mention the time and effort just to get there.Whatever’s more convenient for the nurse’s schedule I guess. Again, we were merely visitors.

Sometimes no one was there. I kinda liked these days because they felt like I was in charge of my baby girl. I would go over to Ellisa and do the routine: diaper change, temperature check, feed. Usually during my alone time, Ellisa’s nurse would notice me and come over to see if I had any questions. Most days I said, “No, I’m fine.” And that was it. Just like I liked it. However I should state for the record that I ALWAYS asked them to update me on her condition.

Mommy visiting Ellisa

Mommy visiting Ellisa

Most of the time a nurse was by her side knowing when I was to show up. The nurse would update me and I would begin her routine. After the routine, I would sit with Ellisa and just hold her. Stare at her. Dream about her future. There were good dreams. Dreams of a blonde curly-haired adorable little girl running with Daddy and laughing so hard they fall down together and land in a pile of hugs and kisses. There were bad dreams. Dreams of a blonde curly-haired adorable little girl sitting in a wheel chair, blind and unable to think or speak. These dreams came and went with every visit. These dreams came with every waking moment.

After 45 minutes to an hour I would lay her down in her warm wooden-boxed bed, check to make sure all her tubes and cords were loose, that she was comfortable, and kiss her on the forehead goodbye. I couldn’t wait to leave the otherworldly NICU environment but I couldn’t stand leaving her there either–especially when leaving her alone for the long night. To put it bluntly: It sucked.

12:00PM–Rush home and breast-feed Hudson. Pump. Lunch. Chores.

1:30–Leave for hospital. Sometimes I would go back to visit Ellisa but Charles would usually go during his lunch break.

2:00–Visit Ellisa.

3:00–Breast-feed Hudson. Pump. Chores.

5:00–Charles would go visit Ellisa if he got to leave work early. I would guess this was 25% of the time. Traffic was horrible and it just didn’t work into my schedule.

Daddy visiting Ellisa

Daddy visiting Ellisa

6:00–Breast-feed Hudson. Pump. Dinner.

7:30–Leave for hospital.

8:00–Visit Ellisa. If we could get family to watch Hudson at night, Charles and I would go together to visit her. If not, I usually went while Charles stayed home with Hudson. Since I could breast-feed Ellisa (at least the last month or so), it only made sense for me to go. Going with Charles was my favorite. He was great at making the best of our situation. We would usually find ways to laugh while walking up and down the NICU hallways and during our time with Ellisa. Yeah, we weren’t having a blast but we were making the best of it. If we went together we usually stayed a bit longer so that we each could spend some quality time holding Ellisa. We were usually the only parents in the NICU, so it was nice and quiet. I always found it sad that I didn’t see more parents visiting their babies. I was actually shocked at how few people I met. I’m not judging as I know how fortunate we were to have family to relieve us so we could see Ellisa as often as we did. I guess I was just surprised.


Charles and I visiting Ellisa

Charles and I visiting Ellisa

10:00–Head home from hospital. I remember always enjoying these rides since Charles was usually driving and it felt like the only time during the day that I could sit and breathe for more than 5 minutes. It was fall-like weather in Austin and I can recall the car windows being rolled down, sun roof open, soothing music playing, and cool fresh air blowing through me like a much needed nightly cleansing. Passing by skyscrapers, driving over the river, cruising down Riverside in silence. It was golden.

10:20–Breast-feed Hudson. Pump. Bed.

So, I did exactly what the doctors told me not to do. I slept with Hudson. I loved it and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Most nights he would fall asleep on his own in his bassinet. Then when he woke to feed, I would grab him and nurse him in bed until we both feel asleep again. I loved sleeping with my baby and he seemed to love it too.

2:30AM–Breast-feed Hudson. Pump. Back to Bed.

5:30–Breast-feed Hudson. Pump. Back to Bed.

And on and on it went for 2.5 months. If someone asked me today if I could do this again, I would most certainly say “no,” assuming I had a choice in the matter. But since I didn’t have a choice, I just did it. You just do it. You don’t think about it, you just keep going. And going. And going.

Until one day, someone tells you it’s time to take your daughter home.

I wanted so much for Ellisa to be home by October 31st, Halloween. That was their original due date. Then when that didn’t happen, I prayed for Ellisa’s discharge by Thanksgiving. Then when that didn’t happen, I stopped hoping. I was sick of being disappointed.

Halloween in NICU

Halloween in NICU

We actually got word a few days before Thanksgiving that she was ready to come home pending a sleep test. She failed her sleep test due to apnea episodes. We were then told that with an apnea monitor she could come home. That day even. Yes, before Thanksgiving just like I had hoped! What-do-ya-know, they couldn’t find an apnea monitor. And not just in the hospital. Not anywhere in Austin. Not even in San Antonio. Not EVEN on ebay! Are you kidding me? My daughter has to stay here because you can’t find a monitor?! I was furious. I was upset with irresponsible parents that hadn’t returned their monitors. I was frustrated with the hospital for not caring enough about my family to find a stupid monitor. I was angry that Ellisa couldn’t pass a test that she should have been able to pass months earlier if not for this whole damn mess! Finally a week later, a monitor appeared.

One extra week the hospital got to charge us. One extra week in NICU. One extra week without my daughter.

Ellisa on her way home!

Ellisa on her way home!

Ellisa came home on December 1, 2011–79 days after being born. I remember dreaming about her homecoming as a huge celebration filled with laughter and tears of joy, but on the day she came home, it was quiet, peaceful and uneventful. On one hand, we had always hoped she wouldn’t be in NICU near as long as she was. The constant stretch in time for recovery took any excitement away. On the other, I think we were too tired to make a big deal of it. Tired of NICU. Tired of juggling two babies in different places. Tired of being tired. We just wanted Ellisa home so some sort of normalcy could finally sweep over our home.

Normalcy? That never happened. I can say with complete conviction that our lives will never be normal again. But I don’t think anyone’s lives are normal after children. What did happen next was wonderful though. A normalcy I’m glad to not have back. The reason for living: Children.

Our first night as a family

Our first night as a family

One Response to “Managing Twins Apart: 0-3 months”
  1. Danielle says:

    Gosh, what a beautiful post, Mackenzie. My kids also being in the NICU, Vivi much longer than Max, I relate to this. Your kids will be so proud of your hard work and determination during those months (especially when they become parents). Kudos to you my friend! You’ve made it (well, at least through a year of it!)

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