Those of you who have read our first blog post are aware that Hudson and Hunter were NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) babies. When I started this blog, I knew that I would eventually share a few thoughts on our NICU experience, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. In the future, I may elaborate further, but for now, I wanted to share what it felt like to have babies in the NICU, as a first time mom.
Our twins were born near 33.5 weeks, a little early, but not incredibly premature. I’ll spare you the details (for now!) on the shenanigans of my delivery and just tell you that it was not like what you see in happy movies. Although, I did laugh through it, that was only because laughing is my response to discomfort. I did not get to hold either of our boys right away, or even hours later. When they made their way out, each baby was shown to me for a few brief seconds, then whisked away to be cared for by the amazing NICU nurses. The (also amazing) labor and delivery staff informed me that after I had gotten cleaned up and spent a little time recovering, they could wheel me to see our new arrivals. So, about two hours later, Derrick and I were super excited to be on our way to our kiddos.
I saw Hudson first, because his little incubator was closest to the door. He took my breath away immediately. Instead of being filled with overwhelming joy though, I was filled with about 50% joy and 50% worry. A seemingly endless list of questions occupied my mind. I wondered things like: Can he breathe okay? Has he been upset? Is everything working right? What are all of these cords? What can I do to help him? And probably a million other things. I then moved to the next incubator to see Hunter. The same thoughts and feelings flooded my mind. While I was in absolute awe of our twins, I was almost sad. Imagery is so, so powerful. To see your children connected to countless wires and tubes is heartbreaking. On top of this, we knew we could not hold them until the next day. A feeling of helplessness runs through you when looking into those little plastic boxes. You want to scoop them up and ignite them with the ability to thrive, but you can only wait.
In the next few weeks, we were able to visit the boys during “care” times. We were able to feed them, change diapers, and take temperatures. The doctor had told us we could expect the twins to stay for about a month, until they had grown and developed a bit more. They needed to be able to do basic things such as drink from bottles, regulate their own body temperatures, and pass a car seat test. Every day, we made it to as many care times as possible, even in the middle of the night. We were rooting so hard for our little guys to mature faster than what was probably possible. This daily routine became our new normal.
The whole waiting game also kind of puts you in an emotional cycle of hope and disappointment. Because babies are babies, they can take one step forward and two steps back so easily. We would find out during one visit that they might be discharged soon and get the opposite news during the next visit. On top of this, when we found out that Hudson needed a little extra attention due to his septo optic dysplasia, our minds went crazy. The unknown had never been scarier. The desire to help him had increased a hundred fold and the inability to do so grew that much more frustrating.
I won’t go into Hudson’s story any further, as it gets a little involved, but we are happy to say that our boys came out of their NICU experience wonderfully. They eventually met their requirements for discharge and were released after about a month. We were over the moon. NICU nurses will always be saints, in my opinion. Not only do they care for so many babies, but they deal with parents constantly asking questions, and sometimes even having breakdowns. I have never felt so hopeful, yet nervous, simultaneously. During Hudson and Hunter’s hospital stay, everything else in life felt so much smaller. My heart goes out to all other NICU parents out there. Not all families are so fortunate to have their babies come home after a month, or even at all. If there is any advice I could give, it is to be as patient as possible, don’t let the cycle of emotion break you, and hold your babies at every chance you get. It’s not just them that will need the hug.
Here are a few extra NICU photos from Landstuhl, Germany. I may post a few from Walter Reed at another time. Feel free to comment or message and share your thoughts and/or experiences!