Home sweet home: NICU, sleeping at the hospital and meeting the brothers
The girls were born on December 23 and stayed in the NICU for eight days. They were discharged on January, 1 2015. The eight days where the girls were in the hospital were hugely emotional and stressful. The nurses and doctors did their best to minimize pressure on parents and create a friendly environment. We were very blessed, our girls were healthy and did not need any medical intervention. There were parents facing many months to years with children in the NICU. Some of the babies were born weighing a little over a pound or fighting serious illness requiring many medications. I felt immense pressure seeing my girls hooked up to monitors and being confined to the hospital. I cannot fathom how families facing extended stays in the hospital must have felt.
The main concern for twins born at 34 weeks is their ability to feed enough to grow. The girls would wake for 20 minutes at a time so we needed to make sure the girls were eating during that time. I was determined to nurse the girls and did not want to use any supplementation. But, that plan had to change when the girls arrived 4 weeks early. The neonatal doctors told me the fastest way to get the girls out was to supplement with formula to encourage weight gain. The next decision was to use an NG tube or a bottle for feeding. The doctors decided to use the NG tube because it allowed them to deliver their nutrition directly into their stomach without any extra calorie expenditure.
So, for three days, I barely left the girls bedside. I used every possible technique to speed up my milk supply. I held them skin to skin for hours, pumped every 2 1/2 hours and hand expressed until I was sore. At first I only got a few drops of milk which I fed to the girls on a Q-tip. Seeing my girls being fed chemicals in a tube and IV fluids along with two days of antibiotics in their first days of life was beyond upsetting to me.
On the night of the third day, I was going to be released from the hospital which meant that I could not stay with the girls at night. One of the NICU nurses helped me secure a sleep room in the NICU for two nights. That same night my milk finally came in and the girls were nursing like pros. My amazing husband and sister brought me food from home to supplement salads and veggies at the hospital. I stayed with the girls every minute I could. I nursed, pumped, cuddled, ate and slept. It felt like I was in another world and all I wanted to do was pick up my beautiful baby girls and run from there.
My mother in law and husband brought the boys to come see me on day four. It was thrilling and awesome to see them. Because flu restrictions I had not been able to see them since I was admitted seven days earlier. So, when I got off the elevator at the hospital and saw their little faces and heard their sweet voices saying, “Mommy Mommy,” it was a very emotional moment. I was able to stay with them for 30 minutes before I had to go back and feed the girls. Leaving them was just as emotional and stressful. It was very difficult to leave them.
The sleep room was not available the following night and I had to leave the girls for one night and come home to sleep. That was a Sunday and the doctors were predicting the girls would come home later that week, on a Thursday or Friday. So, that night I packed up my things and stayed until the final feeding at 9:30. My sister picked me up at 10:30. I fell asleep on the way home. When I arrived, I was completely delirious with fatigue and emotions. Seeing the house all lit up for Christmas and knowing that my boys were sleeping upstairs in bed was overwhelming to me. But, when I got oi side and took a shower I changed modes and started packing up food and planning for the week ahead. I was going back to the hospital sleep room for the rest of the week the next day and I had to plan. Finally after planning meals and packing up food, I went upstairs to sleep in my own bed. As I was getting ready to lay down, a little face peeked around the door and tip toed into the room. Just what I needed, a sweet cuddle from one of my boys.
The next four days inched along. Every two and a half hours I fed the girls and pumped. Each feeding took 75 minutes. In between the early morning feeding and morning feeding I would perform a simple movement sequence in my room and go for a 20-30 minute walk around the hospital. The rest of the time, I sat and held the girls? One by one the small amount of external support was removed…their fluids, fat supplement and external feeding supplement. Then we weighed them every feeding pre and post nursing, it was tedious and nerve racking at the same time. The final tests came on Wednesday with the hearing screen and car seat challenge. Both girls passed the hearing screen. But, Madelyn failed the car seat challenge. Her oxygen saturation dropped while scrunched up,in the car seat. Fortunately when we attempted again in the afternoon with a new car seat and a new nurse who knew how to properly position the girls, both girls passed. The next morning the physician team gave us the green light to go home. What an amazing New Years day gift for our family!
We arrived home around lunchtime with our two little bundles. The boys were napping upstairs. Cameron was the first to wake up and he could not wait to meet his sisters. It was so adorable. William was second to wake up and he wanted to hold his sisters. My heart melted watching the boys connect with their sisters for the first time.