Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Life in the NICU

It's only been a few weeks, but already the whole NICU experience feels like it was a lifetime ago. It feels like it was a different world.

Now, where did I leave off? (Sorry, this will probably be a little rambling - I am trying to get it all out in the 20 minutes I am pumping)

While I was still being stitched up (thanks for putting my ab muscles back together, Dr. B!), the NICU teams (5 people for each baby!) took the babies from the OR. They asked SH if he wanted to go with them and he didn't know what to do. He didn't know whether to stay with me or go with them. I told him he had to go with the girls. Someone had to be with them. So off he went to get his first taste of the NICU.

Meanwhile, I was taken to a recovery room where I was put back on magnesium (to prevent a seizure) and could not get out of bed for 24 hours. That meant I couldn't go visit the babies, not even in a wheelchair. It broke my heart. Just another twist of the knife by the universe in the whole baby making journey, I guess. SH came back with reports on the girls. He also made sure to bring me pictures. Overall, they were healthy. They were 4lb7oz and 4lb8oz - probably the biggest babies in the NICU. They just needed to mature a little more. Both girls needed oxygen and I was so grateful I had the steroid shots a few days before so neither one needed to be on a ventilator. The nurses were waiting for me to pump before they fed the girls anything. They wanted the first thing they gave them to be colostrum from me. Even if it was just a drop (which it pretty much was).  Once I was taken to my room and got settled in, SH went back and forth to the NICU to deliver my pumped colostrum/milk and kept me posted on what was happening with them. When SH was in the NICU we would do Face Time so I could see them and the nurses could give me updates on how they were doing.

At this point, I was starting to see why they wouldn't let me out of bed. The magnesium is awful! I was so out of it. SH said I was slurring my words. I could barely keep my eyes open but I couldn't really sleep either. It felt like I would fall asleep and start dreaming, but I was also aware of being awake. It was really odd. I was really hot. I probably couldn't have stood up even if I wanted to.  I think I had some conversations with doctors and nurses that I don't really remember.  I'm not sure why anyone thought it was a good idea to ask me any questions during that time.

Finally, it was time to stop the magnesium and visit Paige and Riley. I think it was around midnight by the time I finally made it up to the NICU. I was exhausted and really overwhelmed by the whole thing. You have to scrub in before entering the NICU. Then there are just so many machines making so many noises and all sort of alarms are constantly going off. It's a little terrifying at first. Then I see my babies all hooked up to wires and IV's and all alone in their isolettes. I finally got to hold them, but honestly, at that point, I think I was too overwhelmed by everything to relax and just be with them. When we came back the next morning, they had put Paige on a CPAP to help her breathe easier. Her lungs still needed a little help so this was basically forcing air into her lungs. There was a huge tube going across her little face and when I saw her I just burst into tears (the beginning of lots of crying). Riley was still being given oxygen but that tube wasn't nearly as big and intimidating.  Thankfully, Paige only needed the CPAP for a couple days before her lungs figured out what they were supposed to be doing and she was back to just needing some oxygen.

It took me a few days to feel a little more relaxed and know what was going on. I learned to tune out most of the noise and know what different alarms meant and what all the numbers on their monitors were. I was able to hold them and do skin-to-skin without feeling like I was going to break them or pull some sort of wire off of them. We helped with taking their temps and changing their diapers before feeding them. SH learned to be a master swaddler (I still struggle with getting a good swaddle) I started trying to breastfeed them but it still took too much energy for them to do it for a full feeding so we still had to give them bottles of pumped milk. They were getting almost all breast milk by now with only an occasional supplement of formula. They made improvements everyday, though sometimes there were setbacks. All preemies have what they called Brady's (bradycardia - slow heart rate) and they aren't a big deal as long as they are able to self correct without intervention, but Riley was having more than usual so she had to have an EKG. So for about a day we were worried that Riley might have some sort of heart problem. Thankfully, it turned out to be nothing. The doctors thought maybe it was just happening because of the magnesium I was getting before delivery.

At first, no one would give us any sort of time frame for when they might go home. All they would say is they usually go home by their due date. They were born 7 weeks early! I couldn't even think about the possibility of them being there for 7 weeks. We were really hoping they would be able to leave the hospital once I was discharged. Because my blood pressure was still high from the preeclampsia, I stayed in the hospital for 6 days.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen. I had to go home without them. Leaving that hospital without my babies was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever had to do. As we drove away, I just cried. I looked over at SH and he was crying, too. I couldn't believe that after everything we went through to have these girls that I still had to wait for our family to all be together.  I knew they were in good hands, but they should have been going home with us.

It was in that first day or two after I was discharged that the NICU doctor started talking discharge for the girls. And possibly by the end of that week. Both girls were able to maintain their oxygen levels and were taken off of oxygen. They were both able to take all their feedings by mouth so their feeding tubes were removed. Every time we got to the NICU and saw some sort of tube removed was cause for celebration. The best day was the morning we got there and Paige was in an open bassinet. Being in an open bassinet and maintaining their body temp was the last step to going home. We had started calling the isolette the glass case of emotion so it was great to see them get out of it.

So, after only 10 days in the NICU Paige and Riley were discharged and they were going home together. The first few nights at home were nervewracking. I'm sure every new parent worries about if their baby is still breathing, but after seeing their oxygen levels fall and heart rates slow on the hospital monitors, we were especially freaked out. How would we know if something was wrong? I think we spent most of those first nights constantly checking on them and just watching to make sure they were breathing. We have relaxed a little now, but still watch them for awhile once we put them down to sleep. I suppose that worry will always be there.

We are grateful that our girls were never really in any danger. Nothing was wrong with them - they just needed to cook a little longer. It was a stressful situation, but I always knew both girls would be going home with us. There was a baby next to us that was really tiny and had been there for at least a month. She had toys and pictures and even a mini ipod in her isolette. She was definitely there for the long haul. We saw her parents there more than any others, though we never talked to them. This baby did not seem to be doing well. We would hear the doctors discussing her case if we were there during rounds, but couldn't understand any of the medical jargon. One day, SH asked one of our nurses about her. She was apparently born at around 24 weeks and her prognosis was not good. The nurse said she didn't think she would make it. I really hope the nurse is wrong and that little girl pulls through. I think about that family sometimes and wonder how they are. Then I look at my two healthy babies and realize that, despite everything we had to go through, we really are very lucky.


  1. I can't even begin to imagine what that must be like, even though I know the reality is that I may find out first hand. I am so incredibly glad that both girls are healthy and doing well. Thank you for sharing your story. I am looking forward to future updates!

  2. The NICU is definitely a scary place. I saw some babies that had been there for quite a while and unfortunately was visiting one evening when another baby passed. It's things like that that make you realize how lucky you are to have 2 healthy babies. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Tears! Tears of sympathy and tears of joy! I can't believe all you guys have been through, but it's all worth it now, mama.

  4. I cannot imagine everything you and the girls went through, and I'm so happy that they're home and thriving. I can't wait for your next update to see how they're doing now!

  5. so glad they are doing well. I am sure the NICU is not a fun place to be and I am glad that got to go home with you quickly! so happy for you!!! sometimes it seems like just yesterday that you found out your were pregnant!

  6. Wow - what a journey... I mean, obviously a journey with infertility, but even with your delivery and in being able to take the girls home. Amazing. I'm so, so, SO happy for you and your little family of four :)

  7. It just seems so unfair when you have to deal with the NICU after infertility. But it sounds like your girls are strong an healthy and it's wonderful everyone is home together now.

  8. So glad both girls are home and healthy! I can't even imagine how hard it is to leave them in the hospital, even though I'm sure they were in good hands. You are one strong mama!

  9. I'm really glad you shared this story. I have a friend who is currently pregnant with twins and we were just talking about her apprehension about her girls coming early (she's had some risk factors already) and reading your post, although it sounds like it was a really, really hard experience, gives me some hope that her experience will go as well as yours did. As in, I am glad the girls were born at the weight the were, they were as healthy as they were, and they are now HOME! Which is so exciting. You must be very, very strong to get through all of this and I cannot imagine how scary those first few nights were!