View From the NICU

Jenny’s and Sully’s entrance into the world was almost as spontaneous as their conception. There was no labor. There was no grand anticipation. There were no family or friends impatiently waiting for their arrival in the waiting room.

What there was, was William and I trying to navigate what was to happen next. We had such very little time to process this moment; one minute we were thinking about the twins’ arrival, the next minute they were here. The hours after delivery and my time in recovery are a blur. I remember only bits and pieces; I remember William going to the NICU, our babies’ new safe haven outside of their comfy womb, and spending a lot of time with them while I was in recovery. I remember thinking about all of the bad things that could happen, but somehow managing to keep it together. I remember seeing them for the first time, in separate rooms, and wanting to be overcome with emotion, but mostly feeling nauseous from the pain meds and afraid that I was going to puke all over my newly birthed daughter.

Our NICU stay was just short of one month. In that time, the twins got the testing, medicine, and care they needed in order to thrive. Jenny persevered and was moved from intensive care, to the lower level of care “special care” side of the nicu within days. Sully had a few more challenges than Jenny did to start and needed some respiratory support before finally being reunited with his sister in special care. In the grand scheme of things we were the lucky ones, and I know and value and am grateful for this. However, I can sum up the experience with one sentiment: it was shitty.

No mother prepares to leave the hospital after delivering a child, with no baby(ies) in her arms. We didn’t pack two tiny babies in to car seats and leave with balloons and smiles, I didn’t sit in the backseat staring at them and yelling at my husband to slow down all the way home, we didn’t show them off to family and friends. We waited four weeks to do those things; for four weeks, I came and left the hospital, leaving my newborns to be cared for by someone other than their mother.

I felt very resentful over this reality during the twin’s time in the hospital, and over the last year. It’s been difficult, as their mom and as their home for 31 weeks, not to somehow blame my body or myself for their premature birth. “Mommy guilt” didn’t take long to kick in. I also struggle with the fact that don’t think this outcome was very fair; nothing about this pregnancy went as planned or expected. Couldn’t I have at least had the delivery I had hoped for? Couldn’t that, if nothing else, somehow resembled what we had planned? I wanted to have my baby shower (which was canceled,) I wanted to revel in the birth of our babies and have a “I am woman hear me roar” moment after delivery, I wanted to spend this time with my husband and reflect on our pregnancy and the imminent changes about to occur in our lives and in our relationship, and I know all of this sounds petty. I had two beautiful babies regardless of how they came in to the world, but it’s important I’m honest. And the truth was: it was really shitty.

The whole experience taught me many positive things, though. For starters, it taught me that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was prior to this. The physical recovery of a c-section, the emotional toll of two fragile babies in the hospital, the no sleep from worry (and pumping) all hours of the night, pulling twelve hour days in the NICU; all amazing feats I’m proud of. The NICU gave me lessons in patience and acceptance of the things I can’t control; something this crazy anxiety-ridden new first time mom really needed. The NICU taught me that there are people, and a lot more than I realized, that care about me. Family, friends, co workers, they all rallied to help out any way they could; which allowed me to realize I was deserving of the support and help. It taught me to love each day, each moment, and each thing no matter how insignificant with my babies. And it taught me to appreciate my husband in ways I didn’t know I needed to. The most important lesson I learned was this: this was only a drop in the bucket. There was a life we were building outside of that hospital and that would be what the twins would remember; not the month that we, or they, weren’t together…because they did come home…and we couldn’t have been happier… and just as I HAD expected, things got crazy, fast.

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