Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An update from the NICU

I am enjoying a rare moment -- it's quiet, I'm alone, I'm NOT attached to a breast pump, and I'm warm, comfortable, and fairly awake. I'm not sure the last time this happened.... I've wanted to post for days on end -- and I've really NEEDED to post, for sanity's sake -- but the opportunity and energy just haven't been there until now.

The babies are 3 weeks, 4 days old today -- gestational age is 36 weeks, 3 days. Both babies are still in the NICU, but they have graduated to a different section -- where babies go before they get discharged. We have been there since November 29 and may be there for another week or so.

One or two people asked for names and photos of the babies. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Obviously, since I haven't posted my own photo and I don't use my real name, I'm interested in protecting my privacy. Naturally, I want to do the same for the twins. I'd like to come up with good blog names for them at some point, but for now, Baby Boy and Baby Girl will have to suffice.

So, life in the NICU . . . How shall I describe it? It is often beautiful and wonderful, because it is the place where your babies are. And many other beautiful premature babies and their parents are there, too, along with nurses who know and care so much. But it is also cold and impersonal and deeply frustrating because it is the place where your babies are (it is not home). Along with other premature babies, some of whom are much sicker than your own, who make you feel grateful that yours don't have greater complications -- and some of whom are making progress much faster than your own, and you experience for the first time what it's like to compare your child to another or to compare yourself to another parent, wondering why your child is lagging behind and whether there's anything you can do to improve your child's outcomes.

There are moments when your NICU experience -- well, my NICU experience, I should say -- makes me feel more like a visitor or a babysitter than a parent. I mean, for weeks, I had to ask a nurse if I could pick up one of my babies. I still have to ask, "Do you want me to change her diaper?" when I know good and well that it's time to do that. I never imagined this as I anticipated getting an HCG level high enough for it to indicate I was pregnant. It is simply odd to have someone else "in charge" of what you do as a parent.

Yet there are moments when it isn't odd at all. You -- well, I -- feel deep, deep gratitude that this expert person is there to teach me what to do and when to do it. It makes me wonder what in the world parents who don't get all of this hands-on training DO when it's time to take their tiny babies home -- even full-term babies! They are still small and utterly dependent on you.

I am pretty sure that I have cried more during the past three weeks than I have in the past year, at least. I'm not a cryer. But the hormones, the stress, the lack of sleep, the uncertainty and fear... all of that together plays a number on me and meltdowns have sometimes been a daily occurence. Oh and the mood swings are crazy! I'm not a moody girl, but oh my gosh!! I've noticed that within minutes, I've gone from feeling desperate and hopeless to feeling inspired and deeply contented.

I also feel very selfish at times -- frustrated that I have to pump every 2-3 hours and I can't seem to really find a schedule that works well, what with twice-daily hospital visits including attempts at breastfeeding, which have to be timed with the pumping. I've also been a big wimp about pumping in the middle of the night. When I can realize that I'm being selfish, I then feel guilty for feeling this way and I tell myself I should focus on the positives of the situation -- at least I can produce enough milk for both of them to be nourished by... at least this is something I CAN DO to contribute to their care... and worst of all, hello? HOW HARD DID YOU TRY TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN? ALL THAT MONEY AND TIME ON FERTILITY TREATMENTS! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?? AT LEAST YOU HAVE TWO BABIES!!!

My husband has been a great support through all of this. I'm learning to tell him how I'm feeling rather than keep it bottled up -- even if I tell him after the fact. Just telling him about my mood swings and talking about my feelings (as my voice shakes because I'm on the verge of tears --again) has helped a great deal. Last Friday night we went out on a date to a nice restaurant -- didn't get there until almost 9 p.m. because I had to pump when we got home from the hospital and then I fell asleep . . . But it was so wonderful to be with him alone for a few hours and simply talk. I don't think I have ever taken him for granted but I do think I've taken the endless time we've had to do whatever we wanted for granted. These babies are his first and my first, despite first marriages for both of us, so we've spent a LOT of adult years doing whatever we pleased, whenever we pleased. Those days are over, but now it seems that the time we have alone and together will be sweeter and richer.

Okay, I don't know if this post will make much sense to anyone reading it . . . But these are my feelings in recent days. I think the babies are coming home next week and I can't wait, if for no other reason than simplification of our schedule. More importantly, I can't wait to bring them HOME -- into the home where we have a wonderful nursery for them, into the house where they will grow up, into the neighborhood where they'll make friends, just down the street from where they'll go to elementary school.

Thank you all so much for your good wishes for us. I appreciate your support. And again, although I'm not doing much commenting, I'm trying to keep up with my favorite blogs, even if I read two weeks' worth of posts in one sitting. I'm thinking of you all and wishing you the best in your own journeys to parenthood.