Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A week and a day in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

So much has happened in the past week that I am not even sure where to begin. I woke up on March 26th feeling trepidatious about having major abdominal surgery and about the well-being of the twins after being born at 32 weeks and 3 days gestation. I was also excited and just wanted the surgery to be on time. Unlike many things in my 6-week hospital stay, the surgery happened promptly at 9:30 in the morning. They wheeled my bed to the operating room, I sat on the table and, after a team of very friendly anestesiologists had numbed me from the middle down, our twins were born almost simultaneously - fitting for two girls who had been sharing the same space for the past 32 weeks.

Other than the relief of hearing two tiny cries and getting to kiss my babies on the heads before the doctors took them to the NICU, I remember a few things about the surgery. One: The doctors and nurses were incredibly kind. They were professional and business-like, and also had unbelieveable bedside manner. I wasn't expecting anyone to be mean to me, but I didn't expect the added level of compassion either. Two: I could not stand the feeling of my legs and feet going numb. It was extremely bothersome to me to be unable to move my lower extremeties and yet somehow still able to feel them. Three: I am pretty positive they were hitting my uterus to make it contract after they sewed it up. This was disturbing.

And then we had babies. I had to spend time in a recovery room regaining my feeling, but as soon as I could competently move my feet, I was wheeled to the NICU to see the twins. Aside from one night in my old room, I have been sleeping beside Aviva and Violet ever since.

It has been a very eventful week. Violet had a collapsed lung her first night which led to a drain in her chest to remove air and a ventilator to help her breathe. It was excruciating to see her lying in her bed in pain (mostly from the drain). Fortunately, her lung healed quickly and within a few days (which felt a bit like an eternity to me) the drain and ventilator were removed. For the past several days she has been breathing room air on her own and her sister Aviva got the annoying CPAP (which puffs air in babies noses to remind them to breathe) removed today. I can now look at both of my babies' faces and see their noses. It has been a really good day.

I think that because I knew these babies would be born early no matter what, I was prepared for a certain amount of blood draws and needle pricks and tubes to help them in the early days. I have been much tougher than I ever thought I could be. I am the mom who broke down in sobs when Riley had to have a heel prick on his thrid or fourth day of life. But being in the NICU is on a whole other level.

It is very warm in our room and nurses and doctors come in at all hours to check on the babies. The lights are always on and many nights the door is left ajar. I am sure my lack of sleep has slowed my c-section recovery a bit, but it is amazing that both Neil and I have been able to sleep here since the babies were born. Our lives have taken on a rhythm of checking oxygen levels and every 3 hour feedings. We have become used to the whirr of the various machines and all the different beeps and other noises.

For all of the commotion and intensity of the NICU, it is also proving to be a very peaceful place. The highlights of my days so far are hours spent holding the babies. As more tubes and wires are removed, it has become easier to hold them together which is pretty fantastic.

Such a weight was lifted from my shoulders on March 26th when my girls were born and no longer in peril in my belly that I think in some ways, I am still floating through my days with relief. Next steps, teach the babies to eat on their own and fatten them up. Then, soon after that, we can finally go home and be a family. That is the day I am longing for most. I hope it will come soon.

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