Reunited

I got the best news in a long time today. A college friend’s twin boys were reunited at 2 months old. Her second NICU baby got to come home from the hospital, 7 weeks after his brother.

In the middle of the joy I felt for my friend, though, I felt an upwelling of the sadness, anger and helplessness that tainted the joy of my own babies’ release from the hospital, over 5 years ago. Homecoming is one of the ways that the NICU experience can differ for parents of premature multiples in comparison to preemie singletons. Many twins and triplets are released from the hospital simultaneously, but many are not.

Our daughters were born 7 weeks early, but had few problems apart from their small size. J had a hole in her heart, which eventually resolved itself, and M had a facial cleft that turned out not even to require surgery. Neither of these conditions required hospitalization, so they were textbook “feeder growers,” newborns who were hospitalized until they had fattened up enough to maintain their own body temperature and had the strength to suck enough nutrition to keep them healthy.

Our girls didn’t need any assistance breathing; they’ve been verbal and long-winded since the start. They were keep in warm isolettes, and fed a mixture of high calorie formula and my breast milk through feeding tubes inserted through their noses and threaded into their stomachs. Every three hours came a diaper change, weighing, blood sugar measurement, temperature measurement and feeding. We watched every number as they rose and fell, and I promised myself I would take notes when they got home so as not to double feed one baby and starve the other. J and M were cared for by the same nurse, so their schedules were offset by 15 minutes. One benefit to having NICU babies was that they were on a clockwork schedule by the time they came home.

There were 3 criteria to be met, we were told, before the girls could come home. They had to weigh 5 lbs (2.25 kg), be able to maintain their own body temperature, and take 8 meals in a row by mouth, drinking at least 31 mls of formula/breast milk each time. Every now and then, when J asks for her “warmed up milk, please,” at breakfast or dinner, I wonder at the way she guzzles 8 oz of milk down and think back to the days I tried to get her drink 1 oz by force of will alone.

We wanted all the girls’ energy to go to growing at first. Somewhere in the first week, I think, they were introduced to doll-sized bottles. It took a few tries to get them to suck, first 1 ml, then 3, more and more each meal. They finally made it up to 31 mls at a time, but couldn’t keep it up two meals in a row. It was just too much work.

M couldn’t finish her bottle at every feeding, but she made an effort. Once, I was even allowed to let her suckle at my breast, although the nurses took her away before she exhausted herself. J was less predictable. She’d suck like a champ and then suddenly get distracted, seemingly more interested in playing with the bottle than drinking from it. Two weeks in, she broke our hearts by refusing two meals in a row and being put back on her feeding tube. It was the only time I saw my husband so upset that he couldn’t stay in the NICU to monitor every last detail of our babies’ care. A friend took him out for a beer.

When our girls were 2 weeks old, the hospital staff pronounced them to be the healthiest babies in the NICU. They could afford to be downgraded to a less fancy-schmancy NICU within the same hospital network. We talked it through and agreed to free up their beds. However, when the paperwork arrived, we were asked to sign a waiver releasing both the hospitals and the ambulance service of responsibility for the babies during their transport. There was no way we were signing that, so the girls stayed put.

Two days later, M was ready to come home. She hadn’t quite made the weight cutoff, but they couldn’t see any reason she wouldn’t be just fine at home. She passed the carseat test, and home we went.

mcominghomealone

J was still on her feeding tube. I felt more torn as a mother of twins in that moment than I ever did before or since. I was celebrating the health of one of my daughters, but leaving the other alone at the hospital, without even her sister with her. My husband was away for an army training exercise, and I was still recovering from my C-section. Fortunately, my father-in-law was able to stay for 3 weeks, and drove us the 30 miles to the hospital every day so that I could deliver breast milk and steal a few moments with J. I couldn’t stay too long, though, since M was in her carseat in the hospital parking garage with Grampy.

After 5 long, agonizing days, J was ready to come home. It finally felt like my life as a parent could start. My friend just ended 48 days of that waiting, and I hope that her heart can finally begin to heal.

Did you get to bring your babies home at the same time?

Sadia’s daughters, M and J, are still short for their nearly 6 years, but Sadia is short for her nearly 33, so it works out nicely. They guzzle milk, grow, and keep each other busy in El Paso, TX.

11 thoughts on “Reunited

  1. Your post gave me chills all over. My b/g twins are 28 months & I wonder when/if ever I will quite thinking back to those NICU days. They were born @ 33 wks & spent 17 days in the NICU. They were sweet & made excuses for my son for a couple days while his itty bitty sister got ready to come home. Lucky for us, it worked & they came home together. My worst nightmare was going home w/out them. That happened & then my worst nightmare turned into “what if” they come home one @ a time. Thx for making me normal that I reminisce about those days. I don’t have many who “get it”.
    Here’s to happy & healthy twins! :)

  2. Mine came home together. If I think back, it seems like my baby B was ready to be released a day before my baby A but the doc’s fudged it and let B stay a little longer. They knew we didn’t have anywhere to go (we were in a hospital 3.5 hours from home) and took pity on us. I can’t imagine bringing them home separately. I stayed with my girls almost every minute while they were in the hospital (I was allowed to sleep and shower there) although my mom took me out for lunch once. For a while after the girls were born, I was sad about our whole birth/NICU experience but now I’m just so thankful that it was so mild (8 days) and that we are ALL healthy.

  3. My 28-weekers did not come home together. My daughter came home after 69 days which we expected because she was breathing on her own at 29 weeks. Determined little girl! My son, though, spent 101 days there, a full month longer than his sister. It took him that much longer to learn how to breathe all the time. Too much work to eat and breathe! That was the longest month of my life!

  4. I feel so blessed to have had babies that required almost no medical care after they were born. They were born via c-section at 37+2 after a routine check up showed that Joshua was having some trouble. So he required oxygen, tube feeding and blood sugar checks but only for about 24 hours. I am at awe of the strength of the moms who need to leave their kids in the NICU for any length of time. I cannot begin to understand the complicated and inflicted feelings that it much produce.

  5. We were lucky. Our b/g twins were born at 36-3 and they both came home with me 5 days later. I will never forget that first night home. What doesn’t kill us truly does make us stronger!!!!!

  6. Hello Sadia,
    I came here through your blogpost today. My girls were born at 30 +3/7 weeks gestation and spent 5 weeks at the NICU with the exact same symptoms as your daughters (meaning one had the DA and the other was breathing on her own etc etc) and they came in a day apart. We knew it was going to be only one day difference and yet it was scary with crazy thoughts about the other one not coming going on in my head.

  7. NICU parents are some of the strongest I know….I will never understand the strength you have.
    We did bring our girls home together, they were born at 37 weeks and didn’t require NICU time.

  8. My boys are almost 9 months now. They were born at 34 weeks 3 days and the only thing wrong with them was that they were tiny. One of them only stayed in NICU for 2 days and was released from the hospital when I was, the other one stayed for 15 days, the longest, hardest days of my life. I couldn’t stop crying when I had to leave one of my babies to the hospital and NICUs here only allow parents to visit twice daily for half an hour at a time, so I only saw him for a little while and I was agonizing over every drop of milk he’d drink, same as you. I felt torn in half and it wasn’t until we were able to bring him home that I finally breathed.

  9. My girls were born at 33 weeks, 4 days. Our Baby B was slightly larger and stayed in the NICU for two weeks, but our Baby A was smaller and had trouble with bradying, and she was there for six weeks. They will be seven in July, and I still have a hard time remember their first few weeks. It is comforting to read these other stories, and know that other parents felt the same way.

  10. We did not bring our boy/girl twins home at the same time. They were born at 35 weeks and started off in the same hospital. After three days, our boy was transferred to another hospital. For 17 days, we travelled between two hospitals. Now we travel between home and hospital as our little girl came home first. Our little boy is at 11 weeks and counting in the NICU. One of us visits him everyday as we can’t stand the thought of him being alone even just one day. His sister and we miss him a lot.

  11. my younger girls came home at the same time (thank god!)and their only problum was that thay wre very thin,but that is just their build.however my older twins didnt sofie was home only a few weeks before sara but i remeber them as the longest few weeks of my life and sara was not progressing aswell as she should of and it worryd me but eventuly she came home.

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