Friday, March 16, 2007

Life in the NICU....again.....

So it's all coming back to in the NICU. I had forgotten about the monitors, the alarms, all the sounds that go on in the NICU. I hear the alarms in my sleep now.

I don't even know where to start....these feelings are so familiar to me. The guilt and the deep sadness that goes with not having my babies with me at home....the disappointment that it's a nurse and not me who's controlling how much they eat and when, the heartbreak I feel when I think of my babies laying awake in an incubator and not being there to hold them every waking minute. The other day after a feeding, Landon spit up and I had to change his outfit. The nurse suggested I put him back in the incubator so his little tummy could settle and she assured me he'd be asleep within a few minutes. But he just laid there awake, staring at the window of his incubator. So the nurse covered his incubator with a blanket so the light wouldn't be in his eyes. 5 minutes later I peeked in at him in the hopes that he had fallen asleep but he was still awake, staring at the bright colors of the blanket. I couldn't help but get all teary-eyed...if he was at home with me, I would have been able to rock him to sleep (yes, it's a horrible habit and you'd think I'd have learned from doing this with Cole and Bella!!) but I crave to be near them all the time and the time I have with them is so little, that I treasure every second of it. And for even those 10 minutes that he stayed awake in his incubator without any human contact was too much for me to bear....

Okay, so enough about me whining about depressing it is to have my babies in the NICU....let's talk about how the little guys are doing. First of all, I have to say how incredibly sweet they both are....I could just eat them up and pinch them all over, except neither of them have an ounce of fat on their bodies to save their lives! Seriously, their skin just kind of hangs off their arms and's so wrinkly and so thin, you can practically see every vein in their bodies.

One of the problems I had been experiencing, which is exactly what I had experienced with Cole and Bella was that I didn't feel attached to them at first. It was more extreme in this case with Garrett and Landon though because I was alseep with general anesthesia when they were born so I never even got to hear their first cries or lay my eyes on them or even touch them until 18 hours after they were born. And then when I walked in the NICU to see them for the first time, again just like with Cole and Bella, they felt like strangers to me. Here I was looking at these beautiful little tiny human beings who I had carried inside me for 8 months, I had felt them move, I had felt each and every hiccup, yet when I looked at them, I didn't experience that "instant motherly love" everyone tells me about. The good thing is though, having been through this same exact thing with Cole and Bella, was that I knew the feelings would come naturally once I had time to hold them and really bond with them.

My first bonding moment with Landon was last Tuesday....he had just eaten his bottle and he was laying against my shoulder, looking around at all the lights and people in the room. Then I said something to him and he lifted his head off my shoulder and looked me right in the eye, as if he was saying "Oh, hi Mom...I know your voice"....and then I started singing to him. Now I am definitely no American Idol by any means but it didn't seem to matter to him. He just sat there and stared directly into my eyes as I sang to him. And when the song was over and I stopped singing to him, he'd close his eyes and just lay comfortably back on my shoulder. Then I'd sing to him again and he'd open his eyes and lift his head up and stare back at me. It was an incredible feeling and I think my heart just about burst open with so much love for him...THAT was the feeling I had been waiting for. And now there's no going back...I know with each and every passing day, my love for him will continue to grow, passionately and unconditionally. And then the bond with him became even stronger yesterday when I "attempted" to breastfeed him for the first time. I say "attempted" because I had no clue what I was doing....between trying to get the boppy pillow to stay on my lap, get him in a good position, I had 2 nurses holding my boobs in the right position for him, and trying to stay relaxed and hope I had enough milk for one feeding....I was amazed I kept together!!! He is a breastfeeding pro, as if he knew exactly what to do. The nurse showed me how to express milk to my nipples and after that, he latched right on and hung in there with me. I didn't have much milk for him and it was a lot of work for him...he'd eat for a couple seconds and then he'd need a break. I felt bad that he had to work so hard for it but the nurses kept encouraging me and reminding me to stay focused and relaxed. One of the nurses commented on how content and comfortable he looked with me, as if we had known each other for years...she said "he definitely knows your his mama"....and that was yet another bonding moment for Landon and me.

With Garrett, it's a little different because he's being gavage-fed so the only opportunity I really have to bond with him is to make sure I'm holding him and talking to him during his feedings. I make sure he has a pacifier in his mouth during his feedings so he learns to suck while his tummy is being filled. The first time I offered him the pacifier, he was funny...he wasn't quite sure what to do with it but after a few minutes he sucked it right into his mouth and went to town with it. Now his sucking reflex is getting much stronger and the nurses feel he may be ready to bottle feed in the next few days. My bonding moment with him happened almost right away because the first time I held him, he was wide awake and very alert. As soon as I started talking to him, he looked right at me and didn't look away at all, even as he heard other voices around us. He has such a weak, tiny little cry (I'll try to figure out how to upload a video I have of him crying)...and the nurses all say it's such a distinct, different cry than they've ever heard. I think it's just because he's so tiny...Landon sounds much stronger when he cries, which is very rare. But Garrett has a tiny bit of a diaper rash so when he's changed, he cries, which breaks my heart because it sounds so sad to hear his little tiny cry. And I can't help but be so protective of Garrett because he's so tiny and seems so fragile, compared to Landon, who is still small himself. But when you look at them together, there is an instant feeling of wanting to protect Garrett because he's such a little tiny guy.

And what a difference a couple weeks in the womb will do!!! With Cole and Bella, we had so many setbacks and's nice with these little guys that the biggest challenge right now is making sure they put on weight, keep their feedings down and learn how to breathe, suck and swallow. So far they haven't experienced reflux, sleep apnea, brain bleeds...nothing we had to worry about with Cole and Bella. It's nice to go into the NICU and hear nothing but positives about how Garrett and Landon are doing. When we'd visit Cole and Bella, the nurses would usually start off with "So do you want the good news or the bad news first?"

Cole and Bella got to see Landon and Garrett for the first time on Tuesday....I was able to hold each baby up to the window for them to see. They were amazed at how tiny the babies were...Cole loved that Garrett has a pacifier...Bella loved watching Landon eat his bottle. Now everyday Bella asks me where the babies are and when they're coming home. She has promised to be my little helper....Cole could care less. Bella loves to look at my c-section incision and examine it...she always asks "does it hurt?"...she seems very interested in knowing how the babies got out of my belly. I'm more concerned about the day she wants to know how they got IN my belly...hahahaha!!!

The other day when I was pumping breast milk, she wanted to come in and see what I was doing. I had told Tim I needed him to watch the kids for a few minutes and I needed it to be quiet upstairs so if he could keep them downstairs, I'd appreciate it. Next thing I know he's letting Bella into the room, saying she wants to see me. So there I was trying to pump both boobs with her wanting to hold the bottles up to my boobs, wanting to know what I was doing, how was the milk coming out, could she have the milk, why wasn't it chocolate milk....she was driving me nuts with all her endless questions!! Now when I go pump, I tell her "Mommy has to be pump some milk for Garrett and Landon" and when I'm done, she says "Mommy, did you pump it?"...she's very interested in everything that has to do with the process.

The boys lost a little bit of weight in the last week but they are slowly gaining it back. Garrett now weighs 3 lbs, 8 oz and Landon is 4 lbs, 11 oz. The nurses thought that Landon might be ready to move to an open isolette yesterday but his temperature was a point below where it needed to be so they were going to give it another day. They're both doing really well and all the nurses have said how sweet they are. Many of the nurses who were in the NICU when Cole and Bella were there are still there....many of them remembered us and they were astounded by the fact that we now have another set of twins...especially one of the neonatologists. He's always been into research and very interested in things that are different....the first night we visited the NICU, he was there and asking all kinds of questions. He seemed fascinated that with both pregnancies, we experienced such a big growth discordance...he said "I wonder what the chances are of that happening two times in a row..." me...I didn't think it was really that fascinating. And then the fact that we had to do IVF to conceive Cole and Bella and went through another IVF cycle after that with our frozen embryos yet these little guys were conceived naturally, with no medical intervention. He seemed very fascinated with that too for some reason. He's interested to know if the boys are identical or not...we are too...and Dr Dixon told us that he sent the placenta over to the lab to be examined so we should have a report soon. He couldn't tell just by looking at it if it was one big placenta or two fused placentas. The boys do look a lot alike, except in hair color. But if Garrett was as big as Landon, I'd definitely have a hard time figuring out who is who.

So in the meantime, we just go about our crazy's hectic and I walk around with my head in the clouds most of the time, feeling very fuzzy and unfocused. I can't remember from second to second what I'm supposed to be doing...the other day I put something in the microwave for Cole and Bella and as I was walking to the microwave to retrieve the food, I actually forgot what I was doing and went back and sat down. Then Bella said "where's my food?" and I said "what food?"....she pointed to the microwave and I yet another "oh crap" moment!! I'd forget my own name these days if that were possible. I'm trying my best to keep up with the pumping because I really want the boys to at least have some breasst milk in the beginning...the nurses keep reminding me to get lots of rest, stay very hydrated, make sure I'm eating enough....and I think "okay, I'll do that in between visiting the boys in the NICU, taking care of Cole and Bella, making sure the house is clean, and oh yeah try to take care of myself in the meantime...did I even shower today or eat breakfast??" And I know things will only get more crazy once the boys are at home but I'm looking forward to it and beginning our life as a family of 6....

Here are some recent pics of the boys....

Landon (you get a sense of how small he is compared to my hand)

Garrett (that's my sister's hand in the picture..look how small he is!)


Anonymous said...

Helene, I haven't "talked" to you in ages, but I wanted to tell you the most sincere congratulations, and welcome to your new little dear boys.

I am so so happy for you guys, and love your accounts of all of it. Thank you for sharing it. You are a master at capturing emotion. I am right there with you and on the edge of my seat reading at times!

Leslie in Hawai'i

Melanie said...

Helene, I have been trying to post for the last couple of days, but blogger kept deleting it. Whatever! I'm so happy for you, and I just love how descriptive you are. Your birth story had me in tears and laughing - it was just like I was there with you and Tim. Today's post brought more of the same. I love to read about your bonding experience with the babies, it brings back lots of memories. The boys are so beautiful, just like their mama. Congratulations, my friend.

Shannon Estrada said...

Helene and Tim,

CONGRATULATIONS!!!! My husband, Joe, and I are so excited for you two. It was wonderful to learn about their birth and see their beautiful pictures.

Love to you all,
Shannon (and Joe)

Stephanie Stearns Dulli said...

OK. so I followed the link from todays're amazing. I think you are genius for having him suck a pacifier while his tummy was being filled.
I am so glad they are so big and strong gorgeous. I know this post is old, but it made my heart both hurt and feel light at the same time. Does that make sense?

Betty said...

OMG!! I 've melted in these photos!
Thanks for sharing these .
Sending love and hugs your way!

Mom of the Twinkies and Tot! said...

This brought all the memories of the NICU back to me. I cannot believe my girls have been home from the NICU now for 6 months...and they will be 8 months at the end of March!

At the time, I thought I'd never forget the NICU and now it is such a distant memory, but one that flares up every so often with talk of premature babies. We were forever changed with having to go through that experience.

Love the pictures of your precious boys! (who are so NOT this little anymore :)

trooppetrie said...

i did not think we would make it through our days in the NICU. my heart is breaking and rejoicing with you. oooh and the breast milk was my life, it was 4 months before she started nursing well.

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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