I wanted to be with them, needed to be with them, to hold them ,feed them ,tell them I was their Mammy .
But I couldn’t , my husband was with them in NICU , I knew he was minding them for me, I desperately wanted to go to them but I had to rest after a C-section delivery. I tried to get out of my hospital bed several times as soon as I was out of recovery post delivery, to somehow manoeuver myself out of it, but the pain was nothing like I had ever experienced before. Whoever said C-Sections were an easier birth obviously never had one, I’ve written about my feelings about birth here. Soon enough the overwhelming need to see my babies, my teeny little newborn son and daughter and the want deep down to be with them,such already was the loneliness deep within my empty stomach spurred me to take tentative steps out of my room ,albeit it in a wheelchair. As my husband wheeled me down to the NICU unit feelings overwhelmed me and brought me right back to the moments when the twins were held over the drape in the operating theatre. I felt in awe ,that I was finally there, about to be reunited with these two little ones I had carried for so long.
They were here, finally, after so many heart stopping moments they were here and healthy. Yes they were in the best care ,Daddy had been with them in NICU whilst I was in recovery, but I felt lost , alone yet happy my he was there minding our precious family.
That moment when my husband wheeled me out of my room in the post labour ward ,I heard them all. Newborn babies crying, wanting their Mothers ,wanting cuddles and food and then the cries stopped as those babies were picked up seconds later. Those women were lucky to have their babies beside them. To be able to lie on their bed, post delivery and stare into the incubator beside them. Granted sleep was not forthcoming for those with babies with them in the ward but I did feel envy that my children were not in my room beside me.
And there we were at the NICU doors. In we went, first stop the wash station , a routine we would learn and know off by heart pretty soon. Wash up to the elbows, twice, dry and dispose of towels using the foot pedal. Not the image I had in my head when I would first meet my babies, but necessary none the less. Life for some little ones in the NICU unit was extremely fragile and strict methods ensured little infection passed through the doors. When we knew there was a possibility of a NICU stay later in the pregnancy the hospital team kindly let us visit and walk us through the rooms and procedures. Not every family gets this opportunity , births happened very unexpectedly and sometimes unfortunately babies develop unforeseen health problems post birth and require time in the neonatal wards. In a multiple birth there is a high chance of a premature birth and a higher chance of having to spend time in the units. I feel anyone with a threat of a pre-term delivery should have the opportunity to have a visit to meet the team in the neo-natal wards, to be able to see what potentially lies ahead, knowledge is power and understanding what the tubing is for and how potentially we would see the twins for the first time did ease some fears of what lay behind those double doors. Little lives clung on second by second in some cases sadly and we cast our eyes away quickly out of respect for their privacy but our hearts ached for the parents standing over their babies , babies so small yet so strong fighting in their woolen blanket covered incubators. Machines beeping, lights bright, tears, smiles, a mix of emotions, inches away from each other and it was a shock to see and made me hold my bump tight praying we would make it to thirty-six weeks. I prayed for the little lives and their parents who desperately willed them to life when we walked out of the unit after our visit.
As I delivered the twins just over thirty-five weeks and although I knew there were no major health issues and the twins were in the unit purely to gain some weight and learn to suckle, I still wasn’t prepared for going through those doors to meet them properly there . After delivery I had a few minutes of cuddles before they were whisked into an incubator for sugar levels to be checked. The NICU team had kindly given us a little room off the main ward so we could meet the twins properly for the first time in privacy. My husband wheeled me in between the two incubators and I was literally torn as to who to go to first.Who to peer in at, tilting my head to the side and then the other side. Both now has little feeding tubes feeding off the colostrum I had pumped straight after birth for them. It was a surreal moment still not being able to just lift my children to my breast, I desperately wanted to reconnect with them but had to wait for incubators to be opened to get that first skin to skin moment. Reaching my fingers in to the two incubators whilst we waited for the nurses to hand our children to us is a moment I will never forget. That first stroke of the softest delicate skin on their upper arms, noticing that downy fluff that is typical of a premature baby and rubbing it with the lightest of touches from my fingertips, I fell more deeply in love with them as I continued to move between the two incubators. I remember staring at their noses and how I had last seen them on an ultrasound scan a few weeks earlier and how they were now in front of me and so recognisable from that one feature, and this helped ground me in the moment of real life in front of me.
I don’t remember who I went to first but that moment the twins were finally in my arms is one I will never forget. Tiny little heads that fit in the palm of my hand, just under 5lbs each, but perfect. However exhaustion and a nasty reaction to the anaesthetic meant my NICU visit was shortlived as I became ill and had to go rest. Leaving them was very upsetting,they belonged beside me, on me, feeding and cuddling like all the other mothers. Instead I was up the corridor ,weak and sick and desperately wanting to be with them. I may aswell have been at home I felt so removed from my babies at that point. I also don’t remember much of the first few nights as it was a blur of feeding and pumping. There was very little sleep, but I was happy. Tired and a little sad I had to venture down a corridor to see my children but overall ,content and happy.
A few days later it was time for me to check out and the moment we walked out of the maternity with no car-seats and I with an empty belly was something I will never forget.
I had to leave my children alone in the NICU unit, I knew they were cared for very well but I also knew the team had schedules and were busy helping fragile lives and my little ones would miss out on cuddles from when we couldn’t be there. You have to respect that the unit is caring for children, some very sick, some nearing home time thankfully but it is not somewhere you can be all the time, as much as you want to be there with your newborns. I honestly don’t remember much of the nights without them other than pumping ,eating something and going straight into the maternity hospital to be with them and spending as much time as we could there. It’s horrible leaving your new-born children behind, going home to a house sparkling ,decorated with cots just waiting for their owners, piles of nappies and wipes waiting for little bottoms to fill, but the cots beside our bed lay empty for those days.
Two days later our son was home, he was now nine days old. His sister was lazy on the breast and stayed behind in NICU, so we were home with one baby and then it hit home he was ours! It is hard to describe that feeling, but once he came home we really felt like parents. However there was a huge void and a huge space lying empty in the cot-bed for his sister. The sadness of having one twin home and the thoughts of the other on her own in hospital was felt as we introduced our son to his home , It was a strange time, elation at welcoming our little boy to his forever home but guilt we had left our daughter behind. The logistics of having one twin at home and one in the hospital meant we relied on our family to drive me to the hospital so she could feed and I willed her to show how she could feed so we could get her home where she belonged. When we were at home our minds did drift to our daughter on her own in the NICU unit and my fingers itched every morning until I could ring to see how she had been through the night and what time her next feed was. Thankfully after two further nights without our little girl she marked her territory in the house and our lives changed forever. The twins were reunited and we were a family at last.
The mix of emotions of leaving your babies behind at hospital whilst you go home with a suitcase full of well wishes, engorged breasts and dreams of the future as a family is a strange one. Yes you know deep down that they are in the best possible hands but you yearn to be nowhere else but with your children. Sitting at home on the couch looking around in silence when the house should be littered with coffee cups, muslin cloths, microwaved dinners and love, was tough. Don’t get me wrong we were over the moon, ecstatic to finally have the twins here and safe but we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t fall into a little self-pity moment that first day we arrived home. However a blessing from the unit was the routine and schedule they got the twins into. The advice, help and support they gave us and me in particular, from breast-feeding to teaching how to bathe them made us thankful of the support and hard work of the NICU team.
Whilst it may not have been the start to their life I imagined in the early days of my pregnancy ,it is a distant memory now, as I have two very lively and healthy near four-year olds running around today playing in the snow. The special bond and love I see my twins share will last a lifetime and I am ever thankful I am a multiple Mammy.