“Prematurity is a lot of what my blog has been about, since my twins were born so preemie. We’re now starting to venture into the special needs world as my twins are 3 and my son still isn’t “caught up” and “typically developing”. I just participated as a veteran mom on new/expecting multiples mom panel at our local multiples club and I would say prematurity (what the NICU is like, what to expect, etc) and how to get out of the house with multiples were the biggest topics we were asked about. We spent a lot of time in the NICU, 54 days, and even with their prematurity and lugging around a pulsox and o2 canister, I never felt like we were “stuck at home” and it made me sad to hear so many new multiple moms felt like they were trapped and could never go anywhere with their babies!”
So here is Emily’s article on Twins and Prematurity.
It’s not surprise that having multiple babies also means increased risk of prematurity. When they said we were having twins though, it was the farthest thing from my mind. We started seeing our high risk maternal fetal medicine doctor and I was told I had “easy twins” (aka di/di). I was told I’d be just fine. Every appointment, I wasn’t having babies anytime soon. Until I was. And I was in the NICU, with newborn twins.
Recently I had the opportunity to be on a new mom panel at our local multiples club and I was surprised at how man questions came up about the NICU experience and premature births. I thought it was so great for these soon-to-be moms and dads of multiples preparing for what could be a very real experience, and a very difficult one. I thought I would answer some of the most popular questions from the day from our experience with my 27 week preemie twins.
What is it like having a baby in the NICU?
At first, incredibly overwhelming and confusing. You are hearing acronyms left and right and body parts you didn’t even think to worry about as major concerns. Your first concerns are brain, heart and lungs but eyes, skin, and many more body parts come into play in a premature birth. It’s a whole new lesson in anatomy, even if you aced A&P in college 😉 There will be machines, tubes, wires, the works, everywhere you look, especially since you have 2 or more babies to look at.
There will be lots of beeping noises, some good, some not so good. You will be over stimulated and over informed. Don’t think you’re the only one who felt like you were about to pass out from the amount of information being thrown your way. Take a deep breath, listen, and trust the doctors and nurses are doing everything in their power to help your babies. You will adjust to the craziness. Get to know the acronyms. Understand all the different beeps and what they mean…and when you should appropriately freak out. And the tubes and wires will start to dwindle as the days go by.
What is the NICU like emotionally?
Well, that’s just digging right in there isn’t it? When you first get to the NICU, the nurses will say it is a rollercoaster and that is honestly, the best way to describe it. You will have days where you are hearing nothing but great things about your babies. Then you will have days when one or more babies is struggling. No matter how much good news you get, expect a little bad. Even after you’re home, you’re not out of the preemie world, but you will learn to love and embrace it. But the rollercoaster doesn’t end for quite some time.
How long will my babies have to be in the NICU?
This was a super popular question, but sadly, it can’t really be answered. Each situation is unique. Each baby will go on their own schedule. You want to know if you’ll be there for a few days or a few weeks to prepare for how you’re going to handle other kids at home, school, work, juggling life. Of course, the earlier your multiples are born, the longer they will be in the NICU. You can expect to be there until around your due date. Some babies come home earlier than that, some later. It’s hard to tell. If you have your babies at 30 weeks, expect a 10 week stay. If you have them at 35 weeks, you might only need a day or 2 in the NICU. But it all depends on a lot of different things. For preemies, the milestones they need to reach to be discharged are growing and above the 4ish pound mark, eating on their own, breathing on their own, be able to ride in a carseat for the length of the car ride home from the hospital, and keeping their body temperature up. Those are just the basics. Many other health issues can come into play. But that might give you some idea of where your babies need to get to in order to be able to come home.
How can friends and family help a NICU family?
This is a great question and PLEASE don’t be afraid to ask for help! When you have a new baby, people flood to bring you meals, stop by and see the baby and visit, but with a NICU experience, friends and family seem to back off. They want to respect your space, don’t seem to know how to help, and don’t seem to be as celebratory as people are with a new full-term birth. But you will be pumping 24/7, running back and forth to the hospital, and just as busy…maybe busier, than you would be if they were home! While friends and family won’t be able to visit with the babies, they can still help you at home. Dropping meals off is an incredible help! After spending all day at the hospital, the last thing you want to worry about is cooking dinner. Have someone clean your house, or maybe baby gift a cleaning service. You will be at the hospital a lot. If you or your spouse goes back to work, you’ll be swamped and exhausted. Taking cleaning off of your plate is a huge help. Offer to babysit older siblings, take them for a day at the park, and make them feel included. It’s hard for big siblings to be involved. They might not be allowed in the NICU. You will be spending time away from them to be in the hospital with your new babies. It’s hard. Having a close friend or family member take them for a day at a park, to the library, on a fun playdate to help keep them busy while you focus on your new babies is a big help! You won’t need clothes, diapers, help feeding and caring for them right away, but you will need help with your every day life so don’t be afraid to ask and accept help!
What if I can’t handle the NICU?
This wasn’t specifically asked, but I want to touch on this subject that came up a few times and many moms seemed scared to ask this outright. And I want every mom and even dad’s to know, especially if you have an extremely premature birth, it’s ok to get help and there are people who will help you! The NICU doctors and nurses will be asking you how YOU are quite frequently. It’s ok to say you’re not ok. They don’t expect you to have your act completely together. Your OB should also be following up and making sure you’re emotionally ok. I thought I was handling the stress well. I thought I could do it all. I was traveling an hour every day to the NICU, spending my entire day there, going home and pumping and sleeping. I was across the country from my husband since he had to work in California and my twins decided they wanted to be born in Pennsylvania while I was visiting. I had my parents support, but at my follow-up with my OB, he quickly said I wasn’t ok and needed help. He prescribed me an anti-anxiety medicine and I was very hesitant to fill the scrip. I thought I could handle it all. I think when they told me my son had a brain bleed was when I lost it and finally realized I did need help and I wasn’t handling this stressful situation as flawlessly as I had thought I was in my head.
You are a supermom (and dad) and you’re handling it all great, but it’s ok to ask for help from doctors and family and even take medicine if you need it. Don’t be afraid to talk about how YOU are with the doctors and nurses so they can get you the help that you need to be the best parent possible for your baby! Don’t let the stress and anxiety take over your life. You need to be able to make decisions for your little ones and you need to be in a good mindset to do that. Post partum depression is very common in premature births so don’t feel like you’re alone and have no one to help you! There is help. And don’t be scared to get it!
So I hope this helps everyone expecting multiples and a little anxious about the NICU experience. Prematurity is not something to take lightly, it could very quickly happen to your babies, but if you go into it knowing some of these things, I hope it won’t be too overwhelming. You are still giving birth to beautiful babies and even if they need a few extra weeks of help, you should enjoy them, celebrate them, make every day with them as special as you can! The NICU time will go by quickly and your babies will be home before you know it!
Visit Emily on her blog at uptoyourtoes.com.