I remember that day as if it was yesterday. The day I was told I was carrying twins after an exhausting few years of infertility. My excitement was indescribable. Not one but two babies to love, hold and cherish? My head was spinning with the news of this life changing event. I spent the next few weeks on the Internet reading all I could about twin pregnancies and life with multiples.
There were some scary stories about pregnancy complications and premature births. Although this possibility was in the back of my mind I was sure I would be one of those to give birth at 40 weeks. It didn't take long for the first scare to happen. On the day of my younger sisters wedding, when I was barely 11 weeks pregnant, I suddenly felt a discharge of water and blood. In my full wedding attire I rushed to the hospital. My heart was pounding, I fully expected it to be over. A while later the ultrasound revealed my two precious babies quite literally alive and kicking. I spent a week in the hospital, missing all the festivities. I was so glad my babies were okay so I didn't really mind.
The next few months passed uneventfully. I started to become confident again that I would carry them to term. I was due in April and I dismissed my doctor when he said I would be lucky if I carried until February. February came and it almost passed without any incidents. Almost. Until one day, when I was 31 weeks I leaked again. This time the hospital did not let me leave. I was (hopefully) in it for the long haul. After only three days of total bed rest the doctor decided to induce me and my two boys were born 10 weeks early.
I got to know the world of the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU). A place where every tiny milestone is celebrated. A place where parents call everyday with their hearts in their throats hoping to hear good news. A place you learn new words which will quickly become part of your everyday vocabulary. Saturation levels, oxygen, feeding tubes. It becomes your new normal. Life consists of running back and forth between hospital and home. Its not easy to recover from birth and be there for your babies. I was waiting for the daily highlight of skin to skin contact of my twins. It's so hard seeing those tiny beings ensconced in an incubator with wires all over so the chance to hold them for a precious few minutes was not to be missed.
This post was originally meant to be a tribute to the heroes of the NICU, the nurses. How do I even begin? Most parents of preemies well remember the bewildering first few weeks where everything was still so unfamiliar. The nurses put you at ease, explaining everything patiently multiple times. You see the love and care in every action.
Be it the tears in their eyes when they have to poke multiple times just to find a vein in the babies tiny arms or their shining eyes when they tell you of the next milestone your babies reached and their genuine joy when your baby can finally drink from a bottle. They are the heart and soul of the NICU. As time goes by, the nurses start to feel like family and the NICU like a second home.
One of my babies developed an intestinal condition overnight and deteriorated quickly. When the nurses called us back to the hospital minutes after we had left to go grab a bite, it was to be there for his last few breaths. I'll never forget the sight of the nurses sobbing as my son slipped away. Even the Dr was teary eyed. For them, although deaths happen in the NICU, the emotional bond they create with those tiny human beings they care for so devotedly makes the loss very personal. I broke down too and we all cried together.
There are really no words to express my feelings to those nurses. They were like family to us. My remaining son grew up healthy and strong and part of our routine was to go visit the NICU every year on his birthday. They were so proud to see one of "their" children grow up. I got a card on my sons first birthday wishing him happy birthday and a note to tell him that his twin brother will always have a special place in their hearts. These nurses will forever have a special place in MY heart and I'm sure many parents of preemies will agree that they're the ones making this tough journey more bearable. We couldn't do this without them. Thank you.
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