Sherri and Andy Smetana and their Daughters, Sophie & Lily: A Mother’s Dream

Sophie and Lily Smetana

Sherri and Andy Smetana share the story of the birth and hospitalization of their twins, Lily and Sophie , and the challenges they experienced after being released from the NICU. They volunteer as Helping Hand peer mentors to “help others KNOW they don’t have to do it alone, there are no judgments, and someone has walked in their shoes.”

On December 15, 2008, my husband and I saw my first ultrasound – surprise, we were having twins! We were so thankful and felt so blessed to have two little miracles joining our family. We had always wanted to have two children, so having twins seemed like it would be a dream come true.

After an otherwise ordinary pregnancy, our twin girls, Lily and Sophie, were born at 34 weeks and 3 days. My water broke and I knew the babies were coming even though it was six weeks too early. My dream of having a “normal” pregnancy and delivery was crushed in that moment. I had a quick and easy c-section and I heard those sweet girls cry, but they were rushed to the NICU after a quick kiss from mommy. I never had the happy scene of delivering my babies and holding them in my arms surrounded by family and well wishers in the hospital. Luckily my girls just needed a bit more time to grow but the NICU time was extremely hard and the days at home were even harder. There were lots of pokes, IVs in the head, hours of listening to monitors beep, trying different medications, prayers, and many tears from them and me. A few days after they were born, I had a heart health scare, but luckily it was just fluid build-up and it was treated quickly. My poor hubby had to endure his wife on the cardiac floor and his two newborns in the NICU.

After I recovered, they sent me home. That was the absolute worst day of my entire life. My nightmare had come true and I had to leave the hospital without my children. I’ve dreamed of being a mom my whole life, and I planned the day I would bring my kids home. This was not how I pictured myself leaving the hospital – completely empty-handed – no babies, no flowers, no smiling nurses escorting me out. Instead, we had to quickly adapt to the idea of a life of traveling to and from the NICU to spend precious moments with our little girls. I cried the moment I saw the hospital doors and could not contain myself as my entire body hurt at the thought of leaving my little girls who I had carried in me. I felt like my heart was being ripped out of me and was inconsolable. How could I possibly leave a part of me at the hospital and be expected to function?

After two weeks in the NICU, Sophie was released. It was such a wonderful and joyous day but also incredibly sad to leave Lily all alone. At least with both of them there, we knew they were together. Still struggling to keep her blood saturation level stable and gain weight, poor Lily would be apart from her sister for the first time. How could I handle this guilt?

It was a huge challenge to have one child at home with us, and one in the hospital. For two more weeks, we took Sophie up to the hospital to see Lily every day. Lily had sleep apnea and reflux issues and was not eating well. She had a feeding tube and was on different medications to help with all of that. She was on caffeine to help with the apnea, but that only made the reflux worse. My heart broke every time I left her in the quiet, still, lonely corner of the NICU. I sat in the NICU and watched other babies go home day after day and just cried because I felt no end in sight. Luckily after four weeks we were able to take her home. After such a long period, there was no welcoming family or friends at home to take pictures of her home coming, and my husband had already used up his paternity leave time. We were thrown into parenthood with tubes, doctors, pricks, and heartache. How would we do it on our own? This isn’t how I wanted it all to work out, but at the end of the day, I finally had my two healthy girls home and we could really start our life together.

Being a mom means the world to me. Every day I get to teach, model, and love on these kids who depend on me for everything. I’ve learned a lot about myself and that it’s impossible to do alone – I must ask for help and take it. My heart cannot contain the love that I have for my children and I’m thankful for the two sweet blessings that call me “mommy” and give me extremely slobbery kisses every day. Today they are doing wonderful and will celebrate their second birthday next month. Life is better than I could imagine. I have two sweet dreams smiling at me every day.

I wish Hand to Hold was available when the girls were born – what an amazing blessing I’ve been given to volunteer with Hand to Hold and help others KNOW they don’t have to do it alone, there are no judgments, and someone has walked in their shoes. Dreams can change and be better than the first.

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