Almost four years have past since our time in the NICU. During that time our former micro-preemie twins have grown into active little toddlers. When I reflect back on our time in the NICU what usually stands out in my mind are the traumatic times. Trauma has a way of trumping the joyful moments in our lives stealing away those precious memories and replacing them with fear. Blame it on post-traumatic stress disorder, but what I remember most about our stay are watching my children be manually ventilated several times, being told my son was on 100% ventilator support settings, seeing x-rays of collapsed lungs, hearing reports of brain bleeds, finding out that both twins needed surgery to close a valve in their hearts, learning that our son would need a tube to eat, and praying that somehow we would bring home healthy babies in the end. Yet, despite all of those complications, there were beautiful moments too. As I continue to heal, it is important to reflect back on those memories as well. It wasn’t all bad.
The first time I held my daughter was at 30 days old, and the first time I held my son was at 33 days old. For a month, I sat next to their isolettes with my hand through the opening holding their tiny fingers. I longed to hold them in my arms. When the day finally arrived, it was just as perfect as I imagined it would be. In the picture below, my husband and I had gone to the NICU at night. The nurses weren’t as busy that night and asked us if we would like to hold them together. Their wonderful nurses arranged the chairs together and helped position our babies on each of us. We sat their together marveling at the little miracles in our arms. It was a magical night in the NICU.
I questioned when I should bring our older daughter, who was three at the time, to meet her little brother and little sister. I worried she would be scared of the machines and tubes and beeping of the NICU. I decided to wait until the twins were off the ventilators and CPAP. We brought her to meet her new siblings when they were three-months-old. To my surprise, she wasn’t scared of the NICU at all. All she saw was her cute baby brother and baby sister. You can see her delight by the big smile on her face. It was a precious moment that I will always treasure.
We had some amazing nurses who always made an effort to make our time in the NICU special. One of our night nurses always put tiny little bows on our daughter’s head after her bath. When we came in, he would tell us that she got all “dressed up” for us. A few of the nurses made cute signs to hang above their isolettes that said things like “Hip, Hip Hooray, I’m 2 lbs today!” Toward the end of their NICU stay, one of the nurses helped set up a “photo shoot” with white sheets draped over a warmer. After their bath, she helped prop them up under the warmer and let me get a few quick shots free of leads and wires. Another nurse had them both arranged in a swing together awaiting my visit one day. All of these special moments meant the world to me. The nurses helped us feel a little more normal in a difficult situation.
The most beautiful moment of all though was the moment we got to leave the NICU doors. After 133 days, we were so blessed to be able to bring our babies home. We missed the celebration of having a new baby (or babies) when they were born. That day was full of fear and didn’t leave room for celebrating their arrival, but on this day, we celebrated. Our family gathered by the NICU doors to welcome them to the world outside of the NICU. There were balloons and video cameras and presents and cake! It was one of the best days of our lives.
As I continue to heal, I am going to work on remembering those special, beautiful moments because that is part of this story too.
What were some of your most special moments with your NICU babies?