Managing Multiples in the NICU? Don’t apologize.

March 21, 2016

Reflecting back on my time in the NICU I got to thinking, what can I tell you, after almost 6 years since my twins were discharged from hospital? What else do I have to say about managing multiples in the NICU?

Through my work with families of multiples and prematurely born children, I have heard many questions and concerns from hundreds of parents. I have watched ecstatic, happy posts go up on Facebook walls and personal profiles, but I have also seen scary updates and the saddest of news. In all of these instances, I have seen the parents’ circle of friends and support networks come together to support the families through good and bad times. Your family and friends will be there for you.

Whether we like it or not, social media and instant connection to our friends and family near and far has become a part of our lives. We live in a fast-paced society, which expects immediate updates of all that is news worthy. It’s a hard expectation to live up to when you have multiple births babies living in a neonatal intensive care unit, which is even more complicated when those babies are separated and admitted to different hospitals. And as we know, the feel of the neonatal intensive care unit is usually a much slower, sometimes snail pace, in comparison to everyday life.

When you are in the NICU with twins, triplets or higher order multiples, you are not only having to manage one baby’s health care needs, but two, three…It is going to be exhausting trying to keep things straight, who’s experiencing what, the times each baby will be having assessments, what medication they may need to be on, and then you need to get some sleep – have you tried sleeping when you have multiples (even a singleton) in the hospital? It’s hard! You may feel half-rested, as you try to sleep “with one eye open” or keeping your ears perked, half listening for the ring of your cell phone sitting by your head. You don’t want to miss anything, so it is hard to get your body to be at one hundred percent rest.

Twins come home

So when it comes to communicating with your friends and family, as we don’t have hours to be on telephones updating each friend and family who would like to be kept up-to-date, here are some thoughts for you, which apply to parents of multiples and singletons too:

  1. Create a Facebook group: You can establish a private Facebook group, which is only accessible to those you invite. Setup a good friend or family member to be an administrator of the page, so you, the parents, do not need to monitor the requests to be added. Let someone else do that job. Once your group is up and running, you can post a bit about the story of your babies’ premature arrivals and an update about their progress to date. You should indicate to your group members that you will update when you can. Try not to commit to a daily update, because some days that’s just not going to happen.
  2. Social Media Rules: Establish with your friends and family how much you are willing to let them share with their own social networks, whether it’s through verbal updates or sharing across their own social media. If you do not want your children’s updates going out to “just anybody”, establish a rule with your network to ensure your children’s best interests are being met.
  3. Don’t Apologize: If you have a rough day or even a rough week because your babies having been doing the 1 step forward, 2 steps back dance, don’t worry about heading to Facebook to submit your daily report. It’s okay to avoid social media altogether if you need to focus your attention on the babies or you just don’t want to be sharing updates for a while. It’s up to you. Don’t feel obligated or apologetic if you cannot get on to social media. Sometimes we need a break and that is okay! There will always be time to provide updates and post photos along the way and your family and friends will understand. No apologies required.

Ultimately, how often you use social media to relay messages about your babies is up to you. Perhaps it’s once a week, maybe it’s as needed. Your top priority is to focus on helping your babies get strong and well enough to go home. There will always be time for social media and storytelling when you are ready.