When I found out we were expecting twins, I tried to bury the idea of potential premature delivery deep in the back of my mind. I was so excited! I was having twins! I tried to be positive and think about all the fun things my twins would do “two-gether” once they arrived and grew up together.
When my twins did arrive at 27 weeks, it felt like many of my hopes came crashing down. The scariest question I wondered to myself was: will my babies survive?
When the neonatologist met with us to give us updates, he was talking about two, not just one little life in his hands. We had to think about what was best for each baby, and sometimes things were touch and go. Every day I would find myself willing away any potential harm, such as the devastating necrotizing enterocolitis or hospital-acquired infection. I just wanted to quietly tip toe through the neonatal experience and be on our way as soon as possible.
Initially upon meeting what would become the neonatologist providing the most lengthy care to our babies, my husband and I were specific in saying we wanted both our babies to be beside each other and to stay in the same hospital, if at all possible. We wanted to avoid having one baby transferred to the level II NICU closer to our home, about 100 kilometres away, if the other baby had to remain back at the level III unit. It was a big ask, we know, but they did what they could to keep our babies in the same unit, and actually right next to or across from each other in the same pod.
We quickly learned this experience in the NICU was going to be rockier than when we had our first premature child two years prior. This time I had to monitor the care of two babies, different nurses watching over them, two charts, two feeding times, two baths and some similar and some different diagnoses. The time spent in the unit was extremely taxing and at times frustrating. In the midst of all of this, when the babies were ready, I was trying to get comfortable with breastfeeding these tiny little babies, much smaller than their “big” preemie brother. And oh, did I mention they unfortunately did come down with a hospital-acquired infection? So not only was I trying to breastfeed, I was also doing it in contact isolation, times two.
It was at this point the big lightbulb turned on in my head.
I suddenly knew in my heart the twins did not need to stay in the hospital together until each was ready to come home. The twins could come home one at a time, if that was how it was going to work out. It dawned on me one afternoon that if one baby was discharged before the other, I would actually get some one-to-one time with each baby in a separate setting. I would not be splitting my attention between two babies in the NICU. Instead, one baby would be at home (also known as the Home Away from Home), and I would be able to get to know him better in a more natural and private setting. I would be able to breastfeed him without the chimes and dings in the background and we would have some special time before the other twin was discharged. The same would apply for the baby who had to remain at the hospital. I would have all the same one-to-one time with him and have my stress would be reduced because I wouldn’t have to be juggling two babies in the unit and keeping on top of their hospital routine feeds, their charts, their stats and so on. In other words, if the babies had to be discharged at separate times, it would be okay and it might actually be a blessing in disguise!
And wouldn’t you know it, the twins did require discharge on different dates. Three weeks to be exact.
So while I thought I knew what I wanted in the early days, life and reality took over, and I decided to roll with it. I didn’t dwell on the two separate discharge dates. Instead I got to celebrate each little baby one by one as they came home. While they share the same birthday, they share the same DNA, they share the same bedroom, one thing they did not have to share was their NICU graduation date!