How the NICU Was a Blessing in Disguise For My Preemie Twin Boys
By Nikki Little
I didn’t have an ideal first pregnancy. Actually, let me be totally honest. I had a rough pregnancy. I knew from 16 weeks on that my identical twin boys were going to spend time in the NICU when I was diagnosed with vasa previa. Our maternal fetal specialist warned us early on that my pregnancy would likely not go past 32 weeks. On top of holding my breath every day hoping my condition did not cause me to go into early labor, I was terrified knowing that my first pregnancy was going to result in two premature babies who had to spend time in the NICU. Although I fully knew the NICU could do wonders for premature babies, all I could think about was how they would more than likely have breathing and eating issues. I dreaded seeing my little guys hooked up to monitors and tubes. I didn’t know what to expect, but unfortunately I expected the worst and prepared myself to have babies in the NICU for 3-4 weeks, if not longer.
Fast forward to when I reached 32 weeks. I had no signs of early labor and the boys were growing well (I should also mention that I went into the hospital at 28 weeks to get monitored and to take every preventative measure to keep me pregnant until my scheduled C-section). My team of doctors decided to extend my pregnancy to 34 weeks, if I could make it that long. I was told 34-weekers would more than likely spend less time in the NICU than 32-weekers. The hardest part for me through all of this was that no one could give me any definitive answers. All I heard was “maybes” and “what if” scenarios through my entire pregnancy. I get that my situation was somewhat of an anomaly, but it didn’t make it any easier. So, I held my breath again and hoped and prayed I would make it to 34 weeks with no problems.
My C-section was scheduled for February 27, 2013, two days shy of 34 weeks. Long story short, I started having contractions and my doctor decided to deliver on February 22 at 33 weeks and 1 day. Nolan James Little was born at 10:34 a.m. at 4 pounds 2 ounces, and Evan William Little was born at 10:35 a.m. at 4 pounds 11 ounces. I had a split second of seeing my sweet little boys before they were whisked away for the typical testing and to get all set up in the NICU.
For all the scary stories we parents read and hear about premie babies in the NICU, I want you to know that sometimes things turn out better than expected. My boys thrived in the NICU from the minute they were born. They were under the phototherapy lights for only a day to get rid of slight jaundice. No breathing problems. No eating problems. No extensive tubes. Just the IVs until they were ready to start taking in milk. My husband and I were amazed at what we were seeing. These little fighters did way better than any of us expected, and 13 days later, we were cleared to take them home.
My heart goes out to every parent who has had tougher experiences with their children in the NICU. Many have babies who have to stay in the NICU for months. A mom with twin girls was next to my boys in the NICU, and they were born at 30 weeks. While my boys got stronger, her girls continued to not be able to eat without tubes. She was strong and in good spirits, but I knew it ate her up inside every time a baby went home and she continued coming every day to take care of her little ones in the NICU. She cried the day we were ready to go home. It killed me to see that, and I have the utmost respect and admiration for any parent who has a sick little one (or ones!) in the NICU.
While I dreaded knowing my boys would have to stay in the NICU from my 16th week of pregnancy on, I look back on the experience now and am grateful. The nurses and doctors were incredible. They taught us so much and helped us establish an eating and sleeping schedule for my boys from the get-go. Even though it was torture some days for me to get to the NICU while I was dealing with a difficult emotional and physical recovery, I am happy they had the chance to grow and thrive in the NICU.
So if you’re like me and know you will have a premature birth, my one piece of advice is to not assume the worst. Don’t stress yourself out thinking the time in the NICU will be unpleasant and longer than you want. Little miracles happen every day. Your baby or babies may be more resilient than you could have ever imagined. I hope my story reminds you to stay strong and stay positive. Remember the NICU can be a blessing in disguise.