NICU Graduates – one year later

In some ways, it doesn’t surprise me at all that it’s been a year. I can recall toys we played with when they were just one month old. I can picture the outfits – preemie, 3 month, and for some reason now 18-month sizes. But on the other hand, it’s as if I’ve blinked, and my tiny little NICU babies are now these great big one year olds!
I remember when the babies were placed on my chest for just a minute to hug and kiss, then taken from me and to the NICU by the sweetest doc.

They have all ten fingers, and all ten toes, and are breathing completely on their own. They’re perfect, and they will be with me the whole time. Words I remember very clearly, a year later.

Our babies had it pretty easy. Our NICU journey wasn’t one for the books, just one for my book. It wasn’t life threatening, just heart wrenching. It was everything I never imagined for the beginning of our journey as a family.

And 50 weeks ago, if you’d asked me what I thought about being in the NICU, I’d have had nothing good to say. I was wrapped up in the scary, the negatives. Monitors beeping, not breastfeeding, babies who had events overnight that prevented them from coming home. I wasn’t in a good place myself.

But today, and for a while now really, I can tell you with courage and joy that the NICU is one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. I had help with my babies in a way that only the NICU could provide. I didn’t know it at the time, but I made lifelong friends who have come to love my babies as much as I do. These days I talk about the NICU with an eagerness to go there, to meet other moms, and to see our friends.

So with the twins about to turn one, that’s just what we did! We grabbed a bunch of cupcakes, and went to celebrate two little one year olds, with our doctors and nurses! And nothing can beat the joy I had watching Bentley laugh and giggle and snuggle with Dr. Erin. And there’s no hug quite like the one I got from Dr. M. I remember a lot of what he told me, but one thing stands out as my favorite.

I was just a few days into our NICU stay. Dr. M came in for rounds and said How have you been sleeping? I brushed it off, and said oh I’m ok. He knew I was full of crap. He picked up Elizabeth out of her bassinet and sat down in the rocking chair next to mine, where I was holding Bentley. And he said I know I’m not your dad. But you’re in my NICU. So for now, I’m kind of NICU dad. And dad says you need to start taking naps. I laughed, and agreed. He handed Elizabeth to me, stuffed pillows in the chair so that I could hold them both comfortably, and said you go to sleep. I woke up some time later, with the lights off, the door closed, and a blanket over me. I’m not sure how long I slept for, but I got the point. And from that day forward, I tried to nap a bit each day with the babies.

Every morning I walked down this hallway. During morning shift change, Marshall would drop me off, and I would get breakfast in the cafe. When shift change was over (or… admittedly… sometimes in the middle of it) I would walk in, say hello to the nurses at the first station on the left, hand the bottles from overnight to our nurse who was usually on the right, and then walk into room #2 and say good morning to my babies. I would hear all about the events of the night, how much they ate, how much they gained. Sometimes I’d get to say goodbye to the night nurse, and then the daytime nurse and I would get to feeding the babies breakfast. When breakfast was done, we’d snuggle until rounds. One of my favorite parts of the day – the docs and nurses would come in and do rounds with me. It was so encouraging to be part of rounds, because I never once felt clueless. It made me feel like I was still in charge of my own babies, and they were there to help. I knew every single thing going on with the babies at all times.

These days I find myself in complete admiration of the NICU, but also in the high hopes that we never have to do it again. It’s a weird… mixed feeling.

And a year later, we have big, healthy, (usually) happy toddlers! My babies aren’t so baby anymore.  They keep me on my toes, and they keep my energy meter at a steady zero. But I wouldn’t have it any other way! Our little ones are such a joy! It’s been a crazy year, with a crazy start. And we’d do it all over again for these sweets we love so much!

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