November 17 is the March of Dimes fight for preemies day. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would learn so much about preemies, but I did.
We knew that carrying twins, I was at risk of giving birth prematurely. However, I had a fairly easy, uncomplicated pregnancy. Every doctor's visit went well; the babies were on track and growing steadily. Even though I was getting uncomfortable during the eighth month, I felt certain that I would make it to my 38-week sceduled c-section date.
I wish now that I would have paid closer attention during our Expecting Multiples class the night they talked about preemies. All I remember was smirking at my husband when the instructor said that half of the couples in the room would wind up having one or both babies spend time in the NICU, according to statistics. Not us, I thought, these babes are showing no signs of wanting out. I kept the paperwork handed out that night, thinking, I won't need this, but I'll keep it just in case.
The funny thing about keeping it just in case? I never had time to read it. My water broke and the boys were born four hours later. You can read the birth story here.
I had on-the-job training. Here are a few things I learned:
- Babies learn to suck, swallow and breathe during gestational week 36. Since my boys were born at 35 weeks, 3 days, they were whisked to the NICU immediately.
- They have to be fed through a gavage tube until they can do it on their own. Nathan pulled his out more times than we could count. That's why you see extra tape on his face in this photo.
- Preemies need to maintain their body temperatures outside their isolette. Nathan was the first one weaned off of it, but then his temperature dropped and he had to go back in for another two days. Here you see Matthew the day they were born in his isolette. He spent 3 days in there.
- They can't go home until they've accomplished breathing on their own, eating orally, and maintaining body temperature. Matthew experienced respiratory distress at birth, but quickly recovered and did not need oxygen. It took us a total of ten more days to get both boys' temperatures correct and eating orally.
- The most important lesson I leared: ours is a happy story. We are the fortunate ones. We were sent from the fancy-pants Level III NICU down to a less-comfortable room in Level II NICU, but soon learned that meant we were showing signs of going home soon. In the bone-weary post-partum days of NICU life, "soon" sounded like "forever." Seven days later, we took both boys home, a dream come true for the other preemies with whom we shared the room.
Of course, I learned invaluable lessons on breastfeeding and caring for preemies from the staff at Children's St. Paul. The wonderful nurses who cared for them were kind and gentle; I owe them a debt of gratitude for putting up with me and my post-partum dimentia! I've heard that they host a NICU reunion every spring - I hope that's true so we can show off our babies, who, by the way, are now 15 POUNDS EACH! That's almost triple their 5 lb, 5oz and 5 lb, 9 oz birthweights.
Nathan and Mom at birth, and two weeks ago.