Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
So, today I’m going to talk to you about one of the early days, the NICU Split. “What is the NICU split?” you might ask yourself. Well, it’s when you are a mom of twins, and one of the babies, is released from the NICU, but the other is not, okay? Now you think, no big deal, right? You can come and you can go. It doesn’t exactly work that way.
For starters, I have been on bed rest for so long, and I had lost so much weight due to complications in my pregnancy, that I was both extremely weak, and my muscles had atrophied. And I have lost so much weight due to complications in my pregnancy. So, I couldn’t really drive the fifteen-twenty minute drive to the NICU in the beginning. And I knew this when I had to leave Andy in the NICU.
I was also terrified because whenever I asked the doctor how Andy was doing, he would always say, “Long-term prognosis is good.” But I would ask, “What is the short-term prognosis?” And his answer would be, yet again, “Long-term prognosis is good.” The short-term prognosis is not so good looking towards the future.
I understand why he wouldn’t admit or why he wouldn’t bluntly state that we were in trouble, and we were. She was born with a large PDA in her heart, which is basically a large hole. Fortunately, she didn’t require surgery. They were able to close it enough with medication. She still continued to have a small heart murmur until the age of six, and eventually, it closed itself. But in addition to that challenge, she had swallowed meconium in the womb, and she was having some serious respiratory problems, stomach problems, and we weren’t quite sure she was going to make it.
By the time that I was able to take Emmi home, we knew the situation was nowhere near as dire as it had been when the girls were firstborn. Andy had been doing a lot better, but she was still very weak, and she was still learning to suck and swallow and breathe, all at the same time. The thing that made it really scary for me was, sometimes we went into the NICU unit, and we would see the families we were constantly seeing, and then sometimes you would go in, and one of the families wasn’t there any longer.
And of course, you wanted to celebrate but it wasn’t always a cause for celebration. Sometimes, it meant a baby had been lost. So it was quite terrifying to think that one day we would get a call, and it wouldn’t be good news. My anxiety level was so high.
Simultaneously, I was thrilled because I had Emmi home. I had her home, and she went from being the skinny preemie to being a pudgy baby within a week. She thrived at home, and it was so easy to give her my complete attention. It was one baby, one, one, one.
And she was such an easy baby. Oh, she was just so amazing. She smiled at everything. She gurgled at everything. She was always happy. She was never constipated. Her acid reflux wasn’t that bad. She hardly ever cried (except every three hours on the dot to make sure I breastfed her). But as soon as she latched on, she was back to being the perfect happy baby. I can tell you now, I can laugh about it. But back then I was being completely and utterly selfish.
My mother in law came to help me with my babies because we thought both babies were going to be released at the same time, but that was not the case. Instead, I have one baby, and she wanted to take this baby from me, and I did not want to share. She was my baby. I have suffered physically, and emotionally to have this baby. I wanted this baby more than anything in the world. So, absolutely not! I was not going to share my baby.
Now I think I should have given up the baby and taken a nap, but I just couldn’t do it. I was such a mama bear! Just could not do it. I wanted to spend time with my baby all of the time, any time that I could. In fact, I have this picture where I just look absolutely exhausted, and I am so in love with my baby the camera captured that moment so beautifully (and I don’t mean that specific moment — I mean that moment in my life), and I’m just looking at my baby, and she is just perfect and precious, and wanted, and loved.
And at the same time that I’m looking at her, and I feel complete, I feel this huge hole in my heart, and this tremendous guilt because I can’t be with my other baby, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t be with my other baby.
I had to wait for my husband, who works the graveyard shift, to come home. And what we would do was, when he would come home, I would pack Emmi in her carrier, and cover her with a heavy blanket, (not cover her, cover the carrier with the heavy blanket — I wouldn’t want you to think I was smothering my child!) And go to the NICU to visit her sister.
There was a nurse, she was just the most wonderful nurse — Nurse Heather — and she had fallen in love with both girls, and whenever she was in the NICU with Andy, I felt somewhat relieved and somewhat okay. But I remember visiting Andy in the NICU one day, and as soon as I walked in, Andy started crying. And I said to Heather, “Oh my God, she’s always crying when I come here. Is she okay?” And she said, “You know what, the funny thing is, she never cries until you come into the room. She knows you’re her mom, and she wants you to pick her up.”
So, I was simultaneously elated and devastated. Elated that she knew I was her mom. She knew all the time I was there, I was going to be there for her, completely dedicated to her, but devastated that she knew I wasn’t there all the time. It just absolutely killed me. It just completely destroyed me.
It didn’t really help when a few days later, we went to visit her in the NICU during the day. Nurse Heather wasn’t there, and she had been changed positions. Instead of being in the front because she was having challenges, they moved her towards the back because she was getting stronger, and she was getting ready to go home. But that meant they weren’t checking her as often. And she had pooped herself, to the point where I mean it was all over the basket, it was in her stomach, it was on her back. It was everywhere. And like a mama bear, I just wanted to tear someone to pieces!
I didn’t care that this was supposed to be the best hospital with the best NICU in all of San Diego. None of that mattered to me! All that mattered to me was they had dared to let my child get poop on herself. I was so pissed! The only thing that made me feel better was that my husband was livid. Livid! And while I was busy giving her a bath, my husband was busy, very sternly speaking to the nursing manager, the nurses, getting them to change her little basket towards the front. I mean, this begins my huge deal in the hospital.
Now I think. Poor nurses, I’m sure they got a lot of kids, and they were tired. And now I can look back and think, we were not the most rational parents, but when you have your tiny little preemie that only weighs four pounds and two ounces, you lose it! Frankly, I’m gonna be honest with you — I think I would’ve lost it even if she had been at a normal weight. But my excuse was she was tiny, okay? Not that I need an excuse, I don’t apologize for being a mama bear.
So, I remember holding Emmi, nursing her, crying because I couldn’t be with Andy. I would be nursing Emmi at home, and there will be tears rolling down my face. I just wanted to split myself in two. But my muscles were not cooperating. I have had a C-section and was not quickly healing from it. Gestational diabetes went away fairly quickly, but I still needed to have gallbladder surgery, and I was so weak that I couldn’t even have it immediately. I have to wait three months to have gallbladder surgery which meant that all this time, I was battling weakness and fatigue.
Nevertheless, towards the end of Andy’s stay, I remember going to visit her in the NICU, and I was driving, and I was so in the zone that I was going to see my baby that I did not realize that I had gone over the speed limit. And not by a little bit, by a lot! The speed limit was seventy miles an hour, and I was going a hundred and ten miles an hour. And my husband says, “Oh my God, what are you doing? Did you see the speed?! There’s a policeman right next to you!”. And I was like, “What am I gonna do at this point? I’m sure he’s already caught me speeding. What am I supposed to do?”. So, I waved, and the policeman smiled and kept going!
What did I think about that? I think it was life cutting me some slack. Life said, “This is a tough moment for this woman right now. The poor woman is losing her mind. She needs this. She needs to get to her baby.” And I did. And you know, the other hard thing was, now I had the experience of having Emmi at home. And I had seen Emmi go from a three-pound and sixteen ounces preemie to a five pounder in no time. She had her mom’s complete attention, she had breastmilk whenever she wanted it, she had her daily bath. I mean, this baby was royalty.
And I wanted to do the same thing for Andy. I wanted to take her home, and I want her to have the same advantages that Emmi did. But I was still waiting, waiting to be told that it was the right moment. And that was so hard because I knew I trusted the doctors that they were doing the right thing. They had done the right thing by Emmi. And I knew this was (when I was being reasonable) one of the best hospitals in San Diego, especially for premature babies, and the children’s hospital is directly connected to this hospital. So, if something went wrong, my baby would have the best care in the county.
And still, at some point, I would wonder to myself, “Are they just keeping her from me? Why are they just keeping her from me? Can’t they see that I’ve done a great job with Emmi? It’s time for them to give me my baby. They need to give me my baby.”
Because it was a completely different feeling when they had me sent home with Emmi, I was like, “Oh shit. What if I can’t take care of my preemie? What if I’m not good enough? What if I’m not smart enough? What if I can’t love her the way she needs to be loved? What if I can’t take care of her the way she needs to be taken care of?” But after having Emmi home, I knew I got it. I could see it. I could see my tiny little baby just plumped up, and smile more, and be more physically active.
And then to go to the NICU, and see Andy just still. And not really putting on weight, not really moving around the way her sister did. I mean I have some pictures in which I have both babies, side by side. And I still have a hard time looking at them because it broke my heart. I felt like such a terrible mother. How could I just walk away, and leave her alone in a hospital? I should be there with her, that’s what I always thought.
But I couldn’t, I didn’t have those kinds of accommodations. I hear of other moms from different hospitals, where they have a mom room, and she could spend the day there with her baby. But that wasn’t the case there. They never made that offer. They never told us that they had that resource for us, and it was just incredibly difficult, and always devastating. Devastating that I didn’t get to be with her all day. Devastating that she would start crying as soon as she heard me. Devastating that I had to leave her again, and again.
I wish I would have known then how strong this child was going to be. And I should have known! At one point, when they were changing from having her intubated to a cannula (at least, I think I remember my terminology correctly. It’s been thirteen years). Unbelievable! Thirteen years.
In any case, the doctor goes to extubate her, and they don’t normally do that when the parents are around, but the doctor didn’t realize that we were there with our other baby. So, he starts to extubate Andy. And Andy’s starts turning blue! And all of a sudden my husband and I start panicking because we could see that our baby is not responding, and one of the nurses starts pulling out another tube to put in her, and she’s like, “I think we’re gonna need to intubate her again”. And the doctor’s like, “Hold on, just hold on.” And all of the sudden, she wails! And we’re like, “Oh!”, and the doctor said when we walked over we were like, “Is everything alright? What happened?” And he says, “This one’s going to be a stubborn one. She’s always going to do things on her own time.”
And you know? That has never changed. It has never changed. There is no rushing her. There is no slowing her down. She is Ruby in Her Own Time. If you have a child like that I highly recommend that you read that little book. It’s about a baby duckling that does things in her own time. It’s called “Ruby in Her Own Time.” And Andy is my Ruby in Her Own Time. Then the doctor looked at me and my husband, and said, “I will leave it up to you to decide whom she takes after.” And of course, my husband’s head whipped around and looked at me!
What can I tell you? It’s one of the good things that I get from my mother. I’m gonna put a positive spin and say, “We’re not stubborn. We’re just persistent, and we’re individuals who appreciate our individuality, okay? We don’t have to be like other people. We’re not asking people to like us, just love us the way as we are.”
There are days in which I remember that day when she was extubated, and I think, “Boy that doctor, I mean he just really called it! And I just need to appreciate who she is.
After several weeks, I finally got to take her home. It was the first time I felt my world had reunited. Both of my babies were with me. Little did I understand the hell that it is to be a mother of newborn twins, and I certainly had no idea that this was going to last for eighteen long months of breastfeeding and getting very little sleep!
But I’m going to let you in on a secret: every time I look at their baby pictures, I want another one! Oh, I do! And here’s the worst part, I don’t want just a baby, I want twins! I wouldn’t know what to do with a singleton. I know what to do with twins. I got it down now!
But things didn’t work out. So, my next set of kids came in a different way. I love them all, and they’re all special in their own ways. And here’s the funny thing, now I get to suffer that experience of the NICU every year when the two new additions to my family go visit their mom in Mexico. And I know this is the right thing, it is the best thing for them, but when they’re not with me, I’m no longer complete. The only thing that makes me get through it is the fact that their other mom feels the same way when she doesn’t have them. And I know that feeling. So we share that bond.
So, that’s my NICU split experience. I certainly hope you had a better one or if there’s one in your future, I hope you have a lot of love and support around in you.
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