Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
Today, I’m coming to you from my brand new closet studio. My husband set up this little recording studio in a closet to help me record at any time during the day. So when the kids are running around, doing their thing, it doesn’t bother me.
And of course, today we are joined by Barbie! Say hi, Barbie. So if you hear snorting, it’s just my little Shih Tzu doing her snorty thing in the background.
So today, before coming to record this episode, I took a walk on the beach. I was thinking about that moment when I was told that it was time for me to bring one of my preemies home.
In our case, one of the girls had many challenges, so she had to stay behind for an additional four weeks. So, I brought one baby home, and then I got the next baby home four weeks later. But even though I was only bringing one baby home, I was still quite nervous because she was premature. If she had been a full-term baby, I would not have felt any lack of confidence, had any questions, or insecurities, but a NICU baby is different. A preemie is different. Right?
The hospital did offer a one-night stay so that new moms of preemies could adjust to having their preemie, but my husband convinced me that we didn’t need to do that. Now, in all honesty, I think it had more to do with the fact that we had crazy schedules. He was working the graveyard shift. I was finishing my Ph.D., and I was a teaching assistant. And it was just a lot going on. So, I think he thought we could just hit the floor running.
We also thought that we had adequate support. We stayed with my mom because I had been sick before getting pregnant, and I had such a difficult pregnancy. So, we really thought she would step up and help us as she had promised to do. But of course, she couldn’t do that. She couldn’t quite forgive me for marrying a man of German descent who didn’t share our culture. Or the fact that I had married him on the beach in Kauai instead of a church. To her dying day, she would say, “You’re not really married. You were not wearing shoes when the priest blessed you.”
And, of course, unfortunately for us, my brother-in-law, who was super, super-nice, and super helpful during this time, was deployed soon after I brought baby number two home. Yeah, you know, the little support I had was gone! My sister would have loved to help, but she had two kids, one that was around seven or eight, and the other one was the high schooler, and she had her hands full, to be honest with you. So, I did feel a little insecure. But here are some of the things that really bolster my confidence.
First and foremost, the hospitals strongly suggested that we take a CPR course for infants before taking the babies home. It was mandatory for parents who had children that have sleep apnea. Neither of our kids did. But they still made a big push for us to take it and both my husband and I decided to go ahead and do it.
Now, in the beginning, when the babies were infants, it really made no difference. We never found ourselves in a situation in which we needed to perform CPR. However, when the girls were toddlers, I think there were around four years old. One day, I was feeding Andy her dinner, and she did start choking, and she was coughing. I was alone with both of the girls, so I couldn’t turn to anyone for help. And I performed CPR the way I had been taught at the hospital. It didn’t dislodge at first. I tried pressing the panic button in the alarm in our house, but I didn’t press it correctly. So I was just totally hysterical there for like thirty seconds. And then I was like, “Okay. Snap out of it! Snap out of it. You need to help your child!”
At that moment, I forced myself to calm down. I took a breath, and I flipped my daughter over the way I had been taught to in the hospital. I made the motions I was told to do, and I dislodge that piece of bread out of its place, and she was fine. So, even though I never used CPR when they were infants, it sure came in handy later on. I absolutely credit that course with saving my baby’s life. So, it was a great thing that the hospital offered. And as I said, it helped me feel more confident, and in the end, it turned out to be literally a lifesaver.
The other thing we did was, even though we were told we didn’t need it, we bought a baby breathing monitor. At the time, it was this thing you put underneath their mattress, but now they’ve gotten so much fancier. You can get models that track your child’s respiration using their movement and oxygen levels, which is amazing! Some are wearable devices that you can clip onto the diaper or clothing. They go off when they don’t detect movement or respiration over a set period of time. Others slip around the baby’s foot and gather data about oxygen in their blood and heart rate. Others don’t have to make any contact with your baby at all. They simply track the motion through a video monitor.
I really, really, really loved ours! Our baby monitor. It was great. It allowed me to sleep. The few hours of sleep I could get in between feeding because Emmi who would wake up to nurse every three hours on the dot. Not three hours from when she ended breastfeeding but every three hours on the dot. So, I would breastfeed Emmi. Then I would breastfeed Andy. Then I would pump. I would get maybe forty-five minutes of sleep, and then I would start the cycle all over again. So, I really needed those forty-five minutes, and the baby breathing monitor really gave me the confidence and the peace of mind to do so. I don’t know that I would have it otherwise because I was very concerned about my babies not breathing in the middle of the night.
Ironically, one of my babies did stop breathing. It was Emmi. But it was during the day. The monitor went off. I ran! And, of course, I was about to start performing CPR when she kind of shook and started breathing again. That was something really interesting that they told us in the NICU, that sometimes babies, when they’re that young, forget to breathe. So, the monitor, the beeping, I think, awoke her enough for her to restart breathing. At least that’s my theory. I don’t know if it’s correct or incorrect. But again, that was my theory, and it made me feel so much better the monitor was there and that my baby was fine. I really felt it had been a lifesaver. Now, to be honest with you, that was the only time that we needed it. We never ran into another problem. I think the biggest thing about the breathing monitors is that it really gives parents peace of mind. So they feel more relaxed, knowing that they’re going to get some kind of a warning if their baby stops breathing.
One of the other things that really helped me get some sleep and still take good care of my babies was that I started cosleeping with them. Now, my husband and I have promised ourselves they were going to be sleeping on the crib… Yadda, yadda, yadda! But you know what? He was working the graveyard shift. I had to work during the day, and I had the babies all night so that just didn’t work out.
Now, I know that there’s a lot of different articles on cosleeping. Some say that it’s good. Some say that it’s bad. It really depends on different opinions. I mean, I found opinions from pediatricians and doctors that say it’s good. And I found opinions from pediatricians and doctors that said it was bad. I had a girlfriend who said her husband once tried to use her infant as a pillow, in the middle of the night, he didn’t realize what he had done that.
Now in my case, I never had any kinds of problems because I’m an ultralight sleeper when I’m not on medication. And at that time, I was not. It still creeps my husband out how much of a light sleeper I am. Well, I am a very light sleeper, so it really worked well for us. It created this incredible bond between the babies and me. The bond is still going strong even as we’re full-blown into the teenage years, and there are days when we don’t like each other very much. But we still have that strong bond that started then.
To be honest with you, I didn’t start cosleeping with them until they were about three months. But after three months, the babies felt sturdier. They were stronger, and I was exhausted. I was just exhausted. I had to find some way to continue to take care of them during the day and the night; it was the only way to get any rest.
One of the things that I did was use was a Bassinet and Bedside Sleeper, so both girls were not in my bed at the same time. And usually, what I did was I would put one on the bassinet and one on my chest. And then, throughout the night, every time I breastfed, I swap their place. And yeah, believe it or not, I never turned to my side. I never did anything. I was so aware of the baby. So, that just really helped us. And it really helped me too when the babies were fussing because my breathing would synchronize with theirs, and then they would slowly come down and fall asleep. This was especially true of Andy, who had really severe acid reflux as an infant. It just really helped her feel soothed and comfortable, and she was a happy, sleepy baby.
One thing that I cannot stress enough for new moms, but even more so for moms of preemies, we are suffering from a heightened level of anxiety. You know, our kids have been in the hospital. We have a sense of helplessness when we see them stuck to these IV tubes.
And I remember walking in once and see a baby that had their IV tube on, literally under the skull, and my anxiety just went through the roof. And that particular nurse was not very kind when I said, “Oh, my God! Doesn’t that hurt the baby?”
She said, “Well. It’s better than being dead.”
That wasn’t very comforting. Right? Now, in all honesty, she’s the only nurse that was that snippy to me in that hospital. And listen, I’m sure she could have been exhausted. Maybe she had a bad day, so I really didn’t take it against her, but it is extremely stressful and extremely frightening to have a baby in the NICU. It just adds a whole new level of anxiety.
So we spend, as parents of premies, an incredible amount of time focusing on our babies, and being concerned for our babies, and going the extra mile for the babies. But if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to do those things—to take care of your babies. So, you really need to take a breath and try to do something to help yourself out.
I don’t know if you realize this, but women are supposed to have six to eight weeks of rest to recuperate after giving birth. And if you’ve had a C section, you need a little extra time. But unfortunately, when you have a baby in the NICU, premature births tend to reduce that recovery time. We have long days at the NICU. It’s very stressful when you have twins such as I did, and you have one at home, and the other one’s still in the NICU. And so, it really takes an emotional toll.
The truth of the fact is that you’re going to be experiencing a wide range of emotions during those first months. If your preemie had serious medical problems, you’re going to be angry. At who? Take your pick. I was angry at the world. I was mad that I kept seeing news stories about women throwing away their babies in trash cans when my baby struggled to survive. I was angry at my body because I was so smart, and I had been so physically active when I was young. And here, my body had betrayed me. I know my body didn’t betray me. Now, I realized that. But back then, I didn’t feel that way. I felt betrayed by my own body. I was so angry. I hated my cervix because it kept opening, and I had to have a cerclage. And I mean, it was just really, really hard!
And you’re also grieving the fact that your baby was not full term. Unlike other moms who are celebrating and full of joy, they have welcoming parties. You’re coming home. You’re bringing home this baby that you just love and adore, and you need to protect from too many people because they could pick up a respiratory infection. So, people asking me if they could come, and I would have to say no, and it would hurt their feelings. And it’s just… You’re just overwhelmed, completely overwhelmed.
Of course, all women face the baby blues. Now we understand that many women face the most severe form of the baby blues—postpartum depression. And, of course, that’s not uncommon for moms who have babies in the NICU. We’ve been through a lot. And even after birth, we continue to go through a lot. So, it really does take a toll, and we need to be able to say to the baby’s dad, to our mothers, to our sisters, “You know what, I’m having a little bit of breakdown. I need a break.”
And honestly, my sister was great about that. She took the babies a couple of times. My mom finally came around, and she helped me out a couple of times too. And then, at that point, we just had to hire a nanny because between the two of us and our schedules, we couldn’t do everything.
So, it’s just a very stressful time, and sometimes we just needed a break. And you have to be able to say that you need it. Remember, especially women, because now we’re under this social delusion that we can do it all. We can. But we can’t do everything all of the time. So, there’s a lot of pressure on us, and we need to give ourselves a break. Be kind to yourself.
The biggest thing is if you really want to be the best mom that you can possibly be for your child, you really want to take care of your child, then you need to begin by taking care of yourself. Because if you get sick, if something happens to you, you won’t be there to do the things you want to do for your baby. That’s really something that we all need to remember. I had a really hard time with that, especially after we moved away from family and friends. But we need to. We desperately, desperately need to give ourselves a break.
To be honest with you, the most challenging time I had with my twins was from birth to eighteen months. It was the absolute worst time of my life. I was absolutely thrilled to be the mom of these miracle babies, but it was so exhausting! I breastfed for eighteen months. I finished my Ph.D. I searched for a new job, found a new job, moved literally cross country from California to Michigan, reestablished myself in a new community. It was incredibly difficult! I was so exhausted and didn’t have a lot of help. I did not have the help that I needed. This is a very challenging time. Exhaustion was definitely the name of the game.
But then the girls turned eighteen months, and miracle of miracles, they started entertaining each other. It was amazing! It was amazing! They started entertaining each other. They didn’t need me as much. We still coslept with them. We used to have their little cribs next to us, later their toddler bed, next to our bed, and they would often climb into the bed. I mean, we became such a family of cosleepers that we actually got two full-size beds and put them together so that the girls had enough room to sleep in our bed. And it worked out really well for our family. By the time the girls were about four years old, they were not interested in cold sleeping with us except when they felt needy, weren’t feeling well, then they would climb in the bed. But at that age, they started going into their own beds, so that was pretty neat too.
The big thing is to remember that there are other mothers out there that have been through this difficult period. We’ve made it through. You will too. I promise it does get easier! It absolutely does get easier. And slowly but surely, you will enjoy your preemie experience more and more every day!
So, I hope the sound came out better, and you enjoyed better lighting and better sound from my little closet studio. Please remember that if you enjoy the show, we really would like you to download and subscribe, so we continue to stay in touch!
And let’s not forget to thank our friends in Hydrofeet—the insoles that massage your feet with every step. Use the code OMB15OFF for an additional 15% off at Hydrofeet.com. And if you’re willing to pay for shipping and handling, they will send you a second pair of a different size. The other thing that I found out is they do have these for kids. They are just as nice as they are for adults. My kids love them! I absolutely love them, especially my daughter, who has overlapping tests. She no longer complains about her feet hurting!
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