Due to a high-percentage of multiples being born preterm, it is common for twins and higher-order multiples to be admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Approximately 60% of our parents who have attended our classes will spend some time with their babies in the NICU and it is one of the first questions we are asked – ‘How best can we get through this emotional time?’. Charisma Hernandez, Mother to 5 year old Twin girls born at 28 weeks, 1.11lbs, shares her wonderful advice for all the parents who may now or in the future need NICU support.
5 Quick Tips and Advice for Your NICU Stay
I started showing signs of preeclampsia during 4th of July weekend. It was like an elephant was sitting on my chest. A quick Google search lead me to what it was. My husband thought I was over reacting to some heartburn. I let it go thinking he was right. I gave birth a week and a half later at 28 weeks. The scene that unfolded over the next couple of weeks was life changing. All of a sudden my girls were here and needing ventilators to breathe. They would stay in the NICU for months before we were able to bring them home. We were thrown for such a loop and had no idea that NICUs even existed. Looking back now there are a few things that I wish I had known when my girls were first born, which I’ll happily share with you.
Creating a bond through touch is crucial at this stage. Don’t be discourage by how small your babies are, ask your babies nurses about kangaroo care and when you will be able to start. Kangaroo care is when you hold your babies directly on your skin and there are benefits for both parent and baby. They will feel like a feather on you, but don’t be alarmed and know that this is one of the best things you can do for your babies. Also, be prepared for the nurse to put your baby back in her isolate if her oxygen or heart rate keeps dropping. This may happen a lot in the beginning, but will happen less often as your babies gets stronger.
I didn’t hold either of my girls for 2 weeks. The nurse didn’t offer and I didn’t ask. I didn’t ask because they looked so tiny and fragile that I thought they would be safer if I left them in the isolate. The complete opposite is true. It’s beneficial to both you and babies to hold them and sing songs into their little ears.
2) Ask questions…Including the hard ones
The first questions I asked when the NICU doctor came to see me were are my babies going to survive and what was the prognosis. I needed information to be given to me straight without any sugar. Once I was satisfied with those answers I moved on to other questions like how do I change her diaper through an isolate? The nurses are your best resource for information about your babies. They will help you with bathing them, taking their vitals, and feeding them. Some families become very good friends with their NICU nurses for years. Caring for your babies is going to be a whole lot different from what you thought it would be, but you can care for them.
Find out what programs the hospital offers to parents in the NICU and patients in general. I was very grateful for the donor milk program available at our hospital. Since my girls were born so early I wasn’t producing any milk and didn’t for 2 weeks. It was a huge relief because my inability to “perform” was stressing me out. My girls were able to use donor milk until mine started coming in.
We also leaned on, and became good friends with, one of the Chaplains at the hospital. He was there whenever we needed him. Being away from our home state and our home church was difficult and he was willing to step up and fill the gap. When we told him about the surgery one of our daughters was going to have he was right there with us.
There were other resources as well such as Ronald McDonald House, a breast pump room and a room to take naps in, even spend the night, close to the NICU. Check out what is available and don’t be afraid to plug yourself in. Any extra support during this time will be helpful.
4) Reach out to others
This is when social media is your best friend. Get onto Facebook and find groups of other NICU families and join them. Look up groups with your baby’s condition if they have one. Use these groups to ask questions, vent, and gain support of those who have been there. The NICU Support Group for Parents of Multiples on facebook is a good start.
Take the opportunity to get to know other moms in your NICU. It’s an immediate relief to talk with someone about your situation. In the process you help another mom by listening to her. It always feels good to help someone out. I met a mom who had triplets and they were almost at the end of a long stay in the NICU. We talked about her breast feeding schedule and I was in awe! She encouraged me to be positive and assured me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
5) Take care of yourself
I cannot stress how important it is for you to take care of your needs. During this time even the basics, eating and sleeping, are forgotten. I was running myself ragged driving to the hospital everyday. I wasn’t letting myself heal correctly after the c-section. One of the nurses finally told me, in a loving way, to stay home and go on a date with my husband. She reminded me that my girls had the best babysitters possible!
I would also suggest you be honest with yourself in how you are doing mentally. For some reason once my girls were born and I was discharged I was forgotten. There isn’t sufficient (if any) postpartum care for the moms, forget the dads. Having babies born prematurely and staying in the NICU can be extremely traumatic. Please don’t deny yourself the need to seek help from an expert if you need it.
Your time in the NICU can be long or short, either way know that the unconditional love you have for your babies will be more than enough to see you though. Be prepared for a lot of ups and downs but know that you are not alone and you will get through it. There are people and resources there to help. Don’t forget to cherish those milestones and finally, remember that you can do this!
About the Author: Charisma Hernandez is a wife and a stay at home mom to 5 year old twin girls. She lives in South Florida by way of The Bronx, but honestly believes she was born on the wrong continent. In her pre-preemie days she obtained her B.S. in Psychology with the full intent of being a marriage and family therapist, but plans changed. She is currently navigating the world of homeschooling as she starts a new adventure that does not involve an Individualized Education Plan for her disabled daughter. Her interests include traveling, cooking, lazy beach days, binge watching favorite TV shows, traveling, writing (sometimes creatively), snuggling with her babies (yes, this includes her husband), coffee, and traveling. [/author_info] [/author]
Are you pregnant with twins/multiples? Come join our Expecting Twins Classes all around the country. Click the classes tab on the Twin Love Concierge homepage for further details. Not located in these areas? We also offer cost-effective skype consultations – personalised to you and your family.