Part-time parenting (or having babies in ICU)

Neonates

Tomorrow our boys will have been in Neonates for two weeks. They spent two days in full ICU and have been in high-care since then.

While I know it’s the best place for them until they are ready to come home, having them in high-care is hard.

Very hard.

Harder than I ever expected.

I have to leave them everyday: I am not the first thing they see in the morning and I am not the last thing they see at night. I am not there to comfort them if they cry and I am not there to feed them when they are hungry.  It makes me feel like a part-time parent (a phrase I ripped off another twin mom I met yesterday – thanks Suz).

Sure there are times when I am there and I can do these things, but I can’t be there for them all the time. This was especially hard, because I have had to rely on others to get me to and from the hospital. Luckily from tomorrow I will be mobile, which will make it much easier to go and see my boys when I please, without having to think about whoever lifted me and their timetable.

It hasn’t been easy and it has often got me very down. People talk about the guilt mothers feel when they have babies, and I am starting to understand it a little – the guilt can be overwhelming.

But I try and stay upbeat, because I know they have some way to go before they can come home.

One of the things that has really tried me has been the nursing staff. Most of them are absolutely amazing and I have no problem leaving my boys with them. Others are dismal and I lie awake at night wondering if the nurse is giving my children the care they need.

One particular nurse has been completely overloaded and still has to look after our twins. There was a time the other day that I very nearly picked up my children and walked home. They would not have been fed, or changed if I had not been there – I may be over reacting (which is entirely possible, given that I am a new mum)  – but I really felt as though the nurse was neglecting my children.

And then today, we had a new nurse, who came to check that Alex took to the breast well, and that Dylan’s bottle was finished. She, and the first nurse we had, have been amazing, and I hope that this new nurse sticks around.

The other frustrating thing is that I get nice chunky bills from the paediatrician, but I hardly ever see the man, and today he hadn’t even done rounds by the time we left after 3pm. (He usually does rounds at 9am). So I have to rely on the nurses for information about the boys – having said that, they do know more than the doctors most of the time.

One of the hardest tests I faced so far as a mother was the day they were born and whisked off directly to ICU. After Dylan was born, Alex was flipped over into a breach position and was born limp as a result. He was immediately put onto oxygen and I barely got to see his face before both boys were whisked off to ICU.

I was then wheeled into recovery and later back to the maternity ward, where I waited on news of my boys. After hours of waiting, by doctor came to see me and told me they were fine, but needed to be in ICU. Most of the information given by the doctors is sketchy at best. (Nurses generally know more).

Eight hours after they were born, I finally managed to convince the nurses to take me, bed and all, to see my boys. I was ready to kill by that stage and I nearly broke down when I saw them, tiny and helpless in these ICU beds. Luckily at that stage the nurse they had was Octavia, who is a little miracle for parents with children in ICU.

If I had to do it over again, I would demand to see my children sooner. I think I would have avoided quite a large chunk of frustration and worry.

Despite all this, there are some definite positives about having the boys in high-care.

I have had the chance to heal, which many mothers don’t get. The C-section wound is not a nice one, and picking up babies could have made healing a longer process for me. So for the time I have had to heal, I am grateful.

Another really amazing thing is that I have learned quite a lot (and practiced under strict supervision) about how to take care of my boys. Changing nappies, the best way of bottle feeding, how to get baby to latch properly to the breast and yesterday, we learned about how to bath baby. All these things, I am told, are taught in maternity, but for most moms that’s only three days worth of helping hands showing you how to do these things. We have had 2 weeks (so far), which is great.

Alexander getting a bath

Many twin moms tell me another plus is that the boys will be put onto a scheduled (right now it’s a 4 hourly feeding schedule) which is great. I will provide an update on that as soon as they come home.

What I do know, is that until the boys are ready, they are in the best possible place and hands. They are happy and healthy and fed and warm. What more could a mum ask for, except for her children in her arms.

With the boys already on 75ml of food per feed, I have also had a chance to catch up with them in terms of bringing my milk in. While I am not quite there, I feel confident that by the time they come home, and I have a few extra feeds with them, I will be able to feed both at the same time.

Of course this does make me feel a little like a cow, having to pump every 3 to 4 hours. But ultimately, it will be worth it to be able to feed the boys at the same time. Having a daily feed with at least one of the boys now has been amazing, but I will do a post on breastfeeding and its rewards at a later stage.

So here are some of the take-outs from ICU for other mums who have their little ones in Neonates:

•    If you are expecting multiples – in fact all mums – ask for a tour of the NICU before your planned birth (well before). I haven’t written about it here, but Jon and I got a tour of the ICU the Sunday before we gave birth and it was extremely comforting to know what they do and how they do it.  Also, you get to see just how small babies can be and survive in ICU, some babies born at 700g – so tiny and yet living and breathing. Do it, you won’t regret it.
•    Don’t wait to ask to see your children, the sooner you go see them, the sooner you will feel comforted that they are actually ok and in a safe place.
•    Doctors have less information than the nurses, so ask them about how your babies are doing. Otherwise, learn to read the charts, they have great information on them – nurses may give you dirty looks for reading them, but they are your children and you have a right to know.
•    Don’t be afraid to speak up if you think your children are not getting the right care. I was afraid until I spoke up, and once I had, things changed. The nurses are understanding of new mum’s and their wants.
•    Try to be there as much as possible, but try not to feel guilty if you want a night off – there are no nights off once the babies come home.
•    Try and keep to the babies schedule, they are like clockwork at ICU and you can be too. It tough to keep up the pumping on schedule, but do try.

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