The NICU Diaries – Part One – Finding Yourself in NICU
Discover one twin mum’s story through the early arrival of her beautiful twin girls and their stay in NICU.
Jule shares her journey in a three part series, taking you from first finding out her babies need the extra care provided by the neonatal unit, navigating those first few days when everything was so new and her tips on how to cope when you are discharged from the hospital but your babies aren’t.
My identical twin girls were born at 34 weeks after I developed Hellp Syndrome, a potentially life-threatening form of pre-eclampsia. Luckily I only suffered a mild case of it but it still meant that my babies had to come early.
My pregnancy had gone without any complications until my obstetrician picked up on my high blood pressure at one of my biweekly visits. My partner and I were on the way back from town after winning a pub quiz when she called to tell me that my blood tests had come back and that I should head to the hospital immediately.
Thankfully I’d already packed my bag, so less than an hour later I found myself in hospital getting ready to receive some steroid shots, injected into my bum to help my babies’ lungs mature.
Over the next two days my babies were monitored every four hours or so, and after another ultrasound the doctors decided that I would be induced the following day. The smaller of the babies was thought to be about 1.8kg and the bigger one 2.1kg, so there was no doubt that they would need some time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to grow.
My body had swollen up like a balloon and I hobbled slowly around NICU when we were given a tour. The staff were incredibly lovely but I was overwhelmed by all the tiny mites in incubators, the bright lights and the noise of alarms going off constantly.
I had to fight back tears knowing that my two would be connected to all those cables the following day. I worried how long it would be until I could hold my babies. I worried how I would bond with them and if I would be able to breastfeed.
Back in my room in the hospital’s antenatal wing I tried to calm down and reminded myself that my babies would be in safe hands and I would be able to eat cheesecake and sushi in 48 hours. That cheered me up a lot.
The majority of the birth went smoothly and I got to cuddle my gorgeous girls for a couple of minutes before they were whisked away to NICU. My partner and I had discussed that if complications arose he would stay with me as the babies would be well looked after by the doctors and nurses.
Unfortunately I had problems delivering my placenta and needed to take a detour into theatre. Thankfully after an hour or so my hospital bed and I were pushed into NICU where I could say hello properly to my babies.
It was all very surreal. Both were in incubators and already had feeding tubes in their noses.One also needed help breathing. I really wanted to hold their tiny bodies to mine but we were only allowed to touch them through little hand-holes in the incubators.
I was still a bit drugged up and incredibly happy, but my brain hadn’t really registered that these two babies were my daughters. I was soon brought back to my room in the postnatal ward and told to get some rest.
After what seemed a short nap I was asked if I felt well enough to start expressing.
Most of us dream of cuddling their newborn in some sort of afterbirth haze and trying to breastfeed for the first time while their warm wee body is pressed against ours.
Instead, I had a resolute midwife who painfully squeezed and prodded my breasts in an fruitless attempt to get the colostrum flowing.
But with babies fighting for themselves in NICU I felt that expressing milk was the only thing I could do for them. Every three hours or so a midwife woke me up, took my blood pressure, gave me my meds and encouraged me to pump.
I really wanted to, but at first there was no milk to be had and I wondered if I should have started to collect colostrum before giving birth. It was 3am, I had never been so tired and it bloody hurt. Another midwife tried to help and squeezed my breasts like I was an old cow who had lost all feeling after decades in the milking business.
I swallowed down tears but finally managed to collect a few drops in a tiny syringe. It was less than a millilitre but I remember sending a photo of it to my partner who had gone home to get some sleep. I was so proud and finally got a couple of hours of sleep.
Follow Jule’s journey in Part Two of this NICU series – The first days in NICU