I Provide for My Babies

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I almost cried looking into my empty fridge. That is a single bottle of 20ml’s of milk, barely an ounce. I made that for my babies.

Having micro preemie babies in the NICU has more of an effect than anyone can imagine. It’s not just the emotions driving their care, safety, and lives, it’s also the feeling of not being good enough to care for them in one of the most important ways during the most crucial time – the first weeks of their lives.

I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that, since my girls came so soon (26/4, roughly 14 weeks before term), I will not be able to keep up with their demand (and how awesome that they have such demand now!). I’m not less than. I provided for my babies during their first days of life, and now on day 50 of their stay in this world, I will still give what I can until I cannot give anymore. What no one understands, unless you have had a NICU baby, is that your body is not ready to produce for your babies yet; it still thinks you are pregnant. You’re essentially forcing it to do what it was not ready to do. You don’t have a baby to constantly hold. You look at your baby or babies through double-paned incubators. You can change their diapers and stroke their soft skin…when you open the doors to their incubators. You can sometimes do skin-to-skin contact, but once per twelve hour shift. You can hear their muffled cries…through the double-paned windows of their incubators. You feel connected to these tiny human beings, want to hold and love and console them whenever they cry, but you can’t; not in the normal sense, anyway. You can’t hold them like a regular mother can to produce the nutrients they need. Instead, as a NICU mother, you sign waivers so that they can receive donor milk where you cannot give. When they can no longer receive donor milk, they switch to formula. In between all of those, you produce the tiniest amounts until it can fill up a single feed. And when you have twins, they have to share.

“Get some rest!”

(But make sure you pump every 3 hours)

You pump all you can. You’re exhausted. You’re at home or staying at a Ronald McDonald house away from your babies. You still produce 10mls per feed…maybe you luck out and hit 47mls. You give up. Your energy is focused on everything else but yourself, except that you are inadequate for being unable to produce for your babies. You’re pushed by hospital staff and friends.

“Look at pictures of your babies.”

“Wear their blankets while you pump so you are able to smell them.”

“Listen to clips of hungry, crying babies.”

“Consume galactogogues!”

I’ve bought powders and cookies and eaten oatmeal. It’s not the same. At 33 weeks and 5 days, my girls weren’t even supposed to be here, but instead are looking at me through the double-paned windows of their isolettes. I’ve realized that I’ve beaten myself up enough. I’ve let the doctors and nurses know that I will be pumping as much as I can for them, but I’ve had enough.

My sweet baby girls are getting so big now! I know that I still played a part in that. I still provide for my babies in the best way a NICU mother can – I’m there to console them during their shots, know exactly what is going on with their care, and speak up when I know something isn’t quite right. They know my smell and they know my voice and they know my touch. I know that they love their legs and piggies rubbed, and I happily oblige. I know that one does extremely well during shots if she has her pacifier, and the other prefers a hand over her chest and back. And they both like head rubs :).

I provide for my babies.

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Episodic Rage

If you know me, you know I can be dramatic. I’m a worrier; I get overwhelmed easily and can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. When I’m overwhelmed, the first thing to go is the cell phone. If I have zero time for me, I have zero time for you. Couple that with pregnancy hormones and you can get episodic rage. I work in an environment that, for the most part, has little stress. It comes in waves, my job. At times, it can be balls to the wall, feet to the fire type of busy. When it’s busy like that, people can be mean.

Well, at 19 weeks, 6 days pregnant, I had a meltdown at work because of that mean. I quietly shut my door, slowly took a seat at my desk, put my head in my hands, and bawled. I bawled carefully though because it takes me forever to do my makeup, but I bawled. Sticky and salty tears ran from my eyes to my desk (if you hold your head a certain way when you cry, the tears don’t run down your face, so your makeup doesn’t run) and watched the tears pool. At roughly 3:00 PM, I used the restroom (it’s not TMI if it’s part of the story) and saw blood. I panicked. Had my meltdown caused this bleed? I hope not. To be honest, I will never know.

I was terrified. I called hubby at around 4PM and was not able to get through. I texted him.

“Meet me at the hospital! Call me!”

I briskly walked to my car (cuz running is not an option for me at this point), having never been so scared before in my life. There were two lives in my belly that we worked so hard to obtain. I was one day away from being halfway through my pregnancy; I needed these two little girls to stay put!

I frantically drove to the hospital, which was normally a 15-20 minute drive. I stopped at red lights, looked both ways, and proceeded to go through them. Hubby called and spoke to me the rest of the way, trying to keep me as calm as possible as he frantically drove from work to meet me. To say I drove as frantic and safe as possible sounds like an oxymoron, but it is possible. I made it to my exit, but was stopped in my tracks by someone thinking they could teach me a lesson and that I was just being an impatient asshole (I was). They slammed on their breaks in front of me, sending me into the right lane to swerve around them and hit a left turn in front of them. Please – you know those assholes that are doing 90-100MPH on the expressway and especially don’t look like young punks just driving like jerks? I now know to leave them alone and not interfere because you have no idea what could be happening, and in my situation, it was an emergency. Leave them be and even stay in your lane to let them pass, or risk an accident.

I frantically parked in the front of the hospital and waddled inside with no regard to who was out there or what would happen to my car. Hubby ended up being right behind me. He took care of both our cars as I ran inside to labor and delivery.

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(It was about midnight at this point and this guy is trying to catch some zzz’s in an uncomfortable chair)

As the charge struggled to find the heartbeats of my girls because they were so small, she told me that they weren’t prepared for babies under 20 weeks. (DO NOT tell someone who is bleeding and has no idea what is going on that you are not prepared for 20 week babies). I worried and freaked out on the next nurse… The charge needed to work on her delivery.

They attempted to check my cervix, which was painful due to old scar tissue. It was still closed, which told us that the cerclage was still in place (or was it?). I was told that I was contracting and would need to be put on a drip of some medication called Magnesium Sulfate. I was given a rundown of how it may affect me and what its purpose was. It is a multiple-use medication, but in this instance, it is used to relax every muscle in your body. This means that it helps relax the uterus, along with your bladder and esophagus. You know what that means? No food, no water, and a catheter – I negotiated a bed pan…It also made me dreadfully ill.

You experience flu-like symptoms and extreme drowsiness. You’re not allowed to shower, either (you can’t walk, therefore, you cannot get up to bathe). This went on until Friday night when I was released at 20 weeks and 1 day.

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(The most uncomfortable love seat known to man. This guy has slept one too many nights like this with me)

During our stay, Dr. George Powers, Neonatologist and Chief of Staff, paid a visit to our room. His warm and jovial demeanor offered instant comfort to an otherwise stressful situation. He broke down percentages (which hubby loves) and potential outcomes for our babies. He has a way of breaking down situations that anyone can understand, offers a caring and kind attitude, and has a knack for delivering potential doom and gloom without making it sound that way – a truly gifted human being all around. We knew we were in the right place before, but especially knew now. He gave us another tour of the NICU during our stay, breaking down the various types of equipment and highlighting some of the tiny patients and how they are taken care of.

We were truly grateful for the decision to find a doctor locally. Had we stayed with Houston, we’d have been, for lack of a better term, up shit creek without a paddle. We had a game plan and felt comfortable with it…but life still throws you curveballs.