Micro Preemie Babies are Hard, Y’all

I know it’s been eons since I have written anything. To be honest, hubby and I have been through absolute hell the past 7 months. Between several visits to the hospital due to premature labor/bleeding, emergency c-section, a 92-day NICU stay that included heart surgery on both babies in their first week of life, taking home and raising not-your-average twins, and battling insurance, it’s been absolutely insane.

One thing that you’re never prepared for is having children. What you are also not prepared for is having more than one at once. What you are absolutely never ever positively not prepared for is having micro preemie more than one at once. It comes with its own unique set of challenges that are unlike those of term babies.

Within 5 days of having them home, I had been to the pediatrician with Vivian and Olivia twice. That’s two car seats, two pacifiers (which I did not pack because I was new to this new mom thing…I also did not pack a diaper bag), an oxygen tank, an SpO2 monitor (because sweet Vivian went home on oxygen), two co-pays, and oh yeah, I was getting a cold; the last thing you want to have when taking care of micro-preemies. That, folks, is $120 within 3 days. I had insisted on driving them on my own, telling hubby that he did not have to take time off work.

“I’ll have to figure out how to do this on my own anyway, I’ve got this!”

Yeah. I had it all right. I must have looked like absolute shit at the doctor’s office despite my efforts to pile on my makeup. I pile it on anyway because, well, I pay enough for it so you might as well see it, but upon inspection in the natural light of my rear-view mirror (OH! Cute babies sleeping!), I had orange splotches at my temples, hairline, and cheeks where my makeup was not blended, my cat eye was more of a raccoon eye from lack of sleep, and my blush was applied like It the clown. I sucked at this mom thing and looked it too. As I piled my babies into the room, I felt that ‘I had this’. I was feeling a sore throat coming on and was wearing a mask while slathering on hand sanitizer on my NICU hands* (which is a whole other phenomenon; see below).

My pediatrician was wonderful. She looked at me point-blank and said,

“No one really tells you this, but the first 8 weeks are shit.”

Okay, kind of reassuring to hear from my doctor. A wave of relief washed over me. I see some moms on instagram, facebook, magazines…they look amazing! Rested, hair perfect, and brows perfectly maintained. I already looked like a Cro magnon man. How could I fall apart in just 5 days? My brain was telling me, “Go!”, but my body was telling me, “No, honey, you do not have this”.

The doctor told me about another patient who had twins and was in a car accident because she was so tired. She offered me her personal number and that she would come over to take care of night feeds if we needed so that we could get some rest. She went on to explain that when she was a resident, she became pregnant (RESIDENCY?! and baby?!). Between her and her hubby, she stayed in the nursery to handle the night feeds so that hubby could rest and work. This was what I tried to do. Hubby handled formula and bottle washing (holy HELL, so many bottles!!!) since I had NICU hands. That was a huge task. I handled the night feeds so he could rest and maintain his normal 7-5 and his teaching jobs. Yup, between the two of us, three jobs to maintain twins.

“I get it. Bills don’t pay themselves,” she said.

Even more relief. My doctor was standing there telling me, in not so many words, that it’s okay to have your life turned upside down and to prioritize the way that suits you and your family. We took her up on her offer to come over the next night. Yet another angel on earth! Who is this person and who better to trust to watch your preemies?!

You think one baby is hard, try two that are micro-preemies! It comes with a whole different set of responsibilities. They don’t eat like term babies, they need intervention with development and motor, daily stretching to prevent torticollis (the atrophy of the neck muscle) that also prevents plagiocephaly, which good luck with preventing that with twins.

I’m not looking for a woe-is-me type of deal here. Not at all. What I am looking to do is let you know that it’s not easy and it’s okay. No one is perfect (except those moms on instagram, facebook, and in magazines) and that’s ok.

Once week nine rolled around, both babies were looking at us and cooing. That was last week. They will be ten weeks corrected on Thursday (5 months, 9 days actual). Today they are torturing me like any infant would, but times two. I’m stressed, but showered. My days are filled with chaos, screaming, crying (sometimes all 5 of us with the dog included), NICU hands that are just starting to heal, and most definitely double doody…but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

*NICU hands: dry, cracked, blistered, itchy hands that are not remedied by anything except a lotion called Dermarest. NICU hands.

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A Tour, a Meltdown, and a Precursor to Pre-Term Labor

For the week following our visit with Dr. Hill, we tried to get a tour of the hospital I’d be delivering at (conveniently across the street from my MFM Specialists). It was tough, to be honest, as there seemed to be all of these barriers to getting a damn tour. The hospital was just converted into a Children’s Hospital in 2012, with their NICU opened just this past April. It was “new”, but under construction. Labor and Delivery was on the 4th floor and the NICU supposedly on the 3rd. We were finally able to get in to see Labor and Delivery one day and, as soon as we got off the elevator, we saw ‘NICU’…but it was behind a bunch of plastic (that’s not good). Well, we were unable to get our tour at this time, and were certainly uneasy at seeing plastic covering over the NICU entrance.

Hubby and I discussed our experience over the next few days, rather, I had meltdowns over the stress of finding MORE new doctors/paying for appointments for new doctors. We know who won this battle (hubby)…We decided to touch base with other OB-GYNs in the area just in case, and we did. What we found was that, though the doctors were great, they did not have experience with this type of situation (no surprise here, and not said in a pejorative manner), nor did they give any warm fuzzies about the situation.

As an aside, at 12 weeks pregnant, Dr. Mildred Ramirez (my Houston MFM) told me no running for exercise. She described it like so… Imagine a balloon, tied off at the end, moving up and down. The only support the balloon has is the knot, and if enough pressure is put on that knot, the balloon pops. That makes absolute sense, right?! I was told that elliptical was fine, so that’s what I did – up until I was slapped in the face with the ‘high risk now’ comment.

We were onward bound at 18 weeks pregnant to a different OB/hospital just to try to have options. After having an episode of rage over parking at a structure at the new office (pregnancy apparently makes you have meltdowns and episodes of rage…who knew) because the hubby parked in some structure next to Mars, and I could not find him, we were at the next doctor’s appointment. Kudos to hubby for shrugging off and laughing at my episode of rage…

“I DON’T SEE YOUR CAR!”

“I’m right by the hospital.”

“I’ve gone all the way to the top of the structure and don’t see your car!”

“I’m standing by the doors.”

“WHAT DOORS?! THE DOOR TO THE OFFICE IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME AND I DON’T SEE YOU!” (Drives angrily out of the structure to find hubby. Never finds hubby and drives back to old structure because said structure was the right place to park.)

“WELL YOU’RE GONNA BE LATE THEN! I’LL MEET YOU INSIDE!” (Insert colorful expletives throughout my rage-laden outburst)

Though risky on his part to laugh at me, it did eventually calm me down.

So, let’s refer back to what the MFM in Houston told me about exercise. It made so much sense that I should not run, so I used this as a doctor test with all doctors moving forward to gauge whether or not I felt they were a match for our situation.

We met a wonderful OB at this appointment. She was top-rated in San Antonio, beautiful, and equally knowledgeable. Great time to test her.

“So, what do you think of exercise? Is running okay? Elliptical?”

“Running is absolutely fine! Elliptical makes your legs stretch too far, stretching the uterus and putting extra stress on the cerclage.”

Nope. That made little sense to me and my situation. I’m not poo-pooing this doctor’s expertise, as she is surely great for a regular pregnancy (she didn’t get high ratings for nothing)…but not mine. After that experience, I convinced hubby to do another tour at the Children’s Hospital with me. We were able to get in that day, thankfully! We were not especially blown away by the facilities, but what came next blew us away.

Our nurse, Rosemary, (who was as sweet as can be) took us on our tour of Labor and Delivery, then showed us the way to the NICU. As it turns out, what we thought was the NICU was actually area under construction for a newly-remodeled section of Labor and Delivery. She introduced us to Natalie in the NICU, a member of the transport team. You know those awesome people that ride in helicopters and rescue critical babies? She’s on that team. She was and is lovely. That is the only word for her. She took us through a brand new, state of the art NICU at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. We were in awe. Everyone we encountered was kind and accommodating. We knew we were in the right place just in case our girls came early.

You see, when choosing a hospital, especially if you are high risk or elevated high risk, it doesn’t matter what the labor and delivery facilities look like. The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio is in the process of renovating, but at the time the rooms were similar to the Golden Girls’ Miami pad – outdated with pinks, greens, valances, and flower borders. Bleh! It was the NICU that just blew us away. In case our girls came early, it wasn’t about me, it was about them. It was always about them.