I've received many inquiring emails since the boys were born about what we're doing these days and why the lack of communication through this blog, especially at a time when there is a lot of information to be had.
But then again, I don't.
Let me explain.
I'd like to explain to everyone what the NICU is like. I personally had NO IDEA what it would be like. I thought the boys would be born a bit early and they'd go to this mysterious acronym place and then come out all clean and smelling nice and ready to come home.
So, here is what the NICU is like for those of you who have no idea, like me.
First, a few pictures to frame the conversation -
Everyday we go through 4 different sets of security in order
to get to the floor that the boys are on. After getting several wrist bands, heavy locked doors are opened for us to go into the NICU. We immediately put on hand sanitizer and walk past the beds of 6 or so different babies, including Kaydance, who was born at 24 weeks and is a crack baby. We pray for her everyday. There are around 40 - 60 babies in the NICU at any given time.
We approach the bed where our babies are at check all of their monitors before we even speak. We are allowed to touch them to say hello but because of the risk of over stimulation, a serious concern with premies, we only touch them for a moment. We touch them the same way everytime in order to get them familiar with us. If we see that their monitors have alarming numbers (low respiratory rate or oxygen numbers) then we don't touch them at all.
We set down our stuff and Doug goes and places all the milk I've pumped into the refrigerator after having it checked to make sure its adequately labeled. Every 3 hours we do their cares. Their cares consist of checking their temperature, changing their diaper, weighing them, and then trying to feed them. Two times a day I try and breast feed them. The other times they are fed through a tube in their nose. Immediately after the two times a day that I try and breast feed them, we get to do "skin to skin", where we take off our shirts and hold their little bodies against our chest. This helps regulate their temperature and is good for development.
That is, hands down, the best moment of my day.
It usually lasts for 30 minutes.
The boys both have 4 monitors on them at all times as well as a feeding tube in their nose. This makes holding them, moving them, changing them, or doing just about anything difficult. The monitors also beep all the time. Loudly. Many times the monitors are just faulty and the boys wiggle and the monitors just sound off. Sometimes, though, the boys stop breathing or their heart stops for a few seconds and the monitors sound off. You never know which it is so we nervously check them ALL the time.
Because most babies are protected by the womb until they are full term, they don't have to prematurely use or even develop their eyes, or ears, or nose, for example. Our boys don't have that luxury so we must keep things dark and quiet and unscented - very difficult things to do in a hospital and with loud monitors going off all the time. We've become very protective of the boys in this regard, for fear of them becoming over stimulated and not developing appropriately.
In addition to these things are the nurses. NICU nurses are mostly amazing. However, nurses are required to report on me just as much as they report on the boys. If I wear sweats everyday to the NICU, for example, it can be a sign of post partum. Any signs of post partum require that the nurses stay near you and your babies at all times. This means I'm seldom allowed to be around my boys alone because the sheer stress of the NICU usually results in me showing some sort of post partum issue.
Add in lots of crying babies, monitor noises for all of them, nurses and doctors and practitioners and lactation consultants and nicu parental support group people, other nicu parents...
and you can see why the NICU is sorta hellish most days.
However, its the only way we get to see our boys so we are there all day everyday.
And they are doing better. Now they are in the same bed and are actually in the NICU overflow, which is much quieter.
And because people ask - lastly, let me explain what they must do to come home.
1. breath on their own (check)
2. regulate their temperature (check)
3. take all feedings orally (not check)
The third one takes the longest and is what we are working on now. They currently eat about 1/3 to 1/2 of their feeding orally twice a day. They must take the entire feeding before they can be moved up to 3x a day, then 4x a day, then over 12 hrs of oral feedings, then 24 hrs of oral feedings, and then finally we get to take them home. The connection in their brain telling them to feed orally isn't even made till around 36 weeks (and they are 35 now this week) so the fact that they are breast feeding at all is really great. But still, they tell us to expect to take them home by the end of the year (4-5 weeks from now).
so thats the NICU and the reason for the radio silence
aren't they cute though?