Our first visit to the NICU –  Meeting our little miracles

Lying on the operating theatre with my husband holding me close, hearing the beautiful little cries from our wee warriors. These are moments I will cherish forever. Our miracle twin boys battled twin to twin transfusion syndrome and made it through life saving laser surgery at 21 weeks gestation. Against all odds they were born crying and able to breathe for themselves.  

Benjamin was born first, weighing in at a teeny 3lbs and 6oz. He was so delicate and had the most beautiful little round face and button nose. Harry followed very quickly, a featherweight at a minuscule 1lb and 14oz. He was perfect but so so tiny and vulnerable looking. My first sight of the boys were through my husbands photos as I lay on the operating theatre and the surgeon completed the Caesarean section. I was dying to hold them close and cuddle them in to me but once they were stabilised, they were brought straight to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).  

  

After I got out of theatre, two of the doctors from the NICU came up to the recovery ward. I will never forget the huge grins they had on their faces. They had anticipated two very sick babies who would need rushed to ICU and put on a ventilator immediately. But the boys were doing better than they could ever have expected – they were both breathing on their own! They were very early and very delicate and they would need a lot of special care but they were doing so well despite everything they had been through.

Nothing could ever prepare you for the emotional whirlwind that is meeting your newborn for the first time. Imagine that and then build in many months of worry, an emergency Caesarean section, babies being born 10 weeks too early and lots of post operative pain killers! I was a mess. Tears spilling out. I don’t think I have ever experienced such deep joy and thankfulness. My prayers had been answered and my little babies were with me. Our little family had just doubled in size!

There were a lot of wires. A lot of beeping machines. A lot of nurses for a tiny little ward with only 4 incubators. But it was warm and friendly. The nurses were so so gentle as they worked away with our precious little bundles. Both B and H had little hats on, with Velcro attachments to keep in place the little mask over their nose, which were supporting the boys breathing with some pressurised air. They both had 3 little heart monitors on their chest, an oxygen saturation probe on their foot and a drip in their arm. I was terrified that I’d dislodge something important.

Mr C and I were dying to hold our baby boys but on that first night they were too weak and fragile – they needed to recover from the trauma of the birth. We had to content ourselves with holding their teeny little hands and staring at their beautiful faces through the portholes in each incubator. Just like that, we were mummy and daddy. I was totally in love already.

The next morning, Mr C wheeled me up to the neonatal unit as soon as I could persuade the nurses that I could walk a few steps! Our little boys had had a good first night. Their little personalities were evident from Day 1. Chilled out little B spending the majority of his time sound asleep, curled up in a little ball and our wee warrior, Harry, wide awake and kicking away with his tiny sparrow like legs.

  

 
From cuddle number 1, the twin guilt started! As soon as I had one of my little beauties snuggled into my chest, I was looking at the other one and feeling bad that I wasn’t holding them too! (This was despite the fact that they were blissfully happy, purring away in Daddy’s arms.) The nurses had the perfect solution and I got to snuggle them both at once – they were tucked down my top and lying on my chest kangaroo style. These first cuddles were so so special.
 

How were your first moments with your newborn baby?

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I’m linking this post up to #FabFridayPost and #MarvMondays

Ethan & Evelyn

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Ten ways to survive the neonatal journey

My little twin boys arrived at 30 weeks – almost 3 months too early. They were tiny little tots at 1lb 14oz and 3lbs 6oz and so we faced a long stay in the neonatal unit. There’s no doubt that this is the hardest thing that Mr C and I have ever had to do – leaving our little babies every night for someone else to look after.
The first night that I was discharged and had to go home was gut wrenching. I don’t think I’ve ever cried for so long. To be honest, it doesn’t get a lot easier as the weeks and months go on and your babies are stillin hospital. But we did get through it and the joy of bringing our little babies home was life changing. Here’s a few tips that helped keep us sane throughout our neonatal journey:

1. The first time you see your baby will be overwhelming and you will feel scared

About half an hour after my emergency c-section, I was brought down to the neonatal unit in my bed. I was wheeled up to the side of each incubator to see my boys for the first time. I was terrified. They both had lots of wires and tubes poking out of them and they were so so so tiny – like little sparrows that you could cradle with one hand. I was almost afraid to touch them for fear of hurting them. After a day or two, you will get used to holding them, changing their tiny little nappies and caring for your little babies. They really are sturdy little things despite their size.

2. Take lots of pictures

Get seriously snap happy. As soon as you go back down to your ward/home you’ll want lots of pictures to scroll through. Many neonatal units only allow parents and grandparents to visit so you’ll want lots of pictures and videos to show off your beautiful new arrival(s).

3. Try ‘Kangaroo Care’ with your baby

You may not be able to hold your baby straight away but if you can, kangaroo care is a great way to bond with your baby. Kangaroo Care basically means holding your naked (well maybe leave their nappy on!) baby next to your skin.

I usually popped one or both of my babies down the front of my top and snuggled them in close. We needed a nurse to help us with this to make sure that we didn’t dislodge any of the lines or machines. There is nothing nicer than your little baby(ies) asleep on your chest. Sam loved getting some Daddy time too.

There’s been a lot of research into the benefits of kangaroo care for preemie babies – have a Google and read up on it for yourself. Living in a neonatal unit is not what any new parent wants, but you do get a lot of time to just sit and cuddle your babies. There’s no washing machine to empty or floor to vacuum. Well there is, but it’s at home at you’re not! Try and relax and enjoy the 1:1 time with your baby.

 

  

4. Send your nearest and dearest out to find you flip flops and very light clothing

Wards filled with little tiny humans are very very very warm. You will want light and airy clothing – preferably tops that are loose enough to allow you to pop your baby directly against your skin. Make this a priority – you will be so much more comfortable.

5. Look after yourself

You’ve just had a baby. You need to look after yourself and let your body recover so that you are ready to take your baby home. I had a caesarean section and it took me at least 6 weeks to feel properly mobile again. Make sure you keep eating and drinking to keep your strength up. We had a parents day room with a small kitchen where we could leave food for the day. It meant that we didn’t have to resort to the awful canteen food and we also got to know some of the other mums and dads.

6. Don’t be afraid to call the neonatal unit to hear how your little one is getting on

You can’t be at your baby’s cot-side 24 hours a day, but you can call and see how they are getting on. We were given a direct phone line for the unit so that we could call at any time of the day or night. Initially I felt like I was interrupting the nurses by phoning at 3am when I was up expressing but they were always more than happy to give me an update on my precious little boys.

7. Get to know what all the medical machinery is and what it does

We found it really helped us to get some understanding of what all the machines that the babies were hooked up to did. If you can read the monitors and have a vague understanding of what they were saying it helps you to feel like you know what’s happening and you feel a bit more in control. You’ll find that the nurses will be more than happy to explain what everything does and how it’s helping your baby.

8. Find an easy way to update friends and family

Everyone will want to know how you and the little one are getting on but constant messages and phone calls can be very draining. Setting up a Facebook page could help – so you can update everyone on progress at one time. Or you could put another family member in charge of updates and make them the point of contact.

9. Take one day at a time

This is the hardest but maybe the most important piece of advice that I was given and that I really tried to stick to. Deal with the stresses and worries of one day at a time and try not to think too far into the future.

Try not to put timelines on when you’ll get to bring your baby home – you’ll feel so much worse if it doesn’t happen. On day 1, we thought the boys were looking at a minimum stay of 10 weeks – but actually Benjamin got home after 5 weeks and Harry was in various different hospitals until he was 13 weeks. If we had known at the start what was ahead of us, I think it would have been even harder to deal with

10. Take all the help you can get

You’ll want to spend as much of your day as possible at the hospital with your babies, so when friends and family offer to help with cleaning / laundry / making dinner, accept with pleasure! It can be hard allowing other people to do your laundry and clean your bathroom but the less you have to think about, the more you can focus on just being there for your baby.

Spending the first few weeks and months with your new baby in a neonatal unit is not easy. But it’s not forever. You’ll get there and on the way you will get to spend lots and lots of time with your little baby and you’ll meet some lovely people on the way. We were so lucky to be looked after by the loveliest nurses and doctors and we will always be thankful for the fantastic care they provided.

Has your baby spent time in neo-natal? Have you anymore tips to share?

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The List

Ethan & Evelyn

World Prematurity Day – Meet Our Little Rays of Hope

Meet my beautiful little Harry. He was born at 30 weeks, weighing in at 1lb and 14oz after a struggle with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). He spent a long 13 weeks in neonatal; it was a difficult journey and he battled various serious infections. Little Harry also underwent open heart surgery at 11 weeks for a coarctation of the aorta and a further surgery for a hernia at 20 weeks. He’s our little warrior hero and he’s such a contented, happy little chap. He brings a ray of light to everyone that meets him.  

 
This is Harry’s identical twin brother, Benjamin. My beautiful little Benjamin was also born at 30 weeks. He was a lot bigger than his brother but still a teeny little tot, weighing 3lbs and 6oz. Benjamin is also a champion survivor of TTTS and he spent the first 5 weeks of his life in neonatal. Benjamin had a much easier NICU journey – he sailed through from the beginning and once he reached 4.5lbs we were allowed to bring him home. Separating the two brothers was so hard but their reunion was a very very happy day! Benjamin is full of fun, always ready to have a giggle and loves nothing more than a good snuggle.

  
After a very difficult pregnancy and introduction to parenthood, our boys have brought so much joy to Mr C and I in the last 10 months. They are our little rays of light. On World Prematurity Day, we want to share some hope with other parents with babies that have been born very early. 

  
*I hear them rousing from their morning nap, so the wonderful chaos and craziness that is life with twins will resume presently!

I’m linking this post up with #MarvMondays

My Twin Pregnancy Part 4 : The Boys Arrive

29 weeks pregnant. My bump was huge. Everything was an effort. Putting on my own socks and shoes was not an option. I was up all night for bathroom trips – sometimes it felt like every 20 minutes. My bladder was just being constantly squeezed. The only comfortable/bearable sleeping position I could find was with my V pillow in between my legs and under my bump and my husband ‘spooning’ (!) my back to support it!! Poor man! Twin pregnancies are not easy on your body. 

Our 29 week appointment followed the usual harrowing routine (see Part 3!). My little twin was making very slow progress – his growth seemed to be coming to a standstill. Although at the time the consultant thought that the blood flow to my placenta was still good so he was keen to try and let them grow for as long as possible. We were to be monitored even more closely for the next few weeks and as a precaution I was started on a course of steroid injections that day. If my little twin didn’t makes significant progress pretty quickly, there was a chance that I’d need to deliver the boys very early and the steroid injections would help to mature their little lungs. 

I had a second set of steroid injections later that week and about 24 hours later, I was back in the Emergency Obstetric Unit hooked up to a CTG machine to monitor the twins’ heart rates. Over the course of the previous day I had been feeling the babies move less and less – I was trying everything – glasses of ice cold water, sugary food, lying down. But there just wasn’t as much movement as normal. The twins never really had a distinct pattern of movement – I think it’s quite common for some babies to have quite regular awake times but this hadn’t been my experience. This made it harder to tell if there was something wrong when I thought there was reduced movement. The on-call Doctor scanned the babies and she seemed to think that the blood flow to the placenta was compromised. She reckoned that the placenta would only provide adequate nutrition for about the next two weeks. I was admitted to a maternity ward for 3 hourly observations. I spent that next 2 days being regularly scanned and closely monitored. 

On Day 3, Mr C and I made our way to the consultant’s room for our regular clinic appointment. The consultant did the mandatory scanning and we sat down to talk next steps. Our little twin was not growing. But his big brother was doing well and growing at a good rate. Delivering the boys at 30 weeks would carry huge risks for both babies as they were still both very tiny. It was a hard call for the consultant. Given the reduced fetal movement, the rapidly deteriorating blood flow in the placenta and the fact that our little boy’s growth had stalled, the decision was taken to deliver the babies that afternoon by emergency caesarean section.   

The reality of what was about to happen was terrifying. Our little tiny babies, that were supposed to have another 2.5 months in my tummy, were about to be wheaked out of their little cosy comforting environment and into the sterile, gloved hands of masked up doctors. I wanted to protect my babies but I couldn’t keep them safe anymore.

They put me on a magnesium drip for an hour before the caesarean to help protect the babies’ brains. It made me so hot and so nauseous – maybe that was no bad thing as it took my mind off what was about to happen. Up to that point I’d been so obsessed with the TTTS and how the boys were doing, I hadn’t really thought about the ‘getting them out’ part of the process. Although as soon as they were diagnosed with TTTS, I knew we’d have to have a Caesarean section. Birth plans went out the window!

 As the nurse was doing all the not so lovely things to prep me for the surgery, two of the neonatal doctors came to talk about the birth. They were preparing us for the worst and with very grave faces told us that they expected to be dealing with two very sick babies – my heart sank to the floor. They warned us that we may not get to see the boys as soon as they were born. Despite everything I knew could happen, I still wanted to be hopeful, to believe that my babies would be perfectly healthy. Sam held my hand and we prepared to go into the theatre.

I knew there would be quite a few people in the theatre but I don’t think I was prepared to be surrounded by such an audience… There was two anaesthetists, two obstetricians, four theatre nurses, two teams of neonatal doctors and nurses and a handful of student doctors observing!!!! As the spinal injection kicked in and my body numbed, the anaesthetic made me feel really sick. Wretching your guts out in front of about 20 onlookers is not fun. Thankfully the anaesthetist gave me some wonder drug which made the nausea disappear as quickly as it arrived.

Then it all started. I should really get Sam to write this part as all I could see was a green curtain. Unfortunately for him, he saw the entire operation reflected in the huge overhead lights. I don’t think it was pretty. About 5 minutes in, the obstetrician lifted out the first baby – she announced ‘I think it’s the small one.’ Before he could be handed over to the neonatal team he let out the most beautiful little sound I had ever heard. My heart sang. My baby was breathing. And crying. He was ok. Then the obstetrician said ‘actually I think this is the small one’ and handed baby two to the other neonatal team. The next 30 seconds seemed to last forever and then he let out a little cry and I was totally overcome. My littlest baby was here, he was breathing. My beautiful little miracles. I just wanted to see them, to hold them, to cuddle them into their mama.

The doctors were confident that the babies were stable pretty quickly and Sam was able to go and see his beautiful sons. He took some video and lots of photos so that I could see my little miracle boys while the surgeons closed me up. My babies were so beautiful – perfect little boys. They looked so very delicate. Little Harry was 1lb and 14oz and his big brother, Benjamin was a not so hefty 3lbs and 6oz. My little miracle babies were here. They had defied the odds and we were so so thankful.

Linking this post up to Marvellous Mondays