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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I’m linking this post up with #MarvMondays #thelist #fabfridaypost

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

Our Big Firsts – Joining a Parents and Tots Group

We did it. We left the house on a schedule, with no dedicated extra ‘help’ (aka Granny) and went to a parents and tots group. To most mums I doubt this sounds like an achievement but to me it really felt like something to celebrate!

I have to admit we had a pretty awful start to the day and I did consider canning the whole excursion. I went into planning mode the night before. I set their clothes out, restocked the baby bag, left the bottles ready to make up and worked out when I needed to leave to walk there for 930am. I was determined that we would have a smooth and flawless morning routine. The boys had other plans. Breakfast was a nightmare – H decided to clamp his mouth shut and not let a morsel past and B decided to blow bubbles with every mouthful, covering me, him and anything in a 1 metre radius in pear porridge. Fun. Then we moved into morning bottles. H was not a bit interested and with extreme amounts of faffing about I managed to get him to take 4oz. B drank up with gusto and then proceeded to puke his entire brekkie and feed over him, me and the sofa! So by 855am I had changed B twice, H once, got into my second set of clothes, fed 3 bottles, 2 spoon feeds, cleaned the sofa, put a wash on and changed 4 nappies! I was ready for a cuppa.

Anyways, we ploughed on and at 9am on the dot one of my mummy friends arrived at the door with her baby and toddler and we all headed off.

I’d avoided these sort of groups for months – the boys spent their first 5 and 12 weeks of life in various neonatal units and when they came home they were still very tiny (circa 4lbs) and very susceptible to infection. I was terrified of germs. I was nervous of any visitors and was tempted to spray them all in disinfectant as they crossed our threshold! We had been warned by the paediatrician to avoid bringing the twins to any large gatherings or even to the supermarket until they were significantly bigger. We brought them out for lots of walks but even then I insisted on putting their rain covers on the carrycots to avoid random people poking their hands in to the pram! I was a lioness defending her little cubs.

The other fairly obvious barrier to going out with baby twins is the adult to baby ratio. Two small babies and one adult is just not optimum! There are so many things that could go horribly wrong! I can just about make it work in my own house, where I have systems in place and all the equipment required. But solo outings terrify me!

So yes, going to a parents and tots group today was a big deal. I have to admit, when we first walked in my lioness radar was on full alert and I was trying to keep a smile on my face and carry on conversations whilst my inner monologue was going nuts….

– Oh no, do I need to lie them on these mats. What if they aren’t clean?

– What am I going to do if one if them is screaming when the other one is getting fed?

– I really hope they don’t vomit again…

– Am I increasing their risk of picking up some horrible illness?

– I don’t want them to pick up and suck all these toys. Germs, germs, germs..

– How am I going to join in on rhyme time in the next room? I can only lift one at a time…

Then I started chatting to another mummy and before long I had a lovely, hot cup of coffee in my hand! I started to relax and I really really enjoyed the morning. We didn’t do anything particularly exciting. The babies lay and kicked and cooed, loving all the attention and goings on. I got some help with feeding the boys. Thankfully neither of them showed off their skill at projectile vomiting. I had a good chat, met some new friends and had a lovely cup of coffee. One of the lovely helpers took one of my boys on their lap for song and rhyme time. And then we headed home. I think this may become the highlight of my weekly social calendar!!!!!

It was great to get out of the house and engage in some adult conversation – even if we did just talk about our babies! I think as the twins get older, it’ll be a great opportunity for them to have some social interaction and get their hands dirty on some fun craft projects.

So if like me, you’re a bit terrified of getting out there and joining a baby group, I’d really encourage you to do it. Whats the worst that can happen?

I’m linking this post up with #MarvMondays