Returning to the NICU, and a whole bunch of feels.

February (school) vacation was supposed to be a nice relaxing time. It wasn’t. The weekend before vacation week we had the twins’ first birthday. We held their party the day before because we had plans to visit the NICU on the day of. The party was fantastic. All the girls were happy and jellybean especially really really enjoyed the cake.

On Sunday we headed out right after breakfast so that we could have some time at home before heading to a different party. We stopped at Dunkin and loaded up on almost $70 worth of goodies to bring with us. I even made little thank you cards with the girls’ pictures and their NICU dates to deliver with the food. It was barely 8:30am when we arrived so there was plenty of space in the lot right in front of the main entrance. We headed in and got our badges at security. I was fine until we neared the elevator. Then my heart started pounding. My husband was carrying all the food and the hair accessory bags I made to donate and I was pushing the girls in the stroller. We hopped and I hit the all familiar ‘2.’ I was holding it in as best I could.

Even now, typing this, I’m having a hard time articulating. And I lucky enough to be able to say that my girls do not have any lasting medical issues or complications due to prematurity. Their lungs were not fully mature when born but were strong enough (we knew they were coming early so I was able to receive steroid injections to promote faster lung growth in the babies) to never need full intubation. One day of croup and three days of RSV with an albuterol inhaler were the only illnesses faced in the first year of my twins’ life. And that was just one twin. In some strange way I feel like my body knew the girls would be coming early and planned accordingly. I didn’t eat any more than I did with my first, and I didn’t gain any more weight either. But somehow, these girls were born big and strong.

I can say all that now. But back then, it was a different story. And unless you’ve been there, you just can’t know. And I don’t mean to say that in any sort of sanctimonious way. So many lucky moms and dads can just think back to those first moments – holding their brand new baby, nursing their baby, kissing their baby. It was hours before I saw my babies. And it was  1 and 2 days before I touched my babies. And 22 and 32 days before I could bring them home.

Going back to the NICU was tough. But I will be there, every year on their birthday, to thank them for all they did for my girls. No matter how hard it is.

Sunday was also a really tough day for another reason, as well. Growing up, my siblings and I were part of a neighborhood. We had friends that lived in the area, our parents had friends in the area, and there were campfires, block parties, you name it. It was an awesome time. And on that Sunday we had been invited to another 1st birthday. The mom was a neighborhood kid – our dads had worked together and our moms had been friends. We had just reconnected on FB and realized my twins and her baby shared a birthday.

I never stayed in touch with my neighborhood friends. I went to private school and ended up with a new group of friends. And many moved away. And the nail in the coffin (ooooh get ready for this one) was when my mom got sick and died. She was the link to a lot of people in the neighborhood. Many of my friends were children of her friends. It was as if her death ended my childhood. I soon graduated and went to college. Then my sister and I moved into an apartment together and left the old neighborhood behind.

So walking into the party on Sunday and seeing some now all grown up kids from the neighborhood as well as couple of former close friends of my mom made me lose it for the second time in an already emotional day. I felt like a kid again and all I wanted in that moment was my mom.

It was a tough weekend. A good weekend, but a bit rough on the emotions. And then Monday and Tuesday the twins each had an Early Intervention evaluation. If anyone reading this has ever referred their child to EI then they know how much red tape and wasted time is involved. It’s really no different than getting a school-aged kid started on an IEP or 504 plan. It’s a ton of paperwork and a bunch of adults sitting around talking about a child. And it takes forever. The verdict is that both girls qualify. It’s disheartening to hear this but ultimately their health is more important than their development. Knowing early on that the girls would be preemies helped us to relax and let them go at their own pace throughout this first year. As long as the milestones came we weren’t too worried about when. But now it’s time to try and get them up to speed. They both qualified for slightly different reasons so I have to wait until this Friday to see what specialists will be seeing each girl.

At least I got my day off on Thursday. A fresh pedicure, a new pair of flip flops and grocery shopping without children!

On a side note… the next person that tells me what my girls “should” be doing gets my foot up their ass. And ‘skipping crawling and going straight to walking’ isn’t a good thing as it can lead to problems later in life.

So there.

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