Premature Thoughts At The Births Of Two Preemies Pt II

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This is the second part of a very long post I wrote about my twins premature births.

…I did everything I was supposed to. I went skin-to-skin with my babies, I pumped for America, I visited the NICU every day for six hours or more.

But I kept thinking that this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. My babies were born and immediately rushed to their incubators. I saw one of them for just a few seconds before he was spirited away (I remember what intense, dark eyes he had.)

The other not at all.

The following day, to prove that I was well enough to see them, the nurses had me walk across my room. That attempt resulted in me collapsing in a deep faint and waking up with my face buried in the very ample chest of the senior nurse. I didn’t get to touch the babies for nearly 48 hours after they were born.

I had been set up by our society and our touchy-feely culture to expect babies landing on my chest, nursing, feeling this overwhelming surge of love as oxytocin flooded my body.  I doubt there is anything in What To Expect When You’re Expecting about the realities, especially the emotional realities, of having preemies.

I certainly didn’t know what to expect.

And I’m sure some women take a premature birth in their stride but I certainly wasn’t one of those. I felt angry when a class in infant CPR was a condition for taking them home. I could see the sense but it underlined what a fragile, and undesirable situation we were in. And the worry – we might actually have to use this stuff?

The idea of performing CPR on my baby made me feel ill.

I was overwhelmed with grief when one baby came home before the other. I irrationally felt I was abandoning the baby left behind and oh, how I had dreamed of being transported through the hospital lobby with two babies in my arms, graciously accepting the congratulations of passersby. I had planned to be so proud and here I was crying my eyes out not caring if anyone even noticed.

The grief I felt at losing my dream of perfect babies got channeled into producing milk. Mothers of preemies make extra-nutritious milk and I felt this was a massively important thing to do. So I pumped and pumped, seven, eight, nine times a day producing way more than was required.

We had to buy another freezer.

Exhaustion then hit as, on top of handling two newborns, one boy, the more fragile one, smiled once a day in the morning and then screamed for the rest of his waking hours. One day I discovered him blue and not breathing in his swing. The obstacles seemed to come in waves, one after another after another.

After the source of that problem had been found and rectified (reflux) and he was connected to a breathing monitor the same size as he was for twenty-four hours a day, the same boy then started fail to hit major milestones.

I felt like I was taking punch after punch with no chance to recover in between.

My response to this was typical. Intensity. Over the next two and a bit years, my guys received over three hundred appointments with physical therapists, occupational therapists, developmental play therapists, speech therapists, you-name-it therapists; they-got-it therapists. We also got words like autism, cerebral palsy and hypotonia.

Words that strike a cold, deep, white fear into a person like me.

I didn’t want excellence, I didn’t want brilliance; I wanted normal. Just normal. I’d have been overjoyed to know that normal was in my future. But of course, I didn’t know. I just had to do what I thought was the right thing, be educated, informed, proactive.  Stare down anyone who tried to minimize our situation.

And hope for the best.

One of the best days of my life was the day my guys started preschool. They were two and a half. It was the first time they had been alongside a bunch of kids born roughly the same time as they. Singletons; full-term, no complications.

That was hugely significant to me.

They did great. They were indistinguishable from their peers. Except they weren’t their peers. Not really. But I knew they were doing great. Not ‘for preemies‘ but for kids. Regular kids.

Normal kids.

We have come a long way since then and I have many more tales to tell. But yesterday I was transported back to those early, fraught days when the swimming instructor told me the news. That my son was doing great, doing something typical. That he was developing the motor skills and the coordination and strength he needed. Doing something age-appropriate.

And normal.

Was I wrong to want ‘normal?’ Did you face disappointment in your not-so-perfect pregnancy? How did it affect your feelings about yourself? Do you feel society sets us up to expect a rosy pregnancy? Let me know in the comments.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Francesca Sinisi July 27, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Hi Alison,

The boys are handsome! I want to babysit them again! I always thought they were normal, especially when they started running 2 different directions at the park. 🙂 You are doing a great job raising them! My twins were born a year ago and I can almost understand what you went through. High risk pregnancy, XX ultrasounds, many calls and visits to ob, at 30 weeks I found out I had contractions so I spent a few hrs at the hospital until they went away, and from there I mostly stayed in bed and prayed for each day, and week. We made it to 37weeks and 2 days , my son was 7lb 13oz, and my daughter was 7lb 1oz. I thought I had a long enough pregnancy, their weights were great and everything would be “normal” but my son had breathing problems right after birth (c-section) and he was sent to NICU the first night for monitoring and my daughter stayed with me. After 2 days I noticed she turned blue while feeding so she had to go to the NICU for 9 days. She was on a breathing monitor until we found out she was taking the bottle under her tongue, that blocked her airways, but eventually she learned how to eat the right way. Looking at her in the incubator with the IV, and breathing monitor was upsetting me. Doing CT scan of brain and other tests worried me.

I refused to go home with only one baby, it took me until 9pm to accept it. When people congratulated me I always told them there was another baby in the NICU. When my daughter was released I took my son with me and we took pictures of all of us in the lobby, and walking to the house for the first time.
Taking care of twins is another chapter I guess. 🙂 They are 1 year old and still don’t sleep through the night. I’ve been getting up at night at least 5-6 times since the day they were born. Now they are crawling, trying to walk, teething, and doing whatever they want to do. They are healthy and I’m really happy. They’ll be always special, they are twins!

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alisongolden July 28, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Francesca! How lovely to hear from you. And how ironic that you, too, had twins. Sounds like you went through the mill too but hopefully things will settle down for you soon. A book I recommend for mothers of twins is “The Contented Little Baby’ by Gina Ford. It reads a bit like child abuse in these days of attachment parenting but as you know with twins, you gotta do what you gotta do. It saved my life, got the boys sleeping through the night at 5 months and set up great sleep habits that still prevail today. If you email me your address, I can send you a copy. Lots of love, Alison

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Nina Kelley August 10, 2010 at 5:25 pm

You may think you are lucky to have those two handsome boys, but it sounds to me, after having read both Part 1 and 2 that those boys are pretty lucky to have you as a mom, too. 😉

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alisongolden August 10, 2010 at 8:42 pm

What a lovely thing to say, Nina. Thank you!

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Barb McMahon November 25, 2010 at 7:24 am

Gorgeous boys! I’m so happy for you.
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Alison Golden November 25, 2010 at 11:47 am

Thank you, Barb!

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Marcia Francois February 4, 2011 at 12:40 am

What gorgeous boys!

Reading this post took me back… My Kendra spent 27 days in NICU and Connor spent 16 days. Although I was glad to only have one at a time since I had NO clue about taking care of a baby, let alone babies 🙂

300 appointments is scary!
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Alison Golden February 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Hi Marcia:
Thank you for your kind words, Marcia!

At least having them in the NICU gave us both a bit of breathing time. I had no clue about taking care of a baby, either. Neither me nor my husband had ever changed a diaper in our lives before we got to do one through the holes of an isolette. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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Allie
Twitter:
May 8, 2012 at 10:25 am

Alison,

I am glad you shared this post again. I was not reading your blog back when you originally published it and, frankly, I feel a sort of bond with you now.

No, I didn’t have preemies. But my mom did and the fact that both passed away, my sisters passed away, has affected my life forever. I still cry over the cruelty of it all, watching my mom struggle to face the idea that her child may not make it. But I rejoice in the gift that was brought to us for just a few months.

There are always the “what-ifs”. What if she lived? Would she be handicap? Would she be “normal”? What would life had been life with a sister? (I have 1 brother who was preemie too but further along.)

I feel your agony of giving birth to preemies. I watched my mom in her agony, at 12 that is scary for a child. I watched her in the hospital every day for 10 months hoping my sister would finally go home. She never did. Her birthday just passed on May 5th. She would have been 28. My other sister never had a chance.

I am so happy for you and your boys. They are truly a blessing and a testament to those who fight for life.

Thank you so much for sharing your life.

~Allie
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Alison Golden May 22, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Allie, I had no idea. I think we forget the effect on siblings. And you were older, the same age as my kids now. When I lost my other ‘preemie’ – in my fifth month, my kids were 5, they were confused and saw me sad but didn’t dwell on it. For you, your mother’s prolonged agony, as well as your own must have been soooo hard at twelve years of age and it sounds like you carry much of the grief that a parent would. As you say, scary and sad. Thank you for writing your thoughts.
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Mary E. Ulrich
Twitter:
May 23, 2012 at 9:09 am

Alison, you really are an inspiring writer. I was almost holding my breath as you went through your experiences.

And no… ALL I WANT IS NORMAL! is completely legitimate and understandable and certainly the dream that keeps me going.

I just wish our society gave more support to parents of babies–no, actually to all parents and children.

This is a powerful story glad you shared it.
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