Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The World of the NICU

As I was putting books back on the bookshelf in the NICU earlier this week, I overheard the NICU coordinator telling the nurses, "We need to prepare some beds; we have 24 week twins on the way." At that moment, it seemed like I was having an out-of-body experience. I saw what it looked like when they were preparing room for my twins to be admitted into the NICU. I instantly felt my heart drop for the parents of these twins. I knew they were likely experiencing the most traumatic time in their lives. I knew they were thinking, "It's not time. This can't be happening." I knew that they would soon be counting down hours and days and wishing time would go by faster. I knew that the doctors would soon be talking to them in what seems like a foreign language - PICC lines, arterial lines, head bleeds, PDA surgeries, O2 levels, oscillating ventilators, conventional ventilators, blood gasses, CPAP, and so much more. I knew they would soon see their babies for the first time and be amazed at how tiny and yet perfect they were. I knew they would long to hold their babies but only be able to reach in the isolette and hold their tiny fingers. I knew they would be asking, "Why me?"

"Diseases have no eyes. They pick with a dizzy finger anyone, just anyone." (Sandra Cisneros in The House on Mango Street) This quote came to mind when I was thinking about the world of the NICU, but instead of "diseases," you can insert "premature birth." We have now spent 8 weeks in the NICU, and in that time we have seen many babies enter and leave. Camdyn's neighbor is a little Hispanic boy; Cade's neighbor for a while was an African-American baby girl. The 25 week twins across from us are Asian. Premature birth also affects all ages. When we were first admitted, we often saw a young mother who looked like she couldn't be any older than 16. We have also seen mothers who look like they are in their 40s. We've seen first-hand that premature birth really does pick with a "dizzy finger."

Becoming accustomed to the world of the NICU definitely takes some time. When you first enter, all you hear are the beeps of all the monitors. At times, it seems that every baby there is beeping. In the beginning, you jump every time you hear a beep, but you soon learn which beeps are important and which are not. You can differentiate between the desatting/high satting beeps and the "probe is off" beep. You know that the "feeding is over" beep doesn't matter whereas the brady beep does. I feel sure that my babies won't know how to sleep at home without all the beeping. Maybe I should invent a NICU sounds cd like those nature sounds ones.

On the other hand, the world of the NICU also shows you the beauty of parental love. You see dedicated parents sitting by their babies' bedsides, rocking them, feeding them, and praying for the best for them. You meet other parents who can truly understand what you are going through. You celebrate with other parents when your babies reach milestones that full-term babies never have to work to reach such as learning how to eat without a feeding tube and remembering to breathe on their own.

I wrote in a previous post that I don't want to be the one who has to tell some other unfortunate mother who delivers way too early in the future that we have been there and understand what they are going through, but now it looks like the future has come sooner than I expected. I didn't really think there would be another set of 24 week twins while we were there. I look forward to the day that the NICU world is not part of my everyday world anymore, and it will be just a distant memory.


Lindsay said...

I have thought about ya'll so much. You are in my thoughts everyday, check on the updates every chance I get.

Yes, you are correct, premature babies can happen to any body. Thankfully we were at 32 weeks not 23 but Camdyn and Cade are so strong and doing so well. I know they will keep up the progress.

Love to all

MoDLin said...

The March of Dimes is working hard to get us all to the day when every baby is born on time and healthy. I'm glad your little ones are growing stronger and I'm holding all the other neighbors in your NICU in my heart. Best wishes.

Natalie said...

Hi Michelle,

We do not know each other but Shelly Roznovak Cox shared your story with me because on August 30, 2009, we delivered our twins at 24 weeks and 5 days. I have been following your blog and just wanted to share our story because I know hearing about others that had walked before us helped get me through some of our days.

Lola Grace was 1 pound 9 ounces and Landry James was 1 pound 10 ounces. They both had brain bleeds (Lola a grade 1 and Landry a grade IV) and they both were struggling to get to the Cpap and stay on it....there were many failed attempts but they finally made it! We were in the NICU for over 4 months but they are now 9 months old, been discharged from all specialists and hitting all of their adjusted age milestones:)!!! Your babies seem to be moving a little faster than ours did so try and keep that smile on your face....they are doing great!

If you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me at assure you, we have heard every situation so far and I know that every baby is different but sometimes it is nice to talk to someone that has already walked the same line:)

I know how hard this is....we also had a little girl at home so we too had to figure out how to make ourselves available to so many places. Balance is the key and it sounds like you guys are doing a wonderful job! We pray for you each and every day and like you, look forward to the day you get to scoop those precious babies up and bring them home!!! I hope you have a great visit with your little ones today and know that this family is cheering you and your family on:)!!

Much love,
Natalie Gordon

PS Lola and Landry looked at your pictures with me and they are cheering too:)