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.