In the grand scheme of things, it's not long. But for Mabel and Walter, 16 days is their entire life. They've been outside my body and inside those plastic boxes for 16 days.
NICU life is no joke. And while I think we are handling it with as much grace and humor as possible, I still have moments when I crumble. These doctors and nurses are taking excellent care of my babies. I get to visit as often as I like. But it's still just that ... a visit.
It feels weird.
On one hand, I feel relieved that they are somewhere they can get the care and monitoring they need. On the other hand, I feel anxious to get them home. Right now, it feels like I spend more quality time with my breast pump than I do with my babies. It's surreal.
Dan and I spent a lovely afternoon with M & W on Saturday. We got to feed and cuddle them. I'm usually in NICU alone while Dan takes care of Lloyd at home. But we shipped Lloyd off to Grandma and Grandpa's for a few days with the intention of getting some last minute things done before the babies (possibly) come home this week. It was nice to have some one-on-one time with the twins without that pang of guilt that the other baby isn't being held. I left feeling good about where the babies were and what we had accomplished. Then, on our way out, I saw a fellow NICU family being wheeled out to their car. A car seat in the mother's lap with her baby inside. My face flushed and the tears started coming down.
I get these random gushes of emotion. I was so elated for them and excited to think we could be next, but terrified at the idea of doing this on our own. And yet, I was jealous that they get to go home while we are still here. It gave me all the feels.
These moments creep up on you.
Today in the NICU, I saw a new mom hunched over her baby in his own little plastic box. She was wearing a hospital gown, wheelchair parked beside her and quietly crying. I just wanted to hug her. I began crying for her, remembering how hard those first few days were. Instead, I headed into my room to hug my sweet babes and was greeted with the news that Walter would be coming home tomorrow.
Coming. Home. Tomorrow.
Shit just got real people.
Pale-faced and speechless, I turned right around and walked out to the hallway to call Dan and give him the news. There is so much left to do before the babies come home. Somehow, their cribs have become a catch-all for laundry and other miscellaneous items. Their car seat covers need to be rewashed, I don't have enough swaddle blankets ... the list goes on.
I came back to the babies’ room. This time, in my speed and enthusiasm, I didn't even notice the crying mother as I passed her room. Because IT'S OUR TURN TO GO HOME! Walter had been eating so well they took out his feeding tube. He's official tube free! Mabel isn't eating quite as well, although gaining weight more rapidly (sorry M. Blame the genes). In my mind, she isn't too far behind Walter.
Potentially there is a chance that both babies could be home by the end of the week.
Then the doctor came in and quickly crushed our dreams. Turns out Walter stopped breathing twice yesterday. And, not surprisingly, they don't let babies go home for four or five days after that type of incident. I understood. Overall, I felt more relieved that anything. If he's going to stop breathing, then I certainly want him to stay where he can be properly monitored.
Apparently at 36 weeks, their suck reflex kicks in. Walter is loving his pacifier these days. In fact, he's loving it so much he's sometimes forgetting to breathe when he sucks. Suck, swallow, breathe. It something he needs to learn.
We are all learning as we go, myself included. And if it makes you feel any better Walter, there have been plenty of times in these past 15 days where I feel like I've forgotten how to breathe. We'll master it together. One breath at a time.
Someday soon enough we will all be together. Until that day, I'm just doing my best to breathe. We all are.