On Wednesday, we brought Mabel home. She must have gotten word that her brother was trying to break outta the joint and decided to pick up her eating pace in an effort to be the first Krieg twin discharged. Mission accomplished.
For 18 days, I left the hospital wearing 2 wristbands as the only proof that I birthed these babies. The bands are magic. With a simple wave of the wrist, I'm allowed to breeze by the front desk, or the security guard at the emergency room when I need to enter after hours. I'm almost always met with a smile that holds just a tiny bit of sadness in it and they say to me in a comforting voice, "congrats." I hold my wrist up to the tiny camera posted outside the NICU and the doors suddenly part for me.
But Wednesday I went home with one band ... and one baby. One down. One to go.
These last four days have been easier than we anticipated. I imagine because we are anticipating it becoming twice as hard as soon as Walter is released. But when will Walter be released?
We thought it would be last Monday. Then the "episodes" began where Walter stopped breathing. Sometimes it's while he's sleeping, others are while he eats. And occasionally when he tries to poop, he'll push so hard, he forgets to breathe. (No judgement. We've all been there buddy.)
For an incident to be recorded, it has to last longer than 15 seconds and requires intervention by a nurse or doctor. Usually this just mean a pat on the back, something to startle him in to remembering to breathe. He was incident-free for over 72 hours and we thought we would be bringing him home Sunday morning (today). But I arrived Saturday to find Walter had experienced another "incident," this one involving choking while eating. It lasted more than 20 seconds and he actually turned grey.
So, we reset the clock to zero and thus the countdown continues.
We are now at 36 hours without an incident and hoping Wednesday will be the day we get to bring him home (insert me ugly crying while singing “Bring Him Home” from Les Mis). But in the NICU, the babies set the rules. And we only want him home once we are sure he's breathing well 100% of the time.
It's weird having four of the five of us home. These last few days, I've learned so many things about Mabel. For instance, she's as stubborn as her mother. She loves to breastfeed. Her witching hour is between 2 and 5 am. She eats, burps and farts like a truck driver. She can get her entire onesie soaked in pee during a diaper change because vaginas are magic and don't tip you off on what direction they are about to pee in. You get the idea.
There've been a lot of boobs, bonding and diaper changes. But something is missing.
As we begin to fall into a routine I can't help but feel guilty. From everything I'm told, guilt will be an underlying theme in my life now that I have twins. But having one home and one in the NICU is emotionally harder than I imagined.
It somehow feels as though we've been plotting and planning for this production for months and suddenly it's opening night, "5 minutes to places, please!", but one of our cast members is missing. Opening night keeps getting postponed so we just continue rehearsals without him. Suddenly our ensemble cast of five is now four and that's where the guilt creeps in.
Throughout our days together, there are so many moments. Relationships are being built. Me drunk on love nursing Mabel, her drunk on milk, in the wee hours of the morning are harder to enjoy when I think of Walter sitting in a little plastic box getting my milk from a little plastic bottle. Of course, the nurses there give him love, but no one beats Mom. To witness Lloyd's eyes filled with joy as he pleads "Let me just hold Mabel" for the 11th time in the last hour. Even just running to the store and people cooing over Mabel, I feel compelled to say "she has a twin brother who is equally adorable," but tears well up in my eyes even just thinking about mentioning it, so I avoid the topic altogether.
All they see is a woman wearing a hospital band holding a new baby. That magic band that means so much to me is lost on them.
Of course, we visit Walter, but now I have to work around Mabel's schedule, Walter's schedule, my pumping schedule, and the list goes on. Somehow my visits seem shorter with an infant and toddler in tow and getting there alone is impossible. My time and attention feels unevenly divided and It's just ... hard.
But if our journey to parenthood has taught us anything, it's that nothing is ever easy and in the end, it's always worth it. Walter has been in NICU exactly three weeks today, and the best any of us can do is wait. So we will continue rehearsals here at home awaiting the day Walter joins the cast and the real show begins. As of now it's 72 hours to Places.