It's amazing to look at both of them laying side by side in their crib and remember what we went through for the past 2 months. Sara spent 44 days in the NICU, Adam 61. The last night Adam was in the hospital, I took a walk down memory lane before his 11:30pm feeding...
I can't tell you how many times I have pushed that elevator button for the 4th floor. Coming out of the elevator, I walked past the family waiting lounge. Every time we would visit, I would stop in there to go to the bathroom. And yes, I mean every time. I never knew how long we would be visiting and the last thing you want is a woman who just gave birth to not take the opportunity to use the restroom! Down the hall, past the pictures of nurses that work the NICU, many of whom cared for my kids at one time or another. And past the pictures of other preemies who have either gone on to live a thriving life or are remembered for the struggle they lost. Whether seated in a wheelchair or walking, they never ceased to amaze me and I often stopped to review them. When you see a picture of a baby born less than 2lb next to a picture of the same baby thriving years later, it gives you hope.
The square window with blinds that display the babies in Room 4, the last intermediate room Adam & Sara shared before permanently residing in 1218. The back corner is now occupied by other preemies and their parents but I will always remember peeking in there and getting the surprise of seeing Sara in an open air crib for the first time. Also the room that Adam's first blood transfusion was administered.
The room adjacent to Room 4 is bittersweet. I walked in on the nurse trying to get a catheter in Adam for a urine sample - not a good day. Probably the first time that my Mama instinct kicked in the most. It wasn't easy to see Adam's first cranial IV either. But it was the place where the twins' isolettes were placed side by side for the first time. Our first experiences all together as a family of 4.
Past the nurses' station and the double sinks that we spent who knows how long scrubbing up to our elbows at 2-minute intervals. It got to the point that we developed a pattern of washing that would fill the required time without having to set the timer. 4 quirts of soap on the sponge with the foot pump, get it wet, scrub the front and back of the left forearm, the front and back of the left hand, inside and outside of each finger, under the nails, repeat the cycle a 2nd time...rewet the sponge and mirror the process with the right. 2 minutes.
I peered through the window of Room 2. Sara's first home in the neonatal intensive care unit. The hustle and bustle of the nurses was the same, monitors going off at various preemie stations. This room was the first stop the staff made when they wheeled my hospital bed in to see the kids after delivery. Because of the level of magnesium sulfate in my system, I was not able to safely move from a bed to a wheelchair for easier transport. Interesting as I think about it that with the hours and hours we spent in this area of the NICU, I never saw another mom in a hospital bed chauffered to see her new bundles. This room held my first experience of unexpectedly holding Sara while she got the linens in her bed changed. She looked small when I would reach in the isolette to touch her but nothing made that reality hit home more than having her 2lb+ swaddled in my arms in a tangle of wires and feeling like I wasn't holding anything.
Room 1 was Adam's first home of his life. It was here that I learned quickly that my son's soothing trigger is to rub his head. As I looked at the spot where Adam's bed used to be, I remember so vividly sitting with Shannon to hear the news of Adam's Level 3 IVH brain bleed. The doctor drew a picture on a piece of paper for us to understand the workings of the brain and where the bleeding was located. I held it together for most of the explanation until Dr. Makwon spoke of increased chances of developmental issues and cerebral palsy. And then I just felt overcome. Shannon held me and comforted me - 'we don't know anything yet' he would say. It was also in a rocking chair with the curtain drawn around his area, holding him skin to skin, that I learned when Adam is very content, he "snores" a repeated sigh. We spent many hours kangarooing with our kids to form an early bond.
To look back on pictures now, it is shocking. I am amazed at how healthy they look in comparison. The experience seems so far away, yet at the same time I can close my eyes and be right back there sitting in my wheelchair and putting my hand through their isolette portholes so we could hold fingers. The NICU taught us commitment and compassion as parents, and just how fervent the love can be between a child and a parent. We are forever changed.