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A twin parent's guide to surviving the NICU

Updated: Jan 13

How to prepare for premature labor with twins

On March 8th , 2021 my twins were unexpectedly born 6 weeks early. I was 34 weeks pregnant when my water suddenly broke at 3 a.m. My husband and I rushed to the hospital and were told once we got there that after my c-section, the girls would be automatically brought to the NICU due to their prematurity. Being a first-time mom, I was already nervous about so much. I tried to be as prepared as possible for

the twin’s birth. I already knew I would be having a c-section, so I dove headfirst in researching different recovery methods. I joined several twin groups and got several tips on specific twin products that could make life a little easier. I even hired some help in advance in order to prepare for the challenges that come with taking care of two babies at once.

What to expect after twins are born early

I felt like I was prepared for a lot, however I was not prepared for the girls to be taken away from me immediately after birth. This just wasn’t something that crossed my mind. Making it past the critical 32-week milestone of a twin pregnancy made me feel like I was going to make it to term, and the girls would have a normal birth. Little did I know that baby A was going to switch positions and break my water earlier than expected.

Luckily, our NICU stay for the twins was milder than most. The girls were in the NICU for 11 days. They were monitored mostly for temperature control, feeding and growing. I feel beyond lucky to have had these be the only struggles our girls encountered during their stay. On day 7, the doctors tried to take the twins out of their isolates to see if they could handle normal room temperatures. Unfortunately, their temperatures plummeted, and they had to be put back into their isolates for another 3 days. Luckily, they gained the strength they needed and were able to handle being in regular cribs a few days later.

I feel very fortunate to have had the NICU be a positive experience for the twins. The NICU nurses are like angels living on earth. Every NICU nurse that we encountered had a calm demeanor and positive attitude. It truly made a big difference in our experience.

NICU stay with singleton son

Fast forward 17 months later and my son was also born early (he was born at 36 weeks) and I found myself in the NICU again. This time for a different reason though. My body created an immense amount of scar tissue due to my previous c-section. The baby was experiencing decelerations in triage, so I was quickly wheeled up to the operating room for yet another emergency c-section. This one more emergent than the last. My son’s NICU stay was much shorter than the twins, but more nerve-wracking as it was for an actual medical issue (not for just being born small). Thankfully, the doctors were able to deliver him in just the nick of time which saved us from a lot of potential issues.

As I was wheeled up to the NICU to visit the baby for the very first time, I felt a sense of familiarity. I had been there before, I knew which turns to take, where the cafeteria was and the nearest restroom. As much as I was upset that he also was going to encounter a stay in the NICU, I also had a sense of relief. I knew that that my son was exactly where he needed to be and that he was going to get the best care, outside of my own, for however long his stay would be. Once home, I was happy to have a resource such as this one to navigate the first several months at home. It showed me how to establish a routine and what to expect with a newborn at home again.

4 tips for surviving the NICU:

  • Utilize the nurses- The NICU nurses are different than the Labor & Delivery nurses. They are trained specifically in taking care of premature babies as well as babies with certain medical conditions. They are going to be your best resource for anything NICU; newborn related.

  • Participate in rounds – everyday around the same time, the doctors will come into the room and discuss your baby’s condition and progress. This is the best time for you to be able to voice any concerns and ask a medical doctor any questions that you may have about your baby.

  • Take advantage of feeding support – Whether you decide to breastfeed or formula feed, the NICU has a team that is there to assist you. Don’t hesitate to ask your nurse to make an appointment for you so that you can learn as much as possible before your baby is discharged.

  • Celebrate the wins! While it can be upsetting to see your baby hooked up to several cords and machines, it is important to celebrate any win no matter how small. Your baby gained half an ounce – amazing! Your baby is no longer in an isolate? WOOHOO! Your baby passed the car seat challenge? AMEN!

If your baby must endure a NICU stay, I want you to know that at that moment, even though you wish you could be the one holding them, they are getting the EXACT care that they need at that time. Have faith that during those moments, that is where they need to be in order to thrive. A positive mindset is imperative and will help you get through those tough days/nights in the NICU.

Stellina Ferri is the author of this article. She is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and mom to three. She lives in the Boston Massachusetts area with her family.

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