Fragile and resilient, the words that I kept telling myself as I looked at my tiny baby daughters in their incubators. I had been preparing myself mentally since the moment I found out I was pregnant with twins for the possibility that they would arrive premature. I was 11 weeks along when I went for the ultrasound and received the surprise of a lifetime, babies three and four were on their way!
Immediately my thoughts swirled out of control.
What if they were early?
Would I be able to have a vaginal delivery?
Would I be able to breastfeed?
How are we going to do this, FOUR kids under three?!
My pregnancy started to feel like an hourglass. The sand was slipped through quickly as I chased after toddlers, purchased a bigger vehicle, and my husband, Luke, frantically finished projects around the house.
At 35 weeks and 6 days, consistent contractions began fast and furious. I let my fears float away, it didn’t matter if I felt ready or not, the time was now. Physically I felt strong and calm, I wasn’t afraid of birthing two babies.
Their birth was quite peaceful really. Eliza, Baby A, weighed 4lbs 9oz, and Josie, Baby B, arrived 4 minutes later at 4lbs 5oz. The room was full of nurses and doctors, a NICU team for each baby. I was able to hold each one skin to skin for a minute, I was simultaneously in awe of their perfect itty-bitty noses and scared at the sight of how tiny they truly were. The next moment they were both whisked to the two warmers that were in a separate area in our extra-large hospital room. I could hardly see them past all of the people in scrubs. While the OBGYN instructed me to push out the two placentas, a NICU doctor came and explained they were going to be taking the girls to the NICU for further monitoring. I nodded to both doctors, my mind on my two fresh babies.
It seemed like ages before Luke could wheel me to the NICU to see our babies. We dialled the corded phone on the wall and were let into the most wonderful place that you never want to be.
I looked around the room, and there were little fighter babies all over. Some with blankets over their incubators like little baby birds, some in open isolettes, some being snuggled and rocked by family and nurses.
A kind nurse led us to Eliza’s incubator and then motioned over to the opposite corner where Josie was in hers. It was hard to see them, so far from each other. Seeing their scrawny yet perfect little bodies with monitors and tubes as I gazed at them through the plexiglass was something I could not have prepared for.
These little beings that I had carried so close in my womb felt so out of reach. My arms ached for them.
She explained how our girls were both doing well, they just needed some help moderating their body temperature and to grow and would be monitored for signs of heart or breathing issues that are common for preemies. I felt assured that my babies were healthy, but part of my heart ached with guilt for the families around me that had longer stays and harder days ahead of them.
The next 11 days were a whirlwind of ups and downs, even still when I am asked about it, I often say I have blocked that out of my memory. The emotions were like none other and I find it hard to put them into words.
The whole experience was so different than with my two older children that I felt like a first-time parent all over again. I second-guessed myself constantly.
Was it ok that I was spending so much time away from my other two children?
Was is it ok for me to leave them in the NICU for a rest?
Was my breastmilk enough?
Am I enough?
Important lessons I learned in those early days have benefited me throughout not only my parenting journey, but in life in general.
This is when I found my voice, my cliche inner lioness you could say. I learned to speak up about things that were important to me.
I wanted to breastfeed, I wanted their incubators beside each other, I wanted to stay at the hospital, and I wanted to be included in decisions made by the doctors each day during rounds. Each day as my baby girls grew, so did my confidence.
The day came when the girls could safely be held together. I had been anticipating this moment since I looked at that ultrasound with the two little beans.
My arms were enough, I was indeed enough.