As a mother of former NICU twins, I understand the overwhelming stress and anxiety of having your babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. My twenty-eight weekers spent twenty-one days in the NICU, followed by forty-five days in the Special Care Nursery at Mass General Hospital in Boston. It was a scary and eye opening experience for us. Once we were able to wrap our heads around the reality that our family was going to be in the hospital for at least a couple of months, we were able to begin to take advantage of many of the services at our hospital for parents while their twins are in the NICU. I encourage NICU parents to take advantage of the following services very early on in their stay.
Social Security Benefits
The Social Worker in our NICU was a saint. She helped explain many of the outside services that would be available to us because my daughter, Grace, was born under 1200 grams. Due to her size, she was eligible for Social Security (Supplemental Security Income). Taking into account our income as the parents, Grace was only eligible for a small amount each month, which basically covered our hospital parking in Boston. In addition, the real benefit to being on Social Security Benefits was that Grace would be put on Mass Health. The Social Worker helped us initiate the claim, which was followed by a huge stack of paperwork but a few weeks after sending it all in, we received Grace’s acceptance letter. Mass Health covers everything medical that our primary insurance does not, like co-pays, the remainder of her prescription formula cost, her medical prescriptions and her visiting nurse for weight checks. Grace’s entire 57-day hospital stay was also covered in full. For new parents in this situation, it is absolutely worth it to talk to your Social Worker about this benefit and have them guide you through this process if your child is eligible. It can be a huge cost savings during a very difficult period.
The Social Worker also helped us get our parking pass at the hospital once the first thirty days lapsed with our children in the hospital, per the hospital’s policy. Parking cost $10 per day so it added up over the course of time. The second month the twins were in the hospital, our parking was covered by the pass. I recommend asking about this at your hospital for a long term NICU stay.
NICU Parents Group
The Social Worker also facilitated the NICU Parents Group. This group allowed any parents of infants in the NICU and Special Care Nursery to meet up twice a month to talk with other parents and eat dinner. It was completely voluntary but it honestly helped us to feel less alone in a very isolated place. We met people who had such success stories and met people who were having a much harder time than we were. It was unbelievably nice to have other parents who were so supportive and understanding of what we were going though.
The Lactation Consultants at the hospital were wonderful. They worked with me often on making sure I had the appropriate pump (I rented a hospital grade one at home and had one in the twin’s NICU room), was taking care of myself and was supplying enough for my babies. They helped me to make sure the flanges fit appropriately and that I was not becoming sore after pumping eight times per day. They were very supportive without being pushy, which I really appreciated after all we had been through.
As a pumping mother in the hospital, I could receive breakfast, lunch and dinner for free. The nurses were great about making sure I had a menu early in the day to put in my order. This was vital to keep up adequate nutrition for pumping. It also saved us a lot of money in running down to the hospital cafeteria and honestly, the food wasn’t half bad! I also had access to the refreshment station on the floor, which had ice, water, ginger ale and crackers during the off times during the day. Make sure you ask early on what the hospital’s policy is for nursing mothers!
Upon discharge from the hospital, the hospital set up both children with their first pediatrician appointment, Early Intervention services and a visiting nurse. Early Intervention is a free service that works with both children to help them develop. This service still comes to our house every week to see the children and will continue until they go to pre-school or test out of the program. Our visiting nurse still comes twice per month to weight Grace, who is still small for her age. This service is great because she also checks her lungs, heart rate and temperature to make sure she is healthy. This has been a huge blessing during flu/RSV season for a check in every couple of weeks!
Talk to the experts
As a first-time mom, I took advantage of talking to the nurses that had kids, especially ones with twins! They taught us so many helpful tricks in changing diapers, feeding the babies, taking their temperature, clothing them, giving medications and developing them. They also just taught us things that second time parents would know, like only purchase zipper onesies because you don’t want to do twelve snaps at three in the morning and cut a hole in a pacifier to give medications to your infant! When we were discharged, we also had the number to the Special Care Nursery and we were told we could call anytime with questions. We also had developed such strong relationships with our nurses that we were given their contact information to reach out to them for questions or support. It was such a relief to have other qualified people you could reach out to with a problem twenty-four hours a day!
Mothers of Multiples group
I did not join a group until the twins were a few months old and I really regret it. I was struggling with not knowing many mothers of multiples that I could turn to for help, support and sanity. The local group to my area has changed my life. They make the chaos seem totally normal and make me feel like we can survive any stage. I also love being able to support the newer moms with younger twins now that mine are over a year old. It has been a saving grace having these women to ask questions to and to support me. Also, they have great sales for all things baby twice a year in my area, which is a total money saver! Join a group as soon as you know you are pregnant!
Ask the nurses at the hospital you are at about any services they offer and please take advantage while your twins are in the NICU. You are in a difficult and emotional position right now and these wonderful people can help make your life just a little bit easier!
Corey Mathison is a first-time mom to one year old boy/girl twins that were born at twenty-eight weeks gestation. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, her twins, her dog Ronan and cats Charlotte and Savannah. She also works full-time as a Senior Manager of Human Resources for a biotech company in Cambridge and spends her occasional free time at the beach. She can be reached via her blog Journey with Twins C&G and on Facebook.
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