Read the reasons why a mom of twins wishes she hadn't ignored the signs of preterm labor because she thought she was overreacting.
“It’s way too soon.” I thought to myself as they told me I was dilated to 6 cm. I thought it was just gas pains. I guess it’s a good thing that, for once, I listened to my husband and came to get checked out.
“How am I in labor?”, I thought. “I haven’t even adjusted to the fact that I am pregnant, let alone pregnant with two. But here I am. 26 weeks and 1 day pregnant. I am dilated to 6 cm with a sac bulging.”
“My pregnancy has been good. Other than being miserable from growing two, my blood pressure has been good and I do my best to drink all the water I can stand,” I told myself. “I haven’t even got to do my glucose test. Everyone says the glucose test is the worst. I should be happy about missing it but it’s just another thing I’ll miss when it comes to pregnancy.”
There is nothing that can prepare you for having twins. There’s definitely nothing that can prepare you for them coming early. Whether it’s a few weeks or a few months, preterm labor and delivery is terrifying. When you find out you’re pregnant with twins, especially depending on the type of twins, you mentally try and prepare yourself that there is a chance of your babies going to the NICU.
“They might be a little smaller than a singleton. They will just need a little bit of time to feed and grow,” I thought. Even as you tell yourself this and try to prepare, in the same thought you tell yourself, “But not my babies. Mine will be the ones that are okay. I will go into the hospital, deliver my babies, and take them home.” I swear a symptom of pregnancy is hormonal delusions.
As I look back now, the signs of preterm labor were there. I started to have white discharge a few days before I was told I was in labor. My boys always sat really high and the last week of pregnancy I remember carrying my belly like a bowling ball was about to fall out.
I had a ton of energy. The night I went to the hospital, I only had a few cramps here and there. They were high up in my belly and they would pass. Then they would come back.
I was a first-time mom. It was my first time experiencing pregnancy. I was 26 weeks pregnant. I don’t handle pain well. I’m a nurse. I’ve seen all the movies. I thought, “My water hasn’t broken. There is no way I am in labor. This isn’t the way it happens. I’m supposed to be screaming in pain, sweating, leaking, cussing, doubled over, and I’m supposed to be further along.”
This was not the plan. I wanted a baby shower, I wanted maternity pictures, I wanted to try and deliver naturally. Suddenly all the things that I had been looking forward to and excited for went right out the window.
A time that was supposed to be the best of my life was now the scariest thing I could go through. I went from caring about all the extra things that come along with pregnancy to just caring about the only thing that mattered: my babies' lives.
I went through a very traumatic emergency C-section due to twin A turning at the last minute. I heard two babies cry and then the next thing I know I’m waking up in a room with a nurse, no pregnant belly, and no babies.
I didn’t get to hold them or even see them when they were first born. That image you hold onto all throughout pregnancy where they lie your babies on your chest after you have them and this euphoria comes over you doesn’t happen to all moms. It was 12 hours before I got to see my boys for the first time. I was starting to learn I was a different kind of mom.
I was a NICU mom. For many days and weeks, I kept saying over and over in my head, “I’m a mom. I have sons.” But I didn’t feel like a mom. I didn’t get to hold my babies. I didn’t get to feed my babies. I couldn’t protect them or keep them safe. A box was doing everything my body was supposed to do for them. I had to ask permission to touch them and there were times I was told I couldn’t. How am I a mom?
When I fell asleep, if I did sleep, I didn’t have a baby crying to wake me because he was hungry or lonely. I had to go to the hospital every day at certain times to get to change my sons’ diapers.
My body failed. It failed my babies, it failed me, and it failed my husband. We were all suffering because I couldn’t stay pregnant. Was it the occasional Dr. Pepper I drank? Did I work too much? Did I eat enough protein? “I’m not sure what I did wrong, but it’s my fault,” I told myself. My babies were fighting for their lives, going through what no little baby should, because I couldn’t do the one thing my body was made to do.
I tried pumping because that is the only thing as a NICU mom that you can do to help your babies. I pumped, and I pumped, and I pumped. I power pumped. I ate the cookies. I took the supplements. I talked to my doctor. It was too early, I lost too much blood, I was too depressed and stressed. Another thing I failed at.
Every day I walked into the hospital, got on the elevator and headed to the boys’ room. While other moms were breastfeeding, sleep-deprived, changing diapers, giving baths, deciding what their baby would wear for the day, I was sitting next to an incubator. I was waiting and waiting. I was watching every breath. The hospital life became home. It became my normal. The same walk to the NICU, the handwashing, the late nights and early mornings waiting on doctors to round.
The nurses became my friends. I knew what was going on in their everyday lives and they were learning things about me. I saw them more than my friends and family. The world still spins. Days go on. Life goes on. While you’re held up worrying about oxygen settings, ounces gained, and temperature, others are still working, paying bills, going about their lives. Day after day.
Until one day, you wake up and they hand you your babies. Your babies, without wires, oxygen, or IVs. Your babies in clothes and ready to be loaded into their car seats. After days, weeks, and months in this standstill, it’s time. It’s time to walk out of the NICU and the hospital and not walk back in. To load up your car and not leave your heart behind.
The NICU life is by far the hardest thing you will ever do. Seeing your babies fight for their lives while all you can do is sit there and watch will break you in ways you never thought possible. The guilt you feel as a parent that is put into a situation that goes against every instinct we have.
I’ve never felt more alone and isolated as I did in the NICU. I’m here to tell you that you are not alone and you are a good parent. Be easy on yourself. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and every day in the NICU is one day closer to being at home, with all of those dreams you had coming true.
It’s hard to realize all the things you feel like you missed out on in pregnancy and in the newborn stage. It’s okay to mourn that loss. It’s okay to be frustrated that you and your babies are going through this but, please, do not blame yourself.
To the woman that is pregnant with twins right now (and the partners with pregnant wives): listen to your body. Pay close attention and never, ever think you are just overreacting. It is always better to get checked than to put it off and be too far into labor to stop it. Twins are considered a high-risk pregnancy for a reason. Do not be proud.
To the NICU parents out there who are feeling alone: If you are feeling like this is never going to end and that you cannot carry on another day in the hospital without your baby, you are not alone. This will not be your life forever. You are strong. The only thing stronger than you is your preemies. Your day is coming and it will be worth all of the struggling. I highly encourage reaching out to other NICU parents. No one understands the NICU life like others that have been there. It will help to be able to vent and hear from them just how similar you are.
Gretchen Radford is a first time mom to identical twin boys that were born at 26 weeks. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband, sons and Rocky (the doggo). Before she was a twin mom, she was a dog mom. When she’s not surrounded by all the boys in her life, she works as a Registered Nurse in the Emergency Department. The more chaos the better. You can follow her crazy life on her personal blog, gretchenradford.com, Instagram, and Twitter.
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