Although nothing about the birth went as we anticipated, everything worked out very well. The care we all received in Nanaimo was exceptional, the best care I could imagine....better even. The number of nurses we dealt with between the NICU and myself was a lot and they were all exceptional... although a few stand out as being total saviours in moments of distress or concern.
Both Samson and Rachel struggled a bit with their blood sugar levels and needed to stay in the NICU for monitoring. Samson needed an IV line. They were there for 2.5 days, each day getting better and stronger.
Low birth weight babies require some special considerations and we learned a lot from the NICU nurses in those two days. In general: don't let them get too upset, it burns too many calories. They need to feed minimum ever 3 hours and need to take a minimum of 30mls. Don't let them get too hot and don't let them get too cold. Their ability to maintain their own body temperatures and their blood sugar levels in between feeds were big milestones in those two days. Rachel was half a day ahead of Samson, as you'd expect from a slightly bigger baby.
Those two days were a very emotional time for us. I was struggling to take it all in. I kept thinking 'I have babies but I can't be with them.... are they really here? I hurt physically and feel like an invalid, how can I possibly take care of them?' I needed Andrew to help with everything and he was there every step of the way....taking care of me physically, emotionally, remembering information I couldn't keep track of, learning how to take care of the babies as I tried to learn breastfeeding. He was a superstar and continues to be.
I got to see Samson and Rachel for the first time after leaving the OR when I could prove that I could stand on my own. I went to the bathroom, then got ready and was wheeled into the NICU where they were. They were sooo small and hooked up to all kinds of monitors. But the nurses quickly unhooked them and got them into our arms for a snuggle and a feed. I think it was 3am.
I was exhausted and the next feed was at 6am. We returned to our room, tried to catch a few minutes of rest and returned for the 6am feed. The next two days were more of the same. We went to the NICU for every feed except one in the middle of the night. Each feeding session lasted at least an hour. So that only left 2 hours at most in between visits....and meant we rarely slept or had time to do much more than eat, take pain meds, try to communicate with family.
By Sunday we were thrilled to be told that Rachel could come back to the room with us. It felt like a gift. That afternoon, Samson was released as well. As long as we could feed them their minimum amounts and their weight didn't drop off, we could keep them.
All went well and we were on an adrenaline high. By Monday we were talking about being let go as long as the babies jaundice didn't get any worse (bilirubin blood test was required) and they passed their car seat challenge, which require 1.5 hours in the seat hooked up to oxygen monitors.
The blood test proved to be a harrowing experiene that had to be done 3 times on Samson. I can't write or talk about it without getting very upset so I won't. Suffice it to say it was our first experience challenging a professional in order to advocate for our child... and it was worth it. The final test was done without a peep from our boy, compared to 20 minutes of incredible distress for the previous ones. Gah, I'm crying just remembering it.
Both Samson and Rachel aced their car seat challenges Monday night. Tuesday brought the news that their bilirubin levels were acceptable and they were back to their birth weights. We were cleared to leave. After a frenzied morning of packing and organizing, we left for home....a very stressful trip for me, not being able to see them and assure myself that they were okay. Many times at a stop light I unbuckled my seatbelt and reached back to ensure they weren't too hot or cold and still breathing.
We stopped at Grandma and Grandpa's house half way through the journey for a feed, which took 2 hours. :) And then made it all the way home (with a short delay on the highway) with perfectly happy babies. Walking into the house for the first time with them was a sweet moment. My parents were there with dinner on the table and the house all lit up welcoming us.
And then I crashed, exhausted after only 14 hours of sleep in the previous 6 days.