Election Day 2015…
“So is this our last ultrasound?” My husband’s famous last question while we waited for the anatomy scan of our first baby. We had one other ultrasound where we heard the heartbeat, and saw something that didn’t even look like a baby wiggle around. You know, the ultrasound where everyone tells you hearing the heart beat is magical.
Of course we were excited to find our the gender of the baby, and let the name debate truly begin, but we were also nervous about problems or abnormalities that may be found. “I think so,” I answered, “but we can ask during the appointment,” and we went back to sitting quietly, waiting for my name to be called.
Back in the dim examination room I sat ready to be scanned with my budding belly out and Joe to my left. Adorably, we asked the tech not to tell us the gender but write it down and put it in an envelope. We planned to have brunch at Square Cafe afterward where we would reveal the gender to each other. She applied the gel to my stomach and got to work, frequently looking back and forth between my chart and then the screen. Chart then screen. Chart then screen. She paused for a long time.
“Did you know you’re having two?” She asked.
“Two what?” Joe replied without hesitation.
“Babies,” And as I looked up at the screen, there they were, two recognizable heads moving around.
“No,” I answered through laughter as a single tear rolled down my cheek.
“How did this happen?” Joe questioned.
“Do you still want me to write down the gender?”
Two and half hours later, after finding out our identical baby boys were healthy, we made eight ultrasound appointments for the next sixteen weeks.
Two years later, almost to the date, I find myself preparing for a trip back to West Penn Hospital where our sons, Xavier and Bruce, were born eight weeks early. During that first appointment where we learned we were having twins I was given precautions for diet (increase protein) and warnings of preterm labor (multiples often come early), but everyone was healthy with no need to worry. My family is visiting the NICU as a way to say thank you to the staff for saving Xavier and Bruce’s life.
Thirty two days Joe and I spent driving back and forth from home to hospitals, and sometimes we drove two or three times. We lived like zombies, going through the motions of normal life but not feeling much. All of our energy and emotion dedicated to the people we loved the most but didn’t know at all. At just over four pounds our boys looked big in their isolates hooked up to machines that helped them breath, helped them eat, and helped them stay alive. Just like other first time parents, we loved out babies instantly. We took pictures of them in the operating room, where twin moms have to deliver, before they were rushed to the NICU. We captured photos of them as they grew stronger and developed the reflexes other babies are born doing, like the ability to suck, swallow, and breath all at once. We looked past all of the equipment, like so many other NICU parents do, and we just saw our babies. Each drive to the hospital was filled with angst wondering what news waited for us. We celebrated the day that Bruce was able to breath independently on room air, and we cried the day he had to put the nasal cannula back on. Our days were filled with emotional ups and downs.
Bruce came home first, on a Monday night. Our excitement to bring him home was overshadowed by leaving Xavier. This night would be the first night that Xavier didn’t have his brother with him. As I kissed him goodbye and said I love you, I told him that he was in better hands with the experienced nurses at the hospital than with us. We left and cautiously drove Bruce home for the first time. That night Bruce slept in our bedroom, but we left the lights on because I was too afraid to turn them off. Two days later, Wednesday, Xavier was discharged. Our family of four was finally able to begin.
Like all new parents, we questioned ourselves and struggled in the beginning, wondering if the baby was hungry or over fed, too tired or not tired enough! And like most parents we figured things out and got into a routine over time. But like most NICU parents we carry with us the effects of watching our babies struggle to breath and have a bradycardia, not taking them home with us when we were discharged, and feeling helpless. We are eternally grateful to the doctors and nurses who saved our children, and forever they hold a special place in our hearts.
This week I will visit somewhere I want no one to ever go, and yet I’ve wanted to return since I left, West Penn NICU. We are going back to Celebrate Xavier and Bruce and thank the staff who helped make their lives possible.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month and November 17th is Premature Awareness day.