David and I let the M&Ms play on the back porch and eat their snack and I brought my camera. This is the result:
Happy Friday! =)
David and I let the M&Ms play on the back porch and eat their snack and I brought my camera. This is the result:
Happy Friday! =)
Once upon a time, when the babies were two months old…
I began dreaming of the day when their nourishment was not dependent entirely upon me. This was mainly due to the immense challenges I faced with breastfeeding all three babies and supply issues (you can read our journey on breastfeeding here). I read somewhere that babies often begin cereal at four months old so I figured I’d better get on this if I’m going to do it right! …Right? I began doing some research and talked with my pediatrician who encouraged me to wait until around six months. I was disappointed but was willing to wait – what harm could there be in waiting?
And so I did more research. (Seriously, how do you do mommyhood and not do research? This mom thing is confusing!)
I discovered two major things:
We’ll discuss the second point next time. But the more I read, searched and asked questions, the more I realized that babies really will tell you when they want to start food – and it’s very rare for this to happen before six months (though we all tend to think our baby is the exception, right? =).
Maybe you’ve heard the saying “food before one is just for fun.” It’s really true! Babies get everything they need from breastmilk (even if the baby is on formula, the bulk of his nutrition is coming from the bottle). The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization even recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life (or bottle-fed for all my mommy friends who aren’t able to breastfeed <3).
So how, then, do you know when your baby is ready?! Great question! Here are the current recommendations:
All of the above should be in place prior to beginning solids. In some cases this will mean readiness before six months, but in most cases it will mean the baby is not ready till after their half-birthday. (I know a few one year olds who showed no interest in food!)
Some signs that do not (alone) indicate when babies are ready for solids include:
At this point in my research, I knew I did not want to start the babies on solids until they were exhibiting the signs of readiness above. They were about seven months old when I finally gave in and introduced solids. Little did I know what lay in store for me: babies eating solids = mess!
If you’re unfamiliar with baby-led weaning (BLW), it simply means “letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning.” (BabyLedWeaning.com) I would encourage you to check this method out to determine if it is for you and your baby.
I, however, chose to do mostly pureed foods with elements of baby-led weaning (which actually works gloriously, in my opinion! =). And there were several reasons that went into my decision to begin with pureed foods. Our schedule was such that we didn’t eat meals at the same time that the babies did so I would have ended up preparing food twice anyway. And we were in a season where David and I weren’t eating the way I prefer we eat because of…well, having three babies to care for! I wanted them to eat better than we were (no Kraft macaroni for them! =) And, because there were three, I wanted to know exactly what they were eating – to watch for any adverse reactions by spoon-feeding them. So for me it ended up being easier to puree foods for a while.
What I didn’t do was follow a recipe book. I took one look at them and decided that was not for me – no combining broccoli and apple to sneak the broccoli in. (More on this next time!) So I just usually “mushed up” something in bulk for the babies. The time spent preparing foods really wasn’t bad, either. I could make a serious amount of food in a very little amount of time. (I promise I’ll show you how!) And with none of this peeling stuff! Nope. If I could eat the peel, the babies could, too! (Of course I modified how the food arrived to them for safety, but that was way easier than peeling, say, an apple for applesauce!)
So, what did they eat? Well, stop on by next week and we’ll chat about that… ‘cause it’s a very long list!
Note: Always check with your pediatrician and do your own research to determine what is best for you and your baby.
Like you, I was hit by a tsunami of “I love my mother” posts on all the social media sites. It was precious seeing everyone’s baby pictures, all of the “you’re the best mother in the world” declarations, etc. And I loved seeing all the women honored – women who have sacrificed bodies, careers and unending hours of time to produce and care for and love their children.
However, I found myself tossed by different emotions and thoughts. It seems to me that Mother’s Day is actually very similar to every other day before it and after it! (Bear with me here – I have only celebrated a few Mother’s Days, ok? I’m new at this. =) I mean, right? Would you agree that Mother’s Day is:
wiping snotty noses.
taking a nap.
picking up sticky, spilling sippy cups out of a puddle of milk on the floor.
having lunch made for you.
breaking up a fight…again.
waking sleepy children from naptime.
giving consequences for disobedience.
planning meals for the day.
a sweet card.
a frozen ice-cream yumminess treat.
a day to worship with others.
a day to need grace, patience and mercy.
a reminder of blessings.
Mother’s Day isn’t just the pictures of flowers and coffee-retreats, the esteeming and adoring posts or the happy children racing to do our every beck and call. No, Mother’s Day is oftentimes just like any other day: a day to cherish the good, the bad and the ugly. A day to fulfill the calling given us by the One Who helps us each step of the way. A day to appropriate the much-needed grace and to enjoy the tidbits of a break or the sloppy kisses at the encouragement of a husband.
Mother’s Day is over. Until next year. But every day in between I have the opportunity to be encouraged, honored and loved. In a million different ways, if I’ll look for them.
If you haven’t been high-risk, an MFM stands for maternal-fetal medicine specialist (or neonatologist, or perinatologist). These men and women walk us through our pregnancies more closely than our OBs! We see them on a weekly basis sometimes. They make life-saving decisions about our babies and even us! They become much more than a white coat. They watch our babies grow, literally, weekly, and celebrate all the milestones with us – halfway for triplets, halfway for singleton pregnancy, viability, term for triplets, etc.
Dr. Al-malt is the man who (with my OB team) kept my babies safe and sound in their womb-home for nearly 33 weeks! He made the call on the need for the cerclage. He did more than a dozen ultrasounds on the four of us – tracking soooooooooo many things and watching for a thousand more. He never even breathed the word “reduction” to us. I whined and made promises to him that I’d be good and stay in bed at home so I didn’t need to go on bed-rest in the hospital. And he called it that my labor wouldn’t be stopped and that my babies would be born that day instead of the two weeks from then we were shooting for (read the birth story here).
And he’s like a proud Grandpa with the babies. =) This is Dr. AL-Malt.
He hadn’t seen us in almost a year and a half but knew exactly who we were. He pulled out his phone and asked his staff to take pictures. Ok, Dr. A, whatever you want….you’re the boss! <3
Welcome back! If you’re just joining us, check out the first part of Little Daycare in the Suburbs. And if you’ve found us from Intoxicated on Life, hi!!! Be sure to like us on Facebook so you can get updates on the three M&M’s and each new post that comes along! Oh, and leave a comment so I can “meet” you! Can’t wait! =)
So. Why is it so hard to leave triplets with a sitter? Glad you asked! Here’s why:
It is physically exhausting. Loading three babies into highchairs (12 times), out of them (12 times), onto a changing table (18 times), off of it (18 times), into cribs (9 times), out of them (9 times), into the stroller (3 times), out of it (3 times)…it is exhausting. (That’s a full-on workout!! And mine “only” weigh 22 lbs!) And of course they aren’t all happily watching you cart one kid around…oh no. It often sounds like a daycare class. I challenge anyone who isn’t rattled by crying babies to join a MoM one afternoon. =)
It is hard to discern the needs of one toddler, let alone three. Remember that language thing? Yeah, there are three different dialects going on and I oftenoftenoften times cannot remember who says what, or who uses which sign or word for which item.
It is a lot of diapers. One wake-time is six diapers…six. More if you forget you already changed that one. Less if you forget you haven’t changed that one all day. I did this. Last week.
It is necessary to be structured. I have one nursery and three babies. One up, all up. One down, all down. And of course the babies all cooperate with this. Right.
It is confusing. What do you do when one baby wakes and cries? Is another going to wake before she settles back down? If two or more wake, what do you do? These are just some of the questions David and I ask ourselves. Still. It often takes the both of us to settle two babies down.
It is expensive. I’ll be honest. And frank. Frank is good, right? Paying a sitter is a new thing for our skinny budget…paying two sitters is even more daunting.
It is…well, you get the picture, right? =)
Of course, the fact that I have breastfed the babies has made it doubly difficult to get out because our schedule is just naturally tight. You can see a typical schedule here – except the 4pm nursing and the 11pm nursing are no longer! Before this, though…my get-out-of-the-house opportunities were even more limited. But, lest you think I’m complaining about breastfeeding and its limitations…I am not. I have loved it. I recognize it is a very short season and am ok with those limitations. David has been incredibly patient with me and was happy to fit in date nights after the babies went to bed and before I needed to be back to feed them at 11pm. Since we dropped those feedings, though, it’s been amazing! Which leads me to:
Amazingly, we have been able to get out for date nights about 1-2 times a month for about a year! Granted, those date nights were usually just long enough for dinner and maybe an errand. But my parents have been heroes – coming over so often to play with the babies and then shoo us out the door after they were in bed. Other than them, our dear friends, Benny and Sheree, watched them for our second anniversary dinner (yes, you read that right – second). And some other dear friends, Joe and Kristen, kept the babies for a short afternoon and we came back to feed them before leaving again for a couple hours. Of course there was our first overnight getaway that my parents kicked us out for. In the past week or so, we’ve had two amazing teens from our church and then Katherine stay with the sleeping M&Ms (remember – she was a preschool teacher!!!).
Pretty much that’s it. Four non-grandparent sitters in 18 months. =) And that’s ok! There have been lots of things I’ve had to say no to over the past year and a half, but it means I’m saying yes to what is necessary for our situation. God has blessed us with three babies at once, and with them came unique challenges. But there is grace for these challenges. I definitely have to fight bad attitudes and a “need a break” mentality at times. But for the most part, He has orchestrated in my heart a love for the home and a desire to care for my babies during a season when few others can!
That being said, I’m currently in the process of working with some great girls who will hopefully, some day!, become the M&M’s babysitters! Won’t that be the day!! What should I do? Any suggestions? =)
MoMs, do you have any thoughts or suggestions? For those of you who are still pregnant with multiples, let me encourage you that there can truly be an incredible amount of grace for the massive work and unique challenges your babies will be. Few MoMs get to do what we do and it is a privilege! Amen?! =) Please let me know if you have not yet found an active community of other MoMs online and would like to join one. What a source of help we can be to one another!!!
Oh, and while you’re here…would you take a second and click the button below to vote for us? See, we’re in this contest competing with other blogging moms of multiples and would love your vote. And, if you reallyreally love us, you can vote once a day!
Today I’m guest-posting over at Intoxicated on Life. Trisha is running a series on breastfeeding – the challenges, joy, obstacles, paraphernalia and stories of dozens of women and their children. And she asked me to join these women and share my journey. If you’ve been reading Growing Up Triplets long, you know sharing what God has done for me in this area is one of my biggest joys. So here’s a mini-bite:
There are times when mathematics simply don’t make sense. For instance, I remember crying and crying over short division in school. It didn’t make sense. And I had similar experiences over the past two years with three babies and two breasts. It just didn’t compute.
You see, I was told on April 26, 2011 that I was carrying triplets.
Immediately I began seeing my dreams of a drug-free, home birth evaporating. I saw many, many dollar signs floating before my eyes. I saw a plan unfolding for my life that I wanted no part of.
Well, as the news of spontaneous triplets sunk in, and my love for my three munchies grew to epic proportions, I began to research if some of those dreams might actually still be possible. There was very, very little research out there for higher-order multiples (HOMs). With the advent of fertility assistance, the numbers of triplets and HOMs has risen dramatically, but the research is still very minimal. Most books for multiples are written geared towards twins. But…I had three babies and only two boobs! Even my very logical brain couldn’t develop a plan for this!
The research I did find led me to believe it wasn’t likely I’d be able to nurse all three, but that switching two out every feeding would be more realistic. So I grabbed onto that: I can do that. Ha. Little did I know what awaited me.
If you’re just finding us here at Growing Up Triplets, welcome!! It’s a pleasure to meet you! =) To stay connected with us and the munchies, be sure to like us on Facebook and subscribe to our email feed (both on the sidebar to the right). And in the meantime, here are a few posts that you might find helpful in getting to know us a little bit better. Feel free to leave a comment, too, letting us know how you found us!
It’s really interesting, the spectrum of responses I get on various aspects of life with triplets. Sometimes I feel like a volleyball, being hit from one side to the other. I regularly have conversations with people who can’t stop shaking their heads at how I “do it all.” (I don’t. See my explanation here.) I often hear, “My one (or two, or three, or four) is so challenging – I can’t imagine having three at once.” Neither could I, friend. Neither could I. =) These are often the same people who seem surprised to see me around town – at church, the grocery store, etc.
Somehow, I should be unable to get out until maybe around age 6. And the fact that I am out must mean I am Super Woman. Most definitely not.
Then the other side of the spectrum sees it as no different as having two or three or four children and often comments how fun it would be to have triplets. Really. Wanna trade? Juuuuust kidding! (Stay tuned for a fun list of things you should nevernevernever say to a hormone-exploding mama of triplets. =) But these are the friends who tease me about having my children on a schedule, for not getting out of the house more regularly, why I can’t have babysitters and generally eliminate the fact that having more children at once is just different than having more children spaced out.
I definitely want to be careful here. I don’t want to communicate that what I do and the gifts God has given us are harder. I don’t want to be singled out and made to feel as abnormal as every stranger I meet seems to think I am. =) But the reality is, we are different. So…
Having triplets is like running a daycare class…that never.goes.home. And who are the individuals that run daycare classes? Well, we sure hope they aren’t random teenagers or people who have no experience. They typically are qualified or certified in some way or another. Why? Because managing a class of same-aged children in the pre-communication stage is incredibly challenging! To attempt to teach those children anything is nothing short of a miraculous accomplishment. I have great respect for these teachers because I now have a small glimpse of what they experience on a daily basis. (My friend Katherine ran a class of over a dozen 3 year olds all by herself. What?! Who can do that?? My right eye is twitching just thinking about the tantrums and varying degrees of speech levels and “learning” to speak a dozen different dialects of “threeyearold.” =)
Certainly, this toddler-preschool age is fun. Ohmygoodness, it’s fun! I love watching the babies’ eyes light up with something they just “got.” I can only imagine it’s incredibly rewarding to watch that happen in a classroom setting! And there are lots of great things about having three the same age:
They all have the same bedtime and naptimes. When one is down, they’re all down!
They all are at the same level – no 6 year old begging to go outside while I nurse the baby.
They came at once so I got fat once. =)
There is no “first child syndrome” when baby brother or sister comes along.
But…throw a teenager (or even two) into this 18 month mix? I’m not alone when I say, “heck, no!” Most MoMs (mothers of multiples) I have talked with simply do not leave their triplets at this age. I have talked with many, many moms and the general consensus is that up through even 4 years, triplets are often left only with grandparents or individuals with daycare and/or triplet experience. Or they secure a 1:1 child/sitter ratio. Or there’s an older sibling to help. Etc. And this is often only for a few hours at a time and most times after the babies are already down for the night! Why?
Oh, and while you’re here…would you take a second and click the button below to vote for us? See, we’re in this contest competing with other blogging moms of multiples and would love your vote. And, if you reallyreally love us, you can vote once a day! I know, right?!
Welcome back! We’re discussing what parents can expect during a NICU stay and are interviewing a couple of wonderful nurses our babies had during our stay. If you missed Part 1 of this interview, you can catch up really quickly here. All caught up? Great! Ok, let’s jump back in:
Mandy: Very beneficial! It can contribute to a decrease in hospital stay for your baby(ies). Just ask the nurse if it is a good day to hold your baby. There are some days where it is not the best day or time to hold the baby due to medical reasons, such as excessive apnea/bradycardia spells, recent work up for infection, general instability, blood transfusion, etc., so it is important to ask the nurse caring for your baby if it is appropriate to hold your baby that day.
Laura: There will be times this request is made, occasionally after a stressful day for the babies, due to a medical procedure or situation. Your baby may need a period of rest. Ask when it will be advisable to hold the baby again. And if you feel the current situation doesn’t warrant a no-touch time, feel free to ask the charge nurse for another RN to check into the situation. This way, even though you may really want to hold your baby, you can feel confident that for the time being it is best that the baby rest undisturbed. While touch can be SO beneficial, there are times when it can physically evoke stress responses, visible through the baby’s increase in heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation.
Mandy: I agree – usually there is a good reason if the nurse asks you to not hold your baby that day. Most times it is still ok to touch your baby. There are ways to touch a preemie without disturbing them (talking very quietly, minimal stroking or “petting”, etcc) and your nurse can teach you how to appropriately touch. It is important to remember that they might look tiny and cute, but they are very sick and this should be respected.
Laura: A lactation consultant and/or your bedside nurse will work with you to facilitate education regarding pumping breast milk. Breast milk will always be a first choice. Initially it may be through a feeding tube that is inserted through the nose or mouth that leads to the stomach. This may look and sound scary but this is very common early on in the NICU. As the baby grows, a nipple can then be introduced, typically a bottle and then the breast, as the baby is ready.
Mandy: Breast milk is crucial for premature babies to receive. In fact, if the baby is born less than 1500 grams (or less than 30 weeks) and the mom is unable to provide breast milk, we use donated breast milk for the babies! Early feedings are very important for the babies, and breast milk helps them to tolerate these early feedings much better. There are antibodies in breast milk that cannot be found anywhere else. These antibodies help premature babies, who have a very lowered immune system (think: chemotherapy patient), to fight off infections. Infections are one of a premature baby’s most common complications.
Laura: Breastfeeding a tiny baby is going to be a journey! Together with your nurse and lactation, we will help as much as we can, based on the baby’s abilities at the time. As the baby grows and you become more comfortable, the process should become increasingly more successful. This may take months. Pump as you can to maintain your supply, and practice frequently with the babies. Lactation appointments after discharge (NICU baby or not) can be very helpful in supporting this oh so wonderful, but delicate process.
Mandy: We are here to help! Premature babies have the added challenge of not having the innate process of sucking, swallowing, and breathing in proper order yet, and must also learn how to complete this task. Breastfeeding can be harder for a premature baby initially, because it is more work to learn how to latch, and they have to produce more negative pressure with their suck to extract the milk, whereas the milk from a bottle comes out much more easily. However, it is much easier for a premature infant to breastfeed, once these tasks are learned, due to the fact that they are able to regulate the flow of milk coming out much easier while breastfeeding. I have found that it is a much slower start, but breastfed babies tend to learn how to eat faster than all bottle fed babies, due to the positive experience they get from it. Be available for feedings as often as possible, as the more time at the breast, the sooner it will be learned. Initially, the baby will only be eating once a day, then twice a day, etc. as they do better with it, so be sure to tell the nurse you are interested in breastfeeding for those sessions. Bottles will be used to supplement afterward, and for any feedings where the mother is unavailable. But again, any time at the breast is a learning experience, and the more, the better.
Laura: This is a hard thought, I’m sure. Having to walk away from your tiny babe will be one of the hardest things, every.single.time. But my, oh my, your baby has a skilled set of caregivers…the best baby sitters you will ever have! Your baby will continue to feed every 3-4 hours, receive needed therapies, treatments, and medications. Most hospitals also have volunteers whose job is to cuddle babies when they are in need of some TLC. You are also welcome to call at any time of day for an update on your baby!
Mandy: Also, assessments are completed every six hours on your baby (blood pressure, temperature, etc.). We change diapers every 3-6 hours, depending on how stable the baby is (the less stable the baby, the less frequently we will be touching them, in order to provide rest). If anything extremely out of the ordinary is going on with your baby, we will contact you.
Laura: YES! So much. As mentioned above, this is a common thread among NICU nurses. We love our babies, and even become protective over them and their well-being. We want to see them grow and thrive! NICU staff turnover is the lowest in the hospital; it’s said once you go NICU you never go back. This is not to say you will love all of your nurses, or feel everyone is super friendly, all the time. I hope that’s your experience, but know that even nurses I didn’t care for personally as coworkers— are still people I would still trust with my baby.
Mandy: Most all of the nurses in NICU have a true passion for what we do, and love our job (or we wouldn’t be there!). Take comfort in knowing that we treat your baby just as we would our own, and really invest our hearts and souls into the care of your baby…and you. Your bad days are our bad days (even if we have our professional mask on). Yes, we go home and cry – we feel your emotions, too. We laugh with you, cry with you, worry with you. We feel these things because we love what we do!
Laura: Ok it’s more than one thing… (1) Pray hard. This is a time where you will quickly realize that any control you thought you had is totally gone. Trust your baby to the Lord. (2) I am always encouraged when I see families on the other side of the NICU, with toddlers running around. It warms my heart so much, and reminds me why I do what I do. The NICU experience can be intense, and life changing – for sure—but it is a season. It will not last forever. (3) Be cautious of what you research online and whose stories you listen to. Every experience is SO different, every baby comes with unique circumstances— and, chances are, the way things played out for someone else’s baby is not going to be your story. Work closely with your caregivers to receive the most accurate information about your baby’s specific circumstances. Family meetings are available for further discussion and education—you can get good one on one time with the provider this way.
Mandy: Take it ONE day at a time! It is going to be the wildest rollercoaster ride of your life, but taking each day as it comes helps to deal with it better. The nurses and doctors are here for you, and it’s important to remember that we are on your side. Please ask lots of questions (write them down as you think of them) if you don’t understand anything, instead of keeping it inside and letting it upset you. We are here to help, and want to help! Be there for your baby any way you can, but also try to get away to keep yourself emotionally centered.
Wow! I hope this interview is helpful to you (feel free to share with others who are in the NICU or may be entering a NICU stay!). This has brought back a flood of memories, some good and some bad. But they are parts of our babies’ lives – parts of our lives as we learned to trust God in new ways. Mandy and Laura were two of many wonderful nurses who made our month-long stay just that much easier.
Thank you so much, ladies, for serving countless families by taking the time to do this!
Were/are you a NICU parent? How did a nurse affect your stay? I’d love to hear your NICU stories!!! Or do you have a question for Mandy and Laura?
Would you click the link above to vote for us? And if you want, you can vote every day (from multiple devices!) through May 8! Thank you SO much for helping us out! =)
I can’t do it all. It’s true. Actually, I struggle to do most things. I fall into bed exhausted and many times I wake up still tired. And this is nothing new. I had a hard time “doing it all” when I was a teen…single…married and working. Even the months I was on bedrest with seemingly nothing to do, I found myself overwhelmed many times because of my limitations.
And I still have limitations. Lots of them. They look different now than before I had babies. And now, with three M&M’s hanging on me during the day, it’s pretty dang difficult to accomplish much. And I’m sure my limitations will look different in 5, 10, 15, 30 years.
Most days I accomplish little else besides getting food on the table, getting poopy diapers changed and picking the house up (some days not even that!). It seems so small, so insignificant. I want to accomplish a lot.
That’s a lot of love and care. And it takes time to do all of these things. I mean, right?? When I think about it, it’s not surprising that I can’t carve time out for a “hobby” or “me-time” that our culture tells us I should have. And when I start feeling like I deserve a break…that’s usually when I start getting overwhelmed. I don’t know about you, but that’s the time I get frustrated because I can’t get to what I want to do (even if it’s not “break”-related).
But the truth is, life isn’t supposed to be easy. (Genesis 3:16-19)
It’s supposed to be really hard. And my craving for ease is something I constantly have to battle. Of course I’m definitely not proposing we never stop, never rest, never enjoy doing nothing. God showed us how to rest when He rested after creating the world (Genesis 2:2). So rest is definitely a good thing! David and I recently enjoyed a whole weekend of doing nothing! And I can hardly wait for the next one.
But often this desire for rest gets in the way of what needs to be done. And so does the desire to be able to do it all. God doesn’t command me to do it “all.” He doesn’t require that I check everything on my task list off every single day. When I am weak, He is strong. He wants me to draw from Him the strength I need to accomplish what I can. Good news, isn’t it?! So that pressure I feel? I can take that load off. And that long list of pinned ideas on Pinterest? I can enjoy seeing what God has enabled others to do until I find time to fit that in. Until then…I’ve got lots to do in my world:
I probably won’t accomplish all of these, but my goal is to work hard and do my very best – releasing what I cannot do (Colossians 3:23-24). And that’s ok. Right? =)
Did you vote for us yet today? Did you know you can vote once a day? And even once a day from multiple devices! If you enjoy this blog, would you mind sharing and voting? It truly helps us…lots! Thank you sosososo much!
Thanks for joining us! We are currently in the middle of a series on Life with Multiples. Today we’ll hear from a couple of ladies who just happen to be two of my favorite nurses while the babies were in the NICU!
While in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a good nurse is more than just a good nurse. She might be a shoulder you cry on, the person you (unexpectedly) share first milestones with, and most likely will become a good friend. Mandy was the babies’ nurse the day we celebrated them turning one week old. And Laura helped me give each of my 4-lb babies a bath for the very first time.
David and I were at the hospital as much as we could be, so we got to know our nurses really well. We were usually there over a shift change, going to eat dinner while they did all the technical stuff and coming back in for one last feeding and diaper-changing. I usually spent a good 8 hours every single day at the hospital – for 30 days. Exhausted beyond imagination, David and I prayed over each baby and said goodnight…and thanked the men and women who remained to care for them. This was one of the hardest things I have had to do as a mom. Who imagines they’ll have to leave their tiny babies’ sides?! Even now it brings tears to my eyes as I remember all the different nurses who loved on and cared for our babies.
We tried to prepare for what life in the NICU would be like but there were so few resources available to us, even a couple short years ago! And they were often written in very clinical terms; so I want to give a more personal look into life in the NICU.
Laura: I’ve been a nurse for four years. And I love babies – especially newborns. I really enjoy working with families and educating them in terms they can understand during this difficult process. I love giving them a chance to be as involved as possible in their baby’s care – from feeding to bathing etc. I think this is so important, especially in the NICU!
Mandy: I’ve been a nurse for nine years. And I love meeting new people. My job is never boring. It’s nice to help the families understand what is happening and to help the parents emotionally cope with everything they are dealing with. I really enjoy educating the families on what everything means in the NICU and what they can do to best help their baby(ies) to have the best possible outcome.
Laura: These babies can, in the beginning, be so fragile. It’s hard to see families leave their baby in the care of others – not knowing how their baby will be doing when they return. No matter how skilled the caregivers, I can’t fathom the feeling of leaving the hospital without my new baby. I have such respect for you Mamas who have endured this day-in and day-out for weeks to months on end.
Mandy: It is always hard to lose a baby, but that is usually rare. I have always thought that we are giving preemies a second chance at life. But if that isn’t God’s will, it is comforting knowing they are no longer suffering.
Laura: Unfortunately, expectations usually go out the window with the delivery of any baby and the NICU experience is no exception. No one expects to have their baby in an urgent medical situation. But you can expect for your baby to be cared for by a skilled team of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, therapists (speech and physical therapy as needed) … and much more. NICU staff all have one thing in common. They will love your baby. The NICU is overwhelming and emotional. Please visit often. Hold your baby. And ask tons of questions.
Mandy: A wild rollercoaster ride. Some days will be the worst of your life and some days will be the best. In the beginning, it is going to be very hard to see everything your tiny baby is going through. But they are the strongest people I have ever seen. Love really does go a long way: I have seen many babies with poor prognoses do very well because their parents are present and invested in their care. The babies feel the presence of their parents and do much better.
Laura: As often as you can! Babies are very aware of your touch and smells. Some very fragile babies will require lots of rest time in their isolettes. Hold your baby still to allow good sleep and digestion while bonding.
Mandy: Yes, as often as possible! There is evidence that babies who are held and bond with their parents have shorter hospital stays. Kangaroo the baby(ies) as often as possible, as this will regulate their temperature, breathing, heart rates, blood sugar, and pain levels for hours after holding has been completed. Babies who are given kangaroo care daily, generally go home about two weeks sooner than babies who are not held.
Laura: Whew. That’s a tough one. There will be constant new faces at your baby’s bedside, and hopefully everyone is working together as a team, so you can feel confident that your baby(ies) are receiving consistent care. Kindly point out discrepancies that you notice so we can better take care of your little one!
Mandy: This is a tough one. Our unit has over 150 nurses for both shifts, and many doctors and practitioners. I suggest writing down some notes to help yourself remember. As far as identifying who is who when they enter your room, we have badges on that say whether we are a nurse, nurse practitioner, doctor, etc.
Laura: Ask to speak with the charge nurse or assistant nurse manager. If you don’t feel comfortable asking this of your current nurse, you could ask the receptionist to connect you with the charge nurse.
Laura: Yes, please ask. Different hospitals have different policies, but I think it is beneficial to the families and babies to see that familiar face in a caregiver. This may not always be possible, but when it is – it is a plus! Ask to speak with a charge nurse or assistant nurse manager as they can help with this!
Mandy: We always love to hear positive feedback! Some nurses do not care to have one assignment every time they are working, so do not take it to heart if they respectfully decline. There was a time after I had lost a patient where I did not want to get attached to another patient and didn’t want to “primary” for a while. Everyone has their reasons, so don’t be offended if the answer is no.
Laura: Abbreviations and medical terms are like a whole new language and, no doubt, stressful to try to understand! As nurses and doctors, we are around them all the time and often forget it sounds like we are speaking another language. I try very hard to educate my families regarding terms and treatments their babies receive – in words and descriptions they would understand. Please know you can always ask your healthcare provider to explain things with which you are unfamiliar. Here’s a link to some common terms and abbreviations you may hear.
Laura: When possible, and offered by the staff, by all means be involved in rounds. As the parent at the bedside, who spends lots of time with your child and who sees a variety of different caregivers, you can bring valuable feedback and information to the practitioners. This process should hopefully give you a chance to offer feedback, share your thoughts, answer questions you may have, and maintain continuity in the care your baby receives.
Mandy: Yes! Rounds in our unit take a few hours to complete. But you are most definitely welcome and encouraged to attend rounds, and ask any questions you may have. If you would like to review your baby or babies’ charts, you can do so at any time, you just need a nurse present with you to be able to access the chart, and to answer any questions you may have about what you are looking at.
I hope this provides a glimpse into life in the NICU and proves helpful to you and your family. Join us next week as Mandy and Laura share on the very important aspect of practically caring for these (oftentimes) tiny babies. In the meantime, do you have a question for either Mandy or Laura? Or a wonderful experience with your baby’s nurse to share? We’d love to hear!