My OB doctor told me that we have Monochorionic-Diamniotic (Mo-Di) twins. Mo-Di twins share the same placenta but have their own amniotic sacs. Mo-Di twins are identical. Since they had their own amniotic sac, their chances of survival were greater than if they shared one. This was good. But there was always a chance that their umbilical cords could get tangled up around their necks. This meant visits to the hospital every other week for tests. During the 3rd trimester, our visits increased to 3 times EVERY week for even more tests. By this time, I was so huge, I asked the doctor if she could just do the surgery right then and right there (jokingly, of course).
I remember asking after I was wheeled in my room when the babies would be brought back to me. No one gave me an answer, but they just said "soon".
After an hour, my husband carried Max in my room and he stayed by my side for the next 4 days in the hospital (even while I took a shower there). They even made him sleep next to me in my arms. But Leo stayed behind in the NICU. My husband was pretty much gone the whole hospital stay because he was with Leo. Everytime I pumped 10 mL of breast milk (which is NOT a lot), he would quickly run, and I mean, run, with the little tube of it all the way to the NICU ward to give to Leo. I finished my surgery around 4pm, and was alone for the rest of the day and night since I had no family in town and my husband was in the NICU.
I really did not realize how serious Leo's situation was. I thought it was normal that they had him there because he was just having difficulty drinking. But later on my husband said it was pretty serious and his whole body would turn dark purple if you tried to hold him or feed him in the beginning. After I heard that, I cried so hard because I can't believe I wasn't by his side the entire time.
The next day, my husband had to run errands and I couldn't stand being away from my other baby. So I kept pushing myself to walk around the room by myself since the nurses refused to let me go to the NICU until I could walk on my own. Finally, I did it later at night and put Max in my arms and wheeled down to the NICU. Well, what I was about to see would break my heart.
I said earlier that nothing prepared me for twins. But, to be honest, nothing and NOBODY tells you anything about what it's like to have a child in the NICU. My mom kept telling me that it's normal for one twin to be in there for a little while and my situation was far better than a lot of other twin moms. This is so true, and I'm thankful even to this day, but all pain is relevant when it's your child in there hooked up to tubes and machines.
Leo was in his own room and was in an incubator. I could barely see inside because there was so much glare from the hallway lights on the incubator glass. I'd always have to bend down and peer into the small arm holes. The first thing I noticed was how much he looked like Max. I smiled so much. The next thing I couldn't believe was how many wires were hooked up on his body and tangled all in his bed. The beeping noise on the machine will never leave my head, and I believe that all NICU parents can agree with that. If I'd even walk too close to him, the beeping would start. The nurses told me that when it would beep, it meant he would stop breathing and they'd need to take him if the beeping didn't stop. It kept going off the whole time.
I cried a lot. I could barely even watch Leo because I cried the whole time and couldn't see one thing. Not to mention that my husband's parents and my parent's were out of state and out of the country.
It seemed like every 2 minutes I would whisper, "I love you, Leo". Then I'd cry so much I couldn't say anything else. I was so afraid to reach through the arm hole and touch him because he looked so skinny and fragile. He slept so well all by himself and it broke my heart. He needed his mama and I couldn't be there for him after the birth. All I could think the whole time I was in the hospital was how scared he must be to leave my belly and enter this world and be alone without his mom by his side. He never even got to see what his mom looked like.
Yet, every time I visited the NICU, I always felt this peaceful calm rush over me. It was always quiet and dark, and the only thing you could hear were beeping noises. Every time you heard beeping, you'd jump and think it was your baby beeping. Then your baby would actually beep and you'd get mad at the nurses for not getting there quick enough.
He finally got his own enclosed room with a bed and bathroom for my husband and I. He ended up staying a week and a half longer than I did. Every day was the same routine. We would walk through the entire hospital to the 4th floor. We'd come to a telephone and have to pick it up and talk with the nurse on the other side of the door. She'd see us and ask us the same questions every day. Then she'd unlock the door for us and give us bracelets or stickers. We'd then walk into Leo's room, and that's when the tears would start.
Again, the only thing I could say to him was, "I love you, Leo." Mostly because I was crying too much to say another word. My husband would tell me every time that he was going to get better and it would be ok. But he also struggled to hold back his tears.
Yes, we were so fortunate that Leo's situation was not worse. But no matter how many people say that "it's normal" or "you're lucky", it was the hardest thing I had to go through in my entire life. Picking up that phone every day and walking down the NICU hall is a whole different experience that no one will ever understand until their child is in there. It could have been harder for me since we had no family with us at the time. Plus, I was still in shock from the surgery and from, well, having twins. My heart goes out there to all moms who have to walk down the NICU hall every day.
The day I came home from the hospital, I put up a pink post-it sticker on my bedroom wall with the nurse's handwriting on it showing the NICU's phone number. I called that number every single day to see if Leo was coming home. The nurses ended up recognizing my voice whenever I called.
Today, the sticker is still on the wall. I don't know why we haven't taken it down. I guess it reminds me of how lucky we truly are and how blessed our family is.
My husband, me (with crying face), and Max visited Leo the 2nd day. We managed to get a family picture! I still remember taking it. I never cried so hard in my life.
Precious Leo in the incubator. His diaper was bigger than him!
UPDATE 3/13/2012: My boys are now 1 1/2 years old and as STRONG as ever! The bigger the challenge, the stronger you become. Now, my days are filled with running after my toddlers but, mostly, them running after me!!!!