I think I went into shock that first week after the girls were born. That night, the nurse on my ward looked after Sophie (meaning she slept in her bassinet) while I tried to sleep. For a long time I kept revisiting the births and especially Fiona on my chest and the fear that she could have fallen and been killed moments after her birth. I berated myself and the nurses for not being more careful. John was with me hashing it out, trying to reassure me so that I could sleep. The poor man was sleeping on one of those fold out chairs they have in hospitals. He actually measured the width, 18 inches. Very narrow. But I’ll bet my OR delivery bed was narrower!
That first night the NICU nurses brought Fiona to me to nurse which was very helpful. After that, I had to go to the NICU to try to nurse. Those days were a nightmare of trying to establish nursing and figuring out this newborn and twin thing all at once. Both girls had trouble latching on. I became so engorged that my boobs looked like a caricature of volcanoes about to explode! They were huge, rock hard and fire engine red! Ouch. I think someone actually brought me cabbage to put in my bra…but that may have been a dream. I also had cracked nipples and every time the girls nursed it was agony. Mostly I was trying to nurse Sophie because Fiona was
prisoner staying in the NICU and I often arrived just after they had fed her which was not conducive to establishing a latch. The first night I had told the nurse that I didn’t want them to give her a bottle (I wanted to avoid nipple confusion) and the next time I saw her she had a feeding tube! That shocked and scared me. Was she starving? Why did she need a tube? What was going on in that NICU when I wasn’t there? Well, I found out that she mostly slept in her bassinet, except at feeding times. They fed them on a 3 hour schedule and then popped them back in. I had Sophie in the room and had to travel to see Fiona. If John hadn’t stayed with me in the hospital, I couldn’t have done it.
At one point a woman delivered a baby at 25 weeks and the NICU was shut down to parents for 16 hours while they tried to stabilize the baby enough to fly to Sick Kids. I understand in theory, but I couldn’t see my baby for all of that time and it seemed like an eternity. I felt that poor Fiona must be lonely and missing the attachment bonding time with me and John. I missed her and wished she were nearby. I know that we were lucky and that four days in the NICU isn’t long compared to some, but it’s really awful to be separated from your newborn. One night I left Sophie in my bed (with the rails up) and went to nurse Fiona. I rocked her in the nursing room, sobbing because I was overwhelmed with trying to deal with both babies in different places and because I missed her terribly.
Sophie had jaundice and had to be on the Biliblanket except when feeding. That thing was very bright and noisy and kept me awake but I guess it’s better than under the lamps in the NICU.
Our nights were hell. Trying to nurse, then supplementing because we were pushed into it. So I would nurse one and John would prepare the bottle (I ended up going for the bottle over the tube) and then we would start again. By the time we finished a feeding it would almost be time to start again. We were both exhausted by day 2.
I read a lot about breastfeeding (Jack Newman and Mothering Multiples by Karen Kerkoff Gromada) while I was pregnant and I’m so glad because I was prepared for the difficulty and I was very determined to breastfeed exclusively. Some of the nurses were helpful (those who had nursed themselves) but overall the hospital was not really supportive of my difficulties. By my last few days I did learn to tandem feed them.
Finally, on the fifth day, Sophie’s bilirubin levels were normal and we could go home. The poor wee girls had to have their heels pricked every day to check bilirubin in the hospital and every few days for two weeks after we left.
Once we were home things were better. My mom and aunt came to help and they cooked and kept me fed and comfortable. At first we tracked every feeding and which breast each girl had fed from. The girls still weren’t latching well so we supplemented a little and called the lactation consultant. She came down and worked with me and assured me that we were doing well. Gradually, I reduced the supplementation until I was exclusively breastfeeding both girls. During the night I would always tandem nurse using my life saver, EZ2 Nurse pillow. Sophie would have my left breast one day and my right the next to keep them producing as equally as possible.
I think that had I not done all that reading and had the support of my husband, mother and a lactation consultant, I would not have been able to get over the fear that my girls weren’t getting enough milk. Especially because they were so small, skinny little things really.
Those first few weeks and months are a blur. I was so desperate for sleep that I would have done almost anything to get some. If I hadn’t breastfed, I would have had less sleep. Once we were established, it was easy. The girls slept next to me and when one woke up I pop them both on my pillow and nurse them together. No getting up to warm bottles, not getting up at all. I survived those first months even though sometimes I didn’t think I would. And the girls thrived so it was all worth it.
Now that our nursing journey has ended (around 6 months ago), I miss it, and I wish that I had more nursing photos.
Up next….colic x 2!