Sunday, August 24, 2014

NICU days

Let's be honest. Triplets are hard. I've been wanting to get caught up on the blog, but every time I get a free second, I'm either eating or napping. We're trying to get them to bed earlier to give me some free time at night, but it's a work in progress. Not to mention the fact that we were renovating our house in Hawaii, then moved to Alabama with a 2 week pit stop in Georgia. Things have been busy. Now on to the updates(that actually happened 3 months ago).

I am hesitant to say this, because I know how hard the NICU can be for most parents. But for us, the babies' time in the NICU was about as good as it can get. Each baby had their own room. It was never crowded, and I had an electric recliner and pump in each room. It really was a beautiful facility.

Nash was on room air from the beginning. Desmond on CPAP for 1 day, Audrey for 2. It seemed like every visit, we were getting good news, then better news. One day we came, and they would ask if I wanted to hold one. Uh, yeah. And then a couple days later they were asking if I wanted to hold all three of them together. Uh, yeah again. You don't have to ask me twice. They had 'care times' every three hours of the day. During that care time, they got their temps and blood pressure taken, a new diaper, and their milk. Spencer and I were able to take their temps and change their diapers every time we were there. They kept progressing every day. Eventually they had their IVs out and were in open cribs. The only thing keeping them in was their NG tubes. Basically, they needed to learn how to eat.  I told the nurses that I would like to try to establish breastfeeding before they started giving them bottles. 

First let's talk about my milk(for those of you who care). My milk came in gradually, which was weird to me. That is not at all how it happened when I had Eleanor. The babies took every bit of colostrum I could provide, then they received donated breast milk for the first week. After the first week, they had to start on formula, because I just wasn't making a lot of milk. It just came in a little at a time. I was pumping every 3 hours, and the doctor had a little heart to heart with me about how 70% of moms of multiples can make enough milk for their babies - talk about pressure! - and advised me to start pumping every 2 hours. Every time I pumped, I would hand express every last drop and completely empty out. By doing that(and taking Fenugreek and eating lots of oatmeal), I practically doubled my production in a short amount of time. Every day, the nurses were so impressed with how much milk I was bringing in. So, there's my advice on that.

Starting at 34 weeks, we started non-nutritive breastfeeding. Basically, I would pump first, then try to get them to get a good latch. And let them stay on for as long as they could. I was shocked at how quickly Desmond caught on. It was so easy for him. Nash was pretty good, and Audrey really didn't care at all to eat. All she wanted to do was look at my face. I feel like this practice time was essential. It gave me the opportunity to really make sure they were getting good latches. And if they couldn't, it was ok, because they still got their milk through their NG tube. I did not let them settle for anything less than a perfect latch, and because of that, I haven't experienced even one ounce of pain. Tender mercy right there.

At 35 weeks, we started nutritive breastfeeding, where we would get them to latch and eat. If they stayed on for at least 10 minutes, it was considered a full feed. Desmond was a champ. He'd stay on for 20 minutes. Nash, again, was pretty good. And Audrey, again, was not at all interested. 

The day before 36 weeks, Desmond was taking all his feeds by mouth and got his NG tube removed. He just loved to eat. Nash caught on as well, and was getting all his feeds by mouth the next day. I tried tandem nursing the boys, which they got on the first try. They are definitely boob boys. Desmond was sent home first, May 7, exactly 36 weeks, then Nash the next day. Nash could have come home with Desmond, but we all agreed it might be an easier transition to do one at a time. Audrey was still lagging behind, and the nurse was thinking she still had at least a week in there to get better. But lo and behold, all it took was one good nursing session for a lightbulb to go off, and after that she started taking every feed by mouth. She came home on Sunday, May 11th. Mother's Day. What a gift! 

There were some small issues that come with preemies in the NICU. Due to the NG tubes, and especially after they started taking some formula, they were all having reflux issues. Those reflux issues would cause what they call Bradycardia(or Bradys), which is when their heart rate drops below 100bpm.  Audrey had them most often, especially when she was spitting up or eating. None of them had any that required any intervention, which was good. They had to go at least 5 days with no episodes in order to come home. I did get worried that it would take a while to get past that, but eventually they all were Bradys free. Also, all three had to have phototherapy due to jaundice. Desmond had to do it twice. 

The last thing they had to do before they left was pass the car seat test. While still hooked up to their monitors, they had to sit in their car seat for 90 minutes without having any alarm go off. Because 2 of my babies can have quite the temper, which can make their heart rate go up, we tried to do it when they'd usually be sleeping. And it worked the first try for all of them. 

I loved hearing from the nurses their observations about my babies. Their personalities were showing already at such a young age. Nash was chill. He hardly ever cried. He's the one that the nurse wanted to take home. Desmond was loud and high maintenance. While we were at the beach, a nurse called and asked if she could give him a bottle(before I tried breastfeeding), because she didn't think he was getting satisfied with just the NG tube. We could hear him screaming his high pitched scream in the background. Of course I said it was fine. Desmond was also the one who was always wanting to eat before the 3 hours was up. He usually got hungry every 2-2.5 hours. One time when I came to visit, before I even got through the NICU doors, I heard a baby screaming. It was LOUD. And of course, I walk in and find out that it's my guy, Des. He's my high maintenance baby, and has been from the beginning. On more than one occasion, different nurses told me that Audrey was a firecracker. She was usually sweet, but when she had a messy diaper, or had to take a bath, she had to be heard. She's got a good pair of lungs like Desmond, but just doesn't use them quite as often. 

Eleanor came with me often to visit the babies. She loved being there. She would go up and hug every nurse she passed, then peak her head through the glass doors to see all the babies. She always had to hold at least one baby with every visit. There were moments, though, where she went completely crazy. Temper tantrums, running down the halls, loud crying. One time she got kicked out because of how loud she was. The nurses were so great and patient with her. They gave her candy, stuffed animals, and all other types of distractions. 

Now let's talk about the nurses and doctors. Those nurses are some special people. I could not have asked for a better staff to be taking care of my three little loves. They really, genuinely cared for my kids. They told them they loved them. They told me they wanted to take them home with them. And not only that, they were so enjoyable to talk to while we sat around all day taking care of babies. If we had stayed in Hawaii longer, I'd have hung out with some of them(or not, but I would have liked to). When the babies were sent home, there was a teensy part of me that was sad to not be able to hang out with them every day. They made such a difference in our experience there, and I'll be forever grateful.

I read a lot of triplet blogs before going into this, and most of them talked about the hardest part was leaving the hospital without their kids. Some of them broke down and cried. I don't mean to sound like a terrible mama, but that totally wasn't me. I was ready to get out. Ready to get back to my house after 2 months in the hospital. Ready to spend some quality time with my husband and 2 year old before the chaos of the triplets being home came into play. I was ready to recover from the c-section - because holy cow, that was brutal. I took full advantage of my babies being in good care. I got a massage. Got my hair cut. Went on a date with Spencer. Had a family beach day. It was so perfect for me to heal and recover both physically and mentally. By the time the babies were ready to be home, I was completely prepared. I'm telling you, it made all the difference. And it didn't hurt that the nurses were practically pushing us out the door in support of our decisions to go out to a movie. Those nurses - I just loved them. I made sure to go back any time we were at the hospital to say hi, drop off pictures, etc. And if any of you are reading this....Hi!

We did a photo shoot of the babies while they were all hooked up. I had my friend and fellow photographer come out to do it. I wanted to remember just how tiny they were, and document the 3 week experience in photos. I never really had a chance to take pictures because I was going from baby to baby, changing diapers, nursing, etc. 

Overall, our NICU days came and went pretty quickly. Our babies were incredibly healthy, and for that, I could not feel more blessed. I wish every triplet mom could have a positive experience like ours, but unfortunately that is not how it works. For you who deal with the pains of a roller coaster ride the entire time, my heart and prayers go out to you. And not even just triplet moms - any parent who has a child in the NICU for any reason - it is scary. I saw a 24 week baby in the room across from ours, and it was easily the saddest thing I have ever seen in my life. I don't know what happened with him, but every day I said a prayer for those poor parents who didn't know if they'd ever be able to bring their baby home with them.

More updates to come as I get some time.