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Shannon's twin pregnancy journal

Kai and Abi Come Home
Written October 22

Kai and Abi ~ our StorkNet Twins!They came home on September 20 and we were SO unprepared. The weekend before, Peter was hospitalized for a possible heart attack, and our babies were moved to the graduate nursery. I was running back and forth between two hospitals (40 miles apart), scared to death about what was happening with my husband and thrilled that my babies had finally become "Growers and Feeders." Peter wanted me to stay with the babies since he couldn't be there. The other kids wanted me home because they were confused and afraid. I wanted all of us to be home, with none of this happening. Instead, I started off my days setting up things at home before going to spend an hour or two with Peter, waiting for tests or results. Then I drove down to spend a few hours with our babies. Then I'd return to give Peter the "baby report." I breastfed Kai and bottle-fed Abi for the first time without their daddy being there to share those precious moments. The joy at being able to do those basic things was dulled by the fear that Peter might not be there to share the rest of their lives. It was a tense few days but we learned the damage to Peter's heart was mild, his blood pressure was very high but controllable through diet and medication. Life returned to "normal" after I informed Peter that I would KILL HIM if he ever scared me like that again. (I guess I finally got the chance to take over and let Peter lean on me for awhile. I could have easily lived without it!)

Kai Alan at 5 weeks!On September 20, we went to the hospital for monitor and infant CPR training. Kai had been moved from his isolette to an open-air crib earlier in the week, and Abi had made her move the day before. He'd made it past the 4.5-pound mark and she was just over four pounds. She'd been treated for PDA (patent ductus arteriosus: where the duct bypassing the lungs from the heart during fetal development does not close after birth) with medication. Kai had been diagnosed with reflux and prescribed oxygen during feedings. They were nearly ready to come home. We just never expected it would be that same day.

After we passed our training, we were sitting in rocking chairs holding babies, and I jokingly said to their nurse Terri, "Well, now that we're pros, we can take them home, right?"

"Somehow, I thought you'd ask. Let me go talk to the doctor," she replied, as she flew out of the nursery.

Peter and I stared at each other in disbelief. Five weeks and one day of yearning for our babies to come home and all we had to do was ask??? It seemed too easy after all we'd been through. But sure enough, Terri came back and told us that as long as we agreed to have a visiting nurse come to our house in a few days, we could take our babies home.

Abi Marie at 5 weeks!HOME, HOME, HOME . . . our babies were coming home!!! My heart was singing, and I thought I would burst. Peter and I threw our arms around each other, crying and grinning like idiots. And then the world seemed to stand still as we realized the enormity of it all. Neither of us had had babies at home for many years. Other than the crib and dresser we'd bought a couple weeks before and the gifts from the ill-fated baby shower, we were hopelessly unprepared for our little ones. We had no blankets, or bottles, or diapers small enough. It just seemed like we'd have all the time in the world to get things ready when things "settled down more." Suddenly, we realized there'd be no settling down. The rush was on.

Terri began working on their discharge checklist while we went through our own list of things to do. First thing: call the kids and tell them we'd be late because KAI & ABI WERE COMING HOME! Second thing: go to the baby store and spend a fortune loading up our van with half the store. Preemie clothes, blankets, bottles (mostly for Abi since she'd only breast-fed for the first time the day before), a crib mobile, double stroller, Diaper Genie and of course, diapers . . . lots and lots of diapers! Third thing: grab some lunch because God only knew how long it would be before we'd have a chance to eat again. Last thing: return to the hospital to meet with the neonatologist for discussion of follow-up care, receive discharge instructions from the nursing staff and retrieve our babies.

The actual retrieval of our babies required four people. There were two monitors, two car seats, an oxygen tank on wheels, numerous bags of "baby stuff," and, of course, TWO babies. I carried Abi in her car seat with her monitor bag slung over my shoulder; Peter carried Kai in his car seat with his monitor over his shoulder, Terri pushed a cart full of the baby stuff and a friend of ours brought up the rear, wheeling the oxygen tank. Somehow, we managed to cram everything and everyone into the van that was already loaded up with half of Babies 'R Us. When all was loaded, we paused outside to say good-bye to Terri . . . a woman who had been our children's strongest advocate for five long weeks. The tears were flowing and the hugs were warmer than the sun shining down on us. It was hard to let go. After spending all of those God awful weeks first in and then in and out of that hospital, I suddenly realized how difficult it was to say good-bye.

This "Hallmark moment" was broken as another car pulled up next to us. A couple who's son Brandon was a neighbor of Kai and Abi in the NICU were leaving for the day. We hadn't seen them in the week since we'd moved to the graduate nursery, and they quickly filled us in on their wonderful news . . . Brandon (born 3 weeks before our babies) had doubled his birth weight (up to just over 2 lbs.) and he was off the vent for good! Also, having never spoken about anything other than our premature children, it was a pleasant surprise to learn they live in the next town over from us. We exchanged telephone numbers and promised to keep in touch. It was just the reminder we needed that there IS life after the NICU experience. Before I got in the van, I took a deep breath of fresh air and felt as though it was the first time I'd truly breathed in a very long time. We were finally all going home.

There are some wonderful internet resources that have helped me through this experience and which I'd like to share with others. They've been so much a part of my life these past months that I hate to give some of them up. So I won't . . . I'll be dropping in to say "hi" or to offer support to someone else in need. Feel free to join me at:

  • Club Previa ~ Karen Cork's support forum for those with placenta previa
  • Inkan's Preemie Home Page information and support for PROM (premature rupture of membranes) Queens
  • Preemie-l (that's a lower case "L," not the number "1") Gary Hardy and Anne Casey's support forum for parents and significant others of premature children
  • And of course, my undying gratitude to Maribeth, the wonderful "keeper" of StorkNet.
A final note (not promising ANYTHING about that "final" part!): I have received many e-mails asking what's been going on with us the past month. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to write a wrap-up for my journal when I had a free moment between feeding and changing babies (yea, right). Several times, I sat down to write this and just couldn't do it. Other than the lack of time and sleep, I couldn't figure out why it was so hard until a recent experience made it all very clear. I'd like to share this with you . . .

There's a man named Jeff Stimpson who writes wonderfully poignant essays about his premature son Alex and shares them with those of us who post on the Preemie-l forum. Reading his essays is like flipping through a slide-show of our own NICU Experience. I wrote to Jeff and thanked him for sharing. His response was, "It's easier to write about it than not to."

Jeff's words hit me like the proverbial "ton of bricks." I've been writing this journal almost from the start of my pregnancy, the better part of a year. I credit this writing and sharing with keeping me sane through all of this. I've gotten the chance to spill my guts and have a whole bunch of people (readers) pick them up and hand them back to me (via e-mail). It's been extremely cathartic and cheaper than a shrink, I might add. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I knew it would end eventually. "Eventually" is here and I'm finding it very difficult to call it a wrap.

How do I "wrap this up" when there is no end to twin parenthood, preemie parenthood, or parenthood in general? I can tell you that Kai and Abi are home and leave it at that, but it's really an artificial ending. What about the rest of the "story" . . . Kai's BPD (bronchopulmonary dysplasia) that we just found out about, the feeding issues, Early Intervention, dual babyhood, our fears for their futures and all of the other unknowns? As I end the journal, Kai and Abi and all of these issues just disappear from the lives of all of you who have followed our progress. Maybe I'm making more out of this than there really is. Maybe few of you care if the Kai and Abi saga just ends with them coming home. But I care. Putting this into words and sharing it with others seems to give "reason" to the whole hellish experience. I know I should give Maribeth a break and stop filling up pages of her site with my ramblings, but to borrow Jeff's words, "It's easier to write than not to."

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