Recently, David and Matt told us about their twin's month-long stay in the NICU.
"It was the probably the hardest thing we've ever had to do," said David. Just as their twin girls Ceclia and Gabrielle took one step forward, they'd take another step back. The dads and their twins are stronger for the difficult experience, and have some wisdom to share with other new dads who might find themselves in a similar situation. Here are their top 5 lessons for parents with preemies:
#1: Be Kind to Your NICU Nurses... They Are Amazing!
"The doctors are also wonderful, but you spend so much more time with the nurses and they are the ones who are taking such good care of your babies in terms of feeding, diaper changes, etc. They become a significant part of your "story" at such a critical moment of your life and it was hard to say goodbye."
#2: Don't Wing It. Come Up with a Game Plan ...
For the babies: "It's important to have a support system in place before you leave, and that includes a pediatrician. Our hospital wouldn't let us take the babies home unless we had a confirmed appointment with a doctor for the next day. Our doctor has been excellent in terms of answering questions and providing advice on feeding and sleep."
For the dads: "We took shifts, which provided some good one-on-one bonding with each of them. We wanted to spend as much time as possible with our babies, but we soon learned that time away for self-care was important. It was a time to recharge and reset our emotions. Laughter was also very important."
#3... But Also be Prepared to Go with the Flow
"We didn't pick up supplies until about 4 to 5 days before discharge since things were subject to change, but we were at the baby supply store every evening during those 4 to 5 days. We found that preemie sized clothes are hard to come by in general and when we did find them, they were only in boys styles. For us, that didn't matter, and it was luckily a short period where they were wearing preemie clothes.
Some of the preparation we had previously done went out the window due to their size. For example, we had researched various bottle feeding systems and made a choice that we felt made sense. But the girls were so small that they had somewhat specific bottle needs related to their sucking and swallowing abilities (and it was different for each)."
#5: Don't be Afraid to Make Requests of Friends and Family
"Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. This is true for all newborns, but compared to term babies, most preemies have underdeveloped lungs and immune systems. Whether visiting in the NICU or after they come home, you need to reduce the risk of bringing in outside germs. It's also perfectly fine (even necessary) to request visitors who are visibly sick to come back another day"
#6: It's Okay to Be Upset.
"It was very difficult to see our daughters connected to so many wires, tubes, and machines. We also had some setbacks during our time in the NICU that caused the doctors to push back the expected discharge dates for each of them.
When you have a baby, you expect to come home from the hospital with your baby, and it was hard to see the cribs and nursery and supplies all ready to go, but no babies. Ultimately, we knew that they were in the best possible place and being well taken care of, and we knew it was much better for any issues to present themselves in the hospital rather than at home."