Meeting Grace and Cole (Just about three months too soon!)
The immediate aftermath of the delivery was relatively quiet for us, thankfully. After I was stitched back up, I was wheeled back into the room where we had spent the day but so much had changed. I didn’t have any immediate complications and was checked in on every fifteen minutes by the nursing staff. They were very kind to us. I was asked if I could wiggle my toes over and over, which I couldn’t do for a couple of hours until the spinal wore off. I was asked to sit tight, relax and the nurses would get an update for us on how the babies were doing in the NICU. I was numb, both literally and figuratively. Looking back, this was probably a state of shock. I wasn’t afraid… God, I wasn’t even really nervous, which I feel now probably isn’t normal considering what we had just gone through. We just sat and waited for whatever was about to come.
After a couple of hours, the nurses brought in this breast pump and asked if I’d like to try to start pumping. They explained how it worked and what benefits it could bring to the babies that I hadn’t even been able to really meet yet. They also explained that there were a lot of things right now that I couldn’t do to care for them but this was the one thing I had some control over. With that, I gave it a shot, figuring I had nothing really to lose here. I pumped for fifteen minutes and had never felt less self-conscious about myself than I did right then. I was someone who would never just sit there without a shirt on and not worry about it. Here I was though, pumping in a room with several people and could not have cared less who saw what. When I was done and absolutely nothing came out, I felt a bit defeated. The nurses explained that my body probably didn’t realize yet that the babies had been taken out and to give it a few days.
After the pumping, we waited again. No news is good news, right? It felt like an eternity.
Finally, about three hours after the delivery, we got word from the NICU that both babies were stable and getting comfortable in their new homes, called isoletes. I don’t know what took so long for the news but I honestly didn’t want to know. All that mattered was that they were stable. We asked when we could go see them and the nurses said that they could bring us through the NICU on our way to my recovery room, where I would spend the next five nights. In order to do that though, I needed to be able to get from my hospital bed to the wheelchair, which for anyone who has ever had a C-section, this is a nearly impossible task three hours after surgery.
When the time came that I could finally wiggle my damn toes, the compression pumps were secure on my legs and all the probes to monitor me were taken off, I struggled to get to the wheelchair. I’ve never been more determined to move a foot in my entire life. I used upper body strength I never knew I had to lift my heavy and exhausted body from the hospital bed to the wheelchair. It took several minutes but I finally was comfortably in the wheelchair. (Side note- for anyone anticipating a C-Section, moving around over bumps in a wheelchair is one of the most painful things you’ve ever felt. Get a good nurse and not your husband to push you for the first few days!)
We packed up all our things and were taken out of the room and to the elevators. We were taken down from the 14th floor to the 10th floor. This was our first introduction to the NICU, a place I had never even really thought about until today. There were two locked doors that we had to be buzzed through and finally, we had to check in at reception and explain who we were. The front desk was always filled with the kindest and most sympathetic staff. A lot of precautions were taken to keep these babies protected, which gave me a sense of peace. We had bracelets on with each baby’s name and those were our ticket into the NICU. No bracelet, no entrance. We were then wheeled around the corner and into a room with three isolates. The one on the left was empty but the two on the right had our babies in there. I was so nervous all of a sudden… like the days’ worth of stress and fear just layered itself onto me.
The nurse wheeled me up to the edge of the isolate and we peered through the side. Inside, were the two tiniest humans I’d ever seen. Grace was about the size of a ruler and Cole wasn’t much bigger. They looked translucent. They had wires and tubes all over them. They had a feeding tube in their mouth and oxygen in their noses. They had bright lights on them to help with jaundice. Their eyes were covered with gauze. They looked so fragile in these white sterile boxes. We just sat and stared. I couldn't even come up with a question to ask the nurse who would be caring for them for the night.
I suddenly felt so exhausted. The nervousness and fear that hadn’t existed all night came crashing down. What if they found something wrong with them? What if they didn’t make it? What if I couldn’t take care of them the way they needed to be taken care of? What if I hurt them when I get a chance to hold them? How do I feed them? How do I bond with them if they are in this box? Too many questions ran through my head and I didn't have the strength to ask the questions or the emotional space in my heart to hear the answers. I had been up for almost 24 hours, had major abdominal surgery and had enough emotional stress to fill a 747.
The nurse who had them both that night urged us to go upstairs to our room and go to sleep. She promised to call if anything happened or if we needed to come down. She was so kind and we immediately trusted her. She told us she would be on shift until 7am and would take great care of Grace and Cole. She reassured us that tomorrow would be easier, and each day it would get better and better. I truly prayed she was right.