NICU Graduates Unite!

IMG_1245This weekend we attended a reunion party for graduates of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, organized by Maimonides Hospital. There were balloons, free book giveaways from the Brooklyn Public Library, face painting for the older kids, ice cream, a slide show of pictures of the the babies then and now, food, and raffles. But the best part was seeing the nurses again. It’s been five months, but seeing them took me back to that sad, bright room full of tiny babies, that frantic, exhausted feeling of wonder and pain we felt watching our babies sleep through the thick plastic of incubators.

When we first walked in, at the greeting table was a short-haired, round-faced nurse who I recognized instantly. She exclaimed loudly and ooed and awed over the babies and how big they’ve grown. I remember sitting with her in the NICU annex, after the babies had moved into open cribs. At that point we knew they would probably be discharged in a matter of days. I had learned how to take their armpit temperature with the thermometer I’d wheel over to the crib; I’d learned how to change their tiny, preemie size diapers. I remember asking her what type of thermometer to get. I was so stressed about the babies coming home, about everything, though I didn’t realize it myself. She had a very brusque, sarcastic way of answering and seemed to find my nervousness funny. I was so grateful for any advice.

Then D saw a lanky, long-haired woman in a maroon sweatshirt. She had on small wire-rim glasses and was standing in a circle of doctors. “That’s the neonatologist I talked to when you were in surgery after the C-section,” he said. “She was the first person I talked to.” I had never seen her. I had been unconscious at that point. I realized what different experiences we’d had in those initial days, though we’d lived it together.

“Cheeks, cheeks, everywhere cheeks!” she exclaimed when we said hello, admiring the babies.

We spoke to the lactation consultant who’d wheeled a breast pump up to my hospital bed while I was still groggy from meds, showing me how to assemble and clean the parts. Later, when I brought my sister and father to visit the hospital she had helped me set up a video monitor so they could see the babies. For the camera, she put both the babies in my arms. It was the first time I held them both at once. I felt so rich.

“They look great!” she said. “You don’t have to say the adjusted age; you can tell people their actual age.”

As we made our way around the room, the nurses all asked, “What was the babies’ last name in the hospital?” They were known there by my last name, though their last name now is their father’s. Hospitals retain their own maternal culture separate from society.

My time in the hospital, the babies’ time in the NICU, was really like a trip to another country. A stay in a foreign land, where you don’t understand the language, you don’t know what rituals are being performed most of the time. But we brought the babies back with us from this foreign land. They made it home.

Five Important Baby Things I Forgot to Pack

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This weekend the babies took their first trip out of town. Very exciting. They did well, didn’t seem disoriented, slept well. Packing, though, was a challenge. The car was stuffed to the gills with two adults, two babies, suitcase, double stroller, playmat, two carseats, this that and the other. And still there were five things I forgot. Maybe I will be organized and put together a checklist of baby things to pack for next time. Or maybe I’ll just write down these five things: 

1. Lots of plastic bags

Where do you put diapers when you’re at someone else’s house? They don’t have a Diaper Genie or Diaper Dekor (I love the names of diaper pails, so comedy, but that’s a subject for another post…). You need lots of plastic bags so you can take them to the trash outside. 

2. Stain remover

The babies pooped on my friend’s pillows. Not the best guest behavior, which leads me to number three… 

3. My Breast Friend Double Nursing Pillow

I thought the pillow was just too gigantic to bring, even though I use it seven times a day every day. I thought I could just substitute a pile of regular bed pillows (see item 2 above). Turns out bed pillows are cumbersome and you need a lot of them to support two twins in an upright position, and there’s crying and repositioning involved and you’ll probably just end up nursing them individually instead of together, which is a pain. (And they might get pooped on.)

4. Two moby wraps

I only packed one. In fairness, I thought D was going to bring the other up with him when he came (we went up separately). Still, there is nothing that is more of a pain than a double stroller. We want to take rustic walks in parks, and go to stores, and make our time away from home feel as much like a vacation as possible.

5. Two play mats

Again, I only brought one. Why am I only bringing one of these things? I have two babies! And they are big. They don’t fit in one moby, they don’t fit in one crib, they don’t fit on one mat. I will get it next time I swear.

And just as a note, we went through a pack of 31 diapers. In two days. And almost a whole pack of wipes.

But we did it. We got out of town. We moved ourselves and the babies to a new place for a couple days, levitated the house, and it was lovely.