Being A Twin Mom Gave Me Access To A VIP Club I Never Wanted

Christie Faraci spent three of the toughest weeks of her life in the NICU when her daughters arrived at 33 weeks.

When I look back at myself pre-babies, I can't help but laugh. I remember the things I said, those things that not-yet-moms just love to say so optimistically. Me? I wasn’t deterred by the news of twins. Hell, I wanted twins! Two babies, one shot. One weight gain, two siblings close in age. "I have excellent time management skills,” I would boast. “I know how to multitask. I will get these babies into a routine and life will continue."

Maybe I should have faxed my little peanuts a copy of that itinerary. My girls came at 33 weeks on the nose, and that was the end of my so-called "plan" right there. Despite my claims that I was NOT going to have preemies or spend time in the NICU, it all fell apart rather quickly at 32 weeks; discomfort, preeclampsia, difficulty moving, difficulty breathing, heartburn like the fire of a thousand suns. Then one large Ginger Ale prompted a trip to the bathroom, broke my water mid venture, and landed me on the operating table in the hospital. One large needle, two babies, forty minutes under the knife—no waiting.

I was smitten immediately. My girls were stunning. Even without eyebrows, teeny-tiny, emaciated and covered in cords and IV needles and feeding tubes as they were, they were gorgeous. My husband and I were in love all over again—with each other and with our babies, a new somehow fuller, previously non-existent love. Our devotion was palpable. We were like superheroes and it was a new day in the land of the NICU. We were ready, vanquish the day, conquer the night, rain or shine, nuclear holocaust, whatever.

And then it set in. We can't take them home. They will be staying in their incubating fortresses whilst we, the parents, are discharged and sent home, alone, without the babies. The three weeks I spent with my girls (and amazing husband) in the NICU were the hardest three weeks of my life. The emptiness you feel when going home from the hospital without your babies after 33 weeks of carrying them, of feeling their movement inside you, of imagining what they smell like, sound like, feel like, and what they'll look like in their snuggly onesies—it seemed cruel to say 'No, not yet.' We were told there was no room for us to stay in a respite room, that the inn was full, and we were discharged the second day after my C-section. 

We spent 12 to 14 hours every day for the next three weeks in the NICU. We tried to learn to bond, to breastfeed—hoping for the news that they would be ready to come home. The routine for the next three weeks was as follows: every three hours, remove baby from incubator, detach cords, change diaper, weigh the baby, breastfeed, weigh baby, record weight, repeat with next baby. Then pumping after each feed, dismantling and washing the breast pump, skin-to-skin (kangaroo care) until the next feed. Baths in a salad bowl. Family members who wanted to be supportive and visit daily, but didn't understand that there is no visiting room, or that our babies can't be held, or that I am one tear away from a full-out breakdown. I made decisions over whether to sleep or eat because there was only time and energy enough for one of those things.

The NICU is a terrifying place. It's not like a regular hospital room where family members can come visit, hold the new baby, and hang out until you leave. It's dimly lit and filled with beeping computer screens monitoring babies for signs of heart failure or slowed breathing. Every alarm and flashing light (and they are frequent) means something different to the nursing staff, and to the new, overwhelmed, emotionally fragile, c-sectioned and semi-conscious mother, they're a reoccurring a nightmare. We spent three weeks in the NICU, and no matter how much I say about this time, you will never understand what it's like until you’ve been there. It's like an exclusive club you don't really want to be a member of, but somehow, you're on the VIP list until you leave—with a broader spectrum of emotional intelligence, and if you’re fortunate, a thicker skin and a better skill set for the next steps in parenting.

Some nurses were like sidekicks; helpful, beyond kind and inclusive. There were nurses who showed you the ropes, explained what each type of alarm meant and when to notify staff should something serious occur. There were nurses that smiled at you and knew you by name and made you feel like you were doing a great job. And then there were nurses that made you realize you were the only advocates your children had. Ones that made you speak up and have the uncomfortable conversations necessary to make sure your babies were cared for by only those people you trusted.

When does time stand still and fly by at the same time? When you're a new mother navigating (read: fumbling aimlessly) through the beginning of your maternity leave in the NICU with twin girls. And here I am at the end of it, eleven and some odd months later. An entirely new and better person, wishing for another month, another week, one more day. I swore a million times I'd throw in the (vomit saturated) towel, said I'd welcome returning to work—to independence, adult conversation, designated lunch hours and coffee that's still hot enough to sip leisurely. But now, the cold coffee doesn't taste so bad, my stomach isn't craving a scheduled meal, and there is nowhere else I would prefer to be, no one else I want to be with more than my lovely little girls.

Two babies are beyond hard work. It's a deathly amount of effort, of giving, of patience, of stamina, of sh*t and puke. Bewilderment, exasperation, fatigue, and tears—my tears, their tears, my husband's tears, more of my tears. I am fairly certain part of me died somewhere along the way, and the other parts cried at the loss until the well ran dry or acceptance set in. But now, the thought of not being with them every day hurts, going back to work plain sucks, and I find myself acting like a baby because there is no way around it. It's a whole other recipe for tears, somehow heavier on my cheeks, denser, and coming from somewhere deeper within.

If you had asked me 11 months ago, I would have spouted something about a much needed and well-deserved break, about how I am drowning in baby and losing myself in the struggle to stay afloat. And now? I'm thankful for every day, NICU and beyond. I am fully aware of what a privilege it has been to stay home and watch my girls grow into little people over the past year and to influence and enhance this crucial time in their life. 

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