A Not So Silent Night
By Jamie Burt, RN BSN
NANN Footprints: Stories from the NICU December 2020
Oh, baby girl I see you! Do you miss the cramped yet secure shared space? Are you reaching out for sister? Twins! Such great times to look forward to. The many firsts that seem to shout; while there are many likenesses you already show many differences. Maybe you will crawl first, and she will walk first. You baby girl are laid back and she is more opinionated! This is evidenced as we care for you both. Sister has an attitude. Trivial things like temperature checks or a wet diaper bother her so! She is awake and rowdy while you sleep! Has she always been this way sweet sister, rolling somersaults, flinging her umbilical cord, and generally taking up your space? You are close to the same size, at least she didn't take your food.
NOT SO SILENT NIGHT
You are the quiet one, but you have grown accustomed to her presence and this is a confusing time. Your nose hurts from CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), it is noisy out here. The lights are bright and there is just so much commotion. Where is your quiet darkness with safe borders? Being born 6 weeks early is not uncommon for twins yet there is so much chaos for your brain to process. We tuck you in and give you borders, we cover your isolette with a blanket and cluster your care. It does little to mimic the buoyancy to which you are accustomed. You just want to sleep.
ALL IS CALM
At last! Mom and Dad get to do skin to skin! You don't understand all the science: how it stabilizes your temperature and blood sugar and helps you thrive. It holds benefits for Mom too. You just know it feels right. Sister rejoins you as Mom and Dad take turns holding you both, together again!
ALL IS BRIGHT
There is a flurry of activity today accompanied by great news! Sister gets to go home. She got that feeding thing down, now you are alone. But we are here, a poor substitute, yet you must bide your time. You've mastered the breathing without respiratory support, now to just coordinate feedings. One thing I have learned in my brief time as a NICU nurse; it really is all about the feeding! We give Mom and Dad the reassurance that we will continue to take great care of you. You and I, we share this commonality as we are both twins. I was laid back like you. You and sister can anticipate such a special bond. Of course, we wouldn't play favorites, but you have captured our hearts and we recognize your need for gentle encouragement. Will sister always forge ahead?
We see you Mom; this waiting is so hard. No doubt you and Dad had your hopes up. This is not how it is supposed to be. Hearts are torn with one in the hospital and one at home. We feel your disappointment. We understand on a professional level why the risk of postpartum depression can be increased when a baby is in the NICU. We screen for this potential and offer a plan for support, knowing this is more prevalent than many women are willing to admit. Most of us, however, do not understand from personal experience. Yet we care. When you can't be here, we welcome your calls to check throughout the day or night. We anticipate Dad's call before bedtime or when he gets home from work. A warm-hearted nurse makes cards for you and sister at home to celebrate small milestones. Even so, the two steps forward and one step back often yield an emotional roller coaster.
ALL IS CALM
Snatches of comfort! Mom and Dad, this is not the Christmas you hoped for, being all together to mark your girls' first Christmas. Yet the chance to spend time on Christmas with each of your girls snuggling, feeding, diapering, and waiting is a blessing.
ALL IS BRIGHT
Finally! A discharge! Has it really been 4 weeks, almost 2 weeks since sister went home? You baby girl are ready! Ready to join your family. Mom and Dad know that now the real fun begins.
Beautiful one year old, I know you and sister will have a wonderful Christmas this year. Mom says the tables are turned and you are the instigator, yet sister is still fearless. In this upside-down year of 2020, there is still much to celebrate with many blessings to recount. Mom got to work at home this year, an unexpected and challenging gift with the benefit of more time spent with you girls. As you squeal, laugh, play, learn, and grow together, you will not remember your first Christmas except for stories your parents will tell. Mom and Dad; I know you are so thankful that this Christmas will be a true celebration of a NOT SO SILENT NIGHT!
Interested in sharing your Stories from the NICU? Contact Molly Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.