This morning I decided I was going to go through my paperwork, envelopes and folders from the girl’s delivery and NICU stay to finally get rid of stuff and file what’s left.
Wow, what a trip down memory lane. That was such a difficult and overwhelming time of my life. It’s hard to believe it’s going to be a year ago soon.
Just looking at the massive pile of paperwork, ranging from release forms to informational packets on the tens of disorders they thought Peanut had, is incredibly intimidating.
I can’t believe I soaked in all that information.
I can’t believe I kept it together. I honestly can’t.
That first month was torture. Torture on my body, having just delivered twins. I pushed Peanut out first with one push, four minutes later I pushed Bear out after only four pushes. Despite her being only 6 pounds 5 ounces, I pushed her out so fast I tore open and needed stitches. Doctors tell you not to drive or do anything strenuous for the first week or two so your body can heal inside and out. I didn’t have that luxury.
Within 12 hours of delivery I was walking the quarter-mile to the NICU to see Bear, who I only got a glimpse of before they rushed her out of the room to the NICU to intubate her and put her on oxygen. She wasn’t able to breathe on her own. I didn’t even get to hold her. All I could hear was her moaning and gurgling, struggling to get air into her little body.
Within 24 hours of delivery, they took Peanut from me and put her in the NICU, only to send her to Children’s within 48 hours of delivery. They didn’t know what was wrong with her. She wasn’t passing any stool. She wasn’t eating. She was only just barely 5 pounds at delivery and was losing that weight fast. On top of all that, she was paralyzed from the waist down and we didn’t have a clue why.
I walked to see them every chance I got while I was in the hospital still. I didn’t care about the stitches. I didn’t care about how groggy and horrible I felt. I didn’t care about the physical pain because the emotional pain was so overwhelming. One baby can’t breathe on her own, the other can’t eat. I can’t nurse them, I can’t soothe them, I can’t hold them without getting tangled in all the monitor cords. They were helpless and I was helpless to make them better. Every five minutes an alarm went off announcing there’s shallow breathing or a weakened heartbeat. Even though I couldn’t do a damn thing to help them, I stayed. I was eager to help in any way that I could. To feel like I was still their mother. To feel like I was contributing to their staying alive as much as the educated nurses and the machines.
Immediately after being discharged on day two I was driving and walking nearly all day every day for weeks. I had Buddy at home with my Mom, Bear in the hospital I delivered about 20 minutes away, and Peanut at Children’s hospital another 30 minutes away. I would sleep at the hospital where the nurses would come in and ask me to feed whichever girl I was with every three hours, and the alarms woke me up every hour in between. During the daytime I would spend about six hours with each girl at each hospital, holding them and crying over them and getting more and more information piled on every hour by doctors. By the time I got home, I was so worn out I could hardly even look at Buddy, but I did my best to love him and pay attention to him. In a way, I’m glad he was as young as he was. He didn’t understand what was going on. He didn’t understand Mommy was too tired to love him like she should.
Over the weeks, more and more information piled up, but the girls health looked more promising. Bear had been transported to Children’s as well so they could be together. She was eventually breathing without the assistance of machines. Peanut began to eat slowly. Soon she was eating as much as her sister. Slowly, the world began to right itself. I began to see the light at the end of this incredibly long and treacherous tunnel. It was a small light, but it was light. It was hope. It was a promise of better things to come. I didn’t know when I would get there, but just knowing it was there made all the difference in the world to me.
After a little under a month, the girls were proclaimed healthy and were permitted to come home.
The light suddenly flooded my world.
It was then that I realized that from the moment I delivered the girls, I was thrown into this crazy world and never even thought about hope or happiness. For that month, I just wanted them to live. To survive. To fight. In return I survived and I fought with every fiber of my being. I shrugged off the need to eat and sleep until I absolutely couldn’t last any longer without them and I collapsed physically, mentally and emotionally. Once I was moderately recovered, I did it all over again. I fought. I fought so I could beat the nurses and the machines. So my girls could rely on me. So my girls could come home.
Once I realized this stage of my fight was nearly over, it renewed my will. They were coming home. Our home. Our family was going to finally be together.
The idea that I could have hope, that I could bring my family home, that we could all be together… I was beside myself. Maybe the girls would be alright. Maybe they really would grow up to be strong healthy women. Maybe we could have a normal life one day.
The fact that I even questioned those possibilities shocked me. I was so burnt out and the possibility of one or both of the girls dying had become such a daily reality that I eventually didn’t question it or fight it. I was ashamed of myself. It felt like I had given up without even realizing it. The day we got our entire family home, I promised myself I would never stop believing in the will of my family again. I would always hold out hope. I would always drive myself to make it to that light at the end of the tunnel.
Slowly, I forgot about those scary diagnosis for Peanut, I forgot that Bear was unable to sustain her life-force without the aid of machines, I forgot that I was too tired to even look at my son, I forgot the hopelessness and helplessness, the physical and emotional pain. I replaced it all with hope, happiness, laughter, love, encouragement and support. If I give up, that gives the family an excuse to give up. I won’t let that happen. I will not let that happen.
Going through those papers has brought me down memory lane, and while it was difficult to relive those first months of complete hell, I’m glad I waited until now to do it. I think deep down I knew I was finally in a good enough place to face that part of my life again. Reading it didn’t bring me down. It made me appreciate how far we’ve all come already and how much better our lives are already.
I think watching the kids growing, developing and interacting has been the biggest contribution to my healing. Buddy is a smart, goofy and happy little boy. Bear is loud and spunky and always looking for trouble. Peanut is strong, determined and secretly silly. They’re so big now, they’re so normal. I don’t associate them with scary or sick or dying. I associate them with spunk, life, excitement and happiness. I’ve begun to find happiness in the simple things again and I’m able to see past the hardships and find a bright future for my family. I may never get to the end of my metaphorical tunnel, but I know what direction to go. I know that now I can go to bed without worrying about my kids health or future. I can wake up feeling excited to spend more time with my smart and beautiful kids. I can feel hope and happiness without immediately turning to fear or uncertainty to squash that happiness.
I’m not dwelling on the past anymore. I’m finally looking forward. My family is strong. My family is happy. My family is beautiful. I can finally confidently say I will never stop fighting for them.