by Megan Ueckert
After delivering my twins unexpectantly at only being pregnant for 23 weeks 4 days, the day came that I had to go home from the hospital, without my babies. It was so hard to walk out of that hospital. I felt that I was leaving part of my heart there.
I went home and cried most the night. The next morning was the start of a very long and unknown journey. My husband Joe and I went to the hospital to see our son and daughter and as we were walking in the front doors, there was a couple with their healthy and plump baby walking out of the hospital. I lost it and started crying uncontrollably. Joe understood my sorrow and just held me.
The first month was the most challenging and had more ups and downs than I could count. I was so limited in what I could do with my babies, I didn’t even feel like a mom. Every day I thought about the risks my IVF doctor had warned us about and wondered if I had been selfish in putting 2 embryos in and if I’m the cause for these two innocent babies to be struggling.
I constantly questioned how God could allow such innocent babies to suffer. But as I thought these things, there would be a day that would show me that my prayers were being answered and these babies were fighters and wanted me to be their mom.
At first it was hard to accept that the doctors and nurses were doing all the right things. I would question every decision and every test and try to understand what it all meant. I would spend hours reading up on all the processes to make sure I was advocating for my babies. There were times where it was difficult to watch as they navigated with ease through the wires to change diapers or provide the daily care my babies needed. I watched in awe and fear. I wanted so badly to help but was terrified of causing them unintended harm.
Every time I would touch or talk to my son and daughter, I would watch the monitors and listen to the alarms and feel heartbroken when it was clear they had had enough stimulation for the day. Each day as we walked into the NICU, as I scrubbed my arms practically raw up to my elbows before walking back to see my babies, I was filled with excitement to see them but fear of what news the doctors may have for us that day.
It was truly an up and down rollercoaster trying to understand everything that was happening, trying to understand what all the dings and chimes and lines on the monitors meant, trying to decipher if the news we were receiving was sugar coated or really good news.
The nights at our house without our babies were difficult. Every night before attempting to go to bed, I would contemplate if I should call the NICU for an update. I didn’t want to take the nurses away from caring for the babies, but also it was so strange going to bed and not knowing how they were doing. Once I would finally make my way to our bedroom, I laid on my side almost instinctively, but then would remember I no longer had a pregnant belly to navigate the perfect sleeping position around.
Before turning over to my stomach to sleep, I would look over and see the empty bassinets next to the bed, where my babies should have been. I remembered when we set it up and how everything seemed so exciting and surreal that we would be parents and how my husband and I joked about who would be waking up to change diapers in the middle of the night. It all seemed like a distant memory that was stripped away as I now looked at the empty, quite beds.
I would wake every three hours to pump so that when my twins were ready for breastmilk, I could have a supply built up for them. Sitting in the living room alone in the dark, watching videos of my son and daughter that I had taken earlier that day and holding on to a towel they had been laying on was a far cry from the way I had envisioned feeding my children. Somehow though, this was one of the things that kept me going. In my heart I felt so helpless, but pumping was the only thing in my control that I could do to help my babies. So as lonely and depressing of an experience it was, I continued to pump for them.
About a month after giving birth, which had felt like an eternity, one of the nurses asked me if I wanted to hold Lane and Grace. I was shocked and instantly began to cry and was filled with so much joy and fear all at once. After a month, I was finally going to hold my babies!
From the reports I received on their progress, I had been under the impression it would be much longer before this day would come. I don’t honestly know if the nurse felt that my mama heart needed this to connect with them or if she was worried that they would pass without me having this opportunity, but either way, I was so happy. It took a team of 3 people to carefully get Grace from her incubator into my arms ensuring that the tangle of wires and her breathing tube all remained in the right spot. I put this little baby that was probably the size of a guinea pig against my chest. It finally felt real for the first time; I was a mom. I held them for as long as I could before having to put them back in their home.
Over the next couple months, the hospital would become my second home and the nurses and doctors my new family. We made it through some really tough decisions, and I truly felt so supported and heard by all of the team tending to my babies. I would hold each baby for 3 hours a day each, which was the best part of my day, and while it was wonderful to be able to bond with them like this, I always felt like a little kid having to return the classroom pet to its cage as the nurses placed the tiny babies back in their incubators.
As the months went on and they continued to grow, I was able to do more and more with them like change their diapers and give them baths. Although sometimes it was hard to feel the connection with them, it was always so hard to leave to come home without them. I knew our twins were some of the smaller and earlier ones in our NICU, but it felt as though we had become residents as I would see other families in the NICU come and go. My friends and family were supportive through the journey but as any normal person would wonder and ask without hesitation, “when do you think they’ll come home?”. This was the one question that no one seemed to be able to answer with certainty and the one question my heart wanted answered more than anything.
Megan Ueckert shares her pregnancy and NICU journey with Graham’s in this special series. This is part 3 of six.