Neither here nor there
T2 in his incubator (on the left), and T1 and T3 in a cot on the right. Me in the middle, in that brown top AGAIN….
On Monday (when the babies were 5 days old) we received the wonderful news that T2 was to be transferred back to join me and his brothers. We were lucky that the hospital had the capacity to take him back (because again, there needs to be a ‘spare cot’). The nurses transferred T1 and T3 from their ‘twin’ room to more of a family suite in preparation for T2’s arrival. T2 would still be in an incubator on a ventilator.
Back up on the maternity ward, it was all about to change. At my regular check, the nurse asked me if I was ready to go home yet. I wasn’t. I hadn’t thought through how the process would work and wanted T2 to be back settled before I could think about going home. An hour later the nurse delivered news that I was to be moved onto the general maternity ward as my room was needed for mums in needier situations. Fair enough. After a few hours (well, maybe not that long) of digesting this information, I decided that a move to the general ward was not for me, and actually, I think I am ready to go home after all. Funny how that turned around so quickly. So I packed up my belongings and when T2 arrived back later that day at 5pm, I was packed and ready to go.
We stayed for a while to look at our three boys all back together, the way they were meant to be, and were so happy. People ask what did it feel like to leave them in hospital, did I feel guilty, and I can honestly say I never felt guilty about leaving them. My heart did have a sad longing for them, but I had someone at home who needed me too. Over the last few days it had become apparent that our little boys needed a bit of help to get them ready to come home and I accepted that. The nurses were great and I had got to know their routine and process for looking after our boys over the last few days, and we could telephone the unit at any time, day or night, to get an update.
Now I had the opportunity to get myself in fit working order before their home coming. And I had toddler boy at home who I had missed desperately and he wanted some time with his Mummy too. So we kissed each of our little boys and set off home.
The next stage was to be a waiting game. T2 was to get his breathing sorted and to learn how to bottle and breast feed before coming home. T1 and T3 had to be able to feed completely from bottles or breast, without the odd tube feed when they were too tired. We had no idea how long this would take and I didn’t want to ask as I didn’t want to hear an answer that would make me long for them for a lot longer. The day after I came home we decided that my husband would go back to work, saving any future time off for when the boys came home. He had already used a week of his 2 weeks paternity leave.
The first few days followed a nice routine which saw me express when I got up (7am) then spend a few quality hours with toddler boy, express again at 11am, then my Dad would drive me and my milk to see T1, T2 and T3 in time for their 1pm feed (as I was not able to drive following my c-section). I would then spend time in SCBU either bottle or breast feeding the boys, and reluctantly admitting that a tube feed may be needed when they were just too tired. I took over their ‘cares’ (nappy change and top’n’tail) when I was there, and tried to look after them as much as I could. I arrived with clean clothes and nappies for them and folded these and put them in their little cupboard. All these things helped me feel I was doing as much as I could.
Spending time with toddler boy in the mornings, before afternoons at hospital with my babies…
During the afternoon I would borrow the industrial breast pump for a few more sessions. The nurses jokingly called me Daisy, given the amount I could get out. I really was enjoying seeing if I could beat my personal best of expressing. On an average double pump, I could get out 260ml, enough to provide the boys with breast milk for half their feeds which the nurses would top up with formula. I labelled all my milk and stored it in the fridge. My husband would then call to see the boys when he finished work at 5.30pm, stay with them for an hour or so, sometimes we would bath them, then we would head home for toddler boys’ bedtime.
The days progressed well for T2 and he was moved out of the incubator and a lovely nurse found a huge cot to put in our room so that our boys could finally all sleep together in the cot, vertically. I was so overjoyed when I walked in to their room and saw them all lined up.
We then decided it was time for our eldest to meet his little brothers. What we expected to be a magical moment was indeed a magical moment. He peered into the cot fondly at his brothers. We took each out in turn to introduce them to him, with toddler boy inspecting them briefly then saying ‘Back’, as he instructed us to put the baby back, after each brief introduction. What more could one expect from a 22 month old. Apart from a poke in the eye or swift slap, which his brothers had luckily managed to escape at this stage.
The nurses in SCBU started to prepare me for the boys’ homecoming. The feeds were moving from three hourly intervals to four hourly intervals. The boys were increasingly taking more milk by breast or bottle and the tubes came out. We were getting ready. The SCBU suggested that we stayed in the make shift flat they had for a night to see if we could ‘cope’ with the babies on our own. This was something I was not keen on for various reasons. Firstly we would have to leave our eldest overnight, although this could easily be sorted by my Mum helping out. Secondly, I was feeling refreshed and ready for the homecoming, and a night in a flat with nurses watching my performance would more likely undo any sleep preparation I had had as I certainly would not be sleeping that night, because if it wasn’t the boys keeping me awake, it would be the surroundings and set up. Finally, I had had a baby before and surely I didn’t need to do this. It felt like a test and I really don’t think we needed one. We just wanted to get our babies home and get on with it. So it was agreed that if I came for longer days at the hospital and the nurses could see me do all the feeds, then we would be closer to bringing them home.
And we got closer and closer until they were 18 days old, when we were told they could go home the following day.