Today's we're sharing the story of Brooke Larsen and her experience with the premature birth and NICU stay of her twins.
Mom to: Jude (9), Adeline (5), and Nora (5)
After seven failed IUIs and a round of IVF, I was pregnant with twins. Twin pregnancies are notorious for being higher risk, and after having my first child in the NICU, I was dreading the possibility again. I tried everything to have a healthy and safe pregnancy. By 20 weeks I was already being given physical restrictions by my doctor, by 24 weeks I was on at-home bedrest, and at 28 weeks my water ruptured putting me on hospital bedrest. I was admitted to the hospital, where the goal was for me to stay pregnant until I reached 34 weeks. I only made it to 30 weeks. When I went into labor, it happened to be a weekend, and since the goal was to keep me pregnant, many attempts to stop labor were used. The doctors were confident they could stop it, unfortunately, they couldn’t, and the twins came quick. There was only time to roll the bed I was on into the OR. There wasn’t time to move me to the OR bed, change into a hospital gown, or be given any elective pain medication.
When the girls were delivered, I was unable to see or hold them, before they were taken by NICU nurses and doctors. Later, a neonatologist came to my room. I don’t remember a lot, because I had been given so much medication to stop the labor, but I remember being told that Adeline had to have CPR performed on her twice. We were told to prepare for the possibility of losing her, but if she did pull through, we’d have a long road and many hurdles ahead with both Nora and Adeline.
Adeline was in the NICU for 71 days and Nora for 69 days. The day Nora was released, we were preparing for Adeline to have an extremely longer stay. However, after being in the NICU every day, attending rounds, and trying to be an active partner and advocate in the girls’ care, the staff felt confident in releasing Adeline just two days later. We had many follow up appointments, and Adeline faced possibilities of readmission, but she able to overcome the challenges and stay home.
I remember sitting in my hospital room sometime after giving birth and talking with my sister-in-law. I told her I didn’t know how I was going to handle having two babies in the hospital and taking care of a toddler at home. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t think I could do it. She looked at me and told me “This is your life now, you’ll do it, and you’ll figure it out.” She was right. I did figure it out, this was my new normal and I needed to find a way to make it work for myself and my family. I had to ask many people for help, which didn’t come very easily for me. I asked many neighbors for help with watching my toddler. I had my mother take him for a few days at a time. I gave up on the idea of a perfect delivery, perfect breastfeeding experience, and accepted my experience. I changed my focus to making sure my toddler was cared for and spent as much time as possible facilitating the care of my twins. This looked different every single day.
I’ve heard people compare the NICU experience to a rollercoaster, but it always felt more like a traffic jam to me. When I would start to feel like the girls were progressing and we were speeding along, a new roadblock would pop up and we would have to slam on the brakes. I had read a book around this time, and the author talked about going through something extremely difficult, but that it was months out of an entire lifetime of months. I turned that thought into my mantra and told myself this to help get through each day: “I can do anything for a day (or an hour, a month, etc.)”.
I could go on and on about my experience but suffice to say Adeline and Nora are both healthy, though we still have our struggles. While Nora’s immune system and lungs have seemed to fully develop, Adeline still struggles. Viruses hit her harder and linger for much longer, sometimes it can include a hospital visit. Covid really made a big impact on our family choices because of the strength of Adeline’s immune system. I made the decision to homeschool two preschoolers and a third grader last school year. They’ve just started Kindergarten, and it has already been an adventure. I’ve learned not to compare either twin’s accomplishments with other children their age. Sometimes the whole experience doesn’t feel fair, but I’ve learned to treasure the smallest victories and milestones.