Thursday, day 4, was a much better day than Wednesday had been, but then again, when you’re told that your twin baby girls likely won’t make it through the night an uneventful day is a great day. Other than little issues here and there-to be expected with preemies-the reports we received were pretty good for both girls. All of the nurses that were caring for the girls put us at ease and were encouraging and even the doctors, though cautious and reluctant to give us any false hope, said that things were looking better.
I,too was feeling better, not just emotionally from having my girls making progress but also physically. Since the night the girls were born I had been unable to hold any food down. I would eat, but within an hour I would be sick. I had also finally slept. Despite being absolutely destroyed by the news that the girls might not make it, the pact that I made with my wife helped me actually sleep. My head was no longer throbbing with each breath, that was probably because I was no longer as prone to the four step break-downs I had been having. From Monday night through Wednesday’s conversation with Robin I had literally not known when I would simply start sobbing and have to sit down, wherever I was, and cry. I sat in elevators and cried. I sat in the NICU and cried. I had to put drinks down, and walk away from the cafeteria line to sit and cry. The gravity of the fragile state of Avery and Sienna and the fear and pain on Robin’s face just drew me to the floor and made me cry-I couldn’t help it. But that seemed to have passed, at least for a short time, and I felt better physically because of it. However, when the rush of emotions poured in I still would take my moments to let things out and felt better for it. I was finally taking care of myself which meant that I could better help Robin in her recovery.
Friday, Day 5, was similar to Thursday, but was a little scarier to me. Dr. Hou, another of the fine physicians in the practice that Robin went to, had told us that we could go home on Thursday but we chose to wait until Friday. While this was a good day it was scary because we wouldn’t be right there in the hospital with the girls. I put on a happy face, though, and told Robin that we would be going home to see our oldest son (the furry, four legged kid, Riley) and that we would be able to come back and call anytime.
Behind that happy face I was beating myself up. I felt like I was leaving the babies behind and that somehow, despite the fact that we had been seperated by six sets of double doors, one floor, and a handwashing station throughout the process, they were going to know that we were gone and were going to be sad. Of course that was silly but that was my feeling. Additionally I felt even more helpless. It’s not that I could do anything for the girls anyway, no matter what was happening with them, but I at least felt like being in the hospital made me more helpful.
After I packed our things we, Robin, her parents and sister, my friend Byung, and I went down to the NICU. Robin’s dad and sister were going to be driving back to West Virginia after this visit and Byung was going to have to go to work that evening so, due to the strict rule in the NICU of no more than two people at any bedside, it was decided that Robin’s dad would go in with me to see Sienna while Robin and her sister would go to see Avery. We would then switch. Then I would take Byung in while Robin took her mom. Byung and I finished our circuit and had gone back out to the waiting room. I thanked him for coming to visit and wished him well. While I was in the waiting room I saw my mother-in-law walking out of Sienna’s room by herself, her usually smiley face replaced with a concerned, nervous look.
“What’s wrong, Mom,” I asked as I ran back through the doors that I had been warned not to enter without permission on Day 1. “I don’t know, but I think maybe you better go in there,” her soft West Virginia accented voice was shaky. And as I tried to do so Robin met me at the next set of doors. She grabbed me and told me to stop.
“I don’t know, Honey,” she began explaining, “we were just walking through Sienna’s room, coming from Ave’s room when we saw a bunch of people standing around her bed. They told me to wait and Dr. Workie will come out.” My meltdown began. We asked other nurses and the receptionists to explain, no one had an answer. We asked the social worker, still no answer. Finally we saw Dr. Workie, who herself was about to go on maternity leave (imagine being pregnant and a neonatologist). She came out and greeted us with her usual comforting demeanor, and explained that Sienna was fine and that her breathing tube had been clogged with a mucus clump, thus causing her oxygen level to go down. She told us that the issue had been resolved and that we could go back in, but cautioned us that due to this issue her blood pressure had gone down, unwelcomed news, and that dopamine had been ordered to be started again. Now I was really dreading being ten minutes away.
After we walked Robin’s father and sister out to the garage and said our goodbyes, Robin, Mom (in-law), and I went back to the NICU to attend the support group that was being led by the social worker, Jenn, who had been so supportive and kind over the past days. We told the receptionist that we were waiting for the support group and that we would be in the waiting area. Jenn came out of the doors a few minutes later and gave me a huge scare.
“Here’s the thing,” she said and then stopped herself, “are you okay?” My face had turned down and my eyes welled up. I thought she was giving me bad news about Sienna and through my sobs I told her so as I grabbed Robin. “No, no, no, I’m so sorry. I was just going to tell you that since very few parents had expressed any interest in attending I am going to cancel the support group.” This was the first of quite a few times that my (Robin would experience this too) hyper-sensitive emotional state would lead me to overreaction.
As it turned out, there were other parents that arrived for the support group and we met some wonderful people who were experiencing many of the same feelings and fears that we were. We all got to exchange stories and share our feelings and despite usually being, or at least acting, too macho to attend such events I felt better. We met Mike who was facing this all alone after losing his wife. We met John and Kristin who had a baby boy at about the same gestational age as our daughters. And we met another couple, whose names I can’t recall, who had twin girls after the mother had suffered from a serious illness called preeclampsia. My feelings of angst were comforted by hearing the experiences of all of these parents and I feel like we made friends.
After that meeting was over I felt better about leaving the hospital, but as soon as we got home I felt like going back and did soon after, just to check on my girls.
As I explained earlier, during the days 1, 2, and 3 I had felt just about every emotion that one can feel. I shall now explain some of those emotions as well as words that came to mind and repent for having felt some of the emotions: fear-I was afraid of what was going to happen to my daughters and my wife; anger-I was angry at people that wouldn’t move, I was angry at elevators and halls for separating me from my kids, I was angry at the nurses that told me to go into the nursery where the healthy babies were to get milk that Robin had pumped, I was angry with myself for being unable to call back all of the friends and family that had attempted to contact me; frustration-I was frustrated with not having any control, I was frustrated with the doctors for not giving us more hope, I was frustrated with people in the parking garage who would stop in the middle of the travel lanes thus stopping me from getting back inside; hate-I hated everything that seemed like an obstacle; envy-I felt envious of parents with healthy babies (One occasion that really sticks out was on Tuesday night, I was making my way back to our room when a young couple-all smiles-entered the elevator. She was obviously due to give birth and I asked them if they needed me to skip my stop so they could go quicker. They both shook their heads and the mother to be explained that they were in for a planned c-section and then asked about my child. I told them that we had twins on Monday and they both beamed as they offered congratulations. I told them about the situation and must have used my angry voice because they quickly apologized and put their heads down.); sadness-I felt like my world was ending.
Those emotions found their way into my being and I am sorry that they did. I should have fought them off better and not let them get to me. I should have maintained my faith and kept myself right. But I was experiencing something that I will never wish upon anyone; I was experiencing the potential loss of two children and the health of my wife. I was experiencing hell.
However, after the Wednesday night, when Robin and I resolved to channel everything that we had that was positive into our babies I began to have some different feelings and think of other words: hope-I knew that despite the current situation there was hope for my daughters; trust-I began to trust the doctors and nurses more, I began to trust medical science more, I began to trust family and friends more, I began to trust God; joy-I was joyful of the fact that my daughters were making little improvements; grateful-I was grateful for the messages of hope and inspiration that had been pouring in since the beginning of my trip through hell, I was grateful for the friends and neighbors that had been showing up with cards and flowers and food and a shoulder to cry on, I was grateful for my wonderful mother-in-law who had opted to stay with us and who without fail was cooking and cleaning and shopping and making phone calls, all so that Robin and I could focus on ourselves and our children, and I was grateful for Robin for being such a wonderful wife, for carrying our children and for being my rock despite the fact that she, too was feeling hurt, I was grateful that she was recovering, I was grateful for meeting other people who had similar situations and who provided us with hope; friends-everyone became a friend, the cashier at the pharmacy who, after asking questions about why I was wearing a brace on my wrist and having me answer him curtly, then asked if I had just come from the hospital and after I lost patience and finally told him the story, said that he was going to pray for me; the lady at the grocery store who, when I saw her twin granddaughters and began crying, hugged me and asked me about the situation and after being told said that she would pray for me; the parking booth attendant who refused to charge me after seeing me cry and has since asked me about the girls every time; and all of the couples that I have met that also have kids in the NICU, they have all become friends;
FAMILY -not just those who are of actual relation but also all of those people who have reached out and offered their help and support and visits (too many to name), they have all become family. In my line of work co-workers consider each other family anyway, but this experience has further deepened that relationship and I am grateful for that; love-I absolutely love and adore my wife and daughters, and I love my family (see the above definition).
I know that we have a long road ahead of us and that things are not going to be easy, but I am certain that with the support that has been given thus far, we are going to pull through this. Thank you, all.