25 days. That's how long I was in the hospital. I was in antepartum for 6 days and the babies were in the NICU for 19 days following their birth. During those 25 days, I left the hospital a total of 2 times. That's it.
I was very fortunate that the hospital I delivered at allows parents to have a boarding room if there is a room available. When I was moved to the Mom/Baby unit, they put me at the end of the hall so that when I was discharged, I could stay in that room. Depending on how busy they got with deliveries, that room was mine unless it was needed. Then I could maybe get bumped to the Pediatric unit that was in the same building. If the Pediatric unit was full, they would try to put us in a family unit in the NICU. If there were no family units available, I could camp out with our babies. They would bring a couch in for us to sleep on if needed.
In exchange for a free boarding room, they simply ask that you attend a minimum of 5 out of the 8 care times for our babies. Between Tony and myself, we were with the babies almost round the clock. I was not at all comfortable with going home to sleep in my own bed and leaving the babies there by themselves. Even though I wasn't staying in the NICU with them, I was only a phone call and a short one floor elevator ride away from them if something were to happen. We only live about 25 minutes away from the hospital, but it was important to Tony and me that one of us was in the building with them at all times.
We managed to stay in the same boarding room the entire time we were there. I was given a warning two times that it was possible I might get bumped because they were filling up with moms and babies. However, I was told that we were the last on the list to get bumped because we spent the most time with our babies out of all the boarders.
Tony slept on the couch in my room almost every single night. He went home only once per week, usually on Sunday night, to get clean clothes and to get a good nights rest so he could function at work. He wasn't very comfortable on the hospital couch, but he wanted to be with his family.
The babies care times were every 3 hours and we were at most of them. We would change their diapers, take their temperatures, and help with the feedings. I tried to nurse them almost every time, followed by pumping. If I wasn't at one of the care times, usually the middle of the night ones (although I was at some of those too), I would be in my room pumping. Then I would take my expressed milk to the nurses station for them to send down to the NICU. The schedule was grueling, but we also had the help of the nurses, which was a huge blessing.
I lived in pajama bottoms and a button up flannel shirt for easy access to nurse or pump. I wore slippers everywhere because my feet were still so swollen I couldn't fit them into shoes.
Christmas came and went and we barely even noticed. We rang in the New Year with our new little family. We almost missed that too! We were at the midnight feeding with the babies and were so engrossed with them that the time just slipped by. When we realized it was a few minutes past midnight, we wished each other and our nurse Happy New Year and kissed our babies.
The nurses caring for me in antepartum were so extremely nice. They did everything they could to make sure I was taken care of and as comfortable as possible. The nurses on the mom/baby floor....not so much. The first nurse I had was not very nice at all and scared me more than anything. She almost made me have another IV put in, even though they were going to discharge me the next day. I absolutely HATE having IV's put in! I didn't see the point. If they thought I was recovered enough to be discharged, why the heck did I need an IV just in case something were to happen. She told me I could take a turn for the worse at any time because of the preeclampsia. Then why was I being discharged? I made her ask the doctor if I absolutely had to have the IV put in, since I wasn't getting any medicine through it and it was for just in case. I won that battle.
Most of the NICU nurses were amazing! We only had issue with one of them. Tony and I both didn't like her. She had me in tears one day and I told Tony that there was no way I could handle having her again! All the other nurses taught us different things about our preemie babies without talking to us like we were teenagers. They also asked us what WE wanted to do with our babies, how WE wanted to care for them, but she TOLD us what we needed to do rather than asking. The other nurses wanted us, as parents, to have a say in how they were being taken care of. This particular nurse literally treated us like we were 16 years old having babies. It was awful. We did end up talking to the charge nurse, requesting that we didn't have her again. We told the charge nurse that we hated to be "those" people that complain, that we weren't interested in getting anyone in trouble or causing problems, but we really didn't connect with this gal.
The first day I left the hospital, I made a trip home while Tony stayed with the babies. I'd been there for three weeks at that point and missed home! Going outside into the fresh air felt amazing! Driving home was stressful. I drove so slow. It's amazing how your perspective changes when you have your own babies. I prayed the whole time, "Lord, please don't let me die in a car accident now!"
Once I got home, I went through all the mail that had piled up, paid the overdue bills, got some clean clothes, and noticed all the things that needed to be done! Our house was a mess! Neither one of us had been home in forever so the dust bunnies were collecting, the floors needed mopped, bathrooms cleaned, dishes done...Yes, Tony had been home a few times, but he always left the hospital really late and left home early the next morning to go to work. He didn't have time to do any of that stuff either. I didn't feel any better having gone home. Actually, I felt even more stressed that we wouldn't be going home to a clean house. But the bills were paid.
*Note - Tony's mom hired a house keeper to come in before the babies were discharged, so we did actually have a clean house welcoming us home!
The second time I left the hospital was for a follow up appointment with my OB to check my incision. This was the only time in all of those 19 days, that nobody was at the hospital with our babies. It was only a few hours, but it was still a little unnerving. They were so little! What if something happened and we were needed? Of course our concerns didn't end up being necessary, but still...
When we were close to going home from the NICU, we were transitioned into a family room. Prior to that, the babies were just in a curtained off room. The family room had a private bathroom and a small closet, as well as a tv and a pullout sofa bed. However, put two isolates in there and it was an extremely cramped space!
The idea behind moving into a family room is that it is supposed to help prepare you for going home. Basically, we had to prove we could take care of the babies. We spent three nights in the family room and those were some difficult nights! The nurse came in to check on us, but we were basically on our own. It was extremely challenging to suddenly be "on our own" in such tight quarters, with the babies hooked up to machines, and not really knowing what the nurses wanted us to do and not do. Not to mention the alarms that would periodically sound, indicating that one of their heart rates dropped. Sometimes this was a real alarm and they just needed to be jostled, reminding them to breathe, most times it was a false alarm. The nurses never seemed to think it was a big deal, but it's pretty terrifying if you are their parent! How the heck could we be taking them home? We don't have those high tech alarms at home telling us that their heart rates had dropped or they weren't getting enough oxygen!!!
They told us we would most likely be going home on a Sunday, but first thing that Saturday morning, the doctor came in and asked us if we'd like to go home. I think MY heart stopped. Tony and I just looked at each other. Both babies had gained enough weight consistently and the doctor said they were ready. They just needed to do the hearing test and pass the car seat test and we were good to go!
It ended up taking the entire day to get through all the necessary stuff for the babies to be discharged, but by 7:00 that evening, we were on our way home with our take home babies. We have managed to keep them alive, all on our own without a single monitor, since Saturday, January 11th!