When I posted a celebratory photo on Facebook stating the important milestone, a perceptive friend noted that tomorrow (today) is an even more important day. They have spent longer with us at the hut. Whilst Rob and I have nothing but the utmost admiration and respect for the dedicated and professional team of nurses, doctors, lactation consultants, receptionists, hospital aides, cleaners, pharmacists, and social workers that make up the RHH NICU team, it is lovely to see the days free of hospital tally up.
I follow a few of the support groups for premmie parents on Facebook, and while I appreciate it is helpful for some parents, I've stopped reading their posts. Mostly because it seems some of the parents can't let go of the trauma of a premmie start to life for their child(ren).
I am thankful every day that Maggie and Elisabeth got through their NICU stay without surgery, serious medication, hearing or visual impairments, or (so far) a physical or mental disability. It could have been so much worse.
But it would be terrible for my mental and physical health to keep ahold of the pain and fear I felt back there. Yes, I cried and sometimes still do. Yes, I was so scared for them I felt sick, and I'm sure I will feel the same again if they are ever seriously unwell. Yes, it was unfair for them and us, but I've learnt the hard way that life often is. But I am determined not to let those emotions dictate our current life. I try to use those emotions to help me enjoy even the tough moments of being a Mama of twins. When I'm alone and two girls are crying and need me at once. When there are simultaneous nappy explosions. When they are grizzly and squealing because they've forgotten how to go to sleep. When Elisabeth wants to feed nonstop. As soon as I feel a twinge of annoyance or exasperation, I breathe in and see them at day one. Tiny, helpless, red babies. I am transported back to the sounds of alarms, the flashing red signal on the computer screen bringing their nurse running. Or their cries of pain from yet another needle. The discomfort they felt trying to tolerate my milk. Waiting on every brain scan, heart echocardiogram or eye test for a good result. Then I breathe out, and realise my current situation is not difficult or trying at all.
I hope I can still visualise those moments when they are teething, or in the terrible twos, or refusing to eat anything but macaroni cheese, or asking "but why" for the zillionth time, or not doing their homework, or fighting with each other or giving their parents attitude in their teens.
I want to enjoy every moment of being their Mama, and be grateful for even the challenging moments as a parent. I would like their premmie start to be a gift for us, not a burden to carry throughout their life.
Right now we enjoy watching them take in the big new world around them. The colours, the light, the textures, the sounds, the smells. We encourage them as they try to roll over, their faces full of determination and concentration as they work on getting their bodies to do what they want them to. We delight in their smiles as they recognise us. We laugh at their crazy squeals and babbling as they practise using their voices. We help them use their tiny little hands to pick up rattles, blankets, or grab at my nose or hair or their own toes. We love watching them sleep peacefully. I want to remember the way they lunge with excitement to feed from me, holding tight onto my top to ensure I don't go anywhere.
I look forward to the next 112 days, and will be cheering them on as they continue to grow up.