So, I thought I’d kick-start the weekly babies post with a round-up of the journey so far – running through the first 10 weeks in a photo or two a week, starting with…
A very good place to start! The boys were born on a Friday lunchtime the day after a routine scan. The consultant looking after my pregnancy had warned us that there was a chance I’d need to deliver early if Twin 1 (Harris) didn’t grown between the 32 and 34 week scans. Still, it was something of a shock to suddenly be told that, far from going into the office for handover the following day as planned, I’d be admitted that very evening!
This photo was taken a couple of days after the birth, when both boys were breathing relatively well alone. I came down to the ICU one day to find the lovely Nurse Emma had put the boys in together, as research has proven that twins develop far more effectively if allowed to spend time together in the same cot or box. Although things had gone well with Harris’ birth (better than expected, in fact, as he was considerably larger than the scans had suggested), Conall had gone into shock and shot up as far under my ribs and out of reach as he could, and so was without oxygen for longer than the team would have liked. So, whilst Daddy Dapper got the chance to hold a newborn Harris, Conall was whipped away and put on an oxygen mask immediately. In my drugged addled state I had failed to grasp the gravity of the situation, but Daddy tells me it was quite traumatic. Still, Conall was off the CPAP mask by the second day, and while he took a few days longer than Harris to come off the oxygen, he was faster out of the incubator in the long run. All’s well that ends well, eh?
The boys in their cot.
Hats and cardis, knitted by my Grandma (their Great Grandma Short)
By this stage I was out of the maternity ward, dosed up on painkillers and spending every day back in the hospital with my boys. There were plenty of kangaroo cuddles – the boys tucked into mummy’s top, skin-to-skin, to stimulate my milk supply, build our bond and generally help with their development. Premature babies are often born before the sucking and swallowing reflexes are in place, and so, unable to breast feed, are fed through a tube. Having read voraciously whilst pregnant, I knew I wanted my boys to be breastfed, so was expressing every three hours (including through the night – it was great practice for night feeds later!) and taking my spoils into the hospital with me each morning to be refridgerated or frozen until needed. Breastfeeding – and even pumping – did not come easily as I imagined they would, and in fact might be described as one of the most frustrating challenges of my whole life, but I can be very stubborn when I set my mind to something, and really dug my heels in on this one. It was worth it for the simplicity now of just hooking the boys straight to the breast when they’re hungry – I’d be up all night if I had to sterilise bottles and mix formula every time one of them wanted feeding!
This was the week we finally began to see results with breastfeeding, and I was asked to “room in” with the boys – to sleep in our own room in the NNU, taking sole responsibility for their care, but within shouting distance of the nurses’ station should anything go wrong. After 48 sleepless hours we were rewarded on a freezing cold and very wet Thursday evening by being able to finally bring the boys home with us. Even being stuck in the Crufts traffic with screaming, hungry babies in the back seat couldn’t dampen my elation that night!
Padded kimonos by Vertbaudet – the only brand I found whose “tiny baby” sizes actually came up small enough for my tiny babies!
WEEKS 4 & 5:
That first fortnight at home was a haze of non-stop feeding and nappy changes, with little time between each for Mummy to get dressed, eat, or even go to the bathroom! In fairness, though, the last 5 weeks have been pretty much the same – we’ve just learned better to cope with the chaos!
I don’t think Dapper or I actually got dressed that first fortnight, or even put away the sofa bed. We got into a routine of 8 hour shifts, with Dapper waking me for each feed on his shift, excepting one for which the boys were given expressed milk fom my stash at the hospital. This actually worked quite well as the boys got used to combination feeding (breast and bottles) – it can be difficult to introduce a bottle to an exclusively breastfed baby later on.
This was a major milestone as the week the boys would have hit full term, meaning we could start treating them like normal newborn babies. Before this we’d had to follow the advice of the NNU in replicating the Special Care Unit: keeping them in a dimly lit cocoon, slowly lowering the temperature week by week from 24°C to 20°C – a lot warmer than the usual recommendation for baby’s room temperature – and away from visitors as far as possible. We’d only allowed grandparents in – not even my brothers had been allowed to visit. But suddenly they went from being premies to newborns, and things began to change. We started to bring them out of the bedroom in the mornings and invite family to come in for cuddles. There still were – and are – things that have to be done or measured differently because they were premature, but many of the early difficulties began to slip away.
First cuddles with Uncle Bobby
As luck would have it, this was the first week Dapper had to go back to work. The week after I gave birth fell neatly into half term, and we had opted for him to postpone his paternity leave until the boys came home, dropping me off at the hospital before work each morning and joining me there after work each evening whilst they were in the NNU. The early Easter allowed for his 2 weeks’ paternity to then run into the Easter hols, giving him an entire month at home to help out. An absolute godsend!
Less fortunately, the day before his return to work was the day we discovered Harris had an inguinal hernia. A rushed visit to the walk-in centre resulted in an even more frantic trip to Heartlands A&E, where we were told not to worry, it would fix itself. It was a further two weeks before we saw the consultant for a routine check-up, where we were told it absolutely would not fix itself and would need surgery. We’re now awaiting a referral to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and have to deal with poor Hal screaming in pain every time he passes wind, an hour or so after each feed.
First trip out – to A&E!
This was the week the boys had their first walk in the sunshine. Lots of research had led me to wanting a Cosatto twin pushchair, and a further stroke of luck had seen an old schoolfriend of mine, now a colleague of my Mum’s, wanting to sell hers in barely used condition. It’s such an easy steer and has a lovely bright “The Owl and the Pussy Cat” design, which I copied to make some matching pram toys back in January.
This week the boys really began to interact with one another and their surroundings.
It was also the week the boys were seen rocking their first vintage look: flannelette nighties, so much easier for nightime nappy changes, and frankly adorable!
Which brings us up to last week, an uneventful week but for the aforementioned trip to see the consultant and yet another hernia-induced trip to A&E, this time at the insistence of our GP, to Birmingham Children’s Hospital… And still no op! Frustrating…
And that brings us more-or-less up to date! The boys were 11 weeks last Friday, and are really beginning to smile and recognise one another this week. They tend to be awake for an hour or two of playtime each afternoon, as well as increasingly for our daily walk. And it won’t be long before they’re too big to share their day crib any longer!
As for me, I’m in a constant state of exhaustion, never knowing when I’ll next get the chance of a shower or a glass of water, and unable to recall the taste of hot tea, but loving every minute. This has been the greatest challenge of my life so far. Yet I have no doubt it will turn out to be be the most rewarding!