My twins turned 8 last week, and coincidently I found this interview I had done for our student midwife about our twins in the special care nursery. It is very raw and unpolished, but I wanted to share it with you as it is.
I wrote this on the 17th October 2011. So the twins were 4 months old at the time.
Eight years on, it has made the memories come flooding back.
How long were your twins in the special care nursery?
What was your experience of having twins in the special care nursery?
We were very very lucky. Our twins were mainly in there for fattening up and to learn to feed. While they certainly had their share of hiccups along the way, they didn’t have any really realy serious issues. At the time though, it was all very scary.
While Oliver was the bigger twin, he had more health issues. He was born apnoeic, but was soon revived. He was in NICU for the first few days then was transferred to special care. Oliver was in an isolette for a week with oxygen being pumped into the isolette. He was never ventilated or on CPAP though thankfully. We were told every day when we left to expect that we would find him back in NICU the next morning on CPAP, but this never eventuated.
They thought he had a lung infection, so he was out on a course of antibiotics. It was hard seeing him labour so much to breathe. I found that very stressful and scary. We weren’t able to hold Oliver for the first four days, which was really hard.
Oliver wasn’t fed any colostum or milk for the first 4-5 days., He was fed sugar water via a drip. I was quite distressed by this as I didn’t understand why they weren’t giving him milk or that the sugar water was actually OK. I wish someone had explained this to me more.
Alexis was straight into an open cot. She had several apnoeic episodes which self corrected. We were not present when these occurred, but we were told about them afterwards, which was scary. Alexis was also diagnosed with a minor heart murmur while we were in there. We are hopeful that this will self correct.
What was difficult for me was the fact I was recovering from the c-section and was spaced out on morphine. A lot of my memories from the early days are based on what Dave has told me, rather than my own experiences.
Physically was it difficult to interact and keep up with the needs of your twins, after the birth when you were separated from one another?
Oliver was in NICU. Alexis was in SCN. I was up on the ward recovering from my c-section. I insisted on being wheeled down to them ASAP. Poor Dave was running back and forth between all three of us. Due to my morphine haze I was never quite sure what was going on and what was happening.
We were unable to hold Oliver for the first four days, which I found very difficult. I was worried we wouldn’t bond with him as well, but there were no issues.
I was expressing up on the ward and getting the nurses to deliver the colostrum and milk as it was expressed.
What were some emotions you felt during your time in special care? For example feelings of uncertainty, worry, stress etc.
Very scared to start with. We had done a tour of the NICU and SCN while I was in the hospital on bedrest, which was excellent. However, it was still very overwhelming – especially when it is your own twins in there. We were new parents, which was scary enough on its own. Let alone having them hooked up to all these machines.
I was spaced out on the morphine etc for the first few days, and this really affected me. All I was concerned about was bringing home two healthy babies. I couldn’t help but fear that one or both of them wouldn’t make it. I was quite confused as to what was happening a lot of the time.
We felt quite useless to start with. We didn’t know what we could or couldn’t do in regards to helping our babies.
Having twins in the special care nursery is a real rollercoaster. There can be a lot of steps backward, which are very stressful.
Has having twins spend time in SCN impacted your life?
I’m not sure if it was the hard road we had to get to the stage of actually getting pregnant (8 rounds of IVF), keeping the pregnancy (we lost twins last year and then with this pregnancy I had threatened early labour signs at 21 weeks and was put on bed rest) or if it was our stay in the SCN, but I really really appreciate these babies a whole lot! So far I haven’t got frustrated with them or let their crying etc get to me. All I can think of is that they are so precious to us. I just want to spend every waking minute with them.
We are also extremely lucky that we don’t seem to have ongoing health issues resulting from their premature arrival. We saw a lot of very sick babies in the SCN, and heard of several babies that passed away during our stay in there. So that makes our babies all the more precious to us.
Our time in the SCN also taught us not to be so judgemental. Some parents simply couldn’t be there 24/7. I was there as much as humanly possible, but sometimes life doesn’t allow some people this luxury. We were told of one mother who lived out on a rural property (where farming was their only source of income). She had 4 other children. She had to stay at the farm to look after the rest of her family, and put her trust in the hospital staff to look after her premature baby.
On the other side of the coin it also caused us to become quite mad at those parents that just left their babies in the care of the nurses in the SCN and went off and used their time at the Ronald McDonald house as a holiday to explore Brisbane and not stay with their premature baby.
Did you feel there was social support amongst other parents in special care nursery?
Absolutely. Initially we kept to ourselves, as we were quite overwhelmed with what was happening. However, once the babies were out of danger and were doing well we began to talk a bit more to the other parents. It’s hard initially, as we weren’t quite sure of the etiquette that should be observed in the SCN. The expressing room was a bit of a lifesaver. It was an area where you could talk freely to other mums.
I have stayed in contact with several people that we met while we were in SCN. And I expect that we will remain friends.
I think it was hard for the Dads to meet the other Dads.
Did the special care nursery staff offer information and support to help you adjust to motherhood?
There was a lot of literature handed out. To be honest, the paper that I collected while in there was ridiculous! Half of it I never even had time to read. Which then in turn made me feel bad that I wasn’t doing everything I could to be a good mother!!!
How were you encouraged to participate in the care of your twins?
Initially we were unable to hold Oliver or complete his cares. It was a great relief when he was in an open cot.
We didn’t hold them much to start with, as I think we were a bit too scared to. Alexis was so so tiny and fragile. Plus she was attached to all these monitors. No one took the time to explain to us that we were allowed to hold her whenever we wanted to and that the nurses could help us at any time get her in/out of her cot and in/out of our arms. In hindsight I really regret this.
When Oliver came out of his isolette we were a lot more confident with the handling of Alexis, so this meant we were confident handling Oliver as well.
I was quite sore from my c-section, so Dave did all their cares. He changed nappies and bathed them when we were told to etc. This was good for him, as he really had zero experience and knowledge of babies, whereas I was a lot more informed and confident with nappy changes etc. It was a chance for Dave to learn.
We also held their milk tubes during feeding times whenever possible. They could be attached to an IV pole, but we preferred to hold it while it dripped though, as it made us feel like we were doing something for our babies.
Was your experience dealing with the hospital staff in special care nursery positive?
Mainly it was very positive. I found the pressure to breastfeed a bit much to handle (and I was fully committed to breast feeding). I didn’t like some of the older nursers approach to breastfeeding though.
The staff were really wonderful. I can not thank them enough. I was a bit nervous on some occasions when there were agency nurses working in our room, as they would have no idea what was going on. This stressed me out quite a bit.
I found the doctors quite off putting though. They always seemed unapproachable and didn’t spend any time with us.
How did the nursing staff encourage you to interact with your twins? For example skin-to-skin contact or kangaroo care.
No one told us that we could hold them whenever we wanted to (once they were in an open cot). I wish someone had told us that!
I did several kangaroo cuddles under instruction from the nurses, which was amazing. And once we found out we could hold them without asking it was much better.
Did you struggle connecting/bonding with your twins in the special care nursery environment?
I was in a lot of pain, high on morphine and totally spaced out. I was too scared to hold Alexis to start with as she was so tiny and fragile. I was scared I would drop her as I was a bit spaced out. I also wasn’t strong enough to just stand over her cot and look at her. So I had to sit next to her, which made it hard to see her properly.
Oliver was too sick for us to handle to start with, so it was a few days before we got to hold him.
Having our twins in the special care nursery for so long was hard. Im very glad to say that now we are home there are absolutely no issues with us all bonding.
Did you feel you could contact and ask the nursing staff questions about the care of your twins, when you felt the need?
Yes and no. Some nurses were a lot more approachable than others.
There was no use asking the agency staff anything, as they wouldn’t know the answer.
I wish we had been given more of an opportunity to speak with doctors.
Was the transition from special care nursery to home difficult? Did you feel as though special care nursery staff adequately prepared you for taking your twins home?
It was scary. You basically go from being told what to do, when to do it to being kicked out on the street on your own.
We did spend two nights in the parent craft room before leaving the hospital. This is a great service that they offer, as it does allow you to get to know your babies in a private environment.
It was bloody scary though!
Could the hospital staff have done anything else or differently to assist you with the transition to motherhood and taking your twins home?
This is going to sound ridiculous, but I wish they had told me to just keep them in the same routine when we took them home. In hindsight having twins in the special care nursery allows you to form a routine prior to coming home. But we didn’t really understand this at the time.
I know its costly, but some home visits or even some phone calls to follow up in those first few days would have been greatly appreciated.
You can find out some hints and tips about bringing your babies home from the special care nursery HERE.