Having multiples, whether they are twins, triplets, quads, quints or even more, is a life experience incomparable to anything else. Everything is multiplied…diapers, cribs, clothing, triumphs to celebrate and of course the challenges to face. When you are pregnant with multiples, even twins, the risk for having premature babies is multiplied; and with that comes the time you will most likely spend in the NICU.
High Risk Pregnancy
Kara: "Plan for it! Ask your doctor about bedrest, reduced activity, etc. as soon as you find out you’re having multiples. Best to plan ahead and be pleasantly surprised if your pregnancy goes smoothly than be blind-sided by something you aren’t prepared for. Have a plan in place with your boss if you have to start your maternity leave early."
Heather: "If you are confined to bedrest – do what you can for yourself. If your doctor allows, shower and put on clean clothes daily or as often as (s)he says is safe – even if it’s just clean pajamas. This will help so much emotionally to feel “normal”!
Kristin: "Ask your doctor about your diet, how much you should be eating, what to avoid, etc. Snack when you can!"
In the NICU
Sherry: "With multiples, the advantage is that there may be very few purely negative days – if one baby is not doing well, the other one might be doing better. Focus on the positives! Unfortunately, the disadvantage is that there may be very few purely positive days – while you are celebrating one baby’s success, you may be worried about a set-back from the other baby(ies)."
Danielle: "Ask your NICU what they allow as far as having the babies together or separated. Some do not allow any contact between the babies for risk of infection – some encourage them to be close. See what your NICU will let you do!"
Sara: "Keep a CaringBridge site or a blog to document your babies’ journeys or write it in a journal. You will want it to look back on one day even if it seems hard to write down at the time."
Christy: "Beware of (often well-meaning) friends and family. Different people have different opinions on what is or is not healthy for babies. If you believe in doing something a specific way and your doctor agrees it is safe for the baby, let your friends and family know that it is your decision and is not personal. Blame it on the doctor if you have to!!"
Katie: "Transitioning home with multiples can be exciting – and heartbreaking. If you are bringing one baby home, but the other(s) must remain at the hospital, you may feel sad to leave your other baby behind “alone”. Plus there is the added stress of having a probably still-fragile newborn at home to find a sitter for to visit your other baby. You can only do the best you can!"
Jennie: "Ask your NICU what they allow as far as sibling visits. Do what you think is right – if you are scared to bring your recently discharged baby to the hospital because of germs, find a sitter or take turns with your partner. If you want to bring your baby with you, ask your hospital if that is allowed. There is no right or wrong answer – just what you are comfortable with!"
Mary: "If your babies come home with medical equipment, it can be overwhelming to keep it all straight! Try “color-coding” things… assign each baby a color and all of their things are labeled with that color: medicine is labeled with tape in that color, all of their oxygen tanks are labeled with tape that color, their bottles are that color, their pacifiers, the papers you keep track of their feedings on… take this as far as it is useful for you. Get a basket for baby’s things to keep them separate."
Anne: "Ask for help! You don’t have to be a super parent. If you are comfortable with having others come help you, they genuinely will be honored to do so. Obviously screen ALL visitors for illness and everyone who sets foot in your house should be required to wash their hands."
Angela: "Unfortunately, your babies’ struggle with prematurity may not be “over” when you leave the NICU. Ask the Social Worker before you leave what kind of resources exist in your community."
Laura: "While it may seem overwhelming, especially with more than one baby who may qualify,Early Intervention can really help out these little ones. Keep separate files for each baby, clearly labeled (and possibly color-coded) to keep everything separate."
Hannah: "Write appointments on a calendar in different color inks for each baby to keep them straight. Ask for a separate room to wait when you get there instead of the germy waiting room (the office staff may be relieved to have your babies (and their noises) “contained” as well.)"
Olivia: "Be diligent about strangers not touching your babies when you are out. Do not be afraid to hurt their feelings – they are YOUR babies and it’s your duty to protect them!"
Amanda: "Keep a one-sheet summary of your babies’ medical histories with you in the diaper bag. In case of emergency, you want to have all of the pertinent information handy instead of relying on memory."
Friends and Family
Elizabeth: "Your friends and family genuinely want to help you. If they offer to do something for you, and it is safe and healthy for you and your babies, let them! Think of how good YOU would feel to bring dinner to a mom on bedrest or mow the lawn of a family who just had premature twins – let your friends and family have that satisfaction as well!"
Karen: "Stick to your guns. If you are not allowing visitors, you’re not allowing visitors. Period. If you feed your babies a certain way that the doctor recommended, stick to it. If your doctor said the temperature in the nursery should be “X” or that a certain sleeping position is best because of your children’s medical considerations, explain that and do what you know is right. Your friends and family will get over hurt feelings if you reject their advice, but would never forgive themselves if something happened to one of your babies because you listened to their advice against the doctor’s recommendations."
Denise: "Give them something constructive to do. Sometimes your friends and family feel so lost as to what they can do for you. Give them something concrete that doesn’t compromise your health or that of the babies. Allow them to let the dog out while you’re visiting the NICU, let them do the grocery shopping one week, accept monetary donations and gifts as hard as that may be, send loads of laundry home with family who offers… give them something they can do to help!"
Suzanne: "EVERYONE who sets foot in your house should WASH THEIR HANDS! Even if they are not going to hold the babies, they are touching things in your house and MUST have clean hands. Ask your doctor or NICU about additional precautions and how those may be different for individuals who smoke (including yourself), etc."