From the day our twin baby boys were born and nestled into the NICU, nurses began prepping my husband and I for the reality that Noah and Nikoh WOULD go home at separate times.
When the day finally came — 24 days after they were born — it was beautiful and heartbreaking all at once and we were nowhere near emotionally prepared.
Noah was discharged on April 18, 2014 from the NICU, 10 days before Nikoh. I remember that morning so vividly. I was getting ready to go to the hospital and visit my babies when my cell phone rang. I immediately recognized the hospital’s phone number and my heart sank, “Oh gosh I hope the babies are OK,” I said to myself. (The hospital typically never called us unless their was a negative change in Noah and Nikoh’s progress) But to my surprise the nurse had the best news, “Hi Mrs. Jaime, Noah is ready to go home today. What time can you be here to pick him up?”
Just like that, our Baby Noah was strong enough to go home. She made it sound so simple!
But how could such a milestone, a day my husband and I had dreamt about for so long be here already? It had felt like Noah and Nikoh had been in the NICU forever, yet when I received the phone call “that moment” seemed to have come so fast.
Tears immediately began falling from my eyes, and my heart was racing. A mixture of emotions overcame my body. Happiness, anxiety, nervousness, excitement and sadness as I wondered what Noah’s discharge meant for Baby Nikoh?
Born two months premature, Noah and Nikoh progressed at different stages, developed and advanced at different times (read more about that in my previous blogs). Typically when one had a bad day, the other had a good day so it was constant highs and lows for us as parents in the NICU. Normally when we were celebrating one baby’s achievements, we were struggling with the other’s setbacks. Although we knew they’d be discharged at separate times, we were never given a date or even a time frame to expect when they would be able to go home. That’s why it was such a big surprise when we were told Noah was ready to “graduate” from the NICU.
Everyday we would ask their doctor, “When will Noah and Nikoh come home? Are they almost ready to come home? What do they need to achieve before they can come home?” And like I have written in previous blogs, the answer from the nurses and doctors were always, “It’s up to Noah and Nikoh and how they progress. We can’t give you a time frame, we take it day by day and see how they do.”
So the phone call regarding Noah’s discharge was totally unexpected because their conditions literally changed from one hour to the next.
My plan for Noah’s discharge day had to change instantly. Normally I would spend the entire day in the NICU visiting with Noah and Nikoh, and waiting for my husband to join us at night once he was out of work. I called him right away and told him Noah was ready to go home, so he scrambled to get to the hospital as soon as he could.
It all happened so fast.
Noah’s car seat was already sitting underneath his crib in the NICU waiting to take him home. A few days before Noah was released he was required to take and pass a car seat test, which checked his heart and breathing while he sat in it to make sure the positioning was safe for him to ride home. One of their nurses gave me a packet of papers about one inch thick that needed signatures, and had a ton of information, the “Do’s and “Don’ts” for preemies which we had learned during our time in the NICU, but it was still extremely overwhelming.
As I was prepping Noah to go home, cleaning out his crib, taking down his name tag, peeling off our photos, packing his diaper bag and dressing him, I looked over at Nikoh in his incubator. I was so sad. I felt so bad. I wondered if he knew I was about to leave him behind? Did he know his twin brother Noah was getting to go home? Was he going to “feel” alone and sad?
My heart was torn apart. My tears never stopped. It was almost too much for me to handle. Several nurses tried to calm me down, they hugged me and told me Nikoh wouldn’t be far behind and would be home “soon.” They told me now Noah would need me at home with him. But how was I going to walk out of the NICU without Nikoh? It felt so unnatural, I couldn’t bare the thought of taking one of my babies home and leaving my other baby behind.
I walked over to Nikoh’s incubator so many times during those few hours, watched him as he slept, rubbed his forehead, cheeks, hands, feet and back with my hands as he slept. I held him when he woke up, I fed him, changed him and rocked him back to sleep. I talked to him and told him I loved him, how proud I was of him and how I was counting down the days until he would come home too. I cried as I told him I didn’t want to leave him, but I had to take his big brother home. I explained to him that I wouldn’t be able to see him anymore everyday, but told him that daddy would be there everyday and that I would call to check on him every day and night, and several times in between. I asked him to not be sad without his brother, and instead to stay strong and keep growing so he could come home with us as soon as possible.
(This is some of what I remember telling him:)
“I love you my Nikoh Baby. I’m not leaving you my love, but you won’t see me for a few days. I will visit you in your dreams and I will send my hugs and kisses through daddy. I’ll be praying for you, thinking about you, getting things ready for you at home and sending you milk to help you keep growing strong.”
When the nurses told me I shouldn’t return to the NICU to visit Nikoh, but instead should stay home with Noah I felt so confused. What new mom is told she shouldn’t be with her preemie baby everyday? He needed me, they both needed me. But how could I be at two places at once? There was no way. Noah couldn’t return to the NICU, and Nikoh wasn’t ready to go home. So how does a mother chose between two babies who need her equally the same?
It was heart-wrenching. I’ve never felt so much sadness.
But after a lot of tears, words of love and support from my husband, the nurses explained more, and it made a TINY bit of sense.
“Nikoh has a whole team of doctors and nurses focused on him, watching and monitoring him 24/7,” one nurse told me. “Noah ONLY has you. You need to give him all of your attention and take extra good care of him. He needs you for everything.”
Of course the explanation didn’t make it much easier to leave Nikoh in the NICU, but it gave me some reassurance that he would be in excellent hands. As it turned out, I didn’t visit Nikoh daily, but there were a couple of times that I left Noah with my parents or sister so I could go back to the NICU and see him. There was no way I couldn’t see him for 10 days straight! We even spent half of Easter day with Nikoh in the NICU. And although I felt useless to him while I was at home with Noah, I continued to send him breast milk daily to help keep him strong and growing. And that made me feel better knowing I was still helping and being there for him through the NICU journey.
When it was time for us to take Noah home, his nurses gathered in the NICU to say goodbye to him and I could barely contain my emotions. It was so overwhelming. As we put Noah in his car seat, I asked if he could say goodbye to his brother. A very sweet nurse took Nikoh out of his incubator, carefully untangling his wires and gently sat him on top of Noah’s lap. It was one of the most bittersweet moments I’ve ever experienced. It’s a story I will tell them forever.
As we wheeled Noah out of the NICU, his carseat was placed in the crib and his nurse pushed him through the labor and delivery waiting room. I followed behind and was so surprised and happy when I saw my parents, sister, brother-in-law and niece and nephew standing there waiting to FINALLY see Noah.
Although my parents were allowed to visit my babies in the NICU, the rest of our family had never seen my babies in person so that moment meant EVERYTHING to me. Everyone had waited to meet Noah and Nikoh for so long, and now they were able to see Noah in person. My sister Nubia immediately burst into tears and kept saying, “Oh my God, hi baby. Hi baby. I love you.”
So many smiles, and so much love. I indulged in that moment of happiness because Noah deserved it, he worked for it for so long.
It was a moment I will never forget….
We said our goodbyes to my family, put Noah into the car and headed home. I stared at him the entire time, held his hand and constantly made sure he was breathing. At the same time, I was talking to Nikoh in my mind and telling him half of my heart remained with him in the NICU. I asked him again to be brave, keep fighting and never forget that mommy, daddy and Noah are yearning to have him home where he belonged.
Fast forward 8 months later to today Dec. 10, 2014, I get to spend ever minute with both Noah and Nikoh at home. They are the best of friends, the sweetest, happiest twin boys and I can’t wait to tell them all about their NICU journey and how they indeed conquered it together.
XO~Noah & Nikoh’s Mommy