Courage Is Going Home Without Your Newborn Babies
My alarm clock went off at 6 am for my 32-week appointment with the OBGYN (two months before my due date). I was completely wet. I thought I had peed myself. It turned out my water had broken in the middle of the night.
In panic mode, my husband and I rushed to the hospital. The doctors tried to delay the birth by injecting magnesium into my bloodstream, but in less than 10 hours, I had given birth. Jessica weighed 3.5 lb (1.6 kg) and Vanessa 4.1 lb (1.9 kg). They were immediately taken to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and stayed there for a month.
The most difficult thing I had to do in my life was to leave my two daughters in the hospital full of tubes and covered in wires. Saying goodbye to them every night made me cry uncontrollably. They suffered from episodes of bradycardia and apnea. These episodes are very frightening and frequent in premature babies; they disappear naturally once they reach a certain weight. They also struggled to eat. Most meals had to be given through a feeding tube that went through the nose to their stomach.
I was constantly worried that something was going to happen to them at night and I would be so far away from them. The hospital nurses got used to my constant phone calls in the middle of the night to check on them.
If everything had gone as I wished, my two babies would have been born on time and they would have come straight home. Although many people warned me that twins sometimes arrive a little early, I was not ready for this.
So what did I do to stay calm and take care of my mental health?
I asked everyone I knew to help me connect with mothers who had been through my situation. I spoke every day with a woman from Mexico, another woman from Argentina and other women who went through similar situations. We talked every day by phone as if we had known each other all our lives. I felt that they were the only people who understood me. Their advice was worth gold.
Education also helped me. I graduated for my Masters in Couples and Family Therapy 5 days before giving birth.
In the last semester of my graduate course, I was taught about postpartum hormonal changes. I learned about the tools to face the difficulties that sometimes come from being a mother. I prepared my husband to deal with my hormonal changes. I asked him to try to understand me. I asked him to not react if I had some irrational behaviors. He listened and prepared himself. He was by my side supporting me at all times, even though he was also struggling to remain calm and patient. I thank him every day for that. I also have to thank my family who came to the hospital every day to support me and help me with what I needed.
Life does not always go as you plan.
The important thing is not what happens to you, but how you react to what happens to you. My advice? Be brave, be honest with yourself: understand that it is OKAY to have negative feelings.
These are natural feelings and are part of being human. The sooner you accept these feelings as valid and give yourself permission to feel, the sooner you are going to be able to think clearly and take steps in the right direction with a positive mindset.
Open your mind to new experiences, the good and the bad ones too. There is no reason to hold on to what "could have been" because that mentality attracts resentment.
I couldn't have the incredible baby shower I had planned, I couldn't hold my babies and breastfeed them when they were born, I couldn't take them home as I had wanted. But I learned to accept my situation as my new reality: a beautiful reality that will make my husband, my babies and I stronger. I knew that this situation would make us value life even more.
Be realistic, and look at life for what it is, not how it “should be.”
This strategy will make you stay away from your complaints and your excuses because you will focus on getting the most out of your situation.
How did I take advantage of my situation?
I took advantage of the powerful hospital breast pump (I became a cow. LITERALLY), I took advantage of the opportunity to soak up the wisdom of nurses and doctors and asked them all kinds of questions on how to better take care of my babies at home (I had paid for so many baby classes and now I had the real experts in front of me willing to give me all kinds of advice for free). I took advantage of the excellent hospital care and slept as much as possible before they let me take my babies home.
And most importantly, learn the power of GRATITUDE.
Being grateful is what helped me stay strong. I was grateful that my babies were in a good hospital with spectacular staff, grateful to have my family with me for their unconditional support. I was grateful that my babies woke up every day, grateful for their little steps toward progress, grateful to have two beautiful babies that would soon come home and I would be able to enjoy them for the rest of my life.
Be compassionate and kind to yourself. Love and pamper yourself. Learn to trust yourself. The best thing you can do is go with the flow and understand that you cannot control everything. Realize that even when you do your best to create the life you want, life may have other plans you never expected. The attitude you employ, and how you choose to respond, is what will determine if your story will be a beautiful one or a not so pretty one.
That’s really what life’s all about.