When One Twin or Multiple Goes Home from the NICU
Tips for Coping When Your Twins or Multiples are Separated in the NICU
By: Kelby Carr on: Thu 05 of Jul, 2007 [20:36 UTC] (3499 reads)
As if having a baby in the NICU weren't hard enough, parents of twins and multiples get a double (or triple or quadruple) dose of stress when the babies are separated. Often times, one baby is ready to go home from the NICU before another. Not only is this a joyous yet intensely painful experience, but it's also a logistical nightmare. Here are tips for coping when one twin or multiple goes home from the NICU first.
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Prepare Yourself for the NICU Separation
If you have twins or multiples in the NICU, be prepared for the idea that the babies will not all go home at the same time. A NICU staff might not even think to warn you at first. The fact is, two and especially three or more babies are unique. The odds that they will progress on the exact same timeline are pretty slim.
Although it might seem to parents to make sense to keep the twins or multiples together, there are many reasons not to. While some NICU nurses and doctors might fudge it a little if the babies are pretty close together by sending one home just a hair later than normal and one a hair earlier, two babies cannot be in the NICU if only one should be.
Insurance companies often call NICUs daily and seek a justification for each NICU baby's daily stay. Parents also will have a big NICU bill, even with insurance coverage. The daily expense of keeping a baby in the NICU is astronomical.
Discuss the NICU Separation with Your Spouse and NICU Staff
The more you prepare for the possibility, the easier it will be. Talk about what you will do for the first baby's homecoming, and how you will continue to maintain regular visits to the baby or babies who remain in the NICU.
Ask the staff beforehand to give you a few days' warning when they anticipate a baby might go home so you can brace yourself. Get a special gift for the NICU baby or babies who will remain, or even place a picture of the homebound baby in the NICU baby's isolette.
Expect the NICU Separation to be Tough
It is an extremely bittersweet and painful to go home with just one baby. On the one hand, you should have the ability to be overjoyed, but that is overshadowed by the baby you leave behind. Don't be surprised if you bawl when you leave that baby behind.
On some ways, having multiples in the NICU is reassuring. At least the baby is not in the NICU alone. You may not even realize you have that reassurance until you walk out with your NICU baby's NICU buddy.
Get Help at Home!
Once you get that baby home, that's when things really get sticky. Most NICUs will not allow babies into the NICU because of the potential of spreading germs and disease. So now you have two or more babies, but you aren't even allowed to bring them together.
The double impact comes when pediatricians tend to recommend NICU babies who were just sent home not leave the house except for doctor's appointments, so you can't even bring the newborn to the hospital waiting room to take turns visiting the NICU-bound baby.
That means someone has to watch one baby for you to see the other twin or multiple. If you don't have help nearby, that means only one parent can go to the hospital at one time.
Bottom line, this means you will both be run ragged and you will suddenly have to see your NICU baby less just as you are coping with guilt over leaving the NICU baby behind.
Give Yourself a Break
Even if you went to visit your NICU twins or multiples for every feeding before, you just need to accept you can't do that now. You are caring for a newborn at home and tethered to a hospital to see another newborn.
Sometimes, you will need to just call to check on the status of your baby instead of visiting. This is really hard, but don't let any NICU nurse make you feel even guiltier about this. If they do, ask them why they don't make it easier for parents of multiples to stay over at the hospital.
Moms who are nursing and pumping milk for the NICU-bound baby will be especially exhausted. Remind yourself how much you are doing just to get through this NICU stay, and rest at any spare moment.
Yes, it is OK if you nap instead of going to the hospital just once! Remember that a stressed mom doesn't produce as much breast milk!
And don't feel bad about feeling bad. Juggling a baby at home and a baby in the NICU is doubly hard.