{Quad Squad} NICU Memories

Having four babies in the NICU for two months really leaves you with a lot of memories. And lately, as several of my new quad mom friends around the country welcome home their own four babies after completing their own NICU journeys, I've found myself flashing back to our days in the hospital. I can easily recall the all-too-familiar routine we followed day after day while watching our teeny babies, born at just 7.5 months, grow strong.

Our hospital stay started when I was nearly 23 weeks pregnant. My doctor admitted me as a precaution because he wanted so badly for me to make it as long as possible and wanted to be prepared for any setbacks. This turned out to be the best call he made because shortly after I was admitted I began having strong contractions every few minutes. Fortunately they were able to stop them and that's when I began my 7.5 week stint on a magnesium sulfate IV, as well as other medications like Indocin and Procardia and a constant IV of fluids, to help keep contractions at bay. The magnesium relaxes the smooth muscles in your body, like the uterus, and was effective for me as far as helping me have as few contractions as possible when you are only 20-something weeks pregnant with four babies but your body thinks it's past due for delivery. But it also causes unpleasant side effects that I seemed to get full-on, like body aches, sweats, headaches, blurred vision and such. It was not fun to say the least. But as I lay there in my hospital bed for two months, trying to hold off on delivery as long as I could, I knew I'd do anything to provide for my unborn babies.


And then they arrived. Our precious quadruplets were born on May 31, 2012 at 29 weeks and five days and weighed from 2lbs 6oz to 3lbs 6oz. My heart couldn't have been fuller that day and I could not have been more in awe at God's infinite grace and mercy and His many blessings on our family. Not to mention, I'd been so touched by all the warm comments from you lovely readers!
All the babies during their first week of life. They received various treatments like light therapy for jaundice, cpap machines (seen on their face) for breathing and monitors for vital signs. Harrison also had to be put on the ventilator and had a chest tube inserted for air pockets outside his lungs quite early after birth.
I stayed in the hospital for a few more days and then finally went home. It was a hard transition for me because I'd become so accustomed to my environment there and the nurses' care. Even though I wanted more than anything to get out of the hospital, it was hard to go home and take care of myself again. It was also hard to leave the babies behind, though I certainly knew they were in the best place possible. And so began the second part of our extended hospital stay, the NICU. We knew that our babies would likely be there two months and probably more. Their original due date (for a normal nine month pregnancy) was August 11, 2012 and the general rule is that premature babies will be kept until they are considered full-term and then longer as necessary.

We quickly fell into an exhaustive pattern that involved making the 45-minute commute each way to the hospital on a daily basis. The husband dropped me at the front door then went to park while I was given a wheel chair. Then he'd walk all the way to the drop-off and meet me to wheel me up to the NICU. I'd leave any breast milk I'd pumped at the front desk then we'd head back to see the babies. It was only a few days before they were all put in the same pod, which made our lives much easier so we could see them all in the same room and not have to run back and forth. Or decide which kiddo to see first! 

The babies at about two weeks old.
Then after several weeks they began to make their way out of their isolettes and into their cribs. By this point, we had our routine down and I was able to drive and wasn't relying on friends to take me or the husband on the days he wasn't working. I would head down late in the morning and head straight to the pod or straight to the pumping room to pump before heading in. Once I was with the babies, I was pretty distracted and didn't do much else! I would drop my stuff in between their cribs then go around and say hello and kiss each kiddo and get an update from their nurse. 

Four cribs! Photo taken around four to five weeks, after all the babies had moved out of their temperature-controlled isolettes.
Then I'd spend the rest of the day changing diapers, feeding babies and holding them in between feedings as much as I could. It was really challenging to balance giving four different babies attention—I had to make peace with the fact that some days I could hold only one or that two might get a little more attention than the others—keeping up with my pumping schedule, feeding them all every three hours (it was challenging as they were still so little), remembering to leave the pod for breaks to eat and drink, running the babies' laundry in the machines down the hall and occasionally get a little rest. Then the husband would arrive after work, battling traffic all the way down there to spend an hour or two with the babies. We usually tried to wrap up our visits before the night shift change at 7pm, but sometimes we just hadn't gotten enough lovin' and would come back after the nurses switched out. On those occasions, it was easily 9pm or later before we left because the night shift did bath times and outfit changes! You know this momma loved that!

The husband putting away a batch of clean laundry in one of the quad's closets. We always had clothes to clean with four babies!
We were very grateful to get to know many of the wonderful nurses that worked in our NICU, and we asked many of them to be the babies' primary care nurses. This gave us a great peace of mind during the parts of the day and night we weren't there. We were able to call whenever we wanted to check on them and it was always nice to get a friendly update from familiar faces.

While the husband and I loved spending time with the babies, the NICU was really exhausting. Just the environment and all the constantly beeping monitors can cause anxiety, it's not the most relaxing of places. And there's always other babies coming and going—some much, much tinier than ours or very sick and some just stopping by for a brief stay before going home. There was a baby that was in our pod the entire time we were there that was very sick. She was eventually released on hospice to go home with her parents before passing away. Seeing those types of situations, and others suffering for so long, kept us on our toes and made us so appreciative and feel so blessed to have our four healthy babies. The tough week we spent with Harrison made it even more real as to how quickly things can take a turn for the worse and his recovery made us realize how much the situation is out of our control and how we must rely on God's strength and grace to carry us through. I prayed often as I held my babies in the NICU and prayed for those around us as well.

For the long days or overnight stays, we often visited the Ronald McDonald House—a great place for NICU parents to get a reprieve from the hospital. There was a full kitchen for meal prep and storage and they occasionally provided dinners as well. And they had rooms based on patient needs that you could sign up for to stay the night in. We did this several times so we could spend extra time with Harrison when he was sick and also on the occasional weekend to avoid commuting back and forth several times—and because checking in on four babies can took up a good chunk of your day!

The Ronald McDonald house, with overnight rooms for NICU parents.
While it was nice to have a place to stay, we saw many parents in misery with dark circles under their eyes from lack of sleep and on the brink of emotional collapse. We heard stories of babies with the dreaded necrotizing enterocolitis, otherwise known as "nec," which meant the babies bowels were incredibly incapable of functioning correctly. There is no known cause of this but it is often seen in premature infants and is not usually diagnosed until a few weeks or even months after birth. It is very deadly and many times the infected part of the intestines must be removed over and over, leaving very little left and requiring frequent operations on the baby's tiny body. One couple was waiting on their last hope, an intestinal transplant, and it wasn't looking very promising. Our hearts ached for these couples—new to parenthood just like we were and in complete agony that they couldn't do more to save their child. On nights that dinner was provided in the Ronald McDonald house, it was generally a quiet crowd that gathered to eat. Everyone there, including us, was exhausted from splitting our lives between home and the NICU, between trying to carry on with the outside world but remain a constant fixture at the bedside of our children. It certainly puts your life in perspective and makes you so grateful for the things you do have.
Now we sit at home with our amazing miracle babies and look back on our NICU days with relief, mostly. Relief that we survived, that Harrison recovered and that our experience there turned out to be a positive one. We also have a large amount of gratitude, both for God's miraculous hand on each of our preemie kiddos and for the incredible doctors and nurses who ministered to them. While some days our "new normal" is completely and utterly exhausting, we know every day is a blessing. God saw fit to give us four babies because He knew, deep down, we could handle it! So we try to remember that on the days that we feel like we just can't handle anymore!


Most of the time we like to think we're fairly organized and have a solid white-knuckled grip on everything, but there are many moments of chaos, emotional breakdowns and thoughts about how long we can keep this up. Four kids is hard work! I've no idea how my husband and I both manage to work, how I'm able to cook on occasion, the amount of laundry our washer has done, where we find the time for a glass of wine, how we keep track of 32 bottles a day or how I even remember my name at the end of the day. And yet I'm amazed at how much I can miss those crazy babies from the time I put them to bed, sleep fitfully for an hour or two and then have to get up because someone is crying. I look at that little face and think to myself (at 3am), "Wow, you're lucky you're so cute!"

Well, I finally finished this post after typing on and off for three days and I just had to break for a feed then sat down to bang out these last few thoughts and now it's time for baths. Always always something. And boy are they cute. Like I said, it's a good thing... ;)

4 comments:

  1. Your "Fantastic Four" have come along way because they were born into a wonderful loving family.
    Thanks for sharing,and many prayers for many more months/years of happiness raising those little ones:)

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  2. What a great post Amber. It is so true how grateful Paul and I have felt during our entire nicu stay that our four are healthy. Even with our awful scare with Rylan we were still praising God because as they worked on our son another family was carrying their daughter to the self care room to hold her and love on her until God called her home. Somedays in the nicu are so exhausting as parents, especially when you have four to love on during your day.

    I can not believe how far you have come and I still look to your blog to see what's coming our way. And I have to say I look so forward to the next couple of months!

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  3. Those babies are so lucky to have you as a momma. I'm so happy for you and Mike. They are precious and growing quickly!

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  4. Love this post! I almost could copy and paste it onto my blog because you captured the quad nicu experience so beautifully. Every day that passes I thank god for our four beutiful, healthy miracles. Sure, it is hard worth, but so worth it. I think back to how just a year ago we grieved the loss of our first baby and would have our right arm for one healthy baby, let alone four. I am also so grateful to share the experience with you!

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