44 days, 88 nurse shift changes, and two babies later.
In the beginning it wasn’t so bad. The concept was still novel and I remember thinking, “Hey, this isn’t the worst thing that could happen. I just get to lie here all day and let people serve me food. I’m tired of coming up with dinner ideas anyway. Win!”
Clearly I had never experienced hospital food before - or being confined to an uncomfortable bed for nearly two months.
It wasn’t long before reality set in.
One long monotonous day bleeding into the next.
In retrospect, two months out of my life is no big deal. But when you’re in it – oh boy- it feels like you will never see the other side. Like there might not be a light at the end of the tunnel. Like your mind is melting into mush, and you begin to lose track of the days – and the point of it all.
Here are a few things that I learned along the way. I hope it helps you see the light. Because, trust me, the light is there – and it looks a lot like two precious baby faces.
You’re there for a reason – to keep those babies inside as long as possible. There will be days when you feel like unhooking yourself from the monitors, packing your bag, and hitting the road. Desperation will try fog your judgment – don’t let it. Keep your eye on the prize, and don’t lose sight of why you are there. Hang in there mamma, it will all be worth it in the end. I promise.
You will become fluent in medical speak. You will be able to identify every single medication you are taking, including its purpose and side-effects. You will memorize the sound of your babies’ heartbeats, the sound of their hiccups, and the sound of their kicks – all from the amplified and continuous monitoring (By the way, it’s okay to put those sounds on mute or ask the nurse to do it for you. At some point, all that noise transitions from cute to an irritating soundtrack to your new life). You will understand the appropriate and healthy heart rate range for your babies, as well as the appropriate and healthy blood pressure range for yourself. You will be able to have your blood drawn in your sleep, with your eyes closed, and with both hands tied behind your back. I kid! But seriously, people will come to administer medicine and draw your blood at ungodly hours. It will become your new normal.
You will begin to Google. Things like, “psychosis and solitary confinement” and “can I die from constant interrupted sleep?” I’m not going to lie; hospitalized bed rest feels a lot like what I imagine prison would be like. Do they use sleep deprivation as a source of punishment for prisoners? They must. At least they get to walk around and go outside. Try to arrange for visitors. Lots of visitors. Have friends and family stop by at staggered times to bring food, bring books and magazines, and bring stories from the outside world. Lose yourself in a book, in movies, or tv. Find a friend that you can vent to over the phone, in person, or via text – you’re going to need it. You’ve got nowhere to go, and a whole lot of time on your hands. Do whatever you need to do to stay sane.
Privacy is a luxury. Unfortunately, it’s a luxury that you won’t be experiencing until you are at home with your new babies. If you’re lucky, you will have a private room – but that door could swing open at any possible time (night or day). Nurses, doctors, technicians, cafeteria workers, and janitors will pop in and out continuously and without warning. This means that your doctor can stroll in at 7:00 am to evaluate you before you’ve even had a chance to rub the sleep out of your eyes, or brush your teeth, put on a bra, or pee. The lack of privacy part can be a bit dehumanizing. If you need a good cry (in private), I suggest heading for the bathroom. At least you can close the door and get a minute to yourself.
Modesty is a luxury. Your body is no longer yours when you are pregnant. Try to think of yourself as a vessel. You are simply growing and carrying two human beings until they make their way out – no big deal, right? People will have their hands all over your body. Checking your belly, inserting IVs, squeezing your arms with blood pressure monitors, strapping squeezing devices on your legs so that you don’t get blood clots, wrapping fetal monitors around your body every time they shift down your non-existent core, doing random and awkward vaginal exams. Try not to hang on too tight to your modesty – that trait doesn’t really belong in a hospital anyway. Remember, your body is no longer yours – but it will be yours again someday very soon. Hang in there.
You can try something new. Take up French, practice your knitting, perfect your online shopping, start journaling or writing, or play Mahjong (to appease your mother and grandmother). It doesn’t really matter what it is. If you can find the strength and motivation, learning a new hobby will do two things for you. One, it will help distract you from worrying about your babies. Lying in bed all day and all night gives you way too much time to worry. Keep your mind engaged and occupied - it will take the edge off. And two, it will help pass the time. When you’re living in a hospital, time feels endless, slow, and tedious. It’s all about passing the time, and growing those babies.
44 days, 88 nurse shift changes, and two babies later.
Although it doesn’t feel like it – and you might not believe me now - you will be back at home sometime in the near future. And when you’re finally there, you will appreciate the little things.
You will revel in the small things, like the ordinary stillness of your home. No beeping, no machines, no buzzing, no voices outside your door, no intercom announcements, no people coming and going – just quiet. Glorious quiet. You will delight in once again sleeping in a dark room – a room without flashing monitors, screens, or computers. A room without fluorescent hospital lights seeping through the hallway door. Instead of being pregnant with two babies and flopping around in a tiny twin hospital bed, you will be stretching out with joy in your soft, queen or king size bed. You will savor home cooked food, the ability to walk around in your underwear, and the drunken freedom of regaining control of your own body.
Oh and the best part? Whether they are home with you, or spending some quality time in the NICU, you will have two beautiful new babies to show for that lengthy struggle. You had to hand over your time, your body, your sanity, and your strength, but you were just given two of the best gifts that you will ever receive.
Take a moment to soak in this victory – you’ve certainly earned it.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.