I didn’t think my twins’ prematurity would affect me this strongly but I still can’t look at a picture of newborn twins without getting insanely jealous and angry. Whenever someone shares a breastfeeding photo I want to block them. Pictures of tiny babies all hooked up to wires and monitors comfort me. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I, most like, have PTSD from the NICU.
When the twins were born, what a traumatic birth it was, I handled it well. I demanded a pump so I, not allowed to get up from the bed for 12 hours while on magnesium sulphite, could do something for those tiny babies they took away from me. I stayed strong for them and made it my goal to do what I was supposed to that night so that in the morning I could go for a visit.
At first, I was a rockstar. I took it one day at a time and celebrated each milestone. They took turns with jaundice, I made tanning jokes, I knew they needed to get better to go home. They were tiny and sick. Every day we made progress.
Then, we started to get setbacks. After Theo’s jaundice he ended up needing a gavage tube, where he was all bottles before that. They were moved upstairs and everything was healthy, they were gaining, and slowly reaching their goals of back to birth weight (or in Theo’s case over 4lbs) and well on their way to go – if only they would eat. Why wouldn’t they eat.
We tried an aggressive strategy to get Des to take a bottle, to push him and see what would happen. The doctor let me give it a try, and it failed. He tired out. I broke down.
Despite all of this, I pumped. Pumped. Pumped. Alarms in the middle of the night when I finally could get some sleep. Time away form the big kids even though this was a few precious moments I could have stolen with them. It was the only thing I could do for them and I kept saying, it will be OK, at least I’ll be able to breastfeed…
Breastfeeding was a complete failure and I 100% blame myself. A couple days before discharge, Des took an entire feeding by breast. He was nursing like a champ. Theo was a bit slower on it but I knew he would be able to catch on. Unfortunately, when they came home I had terrible anxiety. I hated breastfeeding in front of people and my mother in law and her sister were staying with us to “help”. (Their not helping is a whole ‘nother post.) I was sleeping 3 hours a night. I definitely didn’t have time to pump anymore.
Most importantly, though, I was paranoid. After them being in the hospital for not eating and obsessing about daily weights and consumed ounces, I couldn’t handle the anxiety of not knowing how much they were eating. I was terrified of them having to go back to the hospital. That paranoia led me to think they needed more milk, that I wasn’t making enough, that I had to bottle feed. Slowly my supply started dipping, slowly fatigue took over me with the lack of sleep, stress, and constant childcare. My mom bought us the Baby Brezza formula maker. My husband told me I had to stop trying for my own sanity. I was going insane.
I still blame myself. I stopped breastfeeding in August and continue to have nightmares and hopeful dreams of my milk supply coming back or being sour or other anxiety driven psychosis. I’m still not over it, even as I wait impatiently for the surgery to have my breasts removed. I still blame myself for quitting because I know I could have done it if I had tried harder and hadn’t been so crazy.
I know now, in retrospect, I probably had some postpartum anxiety. For a very long time, and definitely while they were in the hospital, I felt like they weren’t my babies. I really struggled to bond for fear that they were going to be taken away at any second. It was almost like they belonged to the hospital, not me. Once they came home I didn’t know what to do with us being together and really struggled with wanting to be close with them. I mean, I wanted to bond, but I just felt like I shouldn’t because they were going to be taken back to the hospital at any second. It was a bit jarring because I’ve never experienced anything like it with my other kids.
Thankfully, after a year, they are most definitely my babies. We are bonded just fine. They are growing better than fine. I know that the breastfeeding doesn’t matter. I know that they’re suffering no real long term effects from prematurity. I know that they’re not ever going back to the NICU.
Still, when I see pictures and think back to those days, I’m immediately choked up. I’m still not over it. All the feelings are at the back of my mind, ready to come out as raw and emotional as the very first day I saw them hooked up to IVs and wires. I will never ever lose the emotion of watching my infants get wheeled away from me to an unknown location with unknown people to a place where I had to ask to hold them. I’m not going to get over it anytime soon. I’m still angry. I’m still hurt. I’m still sad. I’m still feeling.
Edit 2016-08-15: I updated this post to add some photos and was getting teary-eyed just looking at them.