Sorry for my silence the last few days. I've been playing a lot of catch up with work, bills, school, getting to know my wife and daughter again, and simply getting back into life...a new life, but life nonetheless. We've found a mini-rhythm to our days which will probably change in the next few days, but we're enjoying the beat we're marching to at the moment. We have had Grandma Stevie (Casey's mom) and Nana (my mom) in town since Casey got home from the hospital which has been a huge help - laundry, dishes, dropping off and picking up Eliot from school, grocery store runs, cooking meals - these are all activities we have not had to worry about, thank God!! The help leaves on Sunday so, like I said, the rhythm will change...soon!
During this time, Casey and I have spent as much time at the NICU as possible getting to know our babies as best we can. We live in a different world when we pass through the NICU doors - the babies in their protective environment of the isolettes, tethered to the multitude of chords and wires under the watchful electronic eyes of the monitors, the gentle hum of the nasal canules that help them breathe, the frequent sounding of alarms, and the ever present care of the nurses and doctors surround us. As yesterday's heart rate drop on Britton quickly reminded us - we are very grateful for this environment and acutely aware of how necessary it is to our babies' survival. The nurses and doctors are absolute pros at what they do and they do it with a unique sensitivity to our needs and concerns that can only come from bringing your heart to the job. They are truly a credit to the nursing profession!
It is frustrating for us on some levels that the first 60+ days of the Quints' lives and of our relationships with them will be spent in this environment, however. Despite the necessity of their stay, the quality of their care, and the amount of love they receive from this special group of professionals, it is hard for us to connect with the babies here. The separation is very real when they are in their isolettes. Though we can reach in and touch, it is very difficult to talk to them or interact in any way while they are in there. When we hold them, they sleep, and we generally have to hold them up so high on our chest that it is difficult to even see them. We must be mindful at all times not to overstimulate them in any way which, among other things, means no looking them directly in the eye, very little movement when they are held, and keeping their heads held in a very specific position.
Though we spend 4-5 hours with them every day, we are not truly responsible for their care at the moment and this is a strange feeling to us. They are not fed at mama's breast, but rather with milk which is pushed through a tube by a pump. They are lulled to sleep by the hum of the machines they are connected to, not by the sound of our voices singing them lullabies. And their cries are placated not by the gentle warmth of Daddy's chest as he rocks them slowly, but generally by something only one of the nurses can fix. All of this is necessary to the babies' well-being, and as the multitude of moms and dads who have been through this same experience will tell you, it is also heart-wrenching to the parents.
There is one other thing that is different about our interaction with these babies - being as premature as they are, they are not expressionate and interactive with you. Mostly they sleep with their mouths slightly open and very little expression on their faces. I didn't even realize this was different until Brooklyn stole my heart yesterday with all of the faces she was making at me as I was holding her. For about 10 minutes, Brooklyn was wide awake and ready to please! She was smiling, working her little tongue around her mouth, her eyes were darting back and forth in response to different sounds around her, and generally acting like new born babies act. It was really cool and it reminded me of how fun it was to get to know Eliot in the first few days of her life!!
We know that all of these activities I am now lamenting the absence of will come to us in due time...and when they come, they'll come like a tidal wave!! They are making great progress every day and, honestly, they'll probably be home sooner than we are ready. Brooklyn seems to be the leader of the pack - she is completely off of breathing tubes as of yesterday, she is the first to show us some personality with her facial expressions, and she is the first one to take a full bottle feeding (Lila took a small bottle feeding before her). Brooklyn was also the biggest at birth and continues to be the biggest girl. Jack continues to eat and grow and sleep and not much else. Britton is still our little diva, making everyone aware of her displeasure at a moment's notice, though Ryan has emerged as a close competitor for Britton's diva title! Lila has settled into Jack's way of thinking and spends her days on the chill side of life.
So this is our new normal, at least for now. The beat changes pace and rhythm often, and when it changes, we change along with it. Though it seems like an eternity from now, the babies will be home soon and chaos will be the new rhythm to life. Until then we'll keep praying, waiting, and hoping for our babies to come home soon, come home healthy, and to come home ready for their new lives to begin...