Parenting Perspectives: Getting to leave NICU opens new chapter for family

Giving birth to twins meant we had a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. We were in the back corner of the NICU because we had twins. I think they called it the quad pod.


Giving birth to twins meant we had a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. We were in the back corner of the NICU because we had twins. I think they called it the quad pod.

Every morning as I walked back to greet my babies, I couldn't help but check out the babies learning to live on both sides of the hallway. Some babies had family there, some were sleeping, and some pods were suddenly dark and empty because that baby got to go home to Mom and Dad.

That's a joyous moment and an envious one. It feels like there should be a ceremony of sorts when a baby goes home. I'm sure the employees are so used to bringing them in, caring for them and sending them home that it's not a momentous occasion as much anymore. But for us moms who have never done this before and likely, hopefully, won't do it again, leaving is almost as momentous as a graduation.

For us, it means we did it.

It means we were strong and our babies were strong. It means lathering our hands and arms up to our elbows with the most unforgiving soap possible has ended. Sure, we still wash, but you can bet I don't time it anymore, and the soap doesn't eat away at my skin and make it sting for a few hours like it did in the hospital.


It means no more bells. I'm not sure how anyone can get used to the ringing alarms. I so appreciate the nurses and doctors that choose to walk in those doors and care for our tiny babies. It's not easy and they are deserving of so much more credit than they are given.

Leaving means I get to care for my babies. I never doubted the quality of care they were receiving, but of course it was never going to be the way I would do it. Likely at times, they probably received better care than I would have. After all, they were professional baby washers and feeders.

But they weren't just washers and feeders and temperature takers; they were teachers. They taught me so much about caring for an infant that it makes me wonder how we cared for our older son without learning what we did in the NICU. Something so simple as using a brush during the bath to brush around the shampoo and remove flakes of skin from their scalps. I just thought you were supposed to use your fingertips. No wonder we struggled with cradle cap with Carter so much. But just like everything else in life where you improve, you get better at being parents, too.

Leaving meant sweet baby smells at night. It meant getting to know our babies on a whole new level. While they were in the NICU, I felt more distant from them, almost like I didn't know them like I felt I should at that point. Now, I feel that distancing was intentional because the pain of walking away was so unbearable.

Our twin babies didn't go home the same day. Cooper went home 11 days sooner than Cormac. Those 11 days were easier than the prior 19 days, as I had no choice but to spend most of my time at home with Cooper examining his little fingers, snuggling him and appreciating him being home. I visited Mac for a couple hours a day instead of setting up camp there with them both like I had prior.

Most importantly, leaving with my other baby meant the painstaking nights of walking out the door empty-handed were finally over. We were closing the door on that chapter of our lives and opening the door to life at home with these new little boys.

Learning to live our lives as a family of five instead of a family of three, and it's pretty amazing so far.

Kerri Kava is mom to 7-year-old son Carter, who lives with Williams syndrome, and twin newborns, Cooper and Mac. She can be reached at .

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