On the fourth day I left the hospital..and I didn’t feel good about it. Physically, there was no more reason for me to stay there, but I had wanted to be there. That way, I could be close to my babies. I had to be literally kicked out. After my stroller was pushed downstairs and as I waited for Pavan, in the lobby, there were many other mom’s being discharged, and they had their baby in their arms. .Just felt horrible going home like this.
Then, when I reached home, my mom had cooked my favorite item for me..Rasam with plain rice ! It was so good, no spices..very invigorating. The nurses at the NICU gave me lots of instructions on the way I should be packaging the breast milk that I would be shipping to the hospital from the next day. They had given me a stock of those bottles and I was supposed to mark the time when expressed, the name of the child and the amount of milk in each bottle, clearly. It had gone up to around 10-14 ounces now. Baby steps for me there…. The next day, all of us were so eager to go back to see the babies. We packed up their meals and got ready for that hour and half drive to the hospital.
The babies had already been shifted to another room, as they were stable now. That was the first time we were going to carry our babies. They were sleeping as usual. The nurses had swaddled the babies in more than one blanket to make a bundle big enough for us to carry.. P was on her tummy and she just kept moving up and up and every five-10 minutes the nurse had to pull her back to the center of the incubator. Again she would start moving towards the wall. It was so cute!
And my Dad and Mom were already a fan of K. She was awake, and seemed very aware of all the movements around her and would try to move her eyes towards the sounds. My dad’s eye sight was so weak, so, he would always bend over almost nose to nose to look at the babies.
How could I take care of such delicate things. What if I didn’t hold them tight enough or what if I held them too tight? I had been so nervous. The nurses asked me..what I was eating. They advised me to not eat cabbage, cauliflower, garlic and of course lentils that were gassy, to help with healing of the stitches. In a day or two, I saw bloody watery discharge coming from my stitches. I had to go back to the hospital. It had been a difficult time for me. I came down with mastitis, UTI among the other problems post surgery that everyone faces. But, since the babies were not home, it got easy on me to handle myself.
My mom was taking care of my home for me. It had been so nice to have her with me when I was the weakest. I could be as difficult as can be and would be confident that she would care for me without minding it. When she had had me, being a working woman and with nobody to enlighten her of the importance of breast feeding during her first pregnancy, she had weaned me so early. Times had been difficult for her then, having to juggle between work and home without help. Also, in those days, if one remembers the formula advertisements, the babies shown were so chubby that, most people preferred to feed formula to babies. When I used to ask her for info, she would brush me off saying…go “Google” it. Now that I knew how important breast milk was for the immune system of a new born, it got all the more important for these preemie babies to feed on breast milk.
The nurses had encouraged me to drink more milk. Their words:
“If you don’t replenish the calcium in your body, the body will pull that calcium in your breast milk from your bones.”
I was also prescribed calcium supplements. After a couple of days, P was ready to suck the milk from a bottle. The food pipe that went through her nose into her tummy was still kept just incase she wasn’t able to suck the milk. This pipe was changed everyday, I think. And sometimes it was switched to the mouth if it had caused soreness in the nose. Now we got a chance to feed her at least one feed in a day. Soon N and K too joined her. I was advised to not even try to latch them on to me. Being pre-mature, the focus was on conserving their energy. They needed to gain weight.
Soon, it was 3 weeks and P was ready to come home. We were so excited. We had been pestering the neonatologist that week, trying to find out, which day she would let P come home. She was sent home as soon as her weight touched 4 pounds. The next week, the doctor said, that we could take N home in another week. It had been such a commotion at home, since P came home. We had hardly gotten used to this change and N was going be home soon!! Now, we got nervous. We told the doctor, we weren’t in such a hurry, it was ok if N had to be in the hospital for another day or two. But, N did come home the next week as soon as her weight had touched 4 pounds and we got used to taking care of 2 babies at home. One or two babies didn’t matter, the trick was to do everything at the same time.
The most difficult part was now. Having K at the hospital and having 2 babies at home. The drive to and back took a minimum of 4 hours since we had chosen to given birth to the babies in a hospital that specializes in multiple births and NICU was well equipped to handle pre-mature babies. I had started driving and with Pavan back at work, I was shuttling between the hospital and the 2 babies at home. It had taken a long time for K to come home. But, one fine day she was given the green to be taken home.
Now the whole family was home. The babies came home so well trained. We were told to feed the babies together and put them to sleep together. We kept up with that discipline, on their part the babies were good and followed the routine so well.
I had scanned the internet for information on how to increase the milk. The babies were growing and the supply had to increase too. I found that Methi (Fenugreek) helped in increasing the milk supply and Dill leaves were very good for the digestive system of the babies. In fact, its one of the main ingredients of the gripe water. That would be my food for the next year. I was literally a cow, right! Eating leaves for food and feeding the babies and did nothing else. Methi really boosted my milk supply. I had been expressing every 2 1/2-3 hours , 24 x 7, which made 8-9 sittings everyday, between trying to sneak in some sleep. At one point I was expressing more than 50 ounces of milk per day.
I’m sure I lost a lot of calcium from my bones during this period. But, the funda here was that the more one expressed, the more milk the body produced. It doesn’t depend no the size of your breast. This had been my routine for the whole year. Since they were pre-mature babies, putting on weight had also been a priority for the babies so, a part of the babies diet was a higher calorie formula specially made for pre-mature babies. The way I managed their feed was, during the day, they fed only on breast milk and during the nights, they were given formula. Also, because, I kept up with the Dill Leaves diet, I never had to deal with colicky babies.
(To be continued).