Natick Massachusetts

NICU Experience Series: 11th Guest

Written By Kaelyn Zakem

NICU Story

My NICU story began on a Friday in May 2020.  I began to think that I might be leaking fluid but wasn’t sure so I called the doctor’s office and they had me come in.  The doctor on call assured me that all was well and to let her know if anything changed.  The next day I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right but I tried to brush it off.  My husband called me outside and said he had to show me something.  My friends decided to throw me a covid style surprise baby sprinkle parade for the twins.  I was so surprised and overcome with emotion that I cried like a baby.  It was so nice to see so many of my girlfriends (from a distance) that i hadn’t seen in so long.  

Later that day I still couldn’t kick the feeling so I had my mom come up from CT to hang out just in case.  I made it through the rest of the weekend with some typical Braxton Hicks but Monday morning I called the doctor’s office and said I needed to be checked even if just for my own sanity.  They had me come in immediately and ran some tests to see if my water had broken.  The tests were inconclusive so they sent me over to the hospital to have a couple more tests.

 Well, as luck would have it, my water had broken, but in the form of a very slow trickle.  I was told that I would be admitted to the hospital and wouldn’t be leaving until the twins were born.  My heart sank.  What about my three year old daughter who I hadn’t said a proper goodbye to and had never left her for more than two nights in her entire life?  What about my sweet babies who weren’t even 34 weeks yet?  Would everything be ok with covid?  I was devastated.

More tests were run and the docs decided the plan was to give me two rounds of steroid shots to help develop the lungs of the babies and hopefully hold me off until 34 weeks exactly before delivery.  My husband dropped off a bag for me but because i wasn’t going into immediate labor and because of covid, he stayed home to maintain some normalcy for our daughter.  

Family smiles together during family photo session with Sara Sniderman Photography at Barber Reservation, Sherborn Massachusetts

The next couple of days were quite eventful.  Each night I had to undergo a stress test and each night our son decided he didn’t want to have his heartbeat detected on the machine so I had to go to antenatal for further monitoring.  Each night after being wheeled over he would pop right up on the monitor.  Not funny CAMDEN!

At this point the head doctor of the Special Care Nursery (SCN) had visited me to describe what I should expect and that it was likely given the timeframe of the babies’ birth that they would stay somewhere around two weeks in the SCN.  She asked if I had any questions but really I was so focused on the now it was hard to think about the future.

After the second steroid shot and more monitoring, the docs came in and surprised me by saying they would try to extend the delivery an extra day and that if I made it, then my OB would be able to perform the c-section.  I crossed all of my fingers and toes and just prayed.

Of course on Wednesday night, Camden had to make things extra eventful and the on-call doc rushed in the head of Maternal Fetal Medicine who happened to also be on call that night.  They basically had a room prepped and ready to rush me for an emergency c-section and at the very last possible minute, Camden decided to pop onto the monitor with a normal heart-rate.  Oh CAMDEN!  Not even born yet and giving Mommy a run for her money.

Mom kisses baby daughter's cheek during family photo session  for NICU blog with Sara Sniderman Photography at Barber Reservation, Sherborn Massachusetts

Alas, Thursday finally rolled around and my husband Elliott met me at the hospital, it was time to finally meet our twins.  The c-section for me was painstakingly awful, however I will skip the details and move right along.  Camden was twin A and born first at 1:29pm on May 21.  They held him up over the sheet and my heart melted.  Zoey was twin B and she was born at 1:30pm, but they didn’t hold her up.  Instead they whisked her to the warming lamp and I heard nurses talking.  She would need a little help breathing so they took her immediately up to the SCN.  Elliott was allowed to go up as well so off he went and there I was laying on the table being closed up with no twins and no husband because everyone was already up in the SCN.

I was brought to recovery where I learned thank goodness Zoey was fine. Elliott had my phone so I had to wait for a runner from the SCN to bring it down to me so that I could finally facetime and meet my sweet girl and see Camden again.  I facetimed as soon as I got my phone and I was so emotional.  My sweet babes were hooked up to so many wires and tubes but they were also sweet as can be and being taken care of.  The amazing nurse told me that if I was able to eat some ice chips and juice and keep it down that she would bring me up to the SCN for a quick visit before bringing me to my room.

Holding the babies for the first time was so surreal.  I had waited years for them and I knew that I wouldn’t be taking them back to my room like we had done with our older daughter.  The nurses in the SCN were raving about the babies to me and I knew then and there that they would receive the very best care in mine and Elliott’s absence.  That being said it was so strange bringing two babies into the world during a global pandemic.  We were only able to hold them and see them with a mask on.  And the nurses and doctors were only able to care for them with masks on.  I was in constant fear of them somehow contracting the virus.

As the days went by I would learn the ebbs and flows of the SCN.  Both babies experienced spells and desats early on.  The loud beeping machines were nerve-racking.  I would cross my fingers during each visit that I wouldn’t have to hear any beeps.  Each time I heard the beeps a nurse was there to assure me that this was normal and it soon would pass. Eventually I was able to tune out the beeps or knew what each one was and how long it lasted and that it was OK. 

Dad kisses daughters cheek during family photo session for NICU blog with Sara Sniderman Photography at Barber Reservation, Sherborn Massachusetts

I was able to spend a fairly significant amount of time in the SCN early on as I stayed in the hospital for four days after delivery.  But after I was discharged it was different.  We were reaching an early peak in the pandemic and the hospital was taking every precaution to keep unnecessary visits out of the building.  Therefore on most days I limited myself to one visit and on rare occasions, two.  I tried to keep an upbeat attitude and positive outlook during visits because those were the vibes I wanted the babies to feel.  I became close with a handful of nurses who always raved about what great progress Camden and Zoey were making.  I felt so comforted when I left each day knowing that they were in such amazing hands.

The difficult thing about having twins in the SCN is that one is typically ahead of the other.  So knowing that one would likely be discharged and come home before the other was a tough pill to swallow.  Zoey was progressing quicker than Camden.  She was able to feed on her own much quicker than he was.  She had less spells and desats.  It became evident quickly that she would be discharged before him.  That would make things more difficult because then we would have a toddler and infant at home but still be traveling back and forth to the hospital to see Camden, all while worrying that we were being safe enough with regards to Covid.  So when we were told that Zoey would be discharged 10 days after birth we were elated but also crushed all at the same time.  How would we juggle it all?  Would Camden miss Zoey and would she miss him?  They had only known life with their isolets and open air bassinets right next to each other.

I cried when Zoey came home.  I soaked in every moment of our three year old taking her in and being so proud to be a big sister and meet her baby sister.  I worried that they would bond and Camden would be left out.  It was an emotional rollercoaster.  Well things didn’t stay bright and cheerful for too long.  I noticed that Zoey seemed cold.  I took her temp and she was colder than she should be, probably about 97.  I called the Pedi.  They said to monitor her for an hour or so and see if her temp came back up.  Well, it didn’t and I went into Momma panic mode.  It was after hours so I couldn’t bring her to the doctor’s office.  So, off we went to the ER.

  She hadn’t even been home for 7 hours and we were already on our way back to the hospital.  I was told that even if she had to be admitted that she likely wouldn’t go back to the SCN as she had been to our house and it was extremely atypical for babies to be readmitted to the SCN.  They weren’t able to temperature regulate her in the ER so a decision had to be made.  Thankfully the doctor oncall in the SCN made an executive decision to admit her back into the SCN and reunite her in an isolet next to her brother.  I have never been so grateful.

Mom holds twin babies during family photo session with Sara Sniderman Photography at Barber Reservation, Sherborn Massachusetts

Over the course of the next few days Camden made huge strides and was becoming more and more ready to go home.  Zoey was out of the isolet and back into an open air bassinet with normal body temperature and we were told that she was basically ready to go back home.  I was of course terrified.  I didn’t want to bring her home.  I knew if she came home and her temp dropped again that she would not be going back to the SCN.  I begged and pleaded with the nurses and doctors to keep her there for as long as possible.  Both by heart and my head could not take a repeat of what had happened when she first came home.  Thankfully our guardian angel of a nurse, Joyce advocated for us and Zoey and we were able to keep her in the SCN with Camden for a couple more days.  

The spells and desats were nearly non-existent now and we were told that the babies could be discharged together, Hallelujah!  Our nurse managed to buy us an extra day for them in the SCN as I was terrified and traumatized from Zoey being released and then re-admitted. Not too many parents want their babies to stay in the SCN but we were definitely not the norm.  16 days after their birth, Camden and Zoey were discharged from the SCN!  They survived and thrived in the SCN during a global pandemic with some crazy antics on Zoey’s part to boot.   

Today they are nearly 11 months old.  Camden is the easiest, happiest baby I know.  He is super chill and has a belly laugh that lights up not only his face but the whole entire room.  Zoey is the most determined little sass around.  She doesn’t stop until she gets exactly what she wants.  They are little loves and have completed our family.  We are truly beyond blessed and love them to the moon and back.

Family laughs together during family photo session  for NICU blog with Sara Sniderman Photography at Barber Reservation, Sherborn Massachusetts

What I wish I had known prior to our NICU experience

Overall, I felt as prepared as I could have been prior to our SCN stay.  However, in hindsight I wish I had known and could have been more prepared for the possibility that a baby could be discharged and then readmitted.  I feel as though I was so strong and actually even-keeled for a SCN parent prior to Zoey being readmitted.  However, after that traumatic experience I felt much less at ease and like I was waiting for the shoe to drop.  Another very silly thing I wish I had known ahead of time is that parking is free for SCN families and they give you a pass to use.  We didn’t know this until day two or three so my husband paid for parking until we found out.  

Mom holds twin babies while toddler daughter kisses her face during family photo session with Sara Sniderman Photography at Barber Reservation, Sherborn Massachusetts

Advice for parents experiencing the NICU

My best advice is that if your child(ren) is in the SCN they are there for a reason.  They are experiencing the best of the best in care and even though it SUCKS that they can’t come home yet, they are right where they need to be.  I get that that is an extremely tough pill to swallow and that there will be good days, bad days and inbetween days but they are all worth it in the end when your angel(s) gets to come home.  If you can be as positive and upbeat as possible while there, I truly believe it rubs off on your baby.  Additionally, lean on the nurses!  Get to know them and let them get to know you.  I don’t think we would have survived the SCN the way we did if not for the nurses.  They were our guardian angels.  They are a different level of amazing.  I will be eternally grateful to several of them and a couple will always hold a very special place in my heart.  NWH SCN nurses, you truly are best of the best!  Thank you!  Lastly, try your very best not to compare your stay with others around you.  I know that is not always easy but each baby is on their own plan and worrying about why other babies get to go home and yours doesn’t only adds more stress to an already stressful situation. 

See more NICU stories here.

Baby kisses mom's nose during family photo session with Sara Sniderman Photography at Barber Reservation, Sherborn Massachusetts

April 20, 2021

  1. Ashley says:

    I’m so happy the twins are doing well! Such sweet family photos!

  2. Kim Forbes says:

    I’m so glad these babies are doing so well! I love the photos of this lovely family!

  3. Casey Childers says:

    What an incredible story and testimony of all you have experienced! Congratulations on your beautiful ones! 🙂

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