INSIDE THE NICU: TIME MANAGEMENT
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CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: If your newborn twins have been admitted to the NICU; the next question might be: “What now?” I want to spend as much time with them but how do I do this with the rest of everyday life going on? What about other kids and work? This is Twin Talks Episode Number 16.”
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Welcome to Twin Talks broadcasting from the Birth Education Centre of San Diego. Twin Talks is your weekly online on-the-go support group for expecting and new parents to twins. I’m your host Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald. Have you heard about the Twin Talks Club? Our members get bonus content after each new show plus special giveaways and discounts. You can subscribe to our monthly Twin Talks Newsletter and learn about the latest episodes available. Another way for you to stay connected is by downloading our free Twin Talks App. It’s available in the Android and iTunes Marketplace. Before we get started, we’re going to go around and introduce our panelists. We have a roomful of panelists with lots of experience here. I’m going to start with Levy here.
LEVY AHOUANDJINOU: Hi. My name is Levy Ahouandjinou. I’m a license financial planner and I have twin boys and they’re about two years and 2 month old.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Also for the record, they were born at?
LEVY AHOUANDJINOU: 27 weeks.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: 27 weeks, yes.
LEVY AHOUANDJINOU: About two pounds each.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Little guys.
CHRISTINE: Hi. I’m Christine; 37 and I’m an urban designer. I have twin girls they’re turning four this week and they were born at 36 weeks – 2 pounds 12 ounces; and 4 pounds and one ounce.
BRENDA RUHL: I’m Brenda Ruhl. I’m 49. I’m a corporate accountant full time. I have three boys. My oldest is 13 and I have identical twin boys that are 11 years old. They were born at 32 weeks and weighed 3 12 and 4 7.
DAWB LANCASTER: Hi. My name is Dawn Lancaster. I am 32 years old, a business analyst for children’s hospital here in San Diego. I have fraternal twin boys – Jackson and Alex. They are 14 months and they were born at 33 ½ weeks at 3 pounds 11 ounces and three pounds 12 ounces.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Right.
SHELLY STEELY: I’m Shelly Steely, the producer here at Twin Talks. I’m 30. I have identical twin boys – Greyson and Sawyer and they were born at 37 weeks one day.
Before we get started, I want to tell you a little bit about our Virtual Panellists Program. So, you can join in the conversation from home. You can log into Facebook or follow us on Twitter. If you’re going to be on Twitter, you can use the hash tag #TwinTalksVP to be a part of the conversation there or you can follow the questions on our Facebook Page.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Today, we do have a special segment that we call: “Twin Oops.” These are just funny stories from twin parents and our listeners can call in and give us a ring at 619-866-4775 or you can post on our Facebook Page. We have a little story here from Melinda in Alabama.
I had the worst day on record the other day. I truly thought that someone had swapped my kids in the night for these little monsters that appeared in the morning. It all started when my three year old little darlings covered each other hair in green hair gel, a whole entire pot.
Then, after I washed out, they decided to trim my daughter’s hair with nail scissors. They had nicked out the bathroom and after putting a whole tube of toothpaste in the bath and cleaning the floor with moisturizer. This was in the space of three hours.
Then, the last scene in the day was the Nappy Cream which was painted all over the hall walls. It was entirely my fault of course which I had told them that: “They could not paint today but I told them to pretend to do so instead.” So, they did with the Nappy Rash Cream. So, I have to tell you each new day brings a new challenge and a new type of headache. -Melinda
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: All right, well today’s topic is: “Inside the NICU: Time Management.” Today, we have an expert panel of parents whose twins spent some good time in the NICU. So, they have a lot of personal insights that they can share on really: “How to maximize your time and make the most out of it while they’re in there.”
They’re probably a number of expecting parents listening right now who were wondering: “What they’re in for?” My gosh. There are also new parents who are they’re sleep deprived and they’re just desperately looking for a solution. Maybe you can just kind of give some perspective when your twins are first born and they were admitted to the NICU. So, what types of changes did you have to make in your daily routine?
DAWB LANCASTER: Well, as with any newborn baby whether a singleton or a twin, you’re always going to have to make daily routine changes. What was crazy in our case is: “Our boys were in the NICU 2 ½ weeks and 3 weeks.” Everything was routine. Every day you will get up, you would pump; you would go to the hospital. You’d spend as much time as you could.
I was a recovering mom. So, I pushed myself a little hard. I was there 8 hours a day and eventually had to knock it down to 6 hours a day because you want to be as close to your babies as possible. So, that was definitely a challenge is: “Recovering and trying to keep up this routine of being there for your babies as much as possible.”
BRENDA RUHL: Yes, my boys were in the NICU for 45 days. I had the added complexity of happen to two year old, almost actually not having yet 2 years old at home. Although, he was in preschool during the day but I had a very difficult pregnancy. I was in bed rest for 18 weeks had a lot of complications at delivery. So, I ended up in the ICU after they were born.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: My gosh.
BRENDA RUHL: I’m about to go home after a few days and then it was readmitted a week later. So, I had a lot of healing to do myself. So, I wasn’t capable of the 6 to 8 hours a day but I never missed a day I can say that. But, it was much briefer because I had a lot of personal, physical healing to do.
Also, depending on your birth circumstances, you may or may not be on a lot of different medications, pain relievers and all of that. So, you’ve got this overwhelming: “My gosh. I just had twins. My gosh. They’re in the hospital. I can’t think straight because I’m on so many different medications myself. I haven’t slept. I’m draining my body through pumping and all of that.”
So, the first week or two can be very, very rough. It does get a lot better. By the end, it was - whatever – at the end of the wires and whatever I can do whatever around them with all of these different things attached to my babies. But, it’s a very scary start.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: I can only imagine. How about for your family? I think for moms who we expect that when we have a baby, we’ve got a recovery time and then sometimes I don’t know dads take some time off from work as well.
But, I would imagine having the babies in the NICU, you really do have to devout a much starter push and time; so, I will ask Levy here. How is it different for you? Did you have to put work on hold? What was your plan sort of the outside life demands?
LEVY AHOUANDJINOU: My situation was a little bit complicated. My wife was admitted to Tuesday inside the hospital on bed rest for about three weeks before the baby came in. So, everything happens so fast and if your kid – I believe that if your kid ends up stay at the NICU; you haven’t complete the birth time.
So, something happened unexpectedly and then you end up there. So, I didn’t have to work. I spent a lot of time at a hospital. My wife couldn’t do anything. I didn’t have any family in San Diego. The closest family was in San Francisco. So, I had a lot of help from friends and co-worker.
When they see that you have time and most of your friend and co-worker usually help. You can’t be shy. You have to tell them: “Okay, you know what? I cannot cook. I need help for food. I can’t clean my clothes; can somebody help me out with the laundry?” So, you have to make sure to tell your friend what they need to do.
The only thing I can think about our friends and co-worker and they did – some co-worker didn’t even work. They took the time off from work even my boss; they took the time off and help out and making sure that we are taking care of the babies.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: That’s incredible. What a gift.
CHRISTINE: I love that specific request of what kind of help you need. My mother in law had come to my house and she vacuumed and that was fantastic. I didn’t have to tell her. She just did it on her own and she’s out there with a vacuum. Because everyone says: “What can I do to help?” It’s really hard to say: “You do this. You do that. You do that.”
You sort of have to give up politeness and modesty at some point and just start directing people which can really be difficult to do. But, that gets things done.
DAWB LANCASTER: That not only is when they’re in the NICU but it carries over for when they come home as well.
BRENDA RUHL: Absolutely.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Wow. I guess that’s sounds probably a great plan to if you have somebody who can be sort of maybe your advocate and help coordinate things while you’re doing all the craziness and then transition to when you bring them home. I’m sure that’s a big help.
CHRISTINE BABLA: Well for me, it was completely un-expective. I went to labour – I was working on a deadline and I told my office: “Well, I’m going for a check up.” The next thing you knew: “I had twins.” So, it was just a shock and what I did is I just said: “I need that time and I made the decision that I will come back to work when I need to come back to work and people were supportive of that.”
I don’t see how I could have sort of balance my time in the NICU and done anything at work can be helpful. So, I was fortunate that I have that. But I think for many that’s the best way to do it is just be on the NICU and devote your time just as if you have a newborn at home. So, I don’t see how you could have balance work at the same time; the interest of other people do that.
BRENDA RUHL: They had great maternity coverage at my employer. So, I knew I had a couple of months before I had to go back to work anyways. So, that was fortunate. But, I didn’t have nearly as much time with the twins after they came home because they were in for so long; six whole weeks.
But, still knowing that work was not and that should because I was on disability that maternity leave during work, you technically disabled. I wasn’t permitted to work. I wasn’t allowed to attend work events. I couldn’t check e-mail; I couldn’t do any work because you sort of violated the disability coverage at that point. So, that was nice to have that very clean cut-off.
LEVY AHOUANDJINOU: I’m self-employed. There is no such a thing that’s about turning leave or maternity leave. So, I have to work while dealing with NICU, taking care of my wife, all those things. So, I have to be – I was a little bit organized and very smart.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Good for you.
LEVY AHOUANDJINOU: So, I would make sure that my wife has an entire day worth of foods. Thankfully, at the NICU they have freezers and refrigerators. So, you can plan the entire meal and bring it in. I’m trying to bring in two days worth of clothes. That way, you know: “Now okay, I can live my family very quick. Go meet somebody for an appointment and then come back again to the NICU or to the hospital.”
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: So, these were supplies for the parents?
LEVY AHOUANDJINOU: Yes.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Okay.
LEVY AHOUANDJINOU: I don’t know if every single hospital does that but most of the hospital you usually will work with you if they see that you are in desperate situation.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: What did your daily routine look like? It kind of looks – I know you talked about – you maybe introduce some sort of the eating and sleeping. That your regular stuff but then, pumping and breastfeeding, how do you work that in and how does the routine look like at the NICU?
BRENDA RUHL: Pumping was a big deal because my kids didn’t breastfeed. We tried and it just didn’t work out. But, the people assume that when your babies are in the NICU. You get to sleep through the night. No, I don’t. I’m up every two hours.
You’re hook to a machine for half an hour and then trying to get back to sleep, drink a gallon of water and all of that stuff – it’s the same amount of work for the pumping. Because I’m pumping for two, it’s actually more work.
I remember bringing in the milk all of the time. There are my pathetic little baskets with one bottle each of them. These other moms who have singletons with their baskets just over flowing over the top; I went to the nurses and went: “Because you’re trying to pump for two.”
Eventually, I got two overflowing baskets and I was so proud of myself. But, it was lot harder than I expected it too. But, that to me was the major part of my day. It was just pumping.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Just pumping.
BRENDA RUHL: That was my job.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: You are onsite because you said: “You were in the ICU yourself.”
BRENDA RUHL: I was in the ICU for three or four days after I delivered, came home for 3 or 4 days. Then, I ended up back in for another three or four because of some posted delivery complications. So, that was rough.
Again, I remember the first week sitting in the chair and they’re trying to explain to me all of these different things and going over all of these terms and all of that. I was so dumped up because all of the pain medications I was on. At that point, I remember looking at my mom and saying: “I hope you’re getting all of this because I have no idea what they’re saying.” I’m not going to retain any of this. So, it was tough.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: When we come back, we’re going to talk about: “Ways that you can manage your time and juggle responsibilities with your partner.” So, you both don’t go crazy.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Well, welcome back. Today we’re talking with our expert parents about: “How to manage your time while your twins are in the NICU.”
Hopefully, your partner was there both as a mom – I’m talking to moms and to dads and teach probably taking a little bit role in the process. So, I’m not going to ask our panellist here. How did you really manage your time and juggle responsibilities both inside the NICU with your babies as well as outside the day-to-day stuff. Did you do shifts? Did you go together? What did that look like?
BRENDA RUHL: Well, with my husband working quite a distance from both our home and from the hospital and also having a toddler, we really split the responsibilities. The babies in the NICU – that was my job. His job was: “Getting our toddler to and fro from preschool at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day.”
But, the NICU visits weren’t something that works within his schedule. Also because I was also bringing him the breast milk each time. That was really my thing to do. So, that’s how we handled it.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: So, your primary responsibility is: “Pump”
BRENDA RUHL: Then drop of milk with the babies go visits the babies and then go home and take care of myself and all of that. Again, he was responsible for before he’d be at to work, he would drop our toddler off to the preschool. At the end of the day, he would pick our toddler up and he would also make dinner at home that type of thing.
Then, it was sleep for him because he had a bit of distance to travel for work. It worked out well because that was I could do and that’s what he could do. So, we fit into those roles well. We had everything covered at that point. To try and cross manage and cross our responsibilities, I think would have overloaded both of our plates and for our situation – to split it that way worked out really well.
I also have my mom as a big support because I couldn’t drive for the first few weeks. Every single day, would come pick me up, take me down to the NICU. Take me home and even after I was finally mobile on my own. She still came down with me every day because she wanted to see the babies.
So, I had enough support with me in the NICU too. To have that visiting and all of that covered. So, that worked out best in our situation.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Well, that’s great. How about how did you guys split it up?
CHRISTINE: I think that the important thing for us was to: “Quickly get on a schedule that was real so that we weren’t sort of caught up in the mental pain of having the children and worrying about that.” So, we quickly got on a normal schedule. My husband went back to work and my job again was just: “To spend as much time as I could with the babies and to pump.”
Looking back at that, the only thing that I wished that I had done differently is: “Sleep more.” I don’t know how you get some sleep when you’re pumping every 2 1/2 hours. But I learn to resist of my NICU stay to ask the nurses for a reclining chair and to get comfortable and have a blanket.
I would actually fall asleep while I was pumping. So, I’d have them sort of look out for me and make sure that wasn’t an issue. So, we kept the milk but wherever you can get in an hour self-sleep that’s a huge help for milk supply as well as just sanity.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: That’s a great idea – to have sort of that place where you can relax and maybe catch a few Z when you’re there.
CHRISTINE: Once you get used to the sound, find a way to sleep.
DAWB LANCASTER: I gave birth in Jacksonville, Florida. At the hospital, they would not let you sleep in the NICU. If you fell asleep, they’d told you to go home.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: So, the biggest thing for the nurses – to me, the biggest thing that they were telling me is: “Look, we appreciate that you’re up here at 6 to 8 hours.” We know you wanted to be here with your babies but you need to go home. You need to get some sleep.
You need to recover because if you don’t and your babies come home, you’re going to have a rude awakening. That’s one regret I have is: “I did not listen to them. I push and push and pushed.” I started to kind of wean of a little bit but I would go and my sole job was to pump in be there with the babies 6, 8 hours a day.
My husband would show up after work for about half an hour. Do a little skin to skin and then we would go home together at night. I was never up there at night. I had a wonderful night nurse that we were able to keep most of the time.
I would call when I get up to pump, I would call in the middle of the night: “Is everything okay?” They would say: “Everything’s great.” But, I would be there all day long.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Levy, how did that work for you? How did you guys trade off?
LEVY AHOUANDJINOU: I was fortunate enough that it happened at Mary Birch and is about five minute from my house. But, they gave me a private room inside the hospital. So, I could spend a lot of time at the hospital and just go home.
But, my main responsibility is: “To take care of the food and making sure that my wife Emma is eating right” and making sure that: “She’s taking a lot of food and vegetables, a lot of supplement to help out her milk production.”
So, my main responsibility is: “To make sure that she always has something to eat or she can change clothes and she always have a clean clothes.” Because I was self-employed, I only work base upon if I have appointment or not.
So, I was outside of the hospital when I have a meeting with a client and right after my meeting, I’m back at the hospital again. So, it works out pretty well for me. I get to spend a lot of time at the hospital too. Also, help me to become a better dad.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: That’s great. Where there anything that you do differently in looking back?
LEVY AHOUANDJINOU: Yes. The only thing that I would do differently is: “To have my crib, the baby stuff ready, did 3 month ahead of the schedule” because you never know when the baby is going to come. Mom is not like a second baby has a schedule.
So, each baby has their own schedule and that can come six month early or I don’t know. So, you just got to be well-prepared.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: That’s some great recommendations. Anyone else got any recommendations that you’d make to parents who’s twins or now in the NICU?
BRENDA RUHL: Well, I was going to say one thing. I remember one thing that the NICU stuff that did that helped us as far as maintain and getting things done. My babies were born in the fall and it was flu shot time. To save all of us that additional step of having to get to our doctors and get our own shots, they came through like a cattle call.
It was flu shot day and they just went from bed-to-bed-to-bed. Every single one of us got our flu shots that day. So, that just saved one more thing that we may have forgotten about. As a new mom, it was a critical thing to get done and all of that.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: How to survive a NICU? Okay, well thanks so much for our expert parents for joining us today. To learn more about our series: “Inside the NICU” or more information about any of our experts or panellists, visit the episode page on our website.
This conversation continues for members of our Twin Talks Club. After the show, we’re going to talk about: “Some different ideas to help you stay connected with your twins while you’re at home.” For more information about the Twin Talks Club, visit our website – www.TwinTalks.com .
SUNNY GAULT: All right, here’s a question from one of our listeners; Stacy from Connecticut says:
My husband and I just found out we are expecting twins. We are already the proud parents of a three year old little boy and we kept many of the toys and clothes from our first baby.
What else do we need to buy to accommodate our twins? Do you really need to have two of everything? Any advice would be appreciated, thanks so much.-Stacy
NATALIE DIAZ: Congratulations Stacy on your upcoming Tweenies. This is Natalie Diaz with Twiniversity, Multiplicity Magazine and the author of: “What To Do When You’re Having Two.” Often we get asked: “Do you really need two of everything?” Well, the good news is: “You already are one step up of everybody else.” You have one of everything.
So, something’s that you need to – you should definitely have two cribs. I’m not saying that you’re going to use them because the majority of twin parents co-bed their twins for at least the first 10 weeks. But, once again, if somebody has reflex and has to sleep on an incline, you may have to separate them sooner than later.
The next thing that I think is important is if you have two of is: “Bouncy seats.” Bouncy seats are great kind of; they’re inexpensive, they’re great safe place to put your tweenies and they also provide a great place to bottle feed twins. So, yes – even if you’re breastfeeding with that, have an opportunity to feed those babies at least once a day so that he could bond with them a little bit more and sitting on the floor with your back against the couch with two bouncy seats is a great idea.
Another thing that you might want to consider having to off which a lot of parents forget – so, these are your second babies, you might have done a lot of things for your older babies. So, you might have had a baby book and you might have done photography and stuff like that for your older child.
I want you to remember that if you do anything like that for your twins; make sure that you have two sets of it. So, if you do keep a baby book; keep two separate baby books. If you do, holiday ornaments, make sure that you have two because down the line when it comes to kind of baby up stuff, you want both babies to have a copy of that stuff.
You shouldn’t have to say: “Which baby do I like more and who should guess see the kind of the keys of the kingdom of all the baby stuff that I saved.” So, be very, very mindful of that. Of course, the last thing that you need two of is – well, not two of; you need a lot more than two which you definitely have to have double the amount of diapers in your house.
You should always keep a par stock at all times of diapers, wipes and formula if you’re using it of at least a 150 diapers. So, as your babies grow, make sure that you get the cases that reflect the appropriate size. The reason why that I think that this is important is because: “You could save a lot of money when you kind of had a par stock in your home because if you’re just running to the local drug store, you could spend $7 to $15 more than you would at a big box store.”
So, just be mindful of that and there’s a full list of baby registry stuff that’s on www.Twiniversity.com . So, we’ll tell you exactly what you need two off, which you should have one off and what you should you totally leave in the store this time around. So, good luck with your tweenies and keep us posted.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: So, that wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Twin Talks. Join in on the discussion by posting your comments on the Twin Talks Facebook Page or by calling our voice mail at 619-866-4775.
Don’t forget to check our sister shows:
• Preggie Pals for expecting parents
• The Boob Group for moms who breastfeed their babies and
• Parent Savers; an online support group for the new parents.
Next week, we’ll be discussing: “Child Care Option for Twins.” This is Twin Talks, parenting times two.
This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Though information in which areas are related to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, Medical or advisor care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.
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