I don’t care whether or not I go to the hospital today. I will go, of course, because my brain says I have to, but the rest of me just shrugs and shakes her head ‘no.’ Then cries. Lucas and Abigail don’t even know when I’m there. They spend their time with nurses and think I’m just another one. I know people argue this isn’t true, and maybe studies can back it, but it feels true. I scrub in and bend over their isolettes, greeting each of them with a “good morning,” and maybe they stir from the noise, but they don’t know they were once inside me. They don’t recognize my voice and find comfort in it; I don’t care what the books say. And while I do get excited to hold them, one bottom in each of my hands, brother and sister together again, I also wonder, “what for?” Yes, children who are held, thrive. I want to hold them all day and night, to nuzzle them, and give them what they need. But they’re too young to be held all day. They need their own spaces, to be isolated from noise and voices and even me. I know our bodies are incredible, that 48 hours in bed with my children will up my milk production, but I’m not allowed to sleep with my children. I’m allowed to hold them, once a day, for a half hour, in a hospital room, in a rocking chair, me with these two little creatures and all their wires, spreading across the three of us like lines of a map.
Each time I hold Lucas he has a Bradycardia episode, where his heart rate drops and he stops breathing “because of his positioning. His airway isn’t clear when his head is dipped too forward or too far back.” And it’s hard and wonderful holding them both together. But I fear something will happen to one of them. We’ve already been warned of the ride we’re in for, that they’re bound to have more infections and setbacks. Even now, when they’re doing so well, each now weighing in over three pounds, I worry that I will only take one of them home, despite all the clothes I’ve bought for each of them (ranging in 0-3 months all the way to a hopeful 12 months), their small corners in a room, decorated just for them. A nursery, without any nursing going on.
They don’t need me; they need my milk, and I’m not pumping enough. It’s been two and half weeks since their birth, and my milk hasn’t fully come in. “It sometimes takes up to a month for it to come in for twins” is a phrase I keep hearing but don’t understand. My doctor has prescribed a drug for nausea, that’s taken for a total of three weeks, with a side effect of increased milk production “with some mothers.” This means it doesn’t work for everyone. “And there’s also the side effect of depression.” Phil asks if while I’m out filling the prescription, if I wouldn’t mind also getting him a shotgun. It’s hard enough dealing with my hormones without the added risk of depression from a pill, never mind post-partum depression (which I don’t have, not yet anyway).
Failing at milk production is right up there with failing at reproduction. You feel like you’re failing at being human, without the basic ability to produce… produce life, or now in my case, sustain life. I’ll need to supplement right now, with donor milk. When they come home, I’ll need to supplement with formula, even though I don’t want to. I know formula isn’t the evil the La Leche fanatics make it out to be, that aside from the antibodies provided by my milk, formula can be even better. It’s not about that, though. It’s about wanting, so much, to feed and provide for them, to be their caretaker, completely, especially during this time when I feel, well, when I feel like I don’t even have children.
My own mother just called, wanting an update on her grandchildren. Lucas is 3.39 lbs. Abigail is 3.24 lbs. It makes people feel good to hear they’re gaining weight. My mother asks what they need. “More milk,” I respond, to which she insists I get myself some lentil soup. “I swear,” she says, “I was talking about it with Yiya last night, and you know she’s a witch doctor and knows all about these things, and she swears by lentil soup, insisting that women who eat it complain of breasts too full of milk.” I will try anything, though I’ve already been warned against the homeopathic treatments of teas (not safe with preemie babies held up in the NICU). So here’s to lentil soup and meds that might lead to depression. Hey, I do some of my best writing while depressed, and it’s only for three weeks. “Well, I can’t get them milk,” my mother says, “but I can get them a double jogging stroller.” And I smile, eager to go for walks with my little incubating chicken nugget children.