Those three months seemed like they would never end. Jon came back to my hospital room the night they were born. He was crying but they were doing well; yet, the doctors were cautiously optimistic – always with the wait and see… We were warned that their birth was just the start of the honeymoon period. Two steps forward and one step back was their stupid song and dance.
Having a sick child is the epitome of stress. Having two is torture. They seemed to flip flop back and forth with their health. But Search, from the very beginning, was the little spitfire. He insisted on being born first. He was the one I got to see in the delivery room (not that I have any memory of that whatsoever) and he was the one who refused to submit to his bunting at age 4 hours.
This certainly is not meant to downplay Destroy’s determination. He set off his fair share of hospital alarms by figuring out how to turn his tiny head and rip out his wires. When he couldn’t remember to breathe, it took two nurses to hold his tiny two-pound person down to apply the c-pap (for a more insistent reminder – in, out, in, out…forever…)
On Saturday, I posted a happy anniversary message to (not-so-)little Destroy on Facebook. “Do you know what today is?!” I bragged to a friend? He then asked if Search had received the same milestone anniversary celebration. Funny story, that. Destroy came home first.
But for some reason, everyone seemed to think Search would be the one to break free first. Perhaps it was his dogged determination to escape from the isolette. Nurses, doctors, therapists all placed their bets on Search. One doctor looked at the little man and said plainly, “Search will go home first.”
Only one person insisted Destroy would go first. Nurse Anne, Destroy’s day-shift primary. She was absolutely certain. Positive.
I remember the thrill of being told we could bring their car seat in to the unit. I had seen the car seats of their classmates come and go. All NICU residents are required to prove they can sit in their car seat for an hour and (this is the key part) remember to breathe for the ENTIRE TIME. Jon was working, so it was up to me to deliver the ultimate homecoming chariot.
I could not figure out how to remove it from the car. In my opinion, this was an exceedingly worthwhile moment to panic. What kind of mother was I going to be?! I couldn’t defeat a snap-n-go infant carrier. How would I ever defeat the demons of prematurity? How could I raise twin baby boys if I couldn’t even figure out how to get them out of the car?
I debated ripping the entire seat out of my new Honda Pilot. I was the crazy woman in the Kaiser parking lot, standing by an empty car tugging and howling at an invisible child. I HAVE TO BRING THE CAR SEAT INTO THE UNIT. I could feel the tears burning in my eyes; I could not let myself fail their car set test before my muppets had ever sat in it.
Turns out there’s a little red lever. Push and release. That’s it. Seriously.
The infamous car seat test seemed to be the final milestone. Destroy passed with flying colors and suddenly he was O2 free. Several days later, Search had his car seat test. We set the seat up in an empty isolette (it was vacated when Search and Destroy decided to room together) and tucked Search in. He did not look pleased.
I called Nurse June later in the evening to hear his results. “I had to fail him.”
Destroy was going home first.
The day after we learned Destroy’s graduation date (complete with the caveat “if all goes well”) we met Search’s day-shift primary at the unit entrance. Nurse Margaret did not look pleased.
“There is just no living with her now…”
Nurse Anne was strutting back and forth, from pod to pod. She was grinning from ear to ear. I have never seen someone so pleased with herself. And with good reason – her little underdog had triumphed.
Our doctor smiled down at the two most popular NICU residents (not that I’m biased). “Destroy’s going home tomorrow,” she said. “And if all goes well, Search will join him on Monday.”
Our family was finally together.
Fast-forward a year to today. I took the muppets to visit Aunt Ivy’s office (she was sorely lacking in muppet cubicle photos); one of her colleagues smiled and shared that she could tell what healthy big boys they are.
Search is walking. I can’t understand a word they’re saying, but both dudes are talking. And every day I come home from work to the most marvelous muppet grins and giggles. They’re clearly communicating with each other to conspire against us.
Happy Anniversary little men.
This year the world of tiny preemies is far behind us as your father and I race to stay two steps ahead of the mischief you manage to get into. (Don’t think we’ve missed those knowing glances between brothers or the twinkles in your eyes.)