Okay, if you are quicker on the uptake than J and I you may have already realized what we did - Cate and Nate. We have not suddenly gone all cutesy - it took J and I about a day after we settled on their names to realize the nickname issue. We went back and forth for weeks. For a while she had a different name but it just didn't feel right. So we re-visited her name choice and tried out some others. But in the end it felt like we were naming our daughter a second best name - and who wants to do that? We didn't re-visit his name because there were no others that we could even partially agree upon. So Catherine and Nathaniel it is. We do call him Nate but we call her by her full name. We'll see how long that holds.
We are all home from the NICU and have been for a full week now. Thankfully, she did not have an infection and they didn't end up doing a lumbar puncture on her. That was the worst consent form I've ever had to sign. Looks like she has a bit of reflux which is very common in premature babies because of immature sphincter muscles. They are both gaining a bit of weight and Nate is already over his birth weight. Both babies are on apnea monitors which is a bit stressful and awkward to manage. It will be so nice to be able to pick one of them up and just walk into another room without unplugging them.
Nothing could have prepared me for how difficult the NICU experience was and our babies had very minor prematurity issues. Nate was brought to the NICU just a few hours after his birth and every time I visited him while I was still in the hospital, I sobbed the whole way back to my room. I tried not to cry while in the NICU and I knew I was doing well if I made it to the NICU doors before sobbing. On not so good visits, the tears started when I got there. I think it was my last day in the hospital by the time I could make it through seeing him without crying. It was the most awful thing seeing my little boy all hooked up to monitors and an IV line, knowing that it was someone else comforting him in the middle of the night if he fussed. During the first few days, the horrible weight of feeling that my body once again failed was overwhelming. Only this time, it didn't fail me. It failed my son. I tried so hard to make it to that magic 36-week point only to have fallen just short. The most dreadful part was that the night before I went into labor, I was in tears unable to take being pregnant for one more day. I wanted them to come, even if it was too early because the pain of carrying them had become too much for me to deal with. Naturally, I can't help but feel that they heard me and who wants to stay where they aren't welcome?? Leaving the hospital with just one baby was heartbreaking and we had to do it twice, once when we were discharged with Catherine and Nate was left behind and then when Catherine had been brought in but we left with Nate (actually we did it 3 times but the last one was a happy occasion).
Then there's the guilt of having pushed for a vaginal delivery (no pun intended!) which ended up causing Nate a bit of stress during delivery. His heart rate had dropped dramatically after I delivered Catherine and I was about 2 minutes from having a c-section. The nurse had even shaved the spot where the incision would be made. I heard the doctor say "I know she can push him out" and his belief I could do it made the difference. Nate's cord was wrapped around his neck and all I say was a glimpse of his very blue face as they whisked him over to the neonatologists.
While we were in the NICU, it was the first time I was less than forthcoming about having conceived via IVF. I felt like we'd brought this upon ourselves, taking unnecessary risks having transferred more than one embryo. As if we had no one to blame but ourselves for putting our babies at risk. I already blamed myself for so much, I didn't need to imagine it coming from others.
As time puts more distance between us and the NICU, the intensity of these feelings has diminished but I'm not sure they will ever disappear. My good friend who was pregnant at the same time as I was delivered a week later. I'm still jealous of her "fertile" experience. She has none of the worries that come with slightly premature babies and none of the guilt. The grass is always greener, huh?