Bee Mighty first fell in love with Mighty Mom Meredith after seeing her ‘NICU RAP’ online (stay tuned). We saw her spunk and resilience from within our very familiar NICU walls. We knew we needed to know her and her story – and after her interview we fell in love with her family even more – two babies, one loss, one survivor, 25 weekers and 140 NICU days. Don’t miss this month’s Mighty Bees: Owen & Luke. Thank you Bradley and Meredith for opening your hearts for families following in your footsteps.
Meredith, you made quite an impression with your NICU rap! Before we get ahead of ourselves, that you for taking the time to share your NICU journey with all of Bee Mighty. To start, can you tell us about your family and first learning you were pregnant.
Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to be able to share our story! You honestly do not know what it is like to go through this experience until you have gone through it yourself. We hope to be able to relate to other families and help them as they go on this journey.
My husband and I had been married about a year when I first learned I was pregnant. We always knew we wanted to have children and thought we would take it slow in trying. I had been taking birth control for about 10 years, so I figured that I would get off of it let my body get use to not taking it and I would be pregnant a few months later in August (it was February). However, in April my body had other plans I was having some symptoms of being pregnant but did not actually think I was at all. Finally, it was the week of one of my best friends wedding and I thought I would just take a test after her wedding to be sure, but my husband said we will not wait and I took one that day and sure enough I was pregnant! I cried from the shock of being pregnant so fast, but we were so grateful!
Then at our first ultrasound the nurse had the screen turn towards her and kept very quiet for a long period of time. I assumed something must be wrong, then out of nowhere no warning or anything she said “well, there are two babies in there” my husband and I were so shocked and overwhelmed. He even said to her “mam I think you need to work on your delivery when you give that news, maybe start with a warm up, like well I have good news!” I kept quiet during the ultrasound to process how our lives were going to change times two and when she left the room I cried. I hugged many strangers and took the rest of the day off work to process what was going to happen next.
For those reading that may have never had an experience with the NICU, can you explain what it was like learning your child would be or was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit? When did you first learn you would be spending (a lot of ) time there?
Since we were pregnant with identical twins we were told from the beginning that there was a high chance we would end up in the NICU at least for a brief amount of time. We never thought we would be there for 140 days and I think it never occurred to us the severity of premature birth and all of the complications that could go wrong with having a baby.
We always thought even though they were born at 25 weeks that we would be spending a few weeks maybe a month of two in the NICU and then we would go home with perfectly normal, happy, healthy babies.
After the babies were born and we learned how small they were (1 pound 2.4 ounces and 1 pound 3.4 ounces) and that they were requiring 100% oxygen, I think it was the first time we got very scared about our situation and that we realized we had been very naïve about what our future might hold.
Tell us about Owen’s birth and meeting him for the first time.
My pregnancy was not an easy one. I felt great the whole pregnancy I never got sick or ever felt ill so I never thought that there was anything wrong with the boys and I never knew that something so big could be happening inside of me, but I was oblivious to the whole thing. At around 20 weeks during a routine check at the fetal medicine doctor I learned that I had twin-to-twin transfusion where twin B (Luke) was donating all of his nutrients to twin A (Owen), causing Luke to be very small with little amniotic fluid around him and Owen to have enlarged organs with excessive fluid. We had to leave for Johns Hopkins hospital that night for an appointment and possible surgery in the morning. I had a laser surgery the next day where they told me I had two goals, not to go into labor that night and to have two heartbeats the next morning. I was able to accomplish both and after 48 hours we were dismissed to go back home to North Carolina. A week later I started heavily bleeding and went to the hospital there they told me it was more than likely from a hematoma from the surgery and not to worry. Another week past that they noticed the fluid around Owen was significantly lower meaning my bag had busted. I was sent to the hospital for the rest of the pregnancy. We were hoping that I would remain in the hospital for a very long period of time, however I got an infection when the boys were 25 weeks and had to deliver early.
We were so very scared to bring them into the world so early, but since their heart rates were going up so much we knew they were in distress. I had a c-section and was nervous the entire time. Owen came out very easily but Luke was harder to get to and they had to shake me and maneuver him around to get him to come out. Bradley was able to go into the room beside the operating room to see the boys once they were out and he accidently looked down at me when he crossed the curtain barrier. When he came back to my head he said “Mere, I just saw your insides” and he made sure not to peek over the curtain again.
I was able to see the boys after I left recovery and I was shocked at how small they both were. I was sad I was not able to keep them inside longer and that I was not able to touch or hold them, but I was just able to look at them in their little incubators trying to stay alive. I think at first I was still very groggy and it did not hit me the severity of what had just happened or how much our lives would be impacted from everything we still had ahead of us.
This day always stands out to me because it is so unnatural… Tell us about having to leave the hospital without your baby.
Leaving the hospital without the boys was very sad. Even though I had not been at my house or seen my dogs for about two – three weeks I could not believe I was leaving. I kept asking the doctors and nurses if they are sure I was ready to leave and if they wanted me to stay just a little longer. Of course that day and the few days following there were so many families who were leaving the hospital with their little ones with them, I was very jealous even as I tried to smile as I walked by them.
Looking back, how did you survive those first few months in the NICU? Was there someone or something that stands out?
I honestly think I survived the first few months by saying to myself “everyday is one day closer to being home” I knew that eventually even if it felt like 100 years it would be over and I would be home and we would all be a family under one roof. It also helped that all of the NICU nurses and doctors are the greatest group of people on this earth and they really welcomed us. We got to really know some of them and know about their personal lives and what they did outside of the NICU. They were not just our nurses; they became our friends we got to celebrate their milestones in their lives just as they celebrated milestones with our family.
We have also leaned on our faith through this whole process. We prayed all of time nonstop it seems and some of the prayers were anger towards our situation, but I do not think we would have been able to survive a day in the NICU without our faith.
What was the hardest part about the day to day in the NICU? How did you and your husband manage time at home, work and the NICU?
The hardest part about the day to day is not knowing what to expect or how fast things can change. You could have 15 really wonderful awesome days with nothing but good news and then the 16th day everything could be turned upside down and all of the progress that happened could be stopped and you are back 5 steps. Also, on the other side things could be going so slow and it seems like no progress has been made and then one day it seems like your baby just gets it and turns it around!
It was also hard just having our schedules not be ours anymore. I remember saying so many times how I can’t wait to have a day when I did not have to leave the house. I was very lucky that I did not have to work during the NICU stay so my husband would get up and leave for work and I would get up clean around the house or run an errand and spend the day in the NICU, I would go home and make dinner we would eat and then we would both go back up to see the boys.
It was very hard for my husband as he really did not get any down time expect to sleep. He would leave the house around 6-630 AM for work and we would finally get home and settle around 1030 PM, but he would also not want to go a day without seeing our babies.
Did you have any (likely many) but one that stands out really scary time in the NICU?
The scariest time in the NICU was when our baby, Luke passed away. We had been in the NICU about a month and already been through an infection with Owen, hearing that Luke had a bowel blockage and a grade 4 brain bleed, hearing Owen had a grade 3 brain bleed possible PVL, and PDA. Having had our boys on the oscillator, under the blue lights, almost an emergency surgery on Luke and just countless ups and downs with bradys and desats. So we thought we were NICU pros at this point, we thought man we have had the worst of it, it really should only get better from here.
A day shy of the boys one month birthday we got a call from the doctors before Bradley had left for work that day and they told us Luke’s heart had an arrhythmia to it and we should come in. We were not very panicked at the time and thought oh man just another hurdle to overcome but we did not know the seriousness of the situation. That day we cried more tears than we ever through imaginable and learned how amazing and precious each day with these tiny miracles really are.
Do you have any suggestions or coping suggestions for other Moms in your position?
I would suggest to get primary nurses as they are so amazing and will love your baby just like you do. One of my nurses had shown me her phone and she had so many pictures of our little guy on there just like he was her own (we had asked her to send us pictures of him when we were not there). I would also say to reach out to other families who are in the NICU with you. A lot of them are there for long periods of time just like you are and are going through similar situations; no one can relate to you like they can. I still stay in touch with some of the NICU families one family who we loved has sent us clothes from when their baby had grown out of them since our little guy has been so much smaller. When another family lost their baby after being in the NICU for a while three of families went to the memorial service. It truly becomes a family in the NICU.
Tell us about your angels… I mean, NICU Nurses?
The nurses in the NICU are absolutely angels. They are the nicest group of people you never wish you had to meet all together. I do not think I would have been able to cope or deal with the surroundings of the NICU if it was not for the nurses. The nurses have become like my friends and when we were discharged I knew I would miss seeing them everyday. I even went to one of the nurse’s baby showers and my husband and I are going to one of our primary’s weddings. They have celebrated with us when we had amazing moments and they have cried with us when we were on our lowest of lows. They care so much for these babies and their families I am so grateful they were on this journey with us.
You haven’t been ‘OUT’ for that long. Tell us what it was like to show Owen ‘the other side’ and finally bring him home.
I cannot believe we are finally out of the NICU. While you are in there you start to think “Well, this is going to be the rest of my life” and then all of a sudden they tell you, “So I think we can discharge you next week” and you realize 1,000 things you have to do before the baby comes home!
I was so happy to finally get Owen home and to be able to spend all day in my house without having to think about leaving, but also the NICU was a huge part of my life and I do not think I am the same person from when we started to where we are now and the nurses were there for the whole change so it was sad to not be able to see them everyday, but I never want to have to go back haha.
We are so glad to finally have Owen and our black lab, Kona, meet. Kona was our first baby in the house so we were anxious to see how the meeting would go. So far it has been great even though Kona is not a huge fan of Owen, he knows that the sweet baby has taken a lot of his attention away so he mostly ignores him. If Owen gets close Kona just walks away, but I am sure in a few years they will be inseparable.
Tell us about Owen! How is he sleeping? What is your routine like at home? What is he into? (And confess if you do just sit around and stare at him like so many of us did!)
Owen has been a wonderful baby at home we honestly could not be luckier. He rarely cries and mostly when he does he just wants to be held. He sleeps all through the night (and since he has his g-tube we can put him on continuous feeds at night so we don’t have to get up), and he is now starting to socially smile so he really could not get any cuter. Since he does still have his oxygen and g-tube moving him around in other rooms have been a challenge. When we first brought him home he was on continuous feeds all of the time and had to be on oxygen all day. So, he basically stayed in two rooms, our bedroom to sleep and the living room during the day. We could not move him too far because the equipment had to come with us. Also, taking him to his many appointments was a major challenge because we would have to load up the oxygen tank, his apnea monitor, and the feeding bags and pump. It took the help of at least two people to make sure he got to his appointments, but now since he is growing and doing so well we have been able to have him on oxygen only at night and he is taking his bottles during the day so we only hook up his g-tube at night also. It has made a world of different for us and Owen is able to go into new rooms at our house!
He still sleeps a lot throughout the day so I do mostly just sit and stare at him and he has given me the opportunity to discover many new shows on tv since we are under house arrest.
I remember being so excited to ‘bust out of the NICU’ but once home, reality quickly set in and I realized we would have numerous doctor and therapy appointments every week, are you finding it challenging to balance the needs of being a NICU grad?
Keeping up with his appointments is a challenge in itself. While you are in the NICU all of the doctors just came to Owen’s bedside so I did not realize how many people saw him and overlooked his care. In the beginning we had as many as 4 appointments in a week, and as I stated before Owen was not very easy to just pack up in the car and go.
However, just knowing that all of these people are here to make sure Owen is okay and doing well and all of the doctors have been so amazing to us and to Owen we are so grateful we are in the healthcare network he has. It is crazy how much support he has being a NICU grad and how many people are able to be apart of his life.
Do you have any advice for other NICU Families just beginning their journey or those that are newly home?
While you are in the NICU, trust me when I say it will come to an end. When we first got there we were just hoping for a day or a week without one piece of bad news. We wondered if everyday would be this bad and while there are many hard days in the NICU there are so many firsts and wonderful things that happen. Make sure to lean on the other families in there and the staff. They are going through this journey with you and care about you and your baby they will understand in a way that no one else can and they become as invested as you do.
Don’t worry about every beep or sound in the NICU, if you have questions or are concerned definitely ask, but the nurses are so well trained they are paying attention and know if something that requires immediate care is happening.
Appreciate all of the time and the milestones that you have with your baby. After losing Luke we looked at everything differently. Yes, we were in an awful situation, and going back into the NICU after it happened to see Owen was so incredibly hard, especially seeing other twins, but we were so grateful we had a baby to go back and see and we know he will always have an angel watching over him.
Try and be patient with other people around you. I found a lot of people, family, and friends trying to relate to our situation and even give advice. At first it really bothered me because they do not know what I am feeling or going through and I am sure a “sort of kind of” situation you had might have made you feel sad, but you don’t know what I am feeling so if you could just mind your business. However, after awhile I knew they were just trying to be there for my family. Most of them were just as scared as we were and just wanted us to know that they are there to talk to.
In the end this is your journey, there is no right or wrong way to go through this as everyone is different and they process things differently, do what you feel is right. If you want to stay at the NICU all day if that makes you feel better then you should do that. If you know that this is your last chance to get your house ready and you love the nurse that has your baby that day, then run some errands and do something for you, because once the baby comes home you will not get another chance.
It is impossible for me to avoid asking if you would share the NICU rap with us. It’s just one of the reasons we fell in love with you and your story! Tell us where it came from (and please share a link, if you have it).
Of course! I love sharing the rap and hope it at least brings a smile to people who know what it all means haha.
I have always liked making up little songs or rhymes to anything, You can ask many of my friends and know that they always will get a birthday poem on their birthdays! My husband and I had seen Straight Outta Compton and really liked it. I always think it is so impressive how someone can make so many things rhyme and all flow together. I had seen the Straight Outta NICU onesies before and thought to myself that we should get Owen one, but then I thought well I don’t want him to wear it unless it has some more meaning behind it. So I thought I might as well change the words and do a rap for Owen. It did not take long to get it together and one day I am sure it will be very embarrassing for him, but he will appreciate it!
How did you learn about Bee Mighty and what made you want to get involved? What do you hope to do at Bee Mighty to help others in your footsteps?
I heard about Bee Mighty through the NICU! I was fortune to share the same primary nurse as Candace who started Been Mighty and our nurse told me how wonderful it was! Of course being a preemie mom and all of the special tiny babies will hold a soft spot in my heart forever so I do want to be there for the families going through this process and to help anyway I can.
Any final words of encouragement for other families?
Just know that it does eventually get better and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The NICU is a place that no family ever imagines they will be in and it is very hard, but just know the people there are on your team and want what is best for your baby.
It is okay to be angry and sad that, either your pregnancy did not happen the way you wanted it to or that your baby has some extra things to overcome but it makes you truly appreciate every accomplishment with your baby even more. I don’t know how many times I had to turn off my computer or even turn the tv channel when someone was complaining how tired they were from having to get up with their baby. Those people did not know how lucky they were to have their baby at home. I also am so lucky that I have a baby I was able to being home from the hospital and I was able to know a sweet baby boy that will forever be a guardian angel.