Things that Terrified me During the First Twenty Four Hours of Fatherhood
At 8:00 am on Friday, June 17th, 2016, Axel and Anders Lund, our identical twins were delivered via cesarean section into the world. Now that we are nearly a week into this crazy thing called parenthood, we can largely look back on the numerous things that we freaked out about and smile. It’s been an eventful 5 days but the boys are in great health now thanks to the great nursing staff at St. Barnabas hospital in Livingston, NJ.
- Missing the C-Section
Before the delivery even started, I had a freakout that I had missed the whole thing. As my wife was being wheeled into the OR, I was told to put on scrubs, a hair net, mask, and shoe covers. As I was figuring out the shoe covers, I sat down to put them on and when I got up and looked around, my wife and the doctors were nowhere to be found. I thought I had missed the whole delivery until a nurse came by and told me I couldn’t go in until after the anesthesia was administered.
2. Passing Out During the C-section
During the C-section, I thought I might have a problem seeing the procedure and staying conscious. I ended up doing fine, even when the doctor had me stand up to look at Axel who was still in the amniotic sac which hadn’t burst. Apparently this happens rarely during C-sections because the doctors were all very excited about it. Seeing it burst in front of me and my son emerge from it, all green and looking like Frankenstein’s monster was surreal, but it happened just fast enough that I couldn’t react or pass out.
3. Blood Sugar for Axel
Both of the boys had their blood sugar checked periodically over their first 24 hours. Axel, though weighing more and slightly taller, had an initial reading that was lower than the threshold. His second one was as well. We were worried that he would have to go to the NICU if it didn’t come up by the third, and luckily thanks to a combination of breastfeeding and formula, it did.
4. Magical Changing Poop
Did you know newborns’ poop changes drastically in the first two days? Neither did I. It begins as a black tar like substance that is very sticky. My personal theory is that this is to make sure you perfect wiping technique before moving on to other types. After a day or so, it becomes a yellow-green substance that looks like bird seed. This transformation freaked me out as I thought they were turning into birds in some sort of reverse evolution.
5. Blood Sugar for Anders
After Axel’s blood sugar went up, Anders began to go down. After a few borderline measurements, he ended up dropping below the threshold in the middle of the night and had to go to the NICU as a result. This was terrifying until I journeyed over and saw what good care was being given to him. He did have to go on an IV, but nothing else like the frightening incubators or space container things normally associated. We still got to visit him as much as we liked and were able to do his feedings with him there. Though we had intended to exclusively breastfeed, we quickly realized that not enough milk was being produced and that his little mouth wasn’t yet strong enough to feed enough, so we began supplementing with formula which brought his sugar back up slowly but surely. After 36 hours, the IV was removed and a final test allowed him to rejoin us in the room with his brother. Now he’s used to the heavy feeding he got in the NICU and has been out-eating his brother.
6. Are they Breathing?
I can’t count how many times I had to get up to check on them to make sure they were both breathing. Now I’m used to their twitching that I can almost see across the room to know they are ok.
7. How Can I Sleep?
See above. The first night especially, I thought I would never get to sleep because I was so worried that one would stop breathing or choke or numerous other things.
8. How will my wife recover from the c-section?
Being sliced open and having two small watermelons pulled out of you can’t be easy. Neither is having your entire lower half of you body numbed. I was freaked out for the whole first day about her recovery. With her bed confined, I was also worried that I’d be the only one caring for the boys. Neither ended up being true as she recovered super fast and the nursing staff was a huge help the first night.
9. Are they too hot? Are they too cold?
Solved by a game I like to call hat on, hat off every 30 minutes. Due to Anders’s small size he was especially prone to temperature fluctuations. After getting him back from the NICU, the last thing we wanted was for him to have to go back. We were even warned that if he didn’t stay above 36.5 C, he’d have to go back. So we found nearly every blanket in the room to ensure he was toastier than a bagel.
10. Are we holding them enough? Are we holding them too much?
After reading the benefits of the so-called Golden Hour and skin to skin contact, we wanted to make sure we got enough bonding time with the lads. However, due to their size again, we also were warned not to exercise them too much as they needed to be calorie positive hour over hour. So we worried constantly about both.
11. Are they eating enough?
The next scare after Anders returned to us was the following night at Axel’s daily weigh in. He started off at 5 lbs 13 oz, but after two days was down around 5 pounds. With a body weight drop of 10%, the doctors got nervous and told us that if he didn’t begin at least staying at his weight let alone gaining weight, he might have to be readmitted. We were given instructions to ensure he feed at least two ounces at each feeding, two hours apart. This was a huge increase for him and we had an incredibly hard time getting him to take in so much food.
12. Is there enough milk?
Like skin-to-skin, there is no lack of information around the benefits of breastfeeding. In fact the material is so convincing it ends up convincing many women that they are failures if they can’t rely solely on breast milk for their children. I’m not an expert on how it works, but there is no way a woman can produce enough in the first few days to be the sole sustenance for the child, let alone two in our case. In fact another couple in the NICU next to us was there because her baby was undernourished because she refused to supplement with formula. We started the same, but when we found out their health might be at risk due to the lack of milk, we quickly decided to supplement. I don’t care if formula isn’t as beneficial as breast milk, not having enough food is far more harmful than the wrong type in my opinion, so we’ll do what keeps our kids healthy. Luckily more and more is available each time now, so we should eventually be able to get to 100% breastfed.
13. Who knew you could have the wrong blood type?
My wife has O+ blood, the most common. I have A+, the second most common. Neither is that special. However, apparently O+ has a special incompatibility when in the mother of other blood types such as A+, like the blood I have gifted on the lads. This incompatibility manifests as a propensity for infantile jaundice, which the lads also did not score well on during their test. Anders was just above the borderline and after 24 hours was outside levels that required testing again. Axel, despite his higher birth weight hovered near the borderline. Magically again the key to addressing this was apparently eating more as the food can flush it out of the system. Axel was able to score high enough on the test to no longer need heel pricking for blood tests after about 48 hours.
14. Weight loss, good for adults, terrible for newborns.
With the plan for Axel to eat more to address his weight loss, came incredible stress about him eating enough and often enough. We were constantly waking him to force him to keep eating, which we later realized was probably causing him to lose more weight from stress and exercise. Thankfully, at his latest checkup, the doctor agreed he was eating enough, active enough, and going to the bathroom enough that it wasn’t a problem. Either his initial weight was recorded wrong, or he has a great metabolism. Now we’re way less concerned.
15. Am I dying and if so, is it contagious?
While in the hospital, I started getting itchy bumps all along my arms and eventually legs and feet. I thought it was mosquito bites at first, but when it continued to increase, thought maybe I was being eaten alive by bedbugs. Neither theory made much sense inside of a hospital. I was incredibly worried I might have something the boys could catch. Eventually, the pediatrician told me it looked like poison ivy which made way more sense. I had been extensively weeding and pulling down vines in our backyard the previous weekend. It might have taken some time to take hold and increased in the hospital because I was showering infrequently. Gross, but at least it wouldn’t affect the boys.
16. Would Hershey be ok with the lads?
During our pregnancy and in the hospital, I worried about our dog Hershey’s reaction to the boys. His world was about to change hugely and he might react badly. Everyone had stories about how their long time pet reacted poorly and had to either be removed from the house or severely restricted. We really did not want to have to do this as we felt he was as big of a part of the family. Luckily, as soon as he returned home, he was fantastic. He’s been incredibly relaxed around them. He’s curious about the two squeaking creatures sharing a house, but has showed nothing anywhere close to stress, aggression, or jealousy. He’s even given both boys a brief kiss, albeit trying to steal formula from them while feeding.
Parenthood is a scary endeavor. Everyone keeps telling us that there is no manual for children, but it gets worse when instructions and information aren’t clear or are conflicting from one person to the next. At this point, hopefully we are through the scariest times and though I’m sure there will be many others, it feels more doable now. Raising a child is hard work, and twins are even harder, but if we could make it through days of panic, I think we’ll make it years ahead now.