Or, "why I can't leave my babies for more than three hours."
When the babies were in the NICU, they were hooked up to monitors all day long. Blood oxygen levels, heart rate, pulse - everything was under constant monitoring. And if you're a doctor or a nurse, that's a good thing, because it allows the medical staff to keep a close eye on every baby at every moment, and to be there to help when something goes wrong.
If you're a new parent, it's not great. There are some things in life that are best left to faith and ignorance, like the idea that your newborn will continue to breath. And so while most every parent knows about SIDS and other such horrors, most never have the opportunity to sit in a hospital room with their newborn and watch the monitors and listen to the alarms that are a constant reminder of the danger that lurks around every corner.
Quin had some "stop breathing" events in the hospital. And as a non-medical professional, that sounds pretty damn scary to me. In reality, "stop breathing" events are common in preemies and possibly even in term newborns. Most resolve on their own. Most. When used in context with "stop breathing events" and "resolving," "most" is a really loaded word.
But we were lucky, and Quin's "events" all self-resolved except for one case where the nurses had to give him a gentle rub down to remind his tiny body to breath. After that he was put on a seven day count down. No events for seven days, and he could go home.
So I asked the doctor - "Why seven days? What is magic about that number? What proof do you have that within a week, his body will know to breath all of the time?" His answer surprised me. Seven days is just a hunch about what is reasonably safe. And the hunch is different at every hospital. And sometimes things go wrong, and a baby goes home and has an event that doesn't "self-resolve."
After waiting anxiously and impatiently for my babies to be discharged, I started having second thoughts. I could be a mother by day, sure. But at night, wouldn't they just be safer in the hospital with the reassuring hum of respirators and the constant chatter of alarms? How would I ever sleep? What if I woke up and found that Rhys or Quin had stopped breathing while I slept right next to them?
Turns out that coming home and shutting my eyes at night was like pulling off a band-aid. I asked about apnea monitors and learned that they really like to avoid using them unless absolutely necessary. And I can see how those monitors can be a hard habit to break. So we came home with no fancy monitors - just two healthy babies and two terrified parents newly educated in infant CPR.
The babies turn twelve weeks tomorrow. I still worry about "events." I worry about SIDS. I wake up at night and check to make sure both babies are still alive. I'm our human monitor - but as with all things human, I'm flawed. Unlike the constant and reassuring whir of the electric monitors, I take a break to sleep.
But I am their mother. And I suspect that even as I sleep, I know things. Or so I hope.
It has amazed me that I love these babies more every day. Because every day, I'm certain that it would be humanly impossible to love any more, that my heart would simply explode. And every day, I wake up and am amazed to find that the impossible has happened.
I bask in this amazing, growing love. All the while, I am painfully aware that somebody has taken my living, beating heart, and set it ever so carefully in the middle of a very busy freeway.