Monday, November 3, 2014

They're Home, Now What?

You can never forget the day you bring your baby, or multiple babies, home from the hospital.  With multiples especially, you sometimes end up taking one baby before the others are ready to leave the NICU (and juuuuuust in case the dear reader isn't sure, that stands for neonatal intensive care unit), in which case, you build up a routine at home gradually.  But we were fortunate:  our boys were born at 34.5 weeks (yes, I count those few days as a half week, because with premature babies, even days can make a difference!), only had to spend 10 days in the NICU, and got to come home on the same day. 

Our first family photo at home!  

Hopefully, the nurses at the hospital at which you have your babies, or your midwife or doctor at home,  will give you some helpful pointers before setting you loose.  We had to sit down for almost an hour of baby-care points, that we frantically tried to remember later, before we were allowed to tuck the boys into their car seats and be on our way.

That first ride home is tremendously exciting and terrifying!  We're going home!  They are coming to their first home for the first time!  With us!  We have kids!  Drive slow.  I can't drive any slower.  Is he still breathing?!  What sound did that other one just make?!  Pull over!  No!  They're fine!

We arrived home around 5 p.m. that day.  Just enough time to take pictures, settle the boys in the pack-and-play for a little bit while we scarfed down dinner, unpack all the items from the hospital, shower, feed and change the babies, and then hunker down in the bedroom for the first round of that silly thing called "trying to get your babies to sleep at night while feeding them seemingly round the clock."  (This link will take you to the page with all of my posts regarding Sleep.)

I'm smiling...but I don't know what to do next.

You may have other young children, and I hope your experience with them will give you some knowledge and wisdom we lacked as first-time parents, but maybe you aren't sure how to juggle all the different needs at home now.  Maybe these ARE your first children and you're feeling uncertain.  Either way, take a breath, you can do this!  Just take it one step at a time.  SUCH a cliche, but still true.  (See my post on "Do The Next Thing.")

The First Day/Night Home:
  • Figure out a way to unload the car and bring everybody/everything inside without leaving either baby alone in the car at any point.  
  • Take pictures!  Share with others.  
  • Quickly sort through the items from the hospital and your things at home to make sure you have everything you need for the next 24 hours: diapers, wipes, place to put dirty diapers, formula, bottles, filtered water, breast pump, milk storage bags, nipple shields, extra changes of clothes/PJs for babies, thermometer (hopefully you won't need that yet!), baby logs, just whatever you've determined you need.  Have it all right next to where you'll be that night, at hand, so you don't have to think about it later.  
  • Figure out where babies will sleep and let them get a little accustomed to it.  
  • At first, try following the feeding schedule or rhythm you had in the hospital.  Some babies need to be fed every 2 or 3 hours.  
  • Feed yourself, preferably a hearty, healthy meal that'll last you.  
  • If there are more than 2 adults, take turns showering.  You don't know when you'll get the chance next.  If you are the only adult at home, it's okay to leave the babies in their crib, bouncy seats, etc, while you shower.  It really is okay!  If they cry a little, they cry a little.  You do what you have to do.  
  • If you have other children at home, or dogs, feed them too!  You'll have to do some juggling that first evening to make sure everyone has their basic needs met.  
  • Decide beforehand what you want the bedtime routine for your children to be, and try to start that very night!  It may sound silly to have it for newborns, but getting into the habit of doing the same things in the same order every night will not only help your kids, but it will help you, too.  It will ensure you don't forget things, and give you more confidence as you figure out how to care for your babies.
  • Then, throughout the wee hours...good luck!  I'm praying for you.  Try to jot notes on what happens, even during the night. 

In our notes, we wrote down which baby was in which color, just in case.  But of course, those outfits may not last the night.  

The First Full Day Home:
  • You'll be utterly exhausted.  But you'll have to get up at some point to feed babies, feed yourself, and feed other people in your house.  If at all possible, plan out your meals for a few days at a time, before the twins are born, so you can have quick, healthy, easy foods on hand and you don't have to think about it as much.  
  • Continue taking notes on the babies' habits throughout the day.  These notes will help you establish routines and schedules later, and can answer questions the pediatrician may have.  You can also refer back to them when you have questions.  AND they'll be handy when filling in those baby books...when your kids turn...3.  (Here's an example of the kind of note system we used.)
  • TRY to squeeze naps for yourself into the day when the babies sleep.  I know there are always dishes to wash, calls to make, etc., but if you don't nap at least once during the day, you'll soon be running on empty and possibly be a danger to others in your sleep-deprivation.
  • If you haven't already done so, schedule the next check-ups for you and your babies.  

Newborns are actually very sleepy.  Whenever they do happen to sleep, enjoy it.  Sleep yourself, get something done, or steal a precious moment.  Here, grandma revels in the peace.  For now.  

The First Week Home:
  • Get some fresh air!  Take a stroller walk if the weather is good, and if not, walk the mall.  If the babies aren't allowed in public yet, take a car ride.  Just do something so you don't start getting cabin fever.  Sadly, even trips to Target with the babies in the double Snap-n-Go were considered "outings" in those early days.  
  • Keep taking those notes and forming a daily and nightly routine.  After a few days you should be able to see patterns of when your babies are hungry, when they sleep the best, when they're the most fussy.  
  • Take more pictures!
  • Try to find a home for all those items I mentioned from the hospital, and for baby gifts or purchases.  If you don't find homes for things now, it just piles up, clutters up, and gets out of hand.  Do it this week so you won't be overwhelmed later.  
  • Try and spend some time with the other people in your house, so they won't feel neglected.  Even just a moment eating ice cream together in the living room can be special.  

The First Month Home:
  • Attend to any lingering phone calls or paperwork regarding the hospital, insurance, etc.
  • Write thank you notes for any baby gifts or help you've received. 
  • Decide if and how you want to send out baby announcements.  Facebook is fun and free, ha ha!  Or if your babies are born in the fall, you can do what we did and combine the announcement with your Christmas card.  
  • Decide if you want to do any photo sessions and plan.  I wish I had done a professional newborn photography session!  We were too sleep-deprived to research and plan that out, but now I realize how easy it is to take pictures of them when they're sleepy and can't move.
  • Start making plans, if necessary, for child care when you return to work.  

Your babies are home; congratulations!

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