As someone who is a mom of preemie twins and who also works from home, I spend a LOT of time at home. I'm actually a pretty introverted person (which may surprise some of you), so I don't mind it - most of the time. Sometimes, though, I feel as though I may go a bit more crazy than I already am.
After the twins were born six weeks early, I expected that I would have to keep them home for the first few months. What I didn't expect was that I would need to keep them home as much as possible for the first twelve months! Since I found that out a few weeks after their four month check up, I have had to make some physical and mental adjustments for my own sanity.
You see, we took the family to Texas when the twins were a little over two months old for a sip and see. They had their vaccines and all of our family & friends were super careful about making sure their hands were freshly washed/sanitized before holding them. When we came home, they both ended up with colds and, eventually, ear infections. I figured that their immune systems were getting built up and, since they're pretty healthy otherwise, I didn't worry about it.
Then, Dawson had another ear infection when he was five months old. I mentioned to our pediatrician that we had gone to Texas and were planning to go back the next month (mid-September). He told me that he would prefer we not go (if we could) since there was a whooping cough outbreak and the twins weren't fully vaccinated yet. That made sense to me, so I told him we would just wait until we went back in October for the State Fair. He said that would be fine, but his recommendation would be to not to take them out anywhere while we were there since it would be RSV season.
At this point in the conversation, I told him that we were looking to start the twins in a MDO program when they were eight months old. I asked if he had any suggestions. He told me, "yes, your house, until they are a year old." He knows I work from home, so I was slightly puzzled by his response. When I asked why, he explained that RSV season runs from October - April and he highly recommended that we not take them to any public places indoors or any outside places like the fair. The twins would also be receiving a shot called Synagis once a month for seven months to further protect them from getting RSV. I was completely taken aback. The twins were pretty healthy, other than a sinus and ear infection for Ansley and Dawson's recurrent ear infections (which Hayden has also had). When I mentioned this to him, his response was that we don't really take them anywhere and this is why they are as healthy as they are - and it also wasn't cold/flu/RSV season. We are as careful as we can be with the twins - all the grandparents and uncles/aunts have had their whooping cough vaccine and get their annual flu shots. Hayden washes his hands when he gets home from school and I don't really pick him up or drop him off, so as not to expose the twins to preschool germs.
After this appointment, I went home and did some research. I polled my twin mom friends and - sure enough - just about everyone with preemies had done the same thing. So, for now, we stay home. We are "allowed" to travel to Iowa and Texas, but we won't be taking the twins all over to see people. It's best for them to be in one environment with germs that they are accustomed to. Other people can come see them, of course, but it's immediate hand washing and no one who has recently been ill or who feels under the weather will be around them. No restaurants, churches, friends' homes, museums, etc. The twins baptism will be delayed until they are a year old.
I won't lie - it's tough sometimes. I want to go do things as a family. I want to get used to being out and about. However, that would be extremely selfish of me to put my children at risk like that when I don't have to. I work from home and there is nothing so pressing that I HAVE to leave with all the kids. I look forward to Hayden's tee ball games - it's an approved outing since it's outside and no one holds the twins except for us. The doctor visits are a chance for social interaction for the babies and me both. A family walk outside is a welcomed treat. Church is viewed online. It's the season we're in right now and I am doing my best to embrace it and be grateful for family and friends who will watch the twins so I can go to the Fair, get some much needed clothes that fit (post partum twin body - that's another post), do a race with my friends or just have a much needed solo trip to the grocery store.
I'm grateful that I have a job that allows me to stay home and keep the twins as healthy as possible so that they can grow bigger and stronger. If I worked outside the home (like so many moms have to do), the babies would have to be in daycare of some sort and I know that would be tough! I'm grateful for our friends and my Mom who watch the twins on the days I'm busy with work. I'm grateful for in-laws who will travel and see us to help out when Chip has to be out of town. God is using this experience to make me humble. I have to ask for and accept help. This has long been a struggle of mine, however, now it is a necessity. I'm grateful for a spectacular oldest son who helps with the babies and makes them laugh when nothing or no one else can. I'm grateful for a husband who "gets his hands dirty." I'm so very grateful for our pediatrician who is honest with me and truly only wants the best for our kids. He's not overly conservative, however, he is realistic about the risks that preemies face and what we can do to minimize those risks.
To anyone who has preemies and is "home bound" like we are currently, ask for help! Make time for you. Take a breath and realize you're doing a fabulous job! This season is so very temporary and the benefits are endless. This season has made me have to think about what activities I say yes to and what we are able to do, since Chip and I switch off on who stays home with the babies if we have something to do. The sweet snuggle and giggles and seeing all the firsts - those moments are priceless and I have a front row seat to everyone. Dawson and Ansley are the sweetest babies and I know I am beyond blessed by them, Hayden and Chip. More often than not, as I lay down to sleep, I am overcome at how amazingly full my life is.
If you know someone who is in a situation like ours, offer to help watch the baby(ies) so they can go to the store or get a drink. Go get your whooping cough and flu shots and let the parents know so they have one less worry on their plate. Wash your hands and stay away if you're sick. A drink and a visit will go a long way. Bring them some take out and have a lunch date with them. Don't get upset if they can't do something or if they just look exhausted - they are! Most of all, just be there with a hug and a kind word. Encourage them and support them - it will mean more than you'll ever know!