If a good life must include sharing our stories and hearts (it must!), start here with the ultimate love and heartache and the honest, miraculous journey to motherhood with twins. Our gorgeous and brave mama friend, Jen Hawkins, is a real life example of finding the silver linings. We cried happy tears, feel so motivated to see the beauty in every little moment and share our own stories, however parenting looks to each of us! Motherhood looks so beautiful on you! How has your identity changed since meeting Romy and Piper?
"Oh gosh, thank you! It’s funny because it’s easy to look at other new Moms and think that, but when you’re in it yourself you feel so far from beautiful! It’s hard to keep a sense of self already - my whole world seemed to shift to be contained in the square footage of the NICU. After we’d been here for about a month, I remember I went to Target for the first time on my own. I sort of walked around the store in a haze, feeling incomplete. I remember the girl checking me out asked how I was and I wanted to grab her and say, “I have twins!” as if that was a crucial piece of information that would explain everything. I actually really struggled with feeling like I lost my identity being in the NICU - like I wasn’t being productive as a mother, as a wife, or in work. But in this weird period of limbo, I have learned to find confidence, encouragement, and identity from relationships in my life. My old relationships with friends and family help me remember who I’ve always been and give me strength to carry that into motherhood. New relationships with doctors and nurses in the NICU have helped me start to feel like a mother in this funny setting, and start to plan and prepare for the type of mother and person I want to be outside of the NICU. I want to always think of motherhood as something that adds to my identity, never as something that takes it away!!" Knowing that new motherhood is such a journey for anyone, is there anything that helped prepare you for being a twin mom and a NICU mom?
"YES! Other Moms! Hearing about the experiences of others' who have had either twins, NICU babies, or both has helped so much! I found so much comfort in hearing stories of others who have been through similar situations. For that reason I think it’s so important for us to all share our stories when/if we feel ready, even if they’re less than perfect!" How do you make it through the harder days?
"I never once let myself think, “why us?” I’ve always just tried to tell myself how lucky we are, knowing that at the end of all of the hard days we have two beautiful baby girls that we still get to call ours! Blake (my husband) and I took a class during my pregnancy called “Multiple Miracles.” The nurse who taught the class had had twins herself, and she told us that anytime something hard happens we need to spin it into something positive. From that point on we literally made a game of it and no matter what happens, we have always been able to find a silver lining!!" What milestones have been the most exciting to celebrate?
"It seems like we are always finding something to celebrate in the NICU! That has been my favorite thing about being here - that it has forced us to appreciate and celebrate the smallest things! There are big milestones to celebrate like the day each of the girls was able to come off of oxygen and breathe on her own or when their IVs and PICC lines came out, and I’ll never forget the day I was able to hold each of them for the first time. But we also have found so much joy in smaller things. I remember early on we were waiting for the girls to have their first dirty diaper. it seemed like it was taking forever, and the day the first baby finally pooped we took a picture of the diaper! The nurse laughed and said she’d never seen a parent do that before. I don’t know that we’ll ever dig up that picture, but in the moment we were just so happy to see that our baby could poop! ;)" It’s so unique and incredible that you’ve watched your baby girls grow on the outside. How has that inspired your and your husband’s parenthood so far?
"It really has been so incredible to watch! We’ve both been so inspired by the human body - both of a woman’s capability to grow and then nurture a baby, and by the baby’s ability to thrive even when born so early. We basically watched what should have been the third trimester of pregnancy happen in a glass incubator, and it was so amazing. I think if anything it has reminded us that we are physically capable of so much and that your body can be your biggest asset and ally to help you accomplish so much in life!!" You’ve seemed to find a lot of strength and positivity in your new “normal.” What tips would you give to help other NICU moms?
"Oh geez, it’s actually funny because I hated most advice other Moms tried to give me unless they had been in the NICU themselves! So to other NICU moms I would say:
- Give yourself a break. Don’t wonder if you’re there enough - you are!
- Ask the nurses and doctors for what you or your baby needs or wants - remember that YOU are their Mom and they need you! My favorite nurses were the ones who kept reminding me of this.
- Let yourself feel all of the feels - allow yourself to grieve the loss of the birth/newborn experience you wanted, but also let yourself be happy in the moments that are sweet!
- To pass along the advice we were given, always find the positive! Celebrate the milestones. Take a million pictures even if there are wires and cords and bad lighting. And know that no matter how long it seems like you’ll be there, they WILL be home with you someday soon. One of our favorite doctors always told us, “Nobody ever started Kindergarten in the NICU.” ;)"