Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Birth Story

Ever since we found out I was pregnant with twins, I had been saying that I was going to keep an open mind about everything - from bed rest to breastfeeding, from cloth diapering to delivery. My goal was to not have expectations so I wouldn't be disappointed with whatever experience we had. There are certainly some aspects of our birth story that test the boundaries of my open-mindedness, and one missed experience that still does break my heart. BUT, given everything that happened, how early they came, how quickly the pre-eclampsia came on, and how severe the pre-eclampsia was, we could not have asked for a better outcome. All three of us are healthy and they are happy, fun babies. We're very thankful.

Here's the story, starting in my 31st week of pregnancy.


I had been feeling pretty great and really the only weird symptom I was having was very swollen feet and ankles, which I figured wasn’t too alarming and just a normal part of being very pregnant. I was even confident enough to foolishly make comments to Aaron along the lines of “I bet I will make it through this whole pregnancy without needing bed rest.” Two days after that wager, I had an appointment with my doctor – she took one look at my feet and told me I needed to go on bed rest.

I took the bed rest seriously, but I really felt like the doctor had prescribed it “just because”… Just because I had swelling, just because I was getting close to the end, and just because I was expecting twins. I still felt pretty good, so I didn’t really think there was an issue. And I didn’t think delivery was right around the corner…

When I was 32 weeks pregnant, I had a visit from a close friend who is also pregnant and due in June. While we were chatting (& bed-resting on the couch) I told her that even though the doctor just put me on bed rest, I wouldn’t be surprised if we went to or past full term.

Two days later, I saw my doctor again and this time, my blood pressure had skyrocketed to 160/100. She increased my bed rest prescription to full-time and told me I needed to stop working completely. Just a few hours later, she called me and told me I needed to get my husband, my hospital bag, and myself to labor & delivery at a hospital in the city as soon as possible. She explained that I was likely experiencing a very serious pregnancy-induced medical condition called pre-eclampsia. While I was still on the phone with her, I sent Aaron a quick message – “Doctor called. Come home now.” For the next 10 minutes or so, until he got home, I wandered around the house, crying and muttering “I’m not ready for this.” Aaron talked me down from my frantic state. Then, we (calmly) collected our bags and headed right to the hospital.

Once we got to L&D, they whisked us to a room and started hooking me up to everything – an IV with Magnesium Sulfate to help control my blood pressure, a catheter so I didn’t have to get out of the bed ever, two fetal monitors, a contraction monitor, and an automated blood pressure cuff that went off every 5-10 min. Then, they jabbed me with a steroid shot that is used to speed up the babies’ lung development, started drawing my blood every FOUR hours, and they told me to lay on my left-side and just get comfortable… right.

Even on the Magnesium, my blood pressure readings were consistently coming back in the 150-170s over 80-100s. Everyone was also worried by the fact that I was (apparently) having frequent contractions, but I was only feeling about 10% of them. After a quick check, they found I wasn’t dilated at all. The doctors were concerned, but they didn’t think that we needed to do an emergency delivery that night – we would wait until the next day at least so we could get an ultrasound on the babies and see how they were doing. Ultimately, the goal would be to wait another two days, at least, so they could administer another steroid shot.

This all happened on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we had the ultrasound. At our previous ultrasound 3 weeks earlier, Baby A was in a head-down position so we were still hopefully that a natural delivery was going to be possible. But of course, by this time he had flipped again and was now breech. So, C-Section it is! The technician also did a biophysical profile test for each of the babies which is basically an 8-point inspection on a baby’s movement, breathing, heart rate, etc. Both boys did exceptionally well and scored an 8 out of 8! They were also both measuring at over 4 lb. We all felt good about waiting another day, so the second steroid shot was done and we started talking about scheduling the delivery for the following evening. The previous day we had talked about ideally waiting another week or two. However, since they babies appeared to be doing very well, the doctors believed that, at this point, I was more in danger than the babies and since the only cure for pre-eclampsia is delivery, that we should just get the babies out. Honestly, after only 24 hours of being stuck in the hospital bed with all the machines hooked up to me, I was relieved that I would not have to endure another week or two of bed-confinement.

Thursday was all about waiting. There was a chance they might deliver me first thing in the morning depending on how my blood pressure was, so they told me I couldn’t eat anything the night before since I would need to have an empty stomach if that were the case. But the next morning came, and they decided that we would wait until the afternoon as originally planned, which meant I still couldn't eat anything. At this point, I banned my guests (Aaron and my parents) from all food and food-talk while in my room. Obviously, I was quite delightful at this point.

They continued to monitor me, administer the Magnesium, and draw blood up until we were wheeling into the operating room. Once things got started in the OR, it all moved along very quickly. They did the spinal anesthesia, got me situated on the operating table, put up a big blue curtain, brought my husband in, and started to cut and tug and prod away at my mid-section. I’m not sure if it was all the tugging and prodding or the anesthesia, but I became very nauseous and spent the first 5 minutes or so dry-heaving into a bowl. I also remember the feeling in my legs being very strange, like they were going to float away.

Dad is ready!

Just a few minutes later, they were announcing that Baby A was coming out. I was so excited, I strained my ears to listen for his cry, which ended up being much more like a squeak. Then I anxiously waited for someone to hold him up over the blue curtain so I could see him, but they never did. Two minutes later, the doctor was trying to wrangle a wiggly Baby B and announced that he was out. The anesthesiologist and my husband were giving me the play-by-play and let me know that both babies appeared to be just fine. I was again straining to hear my boys’ first cries as evidence of this, but all I managed to hear was my doctor talking to the other doctor about his plans to visit Omaha for the weekend to attend the Berkshire-Hathaway shareholders meeting. This detail isn't important, but at the time it was extremely annoying and is one of those things I will always remember.

After both boys were out and everyone was on their way to the NICU (I gave Aaron my blessing to go with them), the doctors started stitching me up. It didn’t take long and then I was back in my hospital bed, getting hooked back up to the IV and blood pressure cuff. They told me I would be stuck again for at least the next 24 hours…

Which meant I would not get to see my sons on their birth day.

That last sentence stings. It leaves a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. They were just down the hall from me, and I couldn’t get to them. Not even to meet them face-to-face for the first time. The only reason I made it through the time until I saw them was because my husband kept our camera full of fresh-from-the-NICU pictures and videos for me to stare at, like these:

Out of frustration, I later figured out how far it was from my room to their crib. Forty-one steps.

Thankfully, the next 24 hours went by fairly quickly. And then as some kind of cruel trick, they made me wait another two hours while several of my doctors argued about whether to keep me in hospital-bed-prison or not. And those hours crawled. Eventually my nurse’s frustration level peaked and she told my doctors that they needed to work this out, but in the meantime, she was taking me down the hall to see my babies. Basically, she was my hero. Along with so many of the other nurses that cared for me and my children for those weeks.

She popped me in a wheelchair and took me right to them. I cried the whole forty-one steps.

I got to hold Baby A, and held Baby B’s hand while he slept in his incubator.

Of course, I was just in love. And in awe of what tiny, tiny people they were.

I spent the next 8 days in the hospital as a patient, recovering and having my blood pressure monitored. Then, the next 11 days I was there as a visitor. Originally, they estimated that the boys would need to be in the NICU for at least 4 weeks, but they did awesome. We got to bring them home in just under 3 weeks.

We’ve been home for 6 weeks now – we’re getting settled into a routine and loving every minute with them. Even those minutes that are red-eyed and interrupted by screeching.

Thank you again for every thought and prayer!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Nursery Beginnings

Well things over here are starting to get a little crazy. We've got somewhere between 12 and 15 weeks before these babies get here (hopefully no less), and there are so many things to do from registering to the nursery to, um, getting ready to birth-and-then-actually-care-for TWO BABIES.  That last one still boggles my mind...  But, we ARE making progress in the nursery, even if we do have a looooooong way to go before it's "ready":

  • Paint... this weekend, hopefully!
  • Buy things (changing table, rug, new mattresses)
  • Hang things (art, pictures, shelves, curtains)
  • Make things (art, bedding, mobile)

BUT, we've got a few things together so far and I wanted to share just a few of the details since it won't all be put together for a while...

Please don't get too excited about the framed initials... These will go above their cribs (yes, we're doing two cribs), but the actual letters in the frames may change. Their names are in no way set in stone, I was just anxious to see what it would look like. I'm pretty sure these guys won't officially have names until after they're born.

And look! These boys have a ton of stuff already! Shoes, books, cute hats with ears, a rubber ducky, and SO, SO many clothes.

As if we don't have enough projects going on in the nursery, there are some interesting developments happening across the hall as well:

You may recognize this as our second floor bathroom, if you caught this post last spring. Looks a little different, eh?  Needless to say, there's lots going on at our house these days!
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