Our Preemie Twins’ Birthday

Tuesday, August 12th started like most good boring days of bed rest should. Early morning vitals and monitoring, horrible hospital breakfast, “Non-stress test” for an hour where both babies heartbeats looked perfect, within range and with good accelerations and deceleration. I had my usual bi-weekly ultrasound scheduled for 1pm, and the hospital transport was 40 minutes late coming to pick me up. I hadn’t had time for lunch before I thought they would arrive, so I was grumpy and hungry.

In the ultrasound, the technician looked at Baby A first. Not surprisingly, Baby A’s fluid levels were low. I had been loosing more fluid than bleeding over the past two weeks. The doctors though this was preferable to bleeding, explaining that the babies didn’t need as much fluid later in the pregnancy anyway. So I wasn’t too concerned. Baby A also didn’t do her practice breathing- which I understood was normal not to do it every time. She and Baby B rarely both got scores for breathing on the same day, and I was certain I had felt Baby A hiccuping just before the ultrasound (hiccups also count for the breathing score.) But all this meant that Baby A got a score of 4/8 while her sister was 8/8 for the biophysical.

Transport wheeled me back to my room, and I finally ordered lunch and ate at 4pm. The nurse came in and said the doctors saw Baby A’s scores, and wanted me back on the monitors to do another Non-stress test. I was annoyed. If they were worried about the biophysical ultrasound, it seemed like the doctor on call should at least talk to me about the results.

On the monitor, Baby A’s heartbeat looked high, staying around 170 and up, occasionally dropping down to the high 160’s. The TOCO monitor also showed contractions every four minutes, though I wasn’t feeling anything other than what I thought was indigestion from my late lunch.

I’m now so grateful that the doctor on call thought otherwise. Orders were sent down for me to be transferred to Labor and Delivery. I was upset. None of this seemed cause for alarm- and I knew what the routine would be in Labor and Delivery: Magnesium, hooked to the NST monitoring and an IV all night, lots of people coming in and out of the room, and no sleep.

 

It was 5pm. I told T to come to the hospital.

“Hurry” I added.

T, said later that he knew when I said to hurry, that this was serious.

He left his office and flagged down a cab. Stuck in traffic on the short drive to the hospital, he told the cab driver to do whatever she could to get him to the hospital as fast as possible, explaining our story. Sometimes life is stranger than fiction; the cab driver who picked T up was born prematurely at 30 weeks herself at another hospital in town. With a twin sister who didn’t survive. She refused to take T’s payment for the cab ride, but gave him her card asking T to let her know how things turned out.

When T arrived, I was deep into the magnesium haze, begging for water or ice. I wasn’t allowed anything. The nurses gave me some oxygen to slow my heart-rate, but soon I was vomiting, and then my temperature spiked as I started shivering uncontrollably, my whole body writhing in pain with how cold I felt. I heard the nurses saying the babies’ heartbeats were high. Through my haze, the doctor calmly told me that I had a serious infection from Baby A’s water breaking, and that we needed to have an immediate c-section to the babies out.

I cried, but agreed. I knew I could no longer keep the babies safe inside. I could only hope they were ready.

T called my parents, 3,000 miles away, to let them know what was happening. “Remember to be excited,” my mother said. “This is your babies’ birthday!” Her optimism was just what I needed to hear.

By 7pm, the nurses were wheeling me into the operating room. I clung to T’s hand, pressing it to my face, the only bit of warmth I could feel as my body continued to shudder uncontrollably from severe chills.

It was even colder in the operating room. With all the strength I had left, I willed myself to stop shaking long enough for the anesthesiologist to inject the spinal pain blocker.

I felt the pressure of the incision, and at 7:33 pm, they announced that Baby A was out. My heart fell as I strained to hear her cry. No sound at all. They whisked her into the recovery room and I felt another weight being lifted out of me as her sister was delivered two minutes later at 7:35 pm. Again, no cry and she was whisked away, not even a moment to spare for me to see her. I told T to go with the girls, where he was allowed to watch them in the recovery room.

Meanwhile, I was shivering even more violently as the surgeon was still trying to remove the placentas. The doctor later told me that did his best to stay calm, but he was very worried as my vital signs were failing and my blood pressure was dangerously low. They were placing another IV, trying to stabilize me, promising me a warm blanket as soon as they could get the second IV in. Even with the warm blanket, I was so cold, my body so stiff.

The first placenta came out easily, but I heard the surgeon say that the other placenta wasn’t budging. I assumed this must be the previa placenta, which has a risk of being a placenta accreta. This means it grows into the uterus which was very dangerous and would need an emergency hysterecomy. Another worst case scenario seemed to be coming true. Later I learned it was Baby B’s placenta that was just wedged in at an odd angle, and they got it out.

From here, it was a haze. I don’t remember them stitching me back up, only vaguely remember them rolling me back to my L&D room. The warmth gradually started to return to my body. They wheeled in Baby B so I could see her. She was so tiny and beautiful, and seemed calm despite what she had just been through. They assured me she was doing well. They told me that she was smaller than her sister, just 2 pounds 7.5 ounces while her sister with the compromised placenta and amniotic sack was surprisingly much bigger at 3 pounds 5.6 ounces.

I was afraid to ask where my other baby girl was. T came in from the baby recovery room. Looking at his face I knew it wasn’t good news. He told me she was fighting hard, but she was struggling. He bowed his head so I wouldn’t see how scared he was, but he was crying.

“Go be with them,” I told him. I felt numb. This couldn’t be happening.

I will always be so grateful for my nurses who took things into their own hands and decided I needed to see my baby girl. As soon as they confirmed I was stable, they wheeled my hospital bed down the hall and up to the NICU. It looked like a party in our room- a huge crowd of people and all the lights on. Everyone surrounding the isolette where my daughter was. I overheard the doctor telling my husband that they had tried all the ventilators, that she was refusing them all, that she wasn’t breathing on her own or taking in the oxygen she needed with the support. The last resort was to administer nitrogen oxide, something they didn’t usually use on preemies, due to the risks of bleeding. It was a “Hail Mary” approach at this point. I’ve never seen T look so shaken.

My nurses wheeled my bed in right next to my daughter’s isolette. I expected to see her lying there, limp and motionless. To my surprise, she was kicking her feet and waving her hands around. My husband was right- she might be struggling, but she was fighting hard. The nurses opened the door of her isolette and encouraged me to reach in and touch her, to talk to her.

It hit me that this might be the only time I would see her, the first and last time I might hold her hand. Tears streaming down my face, I reached in and stroked her tiny arm gently, holding her little hand and told her how much her daddy and I loved her. How she had a wonderful big sister who couldn’t wait to meet her. How much her little twin sister needed her. How loved she was. How she had to hang in there, that we all needed her. T came over and we held each other and cried.

“I’m so proud of her- she’s fighting so hard,” he said through his tears.

The nurses took me back down to my room, leaving T behind with our daughters. I was dazed and exhausted. I started to pump milk, getting only a few drops, every few hours, but feeling good that there was still something I could do for them. Each time I dozed off I’d wake with a start when I heard the door open, afraid someone was coming in with the news I feared to hear. T came back to let me know that the doctors were able to place the ventilator. He was going to sleep in the NICU room with the babies, and he’d let me know if anything changed.

When T came in the next morning, I could see the exhaustion in his face, but it was mixed with relief. He brought me across the hall to the NICU to see our tiny babies. Our tough little girl had made it through the night and was holding steady on the ventilator. The NICU doctor was standing by her isolette, explaining that they were already starting to turn down the nitric oxide and supplemental oxygen. That if all continued to go well, our tough baby girl would soon be exubated and moved to the less invasive CPAP instead, which just exerted gentle air pressure to make breathing easier.

Our youngest daughter was continuing to do well, sleeping as peacefully as she had the night before, letting her twin get all the attention she needed.

We began to let ourselves relax a little bit. We marveled over their tiny toes and fingers. Their matching dark hair. Most of all, their incredible determination to be here.

Yesterday we finally decided on names, choosing middle names from each of our families and first names that were all their own.

I’m so grateful to be able to introduce them to you all: Sylvia Grace (Sylvie, meaning from the woods in Latin) and Carina Eleanor (Carina meaning dear little one in Italian.) Grace after my great-grandmother and for all the grace she had coming into the world so early but so calmly, allowing her sister to get all the attention she needed in those critical hours. And Eleanor for T’s grandmother who died when he was very young, who was always said to be his guardian angel.

The nurses in the NICU already have commented what little personalities they are. That Sylvie is the talker and Carina is the active one. We held them today for “Kangaroo” time- the girls were calm and seemed happy snuggling in warm and cozy against us. All the wires seemed to disappear for that moment, and T and I finally were just parents holding our babies. It felt wonderful.

I get to go home today. It seems surreal, that I’ll be home for the first time since July 10th, sleeping in my bed with T, playing with E and walking around without the constant worry of my difficult pregnancy. My bed rest marathon is over, but we are just beginning the NICU marathon. Our girls as well as T and I need to stay tough, and once again, take it just one day at a time.

While I still wish I could have protected them for longer, our little Carina Eleanor knew that she and her sister needed to come out that day. I also wish this was the end of our story; that I could wrap it up here with a happy bow. But as the doctors like to remind us, there are no guarantees in the NICU.

Thanks to you all for your love and support through all these chapters; through the long struggle with infertility to my hospital bed rest pregnancy and now the NICU. I’ll continue to share updates here about Sylvia and Carina. And hopefully one day, the happy ending to our story.

PS: For everyone who is hoping to see a photo- forsome reason, WordPress is not allowing me to post photos. I’ll try and share one later.

 

 

 

 

 

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37 thoughts on “Our Preemie Twins’ Birthday

  1. maternalstateofmind August 15, 2014 at 12:30 pm Reply

    What a beautiful and exhausting and difficult story. You had me in tears. Your girls are fighting and it sounds like they have so much strength within their little bodies. And hey, mommy, congratulations! Your mom was so right – what a happy time. You are a mommy of two more wonderful little girls. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Jess August 16, 2014 at 1:17 am Reply

      Thank you for reminding me how happy it is that I have two new daughters. It’s been so much harder emotionally than I could have imagined. Post-partum emotions are tough enough even at full term- it seems unfair that nature requires those hormones to kick in at such a sensitive time and as a parent of preemies, those emotions are even harder to handle. I just want to fast-forward to when the girls are big and strong and ok. Thanks again for all your support- it has meant so much.

  2. Jen August 15, 2014 at 12:35 pm Reply

    What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. I’ll be praying for you guys and your daughters, sounds like you have some fighters on your hands right there! ❤

    • Jen August 15, 2014 at 12:35 pm Reply

      Beautiful names, btw….love them.

      • Jess August 16, 2014 at 1:12 am

        Thank you. We can use every prayer.

  3. My Perfect Breakdown August 15, 2014 at 12:46 pm Reply

    You shared your on going story with absolute beauty and raw emotion. I cannot even begin to imagine the battle that your entire family is waging, but I do wish you the absolute best. And most importantly congratulations on the birth of your little girls!! You have given the most amazing gift of beautiful names and clearly unwavering love.

  4. unfertilized August 15, 2014 at 1:02 pm Reply

    Thank you for posting an update so soon after their birthdays. Im sorry it was such a terrifyong experience but hopefully the worst is behind you. Please continue to update us on their progress – it sounds like these girls are fighters like their mama!

    • Jess August 16, 2014 at 1:12 am Reply

      Thank you. To be honest, I’m a mess. It’s been so much harder than I imagined. Just trying to stay strong for them.

  5. Jillian August 15, 2014 at 2:01 pm Reply

    Congratulations – what an exhausting and beautiful day. Praying for you all.

    • Jess August 16, 2014 at 1:10 am Reply

      Thank you. We so appreciate and need every prayer.

  6. beckdogenator August 15, 2014 at 7:23 pm Reply

    The encounter with the cab driver – wow. I will continue to send light and love to you and your little girls as they spend some time in the NICU and hopefully only get stronger every day, home before you know it. I so admire your courage and grace through all of this. Thank you for sharing your story and I look forward to reading future chapters. Hugs.

    • Jess August 16, 2014 at 1:10 am Reply

      Thank you. It’s harder to be strong for our tough little girls than I imagined. They fight so hard, and I feel like I can do so little for them now. Thank you for lifting my spirits with your words, and for being there for me through this whole difficult journey.

  7. abridesblog August 15, 2014 at 11:56 pm Reply

    Congratulations! The part about the taxi driver smacked me right in the mouth! What a wonderful story to be able to share with your girls one day xxx

    • Jess August 16, 2014 at 1:08 am Reply

      Thank you for reminding me of one of the positive parts of the story, and allowing me to picture telling it to my daughters. It’s been very hard to stay positive with doctors who like to dwell on the worst case scenarios.

  8. gsmwc02 August 16, 2014 at 3:51 am Reply

    Jess,

    That is an absolutely incredible story. Your strength and resiliency are simply amazing. I knew from your tweets that you were dealing with a bunch of health issues but didn’t realize how serious it was. You are an inspiration. I’m so glad this all worked out and glad that Sylvia and Carina are doing well.

    I’d send you strength but I think you have that covered. 😉 So I’ll send you best wishes. 🙂

    • Jess August 16, 2014 at 5:19 am Reply

      Thanks for your support through all this- it means so much. I truly get my strength from all of you along with my family. Thank you.

  9. Wife of a Sailor August 16, 2014 at 3:53 am Reply

    I’m crying! I’m so happy for you! What LOVELY names for two fighting girls. I’m so excited for you to be a mom of three girls. Once NICU is done and they’ve done some growing, I’ll bet all three will be best friends forever!

    • Jess August 16, 2014 at 5:22 am Reply

      Thank you for everything you did to help me get a month closer to their due date. And thank you for being excited and hopeful for me now. I so need to hear that. I’m having a very tough time dealing with all this- much harder than I expected.

      • Wife of a Sailor August 16, 2014 at 5:33 am

        Since you’ve been in the hospital for five weeks, let’s just call it 10 weeks of NICU time already DOWN since that’s what you saved them! You’ve got 10 weeks down already…. you can do the rest!

  10. Mrs T August 16, 2014 at 6:19 am Reply

    Thank you for sharing their birth story. I am so glad they are little fighters! I’ll be thinking of you all as you work on getting everyone out of the NICU and home ❤

    • Jess August 17, 2014 at 1:28 am Reply

      Thank you for all your years of friendship and support- and keeping us in your thoughts. It means so much.

  11. Clare August 16, 2014 at 7:55 am Reply

    Congratulations! I had such a similar experience and reading this really took me back. My twins weren’t quite as prem as your’s, but one of my girls needed to have surgery a day after she was born and had a long hospital stay. I remember the numb feeling and observing my husband’s reactions and just feeling so shocked and detached. Feel free to email me if you want to chat/vent. NICU is such an isolating, exhausting thing to go through. You’re doing amazing! x

    • Jess August 17, 2014 at 1:26 am Reply

      Thank you for reaching out- your girls are so beautiful and give me hope for happier, healthier days ahead. Right now, we are still consumed with finding our routine and settling into this ‘new normal” but I will be in touch. Thank you!

      • Clare August 18, 2014 at 5:53 am

        Some days will be really hard, and some will be pretty good with small victories. No matter what kind of day it is, you’re one day closer to bringing them home. When you have a win (extubations, weight gains, iv line removals etc), or even when you get to hold your little ones, take a minute to notice the joy in your heart. Those things got me through. x

  12. Jenny August 16, 2014 at 6:14 pm Reply

    Beautiful birth story for your girls! You’ve written the perfect tribute to their entrance into this crazy world. I hope you all settle into a peaceful routine quickly and that your NICU time forges on with as little spectacle as possible. In the event that you have more spectacle (they don’t call it a roller coaster for nothing), I hope you find peace and strength in the tough moments. Happy birth day to your family, especially your two littlest ladies. (Their names are GORGEOUS.)

  13. Jenny August 16, 2014 at 6:22 pm Reply

    WordPress just ate my original comment. UGH.

    This is a beautiful birth story – an excellent tribute to your daughters. I hope you fall into a comfortable routine that will allow time to forge through your NICU without much spectacle. In the event that you have more spectacle (they don’t call NICU a roller coaster without reason), I hope you feel peace and strength. Oh, and I LOVE their names. Gorgeous!!

    • Jess August 17, 2014 at 1:23 am Reply

      Thank you- I hope so. We’ve had enough of this roller coaster already! Our girls are so brave- so I’m trying to be brave for them too. Makes me happy to hear you love their names- thank you!

  14. wenatcheegirl August 16, 2014 at 8:29 pm Reply

    Welcome Sylvia and Carina! They sound like super fighters–just like their Mama.
    Remember that you have an entire community of friends and family, plus countless virtual friends, who continue to send you prayers, love and ((hugs)).
    Thinking of you and hoping to see pictures soon.

    • Jess August 17, 2014 at 1:17 am Reply

      Thank you so much- having the support of so many friends here makes such a difference. I will try and share photos soon!

  15. Lisette August 16, 2014 at 10:07 pm Reply

    Heart wrenchingly beautiful post love, you have been through so much already. Sending you so much love and support that both beautiful babies continue their fabulous progress. Thinking of you xxx

    • Jess August 17, 2014 at 1:20 am Reply

      Thank you- so far so good. I didn’t cry at all today- the girls are doing so well. Hopefully that continues, even though the rule of thumb at the NICU is two steps forward and one step back. But our girls love to prove everyone wrong!

  16. sarah August 17, 2014 at 5:11 am Reply

    I have never commented before but came across your blog on twitter. I wanted to send my love and I hope everything will be ok with baby C and S xx

    • Jess August 17, 2014 at 7:19 am Reply

      All the love and support from everyone here means so much. If the girls can feel it, it’s certainly helping. Thank you so much.

  17. Maya August 17, 2014 at 10:48 am Reply

    I’m sending so much love to you all. You did an amazingness job through all of this and your baby girls are fighters. This post brought years to my eyes and I wish you all the strength and luck moving forward.

    • Jess August 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm Reply

      Thank you so much.

  18. Tara August 17, 2014 at 11:36 am Reply

    It’s probably already been said, but I love your mom’s advice about being happy on the girls’ birthday!! You are so brave, Jess! Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with all of us! Will continue to hold you all up in prayer. Your story is an inspiration to us all ❤ ❤

    • Jess August 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm Reply

      I was so glad my mother reminded me of that- though I’m not sure I was successful- it felt good to hear. Thank you for being there for me- I truly felt supported by everyone here, and it made such a difference.

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