Category Archives: bed rest

The Memory of Little Feet

 

I’ve always been dismayed at those bloggers who invite you into the most personal moments of their lives, and then suddenly disappear without a word. So rude! So abrupt! So unsettling. And after letting more than a year lapse since my last post, I became one of them.

I’m so sorry!

It was never my intention. I’ve started writing so many posts in my head, but life has been one big glorious, messy, chaotic interruption. I left my job when I went on bedrest at the hospital, so I no longer even have those moments to steal away for a few tweets or updates.

I’m hoping this time I’ll get to hit “publish” and give you all the long over-due update about what happened after we escaped from the NICU and brought C & S home.

It’s all been so much harder and so much easier than I expected. Easier because C & S are the sweetest babies with such sunny temperaments. Easier because they continue to “graduate” from their specialists, with clean bills of health. Easier because big sister loves them like no others. Harder because big sister at age three is a tough one. Harder because after surviving infertility, five weeks of hospital bedrest and two months in the NICU, there’s the joy and burden of Appreciating Every Single Miraculous Moment.

Sometimes when my three-year old is having a tantrum and screaming so loud that the walls are trembling and her sisters start crying in alarm, or she needs help going to the potty just as I’ve buckled all three girls into their car seats, I marvel how much I went through for the privilege of being in this moment, of being a mother of three who all need me so much. I’d do it all again just to be in this unpleasant moment of wiping poop while everyone is crying.

Though to be honest, in these particular moments I want to tell them, “Hey kids- I’ve already gone through hell and back to have you here, can’t you just give mommy a break now?”

Of course, for each of those moments, there are other moments that make my heart explode with joy: hearing the girls laughing together as big sister pulls a blanket across the floor with her little sisters running to catch her and go for a ride. The twins feeding each other cheese and Cheerios across their high chairs. The girls all dancing together and clapping as the littlest sister learns to twirl. The twins giving each other kisses, waking up from their naps talking in their own little language.

I watch them and marvel that C and S were frozen in a dish for over two years. That they were born at 29 weeks and 6 days, weighing just 3.5 and 2.7 pounds, spending the next two months in a warm little box until they were strong enough to come home. That my determined little C almost didn’t make it that night she was born.

During those days in the NICU, I consoled myself with the thought that my babies would never remember spending their first two months of life in a hospital. That they wouldn’t remember being on morphine, needing breathing support and IVs. Being too fragile for even their mama to hold them until they were three days old. That they wouldn’t remember the pain, pokes and pricks and procedures. Then someone told me that preemies feet “remember.” They are more sensitive to touch, as their tiny feet were used as the point of blood draws and IVs.

The days leading up to the twins’ first birthday this year were so difficult- I couldn’t help but relive each day from July 10th when I went to the hospital to their birthday on August 12th with dread. The details I wanted to forget were still there; how it felt to prepare again and again for their premature birth and the possibility that they might not be strong enough to survive. Fearing I might not be strong enough to survive if they did not. The dire predictions and statistics from the neonatologists who reminded me that even if my babies survived, they could have severe cognitive impairments.

I kept their birthday simple. Just a small family dinner and cake. We sang to each of them, and then let them have the little smash cakes I made. They dove into those cakes with such delight, devouring the whipped cream frosting and giggling with glee as they smeared it all over their faces and trays.

I still smile to think of it. As they smashed those cakes, they replaced my traumatic memories of their birth day with the happy memories of this first birthday.

C and S are 15 months old  now. They still have appointments with the pediatric development team every four months to assess their motor skills, language and cognitive development. They are meeting the appropriate developmental milestones for both their adjusted and actual ages. Their pediatrician said that if it weren’t for their diminutive statures (S is only 16 pounds and C is 18 at 15 months) he’d never even know they were preemies. Their lungs are clear, their vision is fine. Their PDA’s and PFO’s (holes in their hearts, normal for preemies) have closed.

And my heart is healing too. I tickle the twins’ feet now and they giggle. Whatever memories may be in their little feet, they can’t be all bad.

This may be the end of my blog, so I’ll say goodbye for now. Thank you for supporting me through so many difficult, scary days. I wouldn’t have made it through with my sanity (somewhat) intact without you. Your stories and encouragement will be part of me forever. You’ve made a difference in my life, more than you could know.  

With so much gratitude- Jess

bath

The same tubby one year later. September 2014 and September 2015.

 

 

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A Day in the Life of a Hospital Bed Rest

Everyone always asks me if I’m bored, being on bed rest at the hospital. I understand the assumption that boredom would be the enemy here- but the reality is that boring days are my good days. I’m so grateful for each boring day. Trips to the bathroom alone can turn a boring day into an anxious day. (I won’t trouble you with the TMI here.)

Even on happy boring days, the number of tests, medications, monitoring, doctor and nurse visits makes the day pass by faster than I would have imagined. So for those who have always wanted to know what a day of hospital bed rest is really like, I give you my average day:

5:00 am (every 3 days) A nice early visit from the Phlebotomist to draw my blood in case I need a transfusion. (Such a happy thought to start the day.) Sometimes they come at 2am just for fun. And then they leave the door open when they leave and I’m too tired to do anything about it so I hear all the traffic in the hall until the nurse finally comes in and closes the door.

6:00 am First monitoring of the day. Nurse checks blood pressure, temperature, and babies’ heartbeats. Pricks my finger to test my morning blood sugar. (Is there a single spot on me that hasn’t seen a needle yet?) She asks a list of questions about pain, bleeding, vision, headaches.

6:30 am I try and go back to sleep.

7:00/8:00 am The resident on duty comes by to see how I am, to report back to the OB/ MFM team during their morning meeting.

8:30 am Breakfast. Oh how I hate the hospital breakfast.

9:30 am Nurse comes back to prick another finger to check blood sugars. If I’m over 140, she also gives me an insulin shot. Then I get all the morning pills: Iron, prenatal, stool softener (very necessary when on bed-rest as digestive system slows waaaaay down) and a medication for my gestational diabetes. She checks my temperature and blood pressure again. If temp ever goes above 100.4, that’s an automatic ticket to emergency c-section as it could be a sign of infection. My blood pressure has always been low, but if that went too high, that also would be a “go directly to c-section.”

10:00 am NST (Non-stress test) to see how babies’ heart-rates are doing over the course of 30-60 minutes. They position two hockey puck sized monitors on my belly, one on each baby, along with the “Toco” monitor to watch for contractions. Babies need to have a certain number of heartbeat accelerations that are 10-15 beats above baseline to show they are responsive and doing well. If heartbeats are too low or too high and don’t accelerate, that’s another “go directly to c-section.” If there are intense contractions (fortunately none yet) that would be another “go directly to c-section” as contractions can be a sign of infection since my water is broken and could cause a serious bleed due to my placenta previa. Even small contractions cause more bleeding.

11 am MFM, Perinatologist, OB and/or Hosptalist do their rounds and check in on me to give me updates and answer questions after they have their discussions about patients at 9:00 am. I know that the later they come to my room, the less concerned they are about me. It’s a good thing to stay down the priority list if possible.

11:30 am Shower. My favorite part of the day. I get to stand up and shower all by myself, washing all the goop off my tummy from the NTS and heart-beat checks. I have to shower carefully, making sure I don’t get my mid-line IV bandage wet.

12:30 pm Lunch. Oh horrible hospital food- which is even worse when counting carbs and portions for gestational diabetes. When I call the cafeteria to order, they add up all my carbs and make sure I’m under 60-70. It’s very humbling and aggravating. No wonder I’ve lost weight since I arrived a month ago. Most of which is muscle, I know- but hospital food doesn’t help.

1:30 pm Another finger prick to test blood sugars. Another insulin shot if I’m over 140.

2:00 pm Tuesdays and Thursdays are ultrasound days. I never know what time it will happen. Someone from “transport” whose sole job it is to wheel people around the hospital, comes to my room with a stretcher. I get wheeled to the other side of the hospital where the ultrasounds take place. They usually leave me in the hall until the technician is ready, which can be a wait. Then the technician wheels me into the ultrasound room and I get to see my babies (though the images are very unclear for me and most of the time the monitor I can see isn’t working.) The technician is under strict orders not to say anything about how the babies look, but I’ve gotten good at crafting questions to get some info out of them during the scan. These twice a week scans are biophysical assessments that check the blood flow from the umbilical cords, babies’ heartbeats, amniotic fluid levels, babies’ movements, and to see if the babies are doing practice breathing for the required 30 seconds. Along with the NST scores, there’s a total of 10 points on the scoring system. So far these two girls have had perfect or nearly perfect scores each time, even baby A with her compromised placenta and amniotic sack. The babies don’t always do their practice breathing for the full 30 seconds, but it sounds like that’s not too unusual at this age- or even at 40 weeks. These ultrasounds take a long time. But having this view into my babies’ world- this environment that I’m doing everything possible to preserve for them as long as possible- always cheers me up and keeps me going for another day.

3:30 pm The technician wheels me back out to the hallway, and I wait there- often feeling forgotten for 30 minutes- until someone from transport comes back to take me back to my room.

4:00 pm Back in my room. I read, crochet or have a breakdown cry. These breakdown cries happen at least once every three days.

5:00 pm E comes to visit after daycare most every day, with either T and/or grandparents. Sometimes they wheel me out to the garden for my 30 minutes allowed time in the wheelchair. Sometimes they bring dinner- which is a welcome break from hospital food.

6:00 pm Dinner. During which I hope I have eaten enough for babies, but haven’t eaten anything to set off my gestational diabetes.

7:00 pm Another finger prick to test blood sugar. Another insulin shot if needed. More medication- iron, stool softener and diabetes medication. Another temperature and blood pressure check. Check baby’s heart-rates.

8:00 pm Crochet while watching TV. Sometimes T stays over if our parents are staying with E.

10pm-12am The final check for the night, depending on the nurse and how rigid they are about my schedule. I’m supposed to have the last blood pressure/ temperature/ baby heart-rate monitoring at midnight, but the kinder more flexible nurses will do it around 10 to let me have a longer uninterrupted sleep.

And then I wake up and start again. If the babies are lucky, I’ll have another 34 days like this. I’m grateful for each one. Today is 29 weeks and 1 day.

 

28 Weeks Homesick

Missing home.

Missing home.

On Tuesday night, the eve of 28 weeks, I went to bed feeling hopeful that we were finally inching away from the scary precipice of a micro-preemie birthday. While there are many amazing stories of babies born at 24-27 weeks who survive and thrive, the odds for survival increase dramatically after 28 weeks, so I wanted to be on that side of the odds if possible.

Three weeks ago when I arrived at the hospital and signed the consent form for a c-section that scary night, I could hardly imagine I’d make it to 28 weeks.

I woke up early on the morning of 28 weeks feeling some fluid leaking, and went to the bathroom assuming it was “just” more amniotic fluid…..I’ll spare you the more graphic details from here and just say there was a lot of blood and a huge “apple sized” clot (as the nurse later described it.)

T was staying over that night and I called out to him, my voice trembling, asking him to call the nurse.

Soon my room was full of doctors and nurses, hooking me up to monitors to find the babies’ heartbeats, my blood pressure and temperature being checked, and then I was wheeled out of my ante-partum room back to Labor and Delivery for the third time since I arrived at the hospital three weeks ago.

In the Labor and Delivery room, the nurse adjusted the heart-rate monitors for the babies, along with the “TOCO” monitor for contractions. Then they started the magnesium, not for contractions (if I had any that would be an automatic ticket to an emergency c-section anyway because of my condition) but for neurological protection for the babies if they had to be delivered this early.

From my Twitter friends, I already had heard how terrible it felt to be on magnesium. The nurses explained that it would make me feel hot, weak and woozy- and not in a good way. My mouth was so dry, but I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything in preparation for a potential c-section. The little slivers of ice they let me have were most delicious things I’ve ever tasted.

After the magnesium began its work, I barely had enough energy to say more than a few words. The nurse placed cool washcloths on my face and neck and set up a fan by my bed.

That day passed in a haze. That night, so exhausted, I tried to sleep, but every time I made even a slight adjustment to get comfortable, the monitors slipped off the babies and the nurses would rush back in to adjust them, waking me up again. In the morning, I was stiff and sore and tired. But the babies were still on the inside, and everyone assured me their heartbeats looked beautiful- not at all distressed by the events that were causing me so much distress.

Around noon on Thursday, the doctors finally decided the babies and I were stable enough to stop the magnesium. Soon after that, they wheeled me back to my ante-partum room. I lay on the bed, completely limp. So grateful to finally sleep without the monitors and IVs.

Today is 28 weeks, 3 days.

I miss sleeping next to my husband. I miss my daughter. I miss my house and the way the sunlight filters through the prisms on the front door, casting rainbows around. I miss walking and being outside. I miss all the things we were planning to do this summer.

When I think of spending another two months in this hospital room, I have to admit I sometimes cry big ugly gulps. And then I feel selfish. Of course I want these baby girls to have every extra day growing inside before they meet the big world. Even with all its faulty parts and precariousness, I know my womb is the best place for them at the moment.

There’s nothing easy about motherhood. And at least in my experience, there hasn’t been anything easy about becoming a mother either. Going through infertility, multiple IVF cycles, multiple miscarriages, finding the courage to try again, and then a terrifying pregnancy and hospital bed rest- all this requires a depth of love, determination and sacrifice that is beyond anything I could have imagined I’d be willing to do in my “younger years.”

It’s amazing to love two little people I’ve haven’t even met this much.

I saw them on the ultrasound on Friday, both snuggled so close to each other on my right side that the left half of my tummy is empty space. They weigh 2 pounds 4 ounces and 2 pounds 8 ounces. Tiny, but growing.

So I keep on going- one day at a time.

Thanks to you all for your support. I couldn’t do this without you.

 

 

 

 

Bed Rest Marathon

My view

My home until the babies arrive.

In my life before this, I ran marathons. Lots of marathons. Never as fast as I wanted (that elusive qualifying goal for the Boston Marathon still out of reach) but I plodded along, enjoying the mental and physical challenge of the long miles and training.

I never would have guessed that all that training would be so useful for a different goal, years later. For the very opposite challenge: bed rest.

The only way to run a marathon is to take it one mile at a time, doing everything possible to forget about how long 26.2 miles is until those miles creep up and the finish line is finally in sight. Being admitted to Labor & Delivery at 25 weeks, not even in my third trimester yet, feels like the longest marathon I’ve ever run when I look at the road ahead.

The only way I can get through this is to take it hour by hour. Day by day. Plodding along. Trying to stay positive.

On Thursday morning, I was giddy with hope. The bleeding had slowed and turned brown. Trips to the bathroom were no longer traumatic. The babies continued to look great. The OBs and even the MFM team were talking about letting me go home that weekend. I mentioned the brown bleeding seemed very watery. They sent me for an ultrasound to look at amniotic fluid. Everything looked fine.

The bleeding started again that afternoon. I tried to convince myself it was dark brown, not red. The nurses and doctors disagreed. It was “new” blood again. Not too heavy, but red and watery.

I wasn’t going home for at least another week. When my mother and E showed up, all I could do was cry. Feeling so sorry for myself. Feeling sorry that E couldn’t have her mother around. I had “hit the wall” as they say in marathon lingo: I had reached the point where I was falling apart and not even close to the finish line.

E had brought a toy aquarium with goldfish to keep me company. But after seeing her mother in such a sorry state, she said she had to take them home because “they would be too sad to stay here.”

That night, at 26 weeks and 1 day, the OB finally came around to check me out and test fluids to see if my water had broken. Everyone assured me this was very unlikely.

When she came back in the room, she sat down, and I knew the bad news was coming.

“Your bag of waters has broken….. We need to move you to labor and delivery to monitor the babies and get you on an IV to give you antibiotics…… There’s a 50% chance you will go into labor within a week….. We won’t stop the contractions if they start now since they will likely be a sign of infection or distress….. We’ll have to do an emergency c-section if we see any signs of infection, with you or the babies…..and of course now that your water has broken, you won’t be going home until the babies are born.”

Within minutes of that news, they were wheeling me back to Labor and Delivery. It was a long, scary sleepless night hooked to all the monitors and and IV. Every time I slightly shifted position to get comfortable, the monitors would slide off and the nurses would rush back in to adjust them again.

In the morning, one of the MFM doctors came to see me. He explained the situation again, taking off his glasses to wipe tears from his eyes before answering my tearful and terrified questions.

That day, I drifted in and out of sleep, listening to the babies’ heartbeats on the monitor. Yesterday’s hope of going home feeling so frivolous compared to the fear of having these babies arrive before they even reached their third trimester.

After babies had proven their strong heartbeats and no contractions appeared, the doctors decided that I was no longer an immediate risk of going into labor (or maybe they just needed the L&D room) so the nurse wheeled me back to the ante partum quarters.

Today T and I had a tour of the brand new NICU, which is amazing. Each family has their own suite where the babies will stay in their incubators, with a pull-out couch so we can stay with them overnight. The hallway walls are lined with photos of NICU grads as tiny babies as young as 24 weeks, framed side by side with the photos of the same baby all grown up. We paused at the photo of twin girls born at 27 weeks, so tiny and fragile covered with wires. Now beautiful, healthy, happy ten year-olds. T squeezed my hand and I saw tears in his eyes too.

So here I am, at 26 weeks and 4 days, making myself at home in my ante-partum room for what I hope will be a long marathon of weeks on bed rest. Taking it one day at a time, hour by hour. Trying not to look too far ahead down the road. Just grateful for each day. And for all of your support.

I tell all the doctors and nurses about you all; how amazing and supportive you all are. How lucky I am to be part of this community and “know” you all, even if virtually. I can’t thank you enough for all the encouraging stories, cheer-leading, care packages, and visits from local blogger/ twitter friends.

Running is a solitary sport. But thanks to you all, I never feel alone here. And that makes such a difference.

I’ll keep you updated when I can. If anything happens suddenly and I can’t give an update, I’ve given T instructions to share any news for me on Twitter. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where I am Now

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The “good luck” pregnancy mug/ planter that my friend gave me. This mug has passed through 30 friends. I hope it still has some luck left in it for me too; I can use every bit I can get.

At 25.5 weeks pregnant, I’m currently a full-time resident in the “Ante- Partum” section of the hospital, a place I had no idea existed. It’s like a purgatory between the labor and delivery and post-partum sections of the hospital- though don’t get me wrong- I’m intensely grateful I’m not in those rooms yet. Every single day I can hold these babies on the inside gives them just a little more chance.

I’ve been at the hospital since Thursday night. T and I were watching TV when I felt a small “bubble” from “that” area. When I got up to go to the bathroom, there was blood. Not much, but bright red.

I came out of the bathroom, my face white. “Blood.” I told T, shaking.

T, lucky guy, somehow is still oblivious in the range of “bad things that can happen when you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.” So he wasn’t overly concerned.

“Just call the doctor and let her know,” he said. As if this were just another Thursday night.

Of course I was already calling her, my hands shaking.

On the line, the doctor confirmed my fears, that the bleeding was likely from my placenta previa, telling me we had to go to Labor and Deliver immediately.

I burst into tears and handed the phone to T. He spoke with the doctor while I stood in shock, crying.

It was 10pm. Our daughter was sleeping upstairs. We have no family near by. T ran out the front door and started knocking on neighbors’ doors to see if someone could stay with E while we went to the hospital. Thank goodness we have such good neighbors; T found someone and we were off to the hospital. No hospital bag packed yet of course. We were quiet in the car, for the short three-mile drive. My fears were too big to even begin to share with T.

I walked gingerly from the car, holding my belly as if I could protect the babies by holding them to me in there. Realizing just how small my belly still is, even with twins- how small and vulnerable these babies still are.

Checking in at the Labor and Delivery front desk, I felt faint as I answered their question about my due date:

October 22nd.

Still so many months away.

In the room, I changed into a hospital gown, along with the hospital-grade giant maxi pad and underwear they provided. The bleeding had increased, watery and bright red when I sat on the toilet.

The nurses gave me an IV and hooked me up to the monitors for the babies’ heartbeats and for contractions. The babies’ heartbeats were reassuring, strong and happy sounding.

I had told the nurses that I wasn’t feeling contractions, but after monitoring me they said I was having contractions every four minutes. They explained that each contraction, even small, could squeeze my placenta and cause more bleeding.

The team of doctors and MFMs came in and gave us the chilling worst-case scenarios. That if I started to hemorrhage, they would need to do an emergency c-section. They asked if we wanted them to do everything they could for the babies, explaining all the potential long-term health implications if the babies were born at 25 weeks.

T gripped my hand and we looked at each other full of fear for our babies. Their existence was such a miracle already. We knew we wanted to do everything possible to give them the best chance whenever they arrived in the world.

We signed the paperwork for the c-scection and for the steroid shot to give the babies’ lungs a boost. I hated to think about my babies already getting all these drugs in their system but I knew they would need every advantage they could get if born so early.

It was a long night. The bleeding while not fast, wasn’t stopping. Every time I tried to close my eyes to sleep, the monitors would fall off and the nurses would come in to adjust them again.

The next morning, T dropped E off with some friends and met me at the hospital for a parade of high risk doctors coming through our room. The neonatologist gave us the cold statistics of survival rates and risks for premature babies. They assured us the NICU at this hospital has some of the very best outcomes in the country.

The ultrasound showed that both babies are almost two pounds each, growing well. I remind myself of this, and take solace in the sound of their strong heartbeats on the monitor.

The doctors answer my questions, carefully balancing optimism with caution as they do so well. They say that I might be able to go home in a week if the bleeding stops, but there’s 100% chance I’d be back with another bleed soon that likely would be worse. With twins, the uterus is stretching so much more, so the risks are greater. Even the five minutes it takes to get from my house to the hospital (and we are lucky we live so close) could be too long if there’s a bad bleed. So they tell me to make myself at home at the hospital.

On Saturday night they moved me out of labor and delivery room to this “ante partum” room. It felt good to know they no longer thought I was at imminent risk of labor, but they made it clear this could be my home for a long while, giving me the largest room with a view of the garden below and lots of trees outside the window.

The precariousness of the situation is so hard. Being away from T and E, grieving over the small summer plans and preparations for the babies that would not happen now, and of course, how our babies’ start in life would not be ideal, as even in the best case scenario they are likely to arrive much too early.

All I can do is take it one day at a time. Hoping we can get as far as we can. Wednesday the babies will be 26 weeks.

I’d like to say I’ll be blogging more during these long days in my ante-partum room, but to be honest, dwelling on all this isn’t the most helpful distraction. So I’ll check in when I’m feeling up to it. In the meantime, know that no news is good news, and all your support is so appreciated.

Whatever positive thoughts, wishes and prayers you can send our way- we can use them all.