Category Archives: twins

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.

 

 

The Summer That Wasn’t

Reunited at last.

A double armful of love- with my August instead of October babies.

It’s the unofficial end of summer, and it feels like summer never happened to me at all. Spending the first five weeks at the hospital on bed-rest, and then going back and forth to the NICU for the past three weeks, my memories of summer of 2014 will be linked forever to the smell of sterile hospital rooms and hand-sanitizer, the sound of beeping of monitors and the feeling constant anxiety.

The anxiety is lifting a bit now. Carina and Sylvia are doing amazingly well, especially considering Carina’s terrifying start and the dire words from “Dr. Doom” on their second day who unhelpfully said that the girls “aren’t doing as well as he’d expect for their gestational age.” He filled our heads with all kinds of worries, so much so that T and I stopped asking him questions and would try and avoid seeing him as much as possible.

The nurses and doctors since then have all been impressed with the girls’ progress and hopeful about their future. Even as tiny as she is, Sylvie hasn’t needed the dreadful CPAP for a while now. Carina graduated from the CPAP last week, and now is on just a “whiff” air pressure from the high flow canula. Dr. Amazing, who saved Carina’s life the night she was born, told us today that she expects Carina would come off the canula in the next day. The IVs are out now too, so both girls will only have the feeding tube until they are bottle and breast feeding 70 percent of their calories. They already are over their birth weights; Sylvie is closing in on 3 pounds and her big sister is almost at 4 pounds.

Being able to see the girls’ sweet faces without the CPAP gear makes such a difference. T and I finally feel like we are getting to know them, to see their expressions and features as we never could with their heads covered with the CPAP hats and tubes. The girls are happier and sleeping better now that they don’t have all the tubes in their noses and gear on their heads too.

With the CPAP gear off, we were also able to give the twins their first baths. They both loved it, relaxing into the bath water as if it were the home they should still be in at only 32 weeks.

And best of all, we now can hold both girls together. The moment I first held both Sylvie and Carina in my arms together, my heart filled with such love and relief, seeing their little heads side by side. Carina slept soundly as usual, while Sylvie reached out for her sister and inched closer to her just as she had in the womb. For the first time, it finally felt real that I was the mother of twins.

We still have a long way to go before they can come home, but knowing that they WILL come home is all that matters. When I worry, T reminds me how far we’ve all come- and how tough our girls are. Once again it’s just one day at a time.

 

Adjusting to NICU Life

Mama love.

Mama love.

It’s been nine days since the girls were born but it feels like several lifetimes. Physically I’m feeling well, considering five weeks of bedrest followed by the c-section surgery. But emotionally, I’m still reeling from the girls’ sudden and traumatic birth.

T and I run back and forth to the hospital, trying to be there for all the c-Pap changes (the one time a day we can see their sweet faces under all the headgear that helps them breathe) and trying to fit in all the “Kangaroo Care” snuggle time that we can get.

Then we come home, and it seems surreal that life goes on despite the fact that we have two daughters at the hospital. Sometimes I still put my hands on my tummy, forgetting that my babies now are doing their kicking and growing at the hospital three miles across town.

Big sister E visits them too, bringing books to read to them and making up little songs about Sylvia and Carina. She tells me she wants them to come home, and I blink back tears and tell her that I want them to come home too, but they have to get bigger and stronger first.

Often we see other families leaving the hospital with their newborns, loaded down with balloons and flowers. I’m jealous of them- and I’m sad for Sylvie and Carina that their arrival wasn’t heralded with pure joyful congratulations and balloons, but instead with fear and worry from those who love them best. It took us a week before we even started telling friends and family (other than our parents) that they had arrived.

But I can’t feel sorry for myself or for them for too long when I see the determination of my daughters to keep breathing and growing. Every day I’m inspired by their strength. Watching their feisty little spirits as they kick and pull on their CPAP masks, putting up a fight when they want to make their voices heard.

And despite “Dr. Doom’s” prognosis on their second day of life, both girls continue to make steady progress. Sylvie came off oxygen first, just a few days after birth. Carina needed the ventilator for the first day, but then graduated to the CPAP (which is less invasive and just applies a gentle pressure to help them inflate their lungs). She was soon off the supplemental oxygen too. The doctors had talked about taking Sylvie off the CPAP this week, but decided to bump her back up to a 5 instead of 4 and give her more time to focus on growing and gaining weight instead of working too hard to breathe.

Both girls are tolerating their feedings well (breastmilk by feeding tube along with an IV for supplemental lipids and nutrition) and are almost back to their birth weights.

So all good news so far, which is a rare thing on the NICU rollercoaster, and especially given Carina’s scary start which I try not to dwell on.

Last time I posted, I promised pictures. Here are the girls at one week old, without all their CPAP breathing gear. Both are less than three pounds. Though tiny, they are such bundles of strength, sweetness and determination.

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Carina Eleanor

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Sylvia Grace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you all for your positive thoughts, wishes and prayers over the past month and a half. You have helped me find strength I didn’t think I had when I needed it most. I’ll continue to keep you updated about the girls you’ve helped so much- at least until they are safely home.

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.

 

 

 

 

On Facebook and Father’s Day

at the beach

If you are friends with me on Facebook- I owe you an apology. Last week- on Father’s Day no less- I posted a photo announcing our twin pregnancy.

This wasn’t the plan. I wasn’t ready to share the news- and as I said in my last post, I have so many conflicting emotions about sharing our news on Facebook at all. However, on Sunday morning, T’s Uncle wrote a three paragraph post on T’s Facebook page congratulating us about the babies on the way, yadda, yadda yadda. And people started to comment and “like” the post.

I was furious. This was OUR news to share when we were ready. The fact that his uncle is old and clueless about life in general, that he didn’t come to our wedding and hasn’t seen T in over 20 years doesn’t make it any better.

Mr. T didn’t mind- he’s been wanting to share the news anyway now that we are past 20 weeks.

As I calmed down, I realized this is T’s life and news too. And even if I have all the guilt and PTSD fears of infertility, this road has been tough on him too. He deserves to have his moment receiving the happy wishes of friends near and far.

After dinner, we went for a walk with E on the beach, where we had rented a house with friends for the weekend. The sun was on its way down over the Pacific (into the clouds as it usually does in the Northwest) and T and E were splashing in the icy waves.

Crouching down, I wrote into the sand: “Twins on the way in October!” and called T and E over, along with an innocent bystander to snap the picture for us.

We went back to the house and I hesitated but finally posted the picture on Facebook, along with a few sweet words about my husband.

I used the word “grateful” but I said nothing about our infertility struggles.

Here’s the thing. Mr. T and I are very open about our infertility struggles with friends, family and people we meet- even strangers on the street. But I don’t think we owe our hundreds of “friends” on Facebook (including ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, 7th grade teachers, past and present co-workers and clients, and hundreds of other random people who scroll through their feeds but don’t really know or care about us) an explanation about the fact that T’s penis can’t make a baby the old-fashioned way.

Among the hundreds of rose-colored Father’s Day posts on Facebook that day, here’s the one I could have written about T:

Happy Father’s Day to a man who knows what it truly takes to be a father:

Who after trying to make a baby without success, went to the infertility clinic for his check-up first, knowing that the diagnostic tests for male infertility are far easier than for women.

Who learned that he would never be able to get his wife pregnant without the high-tech interventions of IVF.

Who had his most private parts cut open in a very painful surgery to extract a few tiny swimmers in hopes of becoming a father one day.

Who was by my side for every single ultrasound and procedure through four rounds of IVF.

Who was terrified of blood and needles, but found the strength to give me every single injection through four rounds of IVF. Including the giant progesterone in oil injection every single day for 12 weeks.

Who comforted me through the losses of our first two hard-won pregnancies. Only revealing how much of our shared pain he carried on his shoulders when he broke down in tears after hearing our baby’s heartbeat at our 8-week ultrasound after IVF 3, explaining that  for so long, he had been trying to be strong for me.

Who (if all goes well) will soon be the father of three girls.

Thanks for reading, and for forgiving me (if you can) that I didn’t share the more honest update on Facebook.

 

Gender Reveal for Brave New World Babies

Carrot cake to celebrate the two babies on the way.

Carrot cake to celebrate the two babies on the way.

Before I reveal the genders of the two new Brave New World babies, I have to admit that I’ve been reluctant to update here for a while now. It just seems so unfair that I not only have a sweet little two year old from IVF 3.0, but now now I’m pregnant with twins while so many of my dear friends are still waiting for their turn. I feel like I’ve taken more than my share of the pie. I’m so grateful for every slice, but I feel guilty, as if my extra helping could have been someone else’s.

Ironically, exactly three years ago I wrote “Confessions of a Newly Pregnant Infertile” in which confession #6 was survivor’s guilt, and confession #7 was “afraid of being too happy least the gods take it all away.”  I’m still right where I was then.

I’m slowly telling friends and family our news, but I can’t shake the feeling that something terrible will happen if I let myself be too happy, or if I forget for a moment all the pain I went through to get to this point. So I haven’t shared my happy news too widely, and I certainly haven’t posted it to Facebook. (When I show up for my 15 year college reunion next week with an extra 15 pounds that isn’t from the “freshman 15” I’m sure I’ll get some interesting sideways glances.)

So I’ll whisper it here for now- how happy I am. How amazed I am by these two tiny growing babies. Frozen in a dish for four years, and now growing- and kicking. My eyes still fill with tears of gratitude every time I hear their heartbeats (matching heartbeats at 156 bpm last week), and every time I see their little fists and legs dancing on the ultrasound. Mr. T and I look at each other and say ten times a day that we can’t believe it. How lucky we are.

We made the 3,000 mile trek home to see my family this week- my last trip before I can no longer travel. When we arrived, we had a little “reveal” party celebration for the babies. Mr. T and I had found out the genders a few weeks ago during our 15 week ultrasound, but successfully kept the news quiet. We hadn’t found out ahead of time with our daughter, and that moment when she was born and Mr. T. announced, “It’s a girl!” is a memory I will always treasure. However, for a variety of reasons this time we decided to find out ahead of time. But I still wanted it to be a special moment.

I bought a couple balloons and put them into gift bags for E and her cousin to open after dinner. Everyone in the family made their guesses about who the newest family members would be before they opened the bags. I was amazed that not a single person guessed it correctly!

Our two Brave New World Babies are:

It's a girl! And another girl!

It’s a girl! And another girl!

 

Three daughters! I think some people feel badly for us that we won’t have a boy, but honestly, I couldn’t be happier, nor care less about the gender. It’s just fun to celebrate the first clue as to who these little people might become. Now that we know they are both girls, Mr. T is convinced that they are identical (the two that split resulting in three gestational sacks at our 6 week ultrasound.)

The balloons are floating around the house now, making me smile.

We have our big anatomy scan in a couple weeks, after which I’ll exhale a little bit, while I keep praying each day these babies want to stay right where they are until they are fully cooked. Celebrating one day at a time.