3.25.2015

A Bittersweet Week


The first picture of all four of us. 

At our gender ultrasound appointment, two days before my water broke, we discussed a tentative date to have a c-section with my doctor. She voiced that she recommend a c-section at 37 weeks for her twin moms and we agreed. So we went ahead and looked at a calendar, found my 37th week, and planned for that Monday, March 23rd. I thought, what a wonderful way to start a week

I expect that had everything gone the way we'd planned (ha!), we'd be taking home two beautiful, health baby girls this week. Instead of typing this, I'd be listening to two newborn girls, using their perfectly healthy lungs, to scream and cry - alerting us that they are hungry or want to be held. But I'm not. I'm surrounded by late-night silence. A cruel reminder that things did not go the way I prayed they would. 

That being said, given everything that has happened in the past five months, I'm incredibly grateful to be able to hold and love on a relatively healthy baby. It may only be twice a day, with limited amounts of time to keep her out of her isolette, but it's more than I could have asked for. It's more that what statistics say I should have. And soon enough, I will no longer be surrounded by late-night silence. 

For that I am grateful. 

It is a bittersweet week. 

3.09.2015

Birth Story: Twins at 23 Weeks

Monday, December 15, started out like every other day since starting my bed rest. I was awake when Chris would leave for work - he spent every single night at the hospital with me, so we had our own bed rest routine. Around this time, my nurse would come in for my 6am medication - and after that, I would have my quiet time. I'd read Jesus Calling and spend some time in prayer. Every morning I thanked God for a new day, which meant another day behind us; I prayed for our girls and their specific needs and I prayed for Chris. Me being on bed rest was just as trying on him as it was me, if not more.

After my quiet time and the local news, my doctor came for her morning rounds. We chatted; talked about how exciting it was to be into my 23rd week and that in less than a week I'd be getting my steroid shots. We were both so excited for where I was and what the upcoming week meant.

After her visit, I closed my eyes and fell asleep until breakfast was brought in. Most mornings, I would be anxiously awaiting the delivery of my breakfast tray - but after my doctor left the room, I fell asleep. When breakfast was delivered, I remember being hungry and wanting to eat, but fatigue won and I fell back asleep. This never happened. I was always ready to eat.

This was the case throughout the day. I'd eat, then nap. Had my ultrasound, then nap. Got assessed by the nurse, then nap. Ate lunch, then nap. And that went on until the evening. I slept more this day than any other day. Looking back, I see God was giving me rest and preparing me for a long night and even longer day ahead.

Chris got "home" from work around 7pm. Once he ate dinner and settled in, we got out the computer. We'd been on a weekend binger watching The Killing on Netflix - and we were ready to dive back into the show.

As we started watching, I began to notice I was having several Braxton Hicks. I mentioned in previous updates, that I would have them fairly often, but it was never worrisome and my doctor was aware. Most days I would have 4-5 within an hour and then none the rest of the day. After subconsciously noticing that I was having several of them, I began to pay close attention. Within a 45 minute show, I had 10+ Braxton Hicks. I knew that was too many for that time frame, but I didn't think too much about it. I tried to steer clear of over thinking anything my body did. Let's be honest, when you're pregnant, you're hyperaware of any and everything your body does or feels. Even more so when on bed rest. So I always made an effort not to think too much - and definitely no Googling.

As we started a second episode, I noticed the Braxton Hicks continued and were more noticeable. I continued to brush it off because they still felt like the Braxton Hicks I'd been having for the past several weeks.

By the third episode, my Braxton Hicks began feeling different. My uterus was contracting, but instead of it being in the middle and upper portion of my belly, it was low. There was still no pain, just a change in their typical location.

After the third episode, we decide to call it a night.

I was laying in my bed, in complete silence and darkness aware of nothing else except what my body was doing. I began to realize that whatever I was feeling was becoming consistent and getting stronger. I grabbed my phone and watched the clock. Every four minutes, my uterus contracted. Each one a little stronger than the previous. I could feel pressure in my pelvic region that radiated to my back. After 30 minutes, I told myself, Ok, if I have one more, I'll call my nurse. I had another one, but I was in denial. One more, then I'll call her. Ok, one more.

I finally confronted what was going on and called my nurse.

I never called my nurse. My nurses knew I never called them. She popped her head into our dark room and the first words out of her mouth were, "Are you OK?"

I explained everything from the multiple Braxton Hicks to the worsening contractions. And from this moment on everything became a blur. For the next 8-12 hours, time stood still, yet it all happened in a flash.

She put the toco monitor on me, which measures contractions - and sure enough, I was having contractions four minutes apart. After my water broke at 17 weeks, the monitor showed I was having contractions, but never strong enough to the point that I felt them. I'm guessing I had contractions all day before giving birth, but never felt them until they were getting closer together that evening.

My nurse initially told me to start drinking as much water as I could, but it seemed like as soon as I reached for my water bottle, she had already decided I needed IV fluids. Once she got my IV going and called my doctor,  she gave me two shots, 30 minutes apart, to try and stop the contractions. The medication slowed them down. They were barely noticeable and further apart. A bit of a relief; however, this lasted for about an hour after the last shot. Then they came back. Stronger.

My nurse spoke with my doctor again at this point and she was given orders to check my cervix for any dilation. So she did. And after she did, she didn't say anything. So I asked.

Six centimeters.

My heart dropped. 

I had just noticed mild contractions and I was already six centimeters dilated. This can't be happening. She stepped out of the room to call my doctor again. When she came back into my room, she had my chart. My heart dropped again. She calmly told me I was going to Labor and Delivery.

If I've learned anything about myself since Halloween, when my water broke, it's that when I find myself in high, emotionally-charged situations, I go into shock-mode. I'm sure for everyone it is different, but for me, my shock-mode is a lot of different things, in no particular order. I'm calm. I'm freaking out in my head. I'm still. I react. I move forward. Then, in the blink of an eye, hours from when it all began, reality takes over and I cry.

As soon as she told me I was going to L&D, I went into shock-mode. My bed was being rolled out of room 205 and I was being pushed down the long, dark hall that led to the double doors of L&D. I was pushed through the double doors and passed by several familiar faces before entering into my room. None of us said anything, we just looked at each other. We exchanged silent looks that screamed fear and sadness; we knew what the near future held.

I was rolled into Room 11 that was already filled with several people. Two NICU beds were being prepared as I was being asked if I wanted an epidural or pain medication. What? I didn't know. Was I really about to have these babies? Somebody tell me what I need to do. I must have had a look on my face that read exactly that. One of the nurses informed me that the pain medication would reach the babies and could possibly make them lethargic if they were born - which would make things even harder for them.



At this point, a whole new level of shock hit me. I'm in L&D, talking about an epidural and delivering my babies. I had always wanted to have natural deliveries - I was even one of those women who considered a home birth, but these contractions were no joke. I'm not sure if I have a low tolerance for pain or if they were just that bad. They felt debilitating. I knew I didn't want my girls to be lethargic, so I got the epidural.

I was also given antibiotics, magnesium, steroid shots, and fluids. I had two dopplers and a toco on my belly. I spoke with many different people including the nurse anesthetist, a NICU nurse, my nurses, my OBGYN, a phlebotomist, my husband, and my mother in law; however, I don't remember much of what was said. I do remember asking the NICU nurse if she'd ever seen babies born this early survive. She told me she did, but I could read the sense of doubt in her voice and on her face.



At some point, things settled down. The room cleared out. Everything was set up. The room was ready for whatever the future held. So I tried to sleep. I wanted to take a break and escape the madness that had been going on for the past five, six, seven hours. But it was impossible.



All of a sudden it was shift change. My night nurses were leaving me. Surprisingly, I found myself scared and anxious about the fact that those who were with me since all this started so many hours ago weren't going to be here. I clung to them. I didn't want them to leave. They had gotten me through the chaos and all settled in my new room. For some reason, them leaving made me uneasy.

Shortly after shift change and getting acquainted with my new nurses, my OBGYN came in again - she had checked me earlier that morning when I first got into my new L&D room and I was still six cm, but she wanted to check my cervix one more time before she headed over to her office for the day.

She checked.

I was completely dilated.

She told me in a very quiet, calm voice that she could feel Mary Elliott's head and arm and that she was ready to come out. I felt tears running down my face. I called out Chris's name. Between my tears and my doctor beginning to suit up, he knew too.

Just like that. I was going to deliver. Within seconds, before I could even process what just came out of her mouth, she was dressed in blue from head to toe, there was a table full of sterilized tools at the end of the bed, and my legs were bent up.

There I was, four months before any of this should be happening - my husband holding my hand, a nurse at each of my legs, and my doctor at the end of the bed saying, it's time to push. 




I found it incredibly difficult to really know if I was pushing because of the epidural. The coaching and encouragement I received from everyone during the pushing let me know I was doing something right. So I kept on.


I pushed. Maybe three or four times… and there she was.

Our first born daughter. I burst into tears that both celebrated the life of our child, but also feared for the future. She was out. No longer safe inside of me. She was impossibly small. I could only see tiny hands and tiny feet over my belly that still housed Sadie Ann. I cried. And cried. I was overjoyed to see her, but scared because all odds were against her. I could no longer do anything for her. She was taken across the room to her NICU bed where it seemed like dozens of people were surrounding her. I laid my head back and prayed for her.

WIthin minutes my doctor looked up at me and said Sadie Ann was coming too. Before I could even process that Sadie Ann was coming too, she broke my water and told me to start pushing again. So I pushed. Pushed. Pushed. And there she was. Four minutes later. Our second born daughter. I could see her a little bit better. She was moving and kicking. Then quickly whisked away to her NICU bed.

The room was chaotic once again. Lots of voices talking at one time. People in and out. Surrounding both of our girls. People cleaning up the bed. Asking me to roll left, roll right. Taking out my epidural. Taking off the dopplers. Cleaning me up.



Just like that it was all over. I was no longer pregnant. No longer on bed rest. I could no longer provide a calm, safe environment for my girls. I could only lay there and watch the backs of several nurses as they did everything they could for two babies born 17 weeks early. 17 weeks early. 

Although in the moment, time did not seem to exist, it was after about 30 minutes of working on Mary Elliott, that her neonatologist came over to my bed. She told us that they tried everything that they could, but her lungs would not inflate. They were just too premature; too firm from the lack of fluid in the past seven weeks. She told us that she still had a heartbeat and thought it would be best if we held her rather than for them to keep working on her.

With tears pouring down our faces, we agreed.

A nurse brought her over. There she was. Finally in our arms.





Perfect. Beautiful. She was showered with kisses. Told hundreds of times how much she was loved. Told how proud we were of how strong she had been in mommy's belly. We smiled and celebrated the beautiful life we created. A life that God decided to place in our arms. How blessed to be hand-picked by God to be this little girl's parents during her short life here on earth.


Since this day, I often find myself overwhelmed with sadness, sometimes even anger, at how fleeting my time was with Mary Elliott. However, when those feeling strike, I redirect my thoughts to this fact: as she took her last breath on this earth and left my arms, she then opened her eyes for the first time and saw Jesus. My daughter never had to see or experience this broken world. She's only ever seen heaven. And although I selfishly want her here with me, I'm oh-so thankful she knows no pain or sorrow. Having faith and confidence in this makes it all bearable.

After our time with Mary Elliott, Chris went to the NICU to see Sadie Ann before she was transferred to a different hospital with a higher-level NICU that she needed. Before she left, the NICU transport team brought her by my room. I held her little hand and told her how much I loved her. Then she was off to what would be her home for the next several weeks to come.



12.15.2014

Twin Pregnancy: 23 Week Update

Happy 23 weeks to our sweet little girls! 



This past week was another good one - full of blessings and miracles. Our little girls continue to grow! They were both one pound and three ounces - still growing together. On a recent ultrasound, over the weekend, we saw Mary Elliott really moving around for the first time. In the past, we'd seen a slight movement, but recently she's really been wiggling everything. I think she's finally pushing back on her sister who is constantly moving about and kicking at her. Mary Elliott also had a full bladder and full stomach - indicating that internally, things are working. 

I mentioned in last week's update that I was really starting to feel Sadie Ann kick. Well, this week it's even more so! She will get going on these crazy episodes and go non-stop! That girl can throw a punch and kick her legs. Last week I even got to see my belly move from all the kicking. I had Chris put his hand on my belly during her playtime. It was the funniest and sweetest thing to see him react to feeling her. His eyes became as large as golfballs and he immediately pulled his hand away - I'm certain it shocked him. 

For me, my WBC count continues to jump back and forth between 13-14 - which appears to be my normal. I'm continuing to have the Braxton Hicks daily - some days they are more frequent than others. I'm also having lots of other different feelings going on, but my doctor continues to assure me that with two growing babies, I'm going to be feeling a hundred different things. So all is still going well. 

I prayed that the 22-24 week countdown would pass by quickly - and so far it has! Fran and I kept ourselves busy making crafts. This is her last week here with me for a few weeks - she returns in January. My parents, brother, and dogs come back to Alabama this Saturday and they'll be visiting through Christmas and the New Year. Again, I'm just so happy and thankful to have family that is willing to sit with me all day just to keep me company and have that added bit of support in the room. It's been a blessing. 

Here is our weekly countdown banner. One week down and one to go to our first goal!



And here is what Chris has set up in our room for our Netflix bingers. 



Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

12.11.2014

Letters for Our Twins // No. 001

I wrote this letter to our twins while laying in bed the night before our gender ultrasound. I planned to post it that morning, but didn't get around to it. Then, two days later we found ourselves in the hospital with a long road ahead of us. I recently found it as a draft and wanted to share it. As I mentioned below, I had plans of writing them multiple letters, and I may write them additional letters on here, but my weekly updates are covering most everything that's going on week to week.

--------------------------

10/28/14
9:16 p.m.

Dear babies,

I had intentions of writing you notes since the day we found out I was pregnant. I wanted to capture and document all the wonderful feelings going through my mind from the time we found out about you up until the point where we get to hold you, but one of the many lessons I have the privilege of teaching you in this lifetime is that it's better late than never. So here I am, finally starting to write to you.

You two are about 16w4d - give or take - and I'm a couple weeks into my second trimester. Baby A, in the beginning of the pregnancy, you were almost a week behind baby B - in fact, you didn't even have a heartbeat at our very first ultrasound, but our nurse practitioner ensured us that you were fine and would have one the following week. And you did! You've actually complete caught up with your sister! In our recent doctor's visits, you've both been within a day or two of each other and we couldn't be happier!

I'm writing to you tonight because tomorrow is a special day and I want you to know what I'm going to be thinking about all night while I try to fall asleep. If you two cooperate, we will hopefully find out if you are two little girls, two little boys, or a little girl and little boy. And we cannot wait! I'm thinking in the morning I may eat a sugary breakfast to get you two moving about. Well, mostly just you, baby A. Baby B, you are our little acrobat; we've had a lot of ultrasounds since receiving the good news and without fail, you are wiggling, twisting, and flipping. Always! Baby A, you're our docile, laid back child (like your mommy). Every now and then we see you wiggle those arms (I think we even have a picture of you waving at us), but you're usually comfy and cozy just laying on your back, all curled up. So hopefully some sugar will get you moving!

Since learning and sharing the good news that we are expecting twins, we've had countless people ask the same question… "What do you want the babies to be?" Our answer is always the same. We. Don't. Care. We are so thrilled and thankful to have you two growing in my belly - our only prayer and hope is that you two are healthy. And that's what we tell everyone. That's always our answer.

I've heard that mothers often just know what they are having - they have this maternal instinct that tells them. Well that may be true for singletons - or maybe it's true for most women and even those having multiples, but I don't know. Well, I do. But not the way that other mothers just know. I'll get to that in a minute.

I haven't paid too much attention to any Old Wives Tales because those are centered around singletons as well. I do know that at almost 17 weeks I'm still nauseous and that since finding out I was pregnant, my face has been breaking out like a teenager entering into puberty. I haven't had any cravings. It's  been quite the opposite - in the first trimester I wanted nothing to do with sweets (which, you will learn, is not like your mommy at all!). Don't worry though, my sweet tooth is back - I've actually been drinking a lot of sweet tea (which I haven't done in years) - I even made some not long ago. And it was delicious! I'm sure y'all enjoyed it too! So I've had pregnancy symptoms that are kind of all over the place. None indicating one thing or the other - only that I have a ton of extra hormones running though this body of mine!

I will say that about two years ago I started having a feeling that one day I would have twin girls. It was an out of the blue feeling. It seemed like every time I turned around, I saw twin girls. It felt as though God was bombarding me with the idea of twins girls so that it would become a normal thought of mine - one day I will have twin girls. And after a while, I believed knew it. At an earlier part of my life, I wasn't very keen on the idea of twins - and I usually pictured myself with boys. Lots of little boys. So if I feel anything at all… it would be twin girls. In fact, I know you are twin girls, but very few people know that - just your daddy and my best friend, Jessica. Your daddy and I talk about it quite a bit. I'll share with you in a separate letter a little more detail about all this.

No matter what that ultrasound shows tomorrow, our hearts will be full! We are overflowing with excitement! Not that this pregnancy doesnt seem real, because it is very real, but I feel like once we know what you are, things will become very real, very fast. I'll start registering, buying you little things here and here, and begin planning a nursery. Up until this point you've both been baby A and baby B - and I've loved it. After tomorrow you will have a more distinct identity. And soon after that you will have names. Names!

I'm so happy to finally sit down and write to you. Here's to many more letters!

Love you so much already,
Mommy

12.08.2014

Twin Pregnancy: 22 Week Update

Hello, 22 weeks!


As you can see in this picture, my little pink tee is getting tighter and tighter - which I love! I'm even starting to fill out in my upper abdomen area. These girls are growing!

This past week has been a good one, full of many blessings. As I've mentioned, the girls are receiving an ultrasound every other day. Last week, I ask my ultrasonographer what the babies were weighing. She told me ONE pound each! I could not believe it. They are a pound! Such a blessing.

Then this morning my doctor came in and told be they were both 1lb 2oz!!!

This past Friday morning the girls had an extra long anatomy scan - a typically anxiety-ridden exam. It was completed later in the morning, after my doctor had already stopped by for the day. It wasn't until the next morning that she pulled up the report in my room and read it to Chris and me… "No abnormalities seen in baby A; no abnormalities seen in baby B." There's nothing like getting that kind of news first thing in the morning. All praises to the Lord! What a beautiful report. She went on to tell us that Mary Elliott continues to grow and keep up with her sister. Despite her ruptured sac and lack of fluid, she continues to move about and grow. I'm such a thankful and proud mommy.

Friday morning also marked five weeks since the rupture. Five weeks! Unbelievable. And it marked five months pregnant.

Sunday the girls and I rolled over to 22 weeks - meaning we are now on the two week countdown to 24 weeks! I hope and pray these next two weeks we continue to remain stable, the girls continue to grow, no infections come about, and that the days don't all of a sudden start to slow down. Again, at 24 weeks, I get my steroid injections to help with the babies' lungs and they past the point of viability in which they have a chance of survival should they decide to come that early. I've advised them to stay put for several more weeks - let's hope they listen to their mommy.

My white blood cell count continues to remain stable, right at 13-14.

I've put on eight pounds since being admitted to the hospital. Which I attribute to three fully-loaded trays a day, snacks my doctor ordered me between all means, and the constant sweets and treats that friends and family bring me daily. 

This past week I spent the majority of my time taking online CEU classes. I needed to complete them anyway, but of course I received a letter in the mail not long ago that I was being audited by the state. So that just means I need to turn in some extra paperwork and turn it in earlier than what I would normally have to since it all has to be audited. Thankfully, I finished it all, my paperwork is completed, and was mailed out this morning. Shew!

Also in the last week, my sweet mother in law brought in some Christmas decorations to liven up my tiny room! I have a wreath on my door, garland on the mirror and bulletin board, and a precious Christmas tree. It's all just perfect!

Yesterday she brought in crafts for us to make a countdown to 24 weeks! It's in the shape of a banner with pom poms. We have it all made and set up - and each day, at the end of the day, we will cut off a pom pom until we get to 24 weeks. Then we'll make a new one that will count us down to 26 weeks… and so on. 


Another week has come and gone and it's all being overseen by the Lord. Every day it's increasingly obvious how He is right here with our little family. I thank Him daily for so many miracles, so many blessings, and so much love! 


"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11