I began daily fetal monitoring on Friday December 18th, right at 24 weeks. I would drive into Providence every morning to either the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Center or the Fetal Evaluation Unit, both blocks from the hospital. On weekends and holidays, I was seen at the emergency room for my testing.
By February, I was mentally done with it all. I was tired of the traffic, the money spent on gas, I was tired of having to take my 10 month old with me (man, she consumed a lot of pretzels during these visits) and I was miserable being pregnant.
But still, I went. I even tried to go during a snowstorm but turned back after my car spun and bounced off a telephone pole.
It was always great news at my growth ultrasounds to hear how big the babies were getting. They both surpassed the average singleton at the same gestational age every time they were measured. But already having two inside made me measure 7-8 weeks ahead. By the time I hit 32 weeks I looked and felt full term. Getting up from the couch, picking things up from the floor, carrying the baby upstairs and even doing dishes became monumentally difficult tasks. It made me want to punch everyone in the face who commented, ‘oh, I always wanted twins.’
I was 32 weeks and 6 days at my last fetal monitoring appointment. Everything appeared well. My fluid was good, the babies were practicing their breathing in utero and they were both cooperating on the monitor. I was entertaining a couple of nursing students from CCRI (mono mono twins are pretty rare and as a daily patient I had a lot to talk to them about) when my time ran out. Usually it’s a pretty quick exit but the nurse hesitated over the readout and took it to show the doctor on shift.
Baby B had had three decelerations in heart rate in the last twenty minutes and so the doctor wanted me to head over to triage for a bit more monitoring. So off I went.
A nurse and two doctors reassured me over the next hour that everything looked great. I was just grateful my older one wasn’t with me that day. But the higher up doc disagreed and the message was passed that he wanted me to stay overnight for observation.
Thank goodness I keep a toothbrush and toothpaste on my pocketbook because no one was around to pack anything for me.
All in all it was about three hours in the ER before they sent me upstairs. Thankfully, my MIL had a spare car seat in her car and was able to pick up and watch the little one. I was monitored twice more that night with both nurses letting me know that everything looked great. It almost seemed that they were wondering why the doc made me stay. The team of doctors that stopped by early in the morning had more concerns. Baby B was still experiencing decelerations in heart rate. This, the doctors explained, could be a sign of cord compression but there was no way to tell for sure. I was 33 weeks exactly at this point, and since I had already received steroids to help the girls’ lungs mature, the team felt it was better to be safe and to deliver them that day.
It was a bit of a shock and I wasn’t able to say much more than ‘okay’ as they went over a few more particulars. I was on my phone for the next hour making sure all my ducks were in a row, that the baby was being taken care of, would be picked up and watched overnight, etc, that my husband would make it down before the surgery began and that he brought my hospital bag.
Then the ‘oh crap’ feeling came. I wasn’t ready for this. I should’ve had one more week.
THEY needed more time.
Bassinets were still in boxes.
Cribs were not put together.
Didn’t have sheets yet, or mattress protectors.
Plus, I DIDN’T SHAVE MY LEGS!
My husband and I had just that past week attended the hospital’s c-section class. We had made a list of questions for my doctor that we wanted to ask at my last checkup, which was scheduled for the following week. Mostly they were questions about the procedure and seeing/holding the girls, etc. I felt completely unprepared having not been able to speak to my doctor. She was on vacation and wouldn’t even be delivering the girls.
As soon as my husband arrived, the stretcher was brought into the room. He was given some disposable scrubs to toss on over his clothes and I was wheeled into a pre-surgery area. I already had two IVs at that point and just hung out for about ten minutes while everything was put in order. I received a cup of something salty and nasty to drink (no idea what it was for), then the husband was sent to the hallway while I was wheeled to the OR.
Things began moving really quickly at that point.
More people than I felt fire code would allow poured into the OR. I had no idea who anyone was, plus they all looked alike in their scrubs and masks. I had to scooch to the table (very difficult given my size) and then sit up for the spinal. My job was to tell the anesthesiologist if I felt the needle was to the right or left. Well that damn thing was to the right three times. Finally, it was put in the correct spot. Some dick chose this moment to inject something into my IV line that hurt so much it caused me to shout something that I wouldn’t normally shout. It was even worse than the needle jabbed into my back multiple times.
Once the spinal was in place, its effects were immediate. I was turned and pushed back so that I was flat on the table before I went completely numb and fell over. The catheter was put in and within minutes, I became a momma of three. They wasted no time in slicing me open. Baby A was out first, and gave a loud cry. I glimpsed her over the drape for only a second before she was taken away by her own team. Baby B was right after, cried loudly, and was called feisty by the doc. This was no surprise. She was feisty on the inside too.
I had to crane my neck and with my left hand, hold the drape partially back in order to see what was happening with the girls. I already knew, either intuitively or based on the lack of panic in the air, that things were okay. Their weights, at 4lb 7oz and 5lb 3oz, were better than expected and there were no major issues to report. I remember that I kept snapping at my husband to take pictures amidst the chaos. He’s not the best photographer in the world. Therefore, the more he takes, the better than chance that I will end up with some good ones.
It seems silly, but I had a third set of hands with the first born. My sister was there to take all the pictures and get the first shots of our baby girl in our arms. But here in the OR, it was just my husband.
Unfortunately, the girls were then taken away to be monitored almost immediately and I was sent to recovery soon after. After a bit of time, someone came to bring my husband to the NICU while I tried my hardest to move my legs and regain feeling. Being able to lift my legs would give me clearance to go. It took a couple of hours and then I was cleared to go up to my room.
I was returned the same room that I had stayed in the night before, which was convenient. However, no one had informed the CNAs of this so the room hadn’t been cleaned or stocked. It really wasn’t a big deal; all I cared for at that moment was seeing and holding my girls.
When I did get down there, wheeled down by my husband, it was very emotional. I’m not completely ignorant of medical equipment and its uses. I did work at a hospital for six years. But seeing those tiny babies in incubators, on IVs and hooked up to giant cpap machines was hard. Not being able to hold them was much harder. It wasn’t until Sunday (two days) that I was able to hold A. A few days later, I got to hold E.
I wish we would have been given an introduction by someone in the NICU about protocols or schedules or something, because those first few days I felt completely overwhelmed and lost, not knowing whether it was okay to even touch my babies or hold them. It wasn’t until one awesome nurse, who then became my girls’ primary nurse, remarked that it wasn’t up to anyone else but me to hold the girls. And she very patiently (a lot of cords were involved) made that happen right away.
Now the NICU has really become my second home. I’ve met dozens of my girls’ caretakers, nurses, NPs, residents and doctors, met a few other families (it’s a pretty emotionally charged and quiet place so not a lot of socializing really happens) and spend my days going back and forth between my girls. After nursing and cuddling, then pumping for the overnights when I can’t be there, there is not much time left until the next set of feeds. But I go with it, eat when I can, and let the girls get bigger and stronger.
I’m grateful that they are now steadily gaining weight. Many people remark on their size and even tell me about full-term babies that they know or had that were similar weights. I think that they forget that even though my girls were born too big for preemie clothes, they are still preemies. They were born seven weeks early, and generally speaking, most preemies remain hospitalized until at or around their original due date. And no, I don’t know when they are going home. As much as I want it to be right now, I’m confident that the team here knows what they are doing, and will only discharge the girls when it is their time. It’s hard, to be sure, but I’m so thankful for the care they are receiving here.
E has been home for three days now and is doing well. She spends all day with me at the hospital and things seem much like they did when she was a patient too. They kept the crib for her and have plenty of extra diapers and blankets. The only difference is she has to come with me every time I leave the room.
Going home every night now is so much harder. It had been a small bit of relief to know the girls had each other during the overnight (yes I know they are completely unaware of that), but now that E comes home, it’s so much worse to leave knowing A is by herself. Despite being almost one pound larger than her sister, she is still having spells at night and having drops in heart rate and oxygen levels. At one point we were told she would go home the next day. But when I showed up that morning I learned she had had five spells the previous night and was starting back at Day 0. Five consecutive, uneventful nights are what the docs look for.
So we go on like we do. The husband drops off the almost one year old at day care and I drive back to the hospital with E to spend the day. Hopefully my little peanut works out her issues soon so we can take her home and have the family together.
E – 22 days in the NICU
A – 30 days in the NICU