Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Monitors: More Twisted Cords!

Today is a HUGE exciting day at the Petersheim house!!! The babies, who will be 6 months old this week, finally have gotten released from their monitors! Yipee! If you need me, I will be choreographing my happy dance! This means they are for the first time going to be just regular babies with no cords! AND MY LIFE WILL BE SO MUCH LESS COMPLICATED! Can I get an amen?!

These monitors were sent home with them from NICU discharge, and their purpose was to save their lives in the event of apnea or bradycardia spells. Without them, the babies would have had to stay in the NICU much longer. If they stopped breathing, the apnea alarm beeped and if their heartrate went too high or low it also beeped. When I say "beep", what I mean is as-obnoxiously-loud-as-a-smoke-detector and doesn't shut off till you shut it off SIREN that the neighbors 3 houses down could hear! At first this happened more often, and then as they grew it happened less. The first night home on them, it went off about every 5 minutes because we couldn't quite figure out that we had the leads plugged in wrong! Every 5 weeks the neonatologist reviewed the download of monitor activity and every 5 weeks I was so hopeful that they would be done, because no "events" would have shown. But for all these months the girls kept having a couple events - scary, and made me grateful for the monitors! Now, finally, no true events! My girls are regular breathers!

So while I was so so grateful to have these monitors, and I could sleep better knowing if my babies stopped breathing I would be immediately alerted, I will explain why it is such a relief to be done with them. (And why I may or may not have fantasized about taking a bat, piƱata style, to these suckers on more than one - er, a billion - occasions)...

As you know, Ava and Aubrey are momo's, who were at such risk of death in utero because of their umbilical cords tangling and knotting. Well, the monitors with their cord twists and tangles created a whole new level of frustration and complication to the already challenging life with newborn twins and two other kiddos. Each monitor is about the size of a DVD player. It plugs into the wall; that's one cord per monitor. Then, there is a cord from the monitor into the leads. That makes 2 cords. Then, there are 2 leads that attach into electrodes that velcrow into a chest strap that goes around each babies' torso. That makes 4 cords per baby, 8 cords total. So whenever you take the babies say, from the bedroom to the living room, or go to the doctor or wherever, you not only carry the babies, but you lug along 2 DVD player size monitors in purses along with the 8 wires that inevitably twist, tangle, knot, and rip out, causing the blaringly loud siren to alert. Try this in the middle of the night during feeds. And if you picture me waking up in the morning and simply carrying two babies out with me, not the case! These monitors probably caused me to use curse words more than ever in my life before! I was like spiderman trying to crawl among the cords trying to quietly untangle them in order to put a baby down without waking them.

Whenever we needed to go anywhere, the monitors had to come along too, and the batteries only lasted about 3 hours. The electrodes being constantly against the babies' skin caused pussing blistered rashes that nothing could be done about because they had to wear these. We couldn't apply any kind of lotion or anything to soothe the rash because nothing at all could be between the skin and the electrode. Every time we held the babies we had to be careful not to move the chest strap or the electrodes would get misplaced and the siren would alert. Bath time was extra special for us, because we got to take off the chest straps and electrodes, their skin got to breathe, and we got to just hold a plain old baby, cord free, strap free. To look at and feel your baby with no barrier between you and them is just soooo yummy! :)

I will admit, quite shamefully, that after the first 3 months or so, we started taking them off of the monitors while they were awake and just leaving the chest strap/electrode/leads on them but not lugging the monitors just became almost impossible. If we didn't have 2 other kids to care for, it would have been simpler to just lug all the monitor stuff to one room, plug it in, and stay put for the day. Not possible with 2 other kids to care for. Awake, we could obviously see if they weren't breathing and they hadn't seemed to have events lately. We would hook them back up at night, during naps, and if we drove somewhere.

I could ramble on and on about how inconvenient and annoying these things were, but in the end, I am thankful for them. I will worry at night now that I don't have the assurance of them. But I am SOOOOOO excited to hold my babies and pat THEIR BACKS, feel their skin, not pat and feel a thick strap! To not have to try not to trip over wires constantly! To not have to "plug them in" and "unplug them" constantly! To not have to always exist near an electrical outlet with 2 available plugs! For my babies rashes to heal! The end of any preemie evidence! A huge milestone :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty! They are free at last!!!! :)

Caught in a Moment

Well, our baby girls are FOUR MONTHS OLD!!! I had a moment last night. Well, actually I guess the seed was planted the day before, when I laid out all my preemie clothing to take pictures of to sell on ebay. As I unfolded it all and looked at how tiny (and cute) it is, I got extremely sentimental! Among the clothing was the two fleecy striped monkey jammies that I had hanging on my closet in the hospital for inspiration. I would look at those little outfits to keep my eye on the ultimate goal: bring home two healthy thriving baby girls. I never knew for sure that I would, I knew there was a decent percent chance I could not, but I always had hope and faith led me to believe I would. When the babies were born at 3 pounds they were way too tiny for even preemie clothing, and they were kept in just their diapers in their incubators anyway. Too many cords mess with clothing. Just 3 weeks later when we brought them home, the preemie outfits were STILL too big, but wearable. It seems like in the blink of an eye, the girls were in those monkey outfits that finally fit, then all of a sudden they grew too big for them and I had to fold them up and put them away along with all the other teensy cute little stuff.

When you go into a store and see preemie clothing hanging there you always think it is sooo cute and so tiny that no human could possibly fit into something so small. Although it was a bit of a rocky road, I feel kind of lucky that I got to buy the smallest clothing available and put not one, but TWO baby girls in it! It is like what every little girls dreams about when they are playing baby dolls as kids. Plus, we got 2 extra months with our little bundles :) The extra 2 months of waking up all night I could leave, but every other moment I feel grateful to have more of!

 So as I folded the preemie clothing all up, I realized, "Wow. That chapter is OVER! For so long there was so much anticipation and nerves as we awaited them unknowing when or how or if's. They are just regular sized babies now! I mean, they are 4 months and are still in some newborn clothing but they have chubby cheeks, chubby thighs, little pot bellies, and you would never know they started out with legs the size of my fingers! Also bittersweet, is the fact that in folding up and putting away a size set of clothing and getting rid of it means that this is the last time in my life I will do that! The pregnancy and childbearing stage of my life is behind me forever and although of course there are some things I won't ever miss about being pregnant (projectile vomiting, heartburn, that general have been hit by a mack truck feeling and tiredness and body pains anyone?),  there are definitely a lot of things I feel blessed to have experienced and will miss about pregnancy - that first positive test and the excitement, watching a belly grow, coming up with names, and most of all feeling those kicks of life inside of me. Even the birthing/labor experience is something I enjoyed experiencing. Life's greatest moments. LIVING. Living the dream! Putting these little outfits in a box means my last babies are growing up! Those moments will be traded for other sweet ones,ones that I am sooo excited for, but not the same.  But it also hit me like all of a sudden they are just reglular sized, healthy, normal babies and I don't have to worry as much at all anymore! Yay!

So back to last night and my aha moment. I had just gotten one of the most exciting packages in the mail ever yesterday order of matching twin girl 0-3 month clothing from Gymboree - including two tiny flowered dresses with matching cardigans, tiny rufflebutt tights, and shoes among other things. I had it all laid out on my bed, and looking at it for some reason, it hit me like a ton of bricks! "I HAVE TWIN BABY GIRLS!!!! THEY ARE HERE!!! THEY ARE MINE FOREVER! They are ok and healthy and out of NICU and not in preemie clothing and will be coming off their monitors soon, are off of their caffeine, and THEY ARE CHUBBY!! We did this! We are doing this! All quite successfully and even with lots of smiles!" Woah. James and I say to each other randomly all the time, "Hey. We have twins. TWINS!" It is just so unbelievable and I think in my moment last night I realized how "big" our situation was, how wrong it could have went, how AMAZINGLY perfect it went for our situation, and how strong we were through it! When I look at pictures of these little miracles back from their NICU days (which was only over 2 months ago but feels like another lifetime), skinny and hooked up to this and that, they look like different babies. Their faces don't even look the same! They were so much more frail than I ever let myself believe and I thank God daily for modern technology and medicine, and my hospital stay that saved them! I feel almost like that was someone else who was in the hospital, who went into the NICU, not me!

It is a sweet, sweet life, this one I live :)

"How Do You Do It?"...and Other Questions We Always Get

People ask allll the time, "How do you do it? I would go crazy if I were you!" Or when they hear we have twin newborns and a 2 and 5 year old - all girls - James and I always get head shakes and disbelief, even looks of pity! But, for us, each of our girls is nothing short of a miracle, a gift, and a blessing. YES! It is hard. It is nonstop. But not nearly as "hard" as what so many people in this world go through! If this is "our hard", thank you Jesus! Yes it is exhausting, but this is just for a season. The up in the middle of the night stage isn't forever, and when it passes, I am confident we will also miss so many things about this short lived stage.

So, how do we do it? What is life with twins and 4 under 5 like? James and I make a great team - I am so thankful God gave me this man for my husband, partner, and father to my kids. He has been so kind as to make the couch his bed. He always takes the first shift, the first middle of the night feed, out in the living room with the babies sleeping in their swings. Then he brings them back to me and I take the next feed or two back in the bedroom with the babies asleep in their glider. On nights when he is off the next day, he lets me sleep until 5, and then I come out to the couch and let him sleep until 10 in the morning. It works great for us! Also, COFFEE!!!!!!! Coffee makes my day! We are just in our routine, we've figured out what works for us, and we get er' done so to say!

Also, having my mom who helps me once or twice a week is also a Godsend. We went on our first date in months this past weekend. We wouldn't expect anyone to handle watching all 4 kids, so James' mom and her husband watched the big girls, while my parents took the babies. We also take turns taking the big girls on "dates" to get them out of the house and give them a chance at being alone with us. When James gets home at night, he holds the babies while I clean up dinner and give the big girls their bath, which also gives me one on one time with them away from the babies. My babies are good nappers during the day which allows for pumping (I am a slave to my breastpump), household duties (which are never caught up - but it isn't about that right? It is about getting through the day and caring for my children ), eating, etc...

I can't leave out my big girls Abby and Emma. First of all they are very good most of the time for me - loud, but good - and do so well at playing together and keeping themselves busy and entertained. They are so creative and funny! Such little joys to me! I am thankful they have each other. Emma is the worlds best big sister! She is so incredibly helpful to me, and at her own will. Occasionally I ask her for help with something and she is happy to oblige, but a lot of the time she just wants to be a little mommy and she is in love with her baby sisters - and they love her too! She can get them to sleep, and she loves making them "cozy spots" on the couch. When I am in a situation where both are crying and I need to make bottles or something of that sort, she is eager to keep them calm and happy, holding whoever needs held, talking and singing to them, and making them smile. Seeing them smile at her is so incredible! She really does help me get through my days!

Speaking of my older girls, that is what is the hardest truly...feeling like they do not get enough attention from me. Actually, feeling like NOBODY gets enough of me. I feel like I am missing out on each of my children in some way because I am spread so thin. If they weren't all so little, I think it would be easier. I do my best to make them all smile and that is where multitasking comes in again. Even if it is simple things, like while I am washing bottles (which it seems like I am constantly doing) I will let the girls fill up the side of the sink we don't use and let them put their feet in and they love it. Or if I am in the middle of cooking I will play "hide the star" with Emma and while she is searching it gives me time to cook, but she thinks we are just playing. Getting Emma involved and taking advantage of the fact that she always wants to "do whatever you are doing mom!" is also pivotal in my day! Teaching her how to chop vegetables and make eggs, cooking desserts and preparing snacks together is fun for her, allows her one on one time with me, while letting me accomplish something as well. I can manage to hold the 3 little ones all together, but any chance I get I am snuggling and holding my Abigail - she is my big affectionate one who always wants me to hold her. I just wish that I had more time to give to them, to teach them more academic and biblical things. I also wish I had more time to just sit and hold my babies. I am always trying to get them to sleep so I can put them down and get the things done I need to - like making meals for the older girls and myself, pumping, washing bottles and my pump, making dinner, folding wash etc... I rarely get a chance to just hold and enjoy my babies. When I do, even then I am not giving just one attention, it is divided between the two. This hands down is the hardest part of having four wee ones and newborn twins. Also pumping, it is so time consuming, feels so uncomfortable, and inconvenient. But so important to me for the health and immunity of the babies. Now only if all this time I put in pumping would yield this great weight loss it is supposed to...cause, it's definitely not!! Good old fashioned eat right and exercise. And exercise is something also important in keeping our sanity these days. We have always been fit and active people, and James and I try to take turns every other day allowing the other person to go for a run or I do an aerobics video. It feels so good to get out of the house, breathe in fresh air, have solitude, listen to music, and work up a sweat. It is refreshing, and I feel imperative. It puts us in a better mood so we are kinder to each other - which, let's be honest, we aren't always amidst our stresses.

Having the right mindset is the MOST important thing besides prayer. I guess it kind of is a constant prayer, a constant gratitude and awareness. Remembering how these babies were such high risk with unsettling odds and had as good a chance of not making it as they did surviving - and they did - gives a huge sense of gratitude. Remembering how blessed we are to have children when some cannot, remembering what is truly important in a day, splitting duties and knowing we are each giving our all, and just rememebering even if it is challenging at the time, it will be so worth it later. Remembering "this too shall pass" in those tough moments and cherishing even them because there will be a time we will miss this! Remembering the present is a present. Considering all the people in the world who are truly struggling and suffering. Modern day slaves, sexually trafficked women and girls, severely handicapped people, hungry beggars, the abused and neglected and poor. Thinking, even at 2am when I'd rather be sleeping, how lucky I am to have these babies, to have a warm bed, a heated house, clean water and nourishing formula along with the ability to give them breastmilk when some people cannot produce it. When my house is a mess and I am slicing my foot on a toy and cursing under my breath, that I am still grateful to be a stay at home mom, in a warm house that I love, in my cozy yoga pants and sweatshirts, with a fridge full of food and 4 beautiful children, a crackling fire, and we are all healthy. It is all in your attitude and we have kept ours happy, fun, and positive for the most part. Of course, like anyone, we have our "moments"! You remember where you were, where you could have been, and be grateful for where you are.

Honestly, I think we rock this :)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Life at Home with our Little Angels

Well for obvious and wonderful reasons I have not had much time to update this blog but no news is good news in this case :) Ava and Aubrey came home after just 3 short weeks in the NICU. They came home at 35 weeks which is amazing and we were so blessed that they didn't have any setbacks! Through that week it was touch and go with whether just one would come home or both, but it was amazing to be able to bring both home together! The day was crazy and we didn't get home until 8:00 that night, but what a joy to be able to place the babies in the arms of their big sisters!!

I must say, in my mind I was prepared for what an extremely difficult thing I thought having twins would be. My oldest daughter was extremely colicky with severe reflux as a baby, and she cried ALL. DAY. LONG. And, all night too. It was very difficult. When my second daughter came along, she seemed much easier, but neither of them would let me lay them in a swing or bouncy seat. They both screamed if they weren't held. When you have a baby with reflux, letting them "cry it out" doesn't work because that results in one of two things. 1) The baby projectile vomiting all over and creating more work, wash, etc... or 2) The baby turns blue and stops breathing she is so worked up and gagging. My husband and I spend 5 months straight bouncing on an exercise ball with Emma to keep her calm and happy. All of this being said, when I tell you that we used to often say, "Having twins would be easier than this", when THAT actually happened I wondered if I would eat my words. But it's true! These babies are so easy and very content. So far at least! The fact that they let us put them down in their swing/bouncy seats for large chunks of time is amazing! Of course I wish I could just snuggle them most of the day, but with 2 older kids to take care of and a house to keep up with, what a huge blessing to have content easy babies! They are, together, indeed our easiest yet!

They love to snuggle together in the same swing and I wonder what will happen when they get too big to fit in there together, hehe :) Yesterday when I got them out of the swing (they contentedly laid in there for 3 hours which allowed me to clean up, make breakfast, pump, get dressed and wash my face etc...) Ava's hair was all sticky and wet and matted down on one whole side of her head and I realized it was because Aubrey had been licking her sister's head! Occasionally something extra super cute happens, like they hold hands!!

Ava is our more content one. She is like her mama in the fact that she loves her sleep. She sleeps much more peacefully and longer than Aubrey. Ava "calls" less in the middle of the night. She also doesn't eat quite as much or as vigorously as Aubrey. That is where Aubrey is like her mama - she LOVES to eat and she does it a lot! Aubrey is the more fussy one, even though she is quite content overall. She has her eyes open much more often, looking all around and taking it in. She "calls" much more in the middle of the night and needs more snuggles from us. In my tummy Aubrey was the one who was always moving and I always said I don't know when she slept. I rarely felt Ava move. So it is funny that now it remains the same - Ava is the sleepyhead and Aubrey is the wakey pants.

Everyone asks how we tell them apart. The answer to that is that we don't!!! We left Ava's hospital bracelet on her ankle, but this week she outgrew it so we painted her big toenail pink to tell who is who. Although they had been home for 2 weeks, last week I noticed that Aubrey has a teeny pink blood vessel showing through her one eyelid and not many people see it but I do and can tell them apart that way now. Try that in the middle of the night though. There is a lot of "who do you have?", "I have the one in dots", "the one in the striped blanket pooped." etc...!!

The babies are the softest, cutest, tiniest little things and I am so thankful for them and for what the journey with them has taught us. Each and every time I hold them and look at them I still cannot believe this happened to me, that my body created this, that God chose us, and that I have twins!!! I am soooooo excited for life with them, and with all my girls! I look forward to watching them grow and see who they look like, whether they will have blonde or brown hair, blue or brown eyes. I look forward to sleeping through the night again too!

At the doctor this week, Ava weighed 5.8 pounds and Aubrey 5.14, so they are up 2 pounds since they were born. Still super tiny, they are getting some chubs on their thighs and they outgrew (by length) their first preemie outfit! Preemie diapers are now actually fitting them and not swallowing them. It is crazy to think that they have been with us for 6 weeks but they still wouldn't be born yet until December 11th!!!

The biggest challenges have of course been the night time, the babies not nursing because they are used to a bottle from the NICU plus my supply being low, and Abigail adjusting to sharing my attention. My husband is so great and takes a few hours at night to let me sleep. My mom comes over almost every day to let me nap and she keeps up with my wash and does odd jobs here and there, and occasionally takes the big girls overnight to get some attention and fun without the babies. I am so blessed to have help. I have been so content and happy and have only had one or two moments where I felt close to tears and frazzled. For 6 weeks with 4 kids under 5 I think that's pretty remarkable! At night when one is content and asleep the other is fussy and awake sometimes and that is really challenging but I know it is only for a season. I also pump since the babies won't nurse, and bottle feeding plus pumping is very time consuming but I refuse to settle for anything less than the absolute best for these babies especially since as preemies their nutritional and immunity needs are greater.

We have had a few other challenges aside from the babies since they have been home, things like the heater in the house going, the transmission in a car going etc..., but when you get through something like we just did and look at the two tiny miracles in front of us, it puts so much in perspective and things that would have seemed so big seem so small. We are so blessed and so thankful!

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Little Stronger Every Day

I cannot believe that three weeks have passed since I had Ava and Aubrey! Time certainly has flown by, but overall through this whole experience it went fast. My babies have done exceptionally well and have exceeded my expectations! I was more worried about NICU complications than anything I had to worry about, and their stay has been picture perfect. I almost want to pinch myself. After a week, they came off of their oxygen and IV's and this week they "graduated" into the annex, a room outside of the NICU that is for babies who are just feeding and growing!  They began taking bottles and Aubrey came off of her feeding tube - that yucky old thing that goes down their little noses into their bellies that they pull out constantly and have to get put back in. Seeing her precious little face with not a single thing on it was so awesome!!! Ava needs to do a better job finishing her bottles and then she will be able to come off of hers too.

Tonight was our first attempt at breastfeeding. I have been pumping milk and taking it to them for their bottles since they were born, but a baby is not capable of suck/breathe/swallow until 34 weeks at the earliest and they had to get some bottles first. With my older girls, breastfeeding was very challenging for me at first so I was kind of nervous about breastfeeding the twins. First up was Ava, and she latched right on like a pro and nursed like a little champ! Next it was Aubrey's turn and she too sucked away like she's done it all her little life. It was such an incredible moment and feeling, to be nourishing my babies and watch them succeed yet again! To look down at them and feel them feeding from me instead of a plastic pump was so rewarding and satisfying!

I have kind of had this weird feeling since I had them that I am still pregnant or something because I am still waiting for them in a way - waiting for them to come home. When I visit them sometimes it feels like they are not mine yet, and in some ways they aren't because I have to leave them. I only get to be with them an hour or two a day and someone tells me what I can and cannot do. I feel like I am still waiting to "have my babies". Nursing them tonight, I felt like they were MINE. I could see them coming home for real. I could imagine those middle of the night cries that only I can quiet. I love that they have their mommy. Everything in the NICU is so sterile and plastic and medical - including the gloved hand that usually feeds them from a plastic bottle. To see them snuggled in my arms, against my skin, nursing felt like heaven to me and I know to them it did too! And the best part is we are just DAYS away from them really being 100% all mine :)

The doctor tonight told me that the twins have soared through and will go home in the next week, with Aubrey potentially going home in just days!! We have to first get training sessions on CPR and the monitors that they will need to go home on. These monitors are attached to cords that stick onto their bellies to alert us if their heart rates or oxygenation go dangerously low. It will be just a bit of an inconvenience, but very welcome in my opinion because I will not worry as much if they are ok. The babies also have to pass the carseat test, where they have to sit for 90 minutes in their carseats without having "events" with their breathing or heartrates. Once Ava takes her bottles better and gets her feeding tube out she can come home too! It was so weird having babies and coming home from the hospital empty handed. To fold their tiny wash and put it away but have them not here. I am SOOOO excited they are coming home! No more never seeing my husband because when he gets home from work I go into NICU. Our whole family will be together for the holidays. That is the only gift I need!

Another exciting thing happened this week with the babies' move into the NICU annex. Unlike the regular NICU, there is a window in the Annex, and Emma and Abigail FINALLY got to see their baby twin sisters! We have all waited for this moment and I didn't think they would get to see their sisters until they came home. I knew Emma was excited but Abigail usually cries out of jealousy when she sees me holding other babies so I wasn't sure how she would respond.  As soon as the curtain opened, just inches and some glass between the four girls, Abby and Emma had immediate giant smiles and twinkling eyes as they stared at their baby sisters. I could lightly hear them through the glass and they were singing twinkle twinkle little star to the babies, Abby repeating after Emma. I heard Emma say, "Aren't you babies just so blessed to have a wonderful big sister like me?". Then later at night Abby said a couple of times, "I saw baby Ava today!". Emma and Abigail are little buddies these days and it just melts my heart! They say the cutest things to each other and I am  really glad they have each other. I like this even number amount of kids thing - everyone has someone :)

Listening to the nurses talk tonight, they were saying how the babies in the Annex are all doing so well and that it is not the case in the regular NICU, there are a lot of babies who are not doing so well. My heart breaks for those mothers and babies, and I feel so very blessed my babies are doing well.

Driving home the other night, even though I am always so sad to leave my babies, I felt such a peace that everything in my life is perfectly in place and all is as it should be. My drive is about 35 minutes, and I love where I live. I love watching city turn to country with my country music playing. I love my small town, even if in high school we called it "the potpie curtain". I love that there is only one stoplight in the whole town, that the grocery store is the smallest of any I know around, and that it is surrounded by fields. I love that my kids will go to school where I did and that the man in the hardware store knows me by name. I love that this is where God put us to raise our 4 daughters. At the beginning of all this when we were told these babies were boys, I thought that 2 girls and 2 boys was the perfect family, but now I think these 4 girls are the perfect family. Being home with my big girls has been so fun too. We trick or treated twice and have kept busy with crafts, books, snuggles, and movies. I am so thankful to be out of the hospital for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas!

I sing to the babies when I am in there, usually Twinkle Twinkle, You are My Sunshine, and Jesus Loves Me among others. The first week I could only hum because for some reason when I would sing I would start to cry. Now I can sing, and actually finish a song. When I was singing Jesus Loves Me to them the other day, "they are weak but He is strong" stuck out like a sore thumb among the lyrics of all the songs I was singing. So true. My babies are the tiniest, frailest, weakest and most vulnerable human beings right now. Weaker than they will ever be in their whole lives probably. But their God, my God, your God - He is so strong. Stronger than anything this world can bring. Because He is strong, I was able to be strong throughout my pregnancy and hospital stay. My strength is derived from Him alone and I am so grateful to have had my faith through all of this. He is strong, and my babies are in His care, in His will. My babies are showered with prayer from hundreds of amazing and caring people. They are weak, but He is strong. How amazing. And they get less weak and more strong every day.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Birth of Ava and Aubrey

My beautiful little momo miracles are here! In my last few blogs if you remember I was tortured about the decision between delivering at 32 or 34 weeks, and at first even the doctors were not sure or in agreement. When they decided 32 weeks, I felt as at peace as I could and agreed...but our babies had other plans anyway!! Our one day early birds :) This blog is a long one (aren't they all?) because I haven't had the chance to really write!
It was just one day before my scheduled 32 week C-Section. The morning started like any other morning during my two month stay in the hospital. I woke up thinking, "My last full day pregnant! Tomorrow I have my babies!" My excitement was paired with a touch of nervousness as I wondered what the C section would be like, how hungry I would be since I woudn't be able to eat or drink from the night before, and picturing my mom and James by my side watching the babies come into the world. I hoped my 10am time would not get bumped back because I just wanted it overwith. As I wondered about that next day, I had breakfast, got dressed, did some hamster wheel laps, and then got on the monitor. Same old. Between two nurses they couldn't get the babies to stay on - which was really nothing out of the ordinary and had been an issue on and off the whole hospital stay because the babies moved so much. After little success, the nurses decided to have a Resident come with the ultrasound machine to find the babies so they could get them on the monitor good. Once they found them, the resident held one monitor on baby A and the other nurse held another monitor on baby B. My lunch tray had arrived and I was hungry and since I had the gestational diabetes I ate a bowl of soup while I layed there to ward off becoming symptomatic. I was watching Rachel Ray, then The View. The resident and nurse every once in awhile would say that baby A was having decels. This also was nothing new really, the babies always had some decels due to the cord compression. After a couple though, I could tell on their faces that they were getting a bit concerned and they began counting the decels and how long they lasted. The resident said she was just going to go call my Doctor just to let him know...

Next thing I know, minutes later, my doctor was there in my room, standing at the foot of my bed and said, "So how about we have some babies today? They need to come out. Now. We cannot wait until tomorrow." My heart started racing, which the monitor picked up and started dinging! A million thoughts raced through my head. I had always known, every time I went on the monitor this could and probably eventually would happen but on this day, one day before we were scheduled, it didn't even cross my mind. Were my babies ok? How bad was this? Would they survive until they got them out and them getting them out? Would James be able to make it here in time? My mom? It was just ONE DAY before the scheduled section, was this for real?? And so many more racing thoughts and questions. With two nurses, a resident, and the dr. all looking at me, I of course said, "Ok?!" followed by multiple questions I rattled off to the nurses as the doctor left to get ready. He had told me to call my husband and mom right away, but he wasn't sure if the anesthesiologist was going to put me completely to sleep due to the urgency and the fact that I had eaten, and if he did then nobody would be allowed in the C Section. Of course I wanted to just get my babies out healthy, but I felt crushed that one day early and I would be put to sleep and not experience any of it with my loved ones by my side. As the nurses scurried around, getting an IV in my arm etc, I was asking some of the less important million questions in my mind: "Can I pee quick? (I had been laying on the monitor for over an hour and was about dying!) Can I brush my teeth? Can I drink some water quick? (That soup made me parched!) When will we know if I have to be put to sleep?" And I was shaking trying to call James and my mom and quick post on facebook to ask for prayer from all the wonderful people who I knew were praying for us!

The answers to my questions were, No, I couldn't get out of bed to pee, drink, brush my teeth, or anything else. They whisked me, in my bed, down to labor and delivery where I was quickly prepped and met James. He was thankfully at work, which is 20 minutes closer to the hospital than if he were at home, plus he didn't have the kids so that aspect was far less complicated. My dad couldn't find my mom though, she was at the mall with my big girls and had no phone reception and was not answering. I told James if my mom didn't make it that my mother in law could come in if she wanted, since she was on her way already. The doctor told me that they would just do a spinal so I could stay awake and have James in with me. Whew!

 I went in alone to get the spinal, rolled over, and they wasted NO time. All of a sudden I just felt all this tugging, and within a minute or two heard the tiniest gargly cry and "Baby A! Girl!" then just seconds later "Baby B! Nuchal Cord! Girl!" and another weak little cry. They were out already?!  Happiness and relief and wonder and sheer amazement. Followed by wondering where was my husband??? Where was my mom??? Why aren't they in here? Why didn't anyone get them? All of a sudden they came barging in and James looked over the curtain waiting for the babies to come out...I told him they had already been born and to go look in the bassinets surrounded by the NICU team each baby was assigned to. He took pictures of each baby girl to show me and watched the NICU work on the babies' breathing. They let him cut one of the cords.

Speaking of cords, the reason half of momo's die is due to the inevitable knots and twists that cause compression in the cords of the babies since there is no separation by membrane in a mono mono pregnancy. Our cords tell the story of the MIRACLE of life these babies are. The GRACE of GOD and the blessing of my inpatient stay and the monitoring session that caught the decels in Ava that morning. Decels from the knots that were cutting off her oxygen and nutrient supply. Just ONE morning before I was scheduled. Furthermore, Aubrey's cord was around her neck (nuchal cord). Had I not been inpatient in the hospital, my precious babies would have died. Looking at the giant knot of knots that their umbilical cords were, it is beyond amazing that they made it, and that they made it as far as they did. This is not even just one little is knots within knots - although all it takes to kill a baby is one little knot.

At 31 weeks and 6 days old, our Ava Mae was born at 2:37pm and weighed 3 lbs. 9 oz and was 16 and a half inches long. Aubrey Elle was born second, also at 2:37pm and weighed 3 lbs. 8 oz and was 16 inches long. They are so so so beautiful and perfect in every way. Mae is after my grandmother, and Elle is after my husband's father, Elmer, who passed away 5 years ago. My first impression was that they look so much like my oldest daughter Emma, and my husband. The babies weights were exactly what maternal fetal medicine estimated at my last ultrasound just a few days before the delivery! Crazy!

Before each babies' team rushed them up to NICU, I got to see each baby girl face to face. I waited and waited and there they were, so tiny and quiet and precious - and MINE, and ALIVE - just inches from my face. I was almost afraid to breathe on them or to touch them! Through that whole 2 months in the hospital I wondered if I would be able to hear them cry or see them before they were taken to NICU. The fact that I experienced both was so awesome and exceeded my expectations! I was grateful James was at least there while I got stitched back together, and I chatted to Emma a bit too! I wished my mom could have been there, and that James and her would have been sitting there watching each baby come out into the world, but the bottom line is that this was an emergent C Section - my babies were born in the SAME MINUTE, and they are survivors - beautiful and healthy. That is what truly matters.

After 2 hours in recovery they wheeled my bed into the NICU to see the babies. James got to hold one and I held the other. I really don't remember this I was so drugged from the morphine!! Thank goodness there are pictures if it.  I could barely keep my eyes open I remember that! The NICU was actually full, but since I was a patient for 2 months they promised to keep my babies instead of shipping them off to St. Christopher's in Philly and I was SO grateful for that! So the babies ended up in a small room off of the NICU which was actually kind of private and more quiet.

It all happened so quickly and suddenly, out of nowhere, and suprised us all! I had no time to lose sleep, agonize, worry, dream, or anything. In this sense it was good! It was also nice for me that I got to have that bowl of soup and still stay awake for the C Section. Most of all, I am so grateful for the fact that the babies and God decided on their own - 32 weeks and 34 weeks aside - and I will never ever have to carry the burden or worry that the doctors or I may have made the "wrong" decision in choosing 32 weeks. It happened on it's own, and just ONE day early so it didn't compromise on the babies gestational development. I had 3 rounds of steriods in me and it really couldn't have happened any better. I wish there were more time for my husband to have gotten in there and see the babies be born, but other than that it was pretty sweet!
I stayed in the hospital for 4 days, James was able to be there 3 of the 4 with me, and it was so nice to be just steps up the hall from our babies and be able to go visit them whenever we wanted. I felt great the first 2 days after the C Section and was walking around good, packed my room of 2 months up, and began pumping milk for the babies. By day 3 and 4 I was in considerable pain but was still grateful to be as close as possible to the babies. The day we left, I cried leaving the babies - real crying, more than ever through this journey so far. All morning just the thought of driving away from the hospital, and them, filled my eyes with tears. I didn't want to leave them. In my mind I knew it would be hard but I never knew how hard it would be. I expected to be way more excited to be busting out of the hospital after so long and go home to my house and my big girls and my husband but my heart was just broken. Halfway through the drive home, as I looked at the fall scenery and city change to country I started to feel a little better (I think my Starbucks Pumpkin Latte helped too). I just tried to keep telling myself they are in the best hands, and they are ALIVE. I could be driving away from a much worse situation. They were created by God as Momo twins, and their destiny was death or an early birth and weeks in the NICU. This is how it is supposed to be and they are in the best situation for their situation.

Pulling up to MY HOUSE, the colorful mums James had planted while I was gone, and pumpkins on the porch put a smile in my heart. The door opened and Emma and Abby yelled, "MOM!" with huge smiles plastered on their precious little faces, I walked in to hugs and kisses galore. Abby said, "Mom! You home from hops-it-awl! Yayy!" and she kept saying it over and over (and she still keeps saying it over and over). Emma kept staring at me and hugging and kissing me and saying she was so glad I was home. My mom had my house cleaned up a bit and my fall decorations out, pumpkin candles burning. It felt SO good to sit on my sofa after sitting in a hospital bed for so long. My kitchen, my bed, my shower, my yard. Oh my goodness I cannot express to you how good coming home to THIS LIFE, my life, felt! We had picked up a pizza from Pizza Hut, and sat down at the dining room table. Looking around it at the faces I love looking back at me with big smiles was just the most incredible feeling. Knowing there will soon be 2 more spots filled at that table, and dreaming of all the family dinners and memories that will happen there with our complete family is just the best feeling. Snuggling with my older daughters in some way helped ease the sadness of missing my babies I left behind. And then naptime, in MY BED with my soft cozy covers and my wonderful husband by my side. I am SO GLAD TO BE HOME!!!! And yet so very grateful for the experience God gave to me, lessons learned, and the fact that my babies lives were saved by that long hospital stay.

Ava and Aubrey are now 10 days old, and are doing well. They breathe the same air you and I do, they got taken off of their CPap breathing machines about a week after birth. I was so thankful a few days ago when they were able to lose their IV's. That was the hardest part for me because their tiny veins kept blowing day after day and each time we would visit, the IV would be in a new spot and most recently in their tiny little heads. The nurse said it took up to an hour to try to get the IV's into a vein. As an adult I know how that feels and to think of such tiny frail beings having to go through that, without me to hold or comfort them just crushed me daily. That on top of bloodwork, x-rays, and the other things they go through. But you know what? All these things save their sweet little lives! And it was just a week and my little fighters were able to come off of all of that! They pulled the cpap out of their noses so often that they had to keep getting it retaped to their faces and their skin was red and peeling off. I am so thankful for medical technology and yet so glad they didn't need much of it for that long!

They now just have their monitors on to measure their oxygenation and heartrates, and a tube that goes down their nose into their stomach for their feeds. In a week or so they can begin to be bottle fed but with preemies, the suck/swallow/breathe thing takes quite a bit of time and practice. Once they get that down pat and come out of their incubators and can keep their own temperatures, then they can come home. We still have a few weeks ahead of us but they are doing great. Our only setback has been some jaundice and Ava had some stomach problems but they held a feed and her x-rays and bloodwork came back fine. Their brainscans showed no brain bleeds. Also, during my stay in the hospital, a crew was working on the brand new NICU extension that is super modern, cozy, and holds 8 babies. A week after Ava and Aubrey were born they cut the ribbon and opened this new NICU. Ava and Aubrey got to be two of the eight lucky babies to go into this modern and comfortable space. It is great for us, and what are the odds it would open the week my babies are born? Thanks God :)

Praise God for these miracles, and for the hands that delivered them and take care of them. I miss them every minute I am not with them. Holding them is absolute heaven, and holding them both together for the first time was absolutely one of life's greatest moments ever! It is well known that with preemies it's not over till it's over and two steps forward, one step back. Until they are home in my arms I will not rest easy 100%. But they have not ceased to amaze me, and neither has my God. I look at my husband and smile, knowing that I get to share and live this life with him and our 4 amazing, beautiful, miraculous daughters. We are blessed and my heart is so happy!