So, my babies are more than four weeks old, now, and I’ve just realized I haven’t written about it here. Most of my approximately eight blog readers already know the details, since I’ve talked about it in all my usual online places, but I consider my blog to be the ONE place I sort of keep a journal, since heck knows I certainly don’t do any writing on actual paper anymore. Anyway. If you’ve already heard it all, feel free to skip with my blessing. 🙂
It all started with contractions. I never had contractions with J & A, so the first time I encountered Braxton-Hicks this pregnancy was a little scary for me. Actually, it was a lot scary: it had me in tears. I wasn’t sure whether my version was really normal or how to tell whether or not they were the real thing. But soon, I became used to the little buggers, and they became a weekly fact of life for me. No big deal.
That’s how I knew when the real thing came along.
One Saturday night, after a miserable day of, admittedly, far too much time on my feet, the contractions started. I assumed they were the usual fakers at first, so I didn’t worry much. But then I realized these were longer. And more intense. After about 20 minutes, I realized that they were also coming more consistently, so I started keeping track. Every five minutes, I was having a minute-long contraction. “Hrmmm,” I thought. “That doesn’t seem good.” I was only 32 weeks pregnant. Having regular contractions at 32 weeks pregnant is most assuredly not good.
I decided I’d keep on waiting and paying attention, and see what happened. A while later, it started to seem like maybe things were slowing down–we had a break of about 20 minutes with no contractions–but I wasn’t sure. Justin didn’t like it, and I was hemming and hawing. It was 9:30. Our kids were in bed for the night. I didn’t feel like bothering my some poor family member with babysitting during the wee hours. I was feeling a little complacent about the whole thing, but I was tired of being nervous.
So I decided to pray. (Most of you know I don’t talk a whole lot about my religion online–at least, not on my blog–but things came together in a very strange way, and, well, it is what it is.) “Heavenly Father,” I said, “I have no idea what’s going on. I’m a little worried, but it could be nothing. If it is nothing, great, but I’d really like the contractions to stop. Would you make the contractions stop? Oh. Um. But Heavenly Father, if something is wrong, then there’d be no way for me to know. So if there’s a reason I need to go in to the hospital, please make the contractions continue. If they keep up regularly, I’ll know I need to go in. If everything’s fine, though, please just make them stop. I’m tired, and I don’t want to do this. But if they keep going, I’ll know something’s wrong.”
An hour later, I was whining that the contractions were still going.
Justin kept looking at me like worried husbands do, but I wasn’t really processing any of it. It had just become a part of my night: messing around online, clicking a button on my timer when a contraction started, and generally ignoring the pain as much as possible. When he asked me again what I wanted to do, I started to tell him it was fine–there was nothing to worry about–I’d said a little prayer, and things…duh. DUH. I’d prayed that the contractions would continue if something was wrong so we’d know to GET TO THE HOSPITAL! We called my brother, loaded the pajama-ed kids into the car, and got ourselves outta there in record time.
Now, keep in mind, I still didn’t think there was too much to worry about. I knew that the regular contractions weren’t good at this point, but I figured it was just that my body needed help calming down. They’d watch me for a bit, give me some meds to stop the contractions, and send me home. Oh, and ultrasound me. I hadn’t had an ultrasound since 19 weeks, and it had been concerning me for the last several days. I was fairly sure everything was fine, but I had been a bit irritated that my doctor wasn’t following what I knew to be protocol with twins, and I wanted to SEE that everything was fine. So I was prepared to mention it to everyone I saw at the hospital, and make sure we got a peek at everyone’s fluids. In the back of my mind, I had been prepared for days to fight and make sure that everyone got looked at soon. But, regardless, I was certain I’d be home by the next day, and this hospital visit would be no big deal.
The first part of our visit went exactly as expected. The nurses placed monitors, the doctor checked my cervix, they swabbed me for a Fetal Fibronectin test, had me pee in a cup, etc. Then a lot of waiting. A lot of waiting. It was clear I was still having regular contractions, but keeping the monitors on me and the babies proved a challenge. Audrey was her usual feisty self, kicking and moving. But Rowan was incredibly hard to find. It wasn’t so much that he’d move around…he’d simply drop away. We finally realized, after using an ultrasound machine, that he was hiding behind my hip bone. Um, nice. That meant an entire night of lying uncomfortably on one hip, back tweaked, so the nurses could try and listen to Rowan’s heartbeat. Ever try to lie on your hip with several pounds of pregnant belly resting on it? Oh, and throw some pubic symphysis dysfunction in there, just for kicks. It was a miserable night of no sleep. I’d drift off, now and then, with the nurses holding the monitors to me, but just as I’d begin to really get some rest, Audrey would move, or Rowan would disappear, and I’d need to shift so the nurses could find everyone again.
At some point during this night-of-no-rest, the doctor came in and told me that the labor and delivery ward was my new home. I have vague memories of a discussion about trying to monitor everyone and make my contractions stop. She gave me some Nifedipene, and told me I’d continue to get that so that the contractions stayed at bay, and that I needed to get comfortable there in the hospital. I got a steroid shot for the babies’ lungs. I got IV fluids. I have no idea at what unholy hour all of that happened, but I do know that Rowan was worrying her. I remember the consternation on her face as she looked at the monitor, and the nurse showed her how Rowan’s heartbeat had been dropping from his usual 150s to around 90 bpm. And then the monitoring continued, but with a new intensity. I knew something was wrong.
Around 5 am, the doctor came in again for a chat. She had paged the maternal-fetal specialist. She wanted this doctor to take another look inside via ultrasound, because something just wasn’t right in there. Rowan’s heartbeat was concerning her–she’d thought maybe he’d been rolling over on his umbilical cord, but it was happening an awful lot, and she wanted the specialist to double-check everything and see what she thought. This is when the voice in my head started preparing me: “Something is wrong. They’re coming today. They’re going to tell you they need to come out. Something is wrong. Everything will be OK.”
Justin was asleep on the couch.
Immediately, I was being wheeled over to the ultrasound room to meet the specialist. She started taking measurements, chatting with me a bit, but clearly being as quick and efficient as she could. Her eyebrows were furrowed, and unlike the doctor during the first ultrasound, she kept the screen tilted toward herself. The OB stayed near me, patting and rubbing my feet. Clearly, she was worried. In my head, I continued to hear, “They’re coming out. Prepare yourself. They’re going to take them out.”
About ten minutes later, the specialist turned her screen toward me. She showed me the babies’ heads, which looked good. Then she showed me their tummies. Rowan’s was tiny. Just so, so much smaller than Audrey’s. She looked at me, clearly full of worry and compassion, and said, “I think his best chance is to take him.” I felt the rock drop in my gut. My head was swimming: I couldn’t concentrate. But at the same time, I realized I had already known that it was coming, and I was prepared. So I shook my head clear, and as cheerfully as I could, I quipped, “Let’s do it!” The doctors chuckled with relief, and the specialist said, “Let’s go tell Daddy we’re having a birthday!””
And that’s when it occurred to me to be terrified. I started shaking deep in my stomach, and didn’t stop for ages. They rolled me back into my room, where I found Justin still dead asleep. I woke him by announcing (though mangling it, in my nervousness) that it was “birth-day!” and he shot awake, completely confused. The doc left to page my OB, and the nurses started prepping my room. I went into the bathroom to stare at myself in the mirror, hang on to the sink and get hold of myself, and then had Justin come in with me and hug me for a minute. I was still shaking. He gave me a blessing, I took a deep breath, and then we went back out and got prepped for surgery. One hour had passed since the doctor had told me the specialist was coming in. It was 6 am.
I started calling and texting everyone I could think of, and the reality that my babies would be here started to sink in. On top of the nervousness, I got really excited. I was glad my stomach was empty, so I couldn’t throw up. About half an hour later, I was prepped, my OB had arrived, and I was being wheeled into the OR! I was still terrified. I knew deep down that everything would be fine, but the whole situation had come about so quickly and with so little warning that I just felt completely thrown off. I sat on the OR table, bent over and waiting for my spinal, listening for my husband and my OB, and trying not to cry. It was the most terrifying experience I’ve ever been through. I was so grateful for the small kindnesses–the nurse who stood in front of me and stroked my hand, my doctor who touched his forehead to mine and told me everything would be alright, the hospital doctors and nurses who talked me through every bit of the preparatory process and helped me to feel like I was a part of it, instead of like it was happening TO me. That lack of control can be a scary thing. I was especially thankful for the anesthesiologist who was so attentive. He stood right by my head and asked me every couple of minutes how I was feeling, and took care of any discomfort for me. Justin sat by my head and made stupid jokes, which was just the levity I needed in my nervous mood, and my OB and his assistant described everything they were doing, and asked several times to make sure I was alright. Through the whole ordeal, I felt like the entire team was really considerate of my needs. They were all very comforting, and I’m so grateful for that. It would have been horrible and terrifying if it hadn’t been for all those wonderful people, caring for me.
In the end, my lovely children were born, tiny but so healthy! Rowan Michael arrived at 7:29 am on January 10th. He cried immediately, and was whisked over to be examined and cleaned up, but once he was wrapped and ready to be taken to the NICU, his nurse brought him over to me so he could have a kiss from his mama. He was so, so tiny. I’ve never seen a little head so small. Amazing.
Audrey Claire, the little girl who I still can’t believe is REALLY a little girl, came just one minute later at 7:30. The doctor lifted her right over the sheet so I could peek at her. I still get teary, thinking of that screaming little face peering at me.
In all, the babies’ health has been quite good. Rowan was 3 pounds at birth–far better than expected–and Audrey was 3 pounds 10 oz. Audrey needed a ventilator for a day or so, and both needed nasal cannulas for a few days. They were on IV dextrose for a while–Rowan longer, since he was smaller. At 4 weeks old, they’ve both graduated from 20 calorie breast milk to 24 calorie preemie formula, back down to 22 calorie formula with some extra vitamins. Rowan and Audrey are taking 40 and 50 mL, respectively, and as soon as they can take all of their feedings from a bottle with no need for nasal gavage tubes, those can come out. Rowan’s doing much better with that. Audrey’s holding her temp well; Rowan’s still almost a pound lighter, so it’s not as easy for him. But there have been no major health issues at all, and we’ve been very lucky. Blessed, really. I still don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t gone to the hospital that night. Both my doctor and theirs are in agreement that Rowan didn’t have much time left, and my body was trying to tell me something. Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have listened. Just another example of the importance of prayer in my life, and how I feel they’re answered. We’re extremely grateful.