August 1, 2014

Happy Birthday to the most beautiful girls in the world...

On Wednesday July 30, 2014 my heart became complete as we welcomed our little loves to the world. As I lay on a table, 35 weeks along and numb with a spinal and a sheet pulled up to my chest, my amazing doctors Dr. Kittle, Dr. Baker and a surgical resident Dr. Keller quickly began my scheduled c-section. With bright lights and noises all I around I felt some pulling and pressure but my heart was so filled with anticipation I can't even remember if it was uncomfortable. Everything happened so quickly and before I knew it my beautiful babies were pulled from inside me, took their first breaths of air and let out the most incredible screams I had ever heard.

Juliette Marie joined our family at 8:13 a.m. weighing in at 4 lbs. 9 oz, 21 inches long and Vivienne Mae followed quickly after at 8:14 a.m. weighing 4 lbs. 2 oz. and measuring 17 and 1/2 inches long. After getting cleaned up and photographed by OR nurse Alyson they were swaddled and brought over for their first snuggles with Mom and Dad. The sight and smell of my girls was like the most intoxicating drug I could imagine and my heart filled with a more incredible love than I could have ever dreamed up. As the anesthesiologist, Emily, held a screaming Juliette up to my face I quickly did all I could and kissed her tiny face, breathing in her smell, and was even more amazed as I shushed her and she quieted down immediately. Although her eyes were not open she turned her tiny head to the sound of my voice and snuggled right in. Dad was a natural at holding them and did not want to let them go, describing to me the dark hair peaking out from under their hats and how light and tiny they felt in his arms. We switched and my Vivienne was brought in for our first touch and just like her sister she was instantly calmed at the smell of me and the sound of my shushing. She opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue and I instantly felt a push to help her eat but considering the circumstances that was not possible so we settled for a few kisses instead.

All too quickly my babies were whisked away to the NICU by Dr. Markowitz with promises that we could visit as soon as I left recovery. Dr. K talked technique with a surgical resident while closing me up. I remember asking if they cut my tattoo and everyone laughing as Dr. K said "No, of course not." Dad and I cried a bit as we marveled over how beautiful our girls were, how strong their cries had been and how quickly it all happened. I thanked the team over and over for their support and they all agreed that our girls were so beautiful, even though they were smaller than we thought they would be. Soon I was wheeled to recovery where Alyson kept us company and I began to get feeling back in my body. Dr. Kittle stopped by to check on me and said everything had gone perfectly and that he would be back Friday to check on me. C spent the whole time texting everyone we know the news and receiving tons of congratulations. By 11am I was so ready to go see my girls in the NICU. And oh what a sight it was.  I have to admit it was one of the most bittersweet and conflicting moments of my life. My mind knew that what I was seeing was ok and necessary but my heart was screaming that this was not right. My arms literally ached to hold them and my eyes filled with tears as they wheeled my bed right up to the bed that held my big baby girl Juliette, with her beautiful dark brown hair and At this point they were both only on IV and they were settling in nicely but something in my heart told me Jules had a battle ahead of her. I'm glad their eyes were still closed so they couldn't see how much it killed their mother to see them and not hold them. We said hello and she turned to our voices, making my heart soar. Too soon it was time to go so we wheeled over to visit Vivienne, our little peanut. I couldn't believe how much smaller she was than her sister, but I knew instantly that she was strong as her tiny hand grasped my finger with a grip that was entirely unexpected. Before I knew it it was time to head to our room so we said some see you soons and headed off to see the family.

Grandmothers Nova (my mom) and Jama (C's mom), GiGi (great grandma), Papa T (my dad) and Aunt K (my sister) were waiting in the waiting room and seeking as much support as I could I called them immediately to let them know we were ready for them.  They brought adorable gifts and we have a little Noah's Ark on our window now of animals lined up two by two. I was still numb and just starting the pain meds so I stayed behind and visited with the group while C took them one by one to meet the girls. We talked about the surgery and how they looked and as people returned from the NICU what the next leg of our journey looked like. I could tell it was just as hard on everyone else seeing the girls in their boxes rather than my arms. Family is the best soothing for the soul though and it was so nice to just sit and visit. We talked about the day and created memory lists for the girls, including famous people born on the same day and any fun anecdotes from our morning. I started my list of all the amazing people I had come in contact with so I could write up thank yous at some point. My nurse, Maureen, joined us and went over all the important papers, procedures and what I could expect from this experience. Soon she arrived with my breast pump and explained how to use it and when. As the family took a break to get some food I began my pumping routine, actually producing some drops of colostrum that went back to me instead of the girls (two days later and I'm still getting the hang of actually collecting it rather than just rubbing it in).

As we wrapped up our visit and people started leaving I was starting to feel normal again and I was itching to go see our girls.  I hadn't yet been released from the bed so I still had to wait a bit. And that is when my first break down happened. My heart was breaking and my body was screaming that something was wrong. From our first ultrasound with Dr. M I knew this might happen but that didn't make it any easier. I cried and cried until the nurse came in with my first pain dosage and happily helped get me into a wheelchair so we could go see our girls. Imagine the change in emotions when I saw that not only were they awake and alert but doing so incredibly well. My Juliette was on oxygen as she had had a few sleep apnea spells in which she forgot to breathe but she was also so strong and I swear she looked happy to see me. I did not get to hold her just yet as her nurses Sue and Colleen explained that they were trying to regulate her temp and monitoring her a bit more closely. But my Vivienne was ready for me and the pain instantly faded as they settled her into my arms. Her nurse, Sarah, happily explained how well she was doing and how happy she was with her strength, especially given her size. I wanted to never let her go but happily handed her over to C so he could get his fix as well. We learned about what to expect from the NICU, how long to expect them to be there. It could be as long as until their original due date of September 3rd or as short as a week depending on how well they do. The bottom line is that they will not be coming home with us when we leave on Sunday. It's killing me but I know that this is the best thing for them. They are in amazing hands and every time we go see them they are doing better and better. The next few weeks will go by as quickly as the pregnancy did and before we know it we will be a family again, at home where we belong.

How was your birth experience? Did your children need the NICU?  How did you handle this?

Mama M.

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