July 29, 2015

The Birth Story of Juliette and Vivienne

I'm an emotional wreck today, bursting into tears at some of the most inopportune moments (nursing, changing diapers, flipping pancakes, you know). It's a good thing I wrote this a long time ago because I'm struggling to even think about the fact that today is the last day of my babies' first year. It's hard to even imagine what my life was like before the birth of my girls and the last year has just flown by despite the days feeling like it would last forever. This is long but it's our story. Enjoy.

After finding out in February of 2014 that I was expecting mono-di twins I was referred to the fantastic Maternal Fetal Monitoring Specialist Dr. Franz Margono with St. Peter's Hospital. At that very first appointment he broke the news to us that my dreams of a water birth (originally at home but we nixed that at the mention of twins) attended by midwives were no longer a safe choice for us and that we would be scheduling an induction no later than 35 weeks. He cited research studies that claim fetal demise of one or both babies in a mono-di pregnancy could increase by as much as 50% in the weeks between 35 and 37. As part of his practice policy he highly recommends delivery in the 35th week. I say recommends but I didn't really feel like I was given a choice. It's something I still struggle with but I am ultimately at peace with the fact that we did what was recommended by someone who knew far better than we did.

Dr. Margono referred me to the Obstetrics office that he partners with, St. Peter's OB/Gyn group. I was not happy about giving up my midwives and birthing center and since I would be traveling to this office frequently anyway, I reluctantly made the switch. It ended up being a wonderful experience and the doctors who delivered the girls, Dr. Eric Kittle and Dr. Kenneth Baker were wonderful, warm and very informed about the unique aspects of a mono-di pregnancy. They assured me that I could deliver both naturally.

Then they warned me of the risks of emergency c-section or the dreaded "double-whammy" where baby A is delivered naturally and for whatever reason baby B must be delivered via c-section. The thought of this scared me enough to decide very early to just do a c-section. Someday I might regret this choice, especially if we don't have another, but when it came down to it I just wanted them out and safe!

We arrived at the hospital at 6am on July 30th. The wonderful nurse, Alyson, helped get me settled and did pre-op. Dr. Kittle stopped in and explained some things and at 7:45 we were brought down to the OR. CJ waited outside while I went in and got the spinal and situated on the table. I did not know ahead of time that my arms would be strapped down and almost made a fuss before realizing it wouldn't matter - it was protocol and I wasn't going to change it.

A few minutes later I heard a fuss and Dr. Kittle arguing with a woman. I later learned this was the neonatologist, Dr. Narkiwiecz. She had found our names on the OR board and was upset that the NICU was not notified there would be 35 weeker twins being delivered. Our last ultrasound showed the girls weighing over 5 lbs. each so Dr. Kittle did not think NICU would be necessary. Thankfully Dr. N knew different - even if they were over 5 lbs., at 35 weeks they should at least be brought down for observation. Turns out, Jules had apnea episodes almost immediately after birth and then they ended up staying for two weeks so it was a blessing that she discovered us.

I met the anesthesiologist and his assistant, Jamie, who was my angel during the procedure. She held my hand and described everything to me. They administered the spinal and she "caught" me and laid me down. At 8:10 CJ was brought in to stand by me and within seconds they were cutting me open. Dr. Kittle warned that I would feel pulling, pressure and some tightness but I would not feel pain. I do remember the pressure and tugging but it was altogether uneventful.

CJ and I were chatting with Jamie about the twins when all of a sudden Dr. Kittle announced the arrival of Baby A at 8:13:24 am. Just like that I was a mom. She cried almost instantly. It was the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard. Loud and full of gusto. Not one minute later at 8:14:05 Baby B made her entrance into the world, not quite as loud as her sister but just as beautiful of a sound. We handed our camera to Alyson and she snapped a few great shots of our girls before they were brought to us. I remember when someone shouted their weights to us and I said a quiet thank you to god that the neonatologist was there. Weighing in at only 4 lbs. 9 and 4 lbs. 2 oz. they would definitely be going to the NICU for a bit. My heart broke as I knew this would mean no holding them or even trying to nurse for a while but I also knew it was the best thing for them.

While they got cleaned and and Dr. K finished up, CJ and I cried and laughed and I noted to myself that I did not feel that rush of emotion that new moms talk about. I know that when you deliver vaginally your body releases a flood of hormones that are supposed to facilitate bonding but I always assumed the c-section moms would at least have some semblance of this. Nope. Nada. I expected to at least feel different, but I didn't. That is until I saw my baby A, Juliette, for the first time. There it was. I was overcome with emotion when I looked at her tiny face and heard her cry. Mom confession time: want to know the first thought that came into my head while gazing upon my newborn? "My god, she has my nose! And it's HUGE!"

Turns out it was just perspective as they were totally normal sized noses just a few hours later, but I still feel terribly guilty that at first sight this was my only thought! After CJ had his turn to meet her Jamie brought her over and shoved her up against my face (apparently this is the c-section moms version of skin to skin). They were pretty much hysterical but as soon as they touched and smelled me and heard my voice shushing them they calmed right down and nuzzled in. It was altogether the happiest and saddest moment of my life. My arms were literally itching to hold them but I was strapped down and forced to neglect my instinct. Each visit lasted only two minutes before they were whisked away to the NICU.

Let that sink in for a second. After carrying these loves for 35 weeks, nourishing and caring for them to the best of my ability, I was only able to see and smell them for a total of two minutes each before they were taken from me. It's wholly unnatural and if I had known how much it would hurt I may have fought harder for a later induction date despite the risks. I would give anything to go back and be able to hold them but I am slowly making peace with it.

After the girls were taken away they closed me up and tried to keep my spirit light. I began to experience some nausea and was given the med to counter-act that which worked almost immediately. Despite my broken heart I was on cloud nine. It was the strangest mix of emotions I have ever felt.

They were here. It was done. We did it and everyone seemed to be ok. Everyone kept reassuring me they were beautiful and fine. We found out they both scored a 9 on the APGAR scale and despite being itty bitties they were full of life and doing great. They kept telling me what an easy procedure it was and that I would see them again soon. I was wheeled into recovery where I started to feel reeeeal good thanks to the painkillers. We spent the next hour or so texting and calling everyone we know. Dr. Kittle came in and cleared me to go to my room. He called down to the NICU to tell them we'd be stopping by and my anxiety reached a whole new level not knowing what I was in for.

They wheeled me, hospital bed and all, into the NICU and we immediately noticed the tree decal on the wall - it was the same on we had in their room. I took this as a sign that all would be ok, this was where they were meant to be. Seeing them though. That was hard. I don't know what I expected but it wasn't for them to seem so small, so frail, hooked up to all those monitors and tubes. We visited Juliette first and were told she had had apnea spells and was on oxygen. I did not expect that so it was a blow to my heart. She was sleeping and looked like an angel. We talked to her and touched her and cried. We were not allowed to hold her for about 24 hours after her birth. I still struggle with this. My dream was for skin to skin and nursing right after birth. I know, I know, it was best for her, but I still feel like we missed out. Gah, I'm crying again.

The girls' first digs - Suite 2 of the St. Peter's NICU
Finally Vivienne was ready for us so we wheeled over to see her and she was awake and looking all around. Such personalities, already so evident at just 4 hours old. My heart broke and all I wanted to do was pick them up but I couldn't yet and before I knew it I was being wheeled up to my room. Family came and cheered me up, the lactation consultant brought me a pump, the doctors visited and four more hours later we were finally able to see them again. I swear time crawled that day. All I wanted was to eat real food, hold my babies, try to nurse and marvel over my new family. Nothing went like I had always dreamed it would but that was the hand we were dealt and I'm just happy to have them at all.

At around 5 that afternoon the nurse came in and told me I was able to hold and feed (with a bottle, she "couldn't" nurse yet) Vivienne. My dad was there with us and he got to hold her too before leaving for a trip. It was amazing and bittersweet with Jules just chillin in her isolette, unable to be held yet (for reasons I'm still not 100% sure of...). It was 2 more days before anyone asked me if I wanted to do skin to skin or hold them at the same time. It's my fault, I should have asked first, but my head was so foggy. And so began our 2 week stint in the NICU.

Not our first skin to skin but my favorite pic. And our first family photo.
Once I was discharged it was a 12 day whirlwind that also seemed to drag by. Every day with them went too fast and the nights seemed to last forever while we longed to have them home. But they were growing and getting stronger and we watched as they learned to breathe on their own, moderate their own temps, gain weight, tolerate increasing feed amounts until they were on bottles full time, moved into open beds, passed the car seat challenge, the hearing and heart disorder tests and finally got the clear to be discharged. I pumped and pumped and stayed with them from 8 am to 7 pm. We soaked in the NICU and all the nurses could teach us. Finally, on August 15, 2014, at exactly two weeks old our babies came home. And our family has been complete ever since.

Happy (almost) 1st Birthday to my Precious Little Leos. What a year it has been.



Unknown said...

Precious Maigen!! Absolutely Precious! ~ Love Mom

Anonymous said...

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