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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Getting Out... or not.

Tonight was the first night of the big kids' newest session of soccer. I was really looking forward to it, way more than they were. I really wanted to go. At this point in my life, having the opportunity to go anywhere that isn't a doctor's office sounds rather appealing to me.

Then last night Marcus had a fever. He had a bit of a cough on Monday that turned into a full on cold by Tuesday which then led to a fever by Wednesday night. My day started at 6:30 when I found myself doing a load of laundry consisting of phlegm induced barf covered sheets. Or maybe my day started much earlier than that since I had just gone back to sleep at 6:15 after being up to feed babies before that. Greg worked from home in our game room today while Marcus hung out with him watching movies all day in hopes to keep germs away from the little kids. (Not that it mattered much since Will was already beginning to cough and show signs of getting the cold.)

No soccer for Marcus tonight.

On to plan B. Marcus was going to the doctor at almost the same time that Will needed to leave for soccer. Greg would take Marcus to the doctor. I would somehow figure out a way to get Will, myself, two babies, and my mom (since I wasn't going to try this alone) to soccer.

I had no idea how I was going to pull it all off but I was determined to get myself and three kids out of the house and off to pick up my mom and onto soccer and only be reasonably late.

At 3:30 I started feeding the babies. I was hoping to be done by 4 but the babies weren't aware of my strict schedule so they took a little longer. Greg finished work at 4 and began throwing some food on the table, like the chicken I had the forethought to stick in the crockpot this morning because I am that awesome. (To the dismay of my friends, I also wear mascara these days too. I can't help it. It looks good with my Super Mom cape.) Once the food was served, it was time for Marcus and Greg to leave for the doctor so they grabbed some snacks instead of eating dinner and headed out. Will and I ate. Correction, Will ate. I shoveled food as quickly as possible into my mouth. I let the dog out. I wrapped up Marcus's and Greg's plates so they could eat dinner later. I used the bathroom. Aaron cooperated by sleeping soundly on the floor through all this. Sean slept while I jostled him around in my arms and dropped chicken bits on his head through all of this. I decided I better get my shoes on and then start getting Sean and Aarron into their car seats. Shoes were on. With mere minutes to spare, I turned around and Will, sitting there chewing his chicken, looked at me with a rather blank expression on his face, opened his mouth and vomited phlegm mixed with his entire dinner onto his dinner plate.

No soccer for Will either.

So much for getting out of the house today.

And Marcus has pneumonia.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

So Big

Aaron had a weight recheck at the doctor's today. He has gained 9 oz in the past week putting him at 5 lbs 1 oz. I can't believe my little pine nut is over 5 lbs! (FYI, he's a pine nut because he was smaller than a peanut when he was born.) The doctor said that he is gaining great and has even found his way onto the preemie growth chart. Barely. But he is at least on it now. Sean still looks huge compared to Aaron. His weight wasn't checked today but I know he is growing. I have given up on trying to fit Sean into preemie sized clothes. Newborn size is still too big but that is what he is wearing.

Things are going really good. Greg was off work all last week which was amazing. The plan this week was for him to work from home and I could pretend he wasn't here and just call him to help if I really needed him. However, it looks like tomorrow he will be heading into the office. Getting both babies fed is still pretty hectic and there is lots of crying. (Babies crying. Not me.) Feeding is frustrating as well since Aaron isn't quite proficient enough at breastfeeding to give up the bottle. So feeding time results in me breastfeeding two babies and then trying to hold Sean (who insists on being held most of the day) while I finish feeding Aaron with a bottle. My mom - my mom is amazing - is still taking care of Marcus and Will and getting them to and from preschool daily. There is just no way this family of ours could function without her daily assistance. Today I took both babies to the doctor all by myself and managed just fine. Go me. We are all finding a way to make this work.

Marcus and Will continue to be great big brothers. Marcus has a cold which results in me being excessively paranoid that Sean and Aaron will get sick. We explained to Marcus that if the babies get sick, they will have to go to the hospital. He has been really great about staying away from the babies and making sure all his coughs and sneezes are covered and directed away from the little guys.

We have a ton of pictures but haven't uploaded them yet. Here are some we have uploaded.

Marcus and Sean

Will and Aaron

Marge (Greg's mom) and Sean

Ron (Greg's dad) and Aaron

My mom, Sean, and Aaron

My dad and Sean

First time I held both babies (Aaron was still in the NICU)

Proud Daddy with Sean

Has anyone seen Aaron?



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

108 Minutes

Greg pointed out that our life right now is much like life in the Swan where we have to push a button every 108 minutes to save the world. (Have no idea what I am talking about? Then you must have been living under a rock the last several years.) Instead of saving the world though, we are making sure we have healthy, growing babies. Instead of 108 minutes, it is usually more like 120-180 minutes. Instead of pushing a button, it is changing diapers, feeding babies, and putting babies to sleep.

That is pretty much what we have been up to: changing diapers, feeding babies, and putting babies to sleep.

Yes, babies. Both little guys are home now! Aaron came home on Sunday. I can't believe he was released actually. He did meet all his milestones, finally figuring out all this eating stuff. However, as of Sunday when he came home, he only weighed 4lbs 3.5 oz. I can't believe someone just handed over such a small guy for us to take care of!

Everyone is doing great though!

Marcus and Will couldn't be more proud big brothers. They ask to hold the babies often. Marcus just smiles from ear to ear the entire time he holds one of his brothers. Will tries to rub his face on the super soft hair on the heads of his brothers when he holds them. Both big brothers like to help out with diaper changes. They really love their new brothers. We know this because they tell us multiple times a day that they love Sean and Aaron.

Sean and Aaron are doing great too. We had them both at the doctor today for a checkup. Sean is up to 5 lbs 6 oz! (Up from his birth weight of 4 lbs 11 oz, and a gain of 6.5 oz in the past 6 days.) We didn't get all the stats on his growth but last week we were told that he was in the 10th percentile on the preemie growth chart. Today Aaron clocked in at 4 lbs 8 oz! (Up from his birth weight of 3 lbs 8 oz, and an increase of 4.5 oz since Sunday.) Unfortunately, according to the preemie growth chart, Aaron isn't even on it yet for weight and length. He has a nice big brain though and his head circumference is in the 50th percentile. Everything looks great for both kids.

Eating is going well for both kids. Sean picked up on breastfeeding pretty much instantaneously when he came home. Aaron is still working on building up his jaw muscles so he is doing both breast and bottle feedings. The double feedings make things more difficult and time consuming. We want to give Aaron the practice of breastfeeding but not wear him out before he gets the bottle either. It is also exhausting for me because it means I am breastfeeding one kid all the time, breastfeeding the other kid half the time, and still trying to fit in pumping as much as possible (which isn't as much as I need to be). Thank goodness Greg is here to help out where he can.

Greg was able to take some time off work. Not sure how we could function without that in addition to my mom being such a huge help with Marcus and Will. I've been trying to do some things with Sean and Aaron periodically on my own just to see if I can handle it. I can. In short spurts. Not looking forward to full time baby care when Greg returns to work. No clue at what point in my life I'll be able to figure out caring for four kids at once.

All in all, I'm doing well. It would be nice to get more than 2-3 consecutive hours of sleep. Would also be nice if the whole changing/feeding/putting sleep/pumping cycle didn't take an hour. I finally got the all clear from my doctor concerning my surgery I had at the beginning of December. I have had issues with my incision that has required me to have daily in-home nursing care. I'm done with that. I'm done with post-op appointments. I don't even miss my ovary. I might miss my belly without a giant scar right down the middle.

And that is where we are. Still without pictures. Sorry.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One Home, One to Go

Sean is home! Yes, there are pictures. No, I haven't uploaded them yet. It has only been 7 hours but so far so good. Marcus and Will are excited. They held him and got board after about 30 seconds. Will keeps checking on Sean and wondering how he is. There might have been one point when I might have mentioned to Greg that perhaps I was getting a little more help with Sean than I needed at that moment from Marcus and Will.

Aaron is doing great too, just not home yet. When we were leaving the hospital, he was getting ready to be moved out of his private room and into the area with the feeders/growers. Feeders/growers are like the seniors of the NICU, getting ready to graduate at any time. All he needs to do is learn to feed and grow.

Almost time for bed! Which of course means not really sleeping anymore. Getting full night's sleep was good while it lasted.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Life in the NICU

I went into this part of the journey thinking that the NICU was a scary place. There are times it can be. But mostly it is a place of miracles. Every single day since my babies were born, I spend as much time as I can there with them. When I finally get my ID checked and am allowed to enter, the first room I pass each and every time I go there is a room practically overflowing with machines. I wish I didn't know what some of those machines were for. There are heart rate monitors, respiratory monitors, and one rather large machine that is a respirator that keeps a little baby breathing. My babies aren't in that room. But some one's baby is. Lost among all those machines with their digital displays is a tiny little isolette with a tiny little life inside being sustained. Not all the stories in the NICU have happy endings, but the hallways are covered with posters of children born incredibly small who, with the miracles that the NICU and their staff perform, soon grow up big and strong and smart.

In a way I feel like everyone who has a child in there automatically becomes a part of a special group that all of us wish we never were a part of. I pass mothers every day and begin to recognize them but we never talk. We are all so focused on our babies that we remain strangers to each other. Instead we concentrate on everything the nurses do - how they feed our babies, how they handle our babies, how they change those little diapers that still seem too big on our tiny babies. We all wait for the day when those nurses tell us it is our turn to try to feed our own baby, or pick up our own baby, or change our own baby's diaper - all these things we know someday soon we will take for granted that we can do.

We celebrate the victories of our children in each of their rooms. The victories sometimes are so small but they mean the world to us. It was several days before I ever got to see my babies wearing anything more than a diaper wrapped in a blanket. But one day I walked in, and there was Sean in a t-shirt. The next day, Aaron had on a shirt... a tiny little shirt that was still far to big.


I cried the day I unwrapped Sean from his blanket and saw that a nurse had put one of his sleepers on him. My little boy was wearing clothes!


Aaron graduated to wearing onesies, preemie sized shirts so small I can barely get two of my fingers into the sleeve to pull his arm through. It was another proud parent moment.


Then came the day when I walked in Sean's room and he was sound asleep in his isolette. However, pushed into the corner of the room was an "open bed". The tears welled up again knowing that soon he would be weaned out of the warm environment of the isolette and expected to keep his own temperature. And I still wait for Aaron to be big enough to even attempt to move out of his own little cozy isolette. He still has another half a pound to gain before he can give it a try. A half a pound seems like so much since he just weighs over 3.5 pounds now.

In an attempt to get all us silent parents talking, the NICU hosts a parent social once a month. They provide lunch and hope that we connect to each other. Greg and I stumbled upon the parent social on accident and we almost wish we hadn't been there. Our story is sad. Our babies were born early and they are small and we want them home but they are in the NICU instead getting bigger. In the NICU, our story is unremarkable. We met a family who's due date was three days after mine. They have been coming to the NICU everyday since their twins were born in October. One of their twins is now their angel in heaven.

Mostly we all just keep to ourselves. We visit our tiny miracles. We take an obscene amount of pictures of them. We dress them in silly hats and outfits because we are excited they can finally fit into the smallest of things.


Us mothers hook ourselves up to breast pumps around the clock because providing our own milk is one thing that only we can do. We hold our babies. We feed our babies. We change their diapers. We watch them sleep. We always keep an eye on the monitors. We spend time with one baby and are sad we can't be with the other. We spend time with the other baby and wonder what the first one is doing.

Most of all, we celebrate life and the tiny miracles in it - be it a t-shirt or a weight gain of a few grams or the first time one of our babies finished an entire bottle by mouth and didn't need to use his feeding tube. Today a nurse helped us celebrate another miracle. She broke a rule for us so we could finally, for the first time since they were born, see our twins together.

At the end of the day we leave with tears in our eyes and hope in our hearts. We leave our tiny little babies alone in their rooms in the care of people we just met. The NICU is a miracle so we know they are safe.


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Birth Story: The End of the Pregnancy from Hell

I certainly was not ever one of those glowing happy pregnant people. For good reason. I was hospitalized no fewer than 5 times since June. There were two other times I was sent to the triage area of Labor and Delivery to be monitored. Then of course there was that emergency surgery to remove my ovary at the beginning of December that I am still recovering from. I heard warnings from the beginning of the pregnancy that due to my screwed up anatomy, there were lots of risks involved for the babies. Turns out that the babies did everything that they were supposed to do but my body was just not cooperating.

The goal from the beginning of the pregnancy was to make it to 34 weeks gestation. At that point the babies should be just fine, just small. I set my own goal to make it through Christmas. I even said that these babies would be born on December 29th. Seemed like a great date. I would be 34 weeks and 1 day pregnant. It would be past Christmas. It would be the anniversary of a surgery I had last year. And it would mean that we would have two extra tax credits for this year.

I made it through Christmas. Then come December 26th. I got sick - nausea, vomiting, all over feeling awful. By the evening I got horrendous pain in my legs. I turned to Google. First on my mind was drug withdrawal. Sounds crazy? I had been on a steady does of Percoset since my surgery on December 3rd and had just run out the day before. Whatever it was, I knew things were not as they should be. I called my doctor office that evening. The doctor on call said to come in and expect to stay awhile since I was unable to keep down even water. Off to the hospital I went, with a bag packed just in case.

A lot of the next couple days is a blur, mixed up with all my other visits to the hospital over the past month and more. I got some pain meds for the leg pain and spent several hours just complaining about my legs. There was lots of fiddling around with fetal heart rate monitors because no one can ever seem to get those things on my babies and keep it there. I think there was an ultrasound at some point. At 5:30 on the morning of the 27th I was moved to my own room. They were going to monitor my urine for 24 hours to check for kidney issues and pre-eclampsia. I was still sick.

At some point it was determined that I was going through drug withdrawal from the percoset. There was talk of methadone clinics and other alternatives since going through drug withdrawal while pregnant could be really bad for the babies. It was all really crazy. Then I met with an addiction specialist who determined that I couldn't really be classified as an addict and would not be eligible for methadone treatment. In order to be a real addict I needed to have done something illegal to try to obtain drugs and that was not my case. By the time all of this went down I was feeling somewhat better and if I had been experiencing withdrawal I was probably through the worst of it and the babies seemed to be doing just fine. Follow all that?

At some point in there it turned into December 28th. My urine had been analyzed. My protein level in my urine was 12 times what it should have been. That was not good. It was determined that I did indeed have pre-eclampsia and was in risk for kidney failure, seizures, and a whole lot of bad stuff. The only way to get rid of it was to deliver the babies. Since I am still recovering from that last abdominal surgery, it was highly recommended that I attempt to avoid a c-section. I was told that I would be moved to Labor and Delivery to be induced within the next 1-2 hours, which in hospital time usually means 5-24 hours. Greg decided to go home to get a few things that we would need, a round trip that would take him about 2 hours. For the first time ever, things actually went how they were supposed to and I was moved swiftly into Labor and Delivery within an hour all by my lonesome.

By this point, I had had so much fluids and my kidneys weren't working all that great so I was puffed up and swollen like nothing you have ever seen. The IV that I had was no longer working and several nurses went on a quest to find a new vein. They gave up and called "the IV team" who's entire job is finding good veins. I am not exaggerating when I tell you they tried every single vein in both my arms but each vein was all hiding behind all my massive fluid retention. Eight days later and it looks like someone beat my forearms with baseball bats because they have huge, dark purple bruises on them. Alas, a vein was finally located and Greg showed up just in time for labor to be induced.

I was hooked up to three different IV lines. One was for saline. A second was for pitocin, the drug that induces labor. The third was for magnesium sulfate, a drug that is generally given slowly over a long period of time to help with pre-eclampsia. Just for fun, they decided to give me huge amounts of the magnesium sulfate over a 15 minute period which caused me to get really hot and uncomfortable and loopy. When all this labor induction started, I was already 2 cm dilated.

Labor, as it turns out, is not like they show on TV. Or at least labor induced by pitocin isn't. There is no walking around like normal and then suddenly finding yourself doubled over in pain when a contraction comes on. For quite some time, I wasn't really even having contractions... I think. I was just really uncomfortable. It sucked. In between being uncomfortable, there were periods when I was even more uncomfortable which I am thinking were contractions.

I had to have an epidural because of the twin pregnancy. If suddenly things had to switch from a vaginal birth to a c-section, they needed a way to quickly make that happen. I was all about the epidural so this wasn't an issue for me at all. They gave me the epidural early to make sure that everything was taken care of and I didn't get too exhausted and it all somehow lined up with blood work so they didn't have to stab me with so many needles. The anesthesiologist said that getting the epidural could take 5 minutes or it could take 30 minutes. It took longer than 30 minutes. Apparently I have a really bony back and there were lots of pokes and no success. Finally a second anesthesiologist got called in to try to stab me in my spine and things were finally numb. I was told I had to lie on my side. Yes! I haven't been able to lie on my side since November. Ever since I had surgery, the pressure from the weight of the babies on my abdominal incision resulted in me sleeping in a recliner since lying on my side or back was impossibly uncomfortable. But I had an epidural and couldn't feel a thing! I had the most amazing night's rest, waking only to be examined (actually, I think I might have slept through that) and to roll from my right side over to my left.

By the morning of the 29th, I was 6 cm dilated. I called my mom around 7:15 to let her know that it would probably still be a bit. At 7:30 I got examined and I was 8 cm. The doctor told me to let her know right away if I felt any changes because she had to assemble the entire team of doctors and nurses - three teams to be exact. There was the group of people that were going to be helping me give birth and then a team a piece for each baby. Most deliveries at the hospital take place in the Labor/Delivery/Recovery rooms. I would have to deliver in the Operating Room mostly because of the sheer number of people that had to be present but also in case I suddenly needed operated on. At 8:30 I was telling the nurse to get the doctor because things had changed and I needed to push. The doctor came in, examined me, and announced, "You're ready to have these babies!" I cried. The last thing in the world I was ready for was to have these babies!

There was some pushing in the Labor/Delivery/Recovery room just to see how much pushing I would have to do. Greg got all dressed up in his protective coverings. The nurses and doctors got their special masks and head caps on. Off I was wheeled to the OR. At some point I located a clock in there and saw it was 9:23. The real pushing began. And kept going. And then there was more pushing. I was tired. Everyone was encouraging me but it still felt like nothing was happening. Somewhere towards the end I shouted out a few times, "Get him out of there!" Apparently everyone was sick of me freeloading on them for the past several months and making them do everything for me because no one got anyone out of there for me. They made me do all the work.

At 10:45 am, Baby A was born. I heard the crying and that was it. He was gone. I never heard anyone announce that it was a boy, although Greg assured me that it was. No one held him up for me to see. They just whisked him off to be checked out. I wanted to see him. At some point the doctor told me that if I felt another contraction I could push. I was too distracted from the fact that I just gave birth to some screaming baby to realize I was still contracting. I thought that they were just having me deliver the placenta of Baby A, but what I was feeling was more head shaped. Baby B was on his way. It only took a few pushes and I was the mother of twins, with Baby B born at 10:53 am. They whisked him away as well and I just remember wondering why I didn't get to see my babies yet.

Eventually they brought Baby A over all wrapped up in a blanket with a little blue hat on. Greg held him for about 30 seconds up near my face while the anesthesiologist took a photo. Then over came Baby B whose head was the tiniest I have ever seen, almost lost in the blanket and hat. Another 30 seconds and he was gone too.

But they were here! Baby A weighed a whopping 4 lbs 11 oz and Baby B checked in at 3 lbs 8 oz. Both babies scored 9/9 on their apgars which was amazing.

In a normal birth the babies are placed on the chest of the mother right afterward, put there while they are cleaned up. The mom gets to hold the baby right away and breastfeeding is encouraged within the first hour. Mom and baby (and whoever) spend about 1-2 hours in the recovery room before heading off to a regular hospital room for the remainder of their stay. My birth was not normal.

I was kept in the recovery room for almost 20 hours. I was so sick that they felt it was the best way to make sure I was constantly being monitored. My temperature started dropping right after delivery and they wrapped me up in heated blankets just like my babies had been. Then I got a fever. I was given more of that magnesium sulfate. I was almost given an antibiotic that I am allergic to. I begged to see my babies only to be told that I was too much at risk of having a seizure to do so. I begged to see a lactation consultant only to be told that they don't come to recovery rooms and I would have to wait. (I didn't see one until about 30 hours after I had given birth. Thankfully my breast pump was in our car so I was able to pump a little bit to give to the babies at their first feeding. I had a fight with a nurse about this. She told me that I shouldn't be doing that, that all I really needed to worry about was taking care of myself. I told her too bad because pumping some colostrum for my babies was apparently the only thing I could do for them at that point and I was going to do it.) Greg could go see the babies but he wanted to wait for me. The waiting got to be too long and I sent him off to witness and take short videos of the babies' first feeding. New nurses came on duty and I had a sobbing, weeping fit to them about how upset I was that I still hadn't seen my babies and the doctors that were supposed to come see me never showed up. Somewhere around 10 that night - escorted by two nurses just in case I started having a seizure - I was wheeled down in my gurney to get to see my two newest sons.

They are little. They are beautiful. They are healthy. It is still amazing that through all of this, they turned out just perfect.


Saturday, January 01, 2011

Picture Pages

So much to blog about, and so little time. I've had some anxious requests for photos so I'll get on that first. There are a few here and if you are really into seeing every last facial expression that Sean and Aaron can make, you can visit our flickr page by clicking here.

Quick update first. I'm back home and feeling pretty good, considering how sick I was (which is all part of the big long story I'll get around to posting at some point). Greg has been an amazing support through all of this and is loving up all his four boys in between catching up on his own sleep. Sean and Aaron are chillin' at the NICU growing big and strong. Sean is doing great with his feedings but still forgets sometimes to keep his heart rate and respiration rate up. Aaron isn't overly interested in eating yet but he is slowly making some progress. Marcus and Will are really excited about having two new brothers. They had the chance to meet them briefly and showed about as much interest as four year olds would be expected to show. They do ask frequently to see videos and photos.

Photos? Oh yes, you wanted to see photos too.