This weeks featured blogger is Rochelle of Twofer Tots! Rochelle is the proud MoM of twin boys H and K who are a year old and born at 27 weeks gestation.
In a word, long. It took us a total of six years and who knows how many dollars to achieve pregnancy. During our infertility journey, I lost all sense of privacy and am therefore able to speak about the whole ordeal in such minute detail that it can make almost anyone blush. (One time, I actually let one of the receptionists come in and observe a procedure because she had never seen it done. The doc was excited to have an audience and pointed out my cervix and walked her through what was happening. It struck me then how far I had come from the woman who couldn’t pee in a public restroom.)
In the interest of brevity and of sparing people TMI, I will try to hit the high points. Our journey was full of starts and stops.
We stopped taking the pill in December of 2002. We were both almost 27 years old. We were giddy and scared, thinking that we would, of course, have a baby by the following Christmas. I started planning our baby announcement/holiday cards.
After a year, we started seeing a fertility specialist. Then we stopped to try on our own. Then we started up again with a different doctor, then stopped to try on our own. Then we saw a third one, stopped for a while, then went back. All in all we went through six years, two HSG’s, two surgeries to remove a septum from my uterus, five rounds of IUI (the full-on with injectable meds kind) and finally one IVF. It was the IVF that did it.
I remember coming out of the bathroom, positive pregnancy test in hand, and seeing my husband’s face as white as my own. I also remember the day I lay for my first ultrasound, seeing two black spots on the screen. The tech said, “Here are your two, and I’m just checking to see if there’s a third.” The room was silent for a full minute, after which my husband said, “Wait – you’re not kidding? There are really two?” Apparently the tech assumed we knew we probably had twins from the bloodwork numbers.
My pregnancy started out great! I was slightly nauseous but never really truly sick. I had quite a bit of joint pain but not a lot of heartburn or anything. Then, around week 17, as we were in the process of moving, I started to bleed. We rushed to the doctor to find out my cervix was shortening. It was still within normal range, but was shorter than it was before. Apparently, most women with this issue of shortening cervix never have any signs that anything is wrong, so the bleeding was the best thing that could have happened. Without it, we would have lost the boys without ever knowing anything was wrong.
As it was, we had to put off the move for a week and live in a hotel (our things were already on a truck moving cross country) while I stayed in bed. I got the okay to fly to our new home, at which point I was back on bedrest. I got an appointment with a local high-risk doctor, who found my cervix shortening even more. Terrified, I was told that often, first-time pregnancies that are twins are lost around 20 weeks as the mother’s body just can’t deal with it. I lay in bed, counting the weeks, Googling my babies’ chances of survival at each stage. My family came and helped unpack while I stay in bed. Week 20 came and went, 22, 24, and I was showing no cervical change. The doctors congratulated me and each other. They said they saw no reason I couldn’t make it to 37 weeks and I was freed to do some puttering around the house.
I celebrated privately when I hit 26 weeks, when my guys stood a good chance of survival. Then, six days later, I just felt WRONG. I didn’t hurt – at least not more than I had been hurting since my body got huge! I didn’t realize I was in labor, was not in any pain or experiencing any bleeding, but decided to go to the hospital to see what was going on. We gathered up my husband’s work things, I finished my water, we fed the dog, in no hurry to get there. Once at the hospital, my heart stopped when the nurse, wide-eyed, looked at me and said, “Sweetie, these babies are coming TONIGHT.” Less than three hours after leaving for the hospital, my two little men were born at exactly 27 weeks gestation.
Naturally, the NICU was extremely difficult. Luckily, I had ‘mommy filters’ on. Hubby and I were amazed at how great the boys looked, how they didn’t look like the preemies on the March of Dimes posters. It wasn’t until we got a couple of months down the road that the blinders came off and we realized how tiny and frail the guys really were. They looked exactly like the March of Dimes information. I think if I had truly realized the situation at the time, I would never have made it through.
We were in the hospital for three months, from early September to mid December. During our stay, the hospital finished constructing and opened up a new NICU wing, of which we were residents numbers four and five. We also went through a major flu epidemic including H1N1, prompting multiple changes to the visitation policy. This wreaked havoc on some of our families. Other than that, I think our stay was fairly typical for guys so young. It consisted of ventilators, cpap, transfusions, bili-lights, isolettes, kangaroo care. We celebrated the tiniest of victories (They can wear pajamas! They’re eating through a tube!) and suffered through setbacks (He’s back on the ventilator. He has an infection.) It all seems like a dream now
The strangest thing was leaving the NICU for the final time. I guess I had pictured some big send-off with all of our regular nurses, but of course only a couple of them were working at any given time. My folks and I packed H up, along with our home monitors, walked down the hall one last time, and brought him home to where Hubby and K were waiting. Suddenly the place and people that were the central focus of my life for three months were just no longer around. For a solid month after the guys were home, I still found myself picking up the phone in the night to call and check on them, and turning down the road to the hospital.
The hardest thing was getting over the fear of my own kids. It makes bonding difficult. What I am about to say will sound horrible, but I believe I am not the only one who experienced this. I was afraid to change their diapers, afraid of brain bleeds. I was definitely afraid to reposition them, and asked the nurses to do it before I would change a diaper. I was often afraid to visit, every little sniffle or scratchy throat a possible warning sign of illness. I was even afraid of Kangaroo Care, afraid of falling asleep and dropping one of them. At the end, I was afraid to take them home. They were both still having drops in heart rate and breathing, and I was certain that bringing them home was a death sentence. I dug my heels in, heart aching, doing what I thought I had to do to protect them – to keep them in the hospital as long as possible. In the hospital, where they would be safe. I’m sure the nurses thought I was horrible for not jumping at the chance to bring the guys home.
For NICU parents, I say fight through your fears and interact with the little ones as much as possible. You might not be able to be there 24 hours a day, but you can make your time there count. Find out your babies’ schedule. I always visited during the day, and found out later that they were getting full baths in the evenings. Every couple of weeks, ask if there is some aspect of care in which you can participate that you might not have been exposed to yet.
Designate a point of contact for distributing news. You won’t be able to keep up with everyone who wants updates, even if you do Facebook or something. Pick someone who has offered to help, give them a phone/email list of people to whom to distribute a weekly report, and put his/her phone number on your outgoing voice mail.
Every NICU parent I know has some family member(s) that was a pain in the tush. Either they feel slighted if they are not on the visitors’ list, or they are full of opinions about you visiting too often or not often enough, or whatever. As difficult as it may be, you must put these people out of your mind and don’t let them affect your decisions. If you want to cut off your babies from all visitors, or from the people you think are most likely to be sick, or just from people you think will not be helpful, DO SO. Ask your nurse for help. NICU nurses like the babies to get as few visitors as possible. The less visitors, the less noise and germs are around everyone’s babies. Most NICU nurses are more than happy to stand guard between your little ones and anyone else. Some will even go so far as to lie about the visitation policy for you. What you are going through right now is so very hard. It’s about you, not about them. They can deal.
What are some of your favorite activities to do as a family?
Swimming! We have a hot tub (kept at 97-99 degrees, with doctor’s blessing) and every weekend we bring the guys into the ‘pool.’ It’s been so fun to watch their progression. At first they were scared to be in the water, but now they even laugh after being dunked under. They’ve learned to splash, although they mostly splash themselves, and are starting to blow bubbles just under the surface of the water.
What question do you have for the families in our community?
Ooh! I’ve got one! When and how will they stop freaking out every time I am out of sight for two seconds? I don’t mind peeing with the door open, but then it’s all kinds of drama getting everyone out of the bathroom. I still rock them to sleep (I know, bad.) and when I try to carry one sleeping guy to their nursery, the other sits in the middle of the floor and screams, often waking the first guy. Help!
Also, how exactly do I babyproof a nursery? I see all kinds of babyproofing products, but we have monitors that have pretty lights, a humidifier, a radio and an air filter, all with cords. We have wipes, balms, creams, and powders on the changing table. We have rocking chairs where fingers can get pinched. I don’t understand how to make this room safe. At some point, they will play in that room, right?
Most of my troubles have to do with the stay-at-home-mom thing. Taking care of the guys is a challenge, but is rewarding and fun. What is problematic is finding time to sweep, mop, vacuum, clean bathrooms, get dinner ready, work, etc. What makes it more difficult is that many of these things I can only do when they nap. How do you get anything done while entertaining two one-year olds?
Be sure to leave your answer to Rochelle’s questions in the comment section and then head over to Twofer Tots to leave some bloggy love!