Our girls arrived on January 19th at 31w4d. Earlier than we’d hoped, certainly. But no less perfect or beautiful!
Meet our girls: Siena (baby A) and Aria (baby B). Born at 7:49 and 7:54 respectively. Both weighed 3 pounds 8 ounces and measured 16 inches long.
As you know from my last post, I was admitted to the hospital at 31 weeks exactly when my water broke unexpectedly. At my routine OB appointment a few days before that, my cervix was long and closed and everything was progressing as if we were in it for the long haul.
Apparently, Baby A had other plans and decided to try to punch her way to freedom. Her bag of water broke at 5am. When they checked me in the hospital, I was 2cm dilated. My doctor did not think I was in active labor at the time. I was having small contractions that would show up on the monitor, but I could barely even feel them and they were 10 minutes or so apart. My doctor decided to administer steroids over the next 48 hours for lung development and pump me full of antibiotics since my bag of water was now open. I would then stay on hospital bed rest until I showed signs of infection or I went into labor. If neither of those happened by 33-34 weeks, I would be induced (at that point, risk of infection outweighs prematurity risks).
Obviously, we didn’t make it that far. Here’s the (long – you’ve been warned) birth story:
Thursday night, I started having mild contractions and sometimes they’d be regular (5-8 minutes apart). Mr. A and I were up the whole night timing them and worrying. Friday morning, I had a breakdown. The nurse came in to find me sobbing and Mr. A terrified. I was sure the regular contractions meant the girls were coming and, although I was anxious to meet them, I didn’t want them to be born yet. It was too soon. My favorite nurse gave us some space to cry it out for a while and then assured us that things can indeed slow down and even stop. Happens all the time. The nurses and Dr. Z all said it’s normal with premature rupture of membranes to have “fits and starts” where contractions pick up and get regular, then just go away. And not even an hour after our favorite nurse came to calm us down, the contractions did go away.
It was shortlived. That night (Friday night), they came back and they seemed to get stronger throughout the night. But they weren’t getting any closer together. Still 5-8 minutes apart. I didn’t get any sleep. I’d have such relief in between contractions that I’d juuust start to drift off before the next contraction woke me. I actually wasn’t panicked since I knew the contractions would probably just go away again like they did the last time. But they didn’t. I was still having painful contractions Saturday morning and I was so uncomfortable and deliriously tired that I asked not to have any visitors (other than Mr. A, of course) that day. They decided to give me some Norco (a painkiller) to hopefully help me get a little sleep. It worked for a bit and I got a couple hours of sleep. Then I wasn’t sure if the contractions were getting stronger or the painkiller was wearing off, but the contractions were too painful to sleep through anymore.
It was at this point that I started to completely lose my mind. Everyone kept saying I wasn’t in labor. The nurses were under strict orders not to check my cervix due to risk of introducing bacteria to the uterus with a broken bag of water. Dr. Z said that when I was in labor, we’d know. And only then would they start checking my cervix. But these contractions were really uncomfortable and happening every five minutes. If the plan was hospital bed rest for the next three weeks, was I really expected to spend them like this?! No sleep, painkillers that barely take the edge off, and painful contractions that relentlessly come every 5 minutes?! Dr. Z took pity on me and said he’d try to help me get some sleep that night by stacking the Norco painkiller with an Ambien sleep aid.
It didn’t work. I did not sleep for even a second Saturday night. The contractions were really starting to get bad. For those of you who have taken Lamaze classes, I had to switch from the slow calming breaths to the faster Ah-Hee, Ah-Hee, Ah-Hee, Ah-Hoo breathing pattern. And I felt ridiculous having to even use my Lamaze breathing because I wasn’t in labor (or so they all said). Thankfully my husband forced me to use the breathing if only to keep me calm. It really did help manage the anxiety, the pain, and the time until the contraction would start to wane. By the wee hours of Sunday morning, I was starting to worry. I kept telling the nurses that the contractions were getting a lot more painful. They asked me my pain level and I think I said it was at a 7 or 8, which was true. It wasn’t the worst pain I’d ever felt, but it was prolonged and just. kept. coming. back. And since I wasn’t screaming like the girl in the room next door, surely I wasn’t about to have a baby (or two) or anything. The nurses didn’t seem concerned – they just kept a monitor on me to watch my contractions. Over the next few hours, the contractions, though still usually 5 minutes apart (occasionally closer together) started to get really long. It felt like I was barely getting a break between them.
Then, finally, at about 7am, I broke down to my husband. Through tears, I told him I was really scared- that the pain just wouldn’t go away – even between contractions. It had settled into my lower back and I was starting to feel like I was actively trying not to push when the contractions would come. He jumped out of his chair and marched out to the nurses’ station. Once they heard “trying not to push,” they decided to go ahead and check my cervix. It was just after a shift change. This new nurse had just gotten report from the night nurse (who was most definitely NOT my favorite nurse) a few minutes earlier that the twin mom was “stable.” Her wide eyes as she reached and checked my cervix said it all. She calmly turned to my husband and I and said “You’re complete. 10cm dilated and that’s Baby A’s head.” Then she ran out of the room barking orders like “Prep the OR! Twin mom is a go! Call Dr. Z and get him here NOW!Call the NICU – tell them to get ready!”
I spent the next 30 minutes trying not to push and waiting for the operating room to be ready and for my doctor (who was sound asleep in his house across the street from the hospital) to arrive. But somehow, Mr. A and I were relieved. There was nothing we could do about it anymore. We were about to meet our girls and the nightmare of the past few nights was coming to and end. There was a distinct sense of peace in the midst of the chaos.
The actual delivery was a breeze. Thankfully, both babies were head down and they stayed that way. Over the course of 5 minutes and 3 contractions, both girls were born vaginally. Both girls came out crying. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. They placed each of them on my chest for a few moments before whisking them off to the NICU. Mr. A kept saying “They’re so beautiful – they look so healthy. You did amazing.” It was all such a relief – mentally and physically. After near constant pain for the last three days, the relief was immense and immediate. I didn’t tear, didn’t have an episiotomy, nothing. In that sense, I was lucky. My plan was most certainly NOT to have a natural labor and delivery with twins (my doctor actually wanted me to have an epidural but there was obviously no time), but that’s how it happened and I’m glad it worked out that way.
They made me sit in recovery for 2 hours even though I felt like I could run laps around the L&D floor already. It was torture. I wanted to go see my girls, I wanted to be with my husband (he was in the NICU with the babies), I wanted to start pumping (the girls were born too early to be able to breastfeed). When two hours finally passed, they wheeled me back to the NICU and I got to hold my beautiful firstborn daughter, Siena. Aria was struggling just a bit with her breathing at that point, so I couldn’t hold her, but I held her tiny hand and told her how much we love her.
It’s been a whirlwind since then. Two days later, we got to hold Aria. They’ve done great in the NICU and continually surprise everyone with how resilient they are for having been born so early. They’re both off IVs, breathing room air unassisted for a couple weeks now, gaining weight, learning to eat by mouth, and just generally thriving.
Family and friends won’t be able to meet the babies until they come home. Due to the horrible flu season we’re having, only the parents of the babies are allowed into the NICU. It’s driving our parents and siblings a little crazy, but they’re getting lots of pictures!
I’ve been attached to a breast pump more or less nonstop since the girls were born, including through the night. It’s now been over 3 weeks since I’ve had a decent night’s sleep and our girls aren’t even home yet. Yikes. I’m having milk supply issues, which feels like yet another way my body has decided to let me down. I couldn’t get pregnant naturally (though we still don’t know if that was my body’s fault or not), I couldn’t carry my babies to term, and now it’s looking like I can’t feed them the way nature intended. Don’t get me wrong – I completely understand how lucky I am to have my girls. But it’s hard not to mourn those other things – a normal labor that I actually knew I was having, delivering a healthy baby or two and getting to snuggle them right away and introduce them to family and friends, going home from the hospital after delivery and getting to take my babies with me, holding my babies to my breast and feeding them – doing the one thing to provide for them that only a mother can do.
The title to this post is “Our Whole World Is Changed.” Sadly, that’s been true in more ways than we ever expected. This Monday, while we were sitting in the NICU holding our girls, Mr. A received a call from his uncle informing him that his father had passed away. It was very sudden and unexpected. His father was only 59 years old. He had just commented on some pictures of the girls that morning about how they get more beautiful every day. Now he’ll never get to meet his granddaughters. It’s just not fair. So much in our lives has seemed unfair in the last few years. I guess we’d hoped that might finally turn around once the girls were born. My husband is just split down the middle. In two weeks’ time, he had his first two children and lost his father. It’s hard to handle so many conflicting emotions and it’s just a lot to process right now. He’s also the executor of his father’s estate, which includes his father’s dental practice that he will have to sell. It’s completely overwhelming. Where we were initially looking forward to the girls coming home with just joy and excitement, now there’s also a lot of fear. There’s just not enough time in the day right now to handle all of his dad’s affairs and having babies in the NICU. And there’s a big difference between finding time to visit babies for a few hours in the NICU and actually having them at home with you. Adding two newborn babies that need us 24/7 is likely to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m not sure how we’re going to get through this. I know we will, I’m just not sure how.
So…that’s why this post is so overdue. Things have been CRAZY around our neck of the woods. We’re trying to use the positive to help us get through the negative. The best part of every day is when we get to snuggle with our girls and quiet our minds. There’s no better feeling in the world.