So, if you’re reading this, you more than likely know that our (hubby and my) life has been absolute chaos on roids riding a bike on fire through your living room, up the stairs, and into the bathroom where you keep all of your precious cosmetics and facial things. Not you? Ok, well, that’s my idea of an absolute struggle.

I’ve got roughly 10 drafts in the chamber (14 now since I started this one in December), documenting my life through this past summer and up until our girls came home. For now, those updates are going to take a back seat to what I’m about to tell you.

First, my cuties’ names are Olivia Mabel (Baby A) and Vivian Pearl (Baby B). I’m a huge fan of Gone With the Wind and also a huge fan of old, unpopular names –  Olivia de Havilland and Vivien (born Vivian) Leigh. During our sonograms, I would always see ‘Twin B’ kicking or hitting ‘Twin A’. Later, Twin B would prove the most difficult to find on the monitors while Baby A rested sweetly in the same position. At that point, I knew my feisty baby would be Vivian and my quiet baby would be Olivia (like the characters from the movie – one feisty and assertive, and the other sweet and quiet). I even made name cards detailing my feisty and my quiet baby. Even nurses agreed! Vivian, for all of her oxygen needs and lung disease, would scream and be heard loud and clear as soon as the doors to her isolette were opened! We were all shook by her wailing and stereotypical baby cries. All the while Olivia quietly had her needs met.

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Vivian is also very expressive. At only a few weeks old, she was not having skin-to-skin. Her oxygen saturation would plummet – a sign that she could not and did not want to handle it. I opted to swaddle her and boy was it amazing. She looked at everything around her with new eyes – her brain, a blank canvas waiting to create a masterpiece. She absolutely loved the world outside her isolette!

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I mean, look at these feisty expressions! Meanwhile…20171008_172129

Little miss Tommy Boy in the other crib, only making a peep when her diaper is wet, steadily gaining some good lbs. Notice the feeding tube? Yeeeeah. As soon as that thing came out – BAM! DIFFERENT BABY!

On the date of their release, Monday, October 30, hubby and I had the perfect plans for our sweet, little angels. They had beautiful ‘going home’ outfits, we were going to leisurely learn how to use our bottle warmers and sterilizer, pre-mix some sodium for Vivian, add vitamins and medications to syringes for quick access later on, and learn how to mix formula. We had our hearts set on seeing their expressions when their eyes met the sun for the first time. None of that happened.

We waited until 9pm for the oxygen company to drop off a portable tank at the hospital, received instructions 7 hours earlier on how to mix formula, instructions 5 hours prior on how and when to administer medicine…all forgotten in the whirlwind mix of getting our girls home.

I even think a nurse warned us, pointing  to Olivia, “I think she is your feisty one.”

Release Date - goodbye sleep
Olivia (left) and Vivian (right)

That morning, we had KSAT come in to do a segment on SIDS. I’ll be surprised if they can use any of it since Olivia wailed the entire time…I should have known.

I believe it was around 9:40 when we finally got in the door at home. It was dark, the girls saw no sunlight, and both Olivia and Vivian were crying. They had not eaten, so they were about 5 hours past-due on their feed. My poor dog looked disheveled, hubby’s hair was looking like Kramer hair from his hands anxiously running through it, and I was frantically trying to unpack meds and food, shakily pouring formula into bottles. (Do you have any idea the anxiety of two, screaming babies that are new to your home as a new parent?! Maybe…)

Finally, around 11PM, both girls were on their way to being changed out of their dresses (which had @#$%^&* buttons, by the way…BUTTONS!), into onesies, and fed.

Bottom line, things aren’t always what they seem. Babies’ personalities change. *Olivia is still our feisty one and Vivian is our nice, good baby…until there’s something she wants. You want to avoid, at all costs, hearing Vivian cry.

*Since this post, they have flip-flopped once more. As of February, Olivia turned into our quiet baby and Vivian our anxiety-inducing rage baby. Both are beautiful and healthy and oh so sweet until the early-evening is upon us.

Also know this…I know I’ve shared pictures of them in the hospital before, but it’s hard every time. Their sweet, tiny bodies endured so much to be what they are today. I even noticed a little scarring on Olivia’s foot today from all of the blood draws, and let’s not forget about the PDA Ligation scar on their backs. I treat them like the special miracle cuties they are and am so so grateful for modern medicine.

Above all, though their scars serve as reminders that they are the NICU Micro-Preemie warriors that they are, I also have their beautiful faces, chubby legs, and soft skin as a reminder of what unconditional love can create.

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Why Babies are Cute

Both of my babies wear helmets to help mold their heads back to a more rounded shape versus having dish pan heads. The girls are growing, but the helmets are not, so appointments need to be fulfilled in order to shave the inside of the helmets to fit their heads. They f$%&ing hate it to say it lightly.

I shuffle the car seats into the room (hubby happened to be on his way home and could meet, so he lugged one in). Both babies are in high spirits; morale is high, smiles are flowing. The guy that adjusts the helmets is new, so they don’t yet know his face (Vivian started screaming as soon as the last guy came in the room). Olivia goes first (in retrospect, this was probably a super smart move). She giggles, starts talking to the guy (I use “talk” lightly here), life seems good. He makes some suggestions and disappears with Olivia’s helmet to make adjustments. Meanwhile, Vivian sits in her car seat with a smile. The anxiety starts to build within me.

The guy returns with Olivia’s helmet. Hubby holds her. On deck we have Vivian, her chubby digits waving about, waiting to be picked up. She does not know her fate, but we do. It’s her witching hour – anything past 4PM with her and everything is horrible. I sit her on my lap and the guy approaches to remove and study her helmet. She begins to scream. It’s an inconsolable, abhorrent, body-rattling scream, and she does it right in his face. He continues to try to hold conversation and I nod as though I can hear what he’s saying. Her body slumps and she refuses to lock her legs to stand, as if in protest of all things helmet. There is nothing I can do.

He leaves with her helmet to make adjustments. She continues to scream. I try walking with her and wander into the next room. I find a mirror and put her face in front of it. I do that excited face that all parents do.

“WOO! What a pretty girl!”

She looks at my face for a split second and begins to wail again. Nothing is working. I see a trash can and a thought crosses my mind. Babies are cute for one reason – so that we as parents *don’t get frustrated and throw them in the trash.

*It’s meant to be funny. Please don’t think I would ever throw either of my babies in the trash. Maybe my husband when he makes me angry (love you!), but I would never throw my cuties in a dumpster.

23 and 4

At 19 and 6, it was glaringly obvious to all of the doctors that modified bed rest was the best thing. I was no longer driving, was working from home, and was to have minimal movement up and down stairs. Pfffffffft. No one is going to tell me when I can and cannot have a sandwich…or cake. Delicious, amazing, single-serve mug cake. That was one exception I made for going up and down the stairs. I would wake at 3AM every morning with a rage craving for CAKE…s’mores cake, confetti cake, strawberry shortcake cake…all of the cakes. I sincerely want to know which baby forced me from my restless sleep every night for this ridiculous craving!

At 23 weeks and 3 days, I was on top of the world! A close friend threw us a shower in our home so that I didn’t have to leave. How cool was that?! The party came to us! What I did not realize at the time was that I was way too mobile. By the end of that Sunday, after seeing the last person off, my legs hurt, my belly was doing this weird thing where it would stiffen and felt like it was vibrating, and my feet looked like balloons. I was on my feet all day long. Tired, I went to bed early.

I was on top of the world…until the middle of the night at 23 weeks, 4 days. I was awoken by the feeling of a clot passing. I hoped it wasn’t, but I checked, and it was. Again, my belly kept getting hard, vibrating, and it looked like a baby was trying to push out the side of my belly. I called out to hubby and told him we needed to go. Unfazed, he got out of bed and quickly changed as I took one, last quick shower. I knew that a shower was a luxury that would be taken away if I had to stay at the hospital. I also knew that the doctors would be awaiting my return, so I had packed bags to take with me – including my tweezers and my magnifying mirror. God.

I panicked looking for the number to labor and delivery, not knowing I was leaving a trail of blood in my wake as I looked for where I had written the number down. I found it and called to let them know that they would be having a visitor soon. Hubby and I were both calm, yet worried on our way in. He dropped me off at the front of the hospital and went to park. I hurried to the elevator and made my way up to L&D (Labor and Delivery) on the 4th floor.

I went through the motions of everything, including the red pee sample. I wanted to cry. I had two little angels in my belly that were relying on my strength to make it another few weeks to our next milestone of 28 weeks. No pressure.

The girls were a bit bigger now and a little easier to find on the ultrasound machine. Three straps around my belly – one for contractions, one for baby A, and one for baby B. They could always find baby A as she rested peacefully at the bottom of my uterus. Baby B – not so much. My ribs, my left side, my right side; she did not want to be bothered with this monitor! She would kick it, kick her sister, and kick me. That was when I determined that this baby would be Vivian, after Vivien Leigh from Gone With the Wind. Vivien’s character was strong-willed and determine. Baby A was quiet and unassuming – that would be Olivia, named after Olivia de Havilland and her character of Melanie Hamilton. I even knew their profiles on the monitor! The docs would never be able to pull a switcharoo :).

The machines told me two things – one, the babies’ heartbeats were perfect and two, I was contracting (those strange vibrations) every three minutes. You know what that meant – magnesium sulfate. Luckily I had snuck a Nature Valley bar on my way in because magnesium sulfate means no food and no water; just a sodium drip. I was to stay on a “mag drip” for four days. There was vomiting, negotiating a bed pan versus catheter, no food, no water, and no shower for four days. After the fourth day, I was allowed a nutritious and meaty meal of water, ice chips, and jello.

Through those four days, I got no rest. I was monitored hourly. Vivian moved constantly, so at the very moment I would finally doze off, a nurse would come in, apply some conductive gel, and move the monitor around to find her. The gel was itchy and I started to develop a rash where each of the girls resided.

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Olivia (far right) and Vivian’s (far left) Apartment and home decor (middle)

I felt disgusting. We had  two visitors to the room that Thursday, which I promptly turned away as I turn into Joe Pesce when I’m hungry, unshowered, and only allowed to pee in a bed pan. I also did not mention that I was working from my bed during all of this. As they left, a chaplain came into my room. That was the last straw. I was emotional, stressed, and exhausted. I finally started bawling and told her I would love it if she left so I could rest. She said she would grant my wish. A glimmer of hope rose within me, then she pulled up a chair and sat. I lost it on her.

“I just want to shower, I’m exhausted, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, and I want to be left alone! Please, just leave!”

In shock, she stood, tucked the chair away, apologized, and left. I asked hubby to leave too. He did.

Hubby came back with some Cheetos to which he promptly tucked away behind the couch on the window sill after asking if it was okay for me to have them. To my chagrin, it was not. I eye-f@#$ed the shit out of those the rest of the day and into the night. My eye cameras were drawn to that bag constantly like some inherent tractor beam within me that did not work. Pause for a moment from the Cheeto bag when…

My doctor came in and gave me a run down of the events that would follow. I was finally allowed that savory goodness known as jello and ice chips and I was also allowed to shower. I was also to stay three days after the bleeding had stopped. Oh my God. I cannot tell you how quickly I rolled out of my bed and waddled into the bathroom. The warm water felt amazing, but I was still bleeding slightly. Thankfully, the girls were safe and growing.

Later on, I revisited those Cheetos and somehow negotiated with my night nurse. I begged her to bring me the tasty morsels. I was to eat only half of the bag of Cheetos. Score. I savored every bite. They were phenomenal! Though I had half of the bag as promised, sadly, the bag did not make it through the night after my second wave of eating half the bag.

The next morning, I figured all evidence of my mid-morning feast was gone – my fingers were licked clean, then wiped, and my face was freshly washed. Well, the empty bag had fallen to the floor next to my bed and laid forgotten. I surely could not fetch it, so it stayed. Oh well.

cheetofest.jpgHubby took photographic evidence of said Cheeto destruction.

Those Cheetos never stood a chance against a ravenous, pregnant Joe Pesce. Never. Until next time, little buddies. Ugh. I still had three more days. I had bruises up and down my arms from blood draws and IVs and my arms were sore from all of the pokes. More importantly, through it all, hubby and I still made the best of things.

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A very pregnant hubby looks on for the camera.

Our NICU doctor, Dr. George Powers, paid us a visit to congratulate us on making it to 24 weeks. The mortality rate went down exponentially, but the risks were all still very real and very high with potential issues that could arise should the girls choose to come sooner (or should my body choose to force them out). With this visit, he broke down new statistics and measures to expect. With every visit from every doctor, we took great comfort in knowing that our girls were in the right place.

Do you know what else told us we were in the right place? The fact that my doctor on call did the below for me. I am the first documented case of twins post-radical robotic trachelectomy in the world. This doctor called me a unicorn (hence the continued unicorn theme with the girls). She was and is amazing. She has one heck of a sense of humor and genuinely cares for her patients. We are so honored to have experienced her care!

20170716_093930.jpgAn amazing hospitalist decorates my room to add color and cheer to detract from the Golden Girl era wallpaper and valances.
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Better Hospital Rooms & Gardens

By Sunday I was bored, had a craving for IHOP, and exhausted, but hey, at least I brought my tweezers with me; eyebrows on FLEEK! I was also released from the joint that Tuesday. Hallelujah!

And with that, the girls made it to their next milestone of 24 weeks…now to 28.

 

Micro Preemie Babies are Hard, Y’all

I know it’s been eons since I have written anything. To be honest, hubby and I have been through absolute hell the past 7 months. Between several visits to the hospital due to premature labor/bleeding, emergency c-section, a 92-day NICU stay that included heart surgery on both babies in their first week of life, taking home and raising not-your-average twins, and battling insurance, it’s been absolutely insane.

One thing that you’re never prepared for is having children. What you are also not prepared for is having more than one at once. What you are absolutely never ever positively not prepared for is having micro preemie more than one at once. It comes with its own unique set of challenges that are unlike those of term babies.

Within 5 days of having them home, I had been to the pediatrician with Vivian and Olivia twice. That’s two car seats, two pacifiers (which I did not pack because I was new to this new mom thing…I also did not pack a diaper bag), an oxygen tank, an SpO2 monitor (because sweet Vivian went home on oxygen), two co-pays, and oh yeah, I was getting a cold; the last thing you want to have when taking care of micro-preemies. That, folks, is $120 within 3 days. I had insisted on driving them on my own, telling hubby that he did not have to take time off work.

“I’ll have to figure out how to do this on my own anyway, I’ve got this!”

Yeah. I had it all right. I must have looked like absolute shit at the doctor’s office despite my efforts to pile on my makeup. I pile it on anyway because, well, I pay enough for it so you might as well see it, but upon inspection in the natural light of my rear-view mirror (OH! Cute babies sleeping!), I had orange splotches at my temples, hairline, and cheeks where my makeup was not blended, my cat eye was more of a raccoon eye from lack of sleep, and my blush was applied like It the clown. I sucked at this mom thing and looked it too. As I piled my babies into the room, I felt that ‘I had this’. I was feeling a sore throat coming on and was wearing a mask while slathering on hand sanitizer on my NICU hands* (which is a whole other phenomenon; see below).

My pediatrician was wonderful. She looked at me point-blank and said,

“No one really tells you this, but the first 8 weeks are shit.”

Okay, kind of reassuring to hear from my doctor. A wave of relief washed over me. I see some moms on instagram, facebook, magazines…they look amazing! Rested, hair perfect, and brows perfectly maintained. I already looked like a Cro magnon man. How could I fall apart in just 5 days? My brain was telling me, “Go!”, but my body was telling me, “No, honey, you do not have this”.

The doctor told me about another patient who had twins and was in a car accident because she was so tired. She offered me her personal number and that she would come over to take care of night feeds if we needed so that we could get some rest. She went on to explain that when she was a resident, she became pregnant (RESIDENCY?! and baby?!). Between her and her hubby, she stayed in the nursery to handle the night feeds so that hubby could rest and work. This was what I tried to do. Hubby handled formula and bottle washing (holy HELL, so many bottles!!!) since I had NICU hands. That was a huge task. I handled the night feeds so he could rest and maintain his normal 7-5 and his teaching jobs. Yup, between the two of us, three jobs to maintain twins.

“I get it. Bills don’t pay themselves,” she said.

Even more relief. My doctor was standing there telling me, in not so many words, that it’s okay to have your life turned upside down and to prioritize the way that suits you and your family. We took her up on her offer to come over the next night. Yet another angel on earth! Who is this person and who better to trust to watch your preemies?!

You think one baby is hard, try two that are micro-preemies! It comes with a whole different set of responsibilities. They don’t eat like term babies, they need intervention with development and motor, daily stretching to prevent torticollis (the atrophy of the neck muscle) that also prevents plagiocephaly, which good luck with preventing that with twins.

I’m not looking for a woe-is-me type of deal here. Not at all. What I am looking to do is let you know that it’s not easy and it’s okay. No one is perfect (except those moms on instagram, facebook, and in magazines) and that’s ok.

Once week nine rolled around, both babies were looking at us and cooing. That was last week. They will be ten weeks corrected on Thursday (5 months, 9 days actual). Today they are torturing me like any infant would, but times two. I’m stressed, but showered. My days are filled with chaos, screaming, crying (sometimes all 5 of us with the dog included), NICU hands that are just starting to heal, and most definitely double doody…but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

*NICU hands: dry, cracked, blistered, itchy hands that are not remedied by anything except a lotion called Dermarest. NICU hands.

A Tour, a Meltdown, and a Precursor to Pre-Term Labor

For the week following our visit with Dr. Hill, we tried to get a tour of the hospital I’d be delivering at (conveniently across the street from my MFM Specialists). It was tough, to be honest, as there seemed to be all of these barriers to getting a damn tour. The hospital was just converted into a Children’s Hospital in 2012, with their NICU opened just this past April. It was “new”, but under construction. Labor and Delivery was on the 4th floor and the NICU supposedly on the 3rd. We were finally able to get in to see Labor and Delivery one day and, as soon as we got off the elevator, we saw ‘NICU’…but it was behind a bunch of plastic (that’s not good). Well, we were unable to get our tour at this time, and were certainly uneasy at seeing plastic covering over the NICU entrance.

Hubby and I discussed our experience over the next few days, rather, I had meltdowns over the stress of finding MORE new doctors/paying for appointments for new doctors. We know who won this battle (hubby)…We decided to touch base with other OB-GYNs in the area just in case, and we did. What we found was that, though the doctors were great, they did not have experience with this type of situation (no surprise here, and not said in a pejorative manner), nor did they give any warm fuzzies about the situation.

As an aside, at 12 weeks pregnant, Dr. Mildred Ramirez (my Houston MFM) told me no running for exercise. She described it like so… Imagine a balloon, tied off at the end, moving up and down. The only support the balloon has is the knot, and if enough pressure is put on that knot, the balloon pops. That makes absolute sense, right?! I was told that elliptical was fine, so that’s what I did – up until I was slapped in the face with the ‘high risk now’ comment.

We were onward bound at 18 weeks pregnant to a different OB/hospital just to try to have options. After having an episode of rage over parking at a structure at the new office (pregnancy apparently makes you have meltdowns and episodes of rage…who knew) because the hubby parked in some structure next to Mars, and I could not find him, we were at the next doctor’s appointment. Kudos to hubby for shrugging off and laughing at my episode of rage…

“I DON’T SEE YOUR CAR!”

“I’m right by the hospital.”

“I’ve gone all the way to the top of the structure and don’t see your car!”

“I’m standing by the doors.”

“WHAT DOORS?! THE DOOR TO THE OFFICE IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME AND I DON’T SEE YOU!” (Drives angrily out of the structure to find hubby. Never finds hubby and drives back to old structure because said structure was the right place to park.)

“WELL YOU’RE GONNA BE LATE THEN! I’LL MEET YOU INSIDE!” (Insert colorful expletives throughout my rage-laden outburst)

Though risky on his part to laugh at me, it did eventually calm me down.

So, let’s refer back to what the MFM in Houston told me about exercise. It made so much sense that I should not run, so I used this as a doctor test with all doctors moving forward to gauge whether or not I felt they were a match for our situation.

We met a wonderful OB at this appointment. She was top-rated in San Antonio, beautiful, and equally knowledgeable. Great time to test her.

“So, what do you think of exercise? Is running okay? Elliptical?”

“Running is absolutely fine! Elliptical makes your legs stretch too far, stretching the uterus and putting extra stress on the cerclage.”

Nope. That made little sense to me and my situation. I’m not poo-pooing this doctor’s expertise, as she is surely great for a regular pregnancy (she didn’t get high ratings for nothing)…but not mine. After that experience, I convinced hubby to do another tour at the Children’s Hospital with me. We were able to get in that day, thankfully! We were not especially blown away by the facilities, but what came next blew us away.

Our nurse, Rosemary, (who was as sweet as can be) took us on our tour of Labor and Delivery, then showed us the way to the NICU. As it turns out, what we thought was the NICU was actually area under construction for a newly-remodeled section of Labor and Delivery. She introduced us to Natalie in the NICU, a member of the transport team. You know those awesome people that ride in helicopters and rescue critical babies? She’s on that team. She was and is lovely. That is the only word for her. She took us through a brand new, state of the art NICU at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. We were in awe. Everyone we encountered was kind and accommodating. We knew we were in the right place just in case our girls came early.

You see, when choosing a hospital, especially if you are high risk or elevated high risk, it doesn’t matter what the labor and delivery facilities look like. The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio is in the process of renovating, but at the time the rooms were similar to the Golden Girls’ Miami pad – outdated with pinks, greens, valances, and flower borders. Bleh! It was the NICU that just blew us away. In case our girls came early, it wasn’t about me, it was about them. It was always about them.