December 29, 2011.
I remember the day so clearly; as if it were just yesterday.
I woke up completely miserable. This miserable feeling was familiar; waking up in misery had been routine for the past 3 weeks. When you are almost 35 weeks pregnant with twins basically nothing you do is comfortable.
Not that I wasn’t thankful to still be pregnant with my first babies. Back in week 24 of my pregnancy my doctor had warned me that I wasn’t consuming enough protein and we would be lucky to make it to 32 weeks.
Fast forward 10 weeks and I had successfully drank 10,000 Ensure shakes and made it nearly 3 weeks past the coveted Week 32.
Okay, 10,000 is a lie- but I will never drink another Ensure shake again as long as I live.
My pregnancy had been difficult from the very beginning. Weeks 6-12 of my pregnancy were a nightmare. I was so sick I could barely get out of bed. I lost at least 15 lbs and couldn’t even shower because any shampoo smell made me sick to my stomach. Life was pretty much a ‘get out of bed, go to the couch, binge watch HGTV, then go back to bed’ routine.
I wasn’t shocked when I learned I was having twins- this explained the dramatic symptoms I was having (I literally had every pregnancy symptom in the book). Also- my mom and my dad are both twins. So even though they say that twins aren’t genetic, I beg to differ.
In Week 16 I found out I was having identical boys and was over the moon! I had always wanted a son and I already had my boy names planned and had bookmarked the Ralph Lauren baby boys clothes website on my computer.
However, we also discovered at this time that the twins were mono-di twins. Mono-di twins are very high risk because they share a placenta. That means that my one and only placenta was going to have to nourish both of my baby boys until I gave birth. Single babies have a placenta all to themselves and doctors can normally see the wear and tear on the placenta by week 40. Yikes!
My pregnancy became pretty dramatic starting in Week 20. Not only did I have to see my OB every other week, I also had to see a high risk doctor every other week. By Week 28 I was seeing each of these doctors every single week. Basically- I should have moved into the hospital.
At Week 30 I was put on a modified bed rest because my blood pressure was high and I had severe edema. I went to work in the mornings and then was told to spend the afternoons laying on my left side. Yes, the left side. The right side is apparently not as conducive to growing children.
Every week I didn’t deliver the twins was a blessing.
As I got ready for my ultrasound on that 29th of December, I remember having a strange feeling. It was a Thursday and I had always had a feeling that I would deliver my twins on a Thursday. My bag was packed and in the corner of my bedroom- we knew that it could be any day now. Still- I was only 34 weeks and 5 days so it was too soon. Most likely my boys’ lungs wouldn’t be ready to conquer the outside world.
We had been monitoring the boys’ growth via the ultrasounds for the past few weeks. It was important to make sure that each baby was still growing. These ultrasounds were intense and would normally last 1.5-2 hours because we had to measure every single part of each baby. A lot of times the babies were so cramped and twisted together that it was difficult to take measurements.
This specific Thursday, the doctor said that we were not going to have a growth ultrasound.
As soon as the doctor left the room, I told my husband and my mom that this was weird- that I felt we needed to check the growth of the babies.. that it had been too long since the last growth check. Personally, I am very non-confrontational and I normally keep anything that irritates me to myself. But- as soon as the nurse came back in the room I basically demanded we check the boys’ growth. I just had a feeling.
And I am SO glad I spoke up.
Fast forward an hour, Baby A hadn’t grown in 2 weeks and Baby B, who had always been smaller, was now much larger now- at least a pound.
The doctor gave me the option of delivering that day or the next day and something told me that it better be today.
And thank goodness, because I found out later that if we would have waited any longer, I could have lost both of my boys.
As I waited for my emergency C-Section that was scheduled at 2pm, I didn’t feel nervous. My husband had brought my overnight bag as well as my computer so I could play games and relax. I just felt that my boys would be fine and we would all be home in a few days.
I could not have been more wrong.
Dominic Joseph was the smaller baby. He came into the world at 2:22pm at 3lbs, 6oz. Dominic was the one who hadn’t been growing. But- he was born breathing on his own! This was great news!
I didn’t get to hold him. I don’t know what his APGAR score was. My husband didn’t get to cut his cord. He was quickly shown to us and then rushed to the NICU.
Giovanni Richard came two minutes later at 2:24pm at 4lbs, 2oz. Giovanni was not breathing on his own- so much like Dominic he was also quickly rushed to the NICU.
I briefly got to see the boys after I left recovery on my way to being wheeled up to my room. They were attached to every wire imaginable and Giovanni had a tube down his throat to help him breath. I wouldn’t get to hold Dominic until the next day and Giovanni the day after that.
It is really hard as a new mother to not be able to hold your babies right away.
In the next month, my husband and I experienced every high and every low of emotion you can have. The boys were little and they needed a lot of time. They had developed Twin-to-Twin Transfusion syndrome- basically the placenta was giving Giovanni all the nutrients and Dominic was getting very little to nothing. This was bad for both boys. Giovanni was so pumped full of blood and nutrients from the placenta that he literally had too much blood and stayed red in color for over a month- it is actually how we told them apart for the first month! Dominic was so white and skinny he had to have a couple of blood transfusions.
The boys had to be fed by a tube and eventually taught how to suck and feed themselves. Most babies that are full term are born innately knowing how to suck, but the twins came too early to learn this in the womb.
Each night the boys were weighed and we prayed they would gain weight. We prayed that they would keep improving and we prayed each day might be the day we take them home.
This happened less than 4 years ago- but our time in the NICU is blurry. I think I have repressed it all because it was the most difficult time in my life. The what-if’s were mind-numbingly controlling:
What if I had been better at eating more protein?
What if I had not demanded the growth scan?
What if the boys didn’t gain weight?
What if the boys always stay little?
The hardest thing I have ever had to do was leave my babies in the hospital and go home each night- for a month. I would sit in their empty nursery, freshly painted and decorated and baby-ready and I would cry for hours.
I truly felt that I had failed them.
Dominic came home first and Giovanni followed him 4 days later.
November 17th- World Prematurity Awareness Day, always brings my mind back to the days in the hospital with my little 3 & 4 pound babes.
We were so lucky to deliver at a hospital with a state-of-the art NICU and nurses and doctors that were truly committed to helping our babies grow.
Dominic and Giovanni will be 4 next month. They are still little guys- their 20-month old baby brother only weighs 5lbs less than them- but they are happy and they are healthy and they are perfect.
Until next time,