Amber's Birth of Addison and Abel
"Are you joking?"
It wasn't the beginning of everything but definitely the defining moment. The moment I knew that things weren't ok. I had been having contractions, or what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions, for three days now. And now, I was on the phone with Josh...telling him that I had either involuntarily pee’d myself or my water had just broke. Eleven more weeks until my due date and I'm standing there in utter shock, fear, and soaking wet shorts.
"Ok, Becky is coming to get you. I'll meet you there. Stop crying, everything is going to be ok love"
Right, I don't think so.
When we got there, Josh was waiting up front with a wheelchair. The ADORABLE perfect beginning of every labor. First time dad waiting up front with the wheelchair. Except one thing. His face wasn't full of anticipation and excitement. It was full of fear and concern. It matched mine. Josh hopped in the driver seat to park the truck and Becky attempted pushing me in the wheelchair while balancing her little boy on her hip. Luckily, a soldier runs up to us taking the wheelchair and starts asking me all the basics while urgently rushing us up to the 3rd floor of Womack Army Medical Center. I'm sure he assumed I was full term. I sure as hell looked like it!
"What's happened ma'am"
"My water broke"
"How long ago?"
"How far apart are your contractions"
"I haven't been timing them...." Ooh my god I can't believe this is happening... "I'm only 29 weeks with twins"
We get up to the 3rd floor and graciously thanked the soldier. Josh meets us there and the front desk repeats the daunting questions. After slowly pulling out packets of paper for me to fill out, Becky screams out "she's 29 weeks pregnant with twins!" "Ooh, that changes things, let's get you to triage." (Thank you for that Becky. I really don't know what I would have done without you!)
They didn't have any room in triage so they put me in a LDR room to "triage" me. Hooking me up to monitors and asking me every question known to man. I was definitely contracting. My little monitor was all over the place. And my belly? COVERED in monitors! One down low for Addison and two in the middle for Abel and to measure contractions. They told me the process of what they would do. Check my cervix for water and test it to see if it's amniotic fluid. A lot of the process is a blur to me. I was crying and crying the whole time. I was not convinced everything was going to be ok. They check my cervix and I am dilated to 1cm. I dilated to 1cm at 20 weeks. That's good I guess. They send in a few students. Ask me some more questions. Make me feel like I'm lying...or retarded... After resting for a while, the doctor comes back and tells me that it was not amniotic fluid. Ummm, so I no longer have control over my bladder and pee'd myself...that's embarrassing... But my contractions are ten minutes apart so they want to keep me and monitor me. Awesome, I pee'd myself and it brought on contractions. I'm talented...or they are just retarded... (for the record: I still say my water broke. We obviously know peeing your pants doesn't bring on labor...hmmm lol).
They continue to tell me that with my contractions, they are going to give steroid shots to develop the twins' lungs. I will receive two. One right there and the next one will be in 24 hours. They also put me on magnesium to slow and hopefully stop my contractions. Josh had been at work all day and needed a shower and food. We also needed a few things to be comfortable for our stay. My hospital bag wasn't packed. Why would it be?! We made a few phones calls to family and updated Facebook. We were hoping God would hear all of our prayers. We knew nothing about premature labor. All we knew...I had 11 more weeks to go and they were giving me shots to develop the babies' lungs. Lungs are needed to breathe. Breathing means alive. Josh headed home and I burst into tears. Again.
Josh came back about an hour later, about 7pm. I had received my second bag of magnesium. I felt super dizzy and loopy. The nurses peaked in on us every so often. The babies were moving around and their heart rates were great. We sat around and watched The Big Bang Theory. Josh took pictures of the room and we tried to relax. He would watch my monitor and tell me when another contraction would start. Lol, thanks love. I'm pretty sure I know(: Everything seemed fine, except my contractions were not slowing down. At all.
Before I know it, I am gripping Josh's hand and holding my breath. HOLY SHIT! THIS HURTS! Josh is telling me to breath and trying so hard to get me through it. He looks scared. I'm getting little breaks in between my contractions now and they HURT! I turn to Josh and tell him to go get the nurse. Something is wrong. My nurses come back in and look at the paper recording my contractions. In a whisper, one of them turns to the other and tells her to urgently go get another nurse (Long story short, they told me that when you are in preterm labor, there are certain nurses qualified to check your cervix.) While we waited for that nurse, Josh and the other two nurses talked me through my contractions.
When the nurse gets there, everyone crowds around me and she checks. Also in a whisper, she tells the nurses "she's 5cm and one of her water bags is bulging. There is a baby right here. We need to switch to a c-section right now." Ooh my god, I don't feel good. Why is this happening? Immediately everyone scatters to different duties. An anesthesiologist comes in and I'm signing paperwork. A NICU nurse is explaining procedures to me. Telling me what is going to happen to my daughter and son as soon as they are whisked from me. The mother that couldn't house them any longer. The mother that had failed them. While she is telling me protocol, nurses are taking off my necklace, my earrings, my shirt. "They will pull the babies out and each baby will have a team. They will clean off the baby and immediately take it to the NICU to be assessed. You only had one steroid shot and you are just barely out of your second trimester, they will probably need assistance breathing. In fact, they probably won't make a noise when they come out. We are taking them by an emergency c-section so they can save their energy to fight."
I'm sure she said more but my heart shattered. They probably won't make a noise when they come out. I won't hear them. I won't see them. They need to fight for their lives. I can't take this! "I think I'm going to throw up."
I'm now on the operating table. I'm hugging a nurse while the anesthesiologist is giving me an epidural. There are 14 doctors and nurses in the room. Each baby has their own team and table. I have quite a few people working on me as well. Where is Josh, I need him. Eventually they lay me down and cover my stomach and raise the "curtain" in front of me. They escort my *blue* husband in. Covered head to toe, dressed and ready. He's about to become a father. He looks petrified. He gives me a kiss. Realizing the time and the fact that these babies are about to be born no matter what, I blurt out "please make them born on the same day!" Everyone in the room laughs. It's about 11:30pm. After everyone ceases laughing, I hear the doctor call out his first incision. I'm going to throw up. I can't believe this is happening.
Definitely a lot of pressure felt around down behind that "curtain". The doctors explain everything that is happening as they do it. The anesthesiologist at my head is ignoring my "I'm going to throw up" comments. Luckily the one next to him, takes off my oxygen mask and puts it over my nose. Much better, I think.
"Baby A- 11:42pm". At that moment, the most magical and relieving thing happened. Baby A, my daughter Addison Grace, born too early and expected not to make a noise, SCREAMED! Ooh my god she's alive!! I gave the biggest sigh of relief. Her battle isn't over but she screamed. She's telling me "I'm here mommy, I'm going to fight". The anesthesiologist asks Josh if he wants to stand up and look over the curtain. Unfortunately, before Josh has a chance to answer, the other one immediately reminds him that this is an emergency c-section and it's not allowed. My mind is quickly distracted. My whole body and the whole table I'm on starts shaking vigorously. Josh gives me this look of "what in the world?!" I feel the second doctor's arms on my ribs and he is PUSHING HARD!
POP!!...."Baby B- 11:44pm". And at that announcement, baby B, my son Abel Jackson, born too early and expected not to make a noise, SCREAMED! Ooh my god he's alive!! They are both alive! He's telling me he's going to fight too! I'm crying. Partly because I just gave birth to TWO babies. Partly because they are born too soon. Partly because they already made me proud. And mostly because I didn't even get to see what they looked like. The main surgeon asks Josh if he wants to come around and go with the babies. I turn to him and tell him to go. I'll be fine, our kids need him. But what they really need is a miracle.
After I'm all stitched up and taken to my recovery room, I have new nurses. I can't help but burst into tears and bawl my eyes out. Two hours goes by and Josh comes back. He kisses me. "Addison and Abel are doing ok. They are tiny. Covered in wires and machines. Really tiny." He's holding the camera in his hands and I know he took pictures. Can you just show me the pictures?! He tries to warn me again, "They are really small and it scares me." "JOSH, PLEASE GIVE ME THE CAMERA!" He was protecting me. He was warning me and he was trying to make sure I was going to be ok. I felt guilty but I needed to see them. I needed it!
He turns on the camera and shows me the first picture. It's a picture of Abel in the operating room. He's purple and looks dead. I quickly go to the next one. It's the inside of an incubator. There is a towel rolled up and folded in half. Inside the towel is Addison covered head to toe in wires. The diaper takes up her whole body and the CPAP on her head takes up her whole head. After a few pictures of Addison, comes Abel. He is also covered in a diaper and CPAP. The rest of his body is still purple mostly. He is covered in bruises from his tugging and pulling from being stuck under my ribs. It’s the least of my worries.
I go through the 15 or so pictures several times while Josh and I talk. I don’t remember what we were talking about. My mind was elsewhere. Josh mentioned that he needs to call family and let them know “A & A” were born (their names were secrets from everyone until birth). It’s 2am or so but everyone is anxiously awake. The last they all heard was that the magnesium wasn’t working. He made the calls to our parents, updated on Facebook, and left the rest to rumor. We had other things on our minds. One thing, I was STARVING! I had not eaten all day and ice chips were no longer “cheeseburgers”. However, the magnesium causes muscle relaxation and eating could cause choking. I wouldn’t be able to eat until very much later. Luckily, I convinced my really nice nurses to sneak me a popsicle. I regretted it and ended up throwing it up no longer than an hour later. About 3am I finally got to go to my personal recovery room. The room that would be mine for the rest of the week. Ever since I was out of surgery I had been asking when I could see the babies. Now that I was in yet another room, I asked again. My answer was no again. My babies are almost four hours old and I have yet to meet them. Even see them! They told me I could after a complete a few tests. SERIOUSLY?!? UGH! I needed to have my catheter removed, walk two laps around the L&D ward, and a few other things I can’t remember. They told me to get my rest and I could try in the morning. I wasn’t even allowed to try yet. I cried again.
I tried sleeping. I couldn’t. I laid awake the whole time. Did anyone expect otherwise? I just had two babies. I’m here and they are on the other side of the hospital. Not fair at all. Nurses came in and out all night checking on me and resupplying me with pain killers. Eventually 9am rolled around. I was anxious to complete my tests. The nurse came in and helped me to the bathroom to make sure I could at least walk there. That test was done. We went back and they removed my catheter. Second test done. I finished all these dumb tests as quickly as I could and next thing I know, I’m being wheeled down to the NICU. Ooh thank god!!
We are buzzed through several doors and get to a counter with two sinks. We scrubbed up to our arm pits and went in through the last door. In front of us is a hallway with a room to either side. In the middle of the rooms are the nurses’ workstations and around the edges are incubators and cribs. I can’t tell you how many other babies were in there. I was extremely focused. The twins were on the right side in the far back. There was an empty incubator in between them. I assume because each baby had such big teams that being right next to other would have been too cluttered. Addison was to the left and Abel to the right. We went to Abel first. I took a deep breath and looked inside. He was sleeping. Just like the pictures, you couldn’t see too much of him. He was tiny and helpless. Not an ounce of muscle on him. My son, my beautiful Abel is alive. My heart began to heal a little. Just a little but it felt good. Hello handsome, I’m your mommy. I can’t believe you are actually here. I looked around at his new home. Technology threw up and made mini technology. EVERYWHERE. We go over to Addison next. Her CPAP is off and she is wearing a nasal canula. Hello beautiful girl, I’m your mommy! I’ve been waiting for you! We would go back to the CPAP very soon but it felt good to see improvement so soon. Learning the NICU roller coaster is the biggest challenge. Set backs are soooooo normal and yet you still get disappointed each time. Both babies mostly had the same stuff. Wires coming out their *soon to be* belly buttons, stickers all over their chests, tubes down their mouths, tubes breathing into their nose, blood pressure cuffs devouring their ankles, stiff arm boards that take up their whole arms, ect and ect. Very overwhelming. The worst was hearing and seeing one of their alarms going off. The first couple of times, it was soo intimidating. I didn’t know what any of it meant. All I knew was that it was loud and blinked and usually a nurse would be at the bed side pretty quickly. I looked at the paperwork they had on the incubators. Each baby had their own, stating that they were baby “A” or “B”. It had their measurements on there. 3lbs even and 15in. Exact same for each baby. They weighed less than a bag of sugar. Heck, they were almost smaller than it too! Ooh my god, they are sooo tiny!
We sat there for a while just staring at them until Josh reminded me that I needed to eat. I could visit as often as I wanted but I needed to take care of myself. Addison and Abel needed me to be strong. I wanted so bad to reach in and touch them again. I wanted to hold them. I longed to hold them close to me. I even longed to just put them back inside me and let them finish growing. It’s just not fair. However, I couldn’t. It was facts and I needed to stop dreaming. Touching them and talking to them stimulates them. Right now, they needed to be left alone at all costs. I couldn’t imagine being the nurse that has to tell the mother not to touch or talk to her babies. Those nurses are tough! I however, didn’t see it that way. I only saw myself being the tough one for not bursting into tears until we had gotten back into our room.
Our NICU stay in short: The first week of seeing the babies felt like life or death. Everything that happened felt like another shatter to my already broken heart. They began tube feeding by day two/three. They started off eating 3ml of breast milk every four hours. Quickly moving up to 3ml every three hours. It seemed like every time we came back, the amount had tripled. They lost weight, which was to be expected. They both dropped down to 2lbs 7oz before gaining weight again. After the first week, we were able to hold them! My heart healed immensely that night. I held Abel and Josh held Addison. I held Abel so close to me. He was bundled in several blankets and had a hat on. All of his wires trailed down my lap and back to incubator and up to the monitors. I was in heaven. It felt like it erased all of my pain. This little boy magically fit into my hand. All his fingers could wrap around a little more than my finger nail. His head was the size of my fist. This tiny boy was making me feel like putty. Holding Addison was so magical! I never looked up from holding him until I was required to put him back an hour later. I never imagined I could love someone so much. For the next few weeks, they were allowed to be held once a day for an hour. One day I would hold Addison and Josh would hold Abel. The next day we would switch. This is called Kangeroo Care. We hold their naked bodies against our naked chest and then wrap blankets around us to make sure they stayed very warm. This is proven to help premature babies with growth, attachment, and development. While we held them, we could not move. We couldn’t rock, minimal talking, and we had to wait until we had permission. If they had a rough day, we could not hold them. Every step up seemed like a leap and every step down felt like a cliff. We were getting there slowly but surely. Moving to the other side of the NICU was big! The right side, was the side for big stuff. When they need a lot of attention. The left side was the “feeders and growers”. Moving there was such an accomplishment. When they were three weeks old, I had complained that I didn’t have any pictures of them together. In this hospital, it wasn’t allowed to put them together. One of our favorite nurses made my day when she closed the curtain around us, put them both in my arms, and took a picture. My heart healed even more. Eventually we worked up to more times a day. It felt like forever but it happened. About this time, we were able to start oral feedings! Abel quickly became an excellent breast feeder! Addison had trouble. She would latch but refused to eat. As soon as you put a bottle in her mouth though, she did great! We also moved from incubators to open air cribs. Addison had a much harder time in the NICU. She got sick often. She had lots of testing done throughout her stay. Abel didn’t have quite the hard time but he had minor setbacks every so often. His main setbacks were weight gain and bradys. Addison had a UTI and needed oxygen for a lot longer. Both needed lights to work with jaundice for well over a week. That’s common with premature babies, even full term babies, and was also to be expected. The worst time of our NICU stay was at about five weeks old. I would spend all day at the hospital. One morning I had gotten there about 5am and took Addison out to attempt bfing again. I was saying good morning and talking to her to wake her up. Her alarm started going off. By this time, I was very familiar with the alarms and I looked up at her monitor. This wasn’t right though. Her oxygen was VERY low and still dropping. Everything was dropping. I looked back down at her and OOH MY GOD she was purplish gray and limp and just staring straight ahead. Several nurses ran up and took her from my grasp, laid her in the crib and started giving her oxygen and doing whatever they do. I honestly can’t tell you because I stood there crying with a nurse hugging me to distract me. It felt like an eternity, although I’m sure it was a matter of seconds. Everything that we had worked for and worked up to felt like nothing. My daughter had just stopped breathing in my arms. I was once again shattered. I had no idea what this meant. All I know is I was petrified to take her home now. I chickened out and just stared at her. If it weren’t for the nurses…I’m not even going to finish that sentence. I still think about it to this day. She went on to do it several times a day for a few days. They started testing. Brain scans, blood work, ultrasounds, ect and ect! Everything was coming back normal!! Everyone was stumped! (Side note: the cutest thing! When we were doing the brain scan, we were watching her brain activity on a monitor. There was lots of noises and crying all around but everything on her screen stayed constantly low. Abel started crying and her brain activity picked up and started moving all around. It was the MOST BEAUTIFUL thing to see. She slept through it but her brain was going crazy! For those who don’t believe in twin connection, I’ve seen it! It’s magical lol!) One day, while down stairs for lunch (cafeteria food was definitely our new normal!), my grandma called me. She reminded me that we had milk allergies in the family. We went back upstairs and brought it up with her doctor. We told him we wanted to try formula and see how she handled it. He was agreeing whole heartedly with our decision and our thought process on it. After all, we were desperate to try anything! What do you know?! We tried it and she never did it again! It’s a tough conversation when I explain why I can’t breastfeed her. Most will never understand the true depth of her allergy to my milk! It still amazes me! After this was figured out, it seemed we were almost done. Almost ready to go home! But just like any roller coaster, we went crazy again! Both babies turned up anemic and ended up needing two blood transfusions each. It was hard for us signing paperwork and trusting that the blood that they were receiving was clean and safe. This was it though. After an eternity, Abel was ready to come home. I stayed the night at the hospital at 6w5d and Abel stayed in the room with me. The NICU nurse was on call in case I needed her. At 6w6d, at a little over 5lbs, Abel Jackson was a free man. Our son was coming home. It was bittersweet though. As exciting as taking Abel home was, we had to leave Addison. As being in the middle of RSV season, we couldn’t bring him back so we could visit Addison. It was hard but we still managed to see her every day! Luckily, she wasn’t too far behind! At 7w2d, at a little over 5.5lbs, Addison Grace, our beautiful daughter, was completing our family at home! Our babies were home a week and a half before Christmas and several weeks before their due date! My heart had healed. My miracles, my babies, my twins, were home!
My labor and delivery was miserable and opposite of everything I EVER wanted. However, I have the two most beautiful babies from it. I wouldn’t change anything. There is always stuff I say I wish I could change if I could but when I truly think about it, it would have changed everything. Why would you change perfection? Especially my perfect babies! October 24, 2011, changed my life forever!
Addison and Abel: Eleven weeks early (born October 24, 2011 but due January 8,2012), you were born too soon. You came into this world fighting and lived to prove it. I have never been so proud of anything in my life. You have shown me fear, love, and so much more. And I’m sure you have even more to show me. I could never repay either of you for the strength you have given me. You are my gifts from God and He knew what He was doing the whole time. And lucky us, we get to spend the rest of our lives in that honor! I love you both SOOO much. You complete our family perfectly! I’m going to go kiss and hold you both right now. Just because I can!
Tags: premature, preemie, twins, birth stories, birth stories on demand, 29 weeks, multiples, cesarean, magnesium sulfate, NICU, cpap, birth stories with pictures