Saturday, September 5
The Boys Birth
Know how I had been worrying for weeks what contractions would feel like? If I would miss them? Well... let's get started.
Friday before I had the babies- the 17th- I was checked and found to have not changed from 3 weeks prior. I was told that I might be going home soon. Things were looking good and it was as if I was taking up a space that I didn't need to take. Before Dr. Eton did the check she warned me that sometimes the checks can "shake things up". But she assured me that it wouldn't send me into labor or anything crazy like that.
Saturday night my parents came up to visit with Johnny and I. The whole time my back was hurting, but this isn't uncommon for me. My back has hurt for years and adding bed rest... it only hurt even more every night. So, we weren't worried at all. Besides, I had told my nurses for weeks that my back hurt and I was told that it was normal and no big deal.
Sunday AM I was awoken as usual by the resident and my nurse for the usual check (I told them I felt fine- no contractions, bleeding, or anything unusual) and my 6am nifedapine. I took it then went back to sleep with my alarm set for 8am. Breakfast had to be ordered by 9am and I had promised Johnny my breakfast (he wanted to try the french toast) so I was going to get up, have him order, and grab a shower to make my back feel better. We had plans to be visited by Johnny's parents and our friends later that morning/afternoon.
8am my alarm rang, I got up, and Johnny ordered breakfast. I wasn't feeling too hot-- my back was hurting and I was just off-- but I jumped into the shower for my 5 minute allotment. I turned up the water scalding hot to try to massage out my back and it felt a little better while the water was beating against it. Johnny knocked on the door to tell me my time was up so I hopped out, got back into bed, and started drying my hair. (It's hard to do while lying down!) While lying there I realized that something just wasn't right. It was more than a backache and feeling "off". I put my hand on my stomach and stared at the clock. As I lay there I realized that my stomach was hardening and softening rather rhythmically- like every 1-2 minutes. A little freaked I told Johnny that something just wasn't right. I wasn't sure what, but I knew it wasn't good. Johnny asked if I wanted him to call our friends to say "Don't come" and I said yes. I had a feeling it would be a long day... Around that time breakfast was delivered, but Johnny never got to eat it... :)
I had the nurse paged. I didn't hit the emergency button so it was taking a little while for the nurse to pop in. Apparently I freaked Johnny out a bit more than planned because in seconds he was in the hallway ready to pounce. He tracked down the first nurse he could-- not mine-- and I explained what was happening. The nurse went to grab the monitor. She grabbed a singleton monitor, but decided to strap me on anyways to monitor with the toco. Within seconds my fear was confirmed- I was contracting every 1-2 minutes. As we watched the peaks got a little less high so Johnny optimistically thought they were slowing down. No such luck.
Course when they found me contracting so rhythmically they called the doctor. Meanwhile I was asked about 25 times if I took my nifedapine that morning. YES I DID. Dr. Eton came in and saw the monitor, asked me again if I had taken my nifedapine, and decided to do another check. Mind you right now I KNEW I was contracting and I knew I was doing it a lot. But at NO POINT did I think the babies were coming. I thought they would drug me up or do something to stop labor. Things were too calm (hey, it only hurt a little!) so I didn't think for a second that they would decide to let me have the babies.
Anyways, Dr. Eton checked me and I was 6.5-7cm dilated. And I was told "Looks like the we're having the babies today!"
Then I started freaking out. I couldn't have the babies at 27w1d! We were just talking about sending me home and now we're talking about having the babies!?! Immediately I started crying. I tried to be brave- the nurses and Dr. Eton all assured me that everything would be okay. The babies would be okay. I would be okay. But I didn't believe it.
Johnny called our parents and the words "You need to come because Stacey is having the babies!" made me sob even harder. I was so scared, but I went into survival mode. I did everything that was told of me. I stripped in a room full of nurses. I calmly let them wheel me up to Labor and Delivery. It was crazy. I can tell you one thing-- even in crisis nurses and doctors at Beth Israel stay cool and calm. As they were bringing me up I made a comment to Johnny that we didn't have a camera or the video camera. It wasn't until a while later when we were in my L&D room that he asked if I wanted him to go get it! (We live at least 45 minutes away from the hospital-- if he had gone he would have missed everything!)
I got up to Labor and Delivery and they immediately hooked me back up to the monitors (I was still contracting, but the babies still looked great!). They then gave me an ultrasound-- Connor (Baby A at the time) was in position, but Colby (Baby B) was breech. So... emergency C-section it was. I met with the anesthesiologist, an IV was put in (2nd try), and Johnny donned his scrubs. Meanwhile I was still contracting the whole time and, while they weren't my favorite thing in the world, they weren't nearly as bad as I thought they would be. I was checked again. Now... maybe an hour later... I was 9cm dilated with a bulging water bag. There was no taking it easy anymore.
I was rushed into OR3 and Johnny was sent to wait. Being wheeled into the OR was a little weird- I wasn't scared for myself, but I was worried about the babies. As I went through the doors I saw the two warmers and all of the nurses waiting for the boys. I felt a lot better once seeing that everyone was already there. Once in the OR I was switched to the operating table, given the gross drink, and put into my position for my spinal. As I sat there on the table with my back completely exposed I was vaguely aware of the fact that maybe I should be a little self conscious or embarrassed, but I didn't really care. The spinal wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and soon the contractions (that weren't really that bad) and my entire bottom 2/3 of my body were a fuzzy memory. I was laid down and prepped for surgery. I had watched way too many "A Baby Story"s. I knew exactly what was happening and I had no desire to see anything or to think about it. While I waited for Johnny to be let in I talked to the anesthesiologist who held my hand to keep me calm. At one point he told me to say "I can't freaking breathe" to prove to him that I could.
All through prep I was worried about 3 things. First I was worried about the babies-- I knew this would be the biggest challenge for their tiny bodies. Second I was worried the spinal wouldn't work and I would feel them slicing me. And third I was worried they'd forget to let Johnny in.
Finally, Johnny came in. After a kiss I asked him if they had already started cutting me open and he got the weirdest look on his face... "Ohhh, yeah..." was his response. Apparently they let him in just as they were digging around in my insides. Beautiful. But now 2 of my worries were gone-- I couldn't feel anything and Johnny was there with me.
He held my hand the whole time and finally at 11:56am the pulled out Connor with a little cry. I didn't see him at all, but Johnny did and was so excited. I have only seen Johnny "shaky-happy" (I don't know how else to describe it) 3 times-- when I was back from Australia, engagement, and wedding, but this time he was that happy times 10. I don't remember what he said, but he was so excited. He was so torn. I could tell he wanted to be with me but he also wanted to go see Connor.
He stayed with me for the next 20 minutes-- err 2 minutes-- until Colby was born. Those 2 minutes were literally the longest 2 minutes of my life. Johnny and I truly thought it was at least 20 minutes between the two boys. It wasn't until many hours later we realized that it was only 2 minutes.
As soon as they tugged Colby out (he didn't come easily) we heard a cry. As soon as we heard the cry Johnny turned to me and asked "So, I guess it's Colby John?" We hadn't completely agreed on name #2 (#1 was definitely Connor James) at that point, but from that moment Colby became Colby and it first perfectly. (Connor's middle name is after Johnny's grandfather and Colby's middle name is after Johnny :) )
Then as the doctors started putting me back together again Johnny went to go see the boys. While he was looking at the boys the nurse came to show me Connor. He was already wearing a little hat and honestly I can't remember if he was intubated or not. I do know he was beautiful. As I stared at him the nurse told me I could kiss him. Course I did-- but I didn't even realize that I was allowed to! Shortly after they brought Colby and he I knew I could kiss. Immediately after the boys were whisked away to the NICU. At that point my worries about them subsided. It was naive, but I was sure that once they were born and both alive (I remember hearing their Apgar scores and both were decent... one was 6 then 8 and the other was 7 then 9. I'm not sure which was which, but they were both good...) that they would be fine. In my head that was the biggest hurdle.
Anyways, the boys were taken away, Johnny was back with me and then the doctors started stitching me up. Around that point-- the doctors happily stitching away assuring me they were almost done-- I started to get nauseous. I told the anesthesiologist but nothing was done. So, I started throwing up. Every time I would throw up I would rip stitches or something. And I threw up quite a few times. At first the doctors took it well, but then they got annoyed and the anesthesiologist gave me oxygen to settle me down. Finally I was done, given a warm blanket, and brought to the recovery room.
After surgery I was wheeled to the recovery room where I was the only one recovering. I was tucked away in the corner and as comfy as could be after surgery. I was desperately thirsty so the nurse took pity on me and give me some water, but warned me that too much would make me sick.
A little while into my recovery I began to get sick again so, after a few unfortunate vomiting episodes (one that embarrassingly enough required a full change for myself and the bed) I was given some IV anti-nausea medicine. I tried to get some rest, but every few minutes the nurse would come in to press on my lower abdomen to make sure that blood was draining as it should. Despite still being pretty numb, it hurt a lot.
Johnny was anxious to get back upstairs to visit the boys, but as they were in the process of being admitted, the nurses were reluctant to let him up. At this point all I really knew was that we had two boys. Neither Johnny or I knew their weight or length or even time of birth. Eventually Johnny was cleared to head upstairs. After a kiss goodbye he first headed down to our parents to announce that the babies were born, they were doing okay and I was recovering nicely. He then headed upstairs for a peek at the boys. They were still being set up, so the doctors would only let him see the boys through the glass of the room.
After a few minutes visit, Johnny came down to see me again. At this point, every few minutes the nurse was still coming in and when she did she would ask me if I could move. I wasn't going to be allowed to leave until I could lift my body off the bed. Slowly I began regaining feeling in my toes. Then my feet and legs. Eventually I was able to lift myself up and was labeled okay to go visit the babies. I was wheeled upstairs to the NICU and I had no idea what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. (I had every intention of taking a tour of the NICU prior to having the babies, but the opportunity didn't present itself early enough obviously...)
In the movies and on tv and in most hospitals the NICU is a big room with a bunch of isolettes. It's bright and noisy and there are people everywhere. The NICU at Beth Israel is a bit different. The NICU is a converted ward for adults so it's made up of 20 or 30 2-person rooms. Each room is home to two babies, you can control your own lights, and it's a lot more intimate than a huge room.
I was wheeled up on my bed to room 974- the home of the Jamerson twins. Outside the door were name tags for the boys- Jamerson 1 was in the closest bed (Connor) and Jameson 2 was in the further bed (Colby). I went in and again wasn't sure what to expect. Both boys were sprawled out on their open-air incubators. They looked small, but not as tiny as I expected. They where tucked into sheepskin and blankets, intubated, and covered in leads, wires, and IV's. The sight was intimidating, but I wasn't worried about the boys at all. They were alive and well- they were going to be fine. I was so scared of hurting them, though. I gently touched their feet from my bed. Instantly I loved them, but I didn't feel like their mother. Instead, somehow, I felt like they belonged to the doctors and nurses instead. Right then they didn't need me... they needed everyone who could help them stay alive.
After a few minutes in the NICU- the words were a blur as they explained the boys' conditions and procedures- I was wheeled back into the elevators and brought down to my room of the last 3 weeks. It was nice to be back and the familiarity, but I couldn't believe how quickly everything had changed.
Once we got settled back in, Johnny had our parents and my brothers come up to the room to see me before bringing them up to the NICU to visit. Though I should have been anxious to get right back upstairs, I wasn't. I loved my little boys and wanted to see them, but I felt like I had all the time in the world to see them. I was too wiped to think about getting to see them right then. Before he left to go upstairs, Johnny ordered my "clear" dinner and I rested on and off as Johnny led the tours. Much of the day was a blur. Late that evening my family left-- and I felt horrible because my brothers missed a friend's wedding to be with me.
A bit later a doctor from the NICU came to visit to talk to us about the boys. She assured us that, while they were small and not the healthiest 27 weekers they had ever seen, they weren't the sickest, either. They didn't appear to be in immediate danger and they were responding well to their treatments. Our of desperation I asked a question that I knew was stupid as I asked it-- had the steroids I was given helped with their lungs? I knew there was no way to really tell, but I wanted some reassurance. I can't remember exactly what she said, but it wasn't really the reassurance I was looking for. I still wasn't worried though.
A little before midnight my nurse, Kristy, came in and helped me to the bathroom. If I could tolerate the short trip I would be allowed upstairs to see the boys before bed. The trip to the bathroom-- just a few feet away-- was so painful and I was so queazy and dizzy that my trip to the NICU was put on hold until the next day. I got back in bed and Johnny headed upstairs for a good night kiss.
Finally around 2 we both got to bed to get some sleep. I woke up to Kristy around 4 am. I can't remember why... I'm not sure if she was giving me meds or checking some vital or something. As soon as she left the fan which I had been using every day in the hospital made me shiver. I was shivering so uncontrollably (and couldn't really move to get more covers because I was in so much pain) that I started yelling for Johnny. I was trying to wake him up to turn off the fan for me. Eventually, when he wouldn't wake up I rang for Kristy. She came in, gave me a blanket, and decided to check my temp. The temp came back over 101. She got me a blanket, turned off the fan, and called the doctor for instructions. I was given meds, IV antibiotics every 8 hours (and a different kind every 10 hours), and had blood drawn. The results came back that I was fighting an infection-- perhaps the reason that I had delivered early.
The infection and antibiotics didn't slow us down that day. Despite the pain, I got up to see the boys a few times. I began pumping and my parents came to visit with pictures of the boys. I only saw the boys about 4 times that day, but, again, I felt like I had all the time in the world. When we were visiting we were given the updates on the boys. Colby was almost ready for his new isolette and was given his umbilical line. Connor wasn't really tolerating the vent, so he was put on a high-fi vent to help. He was fighting off an infection too. They were having a hard time placing his line. He was having some blood pressure issues, but they were resolving. They wanted to do an early head ultrasound because he seemed kind of lethargic. Overall, though, we were assured that they were doing pretty well.
Later that evening another doctor came in to talk to Johnny and I to get consent for Connor's PICC and for a blood transfusion for Connor. As the doctor explained all the preemie things-- bleeding on the brain, and the PICC, and transfusions, and PDA, and infections, and lung disease-- I wasn't worried at all. Looking back, I can't understand why I was so calm about it all. I had read up a lot about preemies and everything that was being mentioned was pretty common so it didn't phase me. Johnny, however, was scared to death by what we were told. The transfusion scared him, the infection scared him, bleeding on the brain scared him. On the other hand, while I wished that we didn't have ot think about these things-- bleeding and infections and transfusions-- I knew they were at least common, babies dealt with them and lived all the time. I can't stress enough how NOT worried I was. When the doctor left, I sat there reassuring Johnny that these things were normal.
Before bed we made one last trek upstairs to see Connor and Colby to say good night.
And then it was 4am and Kristy was waking us up...
I only wish I had spent more time with the boys. I wish I hadn't been so confident that all would be okay. I wish I hadn't taken that time for granted. Though I knew a lot about preemies I obviously didn't grasp the enormity of the situation we were in. Once Connor and Colby were born and thriving, I thought we were in the clear. I had such faith in the NICU team that I didn't for a second think anything could go wrong.
But then, of course, we were awoken at 4am and you know that story.