It's the girls' due date!!!! Today was the day that it was all supposed to go down...in a perfect world. Boy did that birth plan go out the window!
In recognition of today, I thought I would finally write down what happened on April 5, 2007...the day our girls were born. It is something I've been meaning to do since...well, April 5 but just haven't done it. Today is a perfect time to reflect on why our girls came into the world when they did. Most of you have heard so bear with me. I need to write it down before our memory starts to distort the facts. I should warn you that, like my dad, I can be a bit long winded. This is a LONG story but one that I really want to write down so if you'd like to read on, get comfortable.
Before we talk about why our girls were born on April 5, we need to review a little bit about the pregnancy.
Lisa and I found out that we "may" be pregnant on October 7, 2006. It was a special day because it was a Saturday and we had planned a trip with our friends Ben and Lisa out to a lodge 4 or 5 hours from Anchorage. We woke up early that morning after a night of October Fest. Lisa wisely did not partake in any alcoholic beverages knowing that it may be possible that she was pregnant. Saturday morning, I was still a bit groggy but Lisa sits next to me on the bed and waits for me to fully wake up and pops the news. She had taken a home pregnancy test and it said POSITIVE!!! We were thrilled! We debated for a few moments on what to do. Do we call everyone immediately or do we wait until we can confirm it with the doctor? We decided to wait but that was NOT easy. We had an entire weekend with Ben and Lisa planned and somehow had to keep our mouths shut and not spill the beans. It was an AWESOME weekend but really emotional. At one point, we thought about taking a couple canoes across the lake to this island. The sea was angry that day, my friends...like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli. We were torn between wanting to explore but risking a rollover in choppy cold waters with a pregnant woman. I'm not a big fan of the water anyway so we had to gracefully back out without telling them the real reason why. It brought Lisa to tears but somehow we managed to keep our little secret.
The day we found out we were pregnant.
First thing Monday morning we made an appointment to see the gynecologist. The doctor (actually it was the nurse) confirmed the pregnancy. We were THRILLED!!! I must admit though, I did have a bit of a panic attack during that first visit. I don't know why but I was quite uncomfortable in that little room during the exam. Anyway....
We shared the news with the family and of course, everyone was just as excited as us...if not more. The news was especially welcomed by Lisa's parents. This will be their first grandchild! My parents, already having 4 grandchildren, were equally excited as it has been a long running joke in the family about when Lisa and I were finally going to take that plunge. We have definitely put that decision off. We dated in high school, through college, and married in 99. We've been putting this off for a LOOOONG time.
Lisa on the phone sharing the news with somebody. Next to her is our pumpkin with a butt crack.
From the first couple of weeks that we found out, we knew we had something different on our hands. Lisa was SICK. When I say sick, I mean SIIIICK!!! Morning sickness turned into 24 hour sickness. Lisa was CONSTANTLY nauseous and it put a real damper on the pregnancy. She wanted so badly to be excited but she couldn't move, eat, or think without feeling ill. It was a tough time for her. We eventually got some help from the OB with some magic pills. They weren't cheap, but they allowed Lisa to feel better and "enjoy" the pregnancy a little more.
We followed up with our OB on November 3 to have our first ultrasound. We found out we were having twins. It was a true shocker. I still say that it was the biggest shock of my life. It was the furthest thing from my mind when the tech told us the news. Our close friends who had twins in March of 06 had a real rough go of it. They had given birth at 28 weeks and spent 66 days in NICU. We had been there for them through that and watched them struggle through the summer with their newborn twins. Although we know that God was preparing us for our experience, it was difficult to jump up and down and be excited with that prospect looming over our head. Honestly, it was very emotional and quite scary to think about what may lie ahead of us. BUT, at the same time we were again THRILLED at the idea and knew the road ahead would not be easy. Enter the prayers.
December 15th we found out we were having girls. We went in for our monthly ultrasound and were able to get a glimpse at the girl parts. While we thought we were going to have boys, every one we knew apparently KNEW they were going to be girls.
The third week of January, we went in for our monthly ultrasound and while the technician didn't point it out to us, he recognized that there was a bit of a discordance between the amniotic fluid in each of the girls separate sacks. A day later, we received a call from our OB referring us to a specialist to take a closer look at our girls. It would have been a much more stressful week waiting for that appointment but God was watching over us. My brother had planned a trip for that exact time so he was here to help keep us entertained and not worry about the upcoming appointment.
Here's Lisa playing Guitar Hero with Scott. He bought us this game for my birthday.
I'm sure most of you have read that post on the blog about when we were diagnosed with twin to twin transfusion syndrome. It was a tough..tough time in our lives. I don't think I've been so upset. You can read that post here.
The next 8 weeks were like a roller coaster. We had some good news and bad news but all the while, the girls did very good. We were flooded with emails and phone calls of encouragement and prayers. While we were stressed, it was overwhelming how many people were praying for us.
Our doctors helped us set a couple of goals. One was to make it past 25 weeks. 25 weeks was the last day we could have the surgery that would help the discordance. 28 weeks was a critical period when the babies would have the best chance of survival outside the womb. Every week after that was critical to their development. We set seemingly optimistic goals of 32 and 34 weeks.
During our weekly visit with the specialist at 29 weeks, we learned that the condition was showing signs of stabilizing, if not reversing. We credited this to the power of prayer but wondered if it was possible for the condition to fully reverse and put Alyssa in trouble. From the beginning, Katy was the one that was always "shrink-wrapped" and the one who would force an early delivery. At 30 weeks, the blood flow had reversed and for the first time Alyssa had less fluid around her. Neither baby showed any signs of stress but as we had done for almost 2 months now, it was just another thing to look out for.
April 5, 2007
We had a routine appointment scheduled with our OB at 11am. For the record, I did not miss one appointment during the entire pregnancy. If I was working, I took time off. I didn't want to miss a thing and this day was no different.
The appointment went very smoothly. Lisa was measuring what a normal single pregnancy would measure at 40 weeks. Foreshadowing maybe? Although Lisa wasn't showing any signs of labor, she had noticed over the course of the last week (or less) that she wasn't feeling as much movement as she was accustomed to. We mentioned it and the OB, while not concerned, thought it would be a good idea to have a non-stress done on the girls. She listened to their heart rates and they were a little different but again, nothing that warranted any concern. She tried to arrange for us to see our specialist but they didn't have any beds (or technicians) available so they sent us downstairs to the OB triage.
At this point, we weren't concerned. We had gone though a non stress test a couple weeks earlier and thought it would be a similar experience....hook them up for an hour or so and send us home. We had an appointment scheduled with the specialist the next day so we thought that they would send us home and let us see our specialist the next day to find out what was going on.
We reassured ourselves that nothing was wrong but the heart rates just weren't what we had seen the last time. Alyssa's heart rate was erratic. After 45 minutes or so of being monitored, a nurse came in and decided to take a closer look at the girls with the ultrasound machine. She had already used it once before to place the heart monitors in the right place and we had all noticed that the separating amnion was not clearly visible. I didn't get too excited about that because we had been accustomed to our technician at the specialist office. Everything looked a little different and it was hard to really get a good feel for what was going on. Nonetheless, the nurse called in a doctor to come take a look. The nurse tells us her gut feeling is that we are having these babies today. Lisa and I trade a couple of concerned glances but all the while trying to remain calm. This was just a nurse, right? What could she know?
By this time, it's a little after 1pm. The doctor is called in and she has the same problem. The amnion can not be found. At about 1:15 or so, our OB walks in the door!!! While this was an enormous relief to see someone we knew, it made us realize that we may be in a little more critical situation than we were allowing ourselves to believe.
Our OB takes a look at the ultrasound and struggled to find the amnion. Shortly after, the Neonatologist walked in the room to have a turn and try to determine the severity of our condition. During this more thorough exam, she notes that the amnion is now shrink wrapped around Alyssa (fully reversed) and her movement is severely limited. While we could see Kaitlyn's lungs expanding, we couldn't see any movement from Alyssa. She was in stress. These factors combined with the decelerations proved too risky. We heard our OB and the Neo talk about Alyssa's biophysical which I believe is what will determine how critical they are, Alyssa was given a 2 out of 10 and Katy, a 6. The decision was made to take the girls out immediately.
An amazing part of this story is a moment that Lisa and I had alone in the midst of all the chaos. Over the past two months we have lost the exact time line of when this happened but to the best of our memory, we recall after we were certain that we going to have the girls that day but before Lisa was being prepped and there were a dozen people crammed into the tiny exam room, Lisa and I had a moment to ourselves. It was a wonderful moment that I will cherish forever.
Lisa was in tears and I was close to it. We knew that our babies were in trouble and that we were likely going to have them within the hour and suddenly we were alone. We held hands and prayed. It was very peaceful. Literally seconds after I said Amen and leaned over a kissed Lisa and reassured her that her and the babies were going to be fine, the nurses and doctors flooded the room. It really was a special moment.
The next half hour was a whirl wind. Lisa changed into the gown and was prepped with an IV and had some blood drawn. I dug through the bag that we had brought with us only to find that there was NO CAMERA!!!!!!! I left the room for a moment to make some very critical phone calls. First call? My office. I know, it's not what the grandparents want to hear but I was supposed to work the first of 5 night shifts that very night and I knew it would be difficult to find someone to work those shifts so I had to get them as much notice as possible.
Second phone call? Lisa's mom. I knew she wanted to be here as fast as possible when the girls were born so I had to get ahold of her and let her know she needed to make plane reservations. Left a message...a frantic message I believe.
Third? My mom and dad. Again another answering machine and frantic message.
Next phone call? Ben and Lisa. They lived closest to the hospital so I thought if anyone could get there fast with a camera, it would be Ben or Lisa. What I realized days later was that Ben works IN THE HOSPITAL!!! and I never tried to get word down to him that the girls were coming. Nobody answered at their home. I did leave a priceless message on their answering machine though. It was during this phone call that I realized my cell phone was dying The answering machine and the phone beeped at the same time so I thought I was disconnected. I paused for a solid 30 seconds or so before I realized I was still connected and THEN began to leave a frantic message that the girls were being born and we don't have a camera, etc. So hours later when they listen to this message, there is a loooong pause and then my frantic voice. Pretty funny to hear Ben tell us that story later.
Last phone call? Micki and Rhett. Why did I call them? They lived down the street and I NEEDED A CAMERA!!! Before I could get the number dialed, the phone died. I ran back in the room where a dozen people had surrounded Lisa and swarming her with questions about medical history and other stuff. I grabbed a pen and wrote down Micki's number on the back of my hand. I called her from the triage desk and thank goodness, Micki answered the phone. I told her Lisa was being prepped for surgery and that we were probably going to have our girls delivered within a half hour. I think her response was...."yeah, right. Seriously, what's going on?" It took some convincing but she said she would pack up her twins and get there as fast as possible.
I re-entered the tiny exam room and it was BUZZING!! Our OB and the anesthesiologist were very concerned about Lisa's blood work. A couple of times, the word "STAT" was used which only helped us realize how serious this was. The concern was that Lisa had eaten only 3 hours beforehand and that if the blood work doesn't come back in time, she would need to be put completely under and I would not be allowed in the room during the delivery.
This possibility was very upsetting to both of us. Lisa, while strong as a rock, had the occasional tear roll down her cheek. She was...we were...concerned about our girls.
I changed into some scrubs since we didn't know if I would be able to attend the delivery. Minutes later, she was placed on a different bed and wheeled down the hall. I was walking along side of her with a couple of bags full of our clothes and belongings holding her hand. We reached the point where I could go no further.
For those of you who have been through this, this was not easy. We had to say goodbye. They stopped at the door and allowed us to kiss and she was off. I stood there alone. Alone. It was another very tough moment for me. My life went through that door and I could do nothing about it.
I stood there for what seemed like 5 minutes but was probably a minute or less before someone saw me and pulled me over to the recovery room. I put all of our stuff in there and began pacing. At this point, the blood work had not come back and I was just waiting for someone to come out and tell me that everyone was okay. It was a tense couple of minutes before a nurse introduced herself and said that she would escort me into the delivery room in a few more minutes. Confused, I told her that I didn't think I would be allowed in. She disappeared for a few minutes and came back with the news that the blood work came in and she would be allowed to stay awake during the procedure. Meaning, I WAS IN!!!!
Having a history of passing out and panic attacks, I actually got a little concerned. This has always been a sore spot for me. How much can I see without passing out? I was about to find out.
I scrubbed up and nervously paced waiting for the nurse to tell me it was time to go in. Again, what seemed like 5 or 10 minutes but was probably only a minute or two, she said it was time.
We walked into the delivery room and she had a firm grasp on my arm. Wanting BADLY not to pass out, I was trying not to look up and see any blood. The nurse noticed I was wondering a bit and grabbed me and practically dragged me over toward Lisa's head. I did manage to see that Lisa was already "open".
Once I got to Lisa's head, there was a small stool next to her where I was supposed to sit. I say supposed to because between the monitors, other equipment, and the anesthesiologist, there wasn't much room for me. I squeezed into this little hole and suddenly realized why I was there....to take care of my wife.
We kissed through the surgical mask and I began to tell her over and over how much I loved her and how great she was doing, how proud of her I was, the babies were going to be fine, etc. It wasn't but a minute or so before I heard our OBs voice say that baby A was coming. She told me to look over the curtain.
I suddenly had a massive dilemma on my hands...if I look, I might pass out. If I don't look then I'll miss my daughters being born, but I won't pass out. So I peaked. I lifted my head JUST enough for only my eyes to be over the curtain and watched Alyssa being wiggled out.
A funny side story here. I was sitting right next to the anesthesiologist and when it was time for me to look over the curtain, he thought that I couldn't see. So he grabs my arm and literally pulls me up so I could get a better view. When Lisa sees this, she thinks that I'm passing out so she looks over at me to see what's going on. At that moment when Alyssa was born, the doctor held Alyssa over the curtain for a split second for Lisa to see before she was wisped away. Lisa barely saw her out the corner of her eye. It was unfortunate but still kinda funny when we thought back at that series of events.
When Alyssa was born, she was blue as could be but she immediately let out a LOUD cry. It was sweet. She was wrapped up and off to the NICU to be cleaned up.
So after Alyssa was taken away, I refocused my attention on Lisa. It was during these few seconds that I realized I watched most of Alyssa's delivery and I didn't pass out. AWESOME!!! I was feeling a bit more brave now so I decided to watch more of Katy's entrance into the world.
It was probably about 45 seconds after Alyssa that they had her head and wiggled her free. I watched the whole thing. They gave a quick suction, pulled her out and she did the same thing...CRY! This time Lisa was ready so when the doc held Katy over the curtain for that split second, Lisa was waiting with anticipation and was able to see her.
Seconds later, I was being ushered out of the door and had to say goodbye again to Lisa. I was pointed to the NICU where my babies would be and who do I see waiting at the entrance of the NICU? MICKI! AND HER CAMERA!!!! I very quickly told her that the girls were just born and what happened...then ran in to see my girls. Camera in hand, I watched as they were cleaned off and given their Apgars and weighed.
It was a sweet moment because everything seemed to be going okay. They were breathing on their own and pink, quiet, happy babies. They looked perfect to me. The doctor explained what his concerns were and how each girl was doing. I walked back and forth between the two beds a dozen times. I didn't want to miss anything.
After less than 5 minutes, I realized my best friend wasn't there to share this with me. It hit me that I didn't know how Lisa was doing and how long she would still be in surgery. I reluctantly left the girls to go find out. I was told that she would be in surgery for a while but they would come get me when she was in the recovery room. That wasn't enough for me. I wanted to know everything...I was suddenly very concerned about Lisa. 10 minutes turned into 20 minutes which turned into 30!!! It was an eternity before she was wheeled out and into the recovery room.
A funny side story, when I first went back to the delivery desk to ask about Lisa. When I said her name, someone perked up and asked if I was Andy? I said yes and she replies..."YOU NEED TO CALL YOUR MOTHER IN LAW!" It was pretty funny. Somehow Eileen had found the right desk to call and expressed her concern enough that the nurse relayed it to me. It was pretty funny.
Lisa was in recovery for 45 minutes. She was barely awake. I was told not to go in the room for 30 minutes while she recovered but I couldn't wait. As soon as the anesthesiologist wasn't looking and I got the okay from the nurse, I ran in and gave her a big kiss and showed her the first pictures of the girls.
During that 45 minutes, I ran back and forth from the NICU to check on the girls back to Lisa to make sure she was still okay and borrowed Micki's cell phone to call Eileen and my parents. They were shocked, of course, but ecstatic that everyone was okay. We all were. This was just supposed to be a quick checkup with the OB and it quickly turned into major surgery and the delivery of our baby girls.
Things settled down and in time, Lisa was wheeled into the NICU to see and touch Alyssa and Katy for the first time. It was a wonderful moment.
We were then ushered down the hall to the Mother Baby unit where we would stay through the weekend. As I've said before, that part of the newborn baby process was not up to par with the rest. There were lots of tears and some pretty stressful moments. Maybe someday I'll expand on those 3.5 days.
But every time we walked through the doors of the NICU, it was a relief. The nurses at the NICU were phenomenal and helped make us feel like a family.
Later, during the first 24 hours of adjusting and recovering, Lisa and I were talking about the experience and it brought us both to tears to think about that day. Even now, I'm getting a little teary eyed thinking about it. It didn't happen the way you dream it up. You think about your typical pregnancy and delivery and it just didn't happen for us. From the constant sickness to the in the first trimester, to being diagnosed with twin to twin transfusion, then the discomfort and restless last several weeks. It was a stressful 31 weeks and an emergency C-section to cap it off. The thing that I missed most was that moment when the girls were born. I always envisioned running out of the delivery room and my family and friends would all be waiting there to congratulate us. It saddens me to think that my family couldn't have been there to celebrate with us.
At the same time...our girls are here and they are healthy. It has been a risky pregnancy but one filled with joy. It is a relief to have them here and be able to hold them and tell them how much I love them. I remember very vividly the night that we were diagnosed with TTTS, I wrote some of my feelings on the blog with tears streaming down my face. After I was done, I went into the bedroom with Lisa and we cried and hugged for a long time. Once we settled down and started talking about what the future might hold for us, I remember saying to Lisa that all I wanted to do was to hold those girls. I wanted them out in the world so I could protect them and hold them. In reality, every day they were in Lisa allowed them to be as healthy as they were but it didn't matter to me that night, I wanted to hold my girls right then. I think about that often when I'm holding one of them in the middle of the night and I'm tired....this is what I've always wanted. I just want to protect them.
2 months later, we are settling down as a busy family. It is insane to think they were born 2 months ago. It has flown by. The girls have doubled their weights and continue to amaze us every day with their progress. We count our blessings every day and can only contribute our good fortune to the power of prayer. These girls are little angels and we are so blessed to have such a perfect family.