My pregnancy started as a very joyful thing. My husband and I had just completed our second IVF cycle and my beta numbers were coming back great, a huge relief after the defeat of a failed cycle. He was convinced I was having twins, I countered that my beta numbers were great but well within the normal range for a singleton.
I couldn’t wait for our first ultrasound, where we would (hopefully) get the first glimpse of our baby’s heart beating. I remember us staring intently at the screen, as things started to come into view. There was our baby’s rapidly beating heart! The tech started to point things out, I noticed something in the corner of the screen. I asked “what’s *that* up there?” half knowing the answer. She said “We’ll look at that one in a minute” it took her a long moment to find a heartbeat on the second baby, who was slightly smaller. But by the time we left, we knew that my husband was right, I was pregnant with twins. We passed one of the endocrinologists on our way out, proudly displaying our pictures “It’s twins!” at which point she had a very slight, involuntary reaction (cringe) that I noticed. I knew why, twins were not a goal of the program, for good reason.
I knew carrying twins was more risky, and that there was a chance of multiples, though given the quality of our embryos I was a bit shocked we were pregnant at all. I read way too many things on Google and spent the first weeks of my pregnancy obsessing about vanishing twins. Then only a few weeks after our ultrasound, I woke up one night bleeding. I was convinced I was miscarrying, a huge fear of mine. We headed to the ER, it was hours before we left knowing our babies still had heartbeats, a “threatened miscarriage” they called it. The hope was that I’d stop bleeding and the pregnancy would continue on normally. It was on the way home it sunk in just how badly I wanted my babies, both of them, to be okay.
My pregnancy went smoothly for many weeks afterward, and I was back to only mild anxiety regarding all the things that could go wrong. It wasn’t long before my belly became so large it touched the steering wheel when I drove. My feet swelled to the point they didn’t fit in any of my shoes, we finally bought me a pair of Keen sandals that stretched enough to accommodate them. My babies were growing well and we were excitedly preparing for their arrival.
Then one day my routine urine dip was less than stellar and I was sent home with the big pee jug. I returned the jug in the morning and by the afternoon had a phone call asking me when I’d be to the hospital to be admitted. “Admitted?!?!” wait a minute, hold up. I was thinking bed rest, at home. No problem. But ADMITTED? I didn’t know much about pre-eclampsia at the time or how dangerous it could be. But I made arrangements to be there that evening as requested and my husband and I gathered my things.
When I arrived they went over things with me, my goal was to make it to 37 weeks – the day the benefit to the babies of staying inside me didn’t outweigh the risk to me staying pregnant. A neonatologist explained what to expect should the babies be born at various points in gestation. I settled into a routine, though regularly pleaded with the staff to let me leave the hospital, just for a short time, just for dinner or something. I still was in a bit of denial about what was happening. My older son, who was only preschool-aged would come and visit me almost every day, he was so strong that he wouldn’t cry until he had left my room, my husband told me. My mom made a calendar where I could mark off each day in the countdown to 37 weeks.
I would be in the hospital for 13 days before my vitals became increasingly problematic. The decision was made that my babies needed to be delivered, I just wasn’t aware of it. The night the boys were born I was exhausted and about to turn out the lights when a nurse came in with a wheel chair and said she was supposed to take me to Labor and Delivery. I was of course confused, having just sent my husband home for the night a few hours before, with the understanding that he’d be back the next day because I was going to stay put for awhile. I asked what was going on, and she said she wasn’t sure, but thought I was going to have babies.
When I got to labor and delivery I was hooked up to monitors and once again encountered a nurse who wasn’t sure what was going on. I called my husband just in case, but told him “I can’t get an answer out of anyone, but that he should come because it sounded like they are pretty sure I’m going to be delivered soon. He was also very confused, but said he’d get in the car. The nurse told him he need not rush, but he would later say he sped the whole way to the hospital.
My husband showed up right about the time they got done doing my spinal. That experience wasn’t a pleasant one. I had 11 lbs. of baby in my belly and a very full stomach and they kept telling me to bend over farther, farther…
Ethan was born first and let out a cry. Eli was born just minutes later (they claim one minute, but it seemed much longer) They had to push and pull quite a bit to get e out, as he was transverse and lodged under my ribs. I didn’t hear him cry, and asked why he wasn’t crying and if he was okay. No one answered me. My husband would later tell me Eli was blue when he was born and it took awhile for them to get him breathing. I was quickly shown the babies and then they were whisked away. My husband was told to leave with the babies. They stitched me up and then I was wheeled back to labor and delivery where I would remain in bed for no less than 24 hrs.
This is the part I had not been prepared for…at all, someone had mentioned a magnesium drip, but not the fact that I would be stuck in bed hooked up to monitors, still catheterized, and not allowed to eat or drink for a full 24 hrs. During this time I began pumping to encourage a milk supply, once again – nothing quite prepares you for initiating a milk supply with a pump, pumping colostrum is no joke – and no fun. I barely slept at all, between the magnesium making me feel like I was on fire, being hungry and thirsty beyond belief, and being so sad that I couldn’t see my babies.
My husband kept running between my room and the NICU. He told me how beautiful the babies were and kept showing me pictures. The next night as soon as they allowed me out of bed I went and saw the boys, they were so beautiful. Their size, large for their 34 week gestation at 5 lbs. 9 oz. and 5 lbs. 7 oz. was a bit frightening to me – being used to 7+ lb. babies, they looked tiny! Holding them was wonderful, but I also felt horribly guilty. That I failed them, that they should still be safely inside me, not in incubators struggling in the harsh outside world.
When I was discharged, I cried, a lot. The physical pain I could handle, but it was a horrible feeling leaving without my babies. It turned out my physical pain wasn’t entirely normal, I had no idea what to expect recovering from a cesarean having previously had a natural birth. A few days later I would be readmitted for IV antibiotics to treat a uterine infection, a complication from my cesarean. The NICU journey could fill many more pages, but in short it was very hard, watching my babies’ struggle wanting nothing more than for them to be home. They would spend 28 days in NICU, and came home looking and acting much like “normal” newborns.