Saturday, July 19, 2008

One Shoe On, One Shoe Off

The scabs are coming! Who would have ever thought this is a good thing? But my shingles seems to be starting to scab over, which means the non-infectious state is right around the bend. Woo Hoo!

My little boy is doing better, he had a transfusion the other day and they added Re.glan to the Pre.vcid for his reflux. He has gained weight and is back down to room air with the nasal canula. Little girl continues to best him and is over 4 lbs and into a regular crib. I have a feeling she will be ready for discharge before him. But they are both still having spells, however at least some of them are self-resolving. And neither are bottling very well, so they both still have to conquer the whole eating thing.

The Snake is here for the weekend and we went blueberry picking this morning. It was easy and fun, but hot! Now he and dad are off to the hospital to see the little ones (I'm jealous).

So things are looking up. Thanks to everyone for their encouragement!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One of the Other Shoes has Dropped

Just when I thought it couldn't get any more frustrating ... I started getting a rash. And it spread. Around the left side of my abdomen and across my back. But mysteriously stopped at my belly button and spine. Then it got redder and angry looking.

Solve the mystery? I have shingles. Yes, that's right, SHINGLES. That disease that old people get. And that means no more visits to the NICU, no holding my babies AGAIN.

Fortunately, Resident Boy was fairly quick to recognize it (despite having no dermatology expertise) and I saw the doctor quickly to start anti-viral meds. So hopefully those will shorten the course of things. Once my lesions start crusting over (lovely image right?) then I can go back to the hospital.

To top things off, my little boy is having more spells of bradycardia, or slow heart rate. To some extent this can be expected in preemies, but he was not having so many before and has been having them often the last few days. Plus, he did not gain much weight in the last couple days. The doctors finally started him on reflux medications, and we are waiting to hear results of some bloodwork. It is so frustrating that I can't go in to check on him tomorrow and talk face-to-face with the doctors. And my husband is leaving for his exam tomorrow morning and won't be back until late Friday night. So I have to do all the communicating by phone.

I just want to scream. I'm trying hard to just focus on how far our little man has come, and that he will get through this too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Heading Toward 34 weeks

What is one of the most frustrating things for a mom with babes in the NICU? To get a COLD! That's right, the sniffles, the cough, the sinus congestion. Which means ... no baby holding.

Such was the evil that visited itself upon me last week. But I am finally healthy again, and so I held and bottle fed two babies today. They are doing well, both are gaining weight and improving at taking the bottle. But both still have spells of bradycardia and occasional apnea. We are entering our third week in the NICU, and likely have more to go. But we are pleased at their progress and eagerly awaiting their discharge. Unfortunately, it looks as though that may fall after Resident Boy needs to start work. So that means I may be making the transcontinental drive with some other family member instead.

Things have been busy with paying bills, organizing our stuff and shopping for a new car. And now that the babies are eating more, I really have to step up the pumping. Which sucks. I spend more time setting up and breaking down the pumping stuff than actually pumping. I can not wait to give them a try at breastfeeding, but I know that the pumping is still going to be happening for awhile, especially with the drive cross-county.

Oh, I need help (okay, lots of it but that is another story). I don't want to use the babies' real names, I don't want to use initials. They need nick-names, but I never came up with anything when they were in my belly -- and now I'm too tired to get really creative now that they are out. You know big brother is The Snake (for rhyming reasons), and Dad will need a new name now that he is no longer a resident. But I don't have much of a theme to work with. So I'm opening the forum for suggestions. Let me know what you think. I'll do my best to rack my brain too, but don't count on anything brilliant.

A bunch of little things happened on Friday (non-baby-related) that I want to blog about -- but they need my full attention and it is almost time to pump (again!). So look forward to topics like Pop-eye Transvestite and lipstick at the dinner table.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Birth

Like the previous seventeen days in the hospital, June 26th began with a blood draw. Then a visit from the resident, the nurse's aid, the arrival of the breakfast tray. It was just like all the others. The morning routine had its own rhythm, unvaried over the course of my stay. No reason to think it would change. 31 weeks and 1 day.

By mid-morning the nurse arrived to set me up for monitoring of the babies' heart rates and any contractions. We had finally mastered getting the two babes tracings separated, as their chests were lying right next to one another in my belly. There was a little trick, which I showed each new nurse. Baby boy needed just the right angle, and like magic, there were two clearly different heart beats. But that morning turned out a bit different.

Initially, all was fine. But about half way through monitoring our boy had a brief deceleration in his heart rate, dropping down to the 80s before we lost his tracing altogether. His heart beat was quickly found again and he rebounded back to the 140s. The supposition was that he had briefly compressed his umbilical cord, not surprising with his low amniotic fluid levels from the rupture. We opted to monitor for a bit longer than usual, and just before stopping he had another deceleration. These episodes were not linked to any contractions, although I had been having some occasionally for several days, but without regularity.

The attending MFM sent me down to the Labor and Delivery floor for a period of continuous monitoring. Resident Boy arrived to be with me, and we got all set up for the duration. Still the consensus was that I would be there for the afternoon and likely return to the 5th floor by evening. Of course my darling surgeon husband cautioned me not to eat lunch, on the chance I was headed to c-section. I scoffed and teased him, as did the nurses. And promptly asked for at least a popsicle.

I lounged through a couple hours of monitor and a sonogram of the babies, with no relevant problems. A friend stopped by, ironically the friend whom I was visiting when my membranes ruptured. Then the labor/delivery attending stopped in to introduce himself. He asked basic questions, including asking if I was having any contractions. To which I answered no. Then Resident Boy watches as the tocometer begins to climb. The attending exits, commenting that I would likely be monitored for a bit longer and then be sent back upstairs. (Yeah, right) I promptly begin having the largest contraction I've had in the hospital, and proceed to continue contracting every 8-10 minutes. So much for going back to my cushy room up on five.

Baby Boy does not like the contractions. His heart rate routinely drops after each one, generally recovering fairly quickly. They quickly set me up with IV fluids and oxygen, have me lie on my left side to try and keep Baby Boy happier. The contractions do ease in intensity somewhat, but continue to come. The doctors briefly put out hope that maybe the contractions will stop, but my husband and I both know this is the end of bedrest.

By now it is evening and after about 40 minutes, the doctors concede that it seems unlikely that the contractions will abate. And our boy is still not liking them. The decision is made by all that c-section is the best choice to keep everyone safe. Luckily by this time, my last heparin dose is about 12 hours old, so I can have a spinal and be awake for the delivery.

Things move quite quickly from there out. Fortunately, the labor floor is quiet and everyone can move efficiently, but without being overly rushed. Resident Boy knows the anesthesia resident, and fortunately he is only days from completing his residency. (one week later, and I could have had a much greener resident) He does a great job with the spinal, and I am quickly prepped for the section.

Having never had any type of surgery before, the sensations were strange. I was fortunate not to get nausea or other types of side effects of the spinal. The surgeons delivered our little girl first, and I was relieve to hear a tiny cry from her. One minute later, our boy was delivered with a similar little cry. My husband was right there at the isolettes watching all that was done.

Within a few minutes it was determined that our girl would need intubation and likely surfactant to help her breathe. Our boy looked a little better initially, but within minutes required the same therapy. Everyone assured me they both looked very good and they were doing fine.

It was hard to hear everyone bustling around and caring for them, but not to be able to see anything. My husband popped back to me every few minutes, but most of the time I could not see him either. While they sewed me up, I still had not seen my babies. They whisked them off to the NICU, and I could hardly see into the isolettes. While I knew this was the best thing for them, it was difficult. And I was so disappointed that they needed to be placed on the ventilator. I understood how important it was for them to have that assistance, but I had secretly hoped that my babies would manage to avoid it.

My recovery from the spinal was smooth, and they took me up to the NICU to see my little ones. It was hard to just look at them. Not touch them or smell them. To see their faces covered with tubes and tape. To see just how tiny they were. To have too much knowledge, and to know all the pitfalls that could lie ahead.

As you may already know, we were blessed. So far these tiny infants have shown themselves to be incredibly strong and resilient. This week they have been making small strides in gaining weight, and the only tubes in their bodies are the nasogastric feeding tubes. We are so fortunate.

Shane David and Rebecca Ann, the first time they were reunited.

Friday, July 4, 2008


Baby update:

Yesterday was the babies 1-week birthday, and we got a special surprise -- we got to offer them their first bottles. Our boy had to stay in his isolette since he still had an umbilical IV, but it was still wonderful. Initially the doctors had said they would need to be 33 weeks gestational age to try this, but they have been doing so well, that they decided to go for it. Both babies managed a few mls, and gave a few good suck-swallows (what google searches will that snag?).

Today, our boy had his umbilical IV removed and I got to hold him for the first time. He was very alert and looking all around. After we took the bottle away, he kept trying to suck his fingers or thumb and did a pretty good job at it! Our girlie was pretty pooped out today and didn't do as well as yesterday, but slept like an angel in Daddy's arms.

Mommy update:

Overall, I'm doing okay, but feel a little blue tonight. I'm healing quickly and thrilled the babies are doing so well. Our friends, who we are staying with now that the house is sold, are wonderful and generous with their space and time. I'm with my loving husband. But ... my first born has been away for nearly a month (staying with grandparents and aunt 2 hours away). When I was in the hospital, it was easy since it was impossible to care for him, and neither could Resident Boy while he finished work. But now we are both home and I am getting stronger. Still, I'm not sure I'm ready to totally care for him on my own, and my husband has to study for his boards. The Snake is really enjoying the camp he is going to with his cousin, but tonight he apparently had a rough night. It gets tough for him right before he comes home for the weekend. And he knows I am home from the hospital, and it is hard for a 5-year-old to understand why he can't be with me now.

I'm struggling with lots of conflicting emotions. At the grocery the other day I was flooded with envy as a saw a pregnant woman. All those bitter IF feelings rose right to the surface. Why couldn't it have been easy for me? Why did these things have to happen to us? Why does our life have to be in chaos? That sense of unfairness just surged through me. I am confused at not feeling pregnant any longer. The entire experience just feels truncated. Amputated. Artificial. While I know that we are blessed that our babies are healthy and doing very well under the circumstances, I feel so disconnected from the entire situation. We sit and plan about car seats and what to do when the babies come home, but it feels unreal, surreal.

We are rootless. I exited the hospital and entered no-man's-land. I have no idea when we will reach California or how I will establish a home there. I never saw my first house again. I never took a moment to cherish the memories we made there. Our first home, our first child.

I am tired. I am tired of turmoil. I am tired of upheaval. I want simple mornings, peaceful afternoons, tranquil evenings. Unlikely any of that will come soon, I suppose.

Know that I am only a bit down tonight and need to spew these feeling out. I'm sorry that I so often share the tough days and not always the happy ones. Tomorrow the sun will shine, The Snake will be here and I will move forward. There will be smiles, of that I'm sure. And each time I hold my babies they will be bound closer to my heart.

Birth story and pictures soon, I promise.