Monday, 22 July 2013

Our Birth Story

On July 15th, at 1:27 and 1:28 in the morning our beautiful twin girls were born, entirely unexpectedly.
Maybe it shouldn’t have been unexpected; when you’re in the hospital for an incompetent cervix and pre-term labour you should be mentally preparing yourself for the fact that your babies could come at any time. I, however, was in a bit of denial. I felt completely healthy, and had no symptoms of labour, to the point that besides daily injections and weekly ultrasounds the doctors were barely monitoring me anymore; given this, it was hard not to feel like the hospital bedrest I’d been prescribed was entirely unnecessary.
But, clearly it wasn’t.
The weekend before the girls were born started off like any other weekend at the hospital; my husband and I did a lot of crosswords, reading, and movie watching, excited to know that we were slowly approaching 27 weeks gestation, which ever since we’d found out about my condition had been our goal to reach. Of course, by this point I was so selfishly annoyed with my hospital stay that I was convinced the babies were going to stay in until 37 or 38 weeks and I would eventually have to be induced to get them out (the ultimate irony), so 27 weeks no longer felt as remarkable to me. But late on the night of the 13th to my surprise I started having minor contractions that went for hours, keeping us awake and strapped to a machine until 4am the next morning and introducing me to a host of different drugs intended to stop labour. Fortunately, they worked, and I found myself still remarkably unconcerned.
So when Sunday came around I didn’t for a second consider that I might go into labour again that night; my mom and two brothers came for a visit that made me laugh so hard my stomach began hurting (the first contractions) to the point that I joked to my brother that he’d put me into early labour. Little did we know how right I was! As the hours progressed the pain became worse, the contractions became closer together, and after a walk that only made them more consistent I finally decided to page a nurse.
After a quick examination, nurses and the obstetrician filled my small room with increasing looks of panic on their faces, an expression I saw mirrored on my husband’s.
“Should I call your mom?” He asked, eyebrows creasing with anxiety.
“No no,” I insisted dismissively. “Nothing is going to happen, and besides, she works in the morning. Let her sleep!” Despite the environment around me, I didn’t for a second actually believe that our girls would be born that night; I could still feel them kicking and rolling happily in my belly, and as I’d read that babies in labour usually become still, I wasn’t worried. I think I was also still in denial; at no point had I actually begun preparing myself for this situation.
But, unlike on the previous evening, that night things progressed very quickly. After another round of medications and what they call “rescue steroids”, a second dose of what I’d already received my first week at the hospital, the obstetrician informed us that I’d dilated over 3cm in under an hour and that we were losing the battle to stop labour.
“We’re going to deliver RIGHT NOW.” He said suddenly, before running out of the room to fetch an anesthesiologist and other nurses to perform the necessary surgery: an emergency c-section, as my babies were in the completely wrong position to be delivered naturally.  In what seemed like minutes I had an IV in my arm, a gown and cap on, and was being wheeled to the operating room by my sweating husband, without a moment to even call any one of our family members and let them know what was happening. And yet still, I wasn’t worried. A nurse patted my shoulder and asked how I was feeling.
“Excited!” I remember saying with a smile. In the last hour we’d crossed over 12am and into July 15th, 27 weeks gestation on the dot. Soon, they were administering a spinal block (which, if you’ve never had one, was an incredibly cool feeling.) And I was laying down with my husband next to me, ready for the operation. Of course, despite all the needles I’d faced easily for countless drugs and blood tests over the past few weeks, I found myself near faint and overwhelmingly nauseas after the one inserted into my spine in the operating room, and I ended up throwing up all over myself 3 times before a nurse even noticed what was going on. Not that it really mattered; I find that when you’re in the hospital most dignity tends to fly out the window and by this point I was relatively unfazed by a face coated in vomit.
The surgery was quick, painless, and rather remarkable; the best way I can describe it is that it feels like you’re a doll being stuffed. Essentially you get knocked around a lot and you feel your insides being pummelled as though being put together in a factory, and before you know it they’re cleaning up and telling you it’s all done. Mostly my husband and I just stared at each other and smiled like idiots, completely in shock and awe that it was happening. The best part though was a nurse approaching to tell us that our girls were indeed girls, were incredibly healthy, and had come out of the womb kicking and trying to cry which is ridiculously impressive for 27 week preemies. The worst part though was the itching; a side-effect of the spinal block, I found myself scratching my face raw in the recovery room until the nurses covered me in cold cloths and snapped that scratching only made it worse (which hardly deterred me).
And just like that, we went from a family of two to a family of 4; our little Scarlett Elizabeth and Olivia Lynn came into the world heavy and happy (or at least as much as preemies can be) and our lives changed forever. A few hours after surgery and after the girls had been stabilized my husband was able to go and visit them in the NICU, returning to me with a phone full of pictures and eyes full of tears; for hours afterwards we lay together in my bed and stared in wonder at the two perfect little people we’d created, much too excited for sleep.
And I have to say, despite these circumstances, despite how stressful it is having premature babies living an hour away from me inside incubators, and how painful c-section recovery is, and how sad it makes us every time we have to leave them or think about the fact that it will be months before they’re home with us, it’s all worth it, and we feel incredibly incredibly blessed.  The girls are no longer on a ventilator, are feeding well, and yesterday we were able to hold them for the first time, an insanely magical experience precipitated by the fact that they’re progressing extremely well and are developing way ahead of what had initially been expected.
So while things may be uncertain right now, what I do know is that one day we will be able to bring Scarlett and Olivia home with us and they will be normal, healthy children, and that’s more than enough for me. The past year has been very difficult for us, and this pregnancy was no exception, but we’ve been rewarded with the most amazing gift of beautiful identical twin girls (who turned a week old today!) and because of that I wouldn’t change a thing.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Hospital Life

     Well, I've survived my first two weeks at the hospital.

     Okay, I'm cheating a little; I was admitted two Mondays ago, so technically it hasn't been a full fortnight, but I'm taking my successes where I can get them these days.

     All-in-all, hospital life isn't terrible. I have my own private room with big windows, storage, and a nice bathroom and shower. I get a fair amount of privacy, besides the odd nurse popping in to give me pills or a shot, and the bed isn't as awful as I'd expected it to be (though I won't go so far as to call it comfortable). The food isn't the best, but it's edible, and occasionally there are decent surprises like this morning's cinnamon french toast, a vast improvement from yesterday's single piece of untoasted bread.

     I think the hardest part of being here is exactly what I'd thought it would be: living away from home. I miss my cat, I miss my dog even more, and I miss my husband, even though 5 days out of the week he's right here next to me. Normally at the end of the night if we were at home we'd cuddle up together in our cozy bed, feet touching like they have every night since we first laid together, his warm body wrapped around mine in the most soothing way. I'm used to his occasional shifts in sleep, his tired scent, and his soft hands that always flicker against mine in the darkness when I find myself tossing against insomnia. Here at the hospital though he has to sleep away from me, on a cot bed low to the ground that made me cry our first evening here when I saw it and realized we couldn't touch. We've rectified the problem slightly now by pulling his bed next to mine while he slings his leg up on my mattress, but obviously it's nothing compared to the comfortable situation we had back in Chilliwack.

     I've tried to make it as homey as possible here of course; pictures of my family, my favourite blankets, and a vast collection of books litter the room. But while I'm adjusting, it still doesn't serve to completely ease the homesickness I feel in my stomach whenever I look out the window and realize that I'm so close yet so far from where my heart is.

     Visitors help though, and of those I've had plenty! My mom and brother have come a few times bearing novels and treats, my best friends stopped by with a seemingly never-ending supply of food and stories, my sister and brother-in-law appeared in possession of a laptop loaded with music and DVD's, and my very favourite aunt and uncle-in-law surprised us last Sunday with much-needed hugs and cookies for the afternoon.

     And it was all of that that made me really want to write this blog post: to lament the negative experiences, but then to shake them off and express what I'm grateful for. Because honestly, while I am by no means enjoying staying in the hospital, things could be so, so much worse and I have to count my blessings when they come. All month long I've been reading novels from India, Africa, and beyond, placed now and centuries ago, in which pregnant women squat in the grass to have their babies before continuing work, or hemorrhage during labour, or lose their infants due to inadequate care or abuse; in comparison to this, being away from home for the summer is a small price to pay for mine and my girls' health and well-being.

     So here it is... The things I'm thankful for:

     1. I'm thankful for my loving, giving, selfless husband who is sacrificing not only his own time and life at home, but many comforts as well to be here to support me. He gets me anything I need whenever I need it, combats my hormonal fluctuations with a smile, and never fails to find a way to make me laugh every single day regardless of what's going on here.

     2. I'm thankful for our amazing family and friends from whom we've received endless amounts of love and sustenance... From the minute we found out what was happening and made it public we've had phone calls, e-mails, Facebook messages, and well-wishes from so many that we know including old friends and faraway relatives of mine who I haven't seen in years. This experience has really taught us to recognize who is important in our life and deserves a place in it and who simply doesn't. It's very true that you never see the reality of people's character until you're struggling; that's when the good ones step forward (and the not-so-good ones go into hiding) and we've been blessed with having many, many good ones around us during this difficult time.

     3. I'm thankful for no stretch marks! Okay, I know that this seems a rather vain and irrelevant thing to be thankful for, but when I found out I was having twins it became a big fear of mine. However, up until this point (knock on wood!) My skin remains unblemished, and given the amount of strangers looking at my belly every day it's a nice little victory. I also haven't had any other awkward pregnancy complications like enormous weight gain or acne thus far, so besides sometimes thinking that I resemble a planet with limbs I'm feeling pretty good.

     4. I'm thankful that, despite the emotional effect staying here occasionally has on me, my girls are still flourishing. Their growth is excellent, they're incredibly active (and enjoy kicking each other in the face as the ultrasounds have shown) and don't seem to be suffering from any of the developmental complications that can plague a twin pregnancy like ours. For that, we are very lucky.

     5. I'm thankful that my sister didn't clear the music off of her laptop before she brought it to me here, as in attempting to play Kanye's "Yeezus" I discovered a file full of The Eagles, Bob Marley, Justin Timberlake, Elvis, Tom Petty, and more, so I'm currently having a solo (bed-ridden) dance party in my hospital room and loving life.

     6. And lastly, I'm thankful that I live in Canada! Because if this was the U.S.A. we'd owe a ridiculous amount in medical bills right now! I really should have found a way to celebrate Canada Day last weekend... I think my country deserves a little recognition.