In honor of September being Neonatal Intensive Care awareness month, I thought it would be fun to sit down and record the things we encountered before and after giving birth to the girls. We (luckily) had a comparatively short NICU stay to most, but those seventeen days were the longest days of our lives.
Thursday, August 13, 2015, roughly around noon.
I woke up and stared at the ceiling in my new room. We had only been living in our house for a few weeks, but it felt right. I loved everything about it. All we were missing was the chair and a half for the nursery. It was scheduled for delivery that afternoon. As I continued staring at the ceiling fan, I thought about how uncomfortable everything had gotten because my belly was so big. There was so much weight pressing on my cervix, that it was a challenge to have sex, and with a big mountain on your body, it’s pretty fucking hard to find a comfortable sleeping position. I thought about how soon, sex would be impossible either from me getting even bigger, or from going in to labor, so I asked Erik if he wanted to join me in some morning festivities before I got up to make breakfast.
Once we were done, I got up and made pancakes. I only used eggs, bananas, and protein powder because I was trying to fatten the girls up; the week prior I had an anatomy scan and the girls were weighing in at a predicted 4 lb. 11 oz. and 4 lb. 9 oz. I was a day away from being 34 weeks and I was positive I could get them to a solid 6 pounds a piece by their due date, September 25, or at least a little bigger if I didn’t make it that long. (Secretly, I had been praying they came early on their own- I was so over being pregnant.) I got up to go to the restroom, but when I wiped, there was a big, bloody blob on the sheet of toilet paper. I got a knot in my stomach and called my OB’s office. “Doctor Maximos said you need to go to the hospital and get checked out by labor and delivery.” The nurse said over the phone. I had a gut feeling once I went to the hospital I wasn’t going to come home for a few days, so I got in the shower, shaved my legs, and put on some sweat pants before going back out to break the news to Erik.
I walked out in the living room to find him pulling the pieces of the chair and a half out of the box it had been delivered in. “We need to go to the hospital.” I told Erik. He turned around and looked at me, but before he could say anything I blurted out, “I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure I lost my mucus plug, so the doctor said I need to go to labor and delivery to get checked out.”
2:30 something p.m.
We arrived at the hospital and found our way to the labor and delivery triage on the second floor. We had to come here at around 26 weeks because I felt very “off” and nauseous for a few days, so it wasn’t as hard to find this time around. I was assigned a “room” behind a curtain and got undressed. Once they had the stress monitors around my belly, the nurse took my blood pressure asked me how the results were during my last cervical check. “Doctor Maximos said he was going to start doing them weekly at 34 weeks, so this upcoming Tuesday was supposed to be my first one,” I said. She had my lie down, and she performed a cervical check. “You’re about 4 cm dilated, your blood pressure is very high… and your legs look really swollen. I’m going to talk to your doctor and see what he wants to do, because you definitely are experiencing preeclampsia.” I knew it… I FUCKING KNEW IT! That’s all I could say. Over the last two months my swelling had gotten out of control in my opinion. I couldn’t wear any of my shoes other than my house shoes, my swelling was pitting, and it took a lot longer for things to “go down” even though my new normal was about three times plumper than I normally was. Every doctor’s appointment, though, there was never protein in my urine so they never considered preeclampsia. If they did, they did a really good job of not alarming me, because I always asked about it.
About twenty minutes later, Doctor Maximos came through the double doors to the triage. “You ready to have those babies today?” He asked with a smile. (You remember how I told you I had been secretly praying they would come early? I instantly regretted those prayers. I wasn’t ready. I wanted them to wait in utero until at least 36 weeks.) “Do we have a choice?” I asked, jokingly. I looked at Erik and started crying. I wasn’t ready. “Do you want to go ahead and get the C-section or do you want to try to push? I think you can do it. I really do.” He assured me. As bad as I wanted to, my blood pressure was too high for me to risk it. I’m glad he was optimistic, but I didn’t want anything to go wrong. I wanted the girls to be as safe as possible, and selfishly, I didn’t want to recover from two births. I knew there was a possibility baby A would come out and then baby B would need to be extracted, so I just said, “No, I’m going to do the C-section.” The nurse walked with Erik and me to labor and delivery on the third floor and told the nurses at the counter to admit me.
Erik and I talked about how scared we were while the nurse in our room entered my chart into the computer. He kept telling me it would be okay. I was going through a cycle of emotions: fear, anxiety, happiness, sadness. Finally a nurse came in and hooked me up to an IV. “We are going to give you a magnesium drip to stabilize the girls’ lungs since your blood pressure is so high. You might feel like you’re going through hot flashes, but that’s normal.” I was brought two stacks of paperwork to fill out soon after. Halfway through the first stack, I started getting dizzy and my skin started burning. “Is this a hot flash?” I thought. I didn’t feel the “flash” but more like a constant state of “hot.” I felt like I was on fire and got really nauseous. I had a nurse talking to me about only God knows what- I couldn’t focus on her. All I could focus on was how hard it was to hold my pen upright. “Get through this, Brittany.” I thought. I started scribbling through the rest of the paperwork. Whose genius idea was it to give me all this fucking paperwork after the magnesium drip?! The nurse was still talking and I still have no idea what she said. I “met with” the anesthesiologist and his partner in my room prior to going to the OR, both of whom I barely remember talking with. Erik changed in to his scrubs, and the nurse that was in my room when I arrived wheeled a chair in for me. “Are you ready?” She asked with a smile. I said, “No, not really,” but wobbled down off my bed into the chair.
Sometime around 5:50 p.m.
We walked down a couple of hallways and arrived at a set of double doors that opened up into the operating room. The doors had a dry erase board that read, “Maximos Twins” with a heart drawn right by it hanging on a hook. Erik was taken to a room down the hallway and I was wheeled in. The nurse helped me on to the table and the anesthesiologist that had been in my room before came up and shook my hand. He told me exactly what he was going to do, and as he performed the epidural and spinal block, he told me exactly how I was going to feel. The nurse had me put my hands on her shoulders and look down at the floor. I tried so hard not to cry because I didn’t want the numbing process to be interrupted, but I couldn’t help it. The nurse started whispering that I would be okay, and she helped me lie down on the table when he was done. Erik came in the room and sat by my head. A curtain was put up and Dr. Maximos started talking to me. I got extremely nauseous and had a hard time saying anything, but I was able to sputter it out, so they had a Zofran drip put into my IV.
I don’t remember where, but somewhere I read that there is a moment of calm before the surgery, so I tried to recognize that moment and started praying, “Dear Lord, please let these girls be alive and healthy, please let them survive this moment, please let me hear their cries-” “You’re going to feel some pressure…” “-wait a minute, am I already being cut open?!” I thought to myself. “Baby girl A: 6:19 p.m.” Dr. Maximos said as he held Violet up over the curtain. She was crying. He passed her to a nurse and pulled Olivia out. “Baby girl B: 6:20 p.m.” He held her up so I could see. She was crying, too. He passed Olivia to another nurse and both of the girls were weighed and prepped to go to the NICU. (I was never given the chance to hold them, and I don’t really know why. I can only assume it’s because of the circumstances of their prematurity, but that is something that bothers me even to this day.)
Their incubators were wheeled next to my head so I could look at them before they were taken to the NICU. I couldn’t focus on either of them, though, because I had started heaving like I was going to throw up. The girls were taken out of the room, and Erik followed behind while I was stitched up. I was instructed to fold my arms across my chest like I was preparing to go down a water slide, and the nurses rolled me onto a new hospital bed. “Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to hear their cries,” I thought as I was wheeled back to my room in labor and delivery.