Can Somebody Build me a Time Machine?

When I look at Violet and Olivia, I no longer see babies. I see two dramatic girls standing up on their own, fighting over who stands in front at the baby gate blocking them from the hallway while they wait for their bath water to fill up, and signing “more” when they want more of whatever they’re being fed, or “milk” when they want to nurse. Olivia knows where her belly button is and Violet points to the bananas hanging in the kitchen when I ask if she wants more banana. Where has the time gone? They’re turning into toddlers.

cms_1012(photo credit: Courtney Contreras; outfit credit: Frayed Knot Lakeland, LLC)

It’s hard to believe they were premature. I considered doing a post on how prematurity has affected my parenting, but aside from holding off on giving them baby food until eight months, I don’t feel like their prematurity has affected them, therefore it cannot affect me. I have had tons of people tell me, “they’re so tiny,” but I don’t dwell on their stature because I am petite, and their pediatrician is totally okay with their measurements because they have always followed a growth curve. Their teeth took a little while to come in, but once the first tooth broke through their gums, they’ve steadily been coming. Violet army crawled up until a year, but she was pulling to stand by ten months and has been shimmying down the couches, tables, and walking with her push toys everywhere since then, too. Olivia has always been slightly ahead, but never so far ahead that we were concerned with Violet’s development.

Here we are at fourteen months and they’re standing on their own, eating tons of “table food,” drinking apple juice (and whole milk… yuck!) out of straw sippy cups, and babbling away in their own language. They both put remotes up to their ears like they’re talking on the phone, and sometimes they’ll nod their head up and down like they’re saying “uh huh” to somebody or they’ll shake their head side to side in pretend disagreement with the person on the other line. Violet has three teeth with one cutting the gum now. Olivia has one prominent tooth and three cutting her gums. Their hair seems to grow much like Harry Potter’s, and they get a kick of out shaking their head “no” before doing something they aren’t supposed to. Violet loves to share, it doesn’t matter what it is, she’ll offer it to you. Oh, and Olivia can throw one hell of a tantrum. She cries and somehow manages to roll her tongue while doing it. The noise is like nails on a chalkboard for Erik. I don’t like it either, but I really dislike when they throw themselves backward. Olivia doesn’t care if she’s on a hard floor or not, she will throw herself back so fast… and Violet does it when I pick her up in mid-air. Talk about an adrenaline rush. *insert eye roll*

img_8266(Thank God I had the Tula on!)

We are still breastfeeding with no signs of stopping. Violet has been nursing more frequently than in the previous months, and I think it has something to do with her teeth coming in. Their separation anxiety is out of this world, and it is becoming more evident when they need to sleep. They get CRAAANKY. They love playing with (and fighting over) toys, especially ones that light up and play music. THEY LOVE MUSIC. I wish you could see them dance to Beyoncé’s Formation. It’s seriously their favorite song. They also love 60s music and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

img_8625(gorgeous weather calls for enjoyment!)

(in the toy box their Papaw Roger built for them; Erik providing entertainment)

At times it is definitely challenging, and on certain days it’s a lot harder to keep our cool than others, but we are so blessed to be their parents and we are so happy God chose us to raise these angels. They are daring, they are emotional, but most importantly, they are thriving.

 

[NICU Awareness:] Our Birth Story pt. 2

I woke up sometime later in our room in labor & delivery to find Erik resting on the couch next to my bed.

eriksleeping

“How are the girls?” I asked him. He assured me everything was fine. “When can I see them?” I asked the nurse. She told me I couldn’t see Violet or Olivia until my magnesium drip had run out, so probably not for another day or so. When she told me that I got pretty down, but I knew that they were going to be hungry soon, so I turned my attention to pumping. I had read how important colostrum was for babies, especially premature babies, so I was determined to get what I could, if anything, out of my boobs and into their mouths. I asked the nurse for a pump, and shortly after, a lactation consultant named Karen, wheeled in a Medela Symphony pump with all of the bells and whistles. (Bells and whistles being the membranes, tubes, flanges, shields, etc.) I didn’t know if anything would come out because they were born so early, but our bodies are amazing, y’all. Within seconds, yellow liquid started squirting out, just like The Nursing Mother’s Companion, said it would. “Holy shit this is weird!” I told Erik in amazement. I only got about 20 mL out, but the lactation consultant assured me that was all they needed since their bellies were so small. She brought me some syringes to put the milk in since they were being fed through tubes at the moment, a few sheets of labels for the NICU nurses, and told me to keep trying. She told me I needed to pump frequently to meet their needs while they’re in the NICU, showed me how everything worked, and showed Erik how to properly wash the parts between pumping sessions. “Your milk will come in, trust me.” She said on her way out.

colostrum

Luckily, the hospital the girls were born at is only about ten minutes from our house, so Erik was able to leave and let the dogs out, shower, etc. there. While he was gone, I pumped again and asked the nurse if she would take the colostrum to the NICU for me since I was still unable to get up and walk around. She did, and when she came back, she showed me seperate photos of Violet and Olivia that she had taken so I could see them. They were so beautiful. “I can’t believe we made them.” I thought to myself as I started to cry. The next twelve hours were spent waking up to either talk to the one of thirty people that would filter in and out of the room, or to pump. Fortunately, by about 1:00 p.m. Friday, my milk had fully come in. I was nervous about that whole process because 1. the girls were six weeks early, and 2. I had gotten a c-section. I said it once and I’ll say it again, our bodies are amazing. I was pumping out a solid two ounces each time I pumped by Friday evening. Every meal the girls had so far had been breastmilk, and that was so empowering.

(pictures from nurse’s phone)

Friday evening, my magnesium drip ran out. The nurse in my room asked me to stand, made me take a few steps, and then asked me to sit back down. “Are you dizzy at all?” She asked. I said no, so she wheeled me down to the NICU while Erik went to let the dogs out so I could finally see the girls for the first time. I couldn’t hold them until I wasn’t considered a “fall risk” anymore (my spinal block wore off only a few hours before), so I just stared at them in their incubators. My babies were even more beautiful in person. They were so small, and they looked so soft. I couldn’t wait until I was able to hold them. Shortly after we made it back to the room, I was transferred from labor and delivery to the postpartum ward. Erik got back to the hospital a little after that, and I asked him to take me back to the NICU so we could see them together. We hadn’t gotten that opportunity quite yet.

 

(photo credit: Erik)

Saturday, I held them for the first time: (and my epidural ran out…)

… and Sunday was spent “resting” with frequent walks to the NICU every 3 hours to feed the girls. Monday was our day to go home. Although we were more than eager to leave the hospital, Violet and Olivia wouldn’t be coming with us. Deep down I had known that all along, but a microscopic part of me had hoped they would beat the odds and come home with us, anyway. We packed up all of our stuff and headed to the car. Halfway down the hallway, I doubled over and started crying. I tried to be strong because like I said, I knew they were going to be in the NICU, (and have you ever cried after having your guts sliced open? Sneezed? Coughed? It all hurts. LAUGHING hurts.) but the reality of them staying in the hospital while Erik and I got discharged to go home broke my heart. I didn’t want to leave them there. 

Erik had proposed the idea of us staying at his parents’ house for about a week so I could recover from the surgery without the dogs jumping on me and bothering me/my incision. I agreed, but after a few days, I had had enough. I needed to be at my house. Not having my kids come home with me was one thing, but me not being in the comfort of my own home without my kids was a completely different story. I begged Erik to take me home. I didn’t care if Roman’s eighty-eight pound ass took me out, that was a risk I was willing to take. After some good convincing, Erik drove us to the house. We spent about a week cleaning the house, washing the clothes we got from the babyshower, and putting our finishing touches on the nursery, including assembling the chair and a half that was delivered on the same day as the girls. We had daily visits to the NICU to see Violet and Olivia, and I always took pumped milk to feed them. We changed them, took their temperatures, talked to the nurses and doctors about their progress. We dealt with a bout of jaundice during the first week…

…and leaving them every day was the hardest thing to do, but knowing they were receiving treatment and care we couldn’t provide was what kept us going.

Every day I asked when I could attempt to latch them on to the breast, and on their fourteenth day, I finally got the permission to do so. The same lactation consultant who had brought me the pump was the one who helped us during our first (and successful) nursing session. On the fifteenth day, they were out of incubators and in open cradles, and we were told to bring their carseats the next time we came to the hospital so they could do their carseat tests. That meant they were getting discharged soon!

ourfirstlatch

(our first latch, photo credit: Erik)

August 30, 2015, only seventeen days after giving birth, the nurse working the morning shift told us that Violet and Olivia would be discharged that afternoon. “They passed their hearing tests, so go enjoy your last afternoon alone. We will call you when their papers are ready to go.” We did just that. We had lunch at a little bistro we frequented during the pregnancy before going to walmart and getting preemie diapers. While we were in the checkout line, the hospital called us and told us the girls were ready to come home.

Upon our arrival, the nurses gave us a folder for each of the girls with all of their information in there. They both weighed about 5 lb a piece after losing a pound each after birth. They gave us eight packs of preemie diapers, thermometers, blankets, hats, and all of the preemie onesies I had taken up there over the course of their stay. Walking out of the hospital was quite a show- we even had a random lady follow us out to our car and watch us strap them in because she was so fascinated with the concept of someone having two babies at the same time. I was so ecstatic that our babies were finally coming home, I didn’t even get annoyed that her head was practically in our car while Erik and I each strapped in a child. We clicked their infant seats into the bases and let the nurses check the carseats to make sure they were good to go. “Everything looks good,” they said to us. “This is it.” I thought as we pulled out of the parking lot.

 

 

[NICU awareness:] Our Birth Story pt. 1

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.