New and special warning for these posts as they will cover more than a birth story. So in addition for anyone who is still on the trenches, if stories about preterm birth or NICU trigger any PTSD, please skip these. As always, there will be other posts. Focus on taking good care of yourself first.
Grey and I have been going back and forth on what exactly we want to share for the events of the past week. While some have no issues sharing various aspects of their lives, we are both very private people who are also dealing with a lot of family drama. As much as I'd like to believe otherwise, the truth is sharing too much is a dangerous thing for us. All that said, we ask for understanding regarding omitting certain details from our story. Though I understand that this can be frustrating, the reality is it is Grey, myself and the Beats who have to live with the consequences for any information shared.
Let's start from the beginning.
It's been no secret that since the beginning of July I've been battling hypertension and liver function issues. What I haven't been forthwith about is the degree of monitoring my MFMs have been doing since our second trip to L&D that identified this issue. What quickly was becoming baffling/concerning was that though my labs were indicating preeclampsia, I was lacking a lot of the other symptoms. Hence my MFMs were being vigilant, warning me that things could quickly escalate.
And this is where I failed. Even with the warning of packing a hospital bag, I wasn't prepared for how fast all of this could progress.
Wednesday July 25th, I awoke with a start realizing I had overslept and was running late for my weekly appointment. Because of some issues with iCal, Grey overslept too and wasn't able to get ready in time to get out the door. As I kissed him goodbye, I looked him in the eyes and assured him that this was just a routine appointment and that I would be home by 10 am.
Following a long wait at Phlebotomy, I raced over to my MFM appointment to start the day with a NST with Nurse J before meeting with the physicians. During the NST, the Beats were rocking, kicking and jumping around, but my blood pressure was far from good, spiking at 134/82. Though not considered in the range of hypertension, it still caused all of us to pause. When the NST was completed, I was taken back to the exam room and my blood pressure was rechecked. Though lower at this point, it was concerning that it was fluctuating as much as it was. Despite this, I figured we were still in the monitoring mode as I had been experiencing similar trends before. What I wasn't prepared for was that the labs would come back indicating that not only were the markers for liver stress skyrocketing, but so were markers indicating kidney stress. And just like that, a bed was booked for me at Chateau L&D.
Following the appointment, I was given 30 minutes to wander down to the hospital cafeteria to eat some breakfast and begin making plans. I learned later that the second I texted Grey the news, he immediately packed our laptops and proceeded to run to the bus stop that was 10 blocks away. In the meantime, I made arrangements for Jaxson and Daisy to be watched and alert those we knew in the area of what was happening. I still remember the texts from MissC simply stating "call me," with her trying to piece together what had happened within the 24 hrs since I saw her and Cooper. After all, I looked healthy. What had gone wrong?
Following breakfast, it was back to the clinic to receive the first of 2 shots of dexamethasone to promote maturation of the Beats's lungs. While there, a new nurse named Nurse T talked me through tentative plan of getting me into a flex room where they could start magnesium sulfate in hopes of bringing my blood pressure down. Though usually used to delay preterm labor, magnesium sulfate is also effective at treating this aspect of preeclampsia. The first 20 minutes of that medication were the worst, with the veins in my arm burning from the initial bolus, but after that it was manageable, feeling like I was lying on a bed of hot coals. In addition, I was prescribed restricted bedrest, all with the hope of keeping the Beats in utero as long as possible.
At 12:50 pm I was wheeled into what would be my new home for the next few days. Grey and I started marking the course of events with the different nurses who were assigned to us as the hours became a blur and it was hard to distinguish when exactly certain events happened. Each nurse we had during this period was amazing in her own way, ranging from wicked senses of dry humor to being incredibly sweet. It was funny how each one came into being in charge of my care during the moments we needed them most, helping us make decisions about the next steps, giving us reasons to laugh and even helping us encounter the unknown.
By Friday afternoon it became clear that the Beats would be delivered prior to the 36 week mark, but Grey were hoping that we could get them a few more days. By that evening, though, we were told that I needed to prepare for the possibility of a C-section in the morning. Grey and I held tight to one another as we met with one of the neonatologists to talk about the realities of raising 32 week twins and what their time in the NICU would look like. It was during the rare few moments we were alone together that I allowed to tears to come. Despite the fact their outlook was potentially positive, the reality was that things could go very wrong and I was overcome with guilt, anger and sadness that my body was once again failing our children.
At 1 am I was awoken by our nighttime nurse and told I needed to stop all liquids as it was very likely I would be going in for surgery in the morning. As she gave me the rundown of what to expect, she could see I was in shock by the news. To calm me, she sat by me and proceeded to tell me about all the craziness that was currently happening in L&D. Apparently the floor was beyond capacity, with only those who were actively laboring or in an emergency situation not being turned away. I'll admit, we both had a good laugh about the woman who refused to leave after getting this news and instead had been pacing the halls for close to 10 hrs hoping to get her body into that final stage of labor. "We keep telling her that home will be more comfortable, but she refuses to believe us!" she exclaimed. We also talked a bit about the different cases the university hospital sees, as it serves a large population ranging from prisoners to well-educated citizens with each case also ranging from being very straight-forward to incredibly complex to a flat out emergency. Before she left me she told me that though I was in serious condition, we were actually in a good spot as the doctors had had time to plan and prepare. And she commended me and Grey for being so active to setting the stage to allow for the best possible outcome. It was those words that allowed me to sleep for the next 5 hrs. It was those words that I would hold on to for the next 5 days.
At 7 am my primary MFM came into the room with a team of residents and told us that I was going to be prepped for surgery at 10:30 am. In addition to my liver and kidney biomarkers still being on the rise, my blood pressure was now officially in the hypertension range, I had gained 20 lbs in 48 hrs due to an accumulation of fluids and that my fuzzy thought processes were worrisoome. It was then I was diagnosed with an atypical form of preeclampsia called HELLP syndrome. Though I had zero protein in my urine (they had done a 24 hr catch) and my platelet count was okay, they weren't willing to wait. After answering a few questions from Grey, the decision was made to go forward and the team left us to make final phone calls to family and friends to alert them to what was happening. Grey was also given some pink scrubs to wear in the OR as the usual blue ones were being stolen and they wanted to discourage future temptations.
At 10:30 am, I was given an additional IV and then wheeled into the OR. Sitting on the OR table, a 38.5 week pregnant anesthesiology resident attempted to insert an epidural without success. The attending anesthesiologist proceeded to take over and while successfully inserting the catheter told me about how he was actually on paternity leave and had just welcomed a son 10 days before. The only thing I could think of was that this situation was an infertile's worst nightmare come true, but somehow I managed to bite my tongue and allow them to do their jobs while I smiled.
Grey and I had talked previously about what we wanted to happen if a C-section was necessary for delivering the Beats. I knew I didn't want my arms strapped down, but as I have a history of fainting from overly bloody/painful looking situations I was also okay with them leaving up the drape. Grey wanted to see though and the surgical team happily accommodated him, only requesting that he not interfere with what they were doing. Numb and nude from the neck down, everyone began to work with me only feeling tugging and pulling the whole time. Suddenly I heard excitement in everyone's voices and Grey's eyes began to fill with tears. Eagerly snapping photos and bouncing like a small child, Grey looked at me and said "He's crying. Cristy he's crying!" meaning that Beat A was able to breathe on his own. Within a couple minutes later the same excitement and tears of joy returned with the arrival of Beat B.
Born on July 27, 2013 at 11:30 am PST, via Cesarean section
Beat A (He-Beat): HTC. Weighing 4 lbs 5 oz
Beat B (She-Beat): EMC. Weighing 3 lbs 7 oz
Both born into the world with an amazing set of lungs. The most beautiful noise I've ever heard.
As agreed upon, Grey left me to be with the Beats and oversee what the neonatology teams were doing. The original plan was once prepped for NICU, the team would bring each Beat over for me to see before taking them down. That plan was immediately scratched when I heard a loud clang and a gasp. Within a couple of minutes I learned that one of the scrub techs had fainted, nose-diving into one of the side tables. As the team split, with a couple of nurses working to assess the situation and call a team to get her down to the ER while another nurse stepped in to assist the MFMs with completing my surgery, the NICU teams made the decision to bypass me seeing the Beats and to simply get them into NICU. Grey came over to me with a look of what-do-you-want-me-to-do, and the second I mouthed "Go" he turned and joined the NICU teams. About an hour later, I was sewn back together and transferred into a L&D room for close monitoring and observation. Over words of congratulations, my primary MFM warned me that it was likely my condition would worsen before it got better. "But we're not going to let anything happen to you" she promised.
And with that began a strange next few days, fueled by physical pain and uncertainty coupled with joy and hope.
To be continued . . . .
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