In October 2012 my husband (Andrew), my 17 month-old-son (Joshua) and I moved from London UK to Stamford CT. We were kindly greeted by the terrible storm Sandy. Sandy had nothing on what was about to rock our lives.
At the time of our move I was 4 months pregnant with twins. Besides feeling huge and struggling to keep up with Josh, I was fine; a completely healthy pregnancy. Because we had just moved to the States the twins automatically qualified me as a high-risk pregnancy. So on December 20th I asked my husband to take the day off as the OB/GYN required me to have a full scan which they expected to take around 2 hours. I never made it to my appointment.
That morning I felt what I thought were Braxton Hicks (false contractions). However, they were real and the next thing I knew I was at Stamford hospital having a C-Section for Mason and Eloise at 26 weeks and 6 days gestation.
Mason was born weighing 2lbs 2oz and Eloise 1lb 12oz, both about 13 inches in length. Unlike with Josh, I wasn't able to hold or even initially see my new babies; it was beyond awful. I was able to see them later that day but it wasn’t until the day I was discharged (December 24th) that I could first hold Eloise and then the following day Mason.
The wires and tubes in and on my babies seemed to weigh more than them, my husband counted around fifteen which connected them to various apparatus/monitors which surrounded their isolettes. For the first 24 hours they each had a nurse assigned to constantly watch for any life-threatening complications.
Both were on ventilators and then moved up to CPAP during the first week. During the first two weeks they seemed to be progressing well. They started getting 1ml of breast milk every three hours and this increased every few days and sometimes every day. Plus, we were able to hold one of them every other day. Then the two-week honeymoon was over and it all seemed to go wrong.
Both Mason and Eloise required their second blood transfusion (they eventually would have 4 each) and both had to go back on ventilators. They were receiving a variety of medications including a diuretic to help drain fluid from their lungs. The nurses would also use a small plastic hammer on their chests to attempt to break up the fluid.
Mason was diagnosed with a Grade 2 IVH bleed in his brain and then it progressed to a Grade 3. About a week later (it was January 12th — the day my older son, Joshua, turned 18 months), I arrived in the NICU excited to finally hold Eloise after a long period without being able to pick either up only to find there was heavy concern over Mason. He was having what appeared to be seizures. The neonatologist was very concerned and recommended him to be transferred to Yale as they had pediatric neurosurgeons that could better diagnose him.
After ten very long days at Yale the doctors were satisfied that he was no longer having seizures and Mason was transferred back to Stamford to be reunited with Eloise.
After several more blood transfusions and various episodes on and off the ventilators, they finally started to make progress and steadily gained weight. By February they were both on cannula and starting to bottle and breastfeed. They were also moved out of the isolettes and into cribs.
Around week 8 (they were about 35 weeks gestation) we thought that Eloise was due to come home with Mason not far behind. We of course went into panic mode, getting car seats and everything else that we hadn’t had time to prepare for. But it turned out that the roller coaster had a few more dips and turns waiting for us. Eloise failed to keep her temperature up and then Mason was struggling to gain weight... So back into the isolettes they went. With a little more time and fully breastfeeding throughout the day, they were finally ready to come home! Their gestation age was 37 weeks and 4 days — the same that Josh was when he was born! They came home together and it was bliss! Mason weighed just over 5lbs and Eloise just under.
After getting home they continued to make steady progress but we did have several emergency visits to hospital with Mason due to respiratory issues which developed after he left the NICU. After being discharged he developed several issues affecting his airway but he's such a fighter that although at one time 85% of his airway was blocked he was still feeding great, gaining weight and for the most part being a happy baby, which he continues to be.
Mason and Eloise are now nearly 2 1/2 years old and are both on the 50th percentile for length and weight for their non-adjusted age!
They were on the Birth-to-Three program for a few months and Mason had a bit of PT but their rapid development soon meant they didn’t require extra help which amazed us all. We are so proud of them.
Having a child changes your whole perspective on life and having a preemie demonstrates strength beyond belief.
It was right in the mist of the downturn (first week of Jan) that I met a TTMF parent. She came to visit me in the NICU. The day that she came was one of my lowest days. The twins were one by one being put back on ventilators and upping meds and neonatologist was explaining to me that we aren’t through the worst of it yet. He went over, what he said he told me when they were born but I don’t remember, that they only have about a 75% chance of survival. That hit me like a knife to the heart. I was prepared to deal with long-term effects but I was not able to even contemplate not bringing both of my babies home at the end of all of this.
The TTMF parent had been in a similar situation about 14 years ago when she had 26-week twins and also an older daughter at home. It was the first time that I met somebody who knew what this all felt like. I suddenly didn't feel so alone and lost. She showed me recent pictures and shared stories of how well her daughters were doing now. If they could get through this, and that was over a decade ago, then my twins could too!
Throughout Mason and Eloise’s NICU stay I met someone different each week from TTMF. These women had each been through what I was going through and they helped me to keep my spirits up and to keep positive.