In February of 1997 we found out we were having twins. My husband and I were so excited and were ready for a long pregnancy that would end in giving birth to two adorable babies. We were young and did not know the fragility of a twin pregnancy. At 23 weeks, I went into full-blown labor that was eventually stopped. Due to many complications, I was hospitalized until the girls were born at 28 weeks and 3 days. It was the hardest 5 weeks that I have ever had to endure. However, it is, and will remain, my single most important life accomplishment. My family's lives would have been much different had I given birth at 23 weeks.
After a vaginal delivery, Lillian Marie (2 lbs. 8ozs. and 16″ long) and Hanna Elizabeth (3 lbs. and 16.5″ long) were welcomed into the world with a fast trip from the delivery room to the NICU. They were assessed in the normal NICU fashion, and were deemed in "relatively" good health. Both were on vents, both had surfactant, and rounds of antibiotics. I was told that everything was progressing well, and that the neonatologists were pleased with the weights (I had lost a significant amount of weight prior to delivery, so there was concern for the babies).
Prior to seeing my babies for the first time, I had never seen a premature baby. I had intended, while in the hospital, to visit the NICU, but decided against it. Nothing could have prepared me for seeing my two babies for the first time. It was SHOCKING! I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't that. They were so small, and hooked up to monitors and a vent. They were both spread-eagle on the triage table. They looked so pathetic that I couldn't believe that a human being could eventually come of them. My reaction was one of utter shock and fear. That was when a NICU angel (I mean nurse) explained that my babies were stable and that their stay would be a day-by-day situation. There would be good days and bad days. She couldn't have been more right. The girls were extubated within 8 hours of being born. They were given the standard lumbar puncture, head ultrasounds, transfusions, and daily blood tests.
The NICU experience was a difficult one as it seemed that every day brought a different, high-stress situation. Lillian and Hanna were known as the "brady girls." They had a lot of episodes of apnea and bradycardia. Both girls' initial head ultrasounds came up positive for IVH, but subsequent ones (longest 4 weeks of my life) showed that not to be the case. They were on various drugs to stop reflux, caffeine for the bradys, Zantac®. After a tumultuous 8 weeks, they were able to go home with us. We took home two 5-pound babies with heart rate monitors, medicines, and oxygen for Hanna. The uncertainty of the future weighed heavily on me.
Thankfully, the girls progressed well and began meeting their milestones for their ages, so we were quite hopeful. They were followed for two years by Early Intervention, but needed no intensive therapy. They entered kindergarten right on time, and were quite the superstars (did not even mention to the teachers that they were premature, it wasn't an issue). They are now happy, healthy 7-year-old second graders, and no one would believe this story if I told them. There are absolutely no signs of their tumultuous beginnings. I find myself recently looking at them and thinking back to those first scary days as they laid motionless in their isolettes. I can't believe it turned out this way. I only wish I could have had just a glimpse of the future when they were in the NICU. It would have helped tremendously.
As you can imagine, the news of a second set of twins engendered mixed emotions. I was excited, but was in no hurry to repeat that profound an experience again. I set about the goal of avoiding NICU time. I shopped for the right doctor that I felt could work with me to get as far along in the pregnancy as possible. I went on self-imposed bedrest and was very thankful for it. I ended up giving birth to Virginia Grace (4 lbs. 9 oz. and 18" long) and Weston Earl (5 lbs. 10 oz. and 19" long) at 33 weeks and 2 days, just shy of my personal goal of 34 weeks. Their NICU stay was much different than the girls. They had ZERO episodes of apnea or bradycardia. They were on ZERO meds, and ZERO oxygen. They were, as the NICU says, "feeders and growers." They came home with me after 13 days in the hospital. I am very thankful that their stay was a little less eventful.
I am very proud of my family for all that we have been through, and will always be profoundly impressed with the wonders of modern medicine and the power of prayer. Without both, our NICU time would have been unbearable and the outcomes would have been far different.
Keep the faith!