It's been a bit of a whirldwind around here as we settle into our new normal. We came home from the hospital last night and are now trying to figure out how to balance hanging out in the NICU with the rest of life and healing from my c-section, and just hoping that our babies are able to join us at home soon. To fill you all in, here's how the labor/delivery went down...
I had an appointment last Friday, and there were no signs of labor on either the ultrasound or the cervical check--everyone thought we were still weeks away. I was uncomfortable over the weekend, but nothing very different from what I've been feeling for weeks now. On Sunday, I began worrying about baby girl, thinking she wasn't moving as much as normal. This feeling continued, so on Tuesday I called in and went for an ultrasound. Again, everything looked perfect. Tuesday night I had a board meeting, and towards the end of the meeting around 7:45 I had two really strong contractions. I didn't feel anything else, though, and thought nothing about it. In fact, on my way out of the meeting, I kept telling people to expect the babies in about two weeks.
Andrew and I walked the dogs around 8:15, then we opened and began playing with our new video baby monitors. Andrew had the light off in the nursery and was making faces into the monitor, and I was downstairs checking to see how well it worked. We were laughing, joking around, but when I started back up the stairs I only made it to the third one. Suddenly, my water broke, just like on a movie...it was shocking! I called up to Andrew, "Honey, my water just broke," and he thought I was joking. When he looked over the railing and saw me standing in a puddle he realized this was the real deal, and he immediately began freaking out. Neither of us had packed, so we began throwing stuff together. I finally got Andrew calmed down, we got enough together to get us through the day, and off we went. Luckily, my doctor was on call, so he met us at the hospital.
In triage they quickly confirmed that my water had broken, and the doctor said we'd be doing a c-section within the hour. I wasn't contracting yet, so I was still pretty calm. I was upset that the babies were coming earlier than expected, but I knew there was nothing we could do. Unfortunately two emergencies came in, pushing us back, and I began having strong contractions around 1:00 a.m. We were finally wheeled to the OR at 3:00, and at 3:21 a.m. on August 24th we heard the most beautiful sound--our two babies crying. I saw them very quickly in the OR, and Andrew got to hold them each for about 30 seconds, then they were whisked to the nursery. Andrew and our families got to watch them being evaluated and stabilized, but I was stuck in my room recovering. Finally, 6 hours later, my babies were wheeled in to meet me. It was bittersweet--they were the most precious things ever, but they were in isolettes and I couldn't hold them.
The babies headed to the NICU across the street, and I was taken to postpartum. Andrew and the families got to go visit in the NICU, but again I had to wait. This was truly excruciating. I was hearing about my babies from everyone else, when I should have been the first to know them. Finally, around 3:00 p.m., I got to visit the NICU and touch our son and daughter. Since then, Andrew and I have been visiting as much as possible and soaking up every second with our babies.
As of now, Barnes is on nasal oxygen. He is receiving my milk via tube to his stomach, and is digesting better and better. We really hope his breathing improves soon, as we need to get him more stable so we can start working towards other goals. Andrew and I have both gotten to hold him (inside his pouch) a few times, and we cherish those special moments.
Frances is on a respirator and is on medication to close a valve that failed to close after birth. Once she is off the medicine, she will hopefully begin eating via tube. We have gotten to change her diaper, but have not yet gotten to hold her, which is breaking my heart. I am aching to have her in my arms!
Although it's terribly difficult to not have them here, we know they are in the best hands right now. We are incredibly thankful for East Tennessee Children's Hospital and all the wonderful doctors and nurses there. We will keep you all as updated as we have time to, and we beg you to continue to pray for the twins' health and development.
On wednesday morning, august 24, 2011, our set of shafers made their way into our world. They were born via c-section at 3:21 am. Barnes Howard weighed 4 lb 15.9 oz and was 18 inches long. Frances Katherine weighed 3 lb 13.9 oz and was 17 inches long. They are truly beautiful- God has blessed us richly.
I am typing this from my phone, as blogger is blocked at the hospital, but we will share their full birth story later and begin regular updates on their status. For now, know that they are being well cared for in the nicu at east tn children's hospital as they work on lung development and breathing first. Please pray for their health, development and progress, as we are anxious to have them join us at home.
Today we are breathing a sigh of relief, as we have officially reached the 34 week mark. This is a major milestone in twin world, as it's one giant step closer to the well-baby nursery. We are hoping for at least another week or two (or three) before delivery, but just in case we are doing a round of steroids this Thursday and Friday to help the twins' lungs develop. If our babies decide to make an early appearance, this will hopefully help them breathe more easily on their own.
Pregnant women attract advice. It is a law of nature that 80% of the people a pregnant woman meets want to share their views on parenting. While advice givers typically have the best intentions, all the unsolicited anecdotes can get a bit old, especially considering that almost none of these people have ever raised multiples. This week, though, I received quite a jewel from a neighbor.
I have recently been struggling a bit. Not working feels like not contributing, and doubts about my worth to our family have crept in. I know all the right things to say...that monetary contributions do not define worth, that worth comes from God alone, that being a mom is an important job. Knowing the truth and believing it, though, are two different feats.
An older man walks through our neighborhood constantly. He had a heart attack a few years ago, and now maintains a certain number of steps per day. During these walks, he speaks to everyone he sees and always has a smile on his face. We saw him Wednesday evening, and as he was inquiring about the babies' status, he mentioned that he only had one piece of advice. I braced myself for more tips about eating or sleeping, but instead heard this: "You only get one chance to be a good parent."
I have an indefinite time to build a career, to make money, to contribute in some work-oriented way to society. But our twins will only be babies this once. Once a milestone passes, it will not come again. I'm so thankful to be reminded of this, and thankful that our neighbor shared his sweet wisdom.
We received wonderful news at our growth scan today! Baby girl gained over a pound in the last two weeks and is now at 4 pounds 2 ounces, the 14th percentile. Baby boy is measuring at 4 pounds 13 ounces, the 46th percentile. Their discordance is only 14%, which is great, and they look very healthy all around. We couldn't be more excited about our 9 pounds of baby!
We've made it to 33 weeks, and my body is definitely feeling it. Hopefully we have at least 8 pounds of baby inside now (our next growth scan is Thursday), and they are doing everything they can to make me uncomfortable. I hit a bit of a wall last week and I am now questioning my ability to make it to my goal, 37 weeks. Hopefully we will at least make it to 35, though I am still pushing for more. No matter how uncomfortable I am, the benefits that each week inside (or really even every few days) give our chlidren are more than worth it.
Some day, one of our children will look at Andrew and me and ask, "Where do babies come from?" Though it's a question many parents dread, it's one that we have put lots of thought into, and one that I hope we will be well prepared to handle.
When the inevitable question is asked, I hope to direct the conversation more to how families are made. I know it's important for children to understand the biology of babies, but it's equally important to teach our children that families are not one size fits all. Yes, babies are each made from a little part of a woman and a little part of a man, but families are so much more. Though I'm sure the response will be refined over the next few years, I plan to tell our children that many mommies and daddies are able to easily make a baby, and that is a beautiful thing. Lots of families, though, come together in different ways. Some families, like ours, needed a doctor to help make their babies. We are so thankful for these special doctors, as they were able to make our dreams come true by giving us our precious twins. Other families are brought together through the miracle of adoption, or through the gift of surrogacy. Many families are made of a mommy, daddy and kids, but many are also made of just a mommy, just a daddy, or two mommies or daddies.
What matters is not how the family came together, or how the babies were made, but the love shared within that family. That is the lesson I want our children to learn.
We started our week with a Sunday morning visit to the ER, but this time I wasn't the patient. Poor Andrew was trimming some bushes yesterday and accidentally clipped a little more than the bush. Thankfully Andrew is a trooper and did great with the whole ordeal. Three stitches later, his right hand should be as good as new in about 2 weeks. He will definitely be taking lead on the twins' lacerations. The worst part of the adventure (except the numbing shot) was that the valet actually locked our keys in our car! His entire job is to park cars and get the keys safely to the booth, yet he managed to lock us out in the 90 degree sunshine. So glad this is not the hospital where we are having the babies.
In honor of our latest hospital visit, I've added a new poll to the right side of the blog...when do you think the babies will arrive? There are five options, and each week represents the day we get to that mark plus the entire following week (34 weeks= 34 weeks through 34 weeks 6 days). As a reminder, we will be 32 weeks tomorrow. Happy voting!
We had another growth scan today, and unfortunately didn't get the results we really wanted. Thankfully, both babies had grown and both looked very healthy on their biophysical profile. Their growth seems to have slowed, though, and baby girl is very small. Our boy was measuring at 4 pounds 2 ounces, the 61st percentile. Little girl was only at 3 pounds 1 ounce, the 7th percentile. The discordance between them has risen from 21% to 26% (we were hoping that number would shrink).
We are now scheduled for weekly ultrasounds at the high risk center, and I am thankful that our precious twins are being monitored so closely. We should know more about what this might mean after meeting with our doctor next Friday.
While the twins will be our first human babies, Andrew and I have had "children" for quite a while. Cooper and Stella, our two precious dogs, are an integral part of our family.
Cooper is a six-year-old yorkie who is too smart for his own good. His vocabulary is astonishing...we are pretty sure he understands about 90% of what we say. He is certain he's not a dog, and expresses this belief by refusing to eat dog food unless there is shredded cheese on top. He is quite independent, but also knows when to give the sweetest snuggles. If I cry (which seems to be often at 31 weeks pregnant), he is always the first to comfort me. He also has some advanced medical training--when Andrew's blood sugar goes low in the middle of the night, Cooper often scratches until Andrew gets up to eat. He is a typical firstborn...responsible, caring, and good at entertaining himself.
Stella is our one-year-old yorkie poo, and she is quite the ball of energy. We were constantly on the fence about adding a second dog to the family, but when I yearned for a child getting a dog seemed to be the next best thing. Looking back, we realize this was one of the best decisions we have made for our family. Sweet Stella has been so good for her big brother. He eats better and plays more than he has in years. Stella has the most adorable face, and she is quite possibly the most cuddly animal ever. She will lay with Andrew or me for hours, giving her love freely and generously. She is also quite hilarious, and she keeps us entertained with her precious antics.
This morning I had to drop both of my fur babies at the vet--Stella needed a teeth cleaning and extraction of one tooth that never fell out, and Cooper needed a teeth cleaning and had a spot on his back that needed to be removed. Both had to be put to sleep, which I hate, and both had a complete freak out when we pulled up to the vet's office. They clung to their mommy, and I cried as I pulled out of the parking lot without them in my lap. I was so sad that I couldn't explain to them that this was for their own good, that I would be back soon to hold them and cuddle them. I quickly realized that life with babies will be similar. There will be times when we have to make choices that the babies don't like, and we won't be able to explain to them that we are trying to do what is best. There will be moments when the things we have to do will make the babies angry, and I know that hearing their little cries will break my heart. I just hope that human babies forgive as quickly as our four-legged kids.
As of today, we can officially say that we are having twins NEXT MONTH. These little guys will most likely be making their appearance in just 4 to 6 weeks! If you had told me in August 2010 that we would be here a year later, I would have laughed in your face. The idea of our home being stocked with two cribs, toys, diapers, and all things baby would have sounded too good to be true. But here we are, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our son AND daughter...God is so good.