Monday, December 7, 2015

22 and 23 Weeks!

22.4 weeks

How far along? 22.5 weeks
Total weight gain: I'm finally up on my weight. At my 20 week appointment I had gained 5 lbs! 5lbs in one month! I'm happy about that. I have really been focusing on getting 100g of protein a day. It's not as hard as I thought it would be and my favorite bed time snack is Greek yogurt with blueberries, Stevia, and protein granola. I think they went through a growth spurt because for three days in a row, I couldn't get satisfied. I was hungry all.the.time. We'll see what my weight has been doing the last month next week.
Sleep? I'm sleeping okay. Just tossing and turning a lot and repositioning. The Pillow is helping a lot. Michael still hates it because its huge! Apparently I'm snoring like man. My dear husband is so wonderful. I'm much less tolerant of snoring and always nudge him to roll over when he snores (which only happens when he has allergies). He doesn't touch me. I'm super congested, especially at night. I am not hearing my kids at night as much as I normally do so I must not be sleeping too bad.
Best moment of the week?  It was a couple of weeks ago but hearing everything looks great with babies at my 20 week ultrasound. They were both measuring where they should. Baby girl is a little smaller and baby boy is a little bigger. All the anatomy looked normal and there was nothing to be concerned about. Of course there can't be anything 100% free from worry. Apparently there is a measurement/ratio that measures head to long bone ratio. It will be flagged if the ratio is high. Both babies were flagged for "increased risk of chromosomal anomalies" because they both have big heads. My doctor hates this measurement because the long bones are measuring just perfectly... they just have big heads. All of my kids do. He is not concerned about it at all. Of course, we are...a little.
Miss anything? Bending over and keeping up with my kids. I already don't want to do much because I get Braxton Hicks and just need to rest a lot. I just don't remember feeling this way, this soon. I still have 15 weeks so I'm a little nervous about what is to come.
Movement? Yes. Michael has been able to feel them a couple of times now. Baby boy has an anterior placenta so I don't feel him as much or as strongly. I wish I knew which one was moving. I have a really hard time figuring out who is moving. Most of the time I assume I'm feeling baby girl because the movements are high. Right now they are both transverse and baby girl is on top and baby boy is on bottom.
Food cravings? Not craving much right now. I did crave a cinnamon roll and drove all the way to Thanksgiving Point because the Maverick gas station has a Cinnabon station inside. It was so good and Sam agreed. Totally worth it.
Anything make you queasy or sick? I'm not nauseous too often but I still do throw-up almost every morning because of an overactive gag reflex. I'm really over that part.
Labor signs? No. Braxton Hicks a lot. I try to drink a lot of water as soon as I get up. That seems to help keep the Braxton Hicks at bay. Hoping these babies don't show up until after March 23rd. 15 more weeks!
Gender?  Boy and Girl!
Symptoms? Heartburn and reflux are the biggest culprits. I just eat small meals and try to stay away from things that I know will make it worse. Chocolate, applesauce, soda.
Happy or Moody? Mostly happy. Just very tired. I get anxious trying to figure out what our life will like in 3 months. We are trying to figure out if we are moving or staying. For now we are staying put. We love where we live and space will be an issue but we are going to try and make it work until we can figure out where we will be financially. I'm not sure what working will look like for me after these babies get here. We are hoping to stay until Michael is done with his Masters program in a couple of years.
Looking forward to...? Deciding on names! Oh my gosh, it's been so hard this time! We have lots of names we "like" but not "love". Nothing seems to be jumping out at me. I can't wait to stop calling them baby boy and baby girl. Also, looking forward to Christmas! The holidays seem to make the weeks go by faster and Michael has a nice break from school so we will be focusing on doing fun stuff with our kiddos and getting some projects done around the house.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

18 Weeks and Then Some...

How far along? 18 weeks
Total weight gain: I'm down 10lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight. That doesn't concern me or my doctor very much because I was about 15lbs heavier than I would have liked to be when I got pregnant. I gained 9lbs while pregnant earlier this year and then the miscarriage made it hard to get it off. The babies are measuring big and getting everything they need because I ate like crazy during the first trimester.
Sleep? It has already begun. Between peeing one or two times a night and just already feeling uncomfortable, I'm not sleeping great but not horribly either. I bought a new pregnancy pillow that is a giant "U" shaped and supports both my belly and back. I'm just not comfy on one side for too long and I have to change positions a lot. It is going to be a long 5 months because I'm not even that big yet.
Best moment of the week?  My belly finally popped this week! I actually look a little pregnant instead of just like I've put on 30lbs. I tend to just getter wide before the belly pops early on. Also, buying a mini van! Yes! Never say never. I am so happy with the practicality of it. The automatic doors are going to be a lifesaver! We are all loving it so far!
Miss anything? Energy, eating normally, and generally feeling normal. Chasing around two toddlers while pregnant with twins is not easy. I did it once with one toddler so I know what I'm in for. The difference between being pregnant with one vs two is that your weeks of feeling good are much fewer with two than one. Needless to say, I'm already feeling it.
Movement? Yes. I've been feeling flutters since 14-15 weeks but starting to feel movement more consistently. Not all the time but enough. I have one posterior placenta and one anterior so I won't be feeling that baby as much or early as the other. That will make me less anxious...haha! Baby boy is low transverse is baby A and baby girl is on top transverse and is baby B. I'm not sure which one has the anterior placenta. I'm worried that I will have placenta previa again due to this but we'll see.
Food cravings? Nothing right now. I don't have much of an appetite right now. In general, I have been craving healthier food than in my other two pregnancies which probably accounts for some of the weight loss.  In my first trimester, I was not feeling good but I ate all the time because it made the nausea worse if I didn't. It's a weird feeling being nauseous and starving at the same time. I am trying to follow a high protein diet to gain adequate weight. I want these babies to be full term and over 6lbs when they are born so I am going to try my best.
Anything make you queasy or sick? No. I started feeling better around 15 weeks. I was really sick in the first trimester. It started around 7 weeks and I was just nauseous all day, especially in the evening. I threw-up a few times but not every day. This was all new to me since I wasn't sick with my other two pregnancies. There were days that all I could do was lay on the couch but I finally feel better. I still throw-up almost every morning but I don't feel sick.
Labor signs? No, thank goodness. Hopefully not for 20 more weeks. I'm desperately trying to get these babies to 38 weeks. I can't stand the thought of NICU time again. Please, please, please.
Gender?  Boy and Girl! No names yet. It will be a while.
Symptoms? Heartburn that started pretty early this time but no surprise there. Nausea from 7-15 weeks. A growing belly that I can actually feel growing at times...ouch. Starting at 14 weeks, I had horrid back pain. I had back pain with the girls but early on until 15 weeks and no problems with it after. This was later and WAY worse. I couldn't move or walk or take care of my kiddos. I went to my doctor and they prescribed me a medication that I only took once because it knocked me out and referred me to physical therapy. I was hopeful the physical therapy would work but I had no idea it would make me feel so much better, so fast. It has been a life saver. It turns out with pregnancy hormones, my joints are loose and my sacrum (the bone above your tail bone) likes to pop out of place, straining the ligaments. In general, I'm feeling a lot better and can function.
Happy or Moody? Mostly happy. Just very tired.
Looking forward to...? Feeling more movement. It always seems more real to me when I can feel consistent movement. Also, my 20 week ultrasound. We will know more about the health of the babies then and I can finally relax a little more.
Realization of the week? I've had many realizations over the past 4 months but nothing too profound this week except I'm nearly half way there! I can't believe it. The first trimester was the longest 3 months ever but I'm almost half way there!

Twins, Take Two and What We've Been Up To...

What a year it's been! I can't believe 2015 is almost over. I last wrote just before the girls' first birthday (although I've been writing for myself privately). I survived the girls birthday! It was a very wide range of emotions the whole week, as had been the whole year. I love planning my kids' birthday. It just seemed so backwards at times though. I would be in one aisle of the store picking out plates and streamers and then go to another aisle trying to find something that would hold up to the weather for Cora's grave. I kept thinking I shouldn't have to get decorations for her grave, she should be here celebrating with Elena. I went to the checkout a time or two, in tears.

I am blessed to have a family that didn't even need to ask what they could do. They just did it. They knew that I wanted to celebrate both my girls but the preparations were difficult. My parents made all the food and we even had the party at their house. My little sister took care of decorations for the party and even some for Cora's grave. It really didn't help that just a couple of weeks before, I miscarried. We did a D&C the following week and I was having issues related to it all. Emotionally, I was spent anyway. We had transferred two of our last 4 embryos in January and spent a few days worrying about the possibility of twins, then to finding out it was one baby and a blighted ovum, to being devastated at our 9 week ultrasound that found no heartbeat.

I had several weeks of bleeding and lagging Hcg levels (for two months actually). I was eager to get on with things and finish this IVF journey. I wanted to do the last transfer as soon as possible. My levels eventually bottomed out and I finally got rid of the retained tissue from the D&C and my next transfer date was set...July 20th. Just 5 days prior to when the transfer was with the girls, 2 years before. I thought great, the same season of pregnancy, very close due dates. Could I handle this?

An uneventful cycle later, my beta came back at 462. That's very high. I knew two days after the transfer that I was pregnant and five days after the transfer, I confirmed it with a home pregnancy test. I knew I was pregnant with twins again and my beta just confirmed my suspicions. If I am going to be completely honest writing my feelings down, I will say I was not excited. I was a mess until my ultrasound. It's silly with how we need to procreate, to think "how could this happen?" but I did. We went back and forth about how many embryos to transfer and it just didn't make sense on so many levels to only transfer one, especially financially. We prayed about it and we felt we just needed to transfer two and that whatever happened was supposed to be. I also secretly thought, if Heavenly Father knew me at all, he would bless us with just one this time. Hahaha! When will I ever learn? I went into this last cycle believing with all my heart that we were carrying out the plan that was laid for us and that whatever happened was meant to be, even if that meant that we wouldn't have more children. I prayed for an entire year after the girls were born, every night, that my longing for one more child would be taken away and that I would no longer feel like there was another baby to come to our family. Honestly, I used to think that when a person said or felt there was another baby for them that they were just trying to justify their decision to have another. I could never relate to that feeling until this last year. The more I prayed to feel content and feel okay with not using the embryos we had, the more the feeling persisted and knew that I we had to have one more baby.

If Cora had lived, healthy or not, we would have been done. Embryos or no embryos. We had four embryos and consulting with our doctor, went back and forth about transferring one or two. With our cycle in January, we decided to transfer two but the weaker two. We had a great pair, and a pair that had one great one and one slightly weaker. We decided if that only one survived the thaw, we would only transfer one. If they both survived, we would transfer both. Half way through, we changed our mind and decided to transfer the stronger pair. We just wanted to be done and give us the best chance of getting pregnant. We got to the transfer and the message never got where it needed to go and they thawed the weaker pair, which both survived. Fast forward, we were pregnant with one and the second one never developed. It was an empty sac. I cheated and scanned myself at work (perks to working in L&D) and saw two sacs very early on. I will say, I cried for three days. I didn't know how we would survive this. We told close family and friends and started to get excited. We went to our 7 week ultrasound and saw one beautiful heartbeat and one empty sac. I was sad but knew I would be grateful for this outcome. However, walking out of that doctor appointment, my mind flashed to those two embryos and right then I knew we would be using them. The whole pregnancy, however short, felt so a dream. It never seemed real. I was a little sick, but nothing too horrible. Around 8 weeks, I started feeling better. I knew something was wrong...I just knew. I had no signs of miscarriage but my heart just knew. My visiting teachers were over a few days before my 9 week ultrasound and I told them I thought something was wrong. They reassured me it was probably just first trimester jitters and I agreed. I had changed my appointment to three days earlier because the progesterone shots were going to kill me and I didn't want to keep doing them if I didn't need to. We went to the ultrasound and the NP asked why I changed my appointment. I told her that I needed to get off the shots (you usually get your weaning schedule at your 9 week appointment) and I quietly slipped in there that I thought something was wrong. As soon as the picture came up, we all saw it, no heartbeat. The baby was measuring 9 weeks so it happen fairly recently. I was just not surprised at all. We were left alone for a good cry and then discussed options...letting it pass on it's own, medication, or D&C. Knowing my body, it would have taken far too long to recognize the pregnancy had failed. The medication sounded horrible and I was far enough along that she warned that it would be painful. I opted for an in office D&C and scheduled it for the next week. Long story short, it went smoothly but I had some retained tissue that caused my Hcg levels to drop very slowly and bled for almost two months. I'm pretty sure I was lacking oxygen to my brain at that time. I was so tired and couldn't think straight. The tissue passed on it's own with my next cycle and we were scheduled for our final FET.

It was July by this time and I was eager to get on with things, although it was also a little tender. The whole thing was bittersweet. Closing a chapter in our lives. A very long 6 year chapter. I was mostly happy to have fertility treatments and the battle of infertility behind us but it will always be such a huge part of our lives. I guess it's a similar feeling to knowing you are having your last pregnancy or baby. Our transfer went smoothly on July 20th and I was on bed rest for a couple of days. I knew two days after the transfer that I was pregnant. The heartburn had already started and I just knew. Five days after the transfer, I didn't feel well and threw up. I ran to the store to get pregnancy test but didn't plan to take it for another two days. Well, I couldn't wait. I knew it was still early but I took it anyway. It came up positive right away and I told Michael. He seemed indifferent but assured me he wasn't and that he just already knew I was pregnant and he was nervous. He said that unfortunately, that little stick didn't provide him any reassurance. I agreed but this was a step in the right direction. We got my beta back and it came back very high at 462. I knew it was twins again and from our previous cycle, knew that it would be okay but I was still terrified. How were we going to do this?

We headed to our first ultrasound two weeks later and was not at all surprised that there were two heartbeats. We had a scare for a minute when the tech said she saw THREE sacs. She said it looked empty though. I made her look three times! It didn't end up being an empty sac, it was a bleed that caused no problems. There were two babies...for the time being. We just had a "one day at a time" attitude. We were pretty ambivalent to the situation. We were not convinced we were having two babies and told no one. We went back the next week...two heartbeats. We went back at 9 weeks...two heartbeats. It started to look like signs pointed to two.

We were released from the fertility clinic and had our first appointment with my OB/MFM. It was a LONG appointment that consisted of genetic counseling, an ultrasound, and clinic appointment. We were told our risks of having another chromosomal defect in one of the babies was a little higher than before and told what our testing options were. We opted not to do anything invasive and definitely declined that dumb blood test that told us everything was fine with girls (they are no longer recommending it for twins anyway). Our doctor told us we would do frequent ultrasounds and we would have as much information from that as we would any blood test. We had the NT screen at 12 weeks and it was not a fun appointment. I was a wreck! The poor tech, even knowing our history, was probably wondering why we were not happy or excited to see our babies. We were in the same room that we found our Cora might have a problem and the same room we were told she had passed away.  In those moments, I questioned everything we did and everything we were doing. I couldn't bare it. The tech cannot really tell us if everything was okay but she did at the end anyway because she knew how anxious we were. She said everything looked great and the measurements were well within the normal limits.

We left that appointment feeling reassured that so far, our babies looked healthy and were growing beautifully. We still didn't spill the beans about having twins yet. Having passed the 12 week mark was a milestone but still didn't feel confident we would be seeing two heartbeats at the next appointment. It was very overwhelming. My dad had had a heart attack less than two weeks before and things were chaotic in our families. No one needed the added stress of knowing about the twins.

We didn't plan on telling anyone until after my 16 week ultrasound and we could possibly find out the genders. We planned on a gender reveal right before Halloween. I had always wanted to have a gender reveal but it never worked out with my other two pregnancies. Michael wanted nothing to do with it. He thinks gender reveals are pretentious, a waste of time, and no one wants to come. I half agree but any reason to get family and friends together to eat and catch up is a good enough for me. We wouldn't have had the gender reveal party if people already knew about the twins or we were just having one. It was a fun, Halloween themed party and the kids wore their costumes and played a couple of games. Of course, there was yummy food too. My friend, Sharon, who was one of the only people in the world that knew about the twins made the "gender reveal pumpkins" and was the only person at the time that knew the genders. It was really fun to announce the genders and the fact we were having twins at the same time. Had we told everyone early on, no one would have been excited and they would have just worried like we did. We didn't need everyone else to be stressed out too.

Everyone was shocked and had no idea that we had been keeping this secret for four months. Some may have been annoyed that we weren't truthful but it was our decision to not tell anyone. We didn't want to stress people out but more than that, we needed to be excited about it before telling anyone and honestly, we weren't at first. Michael has lost 20lbs if that says anything and I've lost 10 lbs right along with him, although for slightly different reasons. We were terrified that we would be destined to repeat the past and equally terrified about the reality of four kids under the age of three. We never planned on having four kids, given how hard it has been to get them here. We always said if we could get two out of this process, we would feel so blessed. We just didn't think a big family was in the cards for us.

We are thrilled we are having a boy and a girl! My intuition told me from the beginning it was a boy and girl so I would have been very pleasantly surprised if it turned out differently. I still haven't completely wrapped my head around it. Chasing around two toddlers has a way of distracting you from things, sort of. I will update about how my pregnancy has gone until now. For now...

DUE APRIL 6th 2016

Monday, March 23, 2015

Birth Story Part 3...

I have had the last part of this entry on my mind for a while. I just haven't mentally been able to sit down and write it out. It's very emotional and I haven't had the time to sit and "go there". But, the girls' birthday is this week and I HAVE to get this down before then. How has it been a year?...

We made it to my maternity room and I was exhausted and elated at the same time. It was about 5am and I had been up all night. I was anxious for them to bring Cora back. Michael was still with Elena and some of our family came with me to the room. I did all the usual post-delivery rituals and just hung out, waiting for them to bring Cora back. Every moment without her made me more anxious because I knew that time was ticking. I was very aware of the clock for the next 22 hours because I knew that's when we had to give her up. Michael returned, wondering where Cora was and they wheeled her in shortly after. She was clean and dressed in cute p.j.s that matched what Elena would have been wearing at that time. Gosh, I was so bummed that Elena was not with us. I had so much anxiety anticipating exactly how that day would go and how I would be able to juggle the different emotions and demands of a baby that was only hours old. So many things ended up being out of ours hands and decided for us which was a silver lining. My only regret is that I didn't get to hold them together very much. I held them for a moment on my chest after delivery, then briefly for pictures later (which honestly, I barely remember). Elena being in the NICU was really hard but it allowed us to soak everything up with Cora.

Our family took turns holding Cora. My sweet sister and brother in law stayed through the night just to be there and have the opportunity to hold Cora. They had school so they didn't know if they would get the chance later. I'm hoping Michael can fill in the gaps between this time and the evening because I honestly don't remember a whole lot. I finally ate food and family left to take naps for a bit and returned later in the afternoon. Some one from NILMDTS was able to come around 11am and our dear friends who were watching Sam brought him to the hospital to meet his sisters and take pictures. We changed Cora and left for the NICU. As we were walking down the hall with Cora, my eye met with the Charge Nurse and I knew immediately what she was thinking. She stopped us and started to tell us we could not carry our baby around in the halls in our arms. As a maternity nurse, I felt weird anyway, like I was breaking the rules. The CNA quickly stopped her and simply said, "this is room 8, it's okay". The Charge Nurse apologized and we went on our way.

The NICU staff was amazing! We entered the NICU with Cora and Sam which is breaking so many rules. The photographer snapped a few pictures of Cora by herself as Elena's RN wheeled her into a private family room. This was no easy task. It was her entire bed with IV fluids, pumps, O2 tanks. I personally know how much work that is and I am so grateful. At one point a nurse came out and saw Sam and started to throw a fit that he was in the NICU. Elena's nurse professionally told her off! Haha! She told her it was fine and to worry about her own patients. We were able to dress Elena and Cora in coordinating outfits and get pictures of the two of them. Elena was just laying there with her eyes closed and as soon as we laid Cora by her, she turned her head and snuggled right up to her. I will never forget how my heart broke and rejoiced, all at the same time. I so wanted them to be able to snuggle with each other forever. We then snapped some pictures of the girls with Sam and then as our family of five. To be honest, I still haven't looked at those pictures aside from the one of the two girls together. I can't really say why. Maybe I will get them out soon and look at them. They informed us Elena was moving to another room which was good because it meant she was more stable. I still had no idea how long Elena would be in the NICU but I knew she would not be coming to our room any time soon.

Sisters together again

Elena in NICU

Sam meeting his sister for the first and last time
We made it back to our room with Cora and Sam and family. My friend, Sharon came to see Cora before she had to go to work and I literally fell asleep mid sentence talking to her. I still feel bad about that! That was first I had slept in over 24 hours. When I woke up, family and friends had come and were taking turns holding our sweet girl. Michael took turns with people, walking them down to the NICU to see Elena.

The evening was approaching and I started to get antsy. I felt like I hadn't held Cora in far too long and asked for her. My parents left and a few family members lingered. I was starting to crave time alone with her as I felt the emotions starting to choke me. I broke down and family left. It was just the three of us for the rest of the night. We took turns holding her, snuggling her, taking pictures. I wanted to do as much as I could for her in the little time we had. We changed her into her blessing dress that Grandma Hall made for her and Michael gave her a blessing. It was sweet and I know she was there to hear it. She was leaking fluid out of her nose and I loved taking a tissue and cleaning her up. It made me feel like I was taking care of her.

I wish I could give more details about how spiritual and precious those last hours were. We talked to her, told her how much we loved her, sang to her, I held her on my chest. Michael took a nap with her just like he would do if we were home. The veil was so thin and we knew our daughter lived.

The physical changes of a still born are very fast and I was panicking inside, debating whether to have her taken early. We were really hoping for an open casket but we knew the longer we had her, the less likely that would be possible. I'm so grateful for my nurse and CNA that night. They could tell I was distraught, toying with idea of sending her early. They advised us that it didn't matter if her casket was open. This time was for us and it's all we will have of her, physically. Plus, we had beautiful pictures of her to display. We kept her for as long as they would let us. The hours passed and we made memories. We even recorded our last moments with her. I don't know if I could ever bring myself to actually watch it but I'm glad we have it. We cried and told her we would do our very best to be with her again and that we hope she's proud of us. We told to her to watch over our family and stay close. It was almost 2am, the time we had to give her up. We undressed her and wrapped her in blankets and called the nurse to come get her. That was hardest moment of my life. Knowing I would never see her like this again. I tried so hard to memorize the way she felt in my arms and sadly, it fades. That is what I am missing the most right now. I just want to hold her one more time and kiss her sweet, little hands.

The nurses came in and very tenderly carried her out of the room. Michael and I held each other. I was prepared to be hysterical but once again, I was comforted by the Spirit. It literally felt like Michael and I were being held by several people. Sadly and wonderfully, we could literally feel the spirit in the room change. She left with her body. It was sad but I told her to go be with her sister and get her home to us. Oh, how I love that courageous girl.

It was terrible to be in our room...alone. No babies. We had two babies and neither were with us. We walked down and said good night to Elena and came back to our room and went to sleep. I was a good girl and set my alarm to pump every three hours. We woke up the next morning feeling depleted both physically and spiritually. We were exhausted. I went to the bathroom and was horrified when I looked in the mirror. I have never cried so much in my life and my eyes were so swollen! I literally looked like I had been punched in the eyes several times. I didn't know eyes could do that and I was afraid I did some permanent damage!

Our little NICU darling
We spent the day going back and forth from the NICU. We tried to get an idea of what was wrong with Elena and when we would get to bring her home. We found out that day that she would not be coming home any time soon. She would be on antibiotics for seven days and she had to wean off her CPAP. She officially had pneumonia. We were devastated that she wouldn't be able to be at her sister's funeral. But, once again, that was a blessing in disguise as well. Elena being cared for in the NICU was really hard but she was just that...cared for...which allowed us to focus on saying goodbye to Cora.

We had more family visiting us and Elena and we made plans for Cora's funeral. We had the option to go home or stay another night. If Elena had been with us, we definitely would have opted to go home but since she was still in the NICU, we stayed. We were missing our Sammy boy terribly at this point but we knew he was having fun and was cared for. The mortuary was coming to get Cora. We had the option to see Cora one last time and I know many people would have done anything to have that opportunity but we chose not to. Saying goodbye once was the sweetest and hardest thing to do, we just didn't think we could do it again.

Once again, the night came and it was hard. The room was silent and it's just not right when you've had a baby. My arms were aching for a baby to hold. We awoke the next morning and got the room together and then spent time with Elena. We kissed her goodbye and told her we would see her that evening. Oh my, leaving that hospital with no baby was awful! We came home to our Sammy and couldn't stop hugging and kissing him. It felt like we hadn't seen him for a month even though it had only been few days. He seemed to grow-up over night! He no longer looked liked a baby. He looked liked a kindergartner!

"I'm a big brother and I grew-up over night!"
I woke-up every three hours to pump and it was terrible. This was beginning of my hatred for pumping. I missed my babies...both of them. We spent the next few days preparing for Cora's funeral. Honestly, I wanted it done and over with. Making the arrangements was exhausting and I was stressing hard, trying to figure out what I was going to say. Every time I sat down to write out the words, they didn't come. Michael said he didn't want the funeral to come because it was the last thing we would do for her. I understood but I really wanted it over. We had so much help from family, friends, and our ward. Everyone was beyond amazing! I could never do enough to say thank you.

The day before the funeral, April 2nd, we were able to dress Cora for her burial. Our dear friend and photographer came and took pictures. It was a sweet time with her. Physically, she had changed a lot. They were not able to preserve her like we were hoping. I'm glad we have such beautiful pictures of her. It was sweet and spiritual. She looked beautiful in the dress her Grandma made and the casket was beautiful, made by my sister in law. Of course, we were up late trying to write the words we would say the next day. I was pumping and typing at the same time. I don't remember writing half of what I did and it turned out beautifully. Another tender mercy.

We woke up the next day, April 3rd, which happened to be anniversary of the day Michael proposed to me, eight years before. She was ready to be laid to rest...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Birth Story Part II...

The nurses came and got my Pitocin started at 2pm and we settled in to what would be our home for next 36 hours. I remember feeling numb and like I had failed. I was embarrassed. I thought failure and embarrassment were odd emotions to be feeling when your baby dies. I felt embarrassed to have to start telling people that Cora didn’t make it. I felt like I let everyone down. I was embarrassed to let myself think we had made it, that we would meet her alive. I failed her. If only I had gone in the day before when I was so worried. I knew it. I knew this was going to happen. It’s weird how so much can change in an instant. The world that I thought I would have, hoped I would have was obliterated. I had hoped to be among the lucky few to bring her home for a little while. I felt betrayed by the support groups I had participated in over the past few months. They gave me too much hope. For as much as we tried to prepare ourselves, we were still blindsided.

I called my mom, our Angel Watch counselor, Carolyn and our photographer, Brooke. Michael called his parents and asked them to spread the news to family so we didn’t have to say it over and over, Cora had died. She died. It didn’t seem real. I was deeply hurt and grieving my baby but all my focus shifted immediately to Elena. I was terrified something was going to happen to her. The residents and nurses came back in to check everything out. Twins are delivered in the O.R. to be ready for any complications. On an O.R. table, not in a uncomfortable regular L&D bed. If you’ve been on or seen an O.R. table you might wonder how that is even possible without falling off! I asked if it were possible, now that Cora was gone and Elena would exit first, if I could stay in my room to deliver. They said yes and I’m pretty sure that change made a world of difference.

My contractions started, so the monitor said. I wasn’t really feeling much yet. They came to check me (ouch!) after a few hours on the pit and I was excited to hear about the progress. “Your at a one!”. I guess I was supposed to be happy about that? Going from a fingertip to a one is progress, right? This would start the pattern of checking every four hours and only going up a half a centimeter each time, if that. I was certain after being checked a couple of times that it would all end in a c-section. I prayed so hard to avoid that but feeling extremely bitter at the time, I felt I wasn’t going to get what I prayed for. I remember feeling like a spoiled child and actually telling Michael I never get what I pray for, when it really matters. So I was completely prepared for a c-section.

I was having to get up every 30 minutes or less to pee because they had pumped me so full of fluid, suspecting I was dehydrated. My heart rate had been elevated from the moment I had been admitted. Thus began the dance of the beeping monitors and trying to relax enough to make it come back down. Around 10pm, I was only at 1+. Ugh. They kept asking me if I needed my epidural and I kept refusing. I still wasn’t feeling much. Then, they came in and told me they were going to insert a balloon catheter into my cervix and manually dilate it. I asked for my epidural at that point. I didn’t feel like I needed to feel any of that. The cervical checks were enough for me. My cervix is very posterior and high so I’m pretty sure it hurts me extra when I get checked, especially by a family practice resident who, bless his heart, was not sure which way was up.

The anesthesiologist came in and did her thing with no complications. Suddenly, I felt great. I really had no idea how uncomfortable I was until I wasn’t. I was trying to get comfortable in the bed and it just wasn’t happening but attributed it what I had been dealing with the last three months. I was hugely pregnant with twins and comfortable was something I hadn’t been in a long time. I got myself comfy and pretty much slept the whole night with few interruptions. I woke up to the nurse and doctor coming to check the progress the balloon was making. They said it usually will dilate to a four in four hours. After four hours I was a two. Boo. They said they would leave it in for another four hours and check again. I was even more convinced that a section was in my future. They said progress was progress and as long as Elena was tolerating it, they’d let me keep going. They also said I could just cut my losses and do the c-section any time. I said they would not be hearing those words from me. Fast forward another eight hours and little progress and I was seriously thinking of calling it but didn’t because I was not feeling the contractions. I was just mostly tired of laying in the bed and I was hungry! I couldn’t eat after I had the epidural (which is another reason why I didn’t want it so early) and I had enough illegally obtained jello. They finally realized it would still be a while and snuck me a very dry turkey sandwich. Nothing ever tasted so good. My energy was low and my anxiety was high but I just had to think about what cutting me open meant and I continued. 

After 12 hours, no matter how dilated the balloon made me, they had to remove it for risk of infection. After 12 hours they checked me again and I was a 2-2.5+ centimeters. Sigh. They removed the balloon and decided Elena was low enough to safely break my water. My feeling all along was once my water broke, things would start moving (hopefully). They broke my water and went back and forth about whether or not it was meconium stained. They decided it wasn’t but I suspect that maybe it was because of how compromised she was at birth. It was about 11pm now and I tried to sleep thinking it would still be a long time before we saw any babies. My family had just left after playing games and waiting and Brooke, my sweet, sweet photographer was in the waiting room. I felt terrible because it was such a long time for her.
I tried to sleep but when my family was there, I noticed my epidural wearing off of one side. My right leg became un-numb and I started feeling the contractions in one spot on my belly and I was starting to really hurt. The anesthesiologist came in to re-dose my epidural and I immediately started to feel nauseous and light headed. The nurse checked my blood pressure and it tanked to70s/30s (epidurals will do that). She called the doctor back in to get my blood pressure back up and I immediately felt better. I closed my eyes to try to get some more sleep. No go. My epidural medicine ran out and the doctor was stuck in an emergency c-section so it couldn’t be replaced right away. I started feeling a ton of pressure. Every contraction was more intense and I was dying for the doctor to come back in and get that epidural started again. I was gripping the side of the bed and Michael was talking me through the contractions, letting me know when the worst is over. After a while, not wanting to be a pain, I called the nurse again and asked her if the anesthesiologist was available yet because I was really feeling tons of pressure. She told me that epidurals don’t numb pressure, just the contractions. I had no idea I wasn’t feeling the contractions. She wanted to check me after that and I was dilated to 4 centimeters. It had only been a couples of hours since they broke my water and I dilated like I was supposed to! I felt like superwoman! Finally, some real progress. The pressure continued and I expected to dilate a centimeter an hour from then on so I knew it could have been another 6 hours but I was finally seeing the light. There was an end to this after all. The final hours got really intense but I didn’t feel like it was anything I couldn’t handle. 

One of the residents came in an hour after that and it was about 1am-ish. He asked how I was feeling and I told him about the intense pressure. He said he wanted to check me and the nurse told him she had just checked me an hour before and was at a four. He still wanted to check me. He checked me and raised his eyebrows and said “wow, you’re complete!”. I was shocked! Four to ten centimeters in one hour! I knew all they had to do was break my water! They asked me if I wanted to start pushing but I just wanted to let her come down more. She was still a little high and I wasn’t feeling any urge to push. After about half an hour the resident came back in wanted to do some trial pushing to see if she would come down more. I gave one good push and she came right down so we got ready to deliver her.

I was preparing myself for a lengthy marathon pushing session. My sister pushed with her first for about two hours. I suddenly had visions of it being 5 am before they were out. I had never done this before so I had no idea what to expect. Someone offered me and mirror, something I had not thought about until my super cute photographer told me how having a mirror when she was super numb really helped her see where she needed to push. It was exactly that. I could focus all my energy on one spot because I could see it. I gave one big push and Elena’s head was playing gopher. I suddenly regretted not working out while I was pregnant because I was already tired. I then thought about my sister again and wondered how I was going to push like this for an hour or more. Another contraction was coming and the nurse told me to push like I was pushing her into the floor. She was a little caught up under my pubic bone. The visualization really helped and she was moved passed the hang up. One more contraction and one good push and Miss Elena Kate was born at 1:58am. 

They laid her little (or big!) 6lb 12oz body on my chest. She was beautiful and we marveled how much like Sam, she looked. She was so much bigger than we thought she would be! I was grateful, although size does not equal maturity as we would find out in a minute. I held Elena on my chest and they prepared me to start pushing for Cora. I did not have mirror and I was told that was good thing. Cora who was previously head down, had flipped when Elena was delivered. Apparently, the doctor was up to her elbow inside of me trying to guide Cora’s little body out with doing as little damage as possible to her. Still holding Elena, they told me to give one little push and then to STOP! Her little legs were out and they were still doing their best to deliver unharmed. The skin of a stillborn is very fragile and the slightest friction can tear it very easily. I looked up at Michael and asked him if she was out yet. He nodded that she was almost here and I started to tear up. This was the moment I was so looking forward to and so dreading at the same time. They told me to give one more push and she was out. Cora was born at 2:06am. They laid her on my chest and I was instantly in love. I was holding my girls, together, for the first and last time. I was expecting to be a bawling mess but I was filled with what I can only describe as supernatural peace. My heart was full of so much love and I instantly knew we were not alone. It felt like there were so many people in that room when looking back, there were very few. Michael and I both have said that to us, it felt like she was born alive. She was so present in that room and I will never forget that feeling. 

Cora was so beautiful that I still had a hard time believing her tiny body was broken. She looked so much like Elena and I instantly wondered, if she were to live, how alike or different they would have become. She had a very slight club foot that you might not have even noticed if you didn’t know it was there. I remember trying breathe everything in because I knew I may not get to hold them together again.
Elena was on my chest and she started to sing. On the dreaded humming of a newborn. It’s very cute but as a nurse, I knew this was not good. Parents will tell me their newborns are so cute and all the do is hum and sing. This is not normal and indicates respiratory distress. I handed her over quickly but my heart broke having to split them up so quickly. I thought they would recover her quickly and give back in a minute but they told me they needed to take her to the nursery. It was exactly what happened when Sam was born so I wasn’t worried. My babies need those last few weeks for their lungs to mature and I immediately felt guilty for having her delivered early but looking back, it was the right thing to do and it was supposed to be that way.

Michael and I laid with Cora and examined every inch of her. She was so tiny…3lb. 7oz…but so perfect. She had big lips like her sister, lots of hair, and the most precious hands you have ever seen. I miss her hands the most and kissed them about a thousand times that day. She was my baby, my daughter and I already missed her. How I wish I could hold her just one last time. I get sad because the more time goes on, the less I remember how she felt in my arms and I knew it would eventually be like that so I was trying imprint her to my mind. I was already panicking because I was afraid of forgetting her.

36 hours of labor=one tired mama

Michael went with Elena to the nursery so it was just me and Cora for a moment. I asked the aid to go get my mom and have her come in. I would have let more people in but I was spread eagle, getting sewn up so that was not happening. She came in with a tear in her eye and I introduced her to Cora. My sweet photographer, Brooke, reminded me of something I had said when my mom came in. 

“I couldn’t be sad if I wanted to be. We all know what we wanted but His plan was better.”

What faith that girl had! I wish I could say I have always felt that way since they were born. I have dealt with normal feelings of grief and at some pit stops on this beautiful and awful journey, I have been angry. Angry with God because I had so much faith that he could allow her to be born alive. I had so much faith that He could have healed her and made her whole if He wanted to but we never asked for that. We just asked Him for a little time. Time to see her eyes full of life. To hear her sweet, little cry. To feel her warm skin. To have her sister feel her near. She never even saw my face. She never saw the mother that loved her and kept her warm and safe. She never saw the face that belonged to the voice that would sing to her and sister, You are My Sunshine. She never put a face to the beating heart that is forever broken because she couldn’t stay. But I still know, His plan was better. He knows us so much better than we know ourselves and I know there is a very good reason she passed away the day before she was to be born. 
Taking Elena away....

Kissing Elena goodbye...

I got cleaned up and ready to move to my maternity room. I decided it was a good time for them to take Cora and clean her up and get footprints, hand molds, etc. I hated being separated from her but my photographer was able to capture the sweetest pictures of her then. I cannot say enough about Brooke and how much it means to us that she was there. They had a hard time getting someone from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep to come right away and by the time they got there that afternoon, Cora didn’t look as good as she did when she was first born. The hospital usually takes pictures too but they couldn’t find the camera and I was told Brooke was simply amazing directing exactly how things at that point should go and she captured pictures that we will treasure for the rest of our lives. Some people get really uncomfortable with pictures of babies that have already passed. If you are one of them, read no further. Pictures are all we have left of her and they remind us that she lived and they remind us that we will see her again. This separation is temporary and she is waiting for us, lucky girl.

As I was getting ready to move, a doctor introduced herself as a neonatologist from the NICU and I might have said a swear word in my head. Elena was in the NICU. Dang. I don’t remember a thing she told me but I do remember thinking, okay, she’ll need a little CPAP and then she’ll be back with us in a couple of hours. I was so wrong. They wheeled me down to the NICU to see Elena before taking me to my room. My heart broke when I saw her. She was on CPAP and had an I.V. already. She looked so fragile, I was almost afraid to touch her. It’s a different world when it’s your own child because I have obviously seen hundreds of babies in this condition and have not worried at all. Suddenly, I was worried about how she was going to come out of this. I was assured she was the biggest, healthiest baby in the NICU! I still have feelings of guilt because seeing her for the first time in the NICU, I almost felt like I didn’t know her. It’s hard for me to admit but I had been so worried about Cora the whole pregnancy that I didn’t get a chance to really know Elena very well. Inside, I was panicking that something awful was going to happen to her and that I wasted all the time, “not worried about her”. I did worry during the pregnancy that something would be wrong with her that we couldn’t see on ultrasound. I loved her fiercely but needed more time with her to get to know her and I was terrified I might not get that. 

We left the NICU, still thinking I would see Elena in a couple of hours, and went to my room to be with Cora again.

To be continued…

I love you, Cora.

 *I want to mention that the way I wrote this, it sounds like my labor was only about 12 hours. I left out sleeping most of the night before (thank goodness) after I got my epidural, visitors and more sleeping the whole next day and then things got moving the in the early hours on the 29th. My doctor predicted it would have been somewhere around 4am on the 28th when it actually was 2am on the 29th. So, 36 hours of labor but honestly, I was comfortable for most of it except the final hours. I would do it again a thousand times over. And, because it took so long, my awesome doctor was not able to be there and all three of us were devastated by that. He was amazing and came to Cora's funeral.