A Babies Story - Part 3

Sorry for the delay in the conclusion of this thrilling and suspenseful tale, but everyone already knows how it ended so I don't feel too bad. If you're new here, see part 1 and part 2.

The whole experience was a surreal mixture of worry and comfort for me. They were ready to operate, but waiting to get her blood pressure down a little. So as I worried a little more every time the resident gave her a bigger dose of something because the last one wasn't working, but on the other hand I was also comforted that at least things weren't dire enough for an emergency operation just yet. That comfort level bottomed out when they moved her out of a regular labor room and into another where they could install a central arterial line to monitor her BP better and get drugs into her bloodstream more quickly. The resident anesthesiologist didn't handle it well when I asked her just how serious the situation was. (Mostly she just stuttered until she was saved by the attending showing up.)

By this time I was a basket case, at least on the inside. The Mrs. was awake, but very out of it from all the drugs. The anti-seizure medication was causing one really long her hot flash, and she was hooked up to so much monitoring equipment she could barely move. She hates confinement and was fidgeting like a toddler at a pet store. When she doesn't feel well she hates to be touched, and that was doubly true by this point. So I'm just standing in the corner out of the way of the doctors, but staying in her sight line so she knew I was there for emotional support or to fetch ice chips.

Now I have to take time out to thank the labor and delivery nursing staff at Vanderbilt. The OB (the on-call one, not her usual doctor) dropped in occasionally oozing a 'Pfft. Die or have babies, whatever.' vibe, but the nurses were very understanding of our situation and worked hard to comfort my wife. They had read our birth plan so they were aware of her strong feelings about a natural birth. Several came to talk to her and help her deal with the fact that this probably couldn't happen. One who wasn't even assigned to us but remembered us from a previous visit took the time to come by and give The Mrs. a pep talk. It was a small thing, but it made us both feel a lot better. And nearly two months later The Mrs. says she has no regrets about a Casarean instead of vaginal birth because she knows every option was exhausted.

Finally the tide turned, her pressure went down, and they whisked her off to the operating room. They left me with some semi-sterile robes and booties and said they'd send somebody for me. I was doing marginally better since I'd seen her pressure go down before she left, but as the promised 20 minutes stretched into 30 my imagination started to work on all sorts of vicious scenarios. By now it had graduated from everyone dieing and moved on to The Mrs dieing and the babies being okay.

Eventually my imagination got distracted by a nurse fetching me to head into the OR. First impression..... very small and very crowded. There was the OB and anesthestiologist attendings with their residents, the surgery nurses, and a team of nurses and pediatrican for each baby. Plus me. The Mrs. was laid out on a table with both arms strapped down and a curtain across her neck so I couldn't see what the surgical team was up to. (Thankfully.) And she was constantly shivering because she was the only person in the room not wearing multiple layers of clothing.

They pulled Leia out and she was very quiet. The Mrs. kept asking 'Why isn't she crying?' and I was occupied trying to actually see her. The warmer they had put her in was in plain view 5 ft away, but I could barely see her because of all the people around her. Apparently they had to tug on Luke pretty hard to get him out because I could see the OB from the shoulders up and The Mrs.' shaking got worse. I remember having a tight focus on the pile of bloody cloths that were next to the gurney. I have no idea why I was studying them, I guess it was some sort of mental thing that kept me from worrying about the things out of my control too much. Then they pulled Luke out and everything came back into my head. (Mentally it was a lot like the flashbacks in Lost, a giant whooshing sound and then WHAM a new situation.)

Luke was being a lot more noisy. We could hear him snuffling and grunting, but Leia was quiet. After the longest silence of my life we finally heard her cry. The nurses brought them over for me to hold and show The Mrs. after they were cleaned up. We did find out that Leia's Apgar score at birth was 0. Which means no breathing, no heart beat, no movement, but they managed to get her started. For the first few hours she sounded like she had some fluid in her lungs (the nurse called it 'crunchy') but two months later her lungs are in great shape if volume of crying is a good indicator.

Lots of the pregnancy books say that mothering hormones help women forget the more painful parts of pregnancy and childbirth, and I can believe it considering how many women have at least two kids. (I'd love to see some statistics on how many couples only have one child.) One good friend of mine recently told me his wife was ready to green light child number 2 now that their first born is 5 months old. Apparently she's counting on it taking a lot of trying before it takes. That's what I thought when I got married, but Murphy's Law caught up with me. With two months to look back on it, The Mrs. says that she's not purposely getting knocked up ever again. I'm not sure what she'd say if she had been through all that and only got one baby, but this way we have the two she wanted and we're done.

So there you have the birth story for my twins. The main point I wanted to make is that any father to be better prepare himself for feeling totally helpless while watching the love of his life go through some trying times.


A Babies' Story - Part 2

See here for part 1.

At week 38 the monitoring was going well. The babies were like bad renters. Causing problems to everyone around them, but thriving and not willing to leave until someone made them. The Mrs didn't have great blood pressure, but it was under control thanks to not having to spend eight hours a day in the fight club called Hunter's Lane High School. (Her blood pressure took a steep drop as soon as she quit going to work.) During the weeks after she quit working it started to creep up again, but nothing dangerous.

Then the contraction started. Notice I said 'the contraction', singular not plural. One continuous contraction. Not as bad as real labor, but still pretty nasty after about an hour in. So another emergency trip to labor and delivery and we have the verdict. An infection is causing a 'cranky uterus'. That's the doctor's term, not mine. (To be fair, she did use several other more technical terms, but cranky uterus is the one that made the most impression.) Soon we're back home again with some antibiotics.

All this was happening during late December, and we were both hoping the babies would show themselves while I was on vacation for the holidays. But alas, they were already rebelling against parental authority and I had to go back to work on January 2 after nearly two weeks at home. The Mrs. was stoic about being left home alone, but I was pretty concerned.

By the morning I went back to work, the continuous contraction had been gone for a day or two, but cranky uterus was showing signs of returning. When I got home that evening it was back in full force. So once again we made the run to labor and delivery. This time we were feeling cynical and didn't bring most of our hospital kit of clothes and comfort items. That's your first clue that this trip to the hospital is different.

When we got to the hospital and got The Mrs. settled under all the monitoring equipment, concerns over the cranky uterus were immediately forgotten. Turns out her blood pressure was dangerously high and climbing fast. But the babies were still doing great. They were happy in the womb playing loud music, stomping around at all hours, and not picking up after their dog. No labor imminent, but the landlord couldn't take it any more. The doctor recommended immediate, but not quite emergency, Ceasarean. We dithered briefly, but the blood pressure monitor wouldn't allow much room for doubt. The pre-eclampsia was threatening to turn into full blown eclampsia. The numbers broke 200/130 and everyone got real quiet. My worry level went up about a dozen notches when the doctor prescribed an IV to combat seizures and told us at that BP level a 'cardiac event is imminent'.

So no more dithering. The decision to cut was made. Just as soon as they could get her pressure down enough to operate.

To be concluded next time.


A Babies Story

Some of the best things I read throughout my wife's pregnancy were birth stories. Not that silly TV show, but good first hand accounts of different pregnancies and births. So I sort of felt obligated to put ours out there. Most birth stories are written by mothers and are a a lot more emotional than mine. Blame it on the Y chromosome, the engineering training, or my mother if you must, but I've tried to put a little of myself into it so other dads to be can get some of idea what it's like. I'm intending it to be three parts because I'm just that verbose. So come back in a day or two for the next part.

Complete uselessness flavored by varying degrees of worry and occasionally interrupted by fetching things. That's how I'd summarize the third trimester and birth. It's also a fair description of the more negative parts of being a parent of newborn twins.

Pregnancy is a natural process and generally not especially dangerous. But there is always the what-if factor. You'd have to be crazy or extremely oblivious to not worry. I suspect that a lot of pregnant women indulge in denial or deliberate ignoring of the problems, and I don't begrudge them of that at all since they are the ones that have to go through the process. But since I'm the male half of the team, I didn't have any good excuse to ignore the more dangerous parts. So I worried about my pregnant wife and the growing baby from the beginning. The very first worry was about all that champagne we drank in that short gap between conception and when she figured out she was pregnant. Toward the end it progressed to worrying that one twin was moving too much and the other wasn't moving enough.

It's bad enough with just a singleton, but when you find out you're going to be the parent of twins you're constantly bombarded by potential disasters. Doctors, baby book authors, and pundits all agree.... twins often come dangerously early and mother and babies are a lot more likely to have complications. It's ground into you pretty much constantly. The first thing we found out was that her midwife would no longer see her because twins are automatically high risk. That was a hard hit to the mother to be who chose midwife care over doctor because of worries of medical intervention. In the end, the pundits were half right. Our twins weren't born dangerously early, but there was a pretty serious complication for their mother.

The last few weeks and months of a pregnancy are pretty miserable according to all reports. And even more so for multiple fetus pregnancies. I've read a lot of blog accounts from women who say they 'begged' their doctor to induce. That's a pretty dangerous game to play, but the human body, even the female version, can only take so much punishment. By the time The Mrs got to 38 weeks the list of indignities was long. (I was going to mention a few, but in the interests of my own well being I think I'll forgo that.)

Around week 30 I came home to find her sitting on the couch talking on her cell phone. I'm either empathic or good at reading her body language because I knew there was a problem before I even heard her speak. Turns out she was in the shower and suddenly all vision in her right eye was blocked by an intense light. The doctor said to immediately report to the labor and delivery ward at the hospital since their office was closed for the day. After several hours of monitoring the verdict was pre-eclampsia. For the less medically inclined of you, that is essentially pregnancy induced high blood pressure. Nobody has figured out what causes it, but the leading theory is some sort of interaction between the fetus' blood and the mothers. The only cure is giving birth.

This is when everything kicked into high gear for us. Fetal monitoring showed the babies were rock stars in there. No problems with them. Had the blood pressure of a 48 year old day-trader, but it wasn't bad enough to try and get the 30 week old fetuses out. So we settled for a wait and see approach. This basically translated to monitoring the hell out of my wife. She was in the doctors offices twice a week. She knew the nurses and office staff by first name. The doctors still only checked her once every few weeks, so that gave us hope that nothing too terrible would happen. But the monitoring consisted of a weekly non-stress test which meant the nurses hooked her up to a couple of microphones that listened to the babies heart rate for 15 minutes or so. (I was there for several, and that's a lot harder than it sounds.) The other weekly visit meant going to the imaging center for an ultra-sound scan, and then off to the doctor's office to review the results. I found the ultrasound trips very reassuring, but The Mrs found them extremely annoying. They were scanning the fetal anatomy to make sure everything was growing, and that everyone was practicing breathing. That can take a pretty long while with two of them in there.


The Wife

My wife is teh roxxor. And here's my clumsy attempt to tell you why.

I like to compare her to a peep, hard and crusty on the outside but soft and gooey on the inside (and also one of her favorite delicacies). We met on a blind date, and that night I met a sarcastic, wise-cracking, and very cute woman. That hard, sarcastic outer shell kept me from figuring out what she really thought about me so I kept calling, just in case. It took awhile, but ever so slowly I got past that outer shell.

The key to the continued good health of our relationship is her easy going nature. This was a definite surprise to me when I finally figured it out because it's at such odds with the gruff exterior. I'm moody, defensive, and not very good at accepting criticism from those close to me. Those 'qualities' have torpedoed many a relationship for me. But not this time, she just takes it all in stride and isn't bothered by it.

I think I've finally discovered the key. There is a line. On one side is her inner circle, and on the other side is everyone else. If you're outside that line and you do something stupid or destructive, you're going to catch some hell. If you're inside that line then you get the benefit of all her patience and forgiveness.

Watching her become a mother has just heightened my opinion of her. You really have to have the patience of a saint to be the mother of infant twins or even to be pregnant with twins. The doctors commented to her many times that she was unusually cheerful for a woman that pregnant with twins. Through all the weight gain, the morning sickness, the swollen feet, and even the lack of sleep she never got mean. That's more than I could have said if it were me. These days when they both start crying in the wee hours of the morning and we're both exhausted, I'm feeling some mix of rage and self-pity she calmly reminds me that they're just very small and it will get better. (Let's hope she keeps that attitude when they hit the teen years because someone will have to talk me out of killing them.)

I'm glad she's my wife and the mother of my children. I just wish I had the writing ability to do her justice.


The Wonder Twins

The wonder twins finally arrived on January 2 at 11:39 and 11:40 PM. Their were some complications so the birth had to be done by Caesarean at 38 weeks. Our guys were happy in there and perfectly willing to stay for awhile longer. Unfortunately, their mom's body couldn't take it anymore.

First up was Leia weighing in at 5 lb 11 oz and 18.5 inches long. Her brother came a minute later. Luke weighed in at 6 lb 2 oz and was 17 3/4 inches long. Dealing with just the two of them you tend to forget how small that really is. Then I went into the hospital nursery and saw an eight pound newborn who looked giant compared to our guys. We won't even talk about when some friends visited us with their 4 month old baby.
Consensus so far is that they both look a lot like their parents of the same gender, or at least our baby pictures. Leia has very delicate feminine features and Luke tends to be very expressive. He especially likes to frown and look very worried. In the above picture, Luke is the one trying to look around.

Interestingly enough, they act just like they did before they were born. Luke is squirmy and likes to wave his hands around (and poke himself in the eye), and Leia sleeps like a rock. They slept well together in the small crib at the hospital, and shared at home too until Luke decided he needed to snuggle with his mother in order to sleep.

I managed to take four weeks of paternity leave, which was a very good decision. Feeding twins is a two person operation. Even though we're trying to only breast feed I still have to step in to help the second baby get in the right place. And lemme just tell you, newborns eat slow. Even back in the early days it took at least an hour to get them both properly fed and back into bed. Now that they're four weeks old they can eat for two hours at a time.

Now, all you dads to be listen carefully. I'm going to impart some advice that will be handy even if you aren't man enough to handle your babies two at a time. Even a five pound baby has a strong enough grip to grab a good size handful of chest hair. So in less you enjoy intense pain and waking up the neighbors at 3 AM, wear a shirt to those late night feedings.

Stay tuned in a day or two for the birth story, because there just aren't enough birth stories by dads.