Jamie and Christy's Birth Story By Marge Print
Birth Stories - Multiple Births Stories
Thursday, 23 October 2008 09:54

Getting Pregnant

      My dh (dear husband) and I tried for five long years to concieve. Finally my doctor sent me to an RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist) who discovered a problem almost immediately. I began taking fertility drugs and having intrauterine inseminations. After my fourth insemination my period did not arrive on the expected date! I took a home pregnancy test and got a positive result. Once I had calmed down I started thinking...and worrying. I knew that my cervix wasn't in good shape and was terrified that I would lose the baby. Also, they had found a septum in my uterus which can cause miscarriage. Still, my fear couldn't overcome my joy at the news of this pregnancy.

      I had my first ultrasound at six weeks. My dh was there with me. The technician told us not to ask any questions while she did the scan because she needed to concentrate and write things down, but that she would tell us all about what was going on and answer any questions and show us the baby once she was done. The screen was turned away from me so I couldn't see it, but my dh was watching and I knew something was up when he gasped and then stood there looking at the screen with his mouth hanging open. Finally, the technician said, "Well, there are two." It was my turn to gape! "WHAT???" Twins!!! It was twins!!! I couldn't believe it again! She turned the screen so I could see and showed me the two sacs, and the two tiny hearts beating away inside of them. My determination to get through this pregnancy doubled, my joy doubled...and my fear doubled.

Staying Pregnant

      Unfortunately, staying pregnant wasn't as easy as I had hoped it would be. My regular ob/gyn at the time decided it would be best if I went to a high risk obstetrical group for the duration of my pregnancy. I was not really thrilled with her decision (my husband was amused and liked to tell people I had been "fired" by my doctor) but I switched doctors. At the time I was working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It is not the ideal environment to be in while going through a high risk pregnancy. At the insistance of my doctor I was allowed to have a stool at work, but when things get busy you really have to stand to do the job...and things get busy a lot there! I got no lunch break and was only allowed out once a day to use the ladies room. I couldn't drink a lot of water because I couldn't use the bathroom. My legs and feet became horribly swollen and I was always exhausted. At eighteen weeks my doctors started monitoring my cervix with a vaginal ultrasound every three weeks. Eighteen weeks was also the first time I felt movement strong enough that I knew it was them...it was magic, and only strengthened my resolve to get through this. At twenty weeks my doctors decided that I should go out on disability. At twenty-one weeks I began to have preterm labor and my cervix began to efface. The fear set in again...what if I COULDN'T get through this? I was put on a home monitor for my contractions, but they didn't hurt...just a tightening sensation and my belly would get very hard. The babies were doing well and growing nicely and I felt pretty good, even with the contractions. I was on "moderate" bedrest, "relax, stay off your feet as much as possible". When I went for an ultrasound on my cervix at twenty-four weeks it had gone from approximately 1 centimeter in length to about a quarter of a centimeter. They admitted me to the hospital. They monitored my contractions and my cervix closely for a week and then they let me go home again...on STRICT bedrest! I was allowed up and down the stairs once each day to take a shower, I spent the rest of my days on the pull-out sofa in the livingroom. I had a nurse come every Friday afternoon to give me a shot of Betamethosone, the steroid that helps the babies lungs develop faster, and I found myself looking forward to that visit even if it did mean a needle in my rump...I was bored to tears! I failed my second glucose tolerance test and got to have the three hour test done in my home...I had the nurse playing cards with me the whole time. I spent a lot of time talking and singing to my babies. I told them often how much I loved them and encouraged them to hang in there as long as they could. I spent hours with my hands on my belly waiting to feel each tiny twitch or hard kick, and each movement I felt was an awe inspiring miracle to me.

      On the first morning of my thirty-second week I was sitting on the couch monitoring myself. My monitor beeped and I took it off, but just laid there for a few minutes. My husband came downstairs all dressed and ready for work and I had him help me to sit up on the couch. He left for work and a few minutes later I stood up to go and send my strip from my monitor in. The strip never got there. As soon as I stood up my water broke. I ran to the bathroom and grabbed a handfull of towels and shoved them between my legs. Then I ran for the phone and dialed my husband's beeper number. He called back almost immediately, he had stopped to buy breakfast and was right down the street. I suggested that perhaps he should take the day off and five minutes later he was back home and we were on our way to the hospital again. We both expected our babies would be born within the next twenty-four hours, but I wasn't in labor and the doctors wanted the babies to stay in there as long as possible so I was admitted once again.

      I spent the next week in the hospital. When there is a ruptured membrane there is a serious risk of infection. In an attempt to avoid infection I wasn't allowed to wear panties, They supplied me with numerous waterproof pads and I laid there for a week with amniotic fluid leaking out of me...sometimes just a trickle, and sometimes a gush. The fluid constantly replenishes itself, so there was a never-ending supply. I had an ultrasound and the technician estimated that both babies were over five pounds...the nurses told me that if a baby is healthy they will generally let it go home with the parents if it weighs at least four pounds, so I wasn't terribly worried any more. I thought my babies would be going home with me. I had gained SEVENTY pounds by this time!

      At the end of the week, my temperature began to spike. This is the best indication that infection is setting in. They monitored the babies for 2 hours straight and took my temperature every 20 minutes. A doctor came in and told me that it was time for my babies to be born. They wanted to take me to labor and delivery right away and start pitocin, but I refused until my husband could be there with me. I called him at work and told him to go home and change into something comfortable...we were about to become parents! He arrived about two hours later, and they hustled us down to L&D as soon as he arrived. There was lots of hustle and bustle when we first arrived. The doctor who would later deliver the babies did an internal exam and discovered I was already 3 centimeters dialated. They strapped three monitors around my belly...one for each baby and one to measure contractions. They hooked me up to a blood pressure monitor and they started the pitocin intravenously. The contractions changed almost immediately...instead of a mere tightening sensation, there was pain. Then it was just a waiting game. They had someone come in and tell me about epidurals. I was told that they like to wait until you are at least 4 or 5 cms. dialated because it can slow labor down otherwise. And they told me that if I wanted one I should let my nurse know. About two hours later the pain was getting pretty intense and my husband asked my why I didn't ask for the epidural and I responded, "I don't want them to think I am a wimp." He promised me no one would think that so I asked for an epidural. The doctor came to check me and I was 5 cm. so she called for the anesthesiologist. He started the epidural and the relief was almost immediate...the pain was gone, the contractions simply felt like a tightening sensation once again. I asked the anesthesiologist what his name was and told him laughingly that I would name my first-born after him! The one thing I didn't like about the epidural was that I had to have a catheter with it. But I was hooked up to so much stuff they weren't about to let me get up and walk to the bathroom anyway. then we were back to waiting once again. Both babies were head down and it looked like we were going to try for a vaginal delivery. Another two hours went by and the contractions were starting to hurt again. My doctor came in and did another internal...she said, "Oh! I feel a head! You are 10 centimeters and ready to deliver but I have to do a cesarean first so just lie here and keep your legs together and I'll be back as soon as I can." And that is what I did! She came back about an hour and a half later and they took me to the operating room. It was explained to me that even though they were expecting a vaginal delivery all multiples are delivered in the OR...just in case of an emergency.

Giving Birth

      They wheeled me in to the OR and I swear there must have been 30 people in there! I guess I was the star attraction that night and they were all there to observe and to cheer me on. We had only been able to attend two Lamaze classes before I was "grounded" so we didn't know the breathing techniques or how to push or anything. So it was kind of nice having the cheering section there...I got lots of good advice! My husband had brought the camera along, but was so excited about the whole thing that he couldn't bring himself to take pictures. There were so many extra people in the OR that two of the nurses voluteered to man the camera...one for each birth. I had told my husband NO CROTCH SHOTS! But things were starting to go fast and in the excitement I forgot to mention that particular rule to the nurses...oh well! I requested a mirror so I could watch my babies being born. They set one up for me and when all was ready they told me to tell them when the next contraction started. I felt one coming and told them...they all encouraged me to push. With the epidural I could feel the contractions (and some of the pain) but didn't really have an urge to push. As it turns out, I wasn't pushing right and the nurses gave me a crash course in pushing. The best advice I got was to "push like you're constipated and are trying really hard to have a BM." With the next contraction I pushed like they told me to...and I saw my son's head crown in the mirror! It was the best incentive to push even harder that I could possibly have had! Two more contractions, two more pushes and a small episiotomy...and he fairly flew out! It was the most incredible, awe-inspiring thing I have ever seen in my life. There are no words to express the joy and triumph I felt in that moment.

      There were two neonatal teams waiting, one team for each baby. My son (James Howell...we call him Jamie, 4 lbs 7 ozs) was handed off to the first team. They suctioned his mouth out and started cleaning him up. I was trying to get a look at him but there were so many people in there that I couldn't really see him...but I could hear him! It was music to my ears, a lusty, healthy sounding wail and I thought I would burst with happiness. They had him cleaned up and ready to go in minutes and then they brought him over so I could see him. I leaned toward him and tried to kiss him, it was my first impulse...but they pulled him away and told me, "No, don't touch, just look." I did, and had never in all my life seen anything so marvelously beautiful as that perfect baby boy. Then they took him away. Down to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). I didn't have much time to worry about it, the contractions were starting to come again...hard and fast. Someone had moved the mirror and although I kept asking them to put it back no one did. My husband is convinced that they ignored my requests because by this time I was looking pretty bloody and he thinks they didn't want me to see the condition I was in. It took another seven or eight contractions/pushes before my daughter (Christine Ashley, we call her Christy, 5 lbs) made her appearance...fourteen minutes after her brother. The doctor held her up so I could take a quick look and then handed her off to the second neonatal team.

      I was once again busy trying to get a glimpse of her across the room and listening to her cry and didn't realize right away that something was wrong...not with the baby, but with me. I delivered the placentas, which were fused together and looked like a big ball and then they really got busy in there. Suddenly they were jamming needles in my thighs and starting a second IV in my other hand. I was bleeding, and bleeding VERY badly! The doctor didn't know why I was bleeding so much and needed to find out. The next thing I knew she had her arm inside my up to her elbow, and was pressing against my belly with one hand on the inside and one on the outside. It was agony, ten times worse than the pain of giving birth had been. I was afraid I was going to pass out and asked them to give me more pain medication by way of my epidural. They did, and then the pain became bearable...almost. She never did find anything to be causing such terrible bleeding other than the fact that I have always been a heavy bleeder, but eventually the bleeding subsided to the point where it was no longer a reason to panic. They told me I bled more than three times what is normal for a vaginal delivery, and they came near to having to give me a transfusion. They sent me back to L&D for an hour or two so they could keep an eye on me, and then they sent me to my room.

Living A Nightmare

      My husband went home to make phone calls and catch a few hours of sleep before coming back to see me and the kids. I was too excited to sleep much and was wide awake and walking on air when the head neonatologist came to my room to talk to me about the kids... they were about nine hours old. He told me that both of the kids lungs were fine, Christy had needed no help in breathing and Jamie had spent a few hours on CPAP but was breathing just fine on his own now. He said that Christy appeared to be doing just wonderfully for a preemie, and they had found no problems with her at all. Then he started talking about Jamie. He told me that Jamie was born with a blood clot in his aorta right next to his heart. They have no idea why this happened and there are only six other documented cases of it ever happening spontaneously in a newborn before. Because of the rarity of his condition they weren't sure how to treat him. Clot dissolvers would cause his brain to hemmorhage because of his prematurity, and they didn't want to operate because he was so tiny and premature. I was told that as long as the clot existed inside his body a piece could break off at any time and it would shoot straight into his brain and kill him. I just laid there with tears streaming down my face and when I couldn't take any more I asked him if he could come back when my husband was there. He agreed, but said it needed to be soon as they needed us to sign release forms before they began treating him. As soon as he left my room I called my husband. I didn't want to panic him or cause him to drive unsafely so I tried to hide the fact that something was wrong...but he knew right away. I said, "Could you come to the hospital now?" He was on his way five minutes later.

      While I was waiting I tried to get my emotions under control. But I kept thinking of that perfect and beautiful baby and I wasn't sure I could bear it if he left me. I thought that the doctors must have made a mistake, I thought maybe something I had done during my pregnancy had caused this, I thought about how unfair it all was. My husband burst into the room and said, "What's the matter?" I said, "It's Jamie..." and then I began sobbing. He just held me until I could talk again and I asked him to call the doctor to come back up. While we waited for the doctor I tried to tell him what was wrong with our baby boy. I didn't do a very good job and had to stop often to get my voice under control. It didn't help that I could see the fear in his eyes, but it helped knowing I was not alone in my pain. The doctor arrived and went through the whole thing again...at least this time I had a hand to hold on to. My husband signed all the consent forms and then we requested a wheel chair so we could go to the NICU and get aquainted with our babies.

      There is a scrub room at the entrance to the NICU. We scrubbed and donned gowns and then we went searching. The NICU was a very large open room with warming tables and isolettes lining the sides of the room. There are a lot of nurses there, one for every one or two babies. We stopped the first nurse we saw and asked her how we could locate our babies. She asked around and found Christy first...the nurse suggested that we visit with her while she located Jamie for us. She was lying on a warming table with an intravenous needle in her splinted right arm. She had electrodes attached to her chest that went to a machine that was monitoring her heart. Other than that, she was perfect and beautiful in every way. Her nurse asked me if I would like to hold her and picked her up and handed her to me. I fell instantly and madly inlove with her. As I gazed lovingly into her face and touched her hands and feet and face her nurse told me how well she was doing. She said that Christy was eating well, and had the strongest suck reflex she had ever seen on a preemie. I was filled with pride and joy at the wonder of this perfect little person that was mine. She seemed so tiny, but I could tell she was a fighter...and I knew instinctively that she would be just fine. In the meantime the other nurse returned and told us that she had located Jamie but that we should not go to him for the next 20 minutes or so because they were about to change his IV site. I was loathe to let her go, but I finally allowed my husband a moment to hold Christy too. The time passed quickly, and then we went to see our boy.

      A lump was forming in my throat even as we approached him. His IV was in his leg and he had the same electrodes attached to his chest. His heels were bloody from all of the times they had pricked him to take blood. He looked much smaller than his sister and much more vulnerable. I touched his hand and his little fingers wrapped around my finger. It was all I could do not to cry. I couldn't believe that this was happening...he was too beautiful to be taken from me. I thought then that I had to be strong...for him! His nurse started talking to us...he had not been fed at all yet, and they had no intention of feeding him any time soon. No, we could not hold him. He was holding his own. We talked to him and held his tiny hands... brushed a fingertip across his cheek. There was nothing we could do for him but tell him we loved him and be there so he would not feel alone.

      We left the NICU feeling exhausted, frustrated and totally useless. Neither of us had slept since I had given birth so we went back to my room and my husband got me settled into bed and went home with a promise to be back in a few hours. That night we went back to the NICU and I got to feed my baby girl for the first time. Jamie wan't there, he had been taken by ambulance to another hospital to have a fancy scan done of his heart. We shared our joy in our daughter, then looked longingly at the empty warming table that was to be Jamie's "home" for the next month, and then we went back to my room. I was fortunate to be in a room by myself and when we got there my husband held me close while I cried for my poor helpless boy. I desperately needed him to be okay, and I was terrified that he might not be.

      The next morning I couldn't wait for my husband to arrive and ordered myself a wheelchair so I could go see the kids. Jamie was back, and it was very frightening to see him. I was horrified to see that they had put his IV needle in his head! He also had the usual electrodes on his chest, a second IV for medication in one arm and blood pressure monitors on both arms and both legs. When I put my finger into his hand he gripped it, but his grip was even weaker than it had been. They had found a doctor who was the nearest thing to an "expert" on his condition...she is a Canadian doctor and the nurse told me they were now sending blood samples packed in dry ice up to her in Canada twice a day. I spoke to his doctor who told me he was holding his own (I would hear that a lot in the months to come). The treatment they had decided on was to give him Heparin, which is a blood thinner, to keep the clot from getting any bigger until he was big enough for either clot dissolvers or surgery. The term his doctor used was, "We are buying time." My husband arrived shortly after that and we spent the afternoon with our children...loving them, touching them, talking to them and praying for them.

      They next day I was discharged. They told me I could stay until midnight, and I did...I wanted to be as close to my children for as long as I could. Christy was doing great, and could have come home with me except that they wanted to keep her on intravenous antibiotics for a full week because of the ruptured membrane and the infection that had started just before they induced labor. Just to be on the safe side. So when I walked out of the hospital that night it was with a heavy heart and empty arms. It felt so wrong! I cried all the way home.

      The following days I spent the hours of the morning trying to recover, and the afternoons and evenings in the NICU. When the kids were five days old my husband and I sat down with Jamie's doctor and told him that we just HAD to hold him! It was killing me that he had never been held by someone who loved him, that most of the people who had touched him had also caused him pain. His doctor reluctantly agreed and we rushed off to hold him for the first time. He snuggled up against me and I thought perhaps it was the first time since he had left the womb that he truely felt safe and loved. It was quite a production to hold him, there were lots of wires and tubes to maneuver...but it was the right thing. Maybe I needed it more than he did, but I just couldn't go another day without holding him. Five days was also the first time he was ever fed. They started givng him one ml. (a quarter teaspoon) three times a day. They didn't even bother with a bottle, just filled an empty nipple while it was in his mouth. I had rented a breast pump and my milk had come in after three days. I always went to the hospital with a cooler full of as much milk as I could pump. I often pumped there too.

      On the seventh day, Christy came home. I was overjoyed, and it was SO good to finally have at least one of my babies with me where she belonged. My mom had flown up from Florida the day before to spend a couple of weeks with us...it was a godsend. We settled into a routine. My husband would stop at the hospital in the morning on his way to work and spend an hour with Jamie. After lunch my mom would take care of Christy and I would go and spend 3 or 4 hours at the hospital myself. On his way home from work my husband would stop and spend another two hours there. It seemed like each day they discovered something else "wrong" with him. He had reflux, an undescended testicle, two hernias, jaundice, and apnea and bradycardia...when I was finally allowed to feed him he used to forget to breath when he sucked on his bottle his face would turn blue! I used to have to stroke his face and pat his feet or do whatever I could to keep him awake and alert while he ate so he would keep breathing.

      Finally, after a month in the NICU the doctors decided that there was nothing more they could do there that we couldn't do just as well at home. We were required to take an infant CPR course, the hospital arranged for a home nurse to come in twice a day to teach us how to give him his shots of Heparin, we took a class on how to deal with a heart monitor because he would be coming home with one...and when all was in readiness, we arrived at the hospital to take our boy home! It was wonderful to be able to take him out of that place, but scary going home with the knowledge that he could seem fine one minute and die in the next.

      The following morning the nurse showed up bright and early to give him his shot. I watched very closely everything she did, but she didn't bother to explain or teach us like she was supposed to. It tuned out that she was from the wrong homecare company which wasn't the one approved by our insurance so we ended up with a different nurse that evening anyway. Again, I watched very closely. When she filled the syringe, my heart went right up into my throat! She filled the syringe with approximately a quarter of the amount of medication that the morning nurse had given him! The morning nurse had overdosed him! We rushed him off to the emergency room and were there until 4 am. I still shudder when I think about what would have happened if the morning nurse had taught us how to give him his injections...we would have been overdosing him twice a day and very likely possibly might have killed him.

      I had never been allowed to breastfeed in the NICU and when I got Christy home she rejected the breast. When I got Jamie home the same thing happened. I tried to get help, I left a number of messages with the hospital's lactation consultant but she couldn't be bothered to get back to me. I just kept trying but it never did work. I called a LaLeche League leader and she promised me she would call back with the names and numbers of lactations consultants in my area, but she never bothered to call me back either. I pumped for about 8 weeks, and kept trying them both on the breast every day for the first four months. It was a big disappointment, but it just wasn't going to happen.

The End And A New Beginning

      The first few months were extremely difficult. They never slept at the same time, which meant I never slept at all. We were told not to let Jamie cry, because his hernias had gotten qute large and crying could strangulate them...no easy task to keep a baby from crying when you are constantly sticking needles in him. His heart monitor went off a lot, and I had nightmares about having to give him CPR. There was more stress on my marriage than I could have believed possible. But, when he had been home for a month we had to take him in for a heart scan...and the clot was getting smaller!!!! He had people praying for him all over the country, in some cases entire congregations. And he was at home where people loved him. I am convinced to this day that these things contributed mightily to helping him to "cure" himself.

      At four months we got rid of the heart monitor, at five months they told us that the clot was GONE and we could discontinue the shots, and at six months he had surgery to repair the testicle and hernias! Now, at eleven months, I have a pair of absolutely beautiful, happy and healthy babies! The whole experience of having my children was the most awesomely wonderful and terrifyingly awful time of my life.


Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2008 09:20