It’s so overwhelming to even begin writing this story; there are so many emotions that flood my heart! We had been expecting the boys for quite some time by that point, because we’d just been trying so hard to keep them in my tummy after around 20 weeks.
I woke up around 1 am on Monday, June 16, 2014, and went to the bathroom. When I went back to bed, my water broke, and I remember feeling a deep peace when I realized what had happened. I was ready to meet them, and I knew it. I so wanted to hold them each in my arms.
I woke up John, and since we’d been ready for the hospital for a few months, he got ready while I calmly sat on the bed and called Beth to come over, and then Grandma Kay (who would take over for Beth so she could go back home). When Beth got there a few minutes later, we went in to wake up Anna to tell her where we were going and that Grandma Kay would be there when she woke up; she was so excited, even in her sleepiness! We also went in to kiss Josie goodbye.
A few minutes later we were in the car and heading to United Hospital. My contractions weren’t strong, but getting more so as time went by. I remember during this time I still had such a strong feeling of peace and excitement – we were both SO excited!
In the parking ramp, I decided I didn’t need to be wheeled in, so we parked together and got out of our cars next to another couple who was going in to have their baby. In the elevator we asked them if this was their first, because they looked quite terrified. (It was.)
We had to wait a few minutes for our room (maybe 3 or 4 – it wasn’t long), and when we got there, the nurse apologized because their internet system had gone down a while before and it was throwing everything off. We, again, didn’t mind. We were just. so. excited.
By about 3 am my contractions were strong and regular, and I started to get “the shakes,” as I call them (I’ve heard other people call them tremors or shivers). They were continuous; I knew that with Josie’s (natural except for pitocin to induce labor) birth, they had been strong but not continuous through contractions until close to the end. At this point I was still only dilated to maybe a 4 or 5. They asked if I would like to have the epidural placed or the cerclage removed first, and I asked for the epidural. It went great with the exception of the shaking throughout (it’s hard to hold still when your body is involuntarily bouncing all over the place). But it worked, and although the shaking continued, the pain was diminished and I was ready for the next step.
About a half hour later, the doctor was ready to remove the cerclage, so they brought me to the operating room. And then came the only true pain I remember during the entire labor. About 20 minutes into the procedure (which normally takes place just in a doctor’s office), I was crying and I told John to ask if this was how long it normally takes. The doctor, who was very kind but whom I didn’t have nice feelings toward at this moment, said that it typically is done in just a couple minutes, but that the second stitch of my cerclage had moved up so far that she couldn’t get a good view of it and she didn’t want to cut blindly (with which I suppose I agree). Finally, another 10 minutes later, they were done, but I must have been cut or scraped somehow, because I could feel pain in that area every time I had a contraction.
They then asked if I’d like to go back to a room or stay in the OR. I knew I’d have to deliver here, so with an epidural, it meant I’d need to be moved to another bed and then back again before delivering, and I actually prefer just lying down during labor. So I opted to stay where we were, and I’m thankful they gave me that option. We sat/laid there for the next hour or two; I listened to my calming labor playlist and tried to rest, while John dozed off next to me off and on. At around 7 am, the nurses began their shift change – and I said I felt like I needed to push!
The nurse had checked only about 5 minutes before this and I’d been at a 7, but I was sure I was ready now. So she checked me again and sure enough, I was dilated all the way. There were suddenly a lot more people in the room than just the few nurses changing shifts and giving their reports! They asked me not to try my best not to push until they got the doctor there. There were two NICU teams and a lot of nurses, and then in came Dr. Cappechi. There were many doctors who could have delivered me, but I’d had a bad experience with the doctor who delivered Anna at United, so I was a little nervous. But I had met Dr. Cappechi at St. Peter’s, and I felt a strong reassurance from God that this was his extra blessing for me this morning. The only question I had for him was whether or not he would try to deliver Jude (Baby B at the time) breech if he changed positions, and he said he would, which was what I was hoping for; no one wants to recover from both a vaginal birth and a c-section if they can help it.
Dr. Cappechi started by asking if the epidural was working, and he touched a few spots to ask if I could feel it. At one point I said yes, and he looked at me with surprise. “You can feel this?” he asked. “Yep!” I responded. “That, too!” He then wanted to know if I wanted some numbing medication for that area, and I told him to go right ahead! I assume that the epidural doesn’t or didn’t work in certain spots in my body, which is why the cerclage removal had been so painful. Either way, I was not in pain anymore and was excited to meet my babies!
By the time the shift change was over and I could go ahead and push, John said there were 17 people in the room (not including the babies). I was completely oblivious to everything else going on, with the exception of John, the two nurses, and the doctor all standing immediately around me.
I was ready, and after only one contraction, at 7:35 am, Elias James was born. He came out so easily and I remember seeing his sweet hands and little head pop up as they placed him on my lower abdomen and cut his cord. They quickly took him over to the warmer to make sure he was healthy and breathing ok.
At this point, I had always expected to think, “Oh no; now I have to push again!” But it was the complete opposite. All of my endorphins and adrenaline had me running on high, and I had just met one perfect baby boy and couldn’t wait to meet the other. I vividly remember thinking, “I get to do this again!” It was beyond words to describe how wonderful that felt, knowing another baby was coming soon.
As soon as Elias was in the warmer, the nurse began to push on my stomach to get Jude to move head down. His water broke sometime around here, although I don’t really remember it. He moved pretty easily, and they started monitoring his heart rate again right away, as it had dropped a few times earlier. I had asked that it be turned down during labor, but with all the people around, it was hard for anyone to look at it closely during the deliveries, so they had turned it up a bit. I would guess that about three minutes after Elias was born, the doctor asked to have the monitor turned up more; he had noticed (as had I) that Jude’s heart rate was still dropping repeatedly, with no relation to contractions, as I hadn’t had one since pushing out Elias. And then we started to lose his heartbeat all together. We would hear it slow down and stop for a few seconds, then speed back up a few seconds later. The first time it did this, the doctor asked if I was having a contraction yet, and I wasn’t. Then he told me to push as soon as I felt a contraction coming on. The next 30 seconds or so I remember being very still and quiet as we all listened to the heart beat and waited. I am thankful, looking back, that I still had the endorphins and happy feelings of having Elias born, or I think this would have been a lot scarier at the time. It felt like forever (but was really so short – a lot can happen in five minutes!), but I finally felt a contraction coming, and at 7:40 am, with only one push, Jude Robert was born.
I didn’t see Jude right away, but I remember listening for his cries. John said that they did something with his neck and thinks the cord was wrapped around him, but he stretched his skinny arm out and grabbed my finger. I was elated. They took him to the warmer right away and got him started on oxygen, while Elias was only requiring the nasal cannula for a little extra air at the moment. As they were checking both boys out, I asked how much Elias had weighed and when they said 4 lbs, 8 oz, I started laughing. He was the same size as Anna, and she had been born over three weeks later. And then Jude, being 4 lbs, 6 oz, surprised us because the last ultrasound had said that he might not be growing as much as Elias. But they apparently shared their resources quite well!
The nurses brought each baby over to me one at a time before they were taken to the NICU. I kissed Elias’ sweet head and was sad to see him go, but was also still a little nervous about Jude. They brought him to me and I got to kiss him quickly. Everyone reassured me that he was doing great now (his original Apgar score had been a little low), and then I sent John to go with the boys.
The doctor cleaned me up and said I didn’t tear at all; no stitches or anything. I was thankful for that! They returned me to my original delivery room, where I had to stay for one or two hours (I can’t remember) while the epidural started to wear off and they checked my vital signs. The tremors/shaking I’d had before pushing came back full force, and the nurse struggled to take my blood pressure with the cuff and eventually did it the “normal” way. I made a few calls from the room and had breakfast, then got the ok to get in a wheelchair and go see my babies.
I held each boy for as long as I could, and I remember feeling elated that they were here and sad that I couldn’t hold them both at the same time. But they were doing so well! They were both on just extra air through a nasal cannula by the next morning, and I was discharged from my maternity ward that afternoon.
I spent that second night in the NICU with the babies and the pump. Early in the morning, I went out to use the restroom and when I got back to the room, I felt like my water had broken, but when I looked down I realized I was bleeding. Everywhere. It had soaked through everything in about 10 seconds, and I called for the nurse, who brought a wheelchair and they brought me down to the Emergency Room.
I called John and he came over to be with me, because I was a wreck. I was scared something was wrong and also missing all of my children. The doctors checked my hemoglobin and also did an ultrasound, but everything looked fine, so I was able to go back to the NICU and rest there.
The boys were born at 33 weeks and 3 days, only six and a half weeks early, and were beautifully healthy. They also were right around the 40th percentile for weight, which was great – twins are typically smaller than other babies born at the same time, but these little ones grew really well.
Anna got to see her little brothers the afternoon they were born. She was able to go from isolette to isolette and she sang them an equal number of songs. It was just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. She didn’t care about the wires or any of the machines; she got to touch the babies’ hands and was just so excited that they were here. Unfortunately, Josie had a pretty bad cold and had to stay out of the NICU.
About a week after they were born, Children’s NICU was almost at capacity and they needed to take on more babies who were in much worse positions than our boys were. They requested that we transfer to Regions Hospital, which we accepted, although it wasn’t easy to make that choice. John went with the babies as they transferred them in their little pods. As he was leaving, one of the nurses watching happened to mention to another coworker that she was so happy we were making more room for other babies; I think her exact words at one point were, “Yippee!” John was not thrilled with this, as even though we knew it was for a good reason that we were being moved, it was still not an easy thing to do (you always worry about your babies, and now we also had to learn another new set of protocols for visitors, pumping, parking, etc.). He ended up mentioning the interaction with a nurse supervisor and just said that maybe staff shouldn’t talk about things like this in front of parents who are under a little bit of stress. The nurse apologized, and we made the transition pretty smoothly.
There were a lot of great things about being at Regions. It was a lot quieter, for one, and the boys were also able to be in one large room – TOGETHER! Jessica Shurts came to visit the first night we were there and the nurses let me hold both of my boys in my lap while Jess took a few photos. I hadn’t realized that they would let me hold them both, so to have them in my lap together, and to see their faces at the same time, right next to each other – it was just incredible. These are still some of my favorite photos of Elias and Jude, and I’m so thankful Jess was able to be there to capture such great shots of a really meaningful moment for me. (Thank you again, Jess!)
On Thursday, June 26, Josie got to meet her brothers. Our whole family was finally together, if only for a few minutes. Josie held each of them and gave them lots of kisses, while Anna continued to sing to them. So sweet to see the love they had for their brothers right from the start!
Also on that day, the doctors informed us that it was likely they could go home in 7 to 10 days, as they were starting to eat well from a bottle and had been keeping their temperatures up on their own. They had a few breathing and heart rate spells throughout the past week and a half, but nothing too alarming. Typically once you noticed it, they got themselves out of it, but Elias had one heart rate spell that took a lot of work to get it back up (nurses rubbing his legs, moving him, etc.). Because of that, he had to be monitored one full night at Regions before being allowed to go home. That Sunday, going home became much more real; they said they could probably go home the next day if Elias passed his heart rate test. So John went off to buy some diapers, because we didn’t have any at home!
Elias passed his test beautifully and on Monday, June 30, after only two short weeks in the NICU, the boys were given the green light to go home. We packed them up in the minivan and the girls welcomed us home with lots of gusto. And we began our life as a family of six (with four under four!).
I can’t finish this story without thinking of all of the help, support, and prayers we received over the course of the boys’ pregnancy and newborn stages. A huge number of meals were brought, our girls were always well taken care of, our house was cleaned and laundry done, money and gifts were received, babies were fed so parents could sleep. I am so grateful for all of the many people who supported us through their immense generosity; it made the time considerably easier than it could have been. If you helped us in any way, THANK YOU. You were Christ to us, and we hope we are able to do the same for you some day.