Sunday, March 22, 2009

What I remember of the day the boys were born...

This is a REALLY long post. I wrote this stuff down a while back so I would remember what I was thinking the day the boys were born and just came across it again. For those who have 45 minutes to read it I thought I'd share. Haha. :o)

Cody and I wanted our boys so badly. I remember driving to the doctor’s office to get my first ultrasound to check the babies when I was barely pregnant and thinking to myself that I was going to be so disappointed if there was only one. That sounds so horrible, and I don’t mean it that way… but I just KNEW there was more than one and if I’d been told differently I would have been sad. My pregnancy was perfect, no morning sickness, no complications, everything was great. My weight gain to me was a problem, but my doctor kept telling me “you’ve got two in there”. After the boys were born I saw an online graphic that said “those who don’t believe in love at first sight haven’t given birth to the love of their life”. My love at first sight started at my 12 week ultrasound. I was lucky and had countless ultrasounds my entire pregnancy, but that was the best one by far – it was a single shot with both boys beside each other, one head-up and the other head-down. I saw the boys go from tiny little blobs on the screen to perfectly formed babies with arms and legs and mouths and noses. Not many people are fortunate enough to say the same.

The morning the boys were born I woke up with cramping. Where did this come from? Even looking back I can not say there was any sign that in hindsight I should have noticed. The ONLY thing I remember is thinking baby A wasn’t kicking quite as much (he was in the birth canal), but it wasn’t anything alarming because he WAS moving. I was fine while lying in bed, but as soon as my feet hit the floor I felt it. I started to panic and was mentally praying that everything be fine. People experience cramping while they’re pregnant and it is totally fine. I called Cody and asked him what to do. I thought about calling the doctor instead of going to the office, but we’d had a previous issue with getting a return call (related to something else) so I figured I’d better just go in to get checked. I get there right when the office opened. I explained to the receptionist that I didn’t have an appointment, but I had been cramping and spotting since I woke up that morning. She got this confused look on her face and told me all the doctors were across the street doing procedures at the hospital so they couldn’t check me out, but the NP was in. Okay I told her, the NP needs to check me out. I go to sit down and keep staring at my watch. My cramping was getting worse, but I’d had worse period cramps in my life. They were pretty much 5 minutes apart and didn’t last very long, but they were getting to the point that I had to breathe a little to get through them. It felt like I sat there forever. Oh wait, I did sit there forever... for 45 minutes! I was almost to the point of going back to the receptionist and bang on her window to tell her someone needed to hurry when I was called back. The NP thought I was there for my glucose test (it was scheduled for the following day). Her eyes bugged out of her head when I told her what was wrong. She examined me and bolted out the door. I remember thinking to myself this can’t be good. I get dressed and open the door and there is a wheel chair waiting on me. I ask the NP what is wrong and she tells me there is a little too much something or other than she’d like to see so they are going to admit me. Yeah right. The hospital is across from the doctor’s office so they wheeled me over the sky walk. I asked the transport ladies what was wrong with me and they said the NP thought she saw one of the baby’s heads, but she hoped she was wrong. Oh geez. They commented on how calm I was. Mentally I was screaming “this can’t be happening!”, but I was numb from shock I think. I called Cody on the way over and told him I was being admitted. I don’t think he understood the significance of everything…. How could he really, I didn’t understand anything myself and I was the one pregnant.

I am wheeled into triage and they started admitting me and checking the babies’ heartbeats. Rhys was baby A and down near my cervix. No problems locating his heartbeat. Bentley was baby B and up on top and it took them several minutes to locate his. At the time I wasn’t aware that Rhys was Rhys, or Bentley was Bentley. We knew baby A and baby B, but we had no names picked out yet. It’s funny how everything makes more sense after the fact. Another doctor in my OB’s practice examined me and I have to say it wasn’t exactly comfortable. I was 10cm dilated. At that point I was outwardly calm but seriously about to lose it. Cody gets there. They start the IV in my arm. I hate needles. The neonatal team comes in and tells us that based on gender, gestation, race, etc., the chance of survival is about 5%. If they are able they will intubate, but it is very iffy and they won’t force it. Based on those statistics she says they recommend a vaginal birth because it is basically unnecessary to cut for a c-section. A little positive, ANY positive, would have been welcome. A second doctor in my OB’s practice comes in (my OB was delivering another baby I think) and asks me how I want to deliver. I think to myself anyone is crazy if they think I can push one baby out, lose it and have to deliver another. I told him this in a nicer fashion. I remember the look on his face, so filled with compassion. He touched my arm and said, c-section it is. Right now? I said. I knew this was serious, but I don’t think my body was allowing everything to register. I broke down with gulping sobs at that point. They start to wheel me down to the operating room while people are asking questions and filling out forms. It was like something you see on TV. They roll my bed up next to the operating table and I scoot over. Surreal is the only way I know to describe this. I am getting a catheter, being swabbed down with iodine, having anesthesiologists assess me and watching countless other people run around all at the same time. They put a mask over my face and I’m out.

I wake up with a burning pain low on my belly and I am shaking uncontrollably. I look up at Cody and he puts a piece of paper in my line of sight. There are four tiny footprints. I immediately start to cry because I think they didn’t make it. He has a teary smile on his face as he tells me they were able to intubate them both and they are up stairs in the NICU. My shaking is controlled and my pains meds hooked up and I get wheeled to my room. I remember very little else about that day. I think Cody has told me several things several times, but I vaguely remember. Apparently morphine makes me loopy.

I do remember our conversation about naming the boys though. Cody and I had tossed around lots of names since we found out what we were having. We hadn’t decided on anything and refused to name the babies without seeing them. We joked that our babies were coming home without names because we couldn’t decide on anything we both liked. Our idea was to pick out several top contenders and then choose them once the boys were born. Cody went to see the boys a few times that day and I think they must have asked him every time if the babies had names. At the time the boys were born our top contenders were Rhys (a legitimate Welsh spelling of Reese which we both loved but have now discovered no one knows how to pronounce) and Bentley (a new pick we’d only recently thrown into the mix). Cody had seen the boys and I hadn’t so I asked him to pick who got which name. I also remember the conversation when he called upstairs to tell the nurses the good news! After living in the NICU for 5.5 months I never saw an unnamed baby so I think we were somewhat of an anomaly.

Everyone leaves that night and Cody and I are sitting in bed when someone knocks and opens the door. It was close to midnight. The room was very dark and I remember the light from the nurses’ station spilling onto the floor and seeing the NICU NP’s shadow cast on the floor. Bentley wasn’t doing well so we should come visit she said. I had not gotten out of bed at that point and was not able to use a wheelchair. While we were talking she got a call from the head neonatal doctor (who we now know very well) telling her Bentley was rapidly declining. They rush to get help and take my bed upstairs. I hadn’t seen the boys before and I was almost scared to look. A 24 week preemie looks completely different from a term baby. I couldn't understand how they were so small and still breathing. I had no idea what the numbers on the screen were or what they meant, but buzzers and alarms were dinging. They take Bentley out of his isolette and remove his tubes. It all happened so fast. I was still seriously out of it from the morphine so I was almost detached from the whole thing. I am holding Bentley and we wheel over to Rhys’ pod. We get one picture of all four of us. I so wish I knew then what I know now. I wish I would have seen Bentley prior to him taking his last breath. I did not understand. It isn’t my fault, but I will forever hold that regret in my heart. I think that is probably what prompted us to spend every day with Rhys even though we were doing nothing other than sitting by his beside for weeks on end, unable to do anything for him except be there for him when he was so small.

After about four months I finally started to feel like a mother. It is hard to think of yourself that way when you’re only child does not reside in your home. I consider myself a realist. Sometimes it might seem pessimistic, but I try to not allow myself to read too much into something that is just average. We were always cautiously optimistic about Rhys and his prognosis, but it took about 4 months before we really allowed ourselves to really think about WHEN he comes home, as though it’s a definite. I think that was our way of dealing with possibility that it might not happen.

You’d never wish this experience on anyone, and it is equally hard for all parents who endure it. But, if it’s at all possible for one case to be worse than another I think it is especially traumatizing when it happens with your first pregnancy. You have nothing to compare to and this is all you know. You don’t get to experience the baby showers or bring home the baby after delivery. We’ve had countless people comment that they don’t know how we did it. I don’t either, but what choice did we have? How else were we to act? It’s as horrible as you can imagine it to be. No, actually it’s worse. But, you make do with the cards you’re dealt and make the best (however that’s possible) of a horrendous situation. Many people have told us God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. That may be true. Although that statement is surely meant to be comforting, the person saying that doesn’t have to deal with the situation and try as I may I could never keep myself from getting cynical. I’m sure I’ve told someone that at one point or another, but after this experience I will never say it again.

I’m usually the person who likes to know everything about everything. Cody calls me Questions. All we’ve been through has afforded me a new understanding of the miracle of the human body. On the flipside you also have a multitude of potential complications and conditions highlighted that you never knew existed. When I was pregnant I wasn’t sure I would do it again. I was so miserable by the time the boys were born I was beyond ready to reach my target of 36 weeks. I had gained 40 pounds, but felt like I’d gained three times that much and my joints and back didn’t appreciate the extra weight. Now I’d have a dozen more. People seem surprised to hear that. Bentley’s infection was an unfortunate thing, and God willing the next pregnancy will be perfect and boring through the whole thing. I was lumped into the high risk category because of the multiples, but now I will reeeeally be high risk. I will be a freak about everything, but I will not let that prevent us from having more children. In this, I wish I didn’t know so much about everything. Because one thing I have come to realize is that ignorance is sometimes bliss my friends.


Parker's mom said...

Candice...ok I bawled as I read this! But let me assure you...Parker had a few "roomies" that didn't have names...the worst was probably Ethan...He wasn't named for about 1 1/2 weeks...His last name was Spankenburger so the poor kid was "Baby Spankenburger" forever!
And as for dealing with it all...I think sometimes When it is your only child in the NICU it is easier because you can just drop everything and go there and not worry about anyone else, but then I think sometimes it is harder when it is your only. I knew every time I left the NICU, I could go home and hug my other baby. It is just SOO hard no matter what!
As for God giving you only what you can thought was always "I wish He didn't trust me so much!"
You are so strong! And a great Mommy! And I think going through all of this, made you even better and stronger!

Chris and Machel said...

That was heartfelt and painful to read. I hate to say it, but only as a NICU mom can you truly understand the pain you so effortlessly expressed. I posted my birthing experience right after creating the blog and I often go back to read my initial feelings(as a way of coping). Just like you, I am a realist. Sometimes I would have to shake myself out of the "facts of life" and trust in God. I obsess with wanting to know everything and what it all means; and the worst of it, what the odds are. My experience was also somewhat of a whirl wind, but I was fortunate to hold Bella in for 32 hours from the time they spotted my dialation. And I do empathize with the entire "first child" situation; Mere and I have talked about it several times and I honestly do not know what would be harder - having a child at home that doesn't understand or a tainted first pregnancy. But you are so courageous for believing in and having hope for more children. I really look forward to another pregnancy and will probably keep myself on bed rest for the duration.

As for the names, I have seen many babies without names. The reality of that is - there just wasn't enough time to plan for the exact name yet. It is amazing how we torture ourselves over every little detail of the NICU experience.

On a side note, New Braunfels is my hometown, born and raised. Let us know when you might be there this summer, if you are, and we will make it a point to go stay with my mom.

Much love, Machel

Pachar Family said...

I wasn't going to read this because I thought it would take me a while, being as Jackson wants to share the computer chair with me. However, I am so glad that I did. I cried through the whole thing. The thought of you going through everything that day alone makes me more sad then I think I've ever been.You have a spot in heaven, Candice. I love you very much and am so proud of you.

Carrie said...

Candice -
My name is Carrie Prati. I lived across the hall from Jennie Felux in college and I've been praying for you since last summer when she sent me an email. I gave blood for Rhys and have followed your progress every step of the way. I have twin boys that are 15 months old so your story hits especially close to home. I haven't wanted to write - in some way, I feel guilty that I have both boys but I want you to know that although no words can make you feel better or change what's happened, I think you will probably love Rhys more than any baby has been loved because you understand that he is a miracle and will appreciate him and every moment you have together. Thank you for sharing your story - it's heart wrenching and you are an incredible woman to still be standing. My thoughts and prayers will continue to be with you Rhys, and your husband.

Jessica Kirkland said...

What a heartfelt post. Congratulations on getting your baby boy home. I know what those days in the NICU are like. Thanks for the post.