February 1, 2016 started like any other Monday. I woke up, got ready for work, picked up a little around the house and put away our last few baby shower gifts, fed our dog and two cats and we headed out the door for our 9 am ultrasound at Mass General West in Waltham. My husband drove and I responded to work emails that I had received over the weekend while we sat in brutal Massachusetts traffic on our way to the doctor’s office. We arrived and were quickly taken to the room where all of our ultrasounds had been done prior to this one and honestly, I hated this room. I had terrible memories in this room with the loads of bad news that came after each ultrasound for us. We couldn’t catch a break with those. I just wanted one ultrasound where the doctor could point to my two little babies and tell us how great they were doing. Maybe that would be today…
I assumed the position- laid down, pulled up my sweater, gel was poured all over my stomach and the ultrasound technician did her thing for about twenty minutes on each baby. When she finished, she smiled as they always do, and went to get this doctor. This is the part I dreaded. The ultrasound technician always left me feeling so positive and the doctor consistently came in and trashed my mood. The doctor came in, greeted us and went to work. For the next thirty minutes, he didn’t say one word and my anxiety built and built. I knew it was bad before anything even came out of his mouth.
He finished, put down the probe and stared at us. I remember the first words that came out of his mouth, “I was really hoping to have good news for you today but unfortunately, I don’t.” My heart sank and I heard about half of the rest of his analysis… Something about Baby B’s placenta not working… needing to go right into Mass General in Boston today… I’d deliver by Wednesday but they wanted me to make it to Wednesday to be 29 weeks and to get 3 rounds of steroid shots. I must have asked if I could go home and get my bag because I remember the doctor saying no. All I could think was how bad this must be if I can’t even run home for fifteen minutes and grab the bag I had packed already. I cried and not the quiet, little tears down the cheek but rather, gut-wrenching sobs as my husband led us out to the lobby and down to our car. I was 28 weeks and 6 days pregnant and I was going to deliver these babies in the next 72 hours.
We drove into the hospital and were directed immediately up to Blake 14. There was a nurse waiting for us there with all my information in hand. She was very sweet and got us set up in a room down the hall. I was forced into my first of many hospital gowns, had the IV put in my arm, was given steroid shots to help with the twin’s lung development and had about six monitors attached to my stomach. This was all before 11 am. So much for a typical Monday.
Next came one of the worst twenty minutes of my life- the magnesium drip. In order to try to increase fetal neuroprotection, I was given a high dose of magnesium sulfate for about twenty minutes. These were honestly the worst twenty minutes of the entire delivery. For any pregnant women who made need this, prepare yourself. You feel like your body is burning from the inside out and I was extremely nauseous. My husband and nurse kept cycling cold towels over my face and body to try to cool me. It took the edge off but was still horrible. All I could focus on was trying not to throw up all over myself. After the twenty minutes passed and the dose was significantly lowered, I felt much better for the remainder of the waiting period.
At this point, we had to call our parents. I called my mom first and she cried, which for anyone who knows my mother, does not happen very often. We called my mother in law next and she had to rush off the phone to get my father in law off of his plane at Logan airport. My mother in law, Janet, went to pick up our dog and get our hospital bags from the house. Both families came to the hospital and sat with us all afternoon. I couldn’t eat or drink anything per the doctor’s orders. We just sat and waited, watching the monitor go up and down on Baby B. At about 6pm, the nurses suggested everyone go home for the night and Geoff and I were left alone again with the beeps and buzzing of the monitors.
At 7pm, a new group of doctors and nurses came in for the night shift. The new doctor, Alex (apparently hospitals aren’t like Grey’s Anatomy because every doctor wanted us to call them by their first name only) came in and explained to us the unfortunate situation. As much as the doctors had hoped we could get three rounds of steroid shots in by Wednesday and then deliver, that was just not possible. Baby B’s heart rate was dropping every time I had a minor contraction (I couldn’t’ even feel them) and she needed to come out now. Alex strongly suggested an emergency C-section because she would not survive a normal delivery considering her heart rate dropped at even the slightest contraction. When he suggested this, you would have thought he was telling me I had to pick which one was going to survive. I had made peace a long time ago that it was best with twins to not have a birth plan because I wanted to do whatever was safest for them. My heart wasn’t set on anything so therefore, the C-section news, I managed to take in stride. I remember looking at Alex, smiling to ease his mind a bit and telling him “Let’s do this then.”
At 7:30pm, we started to get set up. Alex told us that the delivery room would be very full due to delivering two, premature babies, the risk of the C-section and there was also not one other delivery happening on the floor. We met the NICU doctors that would care for our babies after delivery. We were warned that the babies probably wouldn’t cry upon being delivered due to immature lungs. We met the NICU nurses. They told us we may not get to see their faces until much later in the NICU. We met the NICU Respiratory Therapist. She told us they may have to be intubated immediately. We met the anesthesiologist who would perform the spinal. She told me I wouldn’t feel a thing. I met the two delivering doctors, Alex and Kat, who would each deliver a baby. I met the many other nurses who would be in the room for assistance and support. They really tried to put my mind at ease. It was overwhelming yet really distracting from the fear of what was going on.
Geoff was left in the hospital room with his nurse. She was his handler for the next hour or so. I was wheeled down the corridor to the operating room. I followed instruction after instruction for each movement they needed from me. Finally, I sat up and had the spinal put in my back (Pregnant ladies- this is literally a pinch. I was really nervous about this part but it was seriously a breeze!) I laid back down and waited until I couldn’t feel anything from the chest down. I remember focusing on trying to breath. I had a nurse and anesthesiologist at my head that kept asking me how I was feeling and if I felt nauseous, which I didn’t’. Finally, my husband was brought back in to be with me (and apparently, by this time, I was already cut open with God knows what on the operating table but my husband likes to share how traumatized he was by that. For all you men out there, don’t look anywhere near the blue sheet unless you want to see a lot of blood!)
Geoff stood at my head and held my hand behind the big blue sheet. I couldn’t feel anything other than a bit of a tug of war in my belly and then we heard it- the tiniest little baby cry I’ve ever heard. My son, Cole Robert, was born at 9:04 pm at 3 lbs. 10 oz. and 15 inches long.
A minute later, my daughter, Grace McKenzie, let out a serious cry. She was 2 lbs. 1 oz. and 13.5 inches long. My husband got to go over and held my son’s hand and he got to hold my daughter for a minute before they were rushed down to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I got to see each of them for a quick second, as they sewed up my body and the tears rolled down my face. It was over. They were out. I had no idea what happens next.
Nothing about this pregnancy or delivery was what I had pictured in my head but maybe it never is for anyone. It wasn't what I had planned on. We were pregnant more quickly than I could have imaged. I was sicker in the first trimester than I thought possible. We were having two babies instead of one. We struggled with false positives in genetic testing. We had so much fear and anxiety over what could be wrong with them for months and months. I felt so much guilt that it was all my fault. We had to have a C-section and I was pumped full of drugs. We now had two 28 weekers in the NICU at Mass General. It didn't feel real. How were we supposed to do this? As I lay there getting put back together on the operating table, all I could think about was that we had two babies downstairs that should not have been born for three more months and in a few hours, I’d be able to meet them, touch them and maybe even hold them.