Adapting

Thankfully, my husband took off the entire month of December, so he was able to stay with us and help navigate our new family situation.  That first month was a blur of breastfeeding, bottles, diapers, and crying…and toddler tantrums and tears, too.

During the first two months, we had to bring Baby B in for blood work multiple times to check her kidney function and Potassium.  She was on medication to help remove Potassium from her system as well as a new formula for babies with low kidney function.  It seemed like the formula made her little tummy hurt, so I tried to keep pumping and nursing as much as possible so she didn’t have to have the formula.  I felt so guilty for deciding to stop nursing and having my supply decrease when it seemed like breast milk was the answer to one of Baby B’s problems.

Baby B’s Potassium was slowly decreasing, but not enough so that she could be off the medication yet.  We also discovered that even experienced nurses and phlebotomists have difficulty taking blood from a 5-7 pound baby.  The day my husband returned to work, I brought the babies to the local hospital to have Baby B’s blood drawn.  Three hours and five needle sticks later, we were all in tears, but they finally got a draw from her foot.  After that, we have gone to the children’s hospital in Orlando for her blood tests, and they have had more success getting her blood, thankfully.

The hardest part about having a toddler and newborn twins wasn’t the lack of sleep, it was the feeling that I was disappointing my son.  Since the day he was born, he has been my number one.  He’s got such a dynamic personality that people are just drawn to him, heaping praise upon him for his little dances, songs, and monster truck commentary.  It was so difficult for him when he was no longer the singular center of my world.  People would visit and fawn over the babies, but he was an afterthought.  It broke my heart every day.  I just wanted to spend time with him again, after all the time on bed rest when I couldn’t do more than snuggle, watch t.v., and read to him. However, the babies needed me, too.  I constantly felt torn between my kids’ needs…he needed attention,  but they needed to have their basic needs met, and that had to come first.

One of the toughest aspects of having twins is that there are TWO of them.  Duh, I know.  But you don’t really understand how hard it is to feed two babies at the same time.  If you feed one after the other, especially when they are newborns, you’ll be feeding them all day.  You can’t hold both and feed them, so there’s some propping to be done.  Tandem breastfeeding was something I never mastered, although there are some super moms who can do it.  They both need to be held and loved; diapers need changed; baths need to be given — all of that times two.  Plus, Baby B seemed to be a little more high maintenance than Baby A.  She cried more (still does) and wanted to be held constantly.

In the meantime, our toddler was watching a lot of monster truck videos and Disney Junior.  He would come into the bedroom when I was nursing one of the babies and start yelling or throwing toys.  I felt like a terrible mom yelling at him and spanking his butt (which I rarely did, but ended up doing multiple times in the first few months after the girls were born), but he would yell and hit me when I was attempting to feed a baby, and there was no reasoning with him.  Before I knew that Baby B really did better on breast milk, I abandoned the idea of nursing, because it just made our lives more difficult.  I wanted to try to pump when I could, but I didn’t want the pressure of trying to feed two babies when it seemed to take such a toll on my son.

At first, it was so difficult to get out of the house.  The babies weren’t really on a schedule, and my toddler was not handling his new normal very well.  Luckily for us, my parents both retired last year.  They came up to help as much as they could, and the kids and I went to their house quite a bit, too.  The toddler went to his old babysitter’s house every once in a while, so he could get one-on-one attention.  Even with some help, there were plenty of days when it was just me with the kids.  I called my husband on more than one occasion, crying, and begged him to come home from work, because I just couldn’t handle the chaos.

I cried every day.  I was failing my toddler.  I was failing my babies.  I didn’t know what Baby B would need and how I could help her.  I was leaving the life I knew as a lawyer and transitioning into a role I never wanted, stay at home mom.  My husband had to go back to work, and I had no idea how I would handle three kids alone.

At my 6-week post-partum OB visit, I knew that I needed to talk to Dr. OB about what was going on in my life.  There were just too many crazy changes, and my life felt upside-down.  I knew that I was depressed, and I did not want to sink into a pit of despair when I was alone with my kids.  The doctor understood and prescribed anti-depressants for me.  He also scheduled a follow-up in a month to see how I was doing on the medication.  I felt relief that finally I might be able to feel happier and enjoy my babies and son.

To read about the rest of our TTTS journey, click here.

Full House, Full Hearts

Now that Baby B was home, it was like the plates shifted back to their proper position and the ground stopped shaking.  Now we just had to sift through the rubble and figure out how to navigate our new world.  But we were all together, and that was the most important thing for right now.

I still felt horrible.  The next day, I could barely move.  I stayed in bed.  My husband thought I was dying.  I didn’t get up to nurse the babies or change them.  Finally, I felt a wave of sickness and got up to use the bathroom. (SKIP THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH.)  I passed a huge blood clot, the size of my palm.  It was horrible, but I immediately felt better.  I called the doctor to make sure this was normal, and the on-call OB said it was normal, as long as I didn’t have a fever or any additional pain.

With that over, I was able to start being a mom again.  There was a lot of snuggling to do, and also a lot of shopping and Christmas stuff to finish.  Part of the problem with being on bed rest for so long was that, although Amazon helped me shop for some of the bigger things, there was still the completion of the gift-giving process to wrap up (hah).  Plus, I love Christmas.  I love everything about the season.  I wanted to go to the stores and see the decorations and hear the holiday tunes.  I wanted to dress my babies up in matching Christmas outfits and take a ton of pictures.  I wanted to bring my toddler to see Santa.  I just wanted our lives to be normal.

That week, we brought the Babies to the pediatrician, who attempted to assure me that we don’t know what Baby B will be able to do.  He reminded me not to worry about the future, just focus on today.  That’s nearly impossible for an anxiety-driven worrier like me.  But Baby B seemed to be doing well…she was gaining weight and rocking the newborn stuff.  We asked about seeing a neurologist, and the pediatrician recommended waiting until she wasn’t meeting milestones.  Although we thought that was strange, we agreed…after all, she was eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom, so what else would a neurologist tell us at this point?

Baby B’s first appointment with the nephrologist (kidney doctor) was that Friday, when she was 13 days old.  She needed blood taken that Tuesday prior to the appointment.  I received a text message from the office manager at my job asking when I might be coming back and if I could be available for a phone call with the bosses.  I decided that after the nephrologist appointment, we would stop by the office so I could hand in my notice, return my laptop and key, and pack up my personal things.

My mom stayed with the toddler and Baby A that morning so my husband and I could go to Orlando with Baby B.  Initially, a nurse took the baby’s vitals, then a nurse practitioner checked her out.  When the nephrologist walked into the room for the appointment, he brought an entourage of about 4 other people with him.  He didn’t even touch the baby.  However, he did say that he didn’t think she would need dialysis or a transplant (although his opinion has since changed), so we felt relief that maybe this kidney problem would be temporary.  They wanted more blood work done, so we had her blood drawn at the hospital before we left for lunch.  Before we even finished our food, the nurse practitioner called to tell us the results.  Baby B’s Potassium levels were too high, so she would need to be on medication and have blood work again in 4 days to see if it decreased.

I felt nervous as we headed to my former office.  After all, this was the place where I worked for 5 years.  I clerked in the Tallahassee office at the end of law school.  These ladies had been at my wedding.  They were there through my pregnancies and heard all the stories about my adorable toddler.  I was really going to do this — be a stay at home mom.  I never wanted that.  I mean, I wanted to be with my kids, and I hated leaving my son with a babysitter; but I liked using my education and my brain, too.  When we got out of the car, I held my office key in my hand, because I wasn’t wearing pants with pockets, but I didn’t want to lose it in the black hole of my purse.  I made small talk with the coworkers I hadn’t seen since the end of August, while they fawned over the baby.  The boss, office manager, and I went into the boss’ office where we had a phone conference with the big boss in Tallahassee.  I handed over copies of my resignation letter and started to cry as soon as I said that I didn’t know what Baby B’s life would be like, so I would need to stop working.  I did ask that they consider me for part-time or contract work from home when life became a little more settled, and they agreed.  Everyone was so kind and said they would miss me, but they understood.  I packed up my office (which was uncharacteristically clean, since I hadn’t been there in months), left my laptop with the boss, and said goodbye to my friends.  I was strangely happy in the car, as it went much better than I anticipated.  I didn’t know if my bosses would be upset by the news, but they seemed to be understanding and caring.   Now I could head home to focus on my babies (and my son) and try to figure out how to be the best mom to these sweet girls.

To read about the rest of our TTTS journey, click here.

Twin Mom, First Official Days

In the morning, I got my beautiful Baby A, fed her and held her.  It felt like it did when I had my toddler, except that this was all wrong.  My sweet Baby B was in the NICU with an I.V. and breathing machine.  The girls were separated for the first time in their whole existence, and it just didn’t feel right.  I still didn’t really know what to expect for her, and I took little comfort in the fact that Baby A seemed to be so perfect.  It just made me even more sad.

I was finally moved to a room on the Mother/Baby Unit (for some reason, they didn’t move me there the night before, so I remained on the Labor and Delivery Floor) right as my friend K came to visit.  We chatted for a bit before I asked for Baby A to be brought to the nursery so I could go down to see Baby B.  K wheeled me down there, and we both saw my sweet girl, her condition unchanged from the night before.  I still wasn’t able to hold her.  It was so surreal that I had this sweet baby who I hadn’t even been able to hold yet.

The neonatologist was going to come by her isolette and discuss B’s ultrasound results with me — her brain and kidney ultrasounds.  My husband was on his way, so K left and he joined me.   The neonatologist told us that her kidneys were enlarged and they would need to keep an eye on her kidney function.  Because of how TTTS works and can affect each baby, Baby A had also had a kidney ultrasound, although hers seemed to be ok.

The bulk of the conversation centered around Baby B’s brain ultrasound, which showed there was an absence of white and grey matter in the frontal lobe of her brain.  I don’t remember the specifics because I was so upset, but he couldn’t tell us what that meant for her life.  I just cried and cried as I patted her little leg from my chair.  I didn’t know if we would even leave the hospital with her.  The neonatologist also said that if she wasn’t able to breathe independently by the next day, he would place her on a ventilator briefly to put surfactant in her lungs so she, hopefully, could start to breathe on her own.

We returned to the Mother/Baby room and Baby A.  Visitors were in and out all day: my parents with our toddler, my nephew, stepsons with their mom and grandma, and some friends.  My husband brought people down to the NICU to visit Baby B and was even able to briefly hold her, even though she was still hooked up to the machines.  I started having a lot of back and incision pain and did not make it down to see her again that day.  I know that she had other tests done that day, but I don’t really remember what they were.

The next morning, I waited for Dr. OB to come in and check on me before I went to see Baby B, because I didn’t want to miss seeing him and thought he would be in around 9.  He came in around noon, looking much more somber than usual.  He had been in the NICU for at least an hour and discussed Baby B with the neonatogist.  He said that with microcephaly, we wouldn’t know what she would or would not be able to do or what her life expectancy would be.  No one had mentioned life expectancy yet, and I immediately burst into tears.  Dr. OB also said that he looked back at my records to see if they missed something, and he even spoke with Dr. MFM to have him do the same.  He said that he didn’t see where anything was missed, but he only had Dr. MFM’s reports on which to base his information.  Dr. OB said that this diagnosis was not one with which we should have been blindsided.  He said that Dr. MFM was supposed to call and discuss this with me, too.  I told him that Dr. MFM wouldn’t call me; I was sure of that.  (He still hasn’t, almost 6 months later.)  Although the nurse who cared for me the night before said that I probably would go home that day, Dr. OB said that I could stay another day if I felt like I should.  Had Baby B not been in the NICU, I might have agreed to go home that day, but I didn’t want to leave.  I wanted to be as close to her as possible while I could, and I was still having pretty terrible lower back pain.

The photographer came to ask if we wanted Baby A to be photographed.  I refused, because it didn’t seem right to have a professional picture taken of her without her sister.  Baby A had her hearing test and some additional blood work done to check on her kidneys, too.  She almost did not pass the tests and needed multiple blood draws to keep an eye on her Potassium levels.

I saw Baby B that afternoon, which is where I learned that Dr. OB had been down in the NICU for so long that morning.  The plan was for her to have the surfactant placed in her lungs that afternoon and hold back her feedings to make sure she was able to keep food down.

Baby A, my husband, and I spent the last night in the hospital and waited to be discharged.  I finally was able to hold Baby B that morning!  It was amazing!  She was off the machines, and I could immediately see how tiny her head was, especially compared to Baby A’s.  She seemed pretty attentive and was so cute.  I cheered up a bit, seeing that she WAS able to breathe.  She was also starting to take bottles, which made me relieved that she seemed to be able to eat on her own, too.  We were fortunate that the NICU allowed us to bring Baby A in to be with Baby B before Baby A and I left the hospital.  We took lots of pictures, and the girls seemed to fall right back into being each other’s partners.  Baby B, with her I.V. taped to her arm, reached over to touch Baby A and look at her.  It was amazing to see them reunited and heart-wrenching to have to leave her and go home with just one baby.  There really is no feeling more bittersweet than bringing home one healthy baby but leaving another baby behind in the NICU.

Stupidly, I googled “microcephaly” that night in the bathroom.  I had a very long panic attack, complete with hysterical crying.  My husband came in to try to calm me down and remind me to stay off the internet.  I just wanted to see if there was any information about life expectancy, because Dr. OB was the only one who ever mentioned it.  It seemed that the neonatologist probably did not say anything because there are so many unknowns, but a shortened life expectancy is likely with microcephaly.  The fact that I can write this now shows you that I am on some good antidepressants, but also that I believe in my baby girl.   She is amazing, and I know she will surpass any and all expectations.

My husband and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary by visiting her while my parents watched Baby A and the toddler, then picking up Olive Garden to eat at home.  I was in so much pain and had such a hard time going to the hospital every day, but I felt bad that we were only going to see her one time a day.  I felt like a fraudulent mother, abandoning my sick baby to be with her healthier twin.  Baby B remained in the NICU until that Saturday, although we thought she was going to be able to go home on Friday after her MRI.  Her Creatinine levels were high, and the pediatric nephrologist at APHC wanted to monitor her blood to ensure that there was a downward trend.  We made an appointment to bring Baby B to Orlando to see the nephrologist the following Friday so he could follow up with her.

By the time Baby B was able to come home, she was able to nurse well, she was pooping like a champ, and she was still cute and as calm as could be.  She liked to snuggle, and the nurses in the NICU had taken to holding her quite often because she was so sweet and no longer hooked up to a bunch of machines.  Right before leaving, we met withe the neonatologist to go over the MRI.  She said the MRI confirmed that there was a loss of white and grey matter, but again, she refused to speculate about what Baby B’s future would be.  We were just happy to be bringing her home, so we gathered the tiny hats and blanket made by volunteers, said our goodbyes to the kindest, most giving nurses in the NICU, and strapped our tiny baby into her carseat to head home.  Finally, our sweet Baby B was reunited with her sister and officially met her brothers.  Our life finally felt complete.

To read about the rest of our TTTS journey, click here.

Go Babies, It’s your Birthday

Once I knew that it was the babies’ birthday, I started to get excited.  Finally, I would be able to move around again!  Finally, I’d have my babies in my arms.  Finally, I’d be able to snuggle with my son again!  The babies seemed to be moving around pretty well, and our only worry besides the possible kidney issue was whether we’d be able to tell them apart.

I texted Dr. OB to tell him that the babies were coming and ask if he could call the on-call OB and fill her in on all the craziness of my pregnancy.  He said he would and wished us luck.  We signed the paperwork for c-section and tubal ligation (no more kids for us!), met with the doctor and the neonatologist who would be taking care of the babies, and I was prepped for surgery!

Since I had a prior c-section, I knew what to expect, but it was still scary to have the spinal block and wait for my babies to be taken out of my belly.  Baby A was born at 3:02 p.m., weighing 5 pounds, 3 ounces; Baby B at 3:03 p.m., weighing 5 pounds, 2 ounces.  At first, we heard two loud cries, and we were pretty excited.  However, Baby B was having trouble breathing, and we were told that she would need to be moved to the NICU to be put on a breathing machine (CPAP) as soon as possible.  The neonatologist also mentioned that she has microcephaly.  We had no idea what that meant.  Baby A seemed to be fine.  She was taken to the baby nursery to be weighed, measured, and bathed.  I sent my husband with Baby A and listened to the doctor and her assistant (there were very few people left in the operating room once the babies left) discuss black Friday shopping and my pretty pink Kate Spade bag.

I lay there listening to their conversation and wondered if the babies were ok.  I could figure out that microcephaly meant “small head,” but I didn’t know anything else about it.  We were never told before she was born, during any of the ultrasounds (which were at least once a week, sometimes up to three times a week) that there was any concern about Baby B’s head size.

In recovery, a nurse asked if they could give Baby A some formula, because her blood sugar was low.  They wanted to ask, because I said I wanted to breastfeed.  I said, “Of course.  If she needs it, please don’t hesitate to give her formula.”  My husband rejoined me and the neonatologist came in to discuss the babies with us.  He said that Baby A seemed to be OK, but she barely squeaked by the requirements for the regular baby nursery.  Baby B was on a CPAP machine.  He said that she has microcephaly and brain damage caused by the TTTS.  Wait, what?  We were only told about a possible kidney problem!  The neonatologist said that they would do an ultrasound of her brain as well as her kidneys, and he would request an MRI of her brain as well to determine the extent of the damage.  I don’t think it really sank in at that point, because we hadn’t really seen her.  My husband said that after they pulled her out of me, she was gasping for breath and turned blue.  It was scary, but he knew that was why the doctors were there.  I didn’t even get a picture with her.  They had brought her by me and swept her away in the incubator.  In the rush of hormones and craziness, I just tried to focus on the babies being here, and I thought they would probably be OK.  I shot off a few casual text messages to some friends, coworkers, bosses, and Dr. OB, saying that the babies were born, but Baby B had some health issues and brain damage.  Dr. OB assured us that we were in good hands with the neonatologist.  Everyone said they would be praying for us.  I just posted on Facebook that Baby B had some health issues and would need to spend some time in the NICU.  I didn’t know how to explain something that I didn’t understand, and I didn’t want to answer the inevitable questions or field the barrage of condolences I was sure would come.  I just wanted to be happy and enjoy this day.

My parents came to the hospital and brought my sweet son.  He got to meet his sister, Baby A, and he stayed with Papa while my mom, husband, and I (in a wheelchair) went to the NICU to meet Baby B.

Little Baby B was hooked up to the CPAP machine, which was forcing air into her lungs.  She was only on room air, not oxygen, which was great.  It was still so scary to see her hooked up there, with her little head and tubes attached to her body.  I cried, touched her, and said, “Mommy’s here, honey.  I love you.”  I needed to get back to the room, as I had just undergone major surgery, but I still couldn’t really process what was happening.

That night, I sent my husband home to get a good night’s sleep and get all the things we needed to mail my placenta to the hospital that performed the TTTS surgery (yes, it’s weird, but it’s part of the agreement when you have the surgery).  I kept Baby A in the nursery so I could get some sleep, and I exchanged text messages with a few friends.  Again, I wasn’t able to be super-excited about the birth of my babies.  I wondered what life would be like.  What was the extent of her brain damage?  Would she be able to breathe on her own?  Would she be able to eat on her own?  Move?  Talk?  What would we do?  How would this even work?  Was I being punished for being a bitch about how much better my son was compared to other people’s kids?  Would I be able to go back to work?  Would she be functional?  Would her sister feel guilty?  Would she resent her sister, even though they clearly had no choice in the matter?  Worse, would she not have the capacity to resent her sister?  I couldn’t imagine.  I have always been proud of my intelligence, and one of the things my husband and I love so much about each other are our big brains.  Would we be able to handle this?  I had so many questions and worries, but no answers.  I did sleep that night, on and off, alone for the first and last time in a while.

To read about the rest of our TTTS journey, click here.

Smoother Sailing

So after the surgery and the growth restriction scares, we finally went to appointments with Dr. MFM where everything was looking OK.  In the meantime, I was diagnosed with Cholestasis of Pregnancy, a gallbladder disorder that can come up during pregnancy and causes major itchiness, among other potential complications.  Fortunately, the medication I took for it worked pretty well, so I wasn’t scratching my skin off day and night.

I also canceled my baby shower, because I didn’t want to have a shower at my house when I was on bed rest and when we weren’t even sure if two babies were going to survive.  It was a sad decision, and it was hard not to celebrate the pregnancy like a normal person would.  I missed seeing my friends and opening all the cute outfits, saying, “oh, they’ll be so adorable in this!”  Instead, I was laying on my side, counting kicks, drinking water, watching all the t.v. I could stand, leaving the house only for doctors’ appointments, and counting down the days until December 2, when my c-section was scheduled.

I cried a lot.  I just kept waiting for more bad news.  We thought the babies would be ok, but there was still a concern about Baby B’s kidneys.  After what we went through, I just couldn’t allow myself to feel that positive about the outcome of the pregnancy.  I tried, but it was like I had post-traumatic stress disorder from TTTS and the surgery.  I questioned every move, replaying every doctors’ appointment and visit to the hospital and wondering why no medical professional could figure out that I had the signs of TTTS before the actual diagnosis.  I did everything right.  I went to the doctor when I was concerned.  I went to Labor and Delivery when I was concerned.  I went back when I still didn’t feel right.  Why the hell did it take so long?  Why did Dr. MFM not have me in for a follow-up ultrasound earlier?  With nothing but time, I did a lot of thinking, wondering, and questioning every move.

My poor son took some time to adapt to having mommy in bed all the time.  He knew that I needed to keep the baby sisters safe, but it was still hard for him.  Up until the time I got pregnant, he was the center of my universe.  It was an adjustment for all of us when that dynamic changed.

My wonderful husband had to do everything.  He took care of our son, his sons, me, and every household chore, in addition to going to work every day.  I know it wasn’t easy for him, but he very rarely showed how worn out he was or how stressed out he was, too.

I had to watch my little man go off for trick or treating without me.  I played Farmville on my phone constantly.  I cleared out the DVR.  I just maintained and grew babies…a human incubator.  The first time I felt like a normal person again was when I tried Jamberry nail wraps.  I just felt pretty.  It had been so long since I dressed up or did anything for myself.  I kind of threw myself into it to have something to do and something else to focus on besides the ticking clock.  I know it sounds strange, but it came at a time when I needed a little lift and a way to connect with people again.

It was November, and I knew that the babies might come at any time, and yet, they stayed put.  32 weeks passed, then 33, and 34.  I was surpassing everyone’s expectations of when the babies would come, and I was so grateful.  I started to think that maybe everything WOULD actually be ok.

My last appointment with Dr. MFM was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  The new ultrasound technician, who I didn’t like, did the ultrasound, and Dr. MFM came in briefly to mention the kidneys and tell us to come back on Monday if I didn’t have the babies before then.  I was really upset for some reason.  I just couldn’t place it, but there seemed to be huge differences in the ventricle size in the brains of Baby A and Baby B.  He said not to worry, it was probably nothing.  I still questioned why there would be a difference like this, and he said, “why are you still crying?  If I’m not worried, you shouldn’t be worried.”  How arrogant.  I guess I couldn’t argue with that, but I still felt funny about everything.  I just wanted to meet the babies and know that they were finally OK.

My dad, the chef, agreed to cook dinner at our house for Thanksgiving, since I couldn’t go anywhere.  My uncle, aunt, cousins, grandparents, parents, and nephew came over for dinner.  It was nice to have everyone over and really get excited about the babies being born, hopefully that following week.

My friend A came over the next day with her husband and their little boy.  It was great to see them, but it was even better to know that the next time I saw them, we’d have two little girls!

I kept joking that I’d definitely have the babies that weekend after Thanksgiving, because Dr. OB was going to Ohio then.  So I wasn’t entirely surprised, though I was disappointed, when I woke up Saturday morning and thought I might be leaking amniotic fluid.  I called the on-call doctor, and she told me to go ahead and come in to Labor and Delivery at the hospital as soon as possible (I was supposed to come in around 10:30 anyway for a non-stress test) so they could test me and see if my water broke.  If so, I’d be having my c-section that day.  She hung up and called me right back to tell me not to eat or drink anything so there wouldn’t be a huge wait to perform the c-section if I needed one.  I called my parents and asked if they could come up and meet with my husband to get the kids so he could be with me, just in case the babies were ready to come.

I got ready to go, and my husband dropped me off while he went to the park to wait for my parents.  He quickly joined me at the hospital, where I was hooked up to the monitors and watching the babies move around in my belly.  The nurse did the test and confirmed that I was leaking amniotic fluid, so we’d be having the babies that day, November 29.

To read about the rest of our TTTS journey, click here.

Present Day — Mother’s Day

I wanted to jump back to the present for a post before I go back and finish writing about how we got here.

Today (well, yesterday) was Mother’s Day.  I think about how much I’ve changed since becoming a mother.  I know people say that being a mother changes you, but it’s insane to look back and see how much.  Who am I?  I’m the mom of L, A, and R, above all else.  If you told me seven years ago, when I graduated from law school, that I would be a stay at home mom to a toddler and twins, one of whom has special needs, I wouldn’t have believed you.  My intelligence and career choice have always been what made me ME, and I was proud of that.  I looked down on moms who left their careers to stay home with babies (I should go back in time and slap myself).  Anyone could watch a baby.  Not everyone could write winning motions and appeals.

Then, I had L.  I got it.  What a bitch I was to judge before I knew how much of your whole self, not just your heart, is consumed by a child.  I finally understood how heart-wrenching and painful it was to leave your child with someone while you drove away to spend the day at a computer or in a deposition.  Nothing was as important as L.  I pushed through each workday thinking of him, missing him, worrying about him, and wondering what he was doing.  Being a lawyer wasn’t that important anymore, but we just couldn’t afford for me not to work.  I gradually accepted that I wouldn’t be there for his every move (or the first time he walked), but as I like to say (and as he’s started to say, too), “it is what it is.”  He was still happy and adorable, and I spent every possible minute with him when I wasn’t at work.

When I was pregnant with the girls and going through so many complications, we looked into whether I would need to go back to work.  We might be able to make it work if we had to, but we were waiting day by day to see if we would have micro-preemies, preemies, babies with health problems, or even perfectly healthy babies.  We had no idea what to expect until the very day the girls were born.  Until then, we were in the market for a new babysitter or daycare, because we weren’t confident that L’s babysitter could handle 3 babies when I returned to work.

The day the babies were born, and we were told that R had brain damage and microcephaly, we knew that I would need to be home with her, with all of them.  It was so hard to say goodbye to my coworkers, my boss, and the office where I worked for five years, but I knew it was the right thing to do.  We had no idea what R’s life would look like, what her abilities and limitations would be, and we couldn’t possibly trust a stranger with her or our other kids.

It was the right decision.  I know that.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some regrets…well, not regrets  in the typical sense, but frustration that I can’t have it all.  No mom really can.  Lean in all you want, but the more you lean in professionally, the more you lean out of your house and away from your kids.  I miss my coworkers and some of my clients, I miss the routine of getting up, showering, and even the hour-long commute to work.  But, I get to play monster trucks.  I get to make mini pizzas for lunch.  Sometimes I get to go to the park.  I get to pick out the matching outfits and blow raspberries on chubby bellies.  I get to snuggle.  I’m who they look to for comfort, to meet their basic needs, and I know they know that I’m mom.  I’m the one who’s there for them.  There’s no babysitter who mistakenly gets called “mom” because she’s there during the waking hours more than I am.

Recently, two local jobs that aren’t typical “legal” jobs have opened up.  They sound perfect for me, but not THIS me, the former me.  The me who didn’t have to go to doctor’s appointments in Orlando and therapy 2-3 times a week in Vero Beach.  I would apply, but I know I’d feel resentful if I were offered a position and had to turn down a job.  I don’t want to feel that on top of every damn emotion in the spectrum, which is what I feel every day.

I constantly wonder if I’m doing enough.  I’m not enforcing drinking from a regular cup enough.  I’m not holding the babies enough.  There’s two of them, and I only have two arms (and a toddler).  I’m not keeping the house clean enough.  I don’t spend enough time with my husband.  I’m not breastfeeding anymore — I couldn’t make enough.  It’s never enough.  I just can’t be enough.  I’m trying hard to be OK with not being enough as I work through this jumble of emotions every single day.  But I love them more than I’ve ever imagined.  I’d lay down my life a million times for any of them.  I may not be enough, but I’m there.  I’m me.  I’m their mom.  That’s enough.

More Bad News

The day after we came home, my mom insisted on having a birthday party for my son (a week early), because she was heading to Ohio during his actual birthday the following weekend.  I tried to rest, but I, of course, had to come out to sing happy birthday and be with him.  He was so unsure about what was going on, and it was hard for him that I couldn’t play with him or pick him up anymore.  There were nights when he would snuggle in bed with me, then start kicking or pushing on my belly.  He just wanted his mommy back.

When we went for a follow-up ultrasound the week after surgery, Baby B still did not have a visible bladder and she still had little fluid around her.  Baby A looked great!  Dr. MFM was concerned, so I was to come back in 3 more days for another ultrasound.

Three days later, Baby B finally had a visible bladder!  We were thrilled that she was making progress, however she was still much smaller than her sister.

The following weekend was our toddler’s actual third birthday.  We had a party planned for our family, and I tried to relax as much as possible as he opened monster trucks.  He had a nice birthday and really enjoyed his presents and monster truck cake, specially made by Papa.

That Monday, our toddler had an appointment for his 3-year check-up about an hour after my appointment with Dr. MFM, so my dad came up and brought me to my appointment so my husband could leave work to pick up our toddler from the sitter’s and bring him to the pediatrician.

Dr. MFM again came in during the appointment.  He was concerned about the size difference between the babies, and he initially said that he wanted to send me to the hospital for monitoring and likely delivery.  Luckily J, the ultrasound tech, mentioned that she saw signs of breathing and movement during the ultrasound, so Dr. MFM loosened his stance a bit.  He stated that he  thought that the girls would need to be delivered within the next two weeks.  Baby B’s kidneys were also enlarged.  I was so upset.  My dad held my hand as I cried and asked what we needed to do, because the babies were only 27 weeks.  I knew we had a long way to go in order to have healthy babies.  Dr. MFM provided no additional support.  He just explained “the facts” like a robot.

Dr. MFM said, “Well, if you deliver now, you’ll have two very sick babies.  However, you can choose to keep the pregnancy going and focus on getting Baby A here safely and forget about Baby B.”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I was flooded with emotion, and I couldn’t wrap my head around what he was saying.  Forget about Baby B?  Just move forward with the pregnancy, knowing that I might just have one baby at the end?  It was so hard to even imagine.

I left that appointment sad and confused, but I made it to the pediatrician’s office for my toddler’s well-visit.  I briefly told my husband what Dr. MFM said, and we just could not make sense of it.  So I called Dr. OB, who returned my call and tried to clarify that if there is a problem with Baby B becoming growth-restricted, it would be safer for her health for the babies to be delivered than for her to continue in utero.  He answered my important NICU questions.  The local hospital has a Level II NICU, but a baby must weigh at least 1000 grams in order to be able to stay in that NICU.  He spoke with the neonatologist, who said that if one of the girls is OK and able to stay in the local NICU, but one had to be transferred to APHC in Orlando, they would try to make sure that BOTH babies would be transferred (if they were stable), so that we would have both of our babies in one place.  Having a child in the NICU is difficult.  The only thing more difficult would have been having two children in two different NICU’s in hospitals an hour apart.

Dr. MFM was going out of town, so we were unable to chat with him for another two weeks.  I would still be seen in his office, but I would see doctors from one of the other office locations.  Dr. MFM also wanted me to receive a second round of steroid injections to ensure the babies’ lungs matured at birth.  I was told I had to have the injections the following week at the hospital.  However, when I came back the following week, the new doctor who we saw said that everything looked fine.  He was happy, kind, and even joked with us.  He did not want me to receive the steroid injections, because it looked like the babies were able to stay put…but I had already had the first injection the night before, so I needed to get the second one anyway.  Apparently, a pregnant woman can only receive the steroid injections twice, no more, during each pregnancy.  Plus, they were only effective for a few days, so if the babies weren’t born pretty soon, the shots would be ineffective AND I would not be able to get them again.

We were just happy that Baby B finally looked good, and we hoped that this meant she would continue to grow and be healthy and stay put until the end of the pregnancy.  Her kidneys were still enlarged, and we were told again that it was just something that they would keep an eye on during the pregnancy and after she was born.  She had fluid around her, so it appeared that her kidneys were working.  We were never under the impression that it would be a big deal at all.

To read about the rest of our TTTS journey, click here.