I realize it’s been a long time since you heard from me. Forgive me, I’ve been a tad busy.
Those who know me well know that I am always completely level-headed and stoic and never show any signs of emotion or anything. Right? 😉 Well, this post is a little sappy, even for me. Can you blame me?
So, to pick up where Katie left off, I’ll tell you about my experience through this whole thing.
We got checked into the hospital on Sunday afternoon and ended up staying the night there. I will say this about the experience of sleeping in a hospital:It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The bed was supremely uncomfortable and, once I did finally start to nod off, the nurses came in every hour or so and woke us up to check the monitors and take Katie’s vitals. They were super nice and very helpful though. I cannot stress enough how amazing nurses are. They do so very much work (and not all of it is fun either) and get so little credit for what they do. Nurses rock. Go hug a nurse. 🙂
I digress. As you know, Ella was head-down and Livi was transverse and breach. The nurse said they looked like a Yin Yang. However, the doctors felt that Katie was a good candidate for vaginal delivery. They had her deliver in the operating room for two purposes. First, they wanted to be ready just in case they had to do an emergency C-Section. Second, Ella needed to be rushed to the NICU immediately after birth so the doctors could make sure her heart was pumping and her lungs were working. (More on that later.) There is a handy little window between the OR and the NICU where, once the cord was cut, they could literally pass her through the window into the NICU and she would have immediate care.
Katie was wheeled into the OR at about 3PM and she began the delivery. She was a champion and the delivery itself took less than two hours. This is pretty amazing considering it was her first and it was twins. I’ll spare you the details of this part, but I will say this: delivering a baby, especially when it’s your baby, is an amazing, incredible thing to watch. Remember that I have wanted to be a dad since I was a kid. Remember that we have been trying and praying and crying and stressing and paying and trying to have kids for over five years now. Remember everything we went through and everything we’ve done to get to this point. Then imagine seeing baby Ella’s head. Just a tiny bit of it at first, then more and more as your wife gives it everything she’s got one final time. Then you see your baby girl and they hand you the scissors to cut the cord. (On a tangent, cutting the cord was weird and amazing. it was like trying to cut a leather belt. Much tougher than I’d imagined. Also, it was pretty cool.) The hardest part was that, once the cord was cut, our baby Ella was immediately, without a breath of hesitation or barely more than a glimpse of her, whisked away and through the window, and she was gone. It needed to be done, and we knew that it was the best thing for her, but it was hard to have done so much and gotten so far and then not be able to even see her.
Then began the ordeal of getting Livi out. This part was scary and hilarious. I want you to imagine a silly comedy segment with zany music playing while this is happening. The doctor literally had to reach up (yep, into her uterus) and grab Livi’s foot to pull her down. Every time the doctor said “I got her!”, Livi would kick the doctor and swim away. Almost as if to say, “Leave me alone! I finally have my own room!” It took the doctor at least four tries to get ahold of her and pull her down. While funny, this was also scary because the clock is ticking at this point. They grabbed Livi and pulled her out breach (Called a breach extraction), but her arm was over her head and she got stuck. They struggled for nearly three minutes to get her out, then finally pulled her out completely. This part was terrifying. I know its normal and that the babies often have to be woken up at this point, but to see this tiny, lifeless, limp body dangling there with her head stuck, not moving and doctors and nurses tugging and pulling on it… Yeah, I was a bit nervous. I also understand that the doctors and nurses are incredibly skilled and competent and know what they are doing. However, it is still disconcerting, having never given birth before, to not know exactly what’s going on. Especially when the doctors begin whispering to each other and muttering commands all around the OR. It’s a bit scary because you always wonder if everything is okay.
Livi came free and I cut her cord. They rushed her over to the table and began to poke, prod, rub and tickle her to try and get her breathing. Now, a breach extraction is a big shock to the system and it took them what seemed like hours to get her to wake up and start breathing. She did eventually “pink up” and begin to fuss. Livi seems to be a pretty chill baby so far (knock on wood), but you should have seen her. They got her to give one good squawk and she went right back to sleep. She was perfectly fine, but you could tell she just wanted to sleep. No crying, no fussing, just, “Fine, you got me out. Now leave me alone and let me sleep.” Not much has changed there so far. 😉
Meanwhile, Katie was still trying to deliver the placentas. Come to find out, the placentas were fused together and it took some real elbow grease to get them out. This was apparently the most painful part of the entire process for her, and she did end up losing a good deal of blood. Once we got back to the hospital room, she shivered violently for a good hour (which is apparently normal, due to hormones and the overall stress she had put on her body.) Both of the twins were pretty big at roughly five and a half pounds each, and Katie did end up with a second degree tear as well. All of this to say that my wife is amazing and awe-inspiring. She did all of this without a single complaint or whimper. She is the most amazing woman I know, and as much as I love her, I couldn’t have loved her any more in that moment or my heart would have exploded.
I was allowed to go visit Ella for a moment at this point, and lo and behold, she was fine. I was incredibly surprised to see her laying there on the blanket without a care in the world. Unlike her sister, Ella was very alert and awake. She was looking around and moving her head and was just so curious about everything in this bright new world of hers. The doctors soon determined there was no immediate risk or emergent surgery needed. Being that this was what we had been stressing about for months, and the very reason we delivered up at the U… Well, needless to say, we were exceptionally relieved. They did still have to get Ella over to Primary Children’s Hospital to plan the next steps and get her echocardiogram completed. The AirMed people brought her by to see her mommy for a few minutes before they walked she and I over to PCH and checked her into the CICU, but not before placing a tiny little gold bow on her head. 🙂 (The AirMed guy told me that the ride over would put her to sleep, but she was still wide awake and super curious the entire trip.)
At one point I walked into the Cardiac ICU and Ella had a kitty cat blanket wrapped around her. I asked the nurse about this and she replied, “Ella and I had a conversation this morning and she told me she liked cats, so I gave her the kitty blanket.” We liked this nurse immediately. As it turns out, both Livi and Ella are pretty chill, but when they do “cry” they emit a sound that could only be described as meowing. I guess they learned from Whisper during those last 9 months.
The next couple of days were spent in the hospital with Katie learning to feed Livi and me making frequent trips back and forth between the hospitals to see my two girls and show our visitors around. By this point, I had not slept in roughly 72 hours and was beginning to feel a bit drained. We were also getting reports of Ella’s condition. From a cardiac perspective, she was absolutely perfect. (She’ll still need surgery at 3-6 months to fix the defects, but for now her heart is doing its job and she’s doing great.) However, she was apneic (stopped breathing multiple times) and they had no idea why. There were also some physical abnormalities, such as the shape of her head and her umbilical hernia.
The CICU was great and we were so happy Ella had the best doctors and nurses in the nation tending to her. However it was a very emotional and terrifying few days as well. The doctors were throwing around lots of terms that made little sense to us. Terms like “genetic testing”, “developmental syndromes”, “renal function tests” etc. They also seemed to enjoy stringing together lots of random scientists’ last names and placing the word “syndrome” at the end. These were disconcerting to us, as we had no expectations and no preparation for the possibility that our little Ella may have genetic or developmental issues. To be blunt, they were testing Ella to see if she was mentally or physically handicapped. During the brain MRI, Ella suddenly went “splotchy” and red and her legs lost color. The technicians thought maybe it was a bad reaction to the contrast. Boy, was I getting confused at this point, but we later found out the more likely cause of all these issues. (Don’t worry, it was a very positive diagnosis.)
As it turns out, the brain MRI revealed multiple “embolic infarctions”, also known as clots. Now, apparently it is more common for babies to have blood clots and strokes when they are born, than it is for a 65 yr old fat guy. These are common and are “normal”. The other comforting fact is that, when you or I have a stroke, the blood loss to the brain damages neural pathways that are used for things like motor function. E.g. we can’t use our left arm anymore, etc. However, a baby has not even formed these pathways yet, so there’s really nothing to damage. Most infants’ brains just build those pathways around the damaged area and they are just fine. That being said, it looks as if Ella did have multiple strokes. We think that her “bad reaction” during the MRI was one such stroke. The doctors are very optimistic and they believe that she will be able to fully recover and build those pathways around the damaged areas. We will continue to monitor her as she grows and make sure she develops normally, but if not, we’ll know the cause. She also had some birth trauma, which is basically caused by her head being squeezed through an opening that’s too small. You know, like a birth canal. There were some subdural hemorrhages (bleeding under the skull) and her head was slightly misshapen by her exit. This is all very normal and will fix itself without complication.
The next big step is for Ella to learn to eat on her own. Once this is done, we can finally take her home and reintroduce her to Livi. We miss Ella like crazy, but we can only guess how her sister feels.
We are so very happy to have our two little girls with us finally. We know Ella has a long road ahead of her and there is still much we don’t know, and much we have to watch out for. If you asked me if I’m worried, I would say no. I love my Ella and I am just relived beyond measure to have her here, whether she ends up being developmentally challenged or not, she is my beautiful, special Ella and I couldn’t be more happy. Both of them are so gorgeous and just the most perfect little baby girls I could ever imagine. I’ve waited my entire life to say “Daddy loves you.” Now I can.