“I see a heartbeat,” says the ultra sound technician. I am so happy at this moment, relief that I was actually pregnant. My husband and I are in our late thirties so we knew how much harder it was going to be. I basically went into panic mode after trying for almost a year with no results, so off we went to see a fertility specialist. They did all the tests, said they didn’t see any reason for my infertility but because of my age they agreed to start with a round of Clomifene. We were warned that this more than often resulted in twins and we were fine with that. I wanted two anyways; thought may as well do it in one shot. HAH! Take heed to the saying be careful what you wish for. The technician continues her examination by saying, “Here’s another heart beat.” WHAT THE….are you for real? I was shocked but oddly ok with it, was letting the information settle when she had more to say on the subject. “Yes, there are 3 heartbeats, looks like 2 eggs were released and 1 egg split. You have 1 fraternal and 2 identical triplets.” I say nothing but look at my husband in absolute terror. Tell me she’s seeing things, that can’t be right. THREE!!! Oh my, God, this is more than I can handle and break down, how am I going to do this? As we leave the doctor’s office my heart beats with joy, astonishment and complete and utter fear. Now what?
The news finally sinks in and I start to accept the fact that soon my life will be very busy and blessed.
Our doctor tells us that we will most likely end up in the NICU as they see us only making it 32 to 33 weeks as is expected for triplets. The whole NICU unit was definitely a world I knew nothing about; little did I know how quickly that would change. Weekly doctor visits and ultrasounds soon gave us the news that they were all boys. What in the world? No girls, out of three chances no girls! Well, that became my main question at each ultrasound visit, “Are they still all boys?” I asked hopefully. Each time the answer was yes. I wish I had been a little more prepared mentally for what was about to occur but sometimes I feel it was a blessing to be so damn happy and oblivious. My doctor warned me about preeclampsia and other issues with having triplets but deep in my heart I really felt I would make it to 33 weeks.
Hurray, week 25 and no problems! I’m already looking like someone at the 9-month mark and but felt good besides being so large. I had been Christmas shopping and just enjoying the whole being pregnant experience. I was happy, excited and of course nervous. Who wouldn’t be with 3 rowdy boys on the way? Anyway, at a routine ultra sound the doctor suddenly notices the twins have not gained any weight since last week and my blood pressure was getting pretty high. She suggests keeping me overnight to keep an eye on it. This was not part of my birth plan, but I still thought everything would be fine.
Off I go, little naïve me went home and packed for what I thought would only be a day or two. Days turn into nights and before I knew it four full days had passed and I was still in the hospital. My faith was starting to wane, but my stubborn nature just wouldn’t give up. I’d developed a migraine meant to slow down a charging elephant and the medication wasn’t working anymore. I tried to keep myself calm and reason that this wasn’t how it was going to end. I had planned to do pregnancy pictures and the nursery wasn’t complete, and my house is a disaster! I’m not ready!
Throughout the evening things didn’t get any better and soon the inevitable news came. My doctor felt it was no longer safe to wait; the boys were making their grand entrance today. I was shaking like a leaf, physically because of the medication to bring my blood pressure down and this news wasn’t helping me to calm down. It hit me like a ton of bricks, I had preeclampsia and my fairy tale ending wasn’t going to happen.
DELIVERY TIME: 26 Weeks
Scared and completely at the mercy of the hospital staff is probably what I remember most of the next couple hours. Between the high blood pressure and all the medications coursing through me I was uncontrollably shaking but too nervous to ask any questions in case I didn’t want to know the answer. They proceeded to prep me for an emergency c-section and since being my first baby I didn’t have a clue what to expect. My only terrifying thought was that the spinal tap wouldn’t work and would feel them cutting into me, so shaking like a leaf was actually very appropriate for my situation. I finally asked and a very kind, grandfatherly type anesthesiologist told me they were already started. I was so relieved but not out of the woods yet. As I lay there I wondering if it would be like it is on The Baby Story, where they flash your baby over the curtain for a quick peek. Sadly my experience was nothing like it is on TV but I did get to hear one tiny cry and that was something to hold onto.
Once it was all over, I’m taken to recovery and my husband is now leaving to go be with the babies. When I’m finally allowed back to my room and alone with my husband, I break down. My faith is shaken to the core. How could God let this happen? I was so sure everything was going to go as I had planned. My husband shows me the pictures he took of our boys and we try to enjoy this small moment of being parents. Welcome to the world boys, born 14 weeks early. Jack William – 1lb 13 oz; 13 inches (singleton); Owen James – 370 grams (twin) and Zachary Robert – 360 grams (twin) Note: (1 lb = 454 grams)
TINY MIRACLE AMONGST A TRAGEDY
We were told before the delivery that the twins would probably not make it due to how small they were so I prepared as best anyone can. As predicted we lost Zachary very shortly after birth but our tiny miracle was Owen, my little squawker in the delivery room wasn’t going without a fight. The baby that no one thought would survive, did and in doing so became the smallest surviving preemie in our hospital. So Jack and Owen were NICU brothers for a short while. I was asked if I wanted to hold Zachary and I have to admit I wasn’t sure when they asked but all I knew was that I would regret it if I didn’t. My heart is breaking as I write this, words cannot explain how painful it was to see him like that but I am so happy I did it. I can’t imagine not getting to hold him and tell him I loved him. That day was so gut wrenchingly hard that I couldn’t even bring myself to go see the other boys in the NICU. I just couldn’t push myself anymore that day. Rest in peace: Zachary Robert – Jan 30, 2011-Jan 30, 2011.
Day 1: FIRST NICU VISIT
The doctors tried to prepare us for the NICU world, but I don’t think anything can. When your baby or babies are in there it’s a whole other experience. For me, it didn’t feel real, I honestly wanted to go back to my room and hide. Pretend this wasn’t happening. The doctors and nurses were trying to explain all the tubes and sounds but all I saw were my boys attached to every kind of machine available. It is really the most frightening and helpless feeling because you don’t know how to make it better or how to comfort them. It took a few days but eventually the shock wore off and was able to focus on the details of their health and suddenly things like bradying, heart rate numbers, blood pressure readings, etc become second nature. Being a NICU Mom is like being in a private club, who else has to learn to change a diaper sideways with their arms through an incubator or see how big a miracle can fit into such a tiny package.
My experiences with the NICU nurses was that 95% were amazing and are clearly meant for this job, the other 5% were less than desirable. My advice is, it’s your baby and you get a say. If you feel something is wrong, speak up. They may be the professionals but your still that babies Mommy and your instincts are stronger than any schooling. I didn’t always say something because I didn’t want to cause a scene but I should have, talk to another nurse if you have to but make sure you do what you feel is right.
The NICU is split into sections depending on the amount of care each baby requires; Bay 1 is extreme care, 1 nurse per baby. It goes all the way to Bay 6 which is where they prepare you to take them home. We were in Bay 1 and planned to be there for quite a while. Jack was doing as well as any 1 pounder can. He had the usual problems with being as small as he was, not breathing on his own, possible bleeding on the brain and R.O.P. to start with. Unfortunately, Owen had more urgent issues. After x-rays and many tests it showed that his intestines were not connected. So even if we did get him to eat he couldn’t expel it. This means a major surgery and for a baby weighing less than a pound that’s a very risky procedure. If the hospital was able to find a surgeon willing to do the operation it was no guarantee he would make it through. I cried through the doctor’s explanation of what our options were. I didn’t want to give up on my baby but at the same time to lose him in the operation room was not an option either. My husband tipped the scales when he said, “No one should leave this place without a hug.” You see we had not been able to hold him yet and that broke my heart when my husband said that. So we made the hardest decision in our lives. We took our one chance to hold our baby boy, we got to do Kangaroo care with him until we said we were ready and then we took him off the ventilators. He peacefully passed away in my arms. I love that little boy so much and question every day that we made the right decision. I’m very much a believer in heaven and will see my boys again one day, but it doesn’t make the wait any easier. Rest in peace: Owen James – Jan 30, 2011-Feb 3, 2011.
Big brother Jack had quite the adventure before he came home as well, but I’m grateful he made it as healthy as he did. Forgive me for not using technical terms for the surgeries and such, but I honestly can’t remember them all. Jack’s first major hurdle was to deal with a valve in his heart. All babies are born with this open valve and it naturally grows closed on its own. His did not and was causing him delays in breathing on his own. So he had his first surgery at not even two months old. I remember sitting there listening to the surgeon explain everything that “could” go wrong and then we had to sign that they could go ahead and operate. What a helpless feeling. He did amazing though and continued on to the next obstacle. Being a preemie there is always a big concern with how their eyes will develop and if they will have issues later on in life. There were delays in his eyes but managed to survive those terrible eye exams. Word of advice, it’s horrifying to watch and I consider those worse than any surgery he had to go through but we did survive. Each bay we hit was one step closer to coming home but each one had its battles and its successes. I am trying to recall my NICU experience and I know I was scared and went through a lot but now all I can seem to remember is the positive things. The first diaper change I did on my own, how exited we were when he gained even a half an ounce, the first time we got to feed him with a tube and then a bottle. The first time I was able to bath him, even the first time he got to wear a clothes which if I remember correctly wasn’t until he was almost 2 months old. Big events like grandparents and siblings visiting, each time he moved up a bay it was exciting news. Even the things I really hated I now look back on and think, wow, I can’t believe it did that. Seeing as he couldn’t breastfeed I was determined he was going to have breast milk, so I pumped the whole time he was in and up to 7 months in total. Anyone who is pumping knows how much work it is, but I am so glad I was able to do that, because some people didn’t get the choice. Jack was in the NICU for 101 days before they told us he was ready to come home. He now weighed 5 lbs, was still on oxygen but they felt he was ready. He was and although I was nervous about taking care of him by myself I was ready too.
He is now 2 ½ and we have been very lucky that he is a healthy, happy, rambunctious boy. He has been wearing glasses for about 10 months now and I’m glad we were able to catch that sooner than later. His reaction when we placed them on his face was priceless, like we showed him a brand new world.
I guess my best description of the NICU is like a roller coaster. You’re scared shitless before you even get in your car, then as your climbing higher and higher you wonder will I ever see the end of this. Suddenly you reach the top and look down, it’s the tallest, curviest ride you’ve ever seen and your grip is so tight you feel your hands going numb. You hit curve after curve, loopy loops and bumps and all you can do is scream and hang on. This ride feels like it’s never going to end but just as you start to accept that you’re going to be here forever, the ride starts to slow down, the bumps are getting smaller and you can see the end. You made it and it’s a ride you will never forget.
This is my first time writing down my story in almost three years and I’m still crying like it happened yesterday. So to all those who have gone through something similar, my words of wisdom are these. It’s ok to cry, I have done it every time I think of Zach and Owen, but the crying spell gets shorter and shorter. I still have the same amount of love but the acceptance is starting to sink in.
I consider myself a very, very lucky woman. God gave me my Jack. He’s a strong, tough little boy and you would never know how much he went through to get here. Each step of the way was frightening, we gave permission to strangers to cut him open, let nurses we loved and disliked take care of him, we had to trust 100% in the hospital’s decisions when we weren’t there. I know some families had many more problems than we did so as I said; I count myself as a very blessed mother. I will tell my son about his brothers when he’s old enough to understand and maybe by then I can speak without crying, but even if I can’t he’ll know I love them just as much as I love him.
Our success is warranted to the tremendous support BloomNICU receives from local community through corporate sponsorship and from the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan. A variety of sponsorship packages are available.