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#TheAndersonTwins’s birth story

If my pregnancy had gone well, bar the usual stuff, the delivery was everything but. A C section was planned from the very beginning and I’d accepted that. “Choose a date in your 37th week” my Dr said so we chose a Friday and diarised that. We were all set.

As the time crept closer, my Dr (who I had specifically chosen for his experience in delivering multiples and high risk pregnancies) said he needed a back operation and would legally not be allowed in theatre for 6 weeks after. And my delivery date was smack in the middle of that. Awesome. I really liked him and wanted him to do it as he came highly recommended by my fertility Dr (who I adore). A few of the ladies I’d met at my infertility support group were Doctors themselves and all of them went to him, so I felt very reassured. He was always on time (a friggin’ miracle!), straight to the point, had a good beside manner (even if he was old school) but most importantly no one in SA has delivered more multiples than he has. He recommended his wife (also a gynae, practising on the premises). She was lovely. I had my last few scans with her (they were now weekly) and I felt good again.

In my 36th week I was booked to go for my very last scan. By this time, I knew the drill. Pick up a jar from the receptionist. Go pee. Bring the sample back to the nurse. Get my blood pressure (BP) checked. Then I’d go in and see the Dr. It was a Tuesday morning and I was really just going through the motions, thinking about the coffee catch up A and I would have after (this was our little ritual we did post each appointment to oooh and aaah over the scan pics and debrief). I had a stack of meetings that day and some errands to run too. But none of that was to be…

The nurse announced there was protein in my urine. My BP was elevated. Basically, I had preeclamsia. “We need to watch you closely & get these babies out” my Dr said even before we’d taken a seat across from her in her office. I was sent home to get my hospital bag and was to be admitted asap. En route home, she wanted me to get some bloods done to understand just how bad things were. In the interim, she was going to call the labour ward and tell them to get a bed ready. A & I looked at each other with eyes bulging out of our heads in stunned silence. This was really happening. And it was happening now! We did the bloods, raced home and on our way there were both on the phone cancelling whatever we’d had planned for the day. Shit was getting real.

So many things were going through my head. I was grateful we’d made it to 36 weeks – many twin pregnancies don’t. But naturally I still worried if they would be ok. I had never been hospitalized or had any major surgery in my life. What would the C section be like? What if something went wrong? We had a great medical team who were the most qualified to deliver multiples. I was carrying dizygotic twins (fyi the safest/lowest risk kind – each has their own placenta and sac). I kept countering every negative thought with a positive one…

“We thought you weren’t coming anymore” the hospital said when we finally checked in late that afternoon. My hospital bag suitcase was long packed but I just found one thing after the other to do at home, dilly dallying & that’d delayed us getting there. Clean out the fridge, water the plants, set my out of office… What about Emma? We’d only booked her in at the kitty shelter from the following week…

I was immediately hooked up to a foetal heart rate monitor (they have a special one for twins that can measure both at the same time). And we started steriods. Meanwhile the bloods came back and things weren’t too bad. The plan remained to finish up the course of steriods in the next hours and then go get ’em babies out Thursday morning first thing. At this point I was sharing a room with just one other lady, also under close observation for an imminent delivery. I had the bed furthest from the door, close the window. I kept the curtain around my bed drawn closed permanently (I really ain’t chatty in person) and we shared a bathroom. I was really grateful for the semi privacy.

The time from that Tuesday afternoon admission to the Thursday morning delivery really d-r-a-g-g-e-d. As much as people were saying I had preeclamsia etc., I really didn’t *feel* any different except more anxious for the time to come already so I can meet my babies and know they’re ok. A took leave immediately from that moment in the Drs office and was literally at my bedside the while time – only heading home to sleep and see to Emma and a member family we had living with us at the time. He was constantly joking, making sure I had a full jug of ice on hand all the time (it was an addiction!) and kept me distracted with food, lots of food (Ubereats comes to the hospital ya’ll!).

Funny story… I was so bored that on the Wednesday night I decided to wash my hair. Yup I’d packed all of my hair products, my micro fibre towel, diffuser, alles, I was ready! It was late and I felt bad about the noise the hairdryer would make (for the lady I was sharing with) so I asked the nurses if there was a spare room or any place I could quickly diffuse my hair for like 15 minutes – I just needed a plug point basically. They showed me to a small, empty room and I got on with it. It was cold so I left the windows closed and shut the door. I’m like 9/10 minutes in and and three nurses come bursting into the room – apparently the smoke and heat from my dryer had set off the smoke alarm. “Tell them to cancel the fire brigade” one nurse called out to someone behind her. I. Could. Not. Stop. Laughing… and it was just the giggle I needed in an hour of peak anxiety! Later, I filled out some paperwork about what we wanted done with the placenta, could they give formula if necessary etc. (I wasn’t expecting it to be all so formal) and I was grateful when I closed my eyes and sleep actually did come…

I was told to be ready for theatre at 7am that Thursday morning. The anaethesist came to chat to me in my room while I waited just letting me know what the order of things were going to be and what to expect from the spinal block specifically. I was the second c section for that morning so I had to be ready as soon as they were. I was 36 weeks and 5 days. We’d done good. And even without steroids twins’s lungs development is generally faster than that of a singleton because they hardly make it to 40 weeks (ain’t nature amazing!). A lady I’d met at my fertility support group (who incidentally had the same IVF Dr as me!) and I’d become friends with had had twin girls recently at 28 weeks. I had met the girls a couple of weeks before and they were doing great after a long NICU stay. So I kept telling myself we got this…

It was so strange being wheeled into theatre. A looked super cute in his scrubs and having him there was the biggest comfort ever. His eyes never left me, I could feel them. It was cold in theatre, but I knew it would be. There were so many people in the room – they all introduced themselves but a second later I couldn’t remember who was who except for my gynae and the paed. Everyone was in really high spirits.

The idea of an injection into my spine wasn’t thrilling and I was pretty tense about that. So tense that the aneathesist couldn’t find “the spot” to do it in. More nerves. I felt him feeling up on my lower back for what felt like aaaaages. He came around the front to chat to me, told me (again) it wouldn’t hurt and to take a deep breath. Before I was done exhaling, I heard him say “that’s it” only to find out the spinal block was done and it really hadn’t hurt.

Naturally I was scared of “the cut” too but if you don’t feel the spinal block, you really don’t feel the cut. At. All. Yeah I know, that’s the point of the spinal block but its hard to believe you feel nothing when this actually major surgery. Well, not nothing – I did feel some tugging and some pressure but couldn’t even remotely describe it as pain. My chest was covered with a sterile kind of mat/blanket and I was told to keep my hands underneath, but some reason, I just couldn’t and they kept having to tuck my arms back under it again & again! I still don’t know why I did this, it was like a reflex! I kept looking around the room, taking everything in. I could feel feel A’s eyes on me & was so grateful he was there knowing that in public hospitals partners aren’t usually allowed to be in the room. I remember looking at the two onesies and matching hats (one marked Twin I & the other Twin II) the midwife had neatly laid out on the incubator thinking “there are going to be two real whole people wearing that soon…”

In those very last moments before the c section I was thinking about our infertility journey. The last 5 years. The last five years of our lives were coming down to this exact moment. We just had one more hurdle to jump. Juuuust one more. The tears, the injections, the Drs visits, the money we’d thrown at this, our marriage taking strain, the fights, the pregnancy announcements I had survived, the baby showers I had dodged. The friends I’d lost. The depression… We. Were. Here. And we were still alive…

At 9:37am that Thursday morning Misha was born at 2.34kg. She cried at first and then she was quiet. I’ll never forget that little heart wrenching voice. They lifted her up and showed her to me and then handed her over to the paed & then to A. She came out both fists clenched in the air and that pretty much sums up my feisty, strong girl. I could see A crying. One down one to go. And then they went back to get Amir. He came out screaming at 1.94kg just two minutes later. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. If I didn’t literally see them come out of my own body, I would not believe that they are mine. Along the line of this journey I had to start thinking and reconciling the fact that this might never happen. We might never have a child, ever. And I daren’t have been so greedy as to wish for two. So when I say this was surreal, it really was. In some ways it was like watching a movie, only we were at the centre of it…

They were about an arms length away from me in the incubator, being cleaned, measured, weighed & dressed. I didn’t get to hold them. We didn’t do skin to skin. I couldn’t try and latch them. I remember suddenly feeling very, very thirsty and asking for water. I was given sachets of 5mls of water at a time from these sterile pouches and I recall thinking “thats not enough, I need more…”. And that’s the last thing I remember from theatre before I passed out…

I woke up in High Care. I was the only person there, probably 10 or more empty beds around me. A was next to me, visibly relieved that I was awake. I later found out that I was only in High Care because there were no beds in ICU at the time. A couple of hours later I was moved to ICU. The only way to stop preeclamsia is, well to not be pregnant, i.e. get the babies out. In my case, that it didn’t work and my symptoms actually worsened, coupled with the fact that I’d lost a lot of blood in theatre. And so, what was supposed to be a 3 day hospital stay turned into 20 days. Twenty gruelling days. My kidneys were failing and I was on dialysis almost daily. I had several blood transfusions. Physio was daily. I had a catheter, used a bed pan, couldn’t sit up and had to be washed in bed by the nursing staff. I was as bloated as the Oros man but the worst thing of it all was not being able to see my babies…

On the evening that I’d given birth I got to meet Misha for the first time. She was in the nursery & everything was perfect with her. Amir was is NICU (on a completely different floor), not because anything was wrong, but just as a precaution since he was under 2kg and was getting some oxygen. I couldn’t sit up (i.e. in a wheelchair) so arrangements were made for me to visit Misha by being wheeled there in my hospital bed, at night when things were quieter. That first time I saw her crumpled face, drowning in a pink newborn onesie I just couldn’t. Stop. Looking. At. Her. This child we had dreamed about and named years ago was here. She was real. She was a warm squirmy bundle in my arms. I was taking in every detail. Her eyes, skin, I examined every little finger and toe. She was exquisite.

I only got to meet Amir days after he was born – there was just no way to get my hospital bed into the NICU (physically, i.e. space wise). For days I lived on the dozens and dozens of photos and videos that A sent me of him. If Misha was small, he was so much tinier. I watched videos of him, of them both, over and over in my hospital bed to get me through those days. Those days I was supposed to spend bonding with them, breastfeeding them, experiencing their “firsts”. I felt robbed, but I told myself to be grateful I was having this experience at all. I relived in my head what it was like meeting Misha that night, how she smelled, how she felt and that pink frumpy face. I imagined what it would be like when I got to meet my sweet boy…

I met Amir almost a week after he was born, when I could finally sit up for a few minutes at a time – long enough to get into a wheelchair and get pushed up to NICU. A nurse always accompanied A & I, just to be on hand in case something happened to me (and annoyingly) to make sure I didn’t stay out of my hospital bed for more than 10-15 minutes max. I could honestly never picture myself as a boy mama, even when I was pregnant. What did I know about boys anyway? He was the sweetest baby from the get go. He was just so small. He looked prem even though he technically wasn’t (from the scans, we knew Misha would be bigger because she had a better umbilical cord (i.e. food supply)). I could hold him in my one hand and still feel like I was going to break/hurt him. He had so much hair unlike Misha and he had these big, bulging eyes that just stared right at you while blinking slowly. He still does this, and its my absolute favourite thing…

The C section itself actually isn’t a biggie. People told me that but it was hard to believe until I got there. If you rest well, you’ll recover well. Physio helped me a lot and as much as I say rest, you do need to move a bit too – just walk if you can, nothing strenuous. It is weird not to have any tummy muscles and I remember crouching down one day in hospital and I literally did not have the strength to bring myself back up. I had to force myself onto my knees and pull myself up leaning on my bed. But its all short lived and pain meds are a Godsend. I was really scared about the c section plaster coming off but it was another non event: not sore, no stitches (they were all internal) and my cut/scar was super neat. Unless you look very closely you won’t see it at all – my gynae did good!

It’s hard to describe my time in hospital fully. Of the 20 days I spent there with their birth, the first 2 nights were in the labour ward (boring) as I’ve mentioned. Then 1 day in High Care & 12 days in ICU (the worst!) and then I graduated to spend 5 more days in the (cushy!) maternity ward. ICU is horrendous. There are no “rooms”, it’s a huge a circular ward with about 12-14 beds & the nurses station in the centre island. At most, you can request the curtains to be drawn around you when you change, get bathed in bed etc. I don’t see how anyone can get well there because you really can’t rest properly. You’re hooked up to oxygen, a BP monitor and a heart rate monitor 24/7. I had these “inflated cuffs” on both my calves to help with blood circulation. It’s like a being trapped in a spiders web. Even if I could sit up and move around, I wouldn’t be allowed to because I had to be monitored & if I dared disconnect myself from from even one of these (because gatvol!), some or other machine would start beeping loudly and a nurse would be over to reconnect me in seconds. The lights never really went off at all. It was dimmed around 10pm but not hardly enough to sleep and back on at 5am to start breakfast. There were no curtains on the windows. Doctors started doing their rounds by 6am. I needed to see my physician, nephrologist and gynae daily, twice a day. Ditto for the paed to get an update on the twins. I had my finger pricked every 4 hours for bloods. Proper rest was impossible and time dragged.

Of my hospital stay the 12 ICU were the worst and of those days, dialysis was by far the worst part of it all. I didn’t know what dialysis was before this. I knew it was something to do with your kidneys, maybe… Well put simply your kidneys are failing and you have to be hooked up to a dialysis machine so that it can do the work of your kidneys for you – i.e. your body’s full volume of blood gets pumped through it so that impurities and anything thats not supposed to be in your blood (toxins etc.), can be flushed out. This takes anywhere from 3-5 hours a day and you have lay very still for the machine to work well. Now to “connect” you to this machine, they have to create a “line” i.e. insert a tube into you (that stays in indefinitely or for 12 days in my case) that they then use to connect and disconnect you from the dialysis machine as and when you need treatment. Getting this tube inserted is incredibly painful and the two options are to do it in your neck or inner, upper thigh – I chose the latter. And then the line failed twice. They put it in my right thigh first. It stopped working after a few days and they decided to try in my left thigh. It just wouldn’t work there at all so they went back into my right thigh & “had to make it work”. Aside from missing my babies, dialysis was the main reason I cried in hospital. Every morning when the Drs made their rounds and looked at all my test results to decide if I needed dialysis that day or not, I held my breath (it was almost always a yes) and waited for them to step away before I let those tears roll. Dialysis really, really sucks.

Its really at times like this that I’m so grateful for who I married. Besides taking a month+ off from a really hectic pressured job (& we’re a 1 income family) and physically being there I could feel A’s stress & anxiety though he always tried to play it cool. He was there before I opened my eyes in the morning and usually had to be kicked out by one of the nurses at night. He kept our friends updated daily. He smuggled McD’s into ICU when I couldn’t manage hospital food anymore and had had virtually everything on the hospital’s coffee shop menu already. He helped me start pumping and arranged lactation consultant to come to the hospital when I struggled. He arranged for me to get a pedi in my hospital bed. Brought me my choices of movies downloaded on his iPad. I could see him rushing between me in ICU, Misha in the nursery and Amir in NICU. Meetings he couldn’t absolutely avoid happened downstairs in the hospital coffee shop. He sent me endless videos and pics of the twins and kept me updated about how they were drinking, sleeping etc. everyday. Thanks to him, hospital WiFi and WhatsApp video calling, I got to see & “join in” on their fist baths, feeds etc. Someone recently asked me what his experience of the twins’ birth story was like. I honestly hadn’t thought about it much but I decided to ask him and he replied “lonely”. It was several weeks after I was home & well that he told me he thought at the time there was a real possibility I was going to die… I married well y’all.

I have a newfound respect for the nursing profession. I know we all know its a thankless job, but wow, the level to which it is astounds me. Twelve hour shifts often at night, having to bathe strangers, brush their teeth, hair, take them to the loo, clean up “accidents” and often they’re not well treated by patient at all! There was a moment when a nurse was putting on my deodorant on and asking me which tube of cream was for my face vs my body and asking me if I needed a clean maternity pad that I was just wowed by these women (and a few men) who chose this calling. It ain’t for everyone. And I’m super grateful to them.

After 12 days in ICU I was released to the maternity ward for a further 5 days. This is where most people normally go straight after giving birth. We finally got to be in the private room (with a jacuzzi, balcony and most importantly heaps of space) we’d booked. A finally got to stay with us. For the first few nights, Misha roomed in with us. A bit later on we got the news that Amir was allowed out of NICU to stay with us too. That first night of the 4 of us together, was magic (albeit zero sleep!). We were a family, finally physically together for the first time. It was very, very precious.

Almost three weeks after checking into hopsital (for what I thought was going to be 3 days) we were all released to go home. I’ll never feel like I can do this story justice and hope that I’ve mostly kinda done right by A, Misha and Amir with my version… but I’m 3990 words in, so Imma stop…

Nothing went as planned. But nothing matters except that we got our babies. And they’re perfection.

W

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