Friday, October 22, 2010

525,600 Minutes

Never has a year of my life flown by as quickly. In some ways the most difficult year of my life, but in most ways, the best. Where did these minutes disappear? I miss my babies. But I love my little girls.

For this, the "Birthday Blog", I want tell you about each of my little angels. The change and growth which has occurred in the first year has been exponential. So though I've described them as babies, I want to introduce them to you as little people.

Delaney Jill
For so long, you were the tiniest, the frailest. Since, you've come roaring forth to become a healthy, strong, willful little gal. Still gentle, your personality has exploded in recent months, making us smile, laugh, and, occasionally, gasp.

You love music and have some wicked dance moves. You hang on to your little music table and shake your booty, wave your hands and twist your hips. Such a girlie-girl!

You prefer to play independently, but love to mimic your sisters--even mimicking some of their strangest behaviors (like banging your head against the couch?).

You learned quickly how to endear yourself and you work the cuddle-bug angle. I love holding you, feeling you mold into me and doze into a perfectly relaxing sleep. You are so trusting and mild-mannered. When you meet someone new, you flirt and coo--showing off all your cuteness. Everyone gravitates to your cute nature and you have developed quite a fan base.

You crave the skills your sisters have mastered, but are tentative about risks. Besides, why walk when you can bat your big blue eyes and be carried?

You overcame overwhelming odds to meet and exceed developmental milestones. You are a fighter--tiny but mighty! And not so tiny anymore... Born underweight, underdeveloped and at risk, you now are the biggest of the three. You are my little miracle, and I'm humbled to have you in my life.

Devynn Jane

When you were born, you seemed so strong and ready for the world. Within an hour, though, it became clear you were struggling to breathe on your own, and I was so worried when they took you to join your sister in the NICU. However, you thrived and soon I was able to do your caretaking--changing your diaper (the size of a pack of playing cards), taking your temperature, and feeding you from a bottle scarcely larger than an eyedropper. Since Delaney was not in the condition to be held and Drew was still inside Mommy C, I was able to spend all my time with you. Sitting next to your little incubator, I sang you songs, told you stories, and tickled your tiny arm. When I left you at night, I'd stare at your picture on my phone until I dozed off.

You were, and continue to be, my little mystery. Each day you let me in on some of the secrets to your personality. So sensitive, easily overwhelmed, with a cry that rips me in half. Oh, but such a big girl! You walked first (at 10 months!) and are viciously protective of your "little" sisters. You show an intuition and instinct which is endearing and surprisingly mature. You're particular and occasionally daring.

You "sing" yourself to sleep and throughout the night, much to the chagrin of those trying to sleep near you. You laugh with zeal at the smallest things. When you run to me, arms outstretched, it is nearly more than my heart can bear. How I love you, my darling.

Drew Jessi
You were born kicking and screaming, and your energy has never diminished. You wake each morning laughing uproariously and jump up and down in your crib until we join the party. You are my little pal.

One day, when you were about 6 weeks old, your Mommy C was holding you. I came in to the room and said, "Hi, Drew-Drew!" You raised your head and your eyes opened wide in recognition and excitement. That was our moment. We've been joined at the hip ever since. You look at me from the corner of your eye, (so mischievious!) and I am excited for the practical jokes we will play on your mom and sisters.

You feel so deeply--whether it be joy or sorrow. When your feelings are hurt (and how easily they can be), your beautiful green eyes well with tears and I want to wrap you up in my arms and protect you from everything forever. When you are overcome with love, you come running, grab my face with both hands and shriek with joy. You are so filled with passion and intensity. Learning to walk was a bit of a challenge for you (even though you did it at 10 1/2 months, rockstar!) because you couldn't get your feet to slow down. Why walk when you can run?

I hope you always embrace every aspect of living with verve: storm life, fear no feeling, and soak it all in.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

...And then there's Delaney.

When little Delaney was taken to the NICU with noticeable urgency, I made her a little deal in my head: you survive this, you can have anything you want. Always. A pony at 3? Okay. A new car at 12? Done.

Well, I guess she was listening. And my behavior in the subsequent months did a great deal to reinforce her status as a princess.

Let me be clear, I don't mean to imply that I felt favortism toward her, just an unreasonable protectiveness. I rarely let anyone else hold her, I fed her nearly all her bottles, she slept in her car seat next to me in the bed, etc., etc., etc. I was terrified that her fragile beginnings would make her more susceptible to illness, injury, or another malady.

Infants are brilliant. While some of their systems are just jumbles of disconnected information searching for order, their base intuitions are very sharp. For example, when they handed me Drew in the operating room, she immediately calmed and fell asleep. For two days, she was inconsolable unless Cassie or I were holding her. She knew her mothers, and I believe this was only partially from memories in the womb. Humans have thrived for thousands of years because of such instincts.

Well, Delaney picked up on this little chink in my armor... and exploited the hell out of it.

We started the kids on "supervised tummy time" at about one month. Devynn wasn't a fan, but usually just dozed off. Drew would enjoy it for a while, then whine until we moved her to another position. We would place Delaney onto her tummy and she would unload in a heart-wrenching, soul-splitting howl. Giant tears flooded her eyes as she looked at us af if we had betrayed her at the deepest level. That effectively ended that day's tummy time.

She worked this little routine for months. And months and months. When she was six months old, she still freaked out within minutes of being placed on her tummy. She hated it, and only the most cold-hearted could allow such suffering to continue. Drew was rolling from front to back. Devynn was rolling from back to front. They were beginning to scoot around on their butts and tummies. And then there was Delaney. Perfectly content to sit quietly on Cathy's lap or in her bouncy seat, or in an Exersaucer, Bumbo, or any other contraption which kept her out of harm's way.

When we visited the Mary Bridge Neo-natal follow-up program initially, they expressed only mild concern about Delaney's gross motor skills. She seemed a bit behind, but nothing terribly unusual for a preemie. However, at her second visit, they were alarmed at her delay. They scheduled a follow up to track her progress and see if more frequent physical therapy was required.

When we brought her in again, the physical therapist worked with her for a few minutes, and next thing I know, she's got Delaney wrapped around her waist, koala style, with Laney in full cuddle mode. I smirked a bit. I thought, "Huh. Guess we're not the only ones who can't resist her charms." But she wouldn't let go. The therapist tried unsuccessfully no less than 5 times to set her on the floor, but Delaney held on like hot duct tape. Then it was the therapist's turn to smirk. She said, "I believe I see the problem."

Turns out we (okay, okay... I...) had literally SPOILED Delaney into a gross motor skill delay. She had all the skill sets and musculature to perform the tasks in quesiton, but absolutely no desire to do so. The physical therapist told us enough was enough. We were to stiffen our upper lips and let this kid do some growing up.

Well, she's a stubborn one. While she did begin scooting just a few days after this appointment, she still refuses to crawl in the traditional hand-knee formation. She uses one foot, one knee, her butt and one hand. It's cute, but quite inefficient.

Devynn began walking at 10 months, 8 days old. Since preemies are often considered by their "Corrected Age", this would make her 9 months old on the nose when she started walking. Dang impressive! Drew began walking at 10 months, 23 days. Also remarkable!

Then there's Delaney. She'll stand from time to time, but then gets stuck in standing position and can't figure out how to get down. She just stands there and cries until one of us comes to her rescue. Now, this is not terribly unusual, and her development is catching up exponentially. But she lets us know that she is working on HER time schedule, and we need not hurry her along.

I think Delaney will always do things in her little way. There are times when she gives me a little sideways glance, I suspect she remembers our little negotiation, and she'll always know how to work me...

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's the Little Things

When taking care of three infants full time, adulthood can go flying out the window. Our living room and dining room have become playrooms, our bedroom a nursery, and our bathroom ... well ... it's just become filthy. I always promised myself that having kids would not steal away my identity as an adult, but that was easier promised than delivered. All my clothes are stained with baby carrots and vomit, I had to cut off my hair because the kids were pulling it out, I can no longer wear jewelry or my glasses, and I often catch myself, while standing alone, rocking back and forth. I'm hoping that's because I'm so used to rocking babies, and not a sign that soon I'll be in a tin-foil hat, rocking softly, speaking to the squirrels and eating dandelions. But I'm not certain.

Anyway, one thing that is keeping that string tied between myself and sanity is a focus on things that are fun diversions. These are things both little and big, funny and serious, personal and public. Everyday, I can have something that is an indulgence, that spoils me a bit, and allows me a chance to re-boot, if only for a minute. I hope that in this way, I can be a more patient, attentive parent. Here are a few of these little things:

National Geographic Channel's "Air Emergency"

I seriously love this show. I shouldn't admit that I am fascinated by plane crashes; this might just be tempting fate a bit too much. But, I do watch this with sick enthrallment. It's on Tuesday mornings at 9 a.m., a busy time, so the kids rarely let me actually watch much of an episode. However, even a few minutes gets me my fix.

Taco Bell's Cantina Tacos

So these little nuggets of greasy goodness will surely be just a temporary addition to the Taco Bell menu, and, admittedly, they aren't exactly gourmet fare. However, everything else at Taco Bell tastes EXACTLY the same. The tacos taste like the burritos taste like the Mexican pizzas taste like the nachos. With cantina tacos, I am paying $4 for what I get for $11.95 across the street at the Mexican food place. The key is lots of fresh cilantro and CORN tortillas. Yum.

Pampers Good To Grow Points

This wonderful scheme to enforce consumer brand loyalty has me smitten. Inside every pack of Pampers are hard-to-remove stickers with, like, 48 letter/numbers printed on them. One goes to, and, after wading through some of the slowest loading pages on all the web, enters these painfully long, nonsensical letter/number combinations into one's account. Then they are awarded "points" that can be redeemed for stuff. The point value you receive is about 1 point per dollar spent. The value for redemption is about 1 point = 1 cent. Not much of an ROI, but then again, after spending 27 cents on a diaper only to have it filled with poop, I have learned to take these little victories anyway I can.

Besides, points can be spent on Starbucks gift cards. And that leads me to:


This corporate behemoth owns me. It has for years. I find a great deal of solace in an afternoon latte from Starbucks. And, yes, I know how much this is costing me. But, forgive my Northwest snootiness, Starbucks is our very own trailblazer which led the way for all the other coffee companies which now claim to be better than 'bucks. What I find amazing about Starbucks is a double tall, non-fat, no foam latte ordered at the flagship store in Pike Place Market will be the same as that drink ordered in Tucson, Fargo, or Boston. I'm not an everyday visitor to the holy temple of coffee. But 2-3 times a week, this gratifying, overpriced little treat resets me like nothing else.

I certainly don't need anything to feel great about the way things are. I have an amazing life with a wonderful family. But just like Drew has her blankey and Delaney has her binky, these little security objects link me to my selfish inner child. They are just some indulgences that I find amusing and, oddly, satisfying.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rule #1

So, we have a list of "Truths" around here. Rule #1, Babies are gross. Rule #2, refer to rule #1.

And they are. Really disgusting little creatures. Their exploration of self and surroundings leads to some discoveries which turn the tummy.

First of all, they are booger making machines! I've become quite handy with the nasal aspirating bulb--can free a stuck bat from the cave in under 10 seconds. But their favorite method of boog-removal is simply rubbing their nose crazily on my shirt until it's relocated.

All three of our kids have suffered from quite severe reflux, so for a while it was kind of a barf bath around here. It was a good day if we (the caretakers) only went through three shirts each, and maybe just one change of pants. You'll notice that our kids have bibs on in all their pictures from about 2 months to 7 months. Once they started solids, it mellowed out a bit, but bibs were required attire for quite a while.

Of course, then there's the poop. Again, until solids started, we could count on one "blow-out" per day. These were up-the-back nightmares requiring a full bath and lots of scrubbing of the victimized clothing. These tiny little miracles produce more pollution than BP. I estimate on a particularly "active" day, we change about 12 poopy diapers. It's even worse during teething, when 12 can come from one kid.

Some of the things the girls do are just plain bizarre. And gross. Devynn discovered her tongue not long ago, and began pulling at it. She couldn't get it she put her hand further and further down her throat. Well, you can imagine how THAT ended. Fortunately, this phase only lasted a couple of days.

Recently, Devynn has begun spitting large amounts of drool on the linoleum, then sucking it back up. Not sure what this does for her development, but I say, Rock on with yo' bad self, Devvy!

So, in addition to being gross, babies are expensive! I remember many years ago a friend of mine saying kids aren't too expensive until they start school--only about $100 extra per month. Clearly inflation has affected this figure. Substantially.

Admittedly, formula is much more expensive than breastfeeding, but as previously mentioned, that's not a realistic option for us. The kids are all on the regular formula now, and we go through about 6 cans a week. That's about $350 a month. (When they were on the preemie formula, it was more expensive, but then, they didn't drink as much either.) Our kids kill about 25 diapers and 40-65 wipes on a particularly "active" day. That's about $330 a month. They eat about 35 jars of baby food and 3 boxes of rice cereal a week. Another $100 a month. And then there's desitin, tylenol, mylicon, poly-vitamins, hypoallergenic baby wash and lotion, fragrance/dye free detergents, blah blah blah. That $100 "extra" per month is looking pretty dated!

Ah, well. For all the puke, poop, boogs, money, gray hair, and wrinkles--they are worth it over and over again.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I Have Our Pediatrician on Speed Dial

With Cassie heading back to work and Nanny Cathy at the ready, it was time to settle into a daily "routine" around here. For the first several months, everyone told us, "it'll get easier! Then harder. Then easier!" The nights definitely got easier, with each baby sleeping about 4 hours at a time (never the SAME 4 hours, but at least we could get 1-2 hours of sleep in a chunk). During the day, however, the girls now wanted a lot more interaction and "play". This is great, of course, as they were developing beautifully and happily. It did make for finding time to maintain the household a continued difficulty. It seems minor and silly, but you never realize how nice it is to have an hour to clean your bathroom until you don't have that hour anymore!

So, what would a "routine" with triplets look like? Well, unfortunately, the babies create the routine. Try as you might, there's only so much the parents can mandate. We have a few things that have helped however. We do baths EVERY night. Even if they don't need it, they at least get to hang out in the warm water for a bit. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it let's them know that it's time to start thinking about bed. THEY might not be thinking about bed, but we sure are! Second, after not seeing them all day, this gives Cassie some one-on-one time with each girl. She has a cute little dance she does with them in front of the mirror and a song once they hit the water. They love it. Then we play their "nighttime" music (which has become a bit maddening after all these months), turn down the lights, give bottles, read stories, and crash out. Of course, once the gals are in bed, we hit the floor running to get everything ready for the night and the morning. Bottles cleaned and re-poured, garbage and diaper pails emptied, laundry and dishes finished up, and then getting ourselves ready for bed. It's a process!

Until the girls were about 5 months old, it seemed we were at the pediatrician's office about 3 times a month. Now, I'll readily admit, some of these visits were because I have severe First-Time Parent-itis (One of my pediatrician's more recent comments, "Yes, it is very serious. I'm glad you brought her in right away. This... is dry skin." Sigh.), but there were a few concerns that seemed a bit unusual, at least to me. Because of their position in the womb, Delaney "sat" on Devynn. This resulted in Devynn having torticollis. It is essentially a twisted neck. It was quite subtle, but her propensity to favor holding her neck in one position was creating a flat spot on her head. The only treatment she required was physical therapy, fortunately. It's completely gone now and her little noggin is as round as a pumpkin!

Meanwhile, we'd noticed that Drew's ears were strangely developed. When we asked the doc about it, she ordered an ultrasound of her kidneys. WTH? So, a-googlin' I went. Turns out that the ears develop at the same time as the kidneys in utero. If the ears have unusual folds, it may be a sign of underdeveloped kidneys, Turner's Syndrome, or a few other maladies. The ultrasound found no abnormalities, but again, just a little something to turn my hair gray. Oh, and her ears are growing nicely now.

Other fun things we've seen the doc for: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (all three kids), innocent heart murmur (Devynn), low birth weight related anemia (Dev and Laney), neonatal jaundice (Drew), blocked tear ducts (Dev and Drew) and persistent external yeast infections (Dev).

Mary Bridge Children's Hospital (where all three kids were born) has a great neonatal follow-up program for kids who were premature or borderline preemie. Every few months we trek up to Tacoma and meet with physical therapists, social workers (to make sure we're not losing our minds and, therefore, posing a threat to the kiddies), nurses and the like who check out everything that's anything. It's very helpful and educational and keeps us motivated to focus our activites around physical play and learning activities with the girls. All three gals are still at risk for future developmental delays, so the sooner we catch any abnormalities the better.

When we visit Mary Bridge, we see children who are not as fortunate as our kids. Their health issues are much more serious and debilitating. They are so precious and delicate. Each day I am so grateful that we, and our gorgeous daughters, have the gift of health.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig...

From the time we'd left home to meet with the specialist at Tacoma General to the time we returned home with our new family, 30 days had passed. It was so surreal to leave the temporary home(s) we'd had in Tacoma and go back to our tiny cabin in the woods--with three new additions. My sister-in-law had left the previous day (she was SO much help with everything that was going on--it would've been impossible without her) and Cassie's mother Jeanne) and sister (Jessi) arrived around the same time. So the seven of us crammed into the tiny place to try to adjust to this new life.

To say we were disorganized would make you Captain Understatement. We thought we knew what we would need, how we would set up routines, when babies would sleep and eat, etc. We had no clue. Anyone with a baby knows how demanding they are. Yes, they sleep 18-20 hours a day. But not in a row. And not necessarily when you want them to. And when there's three... NEVER at the same time. I'm sure I'll repeat this theme over and over, but three babies isn't three times as hard as one, it's exponentially as hard. The only people who really look at me with the kind of fear/sympathy/admiration/disbelief that I think befitting our situation are parents of twins. They know how hard two at a time is and, thus, have a clue about the triplet thing. Not to take away from mothers who have their babies the right way (i.e., one at a time), because I know how hard your job is! I'm just sayin', having triplets basically ends your life. For a while. There's no cooking, cleaning, showering, shopping, visiting, watching telly, reading, sleeping, for at least a year. Not looking for sympathy--just trying to explain why we don't accept party invitations or go out to dinner. We have become elderly shut-ins: in bed by 7:00 and up at 4:30. In between, we're up at 9:30, 11:00, 12:15, 1:00, 2:45, 3:00, 3:30, and 4:20. This may be a slight exaggeration, but really? Only slight.

Okay, enough bitchin' for the time being. It won't be the last of it, but the good stuff outweighs the bad stuff, so let's get on with it. We found some things work really well some of the time, and some things never work. Nothing really works well all the time. Babies have their own distinct personalities and preferences so flexibility is key! Jessi and Jeanne helped a bunch with getting our home back in order after we'd spent a month living out of suitcases. Jeanne made many meals to freeze for future use. We started to perfect quick diaper changes, formula makings, and baths. After about two weeks of only sleeping about two hours (cumulatively) a night, we realized the only way we were going to survive was shift sleeping. I'm a night owl and a real pain in the butt before 6 a.m. Cass is the opposite. So I took the babies from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. and she took them from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. It wasn't a perfect arrangement as too often two or more babies awakened at the same time and the person "on shift" had to awaken the other. However, it made for us getting at least a small chunk of sleep.

Preemies have unique needs which further complicated the schedule. Devynn was good about waking to eat, but Delaney often had to be awakened. Most pediatricians will tell you, newborns should not go more than 3 hours without eating. Delaney would just sleep on and on if allowed to. Drew's jaundice also posed a problem. In order to get rid of the jaundice, babies have to eat often so they can get it out in their waste. Drew was to eat every two hours. The first three months were dedicated to making sure these little gals ate. A lot. Often. Like, all the time. The frequency of feedings made for one baby crying virtually nonstop. We'd try to be sure that no one was ever hungry and being forced to sit and cry, but it often happened despite our best efforts. It made breastfeeding out of the question. We couldn't spend 30-45 minutes feeding one baby while another screamed inconsolably. That was extremely disappointing, and I know we've gotten more than one raised eyebrow when people find out we're formula feeding. However, I'm fairly certain it is impossible to exclusively breastfeed triplets. We did pump when we could and supplemented their formula so we could try to get some of that good immune-booster into their systems!

So, throughout the holidays, Grandma C came to meet the little ones and help out for a while. Grandma I returned for 10 days in January. These visits were a huge help. When the babies outnumber the caretakers, that's when all hell breaks loose. When Grandma I left in January and we were alone with the girls for the first time with no visitors on the near horizon, we realized we were in trouble. Cassie was scheduled to resume work the first of February, and it was just not possible for one person to do this. Along came the patron saint, Nanny Cathy. Cathy was our buddy from Montana who was willing to sacrifice a good job and proximity to her friends and family to come be our nanny. Not a glamorous position, this. She works about 12 hours a day, at least 5 days a week, and helps out with bathtime just because she's nice. I was initially concerned about how the girls would do with a stranger. They had started to develop a bit of stranger anxiety and I was nervous they would flip out with someone new as a caretaker. I don't think they ever batted an eye. Cathy has a very calm demeanor, and they took to her like fish to water. It was as if she'd been here all along. Now, when they see her in the mornings, they all clamor to get her attention. It's very cute.

During the transition, we became painfully aware that a new living arrangement was crucial. We had naively thought we could make it work for 6 months or so in our little one-bedroom, 600 square foot cabin. The place was fine for the two of us: cozy, "outdoorsy", and super cheap. But, while babies are small, their STUFF isn't. Playpens, changing tables, dressers, rocking chairs, swings, etc., take up loads of room. The final straw was when, during a significant rain storm, water began dripping on to the changing table. I was furious at myself for bringing our perfect babies into this environment. So we started looking for another place. Quite a challenge when there's no one to babysit while we look for a place. So Cassie followed the advice of a co-worker who, while well-intentioned, had different ideas about what was an acceptable living arrangement for three newborns. Cassie's sister and best friend, my brother and his brother-in-law all converged for a moving party. We moved into a place, virtually site unseen. That night, while attempting to run the dishwasher, we realized the water was running on to the kitchen floor. My bro took out the dishwasher to find the problem. He discovered a rat's nest and copious mold. Further inspection of the house found another rat's nest and more mold. Clearly this was not a place we could house newborns, especially with one recovering from respiratory weakness. We were devastated. I was so overwhelmed by the thought of finding another place and moving again within a week, I could barely speak. In addition the "landlord" was being difficult and not wanting to refund our money. Well, my brother and his brother-in-law stepped up AGAIN and took care of us. We found a place, and they moved us the following Saturday. Murphy's Law averted again. But the stress was taking a toll.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pregnancy, Delivery, Complications

So why start this blog now when the girls are already 9 months old? Well, have triplets. You'll see. It's a damn load of work! So I'll try to summarize the last 18 months in as concise a manner as possible. Then I'll try to keep up to date about the happenings "Live". ish. For those of you who find the mundane details about triple amounts of baby poop, spit-up, etc, you'll get a kick out of some of our stories. Otherwise, I guess I'm just writing this for myself and the girls. Perhaps someday they'll enjoy reading about what we went through trying to keep them healthy, happy, and somewhat sane.

My pregnancy was difficult. Twin pregnancies tend to be, I understand. There's a lot be done. Since I'm a big gal to begin with, the extra weight played hell on my joints. But the kicker was the "morning" sickness. I was as sick as a dog. For the ENTIRE pregnancy. No one told me that it could last the whole time!! Other than that, things were okay until August. My legs began to swell and my blood pressure started to rise. My urine output decreased significantly and started to contain protein. It appeared that I was in the first stages of preeclampsia. I developed gestational diabetes. That especially sucked because the only things I could keep down were bland carbs like crackers and potatoes. No-nos for diabetes. The doc put me on partial bedrest.

Meanwhile, Cassie's cervix was softening. Quickly. The doctor determined that she was actually the higher risk of the two of us and put her on restricted bedrest. I was still to lay down as often as possible, but she was only to get up to use the restroom. And that was to be as infrequent as reasonable. What a pair we were. Our wonderful friends brought us groceries and toiletries as we camped out in the bedroom with re-runs of Golden Girls and our baby shower thank-you notes.

My legs continued to swell at an alarming rate and it eventually became impossible for me to get myself into bed. We went to the doc who referred me to a specialist at Tacoma General Hospital who promptly admitted me. They ran scores of tests on me and the babies. They concluded that I had developed HELLP syndrome (Hemolytic anemia, Elevated Liver enzymes, Low Platelet count--a rare, life-threatening condition) and the babies must be delivered immediately. I was 35 weeks along. The physician on-call did not believe we should take the time to induce me. She was concerned that my blood pressure would continue to rise and I could suffer a stroke. So, we prepared for a C-section. I was very disappointed. In addition to having a significantly longer recovery period, I knew that a vaginal birth would be beneficial to the respiratory function of the girls. They were going to be premature anyway, and I was worried about their breathing. But it couldn't be avoided, so they sliced 'em out.

October 22, 2009--Devynn was born at 12:02 a.m. She was 17" long and weighed 5#, 6 oz. She had nice color and a healthy, super-loud cry. Delaney was born at 12:04 a.m. She was 17.5" long and weighed 5#. She was gray and her cry was weak. They let us look at her for just a moment then rushed her to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. They allowed us to take Devynn to the recovery room. However, she was clearly laboring to breathe. Within the hour, she joined her sister in the NICU.

My stay in the hospital was average for a post-Caesarean delivery. I was still really swollen, in fact, I weighed 2 pounds more the day after the girls were born then I had the day before. Bummer. After 4 days, the doc ordered my incision staples to be removed and I was released. Because we live over an hour away from Tacoma, we were allowed to stay at the Tree House, a facility which is set up for families with children staying at the hospital. It is an amazing place. Anyone who wants to contribute to a fine charity, I recommend sending your pennies to the Tree House.

Devynn was doing quite well in the NICU, and was soon moved upstairs to the Intermediate Care Nursery. Delaney was struggling a bit more. Upon her arrival in the NICU, she was put on a CPAP to force air into her lungs. She soon developed a tear in her left lung and a chest tube was inserted. The physicians tried for two days to encourage her to breathe on her own, but ultimately, Delaney had to be placed on a ventilator. This was a discouraging development for her moms. We were overwhelmed to think of this little delicate angel with a tube in her chest, a tube in her throat, a tube in her navel (for feeding), and IVs in her feet.

But that Delaney, she's a fighter. She was only intubated for three days before she was breathing on her own. A week later, I went to the ICN to feed Dev, and there was Delaney in the isolette beside her! She's tiny, but she's mighty!

Devynn was growing well during this whole event. She was very flexible and happy. Liked whoever was holding her, LOVED the male nurses and doctors, and brought me to tears everytime I saw her. Not having the ability to hold Delaney at all, I spent every second I could with Devynn, even though the nurses would only let me hold her for about 30 minutes every two hours. I just sat next to her incubator until I dozed off every night. She, like her sisters, was perfect.

Cassie was still on bedrest, but not being a very obedient patient. She wanted to spend time with her daughters, but we certainly didn't want Drew to be premature. We knew now how terrifying that could be. She was preeclamptic so did her best to obey Doc's orders while still visiting the girls whenever possible. Her blood pressure was beginning to rise and she was one miserable girl. She also had significant edema and couldn't get comfortable in any position. We figured Drew would be coming along shortly.

The afternoon after I was released from the hospital I noticed that the waistline of my pants was soaked. It was a very strange sensation. I knew that the body did some weird things post-birth. But...seep? What the hell? I asked Cassie to look at my incision. It had re-opened. I lost control at this point. I had tried so hard to ignore the serious nature of the pre-eclampsia, the HELLP syndrome, etc., but seeing my "guts" (as Cass put it...more accurately, it was just fat) sticking out pushed me over. I was a sobbing mess. Cassie dragged me up to the hospital where they attached a "Wound Vac" to the incision. This involves packing the incision site with a special gauze, taping over the entire thing with shrink wrap, and attaching a tiny vacuum that sucks out the fluid. It deposits the "gut-juice" into a little plastic tank on the side. Everyday, I had to return to see the wound nurse, she would dump the juice, repack the wound, and send me on my way. This process was not as pleasant as it sounds.... Not only is it incredibly disgusting, it hurts like holy rolling hell.

During one of these sessions, my nurse looked at my legs--still swollen--and said, "your legs have gone cellulitic. You'll have to be re-admitted." I was sent to admissions and my swollen ass, gut vacuum and all, was put back in a hospital bed for two more days to get intravenous antibiotics and diuretics. I was released, went upstairs, and sprang my two beautiful girls from the ICN. They were coming home with me!

Cassie was in and out of the hospital with tests on her and Drew. They wanted to get Drew out as soon as possible as Cass' blood pressure was not great, but Drew's lungs weren't quite ready. My sister-in-law was helping me with the twins as Cassie was brewing Drew. They finally induced Cassie on November 6 (Grandma Coyner's birthday!). She pushed for hours, but Drew wasn't having it. So at 12:12 p.m. on November 7, 2009, Drew arrived via c-section. She was 19.5" long and 7#, 6 ounces. She had more hair than any child I've ever seen and came out screaming bloody murder. She wouldn't let anyone but Cassie or I hold her and she was feisty from the first breath.

We took the family home after Drew was released from the hospital. Drew was badly jaundiced. She spent a couple of nights under the bilirubin lights and seemed to have improved. When we got home, we took her to the pediatrician for her first check-up. Before they even made it home from the appointment, the doctor called and said she needed to be admitted to the hospital immediately for critical bilirubin levels. This was our fifth separate hospital admission. Cassie was disconsolate. Our beautiful babies were going through way too much to bear. I remember thinking, if we make it through these first few weeks, the rest will be a breeze.

But the challenges were just beginning.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Little History...

It all began in 1999. I'll spare the details of how we met, and all other minutiae related to our relationship, living arrangements, family, etc. That'll all come out in other posts, I'm sure. But I met Cassie while living in Montana (of all places). We got along very well and we fit together as an unlikely, but delightfully complementary couple.
We agreed that children were definitely in our plans, hopefully very soon. So we began the process that same sex female couples must endure--finding a donor, drawing up agreements, negotiating the embarrassing realities of dealing with ovulation cycles, sperm, and at-home insemination. A month became two, then three, then 12. It was frustrating, but not yet daunting. We sought medical assistance and began the mental running total of what would soon be a surprisingly expensive and emotionally exhausting venture.
Over the next 9 years, Cassie and I each attempted to conceive. Our little journey involved copious methods of diagnosis and treatment--including intrauterine insemination, excrutiatingly painful and invasive tests, countless rounds of oral medications, numerous cycles of injectable hormones and drugs, four sperm donors, three clinics, and, in Cassie's case, even surgery.
Anyone who has struggles with infertility understands this path and knows it too well. It's hard to verbalize the emotions which come up when our bodies fail us in this way. Life, in whatever form, is the only given in these bodies. And the desire to reproduce life is one of our basest instincts.
As our friends bought homes, paid off their student loans, and grew their 401ks, Cassie and I were putting all the extra scratch we had into the baby making fund. We charged up and paid off one $10,000 credit card 3 times.
25 years old soon became "mid-thirties". We were both very aware of the ticking of the clock. We had discussed adoption, but we were really "craving" a baby (selfish, admittedly) and adopting a baby was every bit as expensive as in vitro fertilization (IVF), a method which had always seemed financially out of reach. As our 35th birthdays approached, we decided to fire up the ol' credit cards a final time and invest in IVF. We swore this was it. No more. If we were unsuccessful, we would travel more, see the world, and then move closer to our nieces and nephews in an attempt to experience children vicariously.
We found a clinic nearby which did a great deal of fertility research and, thus, could charge a bit less for IVF. We met with the doctors and the suggestion was made (by them, not us) that we take eggs from Cassie and implant them in both of us. We had relatively healthy uteruses, that was not the issue. By implanting in both of us we would increase our chances of taking home a baby. The chances of us both becoming pregnant was only 12-13%. It was a good plan. We paid our deposit, and started the process.
Fast forward about 6 months, Cassie and I are all drugged up--her body in hyper-ovulate mode, mine in ovulatory hibernation. We were devastated when only six eggs were harvested, and only two "took". These are signficantly low numbers for IVF. It's not unusual for 20 or more eggs to mature and about half of those typically become viable embryos. We knew at this point that if a viable pregnancy was not achieved we would have no "back-up" embryos to freeze for future use. We went in to the implantation a bit despondent, but trying to be hopeful.
Well, it worked.
And then some.
The egg implanted in me actually split. I was pregnant with identical twins, and Cassie was pregnant with a single pregnancy. We were due Thanksgiving Day, 2009.