10 Months

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The babies turned 10-months-old yesterday.  Every month I say this, but how is that possible?! Month 9 was by far my favorite.  They had a lot of firsts this past month.  Winter started regular crawling quite quickly (instead of army crawling), opening presents for the first time a week before Christmas, their first Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, their first snow since being home from the NICU and their first colds.  I could’ve done without that last part but we all survived.

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I’ve started planning their first birthday party, which just typing out for you is giving me major anxiety.  The actual turning one part, not the party planning.  Truth be told, if it were up to me alone, I wouldn’t throw a big, giant birthday party.  Porter and Winter aren’t going to remember it and they have everything they could ever need already.  To me it’s just a formality.  We’re holding off on throwing the party until May, instead of March, so that we can be outside.  On the day of their real birthday, I’m thinking I’d like to take them to their first photo booth and start a yearly tradition.

Our babes are doing so well with their milestones, especially for being as early as they were.  Their physical therapy is now down to every other week and we’re focusing on building strength and balance so they can pull to stand, stand and walk.  Winter is already pulling up to stand and walking along furniture.  She’s getting a bit brazen and lets go without remembering she can’t really stand by herself yet.  Yesterday she stood up from a seated position without holding on to anything a few times, but once she’s up she needs something to hold onto to balance.  Porter is constantly up on his hands and knees rocking back and forth, trying so hard to crawl.  He’s getting really mad that he hasn’t gotten it yet, but he will.  He does really well with his motor skills, he loves to play with his ‘pound-a-peg’ toy.  He loves drumsticks and his drum.  He constantly hits the sticks together and I can’t help but think he’s going to be a rockstar someday, haha!

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Gift Guide: Baby Girl 9-12 Months Old

So Christmas is next week, apparently.  Did you realize, because I just looked at the calendar, and HOW!?  I had ‘finished’ shopping for the twins a month or so ago, but then, you know, I saw some things and had to have them.  I always said I wasn’t going to go overboard on Christmas.  Just chalk that up to another one of those things you say you’re never going to do when you’re a parent.  Because I dove head first.  Well, I guess not really.  It could be worse, right?

Below are the very special gifts for Winter.  I tried to do a decent amount of small business shopping in addition to snatching up all the sales at my favorite major retailers.  I didn’t want to buy so many flashy, in your face, plastic toys – though you will see a baby smartphone on the list because she’s obsessed!  I doubt it will fool her into thinking it’s as cool as my phone, but I figured it was worth a shot.  Take a look and let me know what you think.  With expedited shipping you can probably still get your hands on some of my must-haves.

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Here are the details:

Clothing:  Zara pinafore | pink sweater, pink leg warmers, white and black peplum top from Old Navy | shorts on clearance from Target

Toys:  B. Toys smartphone in purple scored in-store at Target, found online for you at B&N | Hape bunny push & pull toy from Diapers.com | GUND mouse toy from Zulily | Jellycat bunny soother from Saks Fifth Avenue | Reindeer book from BabiesRUS

Small Business Finds:  Little Unicorn quilt and fox socks from Hatch in Ambler, PA | heart onesie and mustard stripe headband from First & Marley based in Philadelphia | Hello Moccs ‘The Chloe’ white and hot pink leather moccasins | headbands from CollectiveCreationsC on Etsy

Happy Christmas to Winter.  Not pictured are a bunch of other baby clothes, because I have a problem.  I blame Target and Old Navy.

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The Mommy Wars: It’s Not What You Think

If I’m being honest, I haven’t experienced much in the way of the mommy wars.  Sure, people voice their opinions but I typically let it roll off my back.  My parenting philosophy is: feed, clothe, shelter and love your babies.  However you get there is the ‘right’ way.  My other parenting philosophy is ‘survive’.  Easy, peasy, right?  Wrong.

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The mommy wars I’m talking about today are internal.  This has been weighing on me for a while.  I’m a quitter – always have been, probably always will be.  I worry about how to teach my children not to be quitters when I’m a quitter myself.  Before we had the twins I was researching ways to save money.  Things like breastfeeding, making my own baby foods and cloth diapering were easy ways to cut costs, or so I thought.

Breastfeeding never happened for me.  Not because it couldn’t, but because when my early babes had troubles just learning to drink from a bottle, I didn’t want to selfishly add in learning to drink from my body to their plates.  Maybe that was selfish because part of me thought it would get them home sooner if they only had to master one task, maybe it was unselfish of me because they only had to master one task.  See?  My internal struggle is already showing.  I pumped diligently at the beginning, knowing that any breastmilk I could give them would help.  I hated pumping.  I hated being tied down for at least 30 minutes, but I did it.  I remember going to the NICU to visit the babes and I would pump as I would bottle feed one of them, or just hold both of them.  Pumping empty handed was a luxury.  Once the babes came home, it was much more difficult to pump every 3 hours for 30 minutes because twins y’all.  My supply started to dwindle.  I tried teas and fenugreek, a beer a day, trying to drink more water.  Nothing helped.  The babies started drinking higher volumes, I started making less breastmilk and after 6 months, I called it quits.  It was to the point where I’d pump enough to give one of them a full bottle of breastmilk a day.  I was ready to stop, but I felt and still feel guilty.  That one bottle every other day for each baby could still be helpful, right?  Did I give up too easily?

My most recent failure is cloth diapers.  I did some research, but admittedly not enough.  I decided on BumGenius 4.0 diapers.  They’re a pocket diaper with a microfleece insert.  They have snaps to make the diapers smaller or bigger, tighter or looser.   They worked fairly well for 8 months.  We did buy the BumGenius newborn diapers as well and used those for the first few months.  All of the sudden though, I’d put the diapers on the babies and the first time they peed, the diapers would leak around the leg hole area.  I tried tightening the diapers, loosening the diapers, making them smaller, making them bigger.  I tried adding an extra insert, taking the extra insert away and using a hemp doubler to help with absorbency.  I tried stripping the diapers and drying them in the dryer.  They were still leaking.  Perhaps it’s the microfleece, perhaps it’s the amount of use they’re getting with double the babies to diaper.  Whatever the cause, it was making me C.R.A.Z.Y.  It may sound a little silly but I was getting so angry, blood-boiling angry at these damn diapers.  So I quit.  I bought two bulk size cases of Target brand diapers online and got a $20 gift card and two packs of Target overnight diapers.  Then I went to Target and to my surprise they had the bulk boxes so I bought two boxes of the next size up to get another $20 gift card.  So I now have 444 size 3 diapers that will arrive this week, 444 (minus what we’ve used over the last 3 days) of size 4 diapers, which are really big on the babes but are doing the trick for now.  Plus 172 overnight diapers.  But I’m feeling guilty, really guilty.  We made an $1100 investment in cloth, plus $30 in hemp doublers and I’m just putting those to the side and spending money that we shouldn’t need to spend on disposables.  Did I give up too quickly?

I recently had a doctor’s appointment to get my flu shot at a new doctor’s office.  I told her I was feeling overwhelmed because I can’t seem to get anything done around the house other than taking care of the babies.  She told me things I already know, like ‘you have two babies’ and ‘you need to reduce your stress and get better sleep’.  But I know there are mommies out their with multiple children who get other things done around the house.  Why can’t I do that?  I feel guilty. I feel like a bad wife because my husband works all day, comes home and washes dishes, makes dinner or both.  He hasn’t complained.  This is all self-imposed guilt.

So you see, my internal mommy wars are causing me more heartache than I imagined.  I’m loosing sleep, I’m feeling guilty, I’m beating myself up.  All because I’m not living up the vision I had in my head of what kind of mom I’d be before actually having kids.  I’m quitting things because they were causing me stress, but quitting has caused it’s own stress.

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Part 1: Porter’s Journey

Porter’s story is going to be a bit more lengthy than Winter’s.  I’m going to split it up into 3 parts so bear with me.

After determining that Porter hadn’t grown in more than two weeks, the decision was made to have a c-section to get him out into the world to get him the help he needed.  He was born quickly and came out with a cry.  I hadn’t expected to hear him cry, but was so glad he did.  He needed CPAP for a short while, then a nasal cannula.  He had a line inserted into his belly to give him nutrients because he was too tiny to try to eat.  Like his sister, he was jaundice and couldn’t maintain his temperature.  He also had borderline low blood sugars, an issue that remains today.  Porter had far more ups and downs than we expected.  We would take two steps forward, and one step back.

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The first real scare was when they thought he might have NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis).  He had some bloody, mucousy stools.  They stopped feeding him, hooked him up to an IV, began a 7-10 day course of two antibiotics, took blood for tests and a culture and spinal fluid was taken for a culture.  I was called around 2am to be told all of this.  It was the only time we received a middle-of-the-night call from a NICU doctor.  I googled NEC which was a terrible decision.  I went to the hospital to meet with the doctors and nurses and to sit by Porter’s bedside.  It was incredibly scary and I lost my shit.  Thankfully, some of our favorite staff were there with me and we hugged and cried and they forced me to drink water.  He spent 4 days without food, his only nutrients were through an IV.

Porter was anemic from birth.  At one point his platelet count was pretty low, 45k, when it should be between 150k-450k.  This freaked us out as Kyle had a blood disorder when he was a child. Porter had a very pale appearance most of the time.  His blood work showed that his body was working hard to replace the blood cells that die off after birth, but it wasn’t working quickly enough.  We decided to give him a transfusion.  When a transfusion is done, it stops the body’s natural process of rebuilding cells, so we waited as long as we could before doing the transfusion.  Luckily, it helped.

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His alkaline phosphatase was elevated, which meant that his bones were in danger of being fractured or broken easily.  The hospital had to take precautions so that everyone knew to ‘handle him with care’.

His blood sugars were low.  We tried to control them with food, that didn’t work.  We tried feeding every 2 hours, we tried continuous feeding, we tried fortifying his food to have extra calories but nothing worked.  We had to start him on a medicine called diazoxide.  It helped to maintain his sugar levels, but made him retain fluid.  He started to sound congested because there was so much fluid built up in his face and nasal cavity.  He started to not be able to eat the volume he was previously eating.  He was so swollen.  Eventually he was started on a diuretic to reduce the fluid retention, but we were never able to fully get rid of the congested sounds.  He really struggled with his bottle feeding once he started the medicine.  The inflammation and fluid retention in his nasal cavity was so bad that we removed the NG tube since it was just taking up more room.  He was able to take ‘enough’ food by mouth though we wish he could’ve been drinking more.  He was diagnosed with congenital hyperinsulinism, basically his body produces too much insulin and in turn his blood sugars are too low.  Our hospital isn’t very familiar with this particular issue so things were probably not handled the way they should have been.  This is Porter’s biggest issue today.  He is still on the medicine and could be for some time.  It’s hard to tell.  We expect he will ‘outgrow’ the issue but there are no guarantees.

As you can see, Porter isn't too thrilled that his face became extremely swollen from his sugar meds

As you can see, Porter isn’t too thrilled that his face became extremely swollen from his sugar meds

Porter developed hernias from his belly down into his scrotum that had to be surgically repaired.  This was the last step before he could come home.  The surgery was performed on May 12th.  Porter was discharged two days later.

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We had hoped this would be the last of our NICU days.  We were wrong.

To be continued…

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Winter’s Journey

It’s been far too long since I’ve blogged.  I’m settling in to life as a twin mom, I think.  I hope.  It’s like joining fight club only cuter and more badass…obvi.  I’d like to share our NICU journeys with you all.  I decided to start with Winter because her story is short and sweet-ish.

By all accounts, I thought that Winter (baby B) would’ve been the one to have issues.  Very early on, she started measuring behind her brother.  In fact, at one point the RE’s office told me to ‘hope for the best but prepare for the worst’.  Later on we discovered her umbilical cord inserted into the side of her placenta instead of the center which can cause growth restriction or a whole host of other issues.  How wrong I was.  The morning I found out I’d be delivering my babies at 33 weeks 0 days, I had a sinking feeling of guilt.  Winter was doing just fine in the womb, despite the ultrasound techs concern that she could have coarctation of the aorta.  But we couldn’t very well leave her behind, so she came along for the ride.

Her delivery was tough.  She was stuck up near my rib cage.  She needed to be pushed from the outside and pulled from the inside.  The doctors had to be careful not to tug on her umbilical cord due to her issue with how it attached to the placenta.  She was bruised over her feet, legs and groin area from all the man-handling.  She was quiet.  There was no cry.  I didn’t know it at the time and didn’t find out until she was sent home and I read over her discharge summary but she needed to be resuscitated.  There was no cry because there was no breathing.  I’ve never talked about that with anyone before.  She was brought over to me for a quick picture and I asked if she had hair…  It was the first time I saw her and all I said was, “Does she have hair?”  In my defense, multiple ultrasound techs had made mention to her having a full head of hair during scans.  She was whisked up to the NICU.  They hooked her up to CPAP for extra oxygen flow, put her under the ultraviolet lights for jaundice and a heat lamp to keep her warm.  She wore an eye mask to protect her eyes.  She was on an IV for nutrients and any medications she might need.  She hated IV’s.  Her body would reject them quicky and they had to be placed over and over.  She quickly came off of CPAP and just needed a tiny nasal cannula to give just a bit of extra oxygen flow for about three days.  She was given an NG tube (nose tube) to receive nutrients through.  Her main issue was learning to suck, swallow and breathe in the right order.  This remained her biggest struggle throughout her stay.  At one point, this were going really well.  She was moved to a nice, quiet, lower traffic corner of the NICU.  I was pretty sure she’d be coming home soon.

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The funny thing (not at all funny really) about the NICU is when they tell you it’s a roller coaster ride, you get it but you don’t actually get it.  Until the coaster reaches the crest and all of the sudden you’re whipped back down to the bottom.  The low point of Winter’s NICU stay came after her brother was put on NEC watch.  Necrotizing Enterocolitis is a very dangerous stomach thing.  Do NOT google it unless you want to hear terrible things, including a 25%+ mortality rate.  A nurse and nurse practitioner, who were both not very familiar with Winter, decided her belly looked distended. They measure the babies bellies in the NICU and hers was measuring a little bigger than the previous day.  She showed no other symptoms of NEC but because of Porter’s possible NEC issues, they assumed Winter needed to be treated the same way.  She was brought back into the busy part of the NICU, undressed, put under a heat lamp, hooked up to an IV and given antibiotics and made NPO for 24 hours (not fed).  She was PISSED.  And I was heart broken.  The next day when blood work came back normal and she didn’t show any other symptoms, they decided to start feeding her again.  I more think they were tired of hearing her scream because this little lady gets hangry.  She worked on her bottle feeding.  We removed her NG tube on Easter for pictures and were hopeful it would stay out, but it didn’t.  She needed another day or so of practice until she got the hang of it.  She was moved, along with her brother, to a private section of the NICU.  A few days later, on April 12th, she was discharged one day shy of one month old.

Winters Journey 2

Winters Journey 3

Winters Journey 4

As far as NICU stays go, hers was really pretty calm.  I freaked out a bit with the NEC scare, mostly because her being healthy and such a rockstar was what kept me going through the struggles we were facing with Porter.  Sometimes I think I forget she was just a 4lb preemie.

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Superstitions: Friday the 13th and Lucky Number 33

I don’t consider myself to be a superstitious person…until I realize I am.  On February 13th, a Friday, I was released from the hospital after one night.  I was admitted because Baby A was small and had some flow issues from his umbilical cord back to his placenta.  After overnight monitoring, they decided I could go home and just report to the Maternal Fetal Medicine office twice a week for ultrasounds and non-stress tests.  As we left the hospital I had wanted to say, “Maybe Friday the 13th isn’t all that bad after all!” but we were driving home and I figured it would be best to wait until we arrived home safely, just in case.  A few short days later I was admitted to the hospital again because the flow issues continued and Baby A hadn’t really grown.  This time I was there for the long haul.  I could write an entire post on how miserable I was living in the hospital, but I will spare you.  My husband started bringing in the crock pot and cooking homemade meals for me once I was sick of the hospital food.  I was scheduled to have an ultrasound with growth scan on Friday, March 13th.  That also happened to be the day that we reached 33 weeks.  I’ve always considered 33 to be my lucky number, and I have no idea why.  My ultrasound showed the same flow issues, and the growth measurements showed no change over the last two weeks in Baby A’s size.  They estimated him to be about 2lbs 12oz, or the size of a typical 29 weeker.  We had also seen, in both babies, the potential that they could have coarctation of their aortas that could require heart surgery.  The doctor told me not to eat or drink anything and said he was going to talk to the team and he would get back to me.  He returned with the news that we would be having a scheduled c-section that day around 3pm.  An hour later, there was an emergency and we were told our c-section was pushed back and it would be sometime that evening.

I was running on adrenalin.  I was excited but incredibly nervous as well.  I knew that delivering the babies at 33 weeks meant they’d be going up to the NICU, likely until they reached 40 weeks.  The OB for my office that day was a doctor I had never met before, I wish my doctor from MFM could’ve delivered me.  I was taken to the OR, Kyle was left in the hallway while they inserted the spinal to numb me.  I was shaking uncontrollably.  One of the anesthesiologists was super great with me and basically held me while the whole thing was happening.  After it was in, I was laid down and exposed and Kyle was able to come in.  I decided I was going to tell my toes to move, so I did, but they didn’t move (obviously).  I had a small panic attack.  I felt like I was in some horror movie where I had been put in a bathtub and given a drug that paralyzed me and could just see the running water coming up to my mouth and nose and I couldn’t get away from it.  That’s a tad dramatic, but I didn’t like it.

When they began to perform the c-section, I had the weirdest sensations in my body.  I wasn’t in any pain but could feel all kinds of pulling and pushing.  At 4:58pm, Porter was brought into this world weighing in at 2lbs 12oz, just as predicted.  He was whisked into a room off of the OR to be assessed by the NICU team.  Baby B was stuck way up in my abdomen so they had to push her down, again the weirdest feeling ever.  At 4:59 they pulled Winter out of my belly by her leg, she was 4lbs 4oz.  She had some immediate bruising from being pushed  and pulled out.  She was also whisked into the other room and Kyle went with them.  I thought that would be it, that I wouldn’t get to see my babies.  Kyle came back with pictures and one of the NICU Nurse Practitioners surprised us and said that I should get to see the babies.  For a few precious seconds they held Porter next to me so I could see him and Kyle snapped a few pictures.  Then they brought Winter over and showed me her head full of dark hair.  And then they were gone.

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Porter (left), Winter (right)

 

I was left behind while they closed me up, which seemed to take forever and I was wheeled into recovery.  At some point that evening, they wheeled my hospital bed into the NICU so I could see each of the babies.  I don’t really remember much, luckily Kyle took a ton of pictures to show me later.

Long story short, I never considered myself to be superstitious, but it turns out I am.  Friday the 13th isn’t always bad, for me it’s a lucky day.  And my lucky number finally made some sense.  I had made it to 33 weeks pregnant exactly when my babies decided they had to make their grand entrances into this world.  Within a matter of a minute, our lives have been forever changed.

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The Heart is the Matter

A few days ago, while undergoing an ultrasound to check on Baby A’s umbilical cord flow, the ultrasound tech said, “I’ll be right back.”  She left the room and I knew this wasn’t normal.  She returned with the Perinatologist and showed her my ultrasound.  They were talking about our son’s heart.  I heard things like ‘I see dilation’ and ‘the flow should only be going one direction’ and ‘narrowing’ among other things.  The doctor calmly told me that she wanted to contact one of two Pediatric Cardiologists who works with our hospital because she isn’t an expert on the hearts of babies.

I immediately went into a panic.  What did any of this mean?  What is wrong with my baby?  We waited and waited and heard nothing.  The next morning I was taken back to the ultrasound room for an echo on the baby and told that they would be making a disc for the cardiologist to review.  We waited hours and heard nothing.  In the evening, I asked my nurse if she had heard anything.  She checked the order and told me that it likely wouldn’t be looked at until the following day.  Two days had passed before we were given the chance to see the cardiologist.  He told us the disc was empty and I’d need another ultrasound.  So back down I went to the ultrasound room and had another ultrasound performed.  Hours later, the doctor finally came in to talk to us.  It was a lot of big words and fancy mumbo jumbo that really went over our heads.

We will not know for sure until our children are born, but the ultrasound showed a narrowing of the aorta (coarctation of the aorta is the official name).  It isn’t affecting the baby much while in the womb so this issue by itself would not require us to be delivered early, but obviously Baby A has other issues as well.  Once the babies are born, they would do an echo on Baby A to get a better look to see if the issue needs intervention.  The doctor explained, after verifying who our insurance company is, that he would recommend us to go to CHOP or Hershey Medical after our baby is born, assuming he needs intervention.  It could mean heart surgery.  HEART SURGERY.  on a baby.  maybe even on a preemie.

He assured us that this is a fairly common problem, and the surgery is very low risk.  But heart surgery is still heart surgery, right?  It sounds pretty scary to me.  Basically, they’d go in and remove the narrow part of his aorta and either sew the two ends back up, or add a patch and sew the two ends to the patch.

This was right about the time I started wondering what we had done to deserve this.  Could I have caused this?  Is it karma for something I’ve said or done in the past?  Hearing things like this about your child, it shakes you.  It makes you wonder why in the hell some crack whores are able to get pregnant and birth healthy babies but the person who has wanted it for as long as they can remember, can’t.

Someone said to me after I discovered I needed IVF that things like this happen to people like me because I want it so badly; that if something like this happened to them, they’d give up and just go without kids.  At the time this response really got under my skin.  I’m realizing how true it really is though.  It’s unfair, but true.  Because I so desperately want a family, I will have to fight more obstacles.  They say nothing worth having ever comes easy, right?  So we will fight, Baby A will fight.  When he’s born, maybe there will be nothing wrong, maybe he won’t need surgery.  But if he does, he will fight through that too and we will fight along with him.

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