Nathan and I were pretty much immediately told that our pregnancy was considered high risk because of the type of twins that I was carrying. The fact that the babies shared a placenta meant that at any point during my pregnancy twin to twin transfusion could start taking place. If this happened it would mean that one baby would be taking the “nutrients” from the other baby, which could prove to be life threatening to one or both of them. We were told that we would need to have ultrasounds done every two weeks during my entire pregnancy so the size and growth of the babies could be measured. If this started to happen, we would be refered to a surgeon in Charlotte, NC that would perform surgery on the babies while they were still in utero (still inside me) to try and separate the circulatory system that they were currently sharing. This, of course, was very risky. We just prayed that the Lord would keep our little babies growing at the same pace.
We had our first follow up ultrasound two and a half weeks after our first. I was a little over eleven weeks pregnant. The ultrasound started and we saw our two precious babies on the screen. The first thing any parent wants to see immediately is the little heartbeat, and there it was. Two strong heartbeats were fluttering fast on the screen. Now we could relax more for the rest of our visit. The doctor came in after the ultrasound technician measured the babies. The doctor started looking around more thoroughly and I felt this tight knot in my stomach that something was wrong. She eventually said that she thought that Baby “A” had a hernia. She did not specify what type of hernia and my mind started zooming.
It was at this moment in my life where I became a believer that sometimes ignorance may actually bring bliss. Let me take a step back. I am a respiratory therapist and work at the only Children’s Hospital in the area. We see the sickest babies in our NICU and PICU. I was not used to being around healthy babies at all. In my mind, most babies are born with serious conditions and spend months in intensive care. At this specific moment of my life, my knowledge of neonatal disorders and diseases only caused my mind to race through many different types of hernias. Some of them are no big deal, while others can cause a lifetime of complications. It was at this moment, that my husband had no fear as he heard these words, while I was barely able to control the tears out of fear for my baby.
As I began to probe for more answers she proceeded to tell us that she wouldn’t be able to verify until our next ultrasound two weeks later, but it looked like Baby “A” had a condition know as gastroschisis. This is a congentital birth defect where part of the abdominal wall does not form, resulting in part or all of the bowel to be freely exposed outside of the baby’s body. Gastrochisis is typically a disorder that has no long term effects. Usually the baby undergoes surgery within days after birth to put the bowel back inside their body or a “silo” is formed to hold the bowel above the abdominal wall and let gravity do it’s thing and pull it back in. Once back in, the surgeon sews up the belly. Then the difficult part starts. The intestines have to start working. The baby has to have several bowel movements and then is allowed to eat for the first time since birth. Up until this point the baby will have been sustained by IV nutrients only. Once the baby is allowed to eat, it must be approached very slowly, to be able to know if the bowel is able or unable to digest and pass the food.
At this moment during our doctor’s visit, all of my professional knowledge seemed to drain straight out of me and although I had previously provided care for patients with this same condition, my knowledge failed me. I learned right then and there, that when it comes to dealing with your own child, everything is different. I have experienced this same phenomena many times since then. I have found myself taking one of my children to the pediatrician and asking questions that usually I would be answering. When my child is sick, I feel the need to double check something that I already know to be true. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe everyone else in the healthcare world has children and feels totally confident that they won’t make a mistake, or overlook something because it seems so second nature. All I know, is that at this moment I was merely a scared parent and I wanted someone to tell me everything was going to be okay.
At our next ultrasound appointment, the doctor verified that baby “A” did have gastroschisis. They wouldn’t know much more about the condition of his bowel or how much bowel was outside of his abdominal wall until he was born. All we could do at this point was pray and put our baby in the hands of God. The months went by and we continued to go in for our scheduled ultrasounds every two weeks. The babies continued to measure the same.
At nearly 35 weeks pregnant, I went into labor.
That is another story in and of itself, so I’ll just skip to right after their birth. Baby “A” was born first and we named him Maverick.
He was taken nearly immediately away from the hospital he was born at, to the NICU where I work.
Baby “B” came two minutes later and we named him Maxton.
I had been through the ringer by this point and don’t recall being able to see either of my boys before they were taken away from me. I know from pictures that the babies were shown to me, but I don’t actually remember seeing either of their faces. Nathan was able to get a few pictures of him holding the babies.
Maverick was brought to me by the transport team once I was in PACU so I could see him before he was taken away to the other hospital where he was going to have his surgery. I remember seeing him and just thinking that he was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid my eyes on. It would be nearly two days before I would see him again.
When I left PACU I went down to the NICU where Maxton was taken. And by left, I mean that I was wheeled away from that unit in my hospital bed. It would be more than a day before I was even allowed to attempt to get up out of the bed because of some of the specific medications I had been given. This was the moment I was able to hold one of my babies for the first time, over three hours after they were born and nearly 50 hours after I went into active labor.
Moments after this picture was taken I nearly vomitted on Maxton from all the anesthesia I had been given and had to quickly give him back to his nurse. I tell ya, it was truly glamorous!
At this point, I had two babies in two separate NICU’s and I was a patient myself and wouldn’t be discharged for another three days. This was hard. Really hard, actually. Being a new mom all I wanted to do was to hold my babies, take care of them, nurse them and do all of the motherly things that I felt I needed to do. I felt mostly like a visitor when I would be able to go see them. During my whole pregnancy I knew that Maverick would be in the NICU for quite some time. We were told to expect him to be there for two to three months. But, all along I just imagined that Maxton would be able to go home with me. “This would make it easier, because at least I would have one of my babies with me,” I reasoned to myself.
Well, because the boys were not 35 weeks yet (by literally 50 minutes), Maxton had to be admitted to the NICU automatically. He ended up not eating well at first and wasn’t able to come home for nine days. That doesn’t sound like a long time, but since I was recovering from surgery and we were having to visit two separate NICU’s on a daily basis just to visit each of them for a few hours it seemed like an eternity. Those were without a doubt the most difficult days of my life, while also being the most joyous. We had just been blessed with the birth of two precious souls, and yet they were in two separate places, neither of which was with me and Nathan. Tough stuff for new parents.
Long story made short, Maverick did awesome! His nurses and doctor’s told us that he was the best case of gastroschisis they had ever seen. This was the exact thing we had been praying for! The Lord is good. Maverick had surgery on day one of life and hit the ground running afterwards. By the time he was one month old he was allowed to come home. That was months earlier than we had been told to expect. His stay in the NICU was interesting. He was being taken care of by all of my fellow colleagues. This was an experience most people never imagine. I was used to being the one in scrubs, not the parent of a patient. But, I would have never wanted him anywhere else. Everyone was so good to us and took such good care of my baby when I couldn’t be there. I am forever thankful for all of them.
Through all of this, the Lord made himself present in a very real way. Of course there were times where I would get really scared and worry, but for the most part I was able to put my trust in Him. I knew that He loved our sons even more than we did and that nothing would happen to either of them that He did not allow. I am so very thankful that the Lord took care of them and guided the doctor’s hands and minds as they cared for them too!