~ Welcome Rowen and Grayson!
I'm going to start this story on Thursday April 21st, the day of my last ultrasound and OB appointment. By the time I got to the doctor's my PUPPPs rash had spread all across my belly and back, down my butt and legs all the way to my knees - I looked and felt like I had Poison Ivy over a good third of my body. I itched everywhere and was going crazy. The ultrasound went well - the boys looked good and aced their NST and BPP. The OB checked my rash and prescribed a cream, and then gave me an internal exam to check my dilation and effacement - result: nothing! That meant he was putting me on the induction list right away! Woohoo!
Now to wait.
Each day we called L&D to check how far back in line we were and each day they said "not today, maybe tomorrow." Just like with Ella's birth, they were super busy! Thursday turned into Friday turned into Saturday. On Saturday morning they told me that they wanted me to come in for an NST and that if there was room they'd probably keep me in. I mentioned the PUPPPs rash and asked if there was anything else (besides the cream) I could do for it - well, those must have been the magic words because the nurse said she'd try her best to find room for me because the only cure is delivering the babies. And, sure enough, when I got there they told me we were skipping the NST and going straight for the induction. Woohoo!
We got settled into our room and, having been warned that the induction could take upwards of 48 hours, we started up a game of Scrabble. Good thing, too, because it took over two hours before they came to put the Cervadil in and get things started. It was now 2:30 pm. When I was induced with Ella the Cervadil worked right away - my contractions started at two minutes apart and were painful enough that they pulled the Cervadil after only an hour and a half, but this time things went much slower. I had been lamenting the fact that I would never know what it was like to have a "normal" labour, but this one progressed much more naturally. My contractions started at about 20 minutes apart and were tolerable and slowly built up intensity over the next six hours. Throughout this time we walked around the hospital to try and keep things moving, and played some more Scrabble.
Around 9:00 pm the contractions were up to every 5-7 minutes, and were starting to get intense. Not only that, but I had serious pain and pressure in my cervix that was staying constant (caused by the Cervadil, I was told). I refused Stadol, because I didn't like how it had made me feel with Ella's labour, but asked for some Tylenol, just to take the edge off. Shortly after that I spent some time in the tub and on the birthing ball. I had to keep coming back to the bed to be put on the monitors, and they warned me that once I was in "full blown labour" that I would have to be on the monitors at all times. I asked them to check my progress at this point, knowing that the plan was to get the epidural and then break my waters (well, one of them) to move things along once I was about 5 cm. I was so disappointed to find out that I was only 3 cm! I didn't want to get the epidural too early and slow things down, possibly leading to a C-Section, but the pain was starting to wear me down.
I was also starting to feel nauseous at this point, so I asked for some Gravol and Aaron and I decided to try and sleep. We managed to sleep a bit until about 1:30 or so, when my contractions got so bad I couldn't sleep through them. They were coming about every 2-5 minutes, and I was definitely using all my coping techniques to get through them. We called Michele, our doula, and told her it was time to come in, and then I went back in the bath while we waited for her to arrive. By the time she got to the hospital it was almost 3:00 am, and I asked to get checked again. This time I was at 5 cm, and they pulled the Cervadil, and it was time to get the epidural and let them break my waters.
The epidural was heaven! I started feeling better right away, even though I was now confined to the bed and strapped to the monitors full time. The only thing that kept bothering me was serious heartburn and feeling nauseous, and I kept getting doses of Gravol and Maalox to keep them under control. They also hooked me up to a low dose of Oxytocin after they broke my waters to keep the contractions steady.
I have to admit that I don't really remember what happened over the next few hours, aside from sucking on a lot of ice chips brought to me by Aaron and Michele, and getting leg massages from Aaron. I was so exhausted, I just wanted it to be over. All I know is that by 11:00 am I was almost fully dilated and they started to prep us to move to the operating room (standard procedure for twins, just in case an emergency C-Section is required).
I was so tired that when I had to move over onto the operating table I could barely help. I think there were about a dozen people in the operating room with us - by a strange coincidence, all women - and by the time they brought in Aaron and Michele and had me ready to push it was about 12:30 pm.
I found the pushing really hard. I don't know if it was because I was on an operating table and had to hold myself up, or if it was because I was just so tired, but it seemed so much harder than I remember with Ella. Every time I pushed I thought I was going to pass out. After pushing for a few minutes the doctor asked if she could use the vacuum to help Baby A out, and I agreed. At one point there was a huge popping sound, and I thought for a second that the baby had "popped" out of me, then I realized that the vacuum had popped off his head. It was around now that my epidural started to wear off. I cried for the anesthesiologist to top me up, but it took too long, and I felt every bit of Baby A's birth. Finally, at 12:38 pm on Sunday April 24 Rowen Sebastian entered the world weighing a whopping 6 lbs, 8 oz, and was whisked away before I could see him. I was exhausted, but I wasn't done yet.
However, at least my epidural kicked back in, just in time. I pushed for another 18 minutes and at 12:56pm Grayson Alexander was born weighing only an ounce less than his brother. Finally, I could rest - or so I thought. Unfortunately, my placenta didn't want to come out nearly as easily as the boys, and I had to start pushing again. It was so stubborn that the doctor had to put her whole arm inside me and pull it out! Thank goodness my epidural was working again!
I was really shaky after it was all done, but the nurses insisted on having me hold the two babies while they pushed us back to our room. I was so afraid I was going to drop them. Once we got in the room they told us that Rowen was going to have to go to NICU for observation because he was pale and they were worried about his blood sugar levels. They're pretty sure that the boys had Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome - that one twin was stealing nutrients from his brother. The strange thing is that it looks like Rowen was the donor twin, even though he was slightly bigger - his blood sugar was low when they checked it and he stayed in NICU for about 6 hours. Grayson's blood sugar was on the high side of normal and he was really pink, but he was able to stay with us.
Feeding the boys has been difficult. Despite the fact that my doctor said he considered twins Full Term at 34 weeks, the boys are considered "Late Preemies" - in fact the doctors at the hospital said that although the twins were born at 36 weeks (+ 3 days) they were more like 35 week Preemies because they're twins. This means that they would rather sleep than eat, and we had to force feed them with bottles of formula in order to get them to take in anything. I managed to get them to latch a few times to my breast, but we were told by the lactation consultant that they were too weak to be getting much, and that they were mostly just tiring themselves out. So, for now, we're on a strict 3 hour force-feeding schedule, and I'm pumping after every feed. For the first week we had to use/supplement with formula, but by Day 8 my supply had caught up with demand, and we've been on just expressed breastmilk. I'm trying to get the boys to latch at every feeding, but I'm only to try for 5-10 minutes. They seem less interested in nursing every day, which is worrying, but hopefully once they get stronger we'll be able to convince them that breast is best. I'd rather not be tied to a pump for the next 12 months, but I will if I have to. We're planning on calling in a lactation consultant next week for some help as well.
Rowen has had a few issues since we were all discharged from the hospital three days after their birth. At our two day post-discharge doctor's appointment he had lost more weight - he was at 5 lbs, 13oz, (more than 10% less than his birth weight) - and he was starting to look yellow. The doctor sent us to the children's hospital, where they put him under the bili lights while they waited for his blood test to come back. When the results came in they still within normal limits, but were considerably higher than when we left the hospital we gave birth in, so they asked us to bring him back two days later. Fortunately at that visit his bili levels had dropped and his weight had gone up, so he didn't have to stay. His weight is continuing to go up, but not as quickly as the doctors would like, so we're on weekly doctors appointments with him until the doctors decide he's doing ok. Grayson, on the other hand, is eating well and now out-weighs his brother by a good two ounces.
I have to admit that I'm surprised with how different this newborn experience is from Ella's. Not so much because they're twins as because they were born at 36 weeks compared to Ella's 42. In a way I'm glad I had the PUPPPs rash, because I would feel incredibly guilty about wanting to have the babies early just because of regular pregnancy discomforts. I'm really sorry that I believed my doctor that the boys would be "Full-Term" when born so early. However, since it does look like they were suffering from Twin-to-Twin Tranfusion Syndrome, I suppose it is better after all that they were born early, since it only would have got worse the longer they were inside. Poor Rowen would probably have been much worse off had I not been induced. And really, the boys' health is what matters most.
Ella is doing her best to adjust to being a big sister. She handled my hospital stay well, but once we were home she didn't want to hang out with her grandparents anymore. She has been really good with the boys, giving them kisses and bringing them blankets, however she has become fairly possessive of Aaron (and to a lesser extent me) and doesn't understand that sometimes Mama and Papa are both busy with the babies and can't play. I think that has been one of the hardest things about having twins - the kids now outnumber us and it really takes two of us to do a feeding. Fortunately my mom has been staying with us to help, but she leaves this weekend, and then it'll just be the two of us (with other helpers on occasion). It also doesn't help that Ella came down with a nasty virus this week and has been sick with a fever and cough. We've managed to keep the boys healthy (so far), but now Aaron and I feel like we're both coming down with it, so next week might be pretty crazy.
I'm also doing ok. My physical recovery has gone much faster than after Ella's birth, although I have a bad habit of doing too much while I'm feeling good and then ending up in a lot of pain later. My PUPPPs rash has finally stopped itching, but has left me with dark purple "scars" all over. Hopefully they'll fade along with the stretch marks. I had one night of "baby blues" in the hospital, where I cried my eyes out because the boys weren't letting us sleep and I was so exhausted and couldn't figure out how we were ever going to be able to handle twins. Fortunately that has passed (for now at least, ask me again next week when it's just Aaron and me against the three kids).
I think that is about it for my birth story. Thanks you to everyone who has followed me in this journey, and especially to Maribeth for giving me the chance to share my experiences.