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Shannon's twin pregnancy journal

Parenting Twins
February 28, 1999

Kai and Abi are six months old, and I can honestly say there were times when I didn't believe we'd come this far. Now, looking back at the last half year, I wonder how time just seemed to slip past. There were so many things I meant to do. I meant to update my journal. I meant to have portraits taken of the kids at two, four and six months. I meant to put together the scrapbook I bought. I meant to keep my house clean, organize the closets and keep up with the laundry. It's funny how none of these things seem all that important when you are totally immersed in the "joys" of babyhood . . . times two.

So, what have we done with the time? The first week after Kai and Abi came home, I was just so happy to have them here that the total chaos two newborns bring to a household already overflowing with kids went virtually unnoticed. I remember getting up at 3 am to feed Kai and rocking him long after he had returned to sleep. Sure, I was exhausted, but he would never be x-weeks-old at 3 am on September whatever again. I wanted that moment to last forever. Five days after their homecoming, my oldest daughter Kait (11) broke her arm while trying to jump a beach chair on roller blades. Because of the cast, she was unable to bathe or dress herself. Instead of the baby helper I had counted on, I had another helpless child totally dependent on me. After a night of continuously interrupted half-sleep, I would get up to two hungry babies and an 11-year-old who needed to be bathed and dressed. Not to mention three other kids who needed breakfast and lunch money and clean socks and books bags . . . all before 8:15. Suddenly, I no longer cared if I ever saw 3 am again.

In fact, I stopped caring about much of anything except seeing that the babies were taken care of. I spent the next several weeks living in pajamas and eating little more than Hershey bars. When I wasn't numb from exhaustion, I cried. I was overwhelmed. In my more lucid moments, I realized I was suffering from post-partum depression. I knew I needed help, I just didn't know how I would find the time or the energy to get it.

It all came to a head one night in October, when Kai's monitor started sounding brady alarms one after the other. Peter had to leave for a week long business trip in Europe the next day, and I had just come down with a cold. Neither of us could drag ourselves out of bed to make the hour-long trip to the hospital with Kai. Instead, we put him in bed with us and each time the alarm sounded, I shook Kai and Peter called his name. This went on every ten minutes or so for the entire night. Finally, near dawn, I went to the kitchen to make Abi a bottle and heard Kai alarming again. Peter was still in the bedroom with him, so I continued what I was doing. But the alarm kept sounding. I ran into the bedroom to find Peter holding Kai up in the air gently shaking him from side-to-side and frantically calling his name. The alarm finally stopped, and Peter placed Kai on the bed. He never woke up from his sleep and was a sickly shade of gray. I grabbed his oxygen (used only during feedings), slipped the canula into his nose and threw on some clothes. Within minutes, I was on my way down to Children's Hospital with him. (We should have called an ambulance but we did not want Kai taken to the local hospital, which doesn't have experience with preemies.)

Kai was admitted to intensive care with what later was diagnosed as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Peter, unable to reschedule his trip, left for Europe while I was still at the hospital getting Kai settled. My 16-year-old was at home with the other kids, and Abi (whom I'd never left before). I wasn't allowed to bring Abi to the hospital, and she came down with RSV the next day. I couldn't be in two places at once so I had to make the painful choice to leave my son in the care of hospital staff while I took care of his sister. With Peter gone, one baby in the hospital and the other sick at home, everything fell on me. I didn't have time to fall apart. There wasn't anyone else to pick up the slack. I needed to do whatever had to be done.

On Kai's fourth day in the hospital, I took Abi to the pediatrician. When he learned that I couldn't be with Kai because Abi was sick and Peter was out of town, he called the doctor at Children's. He discussed Kai's treatments (antibiotics and around-the-clock nebulizer treatments) and told her he was confident I could care for Kai at home. His confidence in me was what helped turn things around (not to mention the support of my many friends on the Preemie-l forum!). My depression was miraculously cured.

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During Kai's hospital stay, he was diagnosed with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). He came home on continuous oxygen and began seeing a pulmonologist. He was also found to have a urinary tract infection, which led to tests that revealed renal reflux (his urine backs up from his bladder into his kidneys). He sees a urologist and takes daily antibiotics to help prevent infections, which could cause kidney damage. We have a cardiologist who is monitoring the small PDA that was not picked up when Kai was still in the NICU. Through developmental assessments, we've learned that Kai has some delays. Twice a month, we attend Infant Stimulation classes through the Early Intervention program. I laughingly call all of these specialists our "team of -ologists."

Whew, all of that and we're only up to the end of October! November came and the babies got better, Kait had her cast removed, Peter was home and things began to settle down to a more normal level of chaos. At about 12 weeks, Kai and Abi started sleeping through the night. What HEAVEN it was to sleep for more than an hour or two at a time! Peter and I developed a routine. Each night, one of us takes responsibility for feeding, changing and putting one baby to bed. We rotate babies to make sure they each have equal time as Mom or Dad's "bedtime baby." I love our nighttime routine; it's the kind of thing we dreamed of when we first learned we were expecting twins.

Our first Christmas with Kai and Abi was wonderful. My parents came down from Michigan to spend the holiday with us. We took all the kids to Christmas Eve services, the first time we'd been to church since I was placed on bedrest last spring (because the babies were premature and very susceptible to illness, we need to keep them away from other people as much as possible). Christmas morning, the other kids "helped" Kai and Abi open their gifts. We had such a great time that we forgot to bring out the video camera. Even without a tangible reminder, I know that it was an occasion that none of us will ever forget.

My favorite Christmas gift from Peter requires some explanation. In last July's issue of Twins Magazine, there was a small paragraph announcing my journal here at StorkNet (thank you, Maribeth!). Leslie, a Missouri mom of twins, saw the article and started following my journal. She sent me e-mail (including her phone number) while I was on vacation. Shortly after I was hospitalized, I called Leslie. Her boy/girl twins were born in March, nine weeks premature due to her contracting chorioamnionitis. Leslie became my lifeline. At 3:00 AM, when I couldn't sleep, I'd sign on to AOL and Leslie would be there waiting. We'd talk about everything and nothing, until both of us were practically giggling from exhaustion. Our friendship continued and strengthened once Kai and Abi arrived. We spoke often of a time when we'd finally meet, face-to-face. For Christmas, Peter gave me a hand-made certificate for an all-expenses-paid trip to Missouri to meet Leslie!

Leslie and I started planning the trip as soon as I told her about Peter's gift. I really wanted Kai to be off oxygen before we left, not wanting to haul tanks and worry about the possibility of running out. He was scheduled for an over-night stay at Children's the beginning of January to determine if it could be discontinued. We planned the trip for two weeks later, assuming the results would be good. Unfortunately, we had an ice storm the day of the test and it had to be rescheduled for the following weekend. Peter went with him and it appeared Kai did well, but we wouldn't get the official results for a few days. Two days before we were due to leave for Missouri, more bad weather caused the pulmunologist's (who was to give us the results) office to be closed. We finally got the good news on the morning we were to leave. Kai would be oxygen free for the trip!

Peter drove the entire 500 miles while I was on "baby duty." Kai and Abi proved to be great little travelers. We had a wonderful time meeting Leslie and her family. Leslie and I have so much in common, it's scary sometimes. When one of is down, the other seems to know just the right thing to say or do to bring the other back up. We decided we wanted to share this bond with others and started putting together ideas for a web site called TWINSANITY. It was a fun and productive trip with only one exception . . . Abi developed a nagging cough.

Two weeks later, she still had the cough. We took her to the pediatrician, who placed her on meds for reflux (Kai was diagnosed with reflux in the NICU, but Abi had never been tested even though she was continuously spitting up). The cough continued and she became congested. I thought it was just a cold. After a few more days, Kai started in with a croupy-sounding cough. I listened to his lungs and then Abi's with my stethoscope. They were both wheezing severely. Off to Children's we went once again. After several hours in the emergency room, the doctors wanted to admit them for around-the-clock nebulizer treatments and observation. We took them home, knowing we could handle that. A few days later, they were still wheezing inspite of the neb treatments. They had also developed fevers. We took them back to Children's and they were admitted with what was thought to be Influenza type-A. They were in four days before being released on antibiotics and continued nebulizer treatments, Kai on prednisone for his lungs as well.

They were home only four days before Kai came down with severe diarrhea. Abi wasn't bouncing back from the flu; she was sleeping twenty hours a day and wasn't alert when she was awake. I took them back to the hospital. They were admitted again. By the next day, Abi also had severe diarrhea. They were diagnosed with rotavirus this time. A few days later, Kai was found to have a bacterial infection caused by the disruption of his normal intestinal flora from taking antibiotics to prevent urinary tract infections. Like our NICU experience, it seemed they were being hit with one thing after another . . . without end.

Fortunately, there was an end. Kai and Abi spent a total of six days in the hospital this second time (or would it be the third or fourth?). They came home five days ago. I caught the flu and their nine-year-old brother caught rotavirus from them. We're all beginning to recover. Until the next time . . .

Other than all of that, Kai and Abi are thriving. Kai is up to nearly sixteen pounds (having regained the pound he lost during the bout with rotavirus), smiles, coos, and taught himself how to blow "raspberries." Abi weighs nearly thirteen pounds, is usually very patient and cheerful, curious about EVERYTHING, rolls over and is beginning to creep. Peter seems made to be a father of twins; he takes most things in stride these days. The other kids love to play with their baby brother and sister.

And me? Well, I'm much less organized than I used to be in some ways, more so in others. I don't think twice (very often!) about administering six or seven different meds on differing schedules to two babies. I can type, talk on the phone AND feed both Kai and Abi at the same time. I've given up on keeping the house organized. There are many things that used to seem so important that I've given up on. They just don't rate the same priority level as watching my beautiful children grow.

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