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A Year Ago Today

A year ago today I started feeling unwell.  I was 27 weeks pregnant.  I had felt amazing all day.  Todd & I went to a course at our church and met lots of great people, we were in good spirits.  Around the early evening time I started to feel unwell.  I thought it was just pregnancy pain.  It was in my back.  The pain got worse and I couldn’t get comfortable.  In the hours to follow the pain would start to come and go like contractions.  My instincts told me to go to the hospital.  Todd drove.  I knew something was wrong.  I remember that when we were driving I knew.  I wished it wasn’t but I knew.  I had never heard of a baby being born at 27 weeks.  I knew nothing of prematurity.  I should have done more research with twins to know that it was a big risk.  Those things only happen to other people.  Thank God we went to the hospital when we did.  Thank God we were had an amazing team of Doctors and Nurses.  I couldn’t believe it when they told me that my babies needed to be born.  Early in the morning on August 12th Josh & Tori would come into this world.  Today is the day before their birthday.

I’m sitting at Starbucks writing this blog.  I have been feeling like writing this blog but I debated.  It was a particularly rough day today with the twins.  They wouldn’t nap and they were fussy.  I was emotional.  When Todd came home I escaped to write this.  I need to get the words out on the page.

Tomorrow is Joshua & Victoria’s first birthday.  I am so emotional.  I hope I can put my feelings into words.  I have split feelings.

There is a part of me that is not ready for their birthday.  I couldn’t figure this out until now.  Every time someone would mention that it’s coming up I would feel sad.  It’s because I’m not ready.  I don’t feel like they are ready.  Since November 9th, 2013 we’ve had two ages for Josh & Tori.  Their actual age which is based on their birthday August 12th and then their corrected age which is based on what age they would be if they were born on their due date – November 9th.  It’s so hard to explain to people when they ask their age.  “Well they are 11 months but developmentally they are more like 8 months”.  Generally the question I get is “So, when do you celebrate their birthday?”  It’s a reasonable question.  We celebrate it on August 12th…but they are more like 9-month olds than 1-year olds.  It seems so strange to have their birthday now.

On the other hand I am so emotional because I’m bursting with gratitude.  Last night Josh had a tough time falling asleep.  He’s teething and he just needed some extra TLC.  After he was settled down I sat with him beside his crib for a while.  I reached in and he held my hand.  Mommy’s here.  You can go to sleep.  My mind flooded with thoughts of a year ago.  I was overwhelmed.  This is my little boy.  The one I could have so easily lost.  I didn’t know at the time how serious a placental abruption was.  Many babies die.  I’ve read articles that say most babies die when this happens.  It’s a huge risk to the mother as well.  He lived.  I lived.  His life is a miracle.  He is doing incredibly well.  As he held my hand I recalled the night in the hospital when he couldn’t keep his heart rate up.  It was about a week or 10 days after he was born.  His heart rate wouldn’t stay up.  I was so scared that we would lose him.  When I got the strength together I went over beside his tiny isolette and held his hand.  He improved.  He needed his mama.  He still needs his mama.  Now he is getting so big and strong.  He can crawl everywhere, explores everything.  He loves wires.  If there’s a wire in sight he’ll find it and shake it.  He’s quick and smart and he’ll be pulling himself up in no time.  I’m so proud of my Joshua.  I call him my Joshua bird because I just know that God has plans for him that will soar above my wildest dreams for him.  He surprises everyone with his development and I have no doubt that he will overcome any obstacles that come his way in life and just soar like a bird.

I look at Tori and I’m amazed.  She is such a strong and brave little girl.  I call her my brave little girl in the world.  She couldn’t wait to get here.  She’s so expressive and happy – smiling and laughing all the time.  She loves to hear the pitches her voice can make by screaming with joy in octaves that I didn’t even know existed.  When I look at her she just gives me the biggest smiles that light up my heart.  She’s a piece of me.  She’s so determined and persistent.  She loves her “dada” so much.  She’s definitely daddy’s little girl.  Today she found the bowl of cat food.  The little cat food pieces are the same size as a cheerio.  Uh oh.  I saw her just as her hand was about an inch away from picking one up and eating it.  She chatters away with tons of sounds in many different pitches and octaves.  I imagine that Joshua tires easily of her constant chatter (just like Todd tires of mine!)  She’s also crawling so well.  She worked on her ‘technique’ for weeks and weeks before finally taking a forward movement.  Now we can’t stop her.

Today is emotional because I look at these two little people and I can’t believe that they are so strong.  I can’t believe that we made them and we’ve taken care of them for a year.  I can’t believe what good babies they are and how lucky we’ve been (in the grand scheme of things – today aside!)  My heart can’t even handle the gratitude that I feel.

It can’t be their first birthday tomorrow.  It couldn’t have been a year already.  I think that there are dates in life that are pivot points.  Dates that change your life forever.  Sometimes they are good and sometimes they are bad but they always make us better.  August 11th, 2013 was the scariest day of my life.  The fear continued into August 12th.  The weeks to follow were some of the most difficult and emotional weeks but there is one thing that’s for sure.  I am forever changed by becoming a mom to Josh & Tori.  I’m forever changed by the experience of helping to take care of my tiny miracles for 3 months in the hospital before they came home.  Todd & I are forever changed by the bonding that this experience gave us.  I’m blessed by the sense of community I found through writing this blog during their hospital journey and getting support from friends and family and the relationships I’ve re-kindled as a result.  I’m blessed to know what it means to be a mother and I know that being a mother means constantly learning and growing just as my children learn and grow.

So I approach this day with reverence.  It’s not sadness, its not pure joy, but a deep sense of gratitude for what the depth of last year’s events on this date have meant for me and how they have changed me and my family forever.

This is the last pregnancy photo I had taken.  I think I was about 25 weeks pregnant here.

This is the last pregnancy photo I had taken. I think I was about 25 weeks pregnant here.

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Tiny Hands

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I’m so in love with the hands of my little ones.  Their hands truly show how tiny and precious they are.  Until I had children I never really appreciated how special hands can be.  When the nurses from the Labour & Delivery unit rolled my hospital bed in to the NICU to meet Joshua & Victoria shortly after they were delivered much too early, I didn’t realize that the very first way that I would communicate with my little ones would be through our hands.  As I leaned across my bed to Joshua’s incubator, the nurse opened the door so that I could reach my hand in.  He was so tiny and his hands were about the size of a nickel.  My finger seemed so incredibly huge next to any part of him.  Most moms first touch their baby when he/she is laid on her chest.  For me I reached in and my tiny baby boy, just 2 pounds at the time, grabbed on to my finger with such strength.  His eyes were still fused shut but I didn’t need to see them to know his strength.   A short while later I was introduced to Victoria, my tiny baby girl, smaller than Joshua at 1lb14oz. Her hands were even smaller than his yet her grip was also so strong.  I couldn’t believe the strength that could come from such tiny beings.

I didn’t realize it at the time but at this moment I had started to bond with my babies.  For the days that would follow I would be overcome with emotion.  I had many thoughts: Why did this happen?  What did I do wrong?  Why couldn’t I experience a full pregnancy?  Why was I denied the experience of holding my babies after birth?.  They say that hindsight is 20/20 and I can tell you that behind all of the emotion I felt at the time I was missing the most important things.  I had two beautiful babies.  They were alive.  They had survived the hardest part – the trauma of being born at 27 weeks.  They were living examples of God’s grace and goodness in my life.  And the most important thing that I didn’t recognize at the time was that I had bonded with them.  They knew that I was their mom the moment I reached my hand in.  They squeezed my finger showing me that they were strong.  They were fighters.  They would survive.  

I often catch Victoria and Joshua discovering each other with their hands.  Sometimes they are laying side by side and they will reach out to one another.  Often it’s a gentle, exploratory reach.  Other times it’s a fussy, arms flailing, hitting each other in the head type of reach.  And sometimes, I find them holding hands like the photo above.  Arms interlocked and hands together.  I am in awe of the incredible bond that they share.

For the past little while I’ve been feeling anxious as it seems as if my babies are growing so quickly.  I feel like I want to savour each moment.  So often people say things to me like: “enjoy them while they are so small, they grow up so fast”.  It feels like a warning – don’t let the moments pass you by.  For some reason this feels like a lot of pressure.  It dawned on me that as Joshua and Victoria grow older, I will love them more and more.  Although they won’t always be so tiny and cute, there is so much to look forward to.  These same tiny hands that once gripped on to just the tip of my finger will be the same hands that I hold every time they get a needle in the Dr.’s office, when they walk into the Kindergarten classroom for the first time, when they are scared of the dark and when they walk in to their High School graduation.  Their lives are a gift and I have so much hand holding to look forward to.

There’s something about holding their hands that makes me feel more like a mother than anything else.  In fact, today Victoria gripped on to my finger as I fed her a bottle:

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I hope I never stop being amazed by those hands.  Yes they won’t always be so tiny, but I know that they will always be as strong as they were the moment I first held them.  I’m so proud of both of my babies.  I can’t express in words the profound love I feel for them.  I used to think that having a career and climbing the corporate ladder was the most important thing in my life.  I will say that some days when I’m at home I desperately miss going to work each day.  But all of this has made me realize that motherhood is the most important job in the world.  I never imagined how much love I would feel for those tiny little hands.

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Two Weeks Corrected

It seems like forever since I’ve written in this blog.  I am not sure what’s stopped me – probably the change in routine with having the twins home.  I have also debated about whether to keep writing because I’m not sure how interesting our ‘normal’ day to day life is now with Joshua and Victoria home.  It seems so ordinary now that the twins are home and healthy.  Having said this, I was inspired to write this blog today as I was feeding Joshua his bottle.  I watched his eyes dart back and forth as he sucked on his bottle enthusiastically.  He was so happy in that moment and I felt a tremendous sense of joy in my heart. I wondered what he was looking at and how much he can see even though he can’t focus yet.  Here’s some photos:

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These moments are so incredibly precious and I can’t believe how lucky I am to be Joshua and Victoria’s mom.  I realized that it’s important for me to keep writing even if nobody reads.  After all, I intend to share these blogs with the kids when they are older.

I’m also amazed at how quickly the babies grow and develop.  Although they are still very sleepy and sleep most of the day, their alert times are much more alert than ever before.  Here’s Tori wide awake in her chair:

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Victoria has been home for almost a month and Joshua for three weeks.  Their due date has now passed – it was November 9th so they are now over 3 months old but two weeks old is their ‘corrected age’.  The corrected age is measured from the due date and it’s used for preemies for two years from the due date to look at their development milestones.  Although the twins are actually three months old, their development is that of a two week old baby.

I am surprised at how quickly I’ve adjusted to having the kids at home.  I have to admit that before they came home, I was a bit terrified.  In some ways, having babies in the NICU is a great arrangement.  You can spend as much time with them as you want, but they have 24/7 care.  It was also a really positive experience for me to get up, get dressed and go in to the hospital every day.  The nurses and staff were wonderful and they would always sit and talk to me for a long while.  I was very nervous when Joshua came home knowing that we would be confined to the house for a while in our little ‘quarantine’ as we waited for their immune systems to get stronger.  I was worried about the amount of time we’d be spending in the house and how I would feel about it.  It can be isolating but I’m so fortunate to have amazing friends & family members who have come to visit us, help out and keep us company.  I am so grateful for this!

We’ve tried to keep our home life as scheduled as possible to keep the twins on their 3-hour feeding schedule from the hospital.  At first both babies were eating every 3 hours at 3, 6, 9 and 12.  Since we are bottle feeding, it is wonderful that Todd and I can each take a night time feed so that we could each have a long stretch of sleep.  A week after Joshua was home we found that the 3am feeding was not really needed.  I was having to wake the twins up from a deep sleep and they weren’t taking their full bottle.  Therefore we decided to adjust the night time feedings. We feed them and put them to bed at 9pm and the they wake up around 1:30am and again between 5:30-6:30am.  I then start their 3-hour daytime schedule at 9am when they get up for the day.

We also have introduced a bed time routine.  We take the babies upstairs and give each of them a bath just after 8pm.  Then Todd and I each feed one of them and we read and say our prayers.  During this time we’ve gotten into the routine of talking about what we are grateful for.  It’s amazing the positive impact that gratitude has had on our lives.  We truly have so much to be grateful for – our family, our amazing friends.  Each day it’s not hard to find so many things -even the little things to be grateful for.  Bed time is a wonderful time that we get to spend together as a family.  Of course, sometimes Todd is on his own or I am on my own for the bed time routine, but that’s OK, more often than not we are able to do this as a family.

I’ve become an expert at feeding the twins at the same time.  Thank goodness I’ve learned how to do this because this morning I had two very hungry babies on my hands.  Josh and Tori really are great babies – they generally only cry when they are hungry, and they aren’t too fussy.  This photo is from this morning when both babies were very eager to have their 9am bottles:

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As you can see, I had some unhappy campers on my hands!!  I will say that generally if we stick to the routine, we are good most of the day and it’s rare that Josh and Tori are fussy.  Generally their fussy time is during our ‘witching hour’ from 5-6pm and at night when we put them down to go to sleep.  Joshua is the fussier of the two and I suspect it’s due to the fact that he’s a pretty gassy guy.  Swaddling has worked wonders though and generally they do go to sleep within 15-20 minutes of putting them down.

Medically, both twins are doing well.  We have a wonderful Pediatrician named Dr. Luke.  He was the Ped. on call the night I went in to labor and he took amazing care of all of us.  He loves our babies as if they were his own and he has amazing bedside manner.  I’m so grateful for him and the fact that he’s accepted them into his practice.  Here’s a photo of him with Joshua and Victoria at one of their first appointments:

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Josh and Tori are on a special formula until they are 3-months adjusted that is specially formulated for preemies.  It seems to be working as they are both gaining weight rapidly.  Victoria is now over 8 pounds and Joshua over 10 pounds!  They have come so incredibly far!  The babies have continued to have bi-weekly eye exams which are going well and they just got their first immunization for RSV this week.  They will need to go monthly for the RSV vaccine throughout RSV season.  We are so incredibly blessed that God has kept them healthy.  We are also so grateful that all of our visitors have been really respectful and have not minded using generous amounts of hand sanitizer.  Hopefully we can continue to keep them healthy during this critical time!

As for Todd and I, we are so in love with these precious little humans.  I can’t believe how much love I have for them.  Sometimes I worry that they will grow up so fast, but I just think about all of the wonderful adventures that we have ahead and I try to enjoy every moment.  I look at them and I can’t believe that they came from Todd and I.  Children are truly a miracle and we are just so blessed.  I had no idea how much I would love them.  I think that because they have been through so much, I will never be able to take one moment of their life for granted.

There’s also no denying that there is an incredible bond between the two of them.  Just now as I was writing, I went over to check on them.  They are asleep in their playpen and Joshua managed to wiggle himself at least 5-6 inches so that his head was touching his sister’s.  Sometimes I can capture these amazing moments and I’m in awe of the apparent bond that they have:

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i know that many of you have kept us in your prayers and thoughts and we are so appreciative of this.  Thank you so much for all of your love and support and for continuing to follow our journey.  I feel like our NICU journey has now ended and my motherhood journey has somehow really and truly begun since they’ve come home.

 

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Joshua is Home!

I just wanted to write a quick post to say that Joshua is home!  We are so thrilled and very tired as he is having a much rougher adjustment to home than his sister.  Joshua is very anxious about all of the change and has needed a bit more TLC, but we are confident that he’ll come along quickly!  I will write more later but just wanted to share some photos from his home-coming!

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Settling in at Home…Someone is Missing!

I’ve been wanting to write this post for the past few days but I now have a little peanut who takes up all of my time!  We are sitting here in the family room and she’s happy in her little chair so I can finally write!  Here’s a peek:

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Sunday night was the big night as we did our ‘rooming in’ at the NICU.  We were provided a little room to stay where I could sleep in a single bed and Todd got a recliner with some extra pillows and blankets.  We rolled Victoria in ‘sans wires/monitors’ for the night just after her 9pm feeding.  It was such a strange and wonderful feeling – to be alone with our daughter in a quiet place.  We didn’t know how she would adjust but she was wonderful.  We tucked our little princess in for the night and she slept like a baby.  I just didn’t realize how LOUD babies really are.  Our little girl grunted and groaned and whimpered all night.  Two things happened when I discovered how loud ‘sleeping like a baby’ really is: the first is that Todd and I confirmed our decision to put the twins in their cribs in the nursery from the very beginning and the second is that although we didn’t sleep very well that first night, all of the noises were very reassuring as I never really had to worry about whether or not she was breathing.

In an attempt to keep Victoria on her 3-hour feeding/changing schedule, Todd and I negotiated who would take what feed and we settled on: Todd: 12am and 6am, Julia: 3am and 9am.  I personally think that I got the better deal.  We set our alarms and woke up on time to feed her.  Truth be told we were both awake for most of her feeds on the first night.  Here are some photos from our ‘rooming in’ night:

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We are very proud to say that we didn’t have to use the nurse call button even once!  We knew that our little girl was ready to come home and by the end of the night – we were confident that we could bring her home!

The next morning we brought Tori back into the NICU for ’rounds’.  We then waited for the Doctor to come and give her a final exam and she was promptly discharged.  After 77 days in the NICU we could finally bring our baby girl home!   Here’s a photo of the three of us leaving.  We were so happy, but it is bitter sweet because we know that someone very important is missing.  More about him in a bit.

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When we arrived at home we followed the Baby Whisperer’s advice and gave Tori a tour of the house.  We promptly got to use all of our new stuff – we changed her diaper on the new change table and fed her a bottle!  Here’s some photos of our first day at home:

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Victoria spent most of the day wide awake checking out her surroundings.  My parents came over with dinner and a cake for Victoria!

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We had a wonderful first day.  Unfortunately the first night, we totally messed up Victoria’s schedule.  We were so tired from the ‘rooming in’ night at the hospital that Todd slept through his 12am alarm for feeding Victoria and she woke us up with her crying at 1am.  I then messed up my alarm for the 3am feeding and she again woke us up by crying at 4:30am.  Night two we got back on track and all is well!  We are slowly but surely getting the hang of things.

We are so elated to have Tori home but at the same time we know that someone very important is missing!  We have gone to visit Joshua in the hospital every day.  He is doing well and the nurses have been slowly reducing his low flow oxygen by 5ccs per day.  Yesterday he was down to only 5cc’s and today they have tried him off the oxygen.  Generally his spells have started about 24 hours after his oxygen comes off so tomorrow we’ll know for sure how he’s doing and whether he needs to go back on.  In the event that he doesn’t have spells, this is a very good sign and we may be able to take him home as early as this weekend.  He still needs to pass his carseat test.  We miss him dearly and want him home with us, but we also want to make sure that he’s 100% ready.  Thanks to all of you who have continued to pray for our little ones.  We are so appreciative!

We always make sure to have twin time during our visits.  Here’s shot of our recent twin time – I think my kids are pretty darn cute!

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So it’s officially taken me all day to finish this post and for the last hour I’ve written a sentence at a time as I pause to hand our Halloween candy.  Victoria and Joshua had a great Halloween.  Photos are coming in the next post!

Thanks again for all of your love and support.  The first few months that Josh and Tori are at home we’ll be laying pretty low.  Having said that we’d love to have visitors – as long as you are healthy and don’t mind if we ask you to use the hand sanitizer.  Let Todd & I know if you’d like to come by once Josh is settled and we’d love to have you!

 

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The (Long) Journey Home

This is just a very quick update post.  We just got word that Victoria passed her car seat test last night and if she doesn’t have any spells in the next 24 hours we will be able to ‘room in’ with her on Sunday night and bring her home on Monday.  We are overjoyed that our little girl is so close to being ready to come home.  We’ve seen such a change in her the past few days – it’s like she’s woken up.  She’s so alert and aware of her surroundings for much longer periods of time.

On Sunday night we’ll be allowed to ‘room-in’ with her.  The hospital will provide a room for Todd and I to stay with her.  She will be off all of her monitors and we’ll provide her care overnight.  We’ll have to get up for all of the feedings, diaper changes, etc.  It’s a trial run before we go home with the security of a ‘call button’ for the nurse if disaster happens.  I feel like we should have a call button installed in our nursery.  I wonder if the Credit Valley nurses make house calls….just kidding!

In all seriousness we are so excited to bring home our little girl, but I am terrified at the same time.  After 11 weeks of 24/7 care from nurses, Todd and I will be her 24/7 care.  Of course this is the feeling that every parent has when bringing home their baby for the first time, but I think we’ve seen too much.  We are intimately familiar with the monitoring system and can rely on the numbers to tell us how our child’s vital signs are working.  

Fortunately the nurses have helped us to learn to look at our babies, to see colour changes and changes in breathing that help us identify when their vital signs are not ideal.  This has been particularly helpful in the feedings where Joshua is often inclined to gulp back his milk without stopping to breathe and promptly turns a dusty grey/blue colour.  He’s starting to get better and we are getting better at recognizing it.  This is all well and good in a hospital but I hope we never have to see major changes in colour or breathing in our children once they are home.  

All I can do is trust.  First and foremost I trust in God and in his plans for our children and his ability to protect them.  I also put my trust wholeheartedly in the amazing medical team that has provided care for our children.  I’m confident that if they tell me my children are ready to come home, they are sure.  Therefore I can be sure.  I’m not certain that this ‘sureness’ will prevent me from peeking in on Victoria 100 times on the video monitor the first night and going in her room to make sure that she’s still breathing, but hopefully this worry will alleviate over time.

So in the next little while Todd and I are going to enjoy our last night with sleep and pray for the continued progress of our little ones.  It’s a bit like the calm before the storm.  In the hospital our babies are perfect.  They rarely cry.  Something tells  me that this will change when they are home.  Any and all new mom advice is now officially welcome!