Some of these pictures are hard to see and honestly this is hard for me to even write as it brings back all of the emotions of those difficult days, but it is our story, and I want to remember it in detail. So here it goes.....
DAY 1 - Monday, June 13, 2016
The twins were born around lunch time and initially both babies seemed to be doing relatively well. Ellen was small (3 lbs. 12 oz) and was immediately admitted to the NICU due to her size and needing help holding her body temperature. We had known for weeks that she was going to be small and the doctors had prepared us that she would need time in the NICU.
Harris was struggling slightly with his breathing so they decided to take him to the NICU as well but just for observation. At this point I really wasn't worried at all. I think for so long I worried about just getting them here that the second they were born and seemed to be doing well all I felt was relief!
|Grandmommy and Granddaddy with Harris|
|Grandmommy and Granddaddy with Ellen|
|Gramma Jane and Popa with Harris|
|Gramma Jane and Popa with Ellen|
|Aunt Jess and Uncle Clay with Ellen|
|Aunt Jess and Uncle Clay with Harris|
|Harpie and Harris|
|Harpie and Ellen|
He was excited to finally meet Ellen and Harris, but it was a lot for a 4 year old to take in. We visited with both of the babies, took some pictures and headed back to our hospital room.
At this point Harris was still having labored breathing. Which meant that his body was not producing surfactant. The neonatologist described it to me as basically a lubricant for your lungs. Because it had been several hours and he didn't seem to be getting better they told us that they were going to go ahead and admit him as well. But the doctors still felt like he would rebound on his own, but for now would benefit from an oxygen hood and other things they could provide in the NICU.
After all of our visitors were gone and we had some dinner Nick and I decided to go see the babies one last time before going to bed.
When we got there Harris was getting his bottle. He was in an open crib with a warmer over it and had an oxgyen hood that they placed over his face. Once he finished his bottle the nurses let me hold him for a little while...which did my heart a lot of good!
Ellen started off in an open warming bed as well, but was moved to an isolette that could better control the temperature. To my surprise that night they let me hold her for a little while. I was so nervous, but desperately wanted/needed to hold my babies. She had an IV and a number of other wires that were monitoring her vitals. But we had a precious few minutes to ourselves. She was the smallest baby I had ever held, but in that moment it didn't seem to matter. She was mine, and she was perfect!
DAY 2 - Tuesday, June 14, 2016
We were still staying at the hospital on Tuesday so we made multiple trips to visit the babies. I would feed them, deliver what I had pumped, and we both enjoyed being able to hold them.
They both were on IV fluids at this point, and we learned that IV's are often difficult on preemies for several reasons. For one their veins are very small and secondly they move so much that the IV will get pulled out repeatedly. The night before it was in their foot and this day it was in their hand. You can see both of their hands were tapped up to try and get the needle to stay in.
The NICU nurses work 12 hr shifts 7am-7pm. That night when we came to visit they had a new nurse and when I walked in I instantly recognized our nurse! At the time I didn't know her personally but had worked with her mom for several years. Carly is a twin herself and she weighed exactly 3lbs 12 oz when she was born. I was so excited to see a familiar face and know such a sweet person was taking care of my babies when I couldn't. Carly ended up being their nurse a lot over the next few weeks, and we loved that!
DAY 3 - Wednesday, June 15, 2016
I was being discharged later in the day but we were able to spend some time with Ellen and Harris before we headed home. This morning when we arrived we had a new nurse, Linda. As soon as we arrived we went in Ellen's room and Linda introduced herself and said, "Why don't you go ahead and change her diaper and take her temperature." I was terrified. You mean you want me to get her out of her isolette work around 5 wires, an IV and change this tiny baby's diaper???????????????????? Umm...no thank you! So that is what I was thinking but I gulped and said, "Oh sure I would love to!" So I did. And guess what it wasn't too bad.
Then Linda pulled Nick into Harris' room and got him to change his diaper and take his temperature! And turns out we would do this every time we came to visit them from then on. It was scary and I was sure I am going to make an alarm go off or rip out an IV, but thankfully I didn't and for the first time since they were born I actually felt like their mom. I was doing something for them that all mom's of healthy babies get to do, and it was a good feeling. I needed to feel like I really was their mom and giving them some care...even if it was only taking their temperature and changing their diaper.
Graham was doing VBS at Church that week so mom had a few free hours and came up to visit and this is the first time she got to hold Ellen.
Leaving the hospital without either of my babies was incredibly difficult. I knew they were in great hands and we were just a short drive away, but as their mom I wanted to be with them. My heart broke.
After being home for a few hours my feet started to swell. Not just a little bit, but A LOT. To the point where I almost couldn't walk. Each step I took I could feel the fluid move up under my skin. I missed my babies desperately and wanted to go see them, but mom and Nick both felt strongly that I needed to rest and keep my feet up. So we stayed home that night. I was sleeping on the sofa in the basement because I was having to get up every three hours to pump plus is was easier to keep me feet elevated on the sofa than it was in the bed. So there I was laying wide awake around 11:00 thinking about Ellen and Harris and in a good bit of pain from the swelling when I hear Nick's cell phone ring. My heart started beating out of my chest. I knew it had to be the NICU...no one else would be calling him at 11:00 at night. I could hear him talking to someone, but didn't know what he was saying. A few minutes later he came downstairs and said that it was the neonatologist, Dr. Black, calling to say that Harris' breathing was getting worse and they felt like they needed to inject him with surfactant to help lubricate his lungs. And she wanted permission to do it then. Giving him the injection would require him to be put on a ventilator. I of course started sobbing. My precious, tiny baby boy was about to undergo surgery and be put on a ventilator and I wasn't even there. The worst feeling I've ever felt. My heart physically hurt. Nick and I prayed for our sweet boy and the doctors and nurses who where caring for him, and waited for them to call us back.
I honestly have no idea how long it really was, but it seemed like an eternity. Eventually Dr. Black did call back and said that everything went well and that he was resting.
I don't remember much else about that night other than calling up there to check on him every time I got up to pump. I'm sure the nurses thought I was crazy, but I didn't care.
DAY 4 - Thursday, June 16, 2016
Naturally the ONLY thing on my mind was GET ME TO THE HOSPITAL! But this wasn't as easy as I wanted it to be. The first hurdle was that I wasn't cleared to drive yet. The second hurdle was that my feet were still so swollen that I couldn't walk any distance, and the NICU was a good 10 min walk from the parking deck. The third hurdle was that Nick had to go in to work for a little while that day. NOT GOOD!
Thankfully Graham was doing VBS at the Church that week and our wonderful friend Carol Schaffeld was picking him up and bringing him home everyday. So as soon as we got him off mom could take me to the hospital. Which required pushing me in a wheelchair.
I was so consumed with just getting there that I didn't really take any time to mentally prepare myself for what Harris would look like. When I made my way over to his bed this is what I found.
I felt light headed and almost lost my balance. I was shaking and crying. There were tubes everywhere, dried blood, tape all over his fave, restraints, an umbilical catheter and an IV in his head. Why was this happening. He was so tiny and frail. I wanted to wrap him in a blanket and scoop him up and take him home so that he would hurt anymore. But that certainly wasn't an option so I did the only thing I could do for him in that moment. I prayed and begged the Lord to heal him and take his pain away. Just then in walked my friend Susan Randall who was a nurse practitioner in the NICU. She had not worked since the twins were born and I had no idea she would be there that morning. It was WONDERFUL having her that that day. She walked me through everything. She explained every tube and wire and assured me that the umbilical catheter was not painful and so much better than having to prick him all of the time. And she encouraged me to touch him which made me feel so much better. Every nurse was wonderful, but having a friend there that day who knew us truly felt like the Lord's gift to me that day.
Dad (Popa) had some meetings in Birmingham that day so he got to town early so he could come for a visit. This was the first time he got to hold Ellen.
Mom and I left around lunch so that we would be home when Graham got dropped off. Since I hadn't slept at all the night before. Mom decided to take Graham out for the afternoon so that I could take a much needed nap. I can't remember where all they went but one stop was to Toys R Us (or as Graham calls it Toys 4 Us) where mom let him pick out a toy and boy did he ever! He came home with the Batbot! He knows Gramma Jane will buy him whatever he wants!
DAY 5 - Friday, June 17, 2016
I was still having a lot of trouble with swelling so we decided that I was rest most of the day on Friday then when Nick got home we would all go visit Ellen and Harris.
We some how ended up with a double wide wheelchair, but Graham was more than willing to ride along with me.
Not much change this day. Harris was still on the ventilator and Ellen was still nice and toasty in her isolette. After a quick visit Nick took G to get some dinner so that I could have some one on one time with both babies.
DAY 6 - Saturday, June 18, 2016
Grandmommy and Granddaddy graciously offered to let Graham come stay in Camden for a few days so that I would have more freedom to be at the hospital. So we packed up his bags and Sarah Harper was kind enough to give me a ride down to Camden! This process definitely took a village!
Mom had been with us for over a week, and we knew she needed some rest as well so she headed back to Auburn for a few days.
Since it was just the two of us we were able to be at the hospital much more which was nice. We go there mid afternoon and to our surprise Harris was off of the ventilator!!!! No tubes, no tape and no IV!!!! He still had his umbilical catheter, but they told us that might come out soon as well. It was so wonderful to see his sweet little face again! The doctors felt like be was responding well to the surfactant and now it was all about holding his oxygen saturation levels and at least three days of weight gain.
Meanwhile this little one was just staying warm in her isolette. Her path to being discharged was to maintain her own body temperature and make it to 4 lbs.
We spent most all afternoon and evening loving on these two.
DAY 7 - Sunday, June 19, 2016
Father's Day---Not really the picture perfect Father's Day, but we were thankful that all of our children were doing well and would hopefully all be home with us soon.
We enjoyed a nice, quite morning and went out for breakfast which was nice. Then we spent time at the hospital that afternoon but I didn't take any pictures.
DAY 8 - Monday, June 20, 2016
My swelling had finally gone down and this was the first day that I could drive. Finally I was able to drive and walk myself to the NICU!!!!! Since Graham was in Camden with his grandparents I was able to spend all day at the hospital.
I would usually try to arrive around the time that one of them was ready to eat. This day was Harris' turn to eat first. I would take his temperature and report that to his nurse, change his diaper and let the nurse know if it was wet/dirty/or both then nurse him. Neither were ever very good nursers so I would also give him a bottle to finish him off. I would burp him then wrap him back up and put him back in his bed.
Then it was Ellen's turn. Same thing! Open up her isolette, take her temperature, change her diaper, nurse, bottle, burp, swaddle then back in her bed.
They both had their own private rooms but they were adjoining and there was a sliding glass door between that stayed open most of the time. The nurses were great about giving us privacy and letting me do as much for them as I felt comfortable doing.
Harris' room had a window which was nice but also made it pretty bright. The nurses would often have to use blankets to shield that sunlight
Later that night his nurse was Jenny (she was their nurse most nights) and it was bath time! She had been telling me that he loved his bath so I was excited to get to see it that night. He went completely limp and totally relaxed when she was washing his hair. In those early days his hair was so greasy and needed to be washed everyday. I loved seeing him all cleaned up and ready for bed!
DAY 9 - Tuesday, June 21, 2016
I was able to spend a lot to time with them this day as well. It was nice being up there for long stretches of time because I was there when the doctors would do their rounds. Every day I wanted them to tell me when would get to take them home, but they would never give me a day...they would just say that they were on track and assuming there were no set backs that it should be soon.
Other than right after they were first born this was the first time I held them at the same time. I had finished nursing Ellen and she had fallen back asleep then I heard Harris start crying in his room. I wasn't easy to move them very far because they were hooked up to so many machines, but his sweet nurse unhooked all of the monitors that she could then wheeled me to the middle of their rooms and brought him to me so that I could be the one to calm him down. Such a blessing, and a moment I will never forget.
DAY 10 - Wednesday, June 22, 2016
The Baggetts brought Graham back and after having lunch at the house and hearing all about his time in Camden I took them up to the hospital for a quick visit with these two!
They both were having a good day and Lisa told me that she has Ellen's isolette on the lowest setting and she was holding her body temp!
The babies were getting amazing care in the NICU and we loved all of their nurses and doctors, but the back and forth was starting to get old. With Graham back home it was much more difficult to have time to be able to be at the hospital, and I was anxious to have everyone under one roof.
DAY 11 - Thursday, June 23, 2016
I decided it was best to spend the day with Graham. He had been shuffled around for several weeks and I knew when Ellen and Harris did come home that they would consume most all of my time.
That night after Nick got home from work and we got Graham in bed I went up to the hospital for a quick visit. They were both doing great!
DAY 12 - Friday, June 24, 2016
Graham was at the church for a summer play day which meant I could spend the morning with Ellen and Harris. I got there and my friend Susan was the nurse practitioner on call. She was at the nurses desk and came up to me and told me that Dr. Karle wants to talk to you.
Dr. Karle was examining Harris when I got there so I let her finish with him then she told me what I had desperately been wanting to hear...THEY CAN GO HOME ON MONDAY! We spoke a while about how to care for them once we got home, when to see our pediatrician and the importance of coming to "room in" at the NICU. She also strongly advised us to take Sunday off and rest. She reminded me that I was going to need every ounce to energy I could get as soon as these babies were home.
After she left sweet Linda came and in gave me a hug! I couldn't believe in a few days they would be home! Then Linda gave me even more good news...I could put clothes on them! I was beyond excited to finally put them in their own clothes.
These were preemie pajamas that completely swallowed Ellen, but I was just so happy to see them dressed.
DAY 13 - Saturday, June 25, 2016
Today was our day to "room in" with Ellen and Harris. In the NICU they have a hotel type room so parents have the opportunity to practice caring for their child (or in our case children) while having the NICU staff there to help if needed. So we pretty much stayed in our room with Ellen and Harris until about 5:00. It probably wasn't totally necessary since we were taking home two healthy babies, but we were thankful for the trial run before the big day on Monday!
This was our day to rest and make our final preparations! We wanted to spend extra time with Graham since we knew our time was going to quickly be consumed with Ellen and Harris. The three of us went out for breakfast, ran some errands, played in the yard and did our best to rest. Gramma Jane arrived around 5:00 to help manage the chaos that was about to descend. We could not have done it without her!
We tried to rest that night, but I assure you I didn't sleep a wink. I was so ready to have my babies home, but at the same time terrified at the thought of caring for two (very small) newborns and a 4 year old. God surely had made a mistake and had planned to give these babies to someone much more capable than me....was the thought that kept running though my head as I tried to wrap my mind around what was going to happen the next day.
DAY 15 - Monday, June 27, 2016
IT WAS FINALLY HERE! COMING HOME DAY!
So many different emotions....happiness, excitement, anticipation, fear.
The journey (and yes it was most definitely a journey) to get to this point was so long and so rough. From the initial SHOCK of finding out we were having twins, all of the planning and preparing we had to do to get ready for two babies, a roller-coaster pregnancy full of uncertainty, weeks in the NICU, to finally the day we got to bring these two home.
Nick had to go into the office that morning to wrap up a few things but came home around 10:00 to pick me up. We explained to Graham what we were going to do, and he was SO excited to finally have his brother and sister at home. We were pulling out of the garage and we looked up to see him looking out our bedroom window at us leaving. He had a big smile of his face and gave us a big thumbs up. Of course I lost it. That sweet boy took each and every bit of this like a champ and it truly is one my greatest joys to see him embrace his roll as big brother.
We arrived at the hospital and made the long walk to the NICU one final time. When we got there the nurses had removed all of their wires and monitors and had rolled their beds next to each other. We had to hang out for a little while until the doctor could come by and officially discharge us.
Finally the doctor came and gave us our final instructions and we were discharged. GULP! We loaded those teeny tiny babies up in their car seats and left behind the amazing nurses who had so diligently and lovingly cared for Ellen and Harris for weeks. We hugged and thanked them and said our goodbyes.
We had a ton of stuff. The stroller was packed and the nurse pushed an entire cart full of diapers, formula, and other random items down to the lobby for us. Here we are in the hospital lobby just before we loaded them in the car.
Our family of FIVE.
Lord I praise you and thank you for each of these precious children. They truly are the most undeserved gifts. They are yours, and I am humbled that You have allowed me to be their mom.