Penelope and Lillian - 28 weeks, 6 days
Penelope and Lillian were due July 22nd ,2013, but they were born May 5th, 2013. They were almost 3 months early. This was not the first surprise we had faced with this pregnancy. We didn’t find out we were expecting twins until after our 20 week ultrasound! The good news at the time was that they had their own amniotic-sacs and placentas. Now that I was expecting twins we had to Switch doctors and were told that they were actually sharing the same placenta, but had their own sac, which meant that they were identical, but now had a high risk pregnancy.
We do not know many of the details, for example, how we did not know we were having twins for so long, or about the placentas or amnio-sacs. I do remember waking up one morning and telling Justin that I didn’t feel right, and that I had grown really big, really fast. Justin along with a lot of my friends and family, just chalked it up to being pregnant with twins. I knew it was different, and at 27 weeks I began to get very uncomfortable and was even waking up early in the morning with what felt like back labor. I was monitored and sent home on moderate bed rest, and ordered to drink as much water as possible.
The next week I went to my scheduled 28 week ultrasound. My technician did the ultrasound, and I was informed that I needed to head directly to the high-risk Perinatologist at Providence St. Vincent. This happened to be the one time I had Eleanor with a baby sitter. This marked the start of many miracles, both big and small, but all enormous to Justin and I. Justin and I met at the clinic and we went from bliss to complete fear in a matter of 2 hours. The Perinatologist (specialists for high-risk pregnancies) was concerned with not only our tiny unborn little girls, but they also informed me that I was in the beginning stages of labor. These doctors, although very serious and direct, comforted us the best way they knew how. I was exactly 28 weeks pregnant and I was admitted into the hospital. I was so scared, but was comforted deeply by my husband and the belief that God loved these babies more than we did.
Once I was admitted into the hospital, Anti-pardem nurses and doctors started the process of trying to keep our little girls in my womb for as long as possible. I was given Magnesium, which is a slow muscle relaxer that is supposed to stop contractions. Along with this came serious discomfort, and I was hooked up to heart and contraction monitors around the clock to make sure our babies were stable. My vitals were checked regularly, and I was only allowed a certain amount of fluid due to the magnesium. Magnesium is also supposed to help protect the babies’ brains and spare us enough time to get steroids in my body for possible lung immaturity. The doctors informed us that every day, every hour, and even every minute that the babies were in my womb was a milestone.
Our big milestones were 24 hours for the first round of steroids and then 48 hours for the second. Our daughters were also observed by ultrasound every day to monitor any concerns. The girls had shown signs of “twin to twin transfusion syndrome”, as well as some slight skin edema (swelling in the skin). We also learned that the reason I had gotten so big and so uncomfortable was due to Penelope having 3 times as much fluid in her sack than normal. These were all signs pointing to twin to twin transfusion. The first night I stayed at the hospital without my family was extremely hard. I woke up at 4 o'clock in the morning and began to pray and ask God to have favor on my family. He answered and very clearly spoke to me... I will never forget the words, "This is going to be long and hard, but I will be with you the entire way.” I held onto HIS words throughout the entire process.
Once we reached 48 hours my contractions had almost come to a stop. The doctors decided to take me off of the Magnesium to see how my body reacted. I was allowed my first shower in days and was also able to drink as much water as I wanted! That moment was like Heaven! I was only off the Magnesium for less than a day when my contractions started again. Something was different this time, and I knew deep in my heart that our girls were going to come. My labor started for the second time around 12pm Saturday afternoon. I was dialted to a 5 and it was clear that there was no stopping my body...the doctor was called to come back to the hospital for the delivery.
There was a moment before the delivery I will remember for the rest of my life. I was laying in the hospital bed holding Justin’s hand, as well as his sister Meghan's, along with his Mother Joanne...and we were all crying. Joanne prayed and asked for Jesus to protect me, my babies, and that HIS will would be done. That was the first time in my life that I was able to give everything to the Lord. It was a breaking point in my life that made me realize I had no control, and that ultimately everything is in God’s hands. This was just the start of Gods transformation in Justin and my life.
After trying to hold off labor for close to 15 hours, another round of Magnesium, countless prayers, tears, and so much discomfort, our little girls were born. Our girls were delivered by C-Section at 5:07 and 5:09AM Sunday, May 5th, 2013...Cinco De Mayo! I didn’t know what to expect because my first child was a beautiful natural birth. The one thing I was so fearful of was that my babies would not cry. God is so good! He knows our fears and nurtures our souls! Both Penelope and Lillian cried loudly and vigorously for their tiny weights of 2.2 and 2.3! I knew at that moment that Gods words were true, and that our little girls were going to be ok!
I was not allowed to see my babies right away. Justin followed a team of 10 doctors and nurses into the NICU. After I was stable I was wheeled back into my hospital room without my babies in my womb...or my arms. This was an extremely hard time for me. I was still numb from the chest down, I had no idea if my children were ok, and I didn’t have Justin by my side. Praise God after an hour I was wheeled in to meet my precious daughters for the first time! I was still numb and on a stretcher. My little girls were inside their new “womb” in the incubators. They each had a dozen cords attached to their tiny bodies, hooked up to 3 separate monitors, and a CPAP machine in place to help remind our little babies to breath. I was allowed to reach my hand inside the small opening of the incubator to hold their tiny hands for a couple of minutes. I was later able to hold my girls skin to skin, (which they refer to as “Kangarooing”). I looked forward to my kangaroo time each and every day I woke up. I will forever cherish that time that I had with them.
Our little girls were in the NICU for 48 long days plus the 6 days I was in Anti-Pardem. I never understood what it meant when people would say situations were for Gods glory until this past 2 months. Our little girls did everything they were supposed to do. We were told countless times how amazing they were, and how they continued to surprise the doctors and the nurses. Through this process I would drive to and from Beaverton every single day, as well as making sure my precious Eleanor was taken care of. I still cannot believe how strong and incredible my sweet Eleanor is. She was my rock throughout the 54 days. I had to bring my milk in without a baby, and continue to pump 8-10 times a day in order to prepare to nurse twins. I am so blessed and happy to say that both of my girls are exclusively fed on breast milk today!
I had many days where I would just cry for no reason. There were also times I would question why God chose this for our family. I know now it was because he loves us so much! We would not be who we are today had we not went through what we have gone through. We experienced someone breaking in to our house while I was in the Hospital by someone we knew. For us... it didn't matter. For the first time in our lives we could truly see life for what it was, and see the big picture. It was a speck compared to what we were going through. If anything, we felt sad for this person that they could take advantage of us while we were in this situation. The great thing is the good in people far outweighed the bad! We were, and are still stunned at the kindness and generosity we endured throughout this process.
Not only did we receive love from the incredible doctors and nurses we grew so close to, but from all of our family, friends and complete strangers! People put their lives on hold to make sure we were taken care of. We had meals provided for us for over a month, complete care for Eleanor, gifts, donations for my stolen products, cards, text messages, phone calls, visits, and most of all prayers! I was able to keep a prayer journal of all of the people that came to the hospital and prayed with and for our family! I believe that our girls were prayed for every minute that they were in the hospital. I even had a nurse stop me when I was leaving to pray for me because Eleanor was also in the hospital for food allergies. Our daughters were born to GLORIFY God! Who HE is, and to show us what really matters in life.
We checked into the hospital April 30th and the girls were discharged June 22nd, exactly 1 month before my due date. I prayed and begged God to send them home together, and again he was faithful! We have been home now for over a week and are taking in every moment with our 3 beautiful daughters!!! We had to deal with food apneas the first couple of days home, and this was almost enough to break me. Again, I prayed and begged God to help them grow out of these, and of course they did! Our life has been changed drastically in under a year! If you told me a year ago this is where we would be, I would have said that I could not have handled It. I know now that I can do all things through Christ, and that without him I am nothing. I was able to spend some very sweet and intimate time with HIM throughout this process that has changed me forever. Truly and deeply. My goals, dreams, and desires have all changed. I feel grateful and lucky that God chose this path for us. I live for him and for no one, or nothing else. I pray for everyone we were able to reach during this process and hope that our lives have glorified him!