It’s amazing what can happen in a year.
One moment we were on this high, enjoying the pregnancy, living life, awaiting the arrival of our bundles of joy.
Then all of a sudden, we found ourselves on a scary new road, the future of our pregnancy daunting and uncertain.
I’m writing this post because I want to finally write about the place we were in our pregnancy a year ago. I kept to myself a lot during that time and was pretty secretive about my situation. There wasn’t a trace of what was going on in my blog. Part of me wanted to share every detail, the heartache and the frustration. The other part of me wanted to leave that part of my life among my family and closest friends and just continue to only write about the happy stuff on my blog. Looking back, I wish I shared more of myself and the things going on. Maybe I could have heard tips from others who had similar experiences. Maybe I could have benefited from more support outside of my little circle. While I was too scared to talk about it before, I am ready to look back and reflect with gratitude and share it with you.
Warning… this is a verrry long post… Continue reading if you dare…
On May 1, 2013, I was put on strict bed rest. I was only at 21 weeks, just barely over 4 months. I didn’t quite understand the severity and fragility of the situation at the very beginning, but I quickly learned just how important it was to cook those babies as long as I could. It was a long three months, from the very beginning of May to the last day in July. It was a hard battle to fight, but it was worth every second.
The phone call
At the time, we had just found out we were carrying twins and that they were boys. It was a happy appointment – we got the little sonogram printouts that we couldn’t wait to share with family and friends. Later that afternoon, I received a call from the doctor’s office telling me there was an issue with the pregnancy. I was told not to be scared or alarmed, but usually when you receive a call from the doctor that quickly after an appointment, it’s hard not to worry. I was told our babies had this thing going on called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS).
I remember being alone in my work break room, listening to this news a nurse was explaining to me. My body went numb. Just like an out-of-body experience, I removed my feelings and emotions from the moment in order for me to absorb the information accurately so I could later convey them to my husband. I remember I had a pen and a pad of paper because something told me I needed to write down what I would be told. I remember the nurse trying to explain TTTS, but it wasn’t quite sticking in my brain. All I remember were phrases along the lines of, “One baby’s amniotic fluid level is a lot higher while the other’s is lower than we like,” and “The babies share the connections to one placenta and therefore we are concerned about one baby getting more nutrients than the other, and “Don’t worry, we see a bladder in each of the babies, which is a good thing…”
I heard the nurse, but I wasn’t quite processing everything. I needed my husband to help me understand. After the phone call, I immediately asked my husband to meet me (thank goodness we work in the same building) and the minute I began talking, I remember I started to break down and cry. I told him what I could through my tears, trying to be strong, but also feeling so helpless for our unborn babies. Together, we came up with a few questions to help clarify our understanding. I called the nurse back and she was ever so sweet in helping me get answers.
Hearing from the experts
The next order of business was to get evaluated by the experts. We were referred to the UCSF Medical Center. We heard this place had quite the reputation for their Fetal Treatment Center and that some celebrities even have brought their children there. Without losing it and trying to remain strong, we made the drive to SF to learn more about our situation.
The doctors and nurses at UCSF were excellent. They were nice and understanding (shout out to Janice!). I had to undergo what seemed like endless ultrasounds in order for them to take a good look at the scenario, take a ton of measurements and pictures, and evaluate and inspect every millimeter of each baby. My belly was so exposed that day! Tons of goo (the cold stuff that you see in the movies) and a lot of watching the ultrasound technician do her thing, while we wondered exactly what she was seeing. We knew she couldn’t tell us much because she wasn’t the doctor, but we were in such suspense as we waited to hear results.
When we finally sat down with a doctor to hear her opinion on the TTTS, it was an experience I’ll never forget. She reiterated a lot of the things we had either heard from our doctor back home or read about online. She explained that if the situation gets to a certain point, there is a laser treatment that can be performed to possibly help the situation, although there were no guarantees.
The worse part of that moment, was when she asked what our wishes were should the babies be delivered before 24 weeks. Specifically, she asked if we would like the babies resuscitated. We were confused. Why were we being asked this question? Was there any other option? Would someone even consider saying, “no?” Janice, the nurse who was sitting in our meeting, gently explained that California law does not require the medical staff to resuscitate a baby who is born before 24 weeks of gestation. Beginning 24 weeks and beyond, the law does require it. We were barely at 21 weeks. I couldn’t imagine the babies being born this early, at a pound each, let alone imagine them facing someone else’s decision about whether they should be given a chance to survive.
It was surreal. I almost lost it. We said of course we would want everything done for the babies to save them should they come too early. I think that was one of the moments in the pregnancy when things took a huge turn for me and I understood how delicate the situation was.
I forgot to mention another twist to our story. Not only did we have the TTTS going on with the babies, but I was dilated a centimeter and told I was already having contractions (even though I couldn’t feel them)! My cervix had begun to open, just when I was told at previous appointments how tightly shut it was and that things were “looking great.” Just like that, I had already started down that road that I knew from movies and life in general shouldn’t begin until your “water breaks.” I knew there was a slow and steady process every pregnant woman goes through when in labor, which involves the doctor providing updates on the number of centimeters dilated until she reaches 10. But that is supposed to happen when the baby reaches full-term, at 40 weeks. Here I was at 21…
Doctor’s orders: Strict bed rest
So, it was then I was told that I should stop working right away and go on bed rest. The medical community does not entirely feel bed rest helps in a situation like this, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. I was given prescription medicine to keep my contractions under control. I was told to stay home and brutally limit my mobility: keep my movement downstairs only (no going upstairs), only get up for bathroom breaks, minimize my trips to the kitchen and even try to just have snacks and a cooler next to me, and to only attend doctor appointments. What’s worse, is that I couldn’t even lay down in a position to just recline and prop up a laptop on my lap. No, I had to be sideways, or at least prop myself up with a pillow in order to relieve the pressure on my cervix. I thought I could work from home, but once I couldn’t exactly type sideways, I gave that up quickly.
Pros from bed rest: No work! Everyone waits on me hand and foot! I could
boss everyone around ask politely for others to do things for me. Netflix and TV shows. Reading galore. Do my nails and toes (until I couldn’t reach them anymore). Sleep anytime I wanted to (in fact, I slept a LOT).
Cons from bed rest: Bed rest does NOT give you real rest (I was achy and it was hard to get comfortable). I was so tired all the time. Muscle loss. No more running, exercising, volleyball, etc… Staying home means no more going out to birthday parties and dinner dates and friends’ houses. Missing out on the entire summer, my favorite season of the year!!!
Every week, every DAY was critical. We would celebrate each moment we woke up and realize the babies had another day to grow inside the safest place on earth, my belly. The days seemed long at times… I didn’t know how I’d get through. But what could I do except follow the doctor’s orders, take my medicine, and wait?
Hospital bed rest
At one time, I was on hospital bed rest… for almost two weeks! It was insane. After an appointment with my OB, she told me to go home, pack a bag, and return to the Roseville Kaiser (which is some 45 minutes away from home). There was a high-risk unit there, where I could be monitored and be close to the high-risk neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) should anything happen and the babies get delivered early.
I look back and cannot believe I stayed in a hospital for so long. Granted, some women end up staying on hospital bed rest for MONTHS, hooked up to monitors 24/7, up until the very moment their babies are delivered. Thankfully, I did not have to stay that long, although any amount of time in the hospital for a reason other than check ups, ultrasounds, and labor/delivery are not exactly what a pregnant woman looks forward to.
Thank goodness for the amazing nurses! Many of them helped me stay strong and put me at ease. My hubby stayed with me EVERY NIGHT, sleeping on a less than comfy pull out of a couch, if that’s what it was. My family visited me almost every day, bringing good food to beat the hospital food that was on a rotation I quickly got tired of. I tried to sleep a lot to make the time pass. I had a small little window to the outside world and yearned for the sunlight on my skin.
The secret blog
It was during my hospital stay that I began fervidly writing all of my thoughts and feelings out. During the moments I was alone in the hospital, I would scribble my worries and fears, the highlights of the day, the hope that I hung on to. I would describe the doctor’s evaluation for that morning and I would record the outcome of the fetal monitoring (NSTs – neonatal stress tests) that were performed twice a day. I needed a sounding board, an outlet for the whirlwind taking place inside of me.
I called my secret blog, “Cooking the Booplets.” An inside thing between the husband and I was to call our bun in the oven our “booplet.” Then when we found out there were two, we referred to them as the “booplets.” The name stuck and so it made sense that I would write about cooking them. Looking back, I can’t believe how much I wrote! All of these posts were written aside from my Sharissespieces blog, since I was so nervous about sharing the situation with just anyone. I didn’t like burdening others with my worries. I didn’t want to hear the pity and see the sad faces. I kept my public posts on this blog perky and happy, despite the troubles I was facing in my private life.
From surviving to thriving
With our strong faith and unfailing support system, we chugged along week after week. We reached a point where I was even given permission to attend baby classes at the hospital! It was hilarious how excited I was to see people in the outside world. I was monitored twice a week at a local clinic (shout out to Deanna!) and it was so cool how I got to hear the babies’ heartbeats so often. I also had double, if not triple, the doctor appointments because of our high-risk situation, and we luckily got to have a TON of ultrasounds performed. We saw our babies so often and got to see their growth more often than we ever would have expected.
Just as our pregnancy took an unexpected turn when we learned of the TTTS and that I was dilated a centimeter and having contractions, we were told that the TTTS has basically corrected itself and was no longer existent! Miraculously the babies’ fluid levels kept getting more and more equal, to the point that the TTTS was considered gone. This was a true blessing as we learned only about 50% of TTTS cases get better and the other half get worse, only to often end up in tragic outcomes. It was unbelievable. Also, my cervix stayed dilated at one centimeter, thanks to my obedience to the bed rest and meds.
After three whole months of being put on strict bed rest, the babies made their debut. The VERY NIGHT I was taken off of the medicine that kept my contractions under control, is the night my water broke! You can read more about my birth story here!
I still want to write a post on our experiences in the NICU. Gosh, that was such a scary and heavenly place at the same time. The boys spent almost a month there, and while it was so heartbreaking to leave your babies each night, we were grateful for the care they received and the help we were given from the NICU nurses. Happy Nurses Week to each of them!
I can’t believe I wrote this much, but writing this post is cathartic for me. As with writing in general, I feel relieved of this penned up energy that had been brewing for over a year. The booplets are more than alright now, they are happy, healthy, and thriving! The way we handled our pregnancy was the epitome of the phrase, “Go with the flow.” We just had to keep chugging and hope for the best, even if we were thrown more hurdles and setbacks. The same phrase has been the theme of parenting – you can only do our best, especially as first time parents. You can set schedules, read the books, and make plans, but everything can change in the blink of an eye and you’ll have to just roll with the punches. To anyone who gets placed on bed rest, you can and will get through it! It is a fleeting time in your life that you have to just give 120% of yourself in order to give your baby – or babies – the best fighting chance at life they deserve.