Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The first few weeks of life:

When I ended our carepage and started this blog, I wrote down some thoughts about what happened while I was pregnant with the babies.  I still plan on making the carepage into a book for the kids to have when they get older, but this blog is also for the kids.  I want to share that same story on this blog too, so bear with me if you have already read this story on our carepage.  On the carepage the story I wrote ended with shortly after the kids were born.  Since I have unlimited room on here and I didn’t on the carepage, I am going to expand on it a little more and add some more details about after they were born.

 

The days and weeks before and after the kids were born were a very scary time for us, but those same scary moments hold such a special place in our hearts.  Our kids truly are miracles and I thank God everyday for what we went through.  It was most definitely the most difficult thing I have ever experienced, but the whole thing made me a much stronger person!

On January 22nd, 2008, Lee and I went in for another routine ultrasound with our OB, Dr. Weir. We were always so excited to go for these appointments because it was so reassuring to see the babies moving around and to hear how much they had grown. Every thing was going great until Dr. Weir went to measure my cervix. I remember him saying, “That’s odd, I can’t see your cervix. That's because you have no cervix! We are going to have to do a cerclage to stitch it shut.” My heart immediately dropped, I was only 21 weeks along. He then told me I needed to immediately go over to the hospital to do the cerclage. We were terrified because we knew there was a risk of something major going wrong for this pregnancy that we had been wanting for so long. During the procedure I heard Dr. Weir say, “Damn!” Not the best thing to hear when he’s down there trying to save your babies! I tried asking what was wrong, but of course no one would tell me. I found out later that Brett’s sac was bulging out of my cervix and he was having a hard time getting it to stay in so he could place the stitch! After surgery, I had to go on Magnesium Sulfate to stop the contractions. Now, if anyone has been on this stuff, you know how nasty it can be. The point of it is to relax your uterus to stop the contractions, but in doing so it also relaxes all your other muscles. I felt like my body weighed 1000 pounds, and every inch of me hurt. Every time someone would come in my room, they would try to turn up the heat because even though it was freezing in there, I was hotter than I had ever been! Magnesium also makes you super sensitive to light, so I hated to open my eyes. It makes you really jittery and I all around just felt like crap. But it was totally worth it knowing that I was doing it all for my four precious babies. After three days of the magnesium, the finally took me off of it. I then spent the next three weeks at Good Sam just trying to make it to 24 weeks when I would then be transported to Omaha to wait out the remainder of my pregnancy.
Well, instead of making it to 24 weeks, I made it to 23 weeks and 4 days and then started having a lot of contractions again. I had been having contractions every so often, but these were different. They hurt and were coming more often and I was feeling a lot of pressure. Dr. Philpot came in to check me and discovered that Brett was once again trying to make a break for it. I was dilated to about 3 and Brett was hour glassing out my cervix. So, Dr. Philpot said I was going to make an ambulance ride to Omaha a couple days before we thought. Well, then my contractions started to get worse, so she decided I needed to be flown to Omaha. It turns out, the Good Sam life flight was already gone, Omaha couldn’t come get me because of bad weather reports and several other places she called were just down right scared of me. I \guess I can understand that….who wants to deal with a woman in labor with quadruplets at only 23 weeks, right? Finally, after several more phone calls a small plane from a Sioux Falls hospital finally agreed to come get me. They were wonderful people that took great care of Lee and I on the way to Omaha.
By this time they had started me on the Magnesium again, so I was once again not feeling the greatest. I remember going outside to get on the plane and telling the EMT to stop covering my head because it was too darn hot to be covered up (it was only actually about 20 degrees outside!)
We made it to UNMC safe and sound late that Sunday night. That night was a long one for Lee and I both. I was hurting terribly from the contractions, but they couldn’t give me anything. Had they done something for the pain then I wouldn’t have known if they were getting worse. So, Lee stayed by my side all night and did what he could to help me feel better. The next day was a long one as well, with continued contractions and lots of discomfort. Around 1:30 that Monday afternoon I told Lee that I needed to roll over. After rolling over I told him it hurt and that I could feel a lot of pressure. He got this look on his face and left the room. He returned with our nurse, Amanda, who then called the doctor. The doctor checked me and then looked at us and said the words I didn’t want to hear for at least another six weeks, “I think it’s time to have some babies, Rachel.” My heart once again dropped. I was only 23 weeks and 5 days, how could this be happening? Babies don’t always survive when born this early, and if they do survive, they have major medical problem. My poor babies, why was this happening to them? The nurse then looked at me and said, “Things are going to start moving really fast now.” And, boy did they. There was suddenly what felt like about 50 people in my room running around like crazy. I’m sure every one knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing, but it just looked like chaos to me. In a matter of minutes they were wheeling me down the hall to an OR. I remember crying and praying out loud the only words I could think of, “Please God, help them.” Someone, I don’t know who, but someone with very comforting hands grabbed my hand and said, “I know honey, we are all praying the same thing right now.” Those words were so comforting to me and managed to have a little bit of a calming effect on me. Once I got into the OR, the anesthesiologist put an oxygen mask on my mouth and nose. At this point my nose was so stuffed up from crying so hard that I couldn’t breath and felt like I was being suffocated. I turned my head from side to side until he finally lifted the mask. I told him I couldn’t breath, so he was kind enough to pat me on the shoulder and held the oxygen away from my face. He had the nicest voice and was again another comforting person for me. What felt like an eternity later, he said, “OK, Rachel, we are going to put you under now so I have to put this back on your face.” I remember saying, “Oh, thank God, finally,” because I was so ready for this to be over. The next thing I remember is the nurse telling me it was time to wake up. When I asked her why she said, “because you just had four beautiful, tiny but perfect babies. They are doing ok right now so you need to wake up and see your family.” They wheeled me back to the room, where I saw Lee, my mom and dad, Lee’s mom and dad and sister, Stacie. They had gotten to see Parker and one of the boys as they were wheeled down the hallway and said they were perfect. Everyone took turns going down to see the babies in the NICU while I recovered. Lee had this look on his face of pure happiness that he was finally a daddy but yet still looked so scared because at that time we had no idea how thing were going to turn out. The next couple of days are still kind of a blur to me since I was still experiencing the side affects of the large amounts of magnesium they had given me and was receiving quite a bit of morphine for my pain. I experienced a lot of pain after having the babies. I asked one of the doctors if it was normal for me to be hurting so much and he said, “Well Rachel, we weren’t exactly very nice to you when we delivered the babies. We had to get them out of there fast, so the whole procedure was kind of rough. So yes, it is totally expected that you would be feeling a lot of pain right now.” I guess that made me feel a little better. I remember Stacie holding my hand at one point while everyone else went to eat lunch. She said I kept saying over and over, “I have babies. I’m a mommy.” All I remember is thinking, “wow, Stacie has really good mommy hands,” because they were so soft and soothing! My mom says I sounded a lot like my Grandma Chapin because I kept saying, “Oh my God in Heaven.” That is what my Grandma would always say when she was having a lot of pain. Too funny!
The first time I went down to see my babies is a moment I will never forget. When most mom’s have a new baby they spend time counting fingers and toes and oohing and aahing over their cute little button nose or the dimple in their chin. Well, I did the same thing, only a little differently. I counted all their toes, saw how cute they were, but it was from outside the barriers of the isolate. I couldn’t just reach down and pick up my babies and snuggle them close. It was the best day of my life in the sense that I was finally a mommy, something I had wanted for so long, but yet it was the worst because I felt a kind of fear that I have never felt before in my life and hope to never feel again. I was scared to touch my own babies, I thought I would hurt them if I touched them. Their skin was transparent, I could see their tiny little veins through their skin. It was bright red, and looked like it would peel off if I touched them. The nurses all assured me it was okay to touch them, just not to rub them. They were all very sensitive to touch so only light, steady pressure felt okay to them. One of the best parts was seeing how we could calm them with our touch if they became upset. Every once in a while something would startle them, so by cupping one hand around their legs and the other over their arms, we could calm them down. It was one of the few things we could do for our babies in the beginning. Changing diapers was something else we could do for them. Their diapers were so tiny, it was hard to handle them! We celebrated poopy diapers, something I didn't‘t expect to do!
We met so many wonderful people we will never forget while the kids were in the NICU. We had awesome nurses that took great care of our four little miracles. So many nurses now hold a special place in our hearts and we will never forget them. Without our nurses, our babies wouldn’t be here right now. They are awesome, wonderful people and I will never be able to thank them enough. We also had awesome doctors that took great care of our babies. The neonatologists that took care of the kids were great! They were all very good about explaining everything that was going on to us. We had a wonderful pediatric heart surgeon whom we entrusted the lives of Cooper, Kaden and Parker to when they had their PDA’s ligated.
The NICU can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions. It definitely was for us! There were days that we had reason to celebrate and days that we had reason to cry and worry. We celebrated when the babies were taken off the ventilator and put on C-PAP, then high flow oxygen, followed by regular oxygen and then taken off oxygen for good! We celebrated when they opened their eyes for the first time! We celebrated their first bottle, their first bath, their first wet diaper, first dirty diaper, all the small things that a lot of people take for granted!
Now that my babies have grown into happy healthy two year olds I can say that the only thing I would change is how much pain and suffering they had to go through when they were first born, but everything else that happened has taught me so much. I have a whole new outlook on life now. Our NICU experience changed our lives for the better. After Dr. Anderson told us that our babies only had a .03% chance of surviving without any serious medical problems, I realized just how lucky we are. I don’t take life for granted any more. I have been blessed with four living, breathing miracles. They are the four most beautiful, precious people that I know, and have changed my life in ways that I can‘t explain. My babies have taught me to cherish every moment of everyday!
The last two and a half years have been the most challenging years of my life, but also the most rewarding! I love you, Brett, Kaden, Parker and Cooper! I look forward to watching you grow and develop into the wonderful people that I can already see you are becoming!

The babies all weighed about 1.5 pounds or less and were 12 inches long or less when they were born.  It was so amazing to see these tiny, perfect little people.  They were perfect in every way, and so small.  I remember the first time I went to see them and thinking that I didn’t want to touch them.  At first I blamed myself for having them so early and I was so scared to touch them and cause them even more pain.  Thanks to my wonderful husband and all of my favorite nurses, they helped me realize that not only was it most definitely not my fault that they were born so early, but that I needed to touch them because they needed their mommy more than anything.  I wouldn’t hurt them by touching them, I would help them.   That was a hard thing for me to accept, but after I touched them the first time, I knew exactly what they were talking about.  It was a beautiful thing to touch my tiny little miracles and see the calming effect a simple touch could have on them.  

Brett

Brett seemed to do the best throughout the whole NICU experience.  Brett was the first born and was definitely the leader of the pack!  He was the first to come off the ventilator, then C-pap, then high flow oxygen and regular oxygen.  He was the first to eat from a bottle, the first to wear clothes, the first to be moved into a crib, and the first to come home!  He was usually the biggest of all four, with Kaden and Parker almost catching up a few times!  He was definitely the “easiest” of the four to take care of in the NICU.  Don’t get me wrong, he did give us some good scares, but they seemed to be a lot less than the other three!  After several failed attempts to place a PICC line in for him to get his medicines, Brett finally had to have a central line placed.  I think the central line was probably the most major thing Brett had done!  He also had a hydrocele on one of his testes, which can often turn into a hernia, but it resolved itself after a few months and never required surgery!  He had his fair share of brady’s, desats, and had to be manually stimulated to breath several times.  I guess he knew what he was doing when he decided it was time to be born!  He is the one that pushed his way through my cervix even though it was stitched shut.  He was very persistent that he was going to enter this world whether we wanted him to or not.  Funny, he’s still a very persistent little boy and likes to get his way no matter what!

brett         brett3    Brett and mommy's hand

bigbrett     brett and daddy    brett2

Kaden

Kaden was our second born and I guess he was right behind Brett as far as how many obstacles he had.   He did have a harder time than Brett.  One of my scariest NICU memories is of one of the days when Kaden had a severe drop in his oxygen saturations and heart rate.   I remember there was about 8 nurses in his room trying to get the little guy to breathe.  He just wouldn’t start breathing on his own, and they couldn’t figure out why.  After what seemed like hours (which was only a few minutes, I’m sure)  our nurse Tami finally came out and said he was okay.  His breathing tube wasn’t in the right place and that was causing him some problems.   He needed a new tube and some extra oxygen for a while, but pulled through just fine.  He had several events like this, but that is one time that really sticks in my mind.  Kaden also had a grade 2 brain bleed.  This was found on his first head ultrasound, but then on his second one they found that it had resolved itself!  We were so blessed that this happened, and thanked God for letting us witness yet another miracle!  Kaden had alot of swelling in his lower body.  His poor little legs were huge and his little toes looked like tiny little sausages!  He was on lasiks to help him pee out the extra fluid, but it didn’t seem to do much for him.  After time the swelling just went away.   Kaden also seemed to have the most trouble with eating.  He was the slowest to take his bottle.   Alot of times we couldn’t get him to wake up to eat and if we did, he would only take a little of his feeding and then stop.  I think he was just too tired and decided it was easier to just be tube fed than to wake up  to eat!  He did eventually get the hang of it, although he has always been my fussiest eater!  In fact, shortly after we brought him home, we changed his formula due to a milk allergy!  He was a much happier eater after that! 

Kaden had his PDA ligated when he was just 3 weeks old. This surgery was by far harder on Kaden than the other 2.  He took a longer time to recover and required heavier ventilator settings and more oxygen than the others.  The surgery did wonders for him though, and after a few initial bumps, he did great! 

kaden tummy    kaden2    kaden3  

kaden4    mommy and kaden     P1348689_thumb  

Parker

Parker is our third born and she followed right along as far as her health problems.  She had a few more issues than Brett and Kaden.   Parker had a central line placed as well, and then developed an infection on the end of the line.  The end of the line sat right next to heart.  She still has a thrombus that is basically just sitting there.  It shouldn’t ever cause any problems for her.  The infection was a pretty nasty infection and also caused some sores on her skin.  She ended up needing to be on antibiotics for a LONG time!  Infection is a very scary thing for a preemie, as it can really attack their little body and they don’t have the capability to fight it off.  Preemies don’t have an immune system when they are born and any infection can be detrimental for them.  The infection did clear up, and she recovered just fine.  Parker also had her PDA ligated.  She had her surgery the same day as Kaden.  I remember telling the doctor that it is just downright mean to schedule surgery for two of a persons babies on the same day!  Talk about stress!  She did just fine and recovered very well.  It’s amazing how pink a baby becomes after this surgery.  Once they are finally able to get all the oxygen they need without this extra valve being open, they breathe much better! 

Parker was the first baby I got to hold!  She was just 11 days old and I have to say that not only was this one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced in my life, but it was also the scariest!  I can’t even describe the feeling of holding a baby that is as tiny as she was.  It’s scary to hold a baby that is that small and hooked up to so many machines.  It was hard to manuever all the tubes and wires into a position that was comfortable for her and I both.  But it was so worth it!  It was such a special moment to finally be able to bond with my baby girl! 

parker and mommy    Parker    parker2

parker3   parker5    brett and parker

Cooper

Cooper is our last born and always struggled the most.  He was, and still is, such a trooper and fought so hard everyday.  Even now as I think of how rocky his road was it brings tears to my eyes.  He wasn’t the smallest when he was born, but he lost the most weight after birth and then never seemed to catch up with the others.  Coop was the first to have his PDA ligated and did awesome the first couple days after surgery.   He was breathing so well that he was moved to C-PAP but then hit a really rough patch and had to be put back on the vent.  He had very high vent setting and even struggled so much that he was going to be put on the high frequency vent.  I knew that was a bad sign because I had been told that was kind of a last resort and we didn’t want to have to use it unless we absolutely had to.  Well, they brought one of the high frequency vents into Cooper’s room and I guess he realized the doctors were serious and he started to stabilize!  He didn’t make huge improvements, but his health didn’t decline either!  Cooper was on the vent the longest at more than two months.  The poor little guy had such crappy lungs that he just couldn’t do it on his own.  The doctors tried a couple rounds of steroids, which did help, but only short term.  Steroids can have some pretty bad negative side effects, so they don’t like to use them alot.  After two rounds of the steroids, and no long term positive outcomes, I was done with the risk of them.  One of the doctors suggested trying them again and I put my foot down and said no way!  And sure enough, after not too much more time Cooper did it on his own and was moved to C-PAP! 

Cooper also had lots of problems with eating.  He was the last one to drink from a bottle.  He was a pro at actually drinking the bottle, it was keeping it in his belly that was his problem.  He had terrible reflux (all four of them did) but he had projectile vomiting.  After this went on for a while, we finally had an ultrasound done of his tummy.  They saw what appeared to be some sort of growth in his stomache that they thought might be causing the vomiting.  The doctor decided to do a scope and also try to take a biopsy of the growth and basically found that nothing was wrong.  I remember the night before the procedure, Cooper couldn’t have anything to eat.  This was also the same day that Brett was released from the hospital so it was a day of mixed emotions.  Poor little Cooper was so hungry and couldn’t have anything to eat.  He loved to eat!  I sat in the chair with him for hours and just rocked him and held his binky in his mouth for him so he wouldn’t cry as much.  It’s horrible to hold your baby when he is absolutely starving and not being able to give him anything!  Poor little guy!

cooper and daddy    cooper,daddy and mommy    Cooper

cooper3    cooper5    cooper6

Cooper was the last one to come home after 137 days (but who’s counting, right?)  He came home on oxygen and a monitor.   Kaden and Parker were also on monitors, so just picture our living room with a mess of wires strung all the way through it!  Cooper was such an easy baby when he came home!  He loved to eat, and loved to sleep even more!  We were sent home from the hospital with strict instructions to wake him every four hours for feedings.  Well, the first night home he slept for six hours straight!  Holy Crap!  We had an appointment with the pediatrician the next day who said that as long as he didn’t lose any weight in the next 4 days we could let him sleep for no more than 6 hours at a time at night!  He did awesome with his weight gain and continued to be my best sleeper and still is!  Cooper was on oxygen all the time until November after he came home.  He was then able to go off of it during the day, but then he got sick and after a few days in the hospital he was back on it for a while.  He was then off of it again and then ended up sick and in the hospital again right after his first birthday.  He had to be back on the oxygen again for a while, but finally kicked the habit for good shortly after! 

All four of the kids were born with chronic lung disease due to their prematurity.  Cooper definitely struggled with it the most and still has the most lung issues.  He still has the hardest time getting over any illness and everything seems to settle in his chest!  He is a trooper and does recover from illnesses just fine, but it just takes him longer than it does the other kids!

 

All four of my kids are the biggest fighters I have ever met!  Life has handed them so many obstacles already and they have overcome each one of those!  My kids are my heroes!  I am the most blessed mommy in the world to have been given these four little people to love and be loved by!  I love you babies!

quads april 2010 026

3 comments:

Jen (momx3lovesbooks) said...

Love the post! I'll never forget that day either! Standing in Walmart calling you wondering if you're up for company and your mom telling me you were in Omaha! I prayed right there in the laundry detergant aisle. God is awesome!!

Kari said...

That is an amazing story! I cannot believe how much they can do with such tiny babies. My smallest quad was 3.1 and I thought that was tiny!

Kari said...

your little ones are one day younger than my twins.....
they are beautiful



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