Friday, February 3, 2012

The Backstory, Part 4: Third Trimester: Ready or not, emphasis on not!!

For Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here. For Part 3, click here.
** By the way, before I proceed, I must share some exciting info about the girls: Tamsie now weighs 8 lbs 6 oz (1 oz more than I did when I was born), and Evie weighs 7 lbs 10 oz! I found that out today when they got their monthly Synagis shot. In fact, they weighed more than the nurse was expecting them to weigh, according to her charts, so she had to leave to go back to her office and get a higher dose of the shot to accommodate their big old chunky selves!! :) **
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.... - Isaiah 43:2a
OK, let’s recap.
  • I found out I was having twins.
  • I found out that the type of twins I was having (sharing a placenta) put them at risk for developing TTTS.
  • I was rather scared about the whole thing. I’m not much of a risk-taker to begin with, and risky pregnancies really aren’t my forte! I mean, the only thing that convinced me that I could handle pregnancy in the first place was seeing so many friends have such easy pregnancies and deliveries!
  • However, my pregnancy had been very healthy and (mostly) problem-free... (OK, well minus the bleeding early on....)
  • ... until all kinds of crazy swelling popped up later on the very day of my last good doctor’s appointment, at week 26.
  • I called multiple times to ask about it and went in to see the nurse, but swelling in pregnancy is normal, and my blood pressure was fine, so there was nothing to be too concerned about. I didn’t have any other suspicious symptoms like headaches or vision problems.
So I went about life as normally as possible in my swollen state. I put on my lovely compression tights the moment I woke up in the morning. I wore my stylin’ clown shoes. At work, I would prop up my legs and try to stay off my feet. At home, I would lie down on the couch and prop up my legs - which was actually a sight to behold, since I had been instructed not to lie flat on my back, but I had also been told that propping my feet wouldn’t do any good unless they were elevated above my head. I would try to lie on my left side and prop my feet up all at the same time, and the whole thing was rather precarious, not to mention uncomfortable. But despite my best efforts, I continued to swell and gain scary amounts of weight. I weighed myself every night and was horrified at the speed of my weight gain, given how I couldn’t put much on at all in the beginning. 
Furthermore, my nose, which had been stuffy throughout pregnancy (who knew that was a symptom of pregnancy?!) took it up about 100 notches, becoming completely swollen up to the point where breathing out of it was difficult and even impossible at times. I felt like one of those obnoxiously loud mouth-breathing people or maybe like Darth Vader, and I was incredibly self-conscious about it. I kept finding myself apologizing whenever I would talk to people who didn’t know about my nose woes (ha! rhymed and didn’t mean to!). It was really getting out of control! 

Fortunately, I knew the doctor wouldn’t let me get past 37 weeks, so the girls would be delivered no later than Dec. 5. I only had about two more months of this nonsense left... but the more swelling I endured, the more unrealistic that goal seemed. Sometime around Oct. 5, I called my mom in tears and told her I had absolutely no idea how I could continue being pregnant for two more months in this state. I couldn’t wait to go back to my next check-up on Oct. 10, which would be at the 29-week-and-two-day mark, just to make sure everything was OK. In fact, my dear friend Rachel was planning on coming to visit me the weekend after my doctor’s appointment, but I had to call her and tell her we’d probably have to reschedule. I wasn’t feeling so well, and I wanted to see what the doctor had to say. I had a feeling that bed rest was in my very near future.
On Thursday, Oct. 6, on his way out for work, Chris kissed me goodbye and patted my belly to say goodbye to the babies, as he always did. I was still in bed, as I always was when he left for work, being my exhausted, swollen, pregnant self. But this time something was very different. When he patted my belly, he told me that it was as hard as a rock. I hadn’t even noticed anything until he mentioned it, but I blew it off and rolled over to go back to sleep. Later that morning, he called me and told me that he thought that must have been a Braxton Hicks contraction. He had apparently been concerned enough to look it up online, and that’s what he had come up with. I groaned in disgust. My mom never had them, so I was hoping to avoid them altogether. I didn’t trust myself to know when to take them seriously and when to ignore them. For that very reason, they seemed like my worst nightmare. (Ha.)
I soon started to feel my belly harden, just as Chris had observed. I began frantically researching everything I could find about Braxton Hicks and when to call the doctor. Somewhere along the way I picked up the notion that they were fine, unless I started having four or more of them an hour - so I started timing them as they would come. I remember having a hard time telling whether I was having a contraction, or whether a baby had just moved to some particularly uncomfortable place, so I was driving Chris crazy asking him to come feel my belly and weigh in on what he thought was going on. 

(This picture would have been taken that Friday. It's the last picture of me pregnant! I did NOT want my swollen legs making an appearance in this picture, but now I kind of wish I had photographic evidence of the intensity.)

Saturday night we went out with our friends Vickie and Ben (who was on a short furlough from serving in Afghanistan) and Melissa and Phillip. I noticed as we were hanging out that the contractions were coming faster and getting to be more uncomfortable, but I still never could count four an hour. I stayed up late that night trying to time them, because they kept coming.
The next day, I stayed in from church because I had been up so late counting contractions and I had read that sleep deprivation could make them even worse. Once I had rested up, I asked Chris to take me to Huber’s, a farm across the river in Indiana that has amazing apples around that time of year. I was afraid that if we didn’t go then, we would miss our chance for the year, because I knew my days of making a trip like that were very numbered (and possibly becoming more numbered with each contraction). When we arrived, it was absolutely packed, and I felt like a huge blimp trying to make my way through the crowds. The contractions continued, and walking around made me heavily winded, so we didn’t stay long at all before we headed back home. 
That night, I went to a discipleship group I was helping out with for the high school girls at church. I talked to some friends there to reassure myself I was just having Braxton Hicks, even though there were a bunch of them. When I got home, I called my friend Christy, because I thought she had gone through something similar. “Beware once your nose starts swelling,” she told me. “It’s an old wives’ tale that you’ll go into labor soon after it does - and it has been true for me and just about everyone I know!” Earlier that day, I had noticed my nose actually looked swollen. What in the world. Between 11 and about 11:40 that night, I counted four contractions, so I called the doctor, who told me to check myself in to Labor & Delivery at the hospital, just to make sure everything was OK.
Sometime after midnight, we showed up at Baptist East, where I was taken to an outpatient room. There was a poster hanging on the wall, warning about the dangers of preterm birth. I absolutely started freaking out more than I have ever freaked out in my life. I was shaking uncontrollably, and I couldn’t stop. The contractions kept coming. The nurses gave me a shot that was supposed to stop them, but they told me that sometimes it doesn’t - and that if it didn’t, they’d just give me another one. A few hours later, they gave me another one. Finally, the contractions stopped. I told them I had my regular check-up scheduled for the next day, so they discharged me from the hospital at about 4:30 am.
When we got home, I couldn’t sleep, so I took a bath and read my Bible. I sent a private Facebook message to several friends, asking them to pray for the babies and me and to spread the word. Finally I drifted off, waking up just a few hours later. For breakfast before my appointment, I had no appetite whatsoever, so I only ate a few bites of oatmeal and a few slices of one of those apples we had gotten at Huber’s. You know it’s bad when you can’t even bring yourself to finish a whole apple!
At the appointment that day, I went back for my ultrasound, as I always did. This time, however, the ultrasound tech barely said anything at all. “Are the fluid levels OK?” I asked, as I always did. “Yes,” she said, not offering any extra info or making any additional conversation. “Are the babies the same size?” “I’ll let your doctor go over all of this with you.” When she left the room, Chris and I were amazed at what we perceived as her rudeness. Normally, the ultrasound techs were nice and chatty, offering helpful information as we went, putting our minds at ease. Not this time.
We were ushered back to the high-risk doctor’s office, and we quickly learned why the ultrasound tech had been so tight-lipped. When the doctor came in, she delivered the news that I had been fearing the most throughout the past several months: “Your babies seem to be in the early stages of Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome.” There was something very wrong with the placenta, so Tamsie was about 20% bigger than Evangelyn and was stealing all kinds of nutrients from her sister. I immediately burst into tears. “I think everything will eventually be OK,” she continued, “but you will need to check back into the hospital.” She told me that she wanted the hospital’s maternal-fetal doctor to take a look at my case and see if he agreed with her, but that she thought I needed to have an amnio-reduction, where they would go in with a needle and reduce the amount of fluid around Tamsie. Had we gotten this news just two weeks before, I could have gone to Cincinnati for surgery where the problem may have been solved - or may have been made worse. As it was, it was too late in the pregnancy for the surgery to be an option. The amnio-reduction seemed to be my best bet for taking care of the babies and extending the pregnancy. Meanwhile, the contractions were back. The best-case scenario at this point would be to stop the contractions, have a successful amnio-reduction, and spend the remainder of the pregnancy (hoping for another 8 weeks or so) on bed rest.
Once I was checked back into the hospital, the maternal-fetal doctor came in and decided that an amnio-reduction would not be the way to go, as that would likely increase the contractions, resulting in delivery. He also seemed very concerned about my swelling and shortness of breath, and proposed a theory that on top of the TTTS, my heart was unable to sustain a twin pregnancy and was thus enlarged, causing kidney problems that resulted in my excessive swelling. 
I was put on magnesium to try and stop the contractions, since those shots had only worked temporarily. The magnesium made me feel hot all over, weak and wonkier than ever. I kept asking for some kind of drug that would calm me down, as I was back to shaking all over again. I called my mom and told her I really needed her and Dad to come immediately, and they made the trip in record time. The next few hours were a blur of shakiness, sleepiness, contractions, nasal stuffiness, and uncertainty. I kept asking the same questions over and over again: Can I please have Afrin for my nose? (No, but you can have Benadryl. But I’m way too far gone for Benadryl.) Do I sound like Darth Vader the way I'm breathing through my mouth? (Yes, kind of.) I didn’t eat much today at all; are the babies OK? (Yes, we’re giving you fluids to take care of that.) When can I eat again? (Let’s wait and see what happens; if we have to give you an emergency C-section, we want it to be on an empty stomach.) Did I do anything to cause this? (Absolutely not.) And the most pressing question of all: If my babies are born tonight, will they be OK? (Most likely so. Your babies are a nice size, and the neonatologist would be happy to get babies the size of yours. But they would have to stay in the hospital until their due date.) The neonatologist came in at one point to prep me for what life would look like for the babies if they were to go ahead and be born. At some point late that night, the decision was made that I needed to be transferred to the University of Louisville Hospital, because they had a very good NICU and high-risk pregnancy department. 
Now a word about that. I had felt really good about delivering the babies at Baptist East. We had taken a couple of classes there (and were signed up for a few more), and we had even taken a tour of the hospital. My doctor’s office was located on the floor above the Labor & Delivery floor - so I was accustomed to going there. I didn’t even know U of L had a hospital! But I was so delirious and medicated (and very sick!!) that I just went with the flow. 
Right before they put me on the ambulance, it occurred to me just how dangerous this whole thing was. I had always been scared of pregnancy to some degree, and now I knew why! I just kept praying over and over, thinking of that passage in Luke 11 where Jesus encourages us to be bold and persistent in our requests, like the man knocking on his friend’s door in the middle of the night. I remember praying something like this: “Lord, please carry me right through this whole situation. This time I don’t need you to walk beside me through it or anything like that. I need you to actually carry me through it altogether.” And I am here to tell you that He did. ((To be continued.... Yes, I know! I promise this story does finally come to a conclusion!))

1 comment:

  1. Shelby, this story is so crazy! I can't even imagine what you were thinking and feeling. I can't wait to read the rest!