Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Backstory, Part 5: And now, the rest of the story!

Here is Part 1.
Here is Part 2.
Here is Part 3. 
Here is Part 4.

So in the wee hours of Tuesday, October 11, I was loaded onto an ambulance leaving Baptist East, bound for the University of Louisville Hospital. There were three noteworthy things about this trip:
  1. A nurse from Baptist East made the trip with me. Despite my frazzled state, I had somehow managed to endear myself to her, and she cried when I was unloaded at U of L.
  2. The whole trip is very hazy in my memory, due to the drugs I was on and the sick state of my body. I don’t even really remember what the inside of the ambulance looked like, which is kind of a shame, because I had never been on one before (and hope never to be on one again!).
  3. When I arrived, I had a brief moment of panic when they wheeled out a hospital bed for me and I was scared they were going to make me get out of the stretcher on my own to get over into it. (I felt ridiculously weak after all the magnesium I had been on.) To my great delight, a few guys (apparently including Chris, as he told me later) folded up the bed sheet I was on and just transferred me right over to the bed. I didn’t have to move a muscle, which I considered an excellent arrangement.
The next thing I remember is being brought into a hospital room where I was surrounded by a bunch of doctors and residents, most of whom looked roughly my age. They were asking me a bunch of questions, sticking IVs (yes, that is plural) in me, and telling me they were going to take good care of me. At one point something went dreadfully wrong when a nurse was attempting to stick an IV in me, and everyone was like, “If you can’t handle the sight of blood, don’t look! Don’t look!” which, surprisingly, didn’t upset me nearly as much as it would have if it weren’t for everything else going on. 
After that, I remember the waiting. It seemed like I was alone in the room with Chris and Mom (Dad was at the house, trying to sleep) for what seemed like forever. I remember thinking that the doctors and nurses acted like everything needed to happen really fast, and yet here I was, waiting, wondering what was coming next. As I learned later from some NICU nurses, the operating room had been prepped for me that night, in case I had to deliver the babies as soon as I arrived. I guess we were waiting while they tried to decide whether that needed to happen or not. 
You know how when you’re really sick, like with the flu, all you want to do is sleep? Not only are you exhausted, but you also just really want the time to fly by quickly so you’ll wake up and feel better? That’s exactly how I felt. I just wanted to sleep until I could wake up and either everything would be fine or this whole thing would have just been an awful dream and my pregnancy would still be healthy and on-track. So sleep I did, and with everything I was on, it wasn’t hard for me to get to sleep. 
I also became increasingly aware that the magnesium wasn’t stopping the contractions. While they weren’t particularly painful like the ones you see on TV, they were uncomfortable. One of the most terrifyingly helpless moments I’ve ever faced came when I asked what else could be done to stop the contractions since magnesium wasn’t working and the shots hadn’t helped, and the answer I received was that there were basically no more options left for me. The only moderately good news was that I had only dilated a centimeter or so.
The rest of that day is very much a blur in my memory of contractions, kidney scans, heart scans and EKGs, blood being drawn, and teams of doctors and residents coming in and out of my room. Chris tells me the cardiologist’s attending doctors came to see me the night I arrived, and then came back again the next morning, this time with the cardiologist himself and about 12 other medical types in tow. Any time he would see them file in, he would fear the worst. 
Then came an ultrasound with a different maternal-fetal doctor. Some nurses wheeled me down in the hospital bed to the floor where I would have the ultrasound, and I waited in the hallway for a while, watching people go by and feeling slightly awkward and very zombie-like, until they moved me into a private room where I waited some more. Then they introduced me to a very stern doctor who gave me the ultrasound and commented on everything he saw. This was the first time we realized that Tamsie had an enlarged kidney. This doctor examined everything closely and then told me that he didn’t see any reason why the pregnancy couldn’t be extended to the 37th week. He also told me there was no reason for me to be hooked up to everything I was hooked up to, and that really I should be up and moving around. When he said that, I was completely shocked, and I tried standing up - very unsteadily. Once the nurses heard what he had said, they were very confused because it didn’t gel with what all the other doctors were saying. 
Speaking of gel, I had these awful baby monitors strapped onto my belly to keep track of the babies’ heartbeats pretty much the whole time. The nurses would spread gel all over my belly, and then the monitors would proceed to slide off of the areas where they should have been. They would also sink downward into my belly, which had itself swollen dramatically by now - to the point where the nurses would bring their buddy nurses in to see the spectacle. Every now and then I would have to roll over in bed, which would send the monitors sliding off, and I knew it was only a matter of a minute or two before the nurses would be back in to readjust everything. Sometimes the monitors would even wind up picking up my heart rate (because it was so fast) instead of the babies’, and it would take them some time to sort it all out. As if everything wasn’t obnoxious enough at this point, I had some Nicki Minaj song stuck in my head all the livelong day. But through all the chaos, we had enough info to learn that Evangelyn in particular was really struggling. I was on oxygen on and off to make sure she was getting enough, but even then her heart rate would drop dramatically with each contraction. 
As the day dragged along, more doctors saw me with more theories of what was going on and what should be done. Often their analyses conflicted, and I was left wondering what was going to happen. For a moment I was legitimately scared they were going to make me make the call about what to do. I certainly hoped that didn’t happen, as I had no idea whatsoever! It was also discovered that my heart was enlarged and my kidneys were failing. My body was officially losing control.
At some point earlier that day, a nurse had come in and told me she was going to give me a steroid shot to help the babies’ lungs to develop in case they needed to be delivered soon. “Our goal at this point,” she said, “is to keep you pregnant for the next 48 hours.”
“That sounds great to me,” I said.
However, at about 3 in the morning on Wednesday, October 12, the primary doctor over my case came into my room and sat down on my bed. “We have decided that it’s time to deliver the babies by C-section,” he said. Now I remember this, although somewhat hazily. I also remember feeling a little bit relieved. Then I don’t remember much except for being told to lean over and then asking, “Is this for the spinal block?” and getting an affirmative answer (I can’t even recall from whom). I don’t even remember any pain from the spinal block. It was like one of those dreams where something bad’s about to happen and then you suddenly wake up right before it does. 

(here Chris and I are right before going to the operating room for the C-section... just think, I have no recollection of this moment whatsoever, and yet I was flashing a cheesy smile!!)

My memory gets even fuzzier after that, and the next thing I can really recall is being aware that the babies had been born, and possibly hearing a cry and being amazed that it had come from one of my babies. (Then again, that could have been a dream.) My next memory is being told that I needed a blood transfusion and did I give the hospital permission to give me one? I groggily said something about being scared of getting AIDS through a blood transfusion, then being told the odds of that were very slim in 2011. (Which I knew. I was clearly in an altered state!) Then I actually asked the doctor, who was a guy, by the way, “Well if you were in my boat would you get the blood transfusion?” His answer, of course, was yes. Then I remember wanting to see the babies because I hadn’t seen them yet - or at least I didn’t think I had. I knew they were in the NICU and everyone but me had been to see them, but I hadn’t been able to leave my room because I was having a blood transfusion.
Remember how I had asked God to carry me through the whole thing? I had always been terrified of having a C-section, and had even thought of asking to be knocked out during it. (I am SUCH a wimp, in case you haven't picked up on it already!!!) Even though I know that curtain’s there and you can’t see anything, I was afraid of the images my mind would conjure up that would be worse than anything that was actually happening. Well, as it turns out, what I shared above is all I remember of the C-section! I'd say God did a pretty good job of getting me through it!
Chris’s side of the story is, of course, much clearer! He tells me that I was truly in an interesting frame of mind, and that the whole time during the C-section I was prattling on about the following oh-so-fascinating topics:
  • a candle I really liked at Bath & Body Works
  • “loving the yard,” as I put it at the time, and how I really wanted to start taking better care of the yard and mowing it myself and such (I’m not 100% convinced he didn’t make that one up - haha!)
  • a tree I thought I saw growing in the operating room
  • my concern that my nose was turning into a cat’s nose (you know, the usual concerns during C-sections!)
At least I provided some free entertainment! When the doctors would jostle me about, I’d look at Chris with an annoyed expression and ask why he kept moving me around, even though he was clearly not the least bit involved in any of it. Chris says that when the doctors and nurses would ask me housekeeping questions periodically, to determine whether I felt any pain and such, I would give perfectly cognizant answers - which is funny to me, since I can’t remember any of it!
Chris also says that Tamsie cried when she was born, and they brought her around for us to see. Evie, however, could not cry when she was born, so they immediately whisked her away to be intubated. He also tells me the doctors were fascinated with the placenta and asked to take pictures so that the lives of future babies with TTTS could be saved. (You never want to be that patient with the particularly unusual placenta....) It seems that Tamsie and her half of the placenta were bright red, and Evie and her half of the placenta were white. The NICU nurses called her the "ghost baby" because she blended in with her blankets at first. The primary doctor has told us that God truly did work everything out in this situation the best way possible, starting with those first contractions that made the doctors finally take my complaints about swelling seriously! 
So the birth story of my girls is far from the ideal that every mom-to-be hopes for. In our story, there is no sweet moment in my room where I was able to hold them immediately after their birth. We had no choice but for them to be delivered by C-section because they were so small and I was so weak - then they were rushed away to the NICU. I wasn’t able to hold them for another week or so. I can barely even remember seeing them for the first time. Honestly, I didn’t even know where I was. I just assumed the hospital was on the U of L campus. (It’s totally not - it’s downtown!) I certainly didn’t have a bag packed for the hospital, because when I went in, I had no idea I would be staying for a while! My mother-in-law and the rest of Chris’s family arrived soon after the girls were born, and she ran out and bought me a (very cute!) gown so I wouldn’t have to keep wearing the hospital gown. 
And yet the story of Tamsie and Evangelyn’s birth is very special and meaningful to me. There is certainly plenty to be thankful for:
  • Most importantly, God allowed all three of us to survive the whole scary ordeal. The first few days and weeks were very difficult, but I made a complete recovery (so quickly, in fact, that the doctors and nurses were rather amazed - by the time I checked out of the hospital my heart was completely normal!), and the girls grew stronger and healthier every day. Now I’m not gonna lie - their NICU stay was every bit of the emotional roller-coaster I was promised it would be and certainly one of the most trying things I’ve ever endured, but such is life with preemies. Through it all, I was just tremendously thankful they were so healthy. 
  • I also made many wonderful memories during the time spent with my immediate family and my in-law family in that hospital room. 
  • My doctors and nurses were outstanding and extremely skillful and helpful. 
  • Honestly the whole experience was quite a bargain for me - two babies and only pregnant for seven or so months (and only aware of it for a few days shy of six months)! ;) 
  • I skipped out on the extreme discomfort of most of the third trimester of a twin pregnancy! 
  • I never had any of those agonizing labor pains you always hear about! 
  • To top it all off, despite eating tons, by the time of my 6-week post-partum check-up, I had lost the 45 pounds I gained during the pregnancy. (Granted, I'm sure it was because so much of the weight was fluid... but still! A perk, regardless!)
  • I am now the mom of two of the sweetest, smiliest, most precious little girls imaginable! :)
My girls were definitely worth all the craziness that accompanied their grand entrance into the world, and I am one blessed mama! :)


  1. What a testimony to God's grace! So thankful you and your sweet babies are healthy and happy.

  2. Hey, Shelby, I just read this for the first time and having been through one emergency C-section -- although not nearly as emergency as yours! -- I can relate to a lot of it. You jogged a memory with your Nicki Minaj song. For what seemed like a solid week after my C-section, I had a fragment of a Paul Simon song rattling at top speed over and over in my head: "Standing on a corner in Lafayette, state of Louisiana, wond'rin' what a city boy could do, to get a little conversation, drink a little red wine, listen to the music of Clifton Chenier, the king of the bayou." Somewhere in the procession of chemicals and sedatives, that got turned on and would not be turned off. I did not have anything as wild as the tree growing in the operating room, though!

  3. Rebecca - thanks so much! :)
    Salem - How funny!! Yes, it was the "got my heartbeat running away, beating like a drum and it's coming your way, can't you hear that boom, badoom boom" part of "Superbass" that would NOT leave my head! I kept thinking that it was oddly appropriate for a time when heartbeats were being monitored!