Thursday, October 12, 2017

Breastfeeding Is Hard

I knew I wanted to try to breastfeed my babies.  There are all kinds of benefits for both babies and moms. But I also knew that if I had to feed my babies formula, that would be fine too.  

I talked about how my milk took longer than usual to come in due to some complications after delivery in this post.  Since my milk wasn't around to feed my babies, they had to spend some time in the NICU.  It turned out to be quite the job for my milk to eventually come in.  Then I had the added challenge to get my supply up enough to feed two babies. 

Getting my milk to come in and my supply to increase required a lot of pumping.  I really, really hate pumping.  For those of you who don't know, pumping involves hooking an electric pump up to your boobs and sitting around while it pumps milk from your boobs.  While it's not super painful for me, it's not very pleasant.  Plus I feel like I am tethered to the couch and can only go as far as the plastic tubing will allow me to go.  After I delivered my babies, it was recommended that I pump every 4 hours.  While Adam tried to help me make that happen, it just didn't.  I was exhausted and pumping wasn't high on my priority list.  But eventually I was able to pump more and more and my milk did come in.  

Once my milk was in, I was able to try to breastfeed my babies while they were in the NICU.  I envisioned breastfeeding to be this wonderful bonding experience between me and my babies.  I thought we would stare adoringly at each other and things would go smoothly.  But that's not exactly how things went.  

Since my babies were born prematurely, they struggled to latch, maintain a strong suck and stay awake long enough to get enough to eat.  So breastfeeding was quite the challenge in the beginning.  Archer got the hang of latching pretty quickly, but Lyla struggled a long time.  She would turn her head back and forth with her mouth open like a crazy person.  It was so frustrating!  Even if I would shove my nipple in her mouth, sometimes she still wouldn't latch on.  We both wanted the same thing, but somehow couldn't make it happen.  The occupational therapist that worked with us suggested we give her chin a little pressure.  So I would try to be squeezing my boob to get the milk going and then pushing up on her chin and trying to hold her head in place.  Man, what I wouldn't have given for another hand!  

After all that work, sometimes she would only nurse for a few minutes and then fall asleep.  It was exhausting!  Archer managed to latch quicker, but he would fall asleep as well.  I would have to tickle them and jiggle them a little to keep them awake.  

After they got to be a few days older, then I started having the opposite problem.  They would want to nurse for up to an hour for each feeding!  The NICU staff told us the optimal feeding time was 30 minutes, so it was frustrating for the babies when I would cut them off.  Apparently nursing for too long used up too many calories.  And the babies needed to maintain as many calories as possible to gain weight.  Of course they would just cry if they were still hungry.  Eventually I just started nursing them longer until they were satisfied even though I wasn't technically supposed to do that.  I felt like crying and crying because they were still hungry would burn up calories too.  If I fed them longer, at least they would be happy.  But then that meant the time in between feedings became shorter and shorter.  

Then after I fed each baby, I would have to pump.  The purpose of pumping after they ate was to increase my milk supply.  So it kinda felt like I had three babies to feed.  I was not as enthused about breastfeeding at this point.  But I continued on because I felt like it was the best thing for my babies.  

When we got to leave the NICU, I thought things would be simpler because I could nurse the babies whenever they were hungry instead of trying to keep up with a schedule.  But I was wrong.  Nursing them whenever they were hungry meant I was nursing ALL THE TIME!  And then I tried to keep up with pumping after each feeding.  It was exhausting!  

So then I decided to give tandem feeding a try.  Tandem feeding is when you have one baby on each boob at the same time.  I had a nursing pillow to help position the babies.  It would strap around my waist and the babies would lay on top of it.  There was no way I could do this on my own.  So someone would have to bring me the babies, burp them when they needed, change their diaper and then take them away.  This meant that whoever was helping me (or even just whoever else was in the same room) got up close and personal with me and my boobs.  I've always been a very modest person.  Heck, I don't even like to wear shirts that are too low-cut!  But that modesty went out the window!  I would whip off my shirt and pull out my boobs.  Never in a million years would I have dreamed my mother-in-law would see my boobs on a regular basis!  But that's just how it is now.  

With tandem feeding, I was pretty much stuck in that position for at least an hour, sometimes more depending on how hungry each baby was during that feeding.  I hated it.  It was a struggle to get both latched and keep them latched.  I felt trapped by that pillow and having to stay in that position.  My hormones were still in full swing and I would have hot flashes, so having a giant pillow and two babies close to me didn't help make me any cooler.  And I just got tired of having two babies attached to me for so long.  The babies ate about every 3 hours, so I spent a lot of time just feeding them.  

I also felt guilty about hating breastfeeding.  You see commercials and pictures where the baby is just calmly nursing and the mom is smiling down.  My babies did a lot of screaming and squirming and crying.  I did my fair share of crying too.  Adam would try to help the babies latch, which was nice of him to try.  But that just meant there was one more person in my bubble and it made me super crabby.  I'm sure I didn't treat him as kindly as I could have on more than one occasion.  

So after giving tandem feeding a valiant effort for about a week, I decided it wasn't worth it.  So I decided that I would just nurse one baby at a time.  If both Archer and Lyla were hungry at the same time, I would have whoever was around feed them a bottle of breast milk that I had pumped.  This lowered the level of stress and dread I had drastically. 

I also went to a weekly breastfeeding support group at the hospital where I delivered.  It was very helpful to hear other moms talking about their struggles.  It helped me to feel like I wasn't alone.  At the meetings they also have a scale, so I could weigh my babies to make sure they were making the gains they needed to be making.  It's hard to tell exactly how much milk they are getting when breastfeeding, so it was nice to have proof that they were gaining weight each week.  

Even though both Archer and Lyla were gaining weight, Lyla seemed to hate eating.  It was such an ordeal to nurse her.  She took forever to latch, wouldn't stay latched, would scream and cry and took forever to eat.  I chalked it up to her being born premature and just needing more time to get the hang of it.  

Well, fast forward to her 2 month doctor visit.  As our pediatrician was checking her out, she noticed some specks of blood in her stool in her diaper.  While I didn't stare at her poopy diapers, I did glance at them from time to time and had never noticed any blood specks.  In addition to bloody specks in her poop and difficulty nursing, Lyla was always incredibly unhappy.  It seemed like she had three channels: sleeping, eating or screaming.  At first we just thought that was her personality.  We figured she was just dramatic.  But I began to think we were missing something.  Surely she can't be unhappy all the time.  So after mentioning all these things, the pediatrician put two and two together and determined that Lyla had a dairy allergy.  Apparently this is fairly common in babies, especially premature ones.  Their gastrointestinal tracks can't break down the proteins found in dairy.  This explained why she was always unhappy and hated nursing.  She was in pain!  Cue the mom guilt!  I felt terrible that it took us 8 weeks before we figured out something was wrong with our sweet Lyla.


  

So the pediatrician told us we should switch her to a dairy-free formula called Nutramigen.  In the meantime, if I wanted to continue to breastfeed her, I should eliminate dairy from my diet.  That meant no cheese, no yogurt, no chocolate.  I'm not gonna lie, I was not very happy about this.  But I thought I should do what's best for Lyla.  So we took home some formula samples and I vowed to cut dairy from my diet.  Well, eating no dairy sucked.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized my diet is basically 95% dairy.  I decided it would take too much energy for me to figure out what I'm supposed to eat and plan meals and make sure I get enough protein.  And I decided my happiness was worth something in this equation.  

But, boy did I feel guilty!  I felt bad about the prospect of breastfeeding Archer and not Lyla.  And I felt bad about putting what I wanted before what Lyla needed.  But that all changed after Lyla had her first bottle of formula.  She slurped it down and made happy little noises as she was eating.  It was the first time she seemed to actually enjoy eating.  I decided that she was happy with her formula, so I should be happy about eating what I wanted to eat.  After all, fed is best.  Both of my babies were being fed and that's all that matters in the end.  I kept reminding myself that Lyla did get two whole months of breast milk, so she received many of the benefits of breast milk for a good chunk of time.  And who knows?  Maybe she'll outgrow her allergy and I can try breastfeeding her again in the future. 

So now things have been a bit easier in the breastfeeding department.  Nursing one baby is a heck of a lot easier than breastfeeding two!  Although now I have a pretty big milk supply since I worked on getting enough milk to feed two babies.  So I have been pumping more and freezing what Archer doesn't use in his supplement bottles.  I started the process to donate some of my breast milk to the Heart of America Mother's Milk Bank.  I'm really excited to be able to pay it forward since my babies received donor milk while they were in the NICU.  



One of the best perks of breastfeeding twins is how many calories it burns.  Twin moms who breastfeed can burn up to 1,000 calories a day!  I ended up gaining about 40 pounds during my pregnancy.  I lost those 40 pounds by the time the babies were 2 weeks old.  Now I have lost about 15 more pounds!  I never thought I would weigh less than I did before I was pregnant before my babies were 3 months old.  I thought it would take at least a year to shed that weight!  On a side note, my stomach is a wreck!  I've got stretch marks galore!  But they are a small price to pay for Archer and Lyla.  

Whether moms decide to breastfeed or formula-feed, my hat goes off to you!  Feeding babies is hard, but important work.  Whatever works best for you and your baby is the right choice.  I've got two babies and feed one with breastmilk and one with formula.  Both are fed and happy and that makes me happy.    


Jazzy Meets Her Babies

I was so excited for Jazzy to meet her new brother and sister!  I wasn't quite sure how she would respond to them.  I knew Jazzy wouldn't hurt them, but I wasn't sure if she would be interested in them. 

Adam had brought the babies' hats home for Jazzy to sniff before we brought the babies home.  We had read that allowing her to get used to their smell would help the introduction go more smoothly.  Here she is playing with her babies' hats in the backyard. 



We also asked my parents to get Jazzy a special treat to give to her when we brought the babies home.  That way she would associate something good with the babies.  So they got her a pig ear.  

The video below shows the first meeting!  (Sorry it is sideways...me and technology don't always mix.)  It was so incredibly sweet!  Jazzy was incredibly interested in Archer and Lyla.  She sniffed them and gave them some kisses.  She was far more interested in them than her pig ear!  We took that as a good sign.    


Jazzy has continued to be an amazing big sister!  She runs to them when they cry and will give them kisses.  She makes her rounds to keep tabs on both of them throughout the day.  She will barely go outside in the backyard because she doesn't like to leave them unattended.  And she sleeps downstairs instead of in our room now.  I think it's because she wants to guard the house and her babies.   

Jazzy has far exceeded my expectations as a big sister.  She is their protector.  And you can tell she really loves Archer and Lyla, even though they do their fair share of screaming.   


We haven't noticed any jealously issues.  She seems to understand that Archer and Lyla require more of our attention and seems to be okay with it.

I am suffering from dog mom guilt at the moment.  We haven't gotten back into our walking routine.  I try to take her at least once a day, but some days we don't make it.  Occasionally she'll sit by the front door, asking for a walk, and I have to walk by her to tend to a baby.  I feel so bad!  Especially since she's been so sweet with the babies!  There's nothing I want more than to take her on a 3-hour walk and let her smell anything her little heart desires.  So she might be getting a few more cookies these days and I try to give her belly a scratch whenever I have a free moment.

I love that our family feels complete now and that Jazzy is still very much a big part of it.  I can't wait to see how the bond between Archer and Lyla and Jazzy grows!    

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The NICU

Archer and Lyla spent 15 days in the NICU as grower-feeders.  Grower-feeders are babies that are in the NICU only to gain weight and learn how to eat.  Babies born prematurely often aren't born with the ability to latch properly, maintain a strong suck or have the energy to eat for extended periods of time.  

Our babies were in the NICU to work on learning how to eat, but also to be fed until my milk supply increased.  Since I had complications after delivery, it took longer than normal for my milk to come in and my supply to increase enough to feed two babies.  



Our babies were fortunate enough to receive donor breast milk while I was waiting for my milk supply to increase.  Moms who donate their milk are amazing!  I was so thankful that my babies got the benefits of breast milk so early on in their lives even though I wasn't able to provide it for them.

Both Archer and Lyla ended up with NG tubes.  NG tubes are tubes that go through their noses, past their throats and into their stomachs.  So they could be fed the donor breast milk without having to do the eating themselves.  It was a little scary to think about them needing to be hooked up with tubes, but it ultimately was the best thing for them.  Without them they wouldn't have been able to gain the weight necessary to stay healthy.  



In addition to the NG tubes, they also had leads on them to monitor their heart rates, pulse and oxygen intake.  When I was eventually able to go visit my babies in the NICU, it was hard to see them with so many tubes and wires.  When I held them I felt like I had to make sure I didn't interfere with all the stuff that was attached to them.  But a walk down the NICU hallway quickly made me realize just how lucky my babies were.  They didn't have to be in incubators or be hooked up to ventilators to help them breathe.  My babies were able to breathe on their own and be in open air bassinets.  There were some babies in there that were hard to even see because they had so many wires and tubes attached and were stuck inside incubators.    



I have a newfound respect for NICU nurses after our experience.  They were all so incredibly good at what they do.  They were kind and supportive; they were encouraging and accommodating.  We got to know a few of them really well and were so thankful for their expertise.  They worked 12 hour shifts, so we had day nurses and night nurses.  


Every 3 hours the babies would have care times.  Care times involved taking vitals, diaper changes and feedings.  Adam made it a priority to make it to as many care times as possible while I was still recovering.  By the time I was able to come to the NICU, I was in awe of how much Adam stepped up.  He became a pro at taking their temperatures, changing their diapers, hooking up and disconnecting their leads and swaddling them.  He would take off his shirt and do skin to skin with our sweet babies when I couldn't be there.  It makes me cry just thinking about how much he was there for our babies when I wasn't.  I remember feeling like I was way behind the curve when I finally made it to the NICU.  I was almost afraid to touch them because they seemed so fragile and it was hard to work around their tubes and wires.  But eventually I got more comfortable with them and was able to do more.  



It was a good thing I got more comfortable since Adam eventually had to go back to work.  He decided to take FMLA leave and work just 3 days a week through October.  So he would be around Thursday-Sunday.  He also spent each night in the NICU with me and the babies, crammed on the too-small couch.  
   

Once I was released from the hospital, I moved to the babies' NICU room.  I spent my days and nights with them until we all got to go home.  I sat and slept in a recliner that had all kinds of pillows situated just-so.  I was so sore from my c-section and was actually glad that I could sleep in a recliner instead of a bed.  But I got mighty tired of that recliner and certainly wasn't sad to see it go.

When Adam was at work, my sweet mom came to stay with me and the babies.  I can't begin to tell you how grateful I was to have her there.  It was such an incredibly difficult and emotional time.  Sometimes having your mom around is just what you need.  And I needed my mom.   


My days in the NICU were long and seemed to be on repeat.  Every 3 hours, I would try to breastfeed them before they got their donor breast milk via the NG tubes.  It was a struggle.  They both had trouble getting latched.  They would get frustrated, then I would get frustrated.  There were lots of tears- both theirs and mine.  Those hormones were no joke!  I think I spent half of my time crying.  After trying to nurse them, I would hold them while they got their donor milk.  Then I would pump to try to get my supply going.  Then I would try to get them back to sleep.  It got increasingly harder.  Plus it was difficult to have to get up from the recliner when they would cry.  I would have to find time in between their care times to take a shower or eat or sleep.  I would have to walk out of the NICU and eat in the lounge outside of the NICU.  It took so much energy to hobble to the lounge, sit in the most uncomfortable chairs ever made and eat before their next care time started.  



I really, really wanted to be able to breastfeed my babies.  But my milk took forever to come in.  The nurses and lactation consultants were all incredibly supportive and encouraging.  However, some of the doctors weren't all that hopeful that I would be able to breastfeed.  Each morning there would be rounds that included neonatologists, lactation consultants, physical therapists and more people whose titles I can't remember.  They would give a run down of how sick I was after delivery and that they were still waiting on my milk to come in.  It got to be really frustrating to hear how my milk was the thing that was holding my babies back from going home.  

And it seemed as though Adam and I got conflicting information from all the different doctors and nurses.  Adam and I wanted to do all we could to help our babies, but it was hard to do what we were told when we kept being told different things each day.  By day 13, Adam expressed this frustration.  I think it helped turn the tables.  A kind doctor who happened to have triplets herself suggested they start a formula supplement mixed with breast milk.  By this point, we were all for whatever would get us home, so we said we were on board.  My milk supply was finally increasing!  And the babies were gaining well.  In order to go home, we had to have two days of weight gains.  

So night 13 rolled around.  That night we had a nurse that wasn't our favorite.  She meant well, but we questioned her judgement.  She decided to give them baths before she weighed them.  Our babies weren't exactly fans of baths at this point, so they did a lot of screaming.  Screaming uses up calories and our babies ended up losing weight that night.  We were both devastated.  I did a lot of crying on Day 14.  

However, Night 14 turned out to be a game-changer for us.  The night nurse made me sleep. (Bless her!)  She had me "top off" the babies before we weighed them and kept them wrapped up in blankets to conserve calories.  They both gained that night!  

The following morning, the doctor gave us the option of being discharged that day, so long as we took the babies to the pediatrician the next morning to make sure they gained weight again that night.  Or we could stay one more night in the NICU to make sure they gained weight for the required two days straight.  The catch was that it was Friday and if they didn't gain that night, we'd be stuck in the NICU over the weekend.  

So we said we wanted to go home before they changed their minds!  I think the fact that we had stayed with the babies the whole time they were in the NICU helped.  They said they weren't worried about the kind of care they would be getting at home.


So we buckled our babies in their car seats and the NICU nurses brought them down to our car.  I'm not gonna lie, it was a little unsettling bringing them home with us.  It was nervewracking knowing that we couldn't just push the call button and have a nurse come help or answer a question.  It was now up to us to take care of our babies full time!   But we were so ready and even more ready to introduce Archer and Lyla to Jazzy!  

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Birth Story: Part 4

Here is the final installment of the birth story.  Here is Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.  

We left off with my sweet babies doing skin to skin with me in my recovery room.  I was so incredibly exhausted and had a very difficult time staying awake.  Eventually our babies were taken to the NICU.  It's standard protocol to have any babies born before 37 weeks taken to the NICU for monitoring.  

It turned out that our babies were healthy!  They had no breathing issues or other health concerns.  They would just stay in the NICU while I recovered and to make sure they gained weight.  Some babies who are born early have trouble latching and sucking while breastfeeding, so it was important to make sure they could do both before they came home with us.  

Since they were so healthy, the NICU nurses made an exception for us- they would bring the babies to my recovery room to visit me every so often for the next few days.  These next few days were a big blur.  I was still recovering from preeclampsia and ended up with some pretty serious complications.  

My kidneys stopped working properly and I went into acute kidney failure.  My liver wasn't working properly either.  I had to have blood drawn every 4 hours to monitor my liver and kidney function.  At one point, the doctors said I would have to be sent to the ICU if my body didn't whip itself back into shape.  

All I really remember about these few days is being completely and utterly exhausted.  The nurses kept telling me to get some sleep, but it was hard to when I was stuck with needles every 4 hours.  I also had all kinds of doctors coming in to check on me.  I have no recollection of anything they said to me.  I just remember trying to keep my eyes open as they were speaking to me.  

The one doctor that sticks out in my mind was the pediatric cardiologist.  If you remember back to this post, a fetal echocardiogram revealed our son had an Atrial Septal Aneurysm.  It was recommended that our son have an echocardiogram once he was born to check on things.  It turned out that it had completely resolved itself all on its own!  That meant Archer's heart was perfectly normal and healthy.  So when Dr. Drake came into my room and woke me up to tell me about this wonderful news, it stuck with me.  I was so incredibly relieved!  

In addition to all the blood draws and doctor visits, I was also supposed to be pumping every 4 hours to get my milk supply up.  So I also had lactation specialists in and out of my room.  Adam is the only reason I am able to breastfeed my babies today.  If it had been up to me, I would have just slept through the pumping.  Adam would wake me up, get all the pump parts assembled and get the pump going.  Sometimes he even held the parts up to my boobs for me.  For the first few days all I would end up with was a tiny bit of colostrum that Adam would swab up with a cotton swab.  He would then take it to the babies in the NICU and stick it in their mouths.  I remember thinking "what the heck is the point of all this for a measly drop or two of breast milk?"  But I was too tired to argue.  I am so glad he made sure I pumped.  After a very long while (days) eventually my milk did come in.  But it wouldn't have if Adam hadn't gotten the ball rolling.    

I can't say enough about how amazing Adam was during that rough time for me!  He took care of me and was at the NICU for the babies' care times.  He communicated to our parents.  He even would go home and take Jazzy on runs some nights.  He was my rock and stepped up in the most wonderful way.  Even though my mind was a bit fuzzy during this time, I knew just how lucky I was that Adam was my husband and Archer, Lyla and Jazzy's daddy.  

If you'll recall, I delivered the babies on Thursday, August 3rd.  I stayed in bed all that evening and the following day and evening.  Friday evening was terrible!  I had the most awful groin pain.  The nurses were a bit puzzled by it, since people don't usually experience that.  They decided it was from the weight I had been carrying around and staying in the same position for so long.  I cried from the pain and was just miserable.  

Typically, you are supposed to get up and move around after a c-section sooner rather than later.  But due to all my health complications, I stayed in bed for far too long.  When I eventually got out of bed, it was Saturday.  It was the most pain I had ever felt in my life.  I cried and moaned and wanted to just get back in bed.  But the nurse who made me get up turned out to be the best nurse during my whole stay.  She got my pain medicine changed to help with the groin pain and the c-section pain.  She got me up and moving around.  She helped me get to and from the toilet.  She wheeled me down to see my babies in the NICU.  And she did all these things with such kindness and encouragement.


My recovery was such a humbling experience.  I have never had to rely on so many people to help me do the most basic things.  There were so many sweet nurses, along with Adam and my mom to help me out.  I'm talking some embarrassing stuff too!  Things like helping me go the bathroom and taking a shower.  I remember sitting on the shower chair with Adam gently washing my hair for me because it hurt my stomach too much to stretch my arms up and thinking if this isn't love I don't know what is.  

Eventually I had to start walking again.  I would walk what felt like forever, but in reality was probably just a few feet towards the NICU.  Then someone would push me in a wheelchair the rest of the way.  There was this one seam on the floor on the way that I hated!  It would kill my stomach each time I was wheeled across it.  That soon became my goal to walk to so I wouldn't have to be wheeled over it.  
  
I continued to recover and eventually my kidneys and liver started to get better.  I was finally released on Tuesday, August 8th.  However, I didn't go home.  I went to the NICU to stay with my babies.  The NICU was a whole other experience, which I'll share all about in another post.  

I am so glad I had no idea how my labor, delivery and recovery would turn out.  It was long, scary, stressful and painful.  I knew it wouldn't be a walk in the park, but I had no idea it would be that rough.  Despite it all, it ended up being worth it.  I have two beautiful, healthy babies.  (One whose lungs work quite well.)   



Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Birth Story: Part 3

Here is the third installment of the birth story.  If you'd like to catch up, here's Part 1 and Part 2.  

While I didn't plan on a c-section and was pretty terrified about the thought of being sliced open, I was very ready to meet my babies.  Once the decision was made to move forward with a c-section, everything seemed to move very quickly.  Two anesthesiologists started explaining what would happen once we were in the operating room.  I didn't really listen to what they were saying.  I just started to get very, very scared.  I started shaking because I was so scared.  I remember trying to calm myself down and just focus on the fact that I would get to meet my babies soon.  

I was wheeled into the operating room.  Adam couldn't come with me.  He had to go get suited up and would later rejoin me when things were set up in the operating room.  When I got to the operating room, I was baffled by all of the people in there!  There were two anesthesiologists, two doctors, nurses for me, neonatologists and nurses for the babies.  I heard all kinds of conversations and I remember thinking that everyone seemed a little too calm.  They were talking about their weekend plans and what their kids were up to.  I was moved onto the operating table and they set up a drape so I wouldn't have to see anything.  I was just shaking violently and trying not to burst into tears.  Eventually one of the anesthesiologists realized how terrified I was and told me that everything was going to be okay.  He told me they would make sure I couldn't feel anything before they got started.

Adam joined me at this point and I was so happy to see him.  Having him by my side made things better.  


I assumed they would let me know before they got started, but I started feeling tugging going on in my belly.  It was the strangest feeling!  It didn't hurt but I totally felt pulling and tugging.  I heard on of the doctors say that Baby A was caught in my hip, which explained why I never dilated past 8 cm.  Archer (aka Baby A) was stuck and couldn't move down the birth canal and was also blocking the path for Lyla.  

They told Adam to stand up and watch his baby being born.  I think I would have passed out if I had had to watch them yank a baby out of my stomach, but Adam managed to stay standing.  I heard lots of commotion as they pulled out Archer.  I heard him cry and they held him up for a moment.  Then he was whisked away by the neonatologist and nurses to another part of the operating room to get checked out.  

A minute later they pulled out Lyla.  I heard her cry too and saw a glimpse of her.  I remember Adam asking me if I wanted him to stay with me or go to the babies and I told him to go with the babies.  

I was so incredibly happy to hear them crying!  I started crying and remember my glasses getting all steamed up and stuck to my eyelashes and I couldn't push them down my nose because my arms were out to my side.  Adam came back to check on me and tell me the babies were doing well.   


Eventually Archer and Lyla were brought over so I could see them and kiss them.  They were beautiful!  The most prominent feeling I had was shock.  I was just plain shocked that these babies I had imagined and grown in my belly all these months were actually here!  And they seemed so big and healthy!  Archer weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces and Lyla weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces.  I felt so incredibly relieved that they were so big and were crying and didn't have any major health issues.  

I was being closed up while all this was going on and eventually I was taken to another room for recovery.  Adam and I had talked about how I wanted to do skin to skin with the babies as long as everything went well with the delivery.  Adam had to advocate for us and really fight to have the babies do skin to skin with me.  I am so happy he did so!  Both Archer and Lyla were able to latch on and nurse with me before they were taken to the NICU.


It was such a wonderful moment, but I was so tired I had a hard time keeping my eyes open!  A combination of being awake for so long, a long labor and all the medications made me really sleepy.  But I was so relieved that they were here and healthy!

Our babies were born at 35 weeks, 6 days and 21 hours.  They ended up being taken to the NICU and spent 15 days in the NICU as grower-feeders.  I had successfully given birth to two healthy babies!  My health, however, was in question.  I'll share more about that in the fourth and final installment of the birth story.  

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Birth Story: Part 2

So when we left off, I had just gotten my epidural.  If you want to catch up on the birth story, here's Part 1

I forgot to mention a few things in Part 1.  Before I got my epidural, I was also catheterized.  I didn't expect that to hurt as much as it did.  It was pretty terrible!  I'm not sure if the nurse who put it in didn't do a good job or if that's just how it goes, but it was incredibly uncomfortable.  It continued to be uncomfortable after it was in.  That was another reason I was all on board to get an epidural.  

I also had an oxygen monitor put on my toe.  And since my legs were so swollen, there were some pressure things that were wrapped around my calves.  They would get tight every few minutes and help stimulate my blood flow to prevent blood clots.  Oh, and a blood pressure cuff that would go off every 30 minutes.  So I had an iv in my arm, a blood pressure cuff on the other arm, leads stuck on my chest to monitor my heart rate, two heart rate monitors on my belly to monitor the babies' heart rates, a catheter, leg pressure things on both of my legs, and an oxygen monitor on my toe.  I couldn't move at all, which was incredibly uncomfortable.  I was used to switching up my position every ten minutes or so, but now I was stuck on my back for hours.  

Remember how I talked about how I was given magnesium because of my preeclampsia?  Well, one of the charming side effects is making you feel incredibly hot.  The nurses had warned me of this side effect and I didn't think too much about it.  But it was terrible!  It made me feel like my insides were boiling!  I have never felt so hot in all my life.  I was also on restricted fluid intake, so I was only able to have a measly half cup of ice chips every few hours.  It was miserable to be so hot and not able to have water or ice.  My throat would get so dry!  I would try to ration my ice chips, but I was so darn thirsty when I finally got my new batch that I would gobble it all down at once!  

Finally a nurse asked me if I wanted some washcloths soaked in ice water to put on my head.  Adam and my mom had been putting washcloths with cold water from the sink on me, but it felt like the washcloths had been soaked in hot water instead.  The ice water-soaked washcloths did help, but they only felt cold for the first few minutes they were on me.  I also figured out that I could suck some water out of the washcloths.  I'm sure I was jeopardizing my health by sucking up more water than I was supposed to, but I was so incredibly thirsty and my throat was so dry I could barely breathe or swallow.  I kept asking people to get the washcloths wet again so I could suck out more water until they caught on.  I looked really pretty at this point.  See below for proof.    


Around 6:15 in the morning on August 3, I was put on Pitocin.  Pitocin helps your contractions get stronger and closer together.  At this point I was dilated to 2.5 centimeters.  

My contractions were definitely getting closer together and they looked stronger on the monitor, but thanks to the epidural I couldn't really feel them.  Even though my contractions were improving, they still weren't really consistent.  The reason was because of the magnesium.  Basically, the Pitocin and the magnesium were working against each other.  While Pitocin works to move labor along, magnesium works to slow or stop contractions.  So the nurses kept cranking up the Pitocin, but the magnesium prevented it from working as well as it would have on its own.

Right around this time, my blood work showed that my blood sugar level was high.  Because of this, I was put on an insulin drip.  What's some more medicine being pumped into my body?  

I was checked several more times and at 10am was dilated to 8cm and was 85%-95% effaced.  The OB on call was pretty excited by this and said that I would probably have my babies by late morning or early afternoon!  I was very excited by this news!

However, late morning turned into early afternoon.  And then early afternoon turned into late afternoon.  Then late afternoon turned into early evening and still no babies.  I never dilated past 8cm.  And my contractions started petering out.  I honestly don't remember a lot about this day.  I had so many drugs running through my body and just remember being super tired and very uncomfortable because I couldn't move around.  I was still super thirsty and hot.  I was so ready to be done!  

Eventually, the OB on call decided to stop the Pitocin for an hour and give me a break.  The thinking behind it was that my body could rest and then give it another try.  My OB had told the on call OB how much I wanted a vaginal delivery.  So the on call OB gave me every opportunity to make that happen.  I definitely appreciated how patient the on call OB was with me.  

During my break, a nurse named Julie asked me if I wanted a popsicle.  I hadn't had anything to eat since the previous evening and just a measly amount of ice chips every few hours, so a popsicle sounded like a four course meal!  I will remember Julie and that popsicle for the rest of my life!  It was the most delicious thing I've ever eaten in all my life!  Even though I was still exhausted and kinda fuzzy from all the medications being pumped through my body, I remember thinking it was quite the coincidence that I was having twins while eating a twin pop.  My mom later told me I had asked Julie if I got to have both sides of the twin pop and that I was beside myself when she said yes.  

After my break, they restarted the Pitocin.  They cranked it up and my contractions did get closer together.  Unfortunately, I still hadn't dilated past 8 cm.  At this point, the on call OB told me I needed to start considering a c-section.  By this point I was so incredibly tired and just plain ready to be done with the whole labor and delivery.  So I agreed it was the best thing to do at this point.  

I'll save the c-section for the next part!   

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Birth Story: Part 1

Archer and Lyla came into this world pretty differently than how I imagined they would.  I pictured an uneventful vaginal birth with Adam sitting by my side the whole time feeding me ice chips and mopping sweat off my forehead.  That's not exactly how it happened.  My labor, delivery and recovery ended up lasting quite a few days.  It's a bit of a blur looking back on it, but I'll try my best to remember it how it happened.  It's far too long to talk about in one blog post, so I'll break it up into parts.  Here's the first part:    

It all started on Wednesday, August 2, 2017, when I had some pains in my left side.  I figured that I had eaten something that didn't agree with me or I overdid it that day, so I took some Tums and ignored it at first.  My mom was in town and we had been out and about earlier in the day.  We had gone to the car wash and I helped vacuum out the car despite my mom telling me not to.  The pain went away for a bit, but came back later on and was worse.  I knew that if I had pains on my right side or the top of my rib cage that it might indicate preeclampsia.  But since the pain was on my left side, I didn't think preeclampsia was the case.  The pain got worse instead of better, so I decided to call my OB's office.  It was about 7pm at this time, so I talked with the after-hours nurse first who passed along the message to my OB.  She called me back right away and I described what was going on.  She decided I should come get checked out just to be safe.  

I still didn't really think I would wind up having my babies anytime soon, but decided to bring along my hospital bag.  I thought maybe bringing it along would ensure I wouldn't need it just yet.  My mom drove me to the hospital and Adam ended up meeting us there on his way home.  I started in triage where they took my vitals, had me give a urine sample and took some blood.  I was feeling pretty good at this point and still was convinced I would be sent back home.  But it turned out that I had protein in my urine and my blood work showed signs of preeclampsia.  I was also pretty swollen at this point.  My feet and legs had been slowly swelling, along with my face and hands.  It was so gradual, that I hadn't really noticed just how swollen I had become.  

With a diagnosis of preeclampsia, I was admitted around 10pm.  My OB was just finishing up a shift, so she checked in with me before she left.  I was scheduled to have my pessary removed two days from then on Friday, but she went ahead and removed it then.  Let me tell you, it was no picnic!  That sucker was clamped on my cervix pretty tightly.  After a bit of tugging, my doctor got it removed.  There were a few nurses in the room at the time and none of them had seen a pessary like the one I had.  They were all standing around, watching the whole ordeal go down.  I really feel like that pessary was the whole reason my babies stayed put as long as they did.  My doctor also cleared out a bunch of progesterone that had collected in my nether regions.  It was quite a lot!  After all that, she was able to tell that I was 2 cm dilated.  She also checked to see the position of the babies via ultrasound.  Both babies were head down, which was a good sign.  That meant I could try for a vaginal delivery.    

Since I had started to dilate and I had preeclampsia, my doctor decided to induce me that evening.  The first step was to get some IV's started.  I was Strep B positive, so I was given IV antibiotics.  I was also given saline to help keep fluids in me.  Finally, I was given magnesium to help prevent any seizures. Apparently women with preeclampsia have a risk of seizures.

Even though I was dilated, my cervix still needed to be softened.  So my doctor inserted some cytotec to help get things moving.  That didn't seem to do too much for me, so the next thing she tried was something called Cervidil.  It's some sort of medication attached to a string that sits near your cervix.  It releases medication that helps your cervix soften.  After this was inserted, the nurse told Adam and I to get some rest.  So Adam popped in some earplugs and went to sleep on the couch in the room.  There was no way I was going to go to sleep at this point.  Not only was I excited and scared and nervous about the idea of having my babies so soon, but I was starting to get mighty uncomfortable.  

I started having more consistent contractions.  They weren't super painful, but I could definitely start to feel them.  Around 4:30 in the morning, my water broke.  I swear Archer decided that he was going to get things moving and I felt a pop as my water broke.  I'm pretty sure Archer punched through his bag of water.  Then I felt water seeping out of me.  I called Adam's name several times, but he couldn't hear me since he had put in his earplugs.  I was kinda mad at him at this point.  So I pushed the call button for the nurse.  She came in and confirmed that my water had indeed broken.  

She left and Adam was still asleep on the couch.  After my water broke, I really felt the contractions. They were so incredibly painful!  I couldn't believe the difference!  I had two contractions and then decided to call the nurse again and ask for an epidural.  I remember thinking about how I had wanted to have a natural birth.  HA!  My OB had recommended that I get an epidural when we had discussed my options earlier in my pregnancy.  I remember thinking, "Well, we'll just see how things go."  I thought I would be able to handle the pain.  I was wrong.  I couldn't push that call button fast enough!  

The nurse came back in and said that contractions are typically stronger after your water breaks.  I told her to wake up Adam at this point.  I figured if I had to be in pain, he could at least be awake!  The epidural fairy came to my room pretty quickly, thankfully.  I had been nervous about getting an epidural prior to feeling any contractions.  I wasn't the least bit nervous after I felt those contractions.  I sat up in bed and leaned against Adam as the epidural was put in.  All I felt was a tiny, little prick as the initial numbing shot was given.  All I felt afterwards was relief.  Sweet, beautiful relief. 

That relief was short-lived...as you'll find out in the next part.  

On a side note, who knows how long it will take for me to write the next part!  It's taken me a month to write this first part.  Apparently two babies require almost all of my attention almost all of the time.  Who knew!? :)

Here's a cute picture of Archer and Lyla to hold you over until part 2:  


Thursday, August 31, 2017

They're Here!

Archer Jack Kral and Lyla Hope Kral are here!  Archer weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces and measured 18.5 inches long.  Lyla weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces and measured 18 inches long.


Our little miracles were born via c-section on August 3, 2017.  They were born at 35 weeks and 6 days, just 3 hours shy of 36 weeks.  They spent 15 days in the NICU as grower-feeders.  We're all home now and learning all about each other!  Adam and I feel so incredibly lucky to have two sweet, healthy babies!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Third Trimester

Much like any pregnancy, my third trimester has been the most difficult.  I've been pretty uncomfortable and have felt like a tank walking around.  But I've also been so excited that the babies have stayed in my belly as long as they have!  The longer they stay put, the healthier they will be in the end!  

(As it turns out, the babies almost made it to 36 weeks.  They made it to 35 weeks and 6 days, just 3 hours shy of 36 weeks.)

Here's my third trimester in photo form: 





1.  I now know how turtles feel when they get stuck on their backs.  When I switch sides in bed at night, it is quite the production!  I can't believe I don't wake up Adam as I'm flailing around on my back, trying to get enough momentum going to make it to my other side.  I don't even want to know what I look like!    

2.  My babies are BIG!  They've always measured above the norm, which is a very good thing, especially for twins.  But that also means they are HEAVY!  I feel like my legs might snap whenever I'm walking around from the weight.  And don't get me started about stretch marks...let's just say my bikini-wearing days are over.  My sweet babies are totally worth all the stretch marks.  And my sweet husband said my stomach just looks like it has really cool wood grain, much like the exotic woods he likes to do woodworking projects with.  I love him!  

3. Both babies are head down, which is great!  I would love to avoid a c-section, but will obviously do whatever is best for the babies.  We'll see what happens!  Stay tuned!


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Putting Together An Emergency Kit

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this, but putting together an emergency kit has been on my to do list for several years now.  It always sounded like a good idea, but I just never got around to doing it.  That is until now.  

Adam and I now have an emergency kit waiting for us in our basement.  The main purpose of the emergency kit is to have some necessary supplies handy in case of a natural disaster, like a tornado.  Since we live in the midwest, we encounter quite a few severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings.  Whenever the sirens went off, we would run around the house collecting things we thought we might need before we would go take cover in the basement.  This was obviously not the safest thing to do.  It will be much better now that we have a ready-made kit waiting for us in the basement, especially since we'll soon have to worry about getting not only ourselves and Jazzy to the basement, but our twins too.

(As soon as I started taking photos of the emergency kit, Jazzy ran over to help model.  She's such a silly girl!)  


We created a list of items that would come in handy if we were to be stuck in the basement for a lengthy period of time.  There were tons of items we could have added, but we decided to only put the bare necessities in our kit.    

Here's what we deemed necessary: 


Water- Obviously bottled water will come in handy if we are stuck in the basement for any length of time. It will also be handy in case our city's water supply gets contaminated.

Snacks- No one likes to be stuck with hangry people!

Jazzy's Food- We can't leave out poor Jazzy.  

Leash & Harness- If we consider the worst case scenario and our house is completely destroyed, we wanted a way to keep track of Jazzy.
  
Flashlight, Lantern, Candle & Matches- Our basement is very dark and we don't want to be without light in case the power goes out.  We also took the batteries out of our flashlight and lantern.  We've found the batteries drain quicker if they are left in their devices.  

Blanket- This can be used to cover up if we get cold, a place for the babies to lay down or a way to protect our heads in case of flying debris.  

First Aid Kit- You can buy first aid kits that are pre-made, but I just put together a few supplies using what we had on hand.  

Whistle- Should we become trapped in our basement, having a whistle will be a handy way to alert people to our whereabouts.  

Diapers & Wipes- Since we have our babies coming, these will be necessary if we are in our basement for long.  

Cash- It's always a good idea to have some cash on hand in case we need to buy something and are unable to use credit cards.  I just tucked some cash in the first aid kit.    

Deck of Cards- This isn't exactly a necessity, but could come in handy if Adam and I get bored.   

Like I said above, there are plenty more items that we could put in our Emergency Kit.  But these are a good group of items that would get us through a lengthy time period spent in our basement or be handy if our home were to be destroyed.  I don't lay awake at night worrying about our home being destroyed, but knowing we have an Emergency Kit does give me just a little more piece of mind.  

I put a reminder in my phone for next July to check on the items in our Emergency Kit.  I'll make sure the water and snacks haven't expired and that the batteries still work.  I can also make sure we have the current diaper sizes.       


Click here if you would like to print out your own Emergency Kit Label.  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Pyogenic Granuloma

I had no idea what a pyogenic granuloma was until this past Monday.  It turns out it is another random thing that occurs with pregnancy.  

It started as a tiny red dot on my finger about three weeks ago.  I asked my OB about it and she said it was benign and nothing to worry about.  She told me to just keep an eye on it.  Fast forward two weeks and that little red dot had grown bigger.  I didn't take a picture of it, because it was pretty gross, quite frankly.  It basically looked like a cluster of raised red dots.  Every once in awhile, it would start bleeding. And that sucker bled and bled!  Since it had gotten quite a bit bigger and the bleeding was annoying, I asked about it again at my next OB appointment.  I saw a different OB since my regular OB was out of town.  Since the spot had grown in size, she suggested I get it looked at by a dermatologist.  Like my regular OB, she didn't think it was anything to be too concerned about.  

So I added "make a dermatologist appointment" to my to do list.  Usually it takes about three months to get in to see a dermatologist, so I figured I would have to make an appointment for sometime after the babies arrived.  But I was pleasantly surprised when I called my dermatologist's office last Monday.  I explained that I was pregnant with twins and could go into labor at any time.  The sweet receptionist took pity on me and asked if I could come into the office in an hour.  I was still in my pajamas at this point, which also happen to be Adam's shirts and boxers since none of my other pajamas fit.  I told her I could make that happen!  

So I threw on one of the few outfits left that fit over my gigantic belly.  I went to the restroom and when I washed my hands that stupid spot starting gushing blood.  So I had to hold pressure on it until it stopped bleeding before I could leave the house.  Adam had borrowed our Subaru Forester on this particular day because the air conditioning went out in his Mitsubishi Lancer.  It was a little tricky to get low enough to sit down in his car, but I made it.  Luckily it was still early enough in the day that it wasn't too hot out.  

I arrived at the dermatologist's office and started filling out some paperwork.  As I was filling out some information, I glanced down at my feet and noticed there was a big ol' spot of blood on my big toe from the earlier gush of blood from the spot on my finger.  I hoped none of the old people in the waiting room had noticed.  I went to the bathroom and did my best to reach my big toe to clean it off.  Once I was blood-free, I went back to the waiting room.  

Eventually I got called back and a nurse looked at my finger first.  She said it looked like a pyogenic granuloma, which is something that is common in pregnant women.  She said it wasn't a big deal and was something that they could treat.  She said the dermatologist would be in shortly to confirm this assessment and we would go from there.  

So in came the dermatologist, who was as nice as could be.  He wasn't the dermatologist I typically see, but I was just happy to be seen so soon!  He asked me all about my pregnancy and babies.  Then he took a gander at my finger and agreed that it looked like a pyogenic granuloma.  At this point I asked what exactly a pyogenic granuloma was since I had no clue.  It is basically small, round skin growth that contains a large number of blood vessels.  Since they are made up of so many blood vessels, they tend to bleed quite a bit.  He said they are common in pregnant women and can even occur on women's gums.  I was pretty happy that my pyogenic granuloma was on my finger and not in my mouth!  

Since mine was so big (6 mm to be exact) he recommended cutting it off.  If it had been smaller, they would have let it be and see if it went away on it's own.  While I wasn't pumped about the idea of cutting it off, I did want to see it gone.  Plus the bleeding was not all that pleasant.  He said since I was in my third trimester, it was completely safe for me and the babies.  

You know how I feel about needles, so I was trying to be very brave.  He explained that he would give me an injection of numbing medicine into my finger.  From there he would scrape off the spot.  Finally, he would cauterize the blood vessels to help prevent any bleeding.  He asked if I was squeamish and I told him that if I didn't see it, I would be fine.  So I turned my head and he went to town on that stupid spot.  

I did feel the shot, but it wasn't too terrible.  He was quite impressed with the fact that I didn't even jump when he stuck in the needle.  I wanted to tell him that he had no idea how many needles I've encountered this past year between infertility medicine injections, blood draws and ivs, but I just smiled.  

I couldn't feel any of the scraping or the cauterizing, but I certainly smelled the cauterizing.  The dermatologist explained everything he was doing and did it all quickly.  I just stared at the wall and kept saying "okay."  

When it was all said and done, he wrapped up my finger and told me to keep the dressing on until that evening.  At that point I could switch to a bandaid and triple antibiotic ointment after I washed it with mild soap and water.  Before I left, the nurse had me sign a form allowing them to send it off for a biopsy to make sure it was benign.  It was a bit tricky to sign my name with a numb middle finger, but I managed.  
Then I started off on my adventure home.  It was pretty toasty outside by this point and I had managed to park Adam's car in the sun.  Between being a little queasy about what had just happened to my poor finger and the hot car, it wasn't exactly a pleasant drive home.  But I made it home safe and sound!  

When I took off the dressing that first evening, it was pretty gross!  I'll spare you a picture.  It looks like there's a hollowed out hole in my finger with raw skin filling in the hole.  It did throb a bit by that evening, but nothing that was unbearable.  It hasn't hurt since that first evening, which I was pretty surprised about.  I've kept a bandaid on it since then and received the news that it was, in fact, benign. (On a side note, how cute are these Oh Joy! bandaids I got at Target?!)    


So I'm happy it's gone and isn't anything serious.  The hardest part of the whole ordeal has been trying to shave my legs one-handed in the shower while I hold up my bandaid-ed finger out of the water.  But I've managed!

Okay, I am finished with all of the weird pregnancy-related things happening to me.  I hope the last few weeks of my pregnancy will be utterly boring!