M. and I are taking things moment to moment. Some are harder than others. We are so, so thankful for the short time we had with Isob*l and Jov*ta (pronounced yo-VEE-ta ) and we are just trying to keep the memory of their lives fresh before planning any formal memorial service. M. is at work today; I am not sure when I will be returning.
Here is a brief account of what actually happened (please, if you’d rather not know, just stop reading now. It may be a little too graphic for some. But it helps for me to write this down.)
Some of you may have known I have been experiencing some cramping during the pregnancy, but nothing out of the ordinary. Those cramps began to increase in strength and frequency Thursday evening and it soon became pretty clear we should head to the hospital to see what was going on. I wasn’t particularly concerned. I assumed they were Braxton-Hicks (fake) contractions, they’d give me some medicine for the pain, I’d head home.
We arrived and I was monitored, but the cramps (contractions) continued to increase and they began to give me some medication to hopefully slow them down. This is where things started to get incredibly painful. When the medicine didn’t seem to be working, the midwife finally came and examined me only to find that my cervix was significantly dilated (8 cm) and "odds of delivery were very high."
My obstetrician and maternal fetal specialists were called in and that’s when news went from bad to worse. An ultrasound showed that the cervix had probably opened due to a uterine infection and Isobel had already started to descend into the birth canal. Not wanting to be left out, Jovi stuck a foot in there too. We would absolutely have to deliver Isobel or risk serious consequences to both me and the babies. The choice now was about saving my life and seeing what, if anything, could be done for Jovita.
We decided to continue the magnesium shots to try to slow contractions and ease the uterus enough to get Jovi out of the birth canal and back into the uterus. If this happened, we could attempt to deliver Isobel, stop labor and tie the cervix together (cerclage) to buy Jovita more time. Even with the cerclage, there was no guarantee Jovita wouldn’t want to be born the next day or the following day. She could be there for a few hours or a few months. I would be on hospitalized bed rest until that time came (which was fine by me).
Hours and hours and hours passed with M. never once letting go of my hand. Contractions remained constant. An amniocentesis was done on Jovita to ensure that the infection hadn’t spread to her sac. It hadn’t. But her little foot was still dangling. I was literally lying on my head in the hopes that gravity would help us out. It didn’t. It was becoming clear that the situation was not going to change for the better. We could either wait for the membranes to burst on their own, or begin delivery and in the words of one doctor, “let nature take its course.”
During this time, legions of doctors and nurses were in and out of the room. One of the visits was from the head of the neonatal unit who came in to give us our odds. At 21 weeks and 6 days, there was really no question of trying to incubate or resuscitate the girls. If they were a few weeks older (23), that might have been an option, but one with less than a 10% chance of survival. That’s just survival, not taking into consideration very real possibilities of lifelong disabilities or issues. If they were a month older (25 weeks), odds would be better. Even if we could save Jovi, we would be taking things day by day, just hoping she hung on long enough to survive on her own.
After 18 hours of labor, it made little sense to continue waiting since the girls wanted to come out. I received an epidural and we went into the O.R.
Isobel was born at 3:37 p.m. Friday afternoon, weighing 14 ounces and measuring 10 inches long. She was placed right into our arms. When she came out, M. exclaimed, “Oh my goodness!” and I immediately thought something was horribly wrong. That wasn’t it at all. She was just so stunningly beautiful, it took his breath away.
The doctor was nearly successful in getting Jovita back into the uterus when her sac broke. She was born 3:57 p.m. at 12.6 ounces and 9.2 inches.
We carried the two girls back to our room with us and spoke to them, caressed them, loved them, as their hearts beat well over two hours. We had so much to say! There were no cords, no tubes or wires in between us and our daughters. It was only them and us.
And now it is just us.