But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him and his righteousness with their children's children . . . Psalm 103:17

Monday, November 18, 2013

The birth story

Months and months ago, I read back through some early blog posts and saw a comment that I had missed asking me to write the birth story if I ever got the chance. I think now's that chance! The house is quiet, clean(ish), and I am feeling very reminiscent. However, I will also say right off that I am not the best at remembering details - or rather, I THINK I remember them, then get them wrong! So if I accidentally lie in this, forgive me. ("Often wrong but never in doubt," hee, hee!)

Okay, so the day before, August 8th, 2012, I had an ultrasound to measure the babies. All were measuring well with the exception of Gracie, who was measuring small. Will was really big for his age. Everything felt pretty calm and comfortable, and I hunkered down to wait, hoping and praying for weeks more. That evening I started contracting, but the contractions weren't painful, just too frequent for the comfort of the medical staff. They asked the anesthesiologist on call to come in and talk to me about the c-section anesthesia just in case . . .

However, frequent mild contractions had happened many times before and nothing had progressed, so I really wasn't worried. I got ready for bed and they gave me some Demerol to try to calm down my uterus and body enough to allow me to sleep well and stop any unnecessary activity.

Well, I slept really, really well, but at 5:15 I woke up feeling really cold (unusual, given that I was a veritable furnace incubating that many growing babies!), so I reached down to pull up my blankets.  And noticed that they were sopping wet, as was my sheet and mattress. A very strange and lovely peace descended over me at the same time as a "here we go" excitement started tapping on the back of my brain. I picked up the call button, and when the nurse answered, I said very calmly, "My water just broke." (Really, though, it had been at least half-an-hour or so, I figure, because it was very cold water. When my water broke with Isaac it was quite warm, of course.)

You wanna get a hospital room filled with a dozen staff members within 30 seconds? Be pregnant with five babies at once and announce that your water broke! Oh my, they were in there IMMEDIATELY, all rushing around, hooking me up to monitors and IV's, paging my doctor (I asked them to wait, just in case labor didn't start, but they assured me she would be up for the day anyway at that point because she had rounds really early.). I called Gavin to let him know, and we both hoped that maybe it was just the water from one of the babies and labor would not be imminent. He still rushed to the hospital as fast as he could, though!

The doctor started me on magnesium sulfate to try to stave off labor and a steroid to help the babies' lungs, plus I was given more Demerol just for its relaxing effects. She noted that I was still only dilated to a 2, so we hoped we could keep labor from starting and progressing. She did an ultrasound and found that only Will's sac had broken. He maybe got tired of being on the bottom of the stack of babies, or he felt like he was big enough and ready enough?! :) He was the biggest at 2 lb 10 oz, but Gracie was only 1 lb 12 oz!

Within a couple of hours I felt like I was really in labor, more so in some ways than I had been with Isaac. The first symptom was a feeling like I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I guess that's what the steroid can do to you, plus maybe just being in labor with five babies?! Have any of you other ladies had that awful "Get me out of this flesh!" heebie-jeebies feeling? The only thing that helped was having Gavin scratch my back. I told him to tell my mom and Aunt Pam to come so they could relieve him with the back scratching, but before long that was the least of my worries. My contractions were coming closer and closer, maybe 4 minutes apart?, and hurting more and more. I had to breathe and groan through them, clutching the hospital bed to brace myself. The nurses looked pretty concerned, I remember.

I thought, "This is not stopping." The doctor had said she'd be back by noon, I think, to check on me, but I knew I would be popping out babies before noon. I hated to "call it," though, because I didn't want to condemn my babies to being born so early. I had prayed for the labor to stop, but all the while I had a really deep peace that this was totally under God's control and in His time.

I told the resident how I was strongly contracting, and that it really hurt, so she called the doctor back in at about 8:45, just 3.5 hours after I first noticed my water had broken. The doctor checked me and I was dilated to a 4 or 4.5, I forget. She ripped off her glove, yanked up the side bars on my bed and said, "That's it, I'm calling it. Code 5." At that point the place just kind of erupted in an oddly organized and calm way, and the code 5 pager message was sent to 128 staff, including nurses, doctors, surgeons, pharmacists, even security personnel. One nurse was almost home following her shift, but she turned right back around! Another lives an hour away but made it in 45 minutes. :)

My doctor trundled me down the hall, practically running, to the operating room. The place filled up in seconds, it seemed, and Gavin appeared all gowned up and with a mask on. I was still laboring and in pain, but really excited yet at peace at the same time. The anesthesiologist (a new one - the one I'd met with the night before had gone off duty!) tried to start my spinal and epidural, but my stomach was so huge and I was in such strong labor, contractions only a couple minutes apart, it was next to impossible to arch my back. Bless her heart, she just kept trying. Thankfully I don't mind needles at all (part of the reason I have five babies - I had to give myself shots to stimulate things to work better internally, and I talked my doctor into letting me increase the dose for a thicker uterine lining!). Anyway, I had a labor and delivery nurse coaching me, my head buried in her shoulder, one of my perinatal docs rubbing my lower back (AWESOME!!), and my main, beloved perinatal doc holding my hands and telling me how great I was doing. It was the best labor coaching ever! But I wasn't getting the spinal block and epidural in my back like I needed in order for them to proceed with the Caesarian. [A C-section with multiples requires both types of anesthesia, I guess.] I remember thinking finally, "I'VE GOT TO DO THIS!" and giving it my all to arch my back and bend forward between contractions, and the anesthesiologist was finally able to slip the needle into the right space between my vertebrae. Hooray! It started working right away, thankfully. I had started to wonder if Will was going to come out on the table, I could feel him moving down so far! In fact, my perinatologist said she wasn't sure he was going to be first out after all because he had moved down into the pelvis.

I remember seeing the little open bassinet where Baby A was going to be worked on by the main neonatologist, and I remember my mom, Aunt Pam and my Dad all coming in, gowned up, to say hi, that they loved me and that they were praying. Meanwhile a curtain had been erected between me and my stomach. The staff seemed very busy on the other side, but I had to ask Gavin, "Have they cut me yet?" He laughed, and said, "Uh, YEAH!" He was very brave and took pictures the whole time! At that point the doctor was running her hand around in my abdomen separating the amniotic sacs from the uterine wall, I think. She got Will out first after all, at 10:01 a.m., and I saw these little red legs waving in the air. They looked bigger than I had anticipated, so that was a relief. Then I heard a little cry when they pulled David out, but I didn't get to see him, he was rushed so quickly to the other room where the other bassinets were warmed and waiting with 5 staff members per baby (including a respiratory therapist, two NICU nurses, a neonatal nurse practitioner and/or physician per baby, not to mention a VERY busy pharmacy staff rushing the medicines up to the right babies as soon as they needed them). I don't remember much about Marcie or Seth or Gracie, just the sexes being called out and how tiny I realized they must be since I couldn't even see them in the blankets that were being used to carry them away. It all happened SO fast, it was surreal! It only took the doctor 3.5 minutes to deliver them all. The other perinatologist was frantically clamping cords, but my doctor was pulling the babies out faster than she could clamp them!

I remember I was bummed that the girls hadn't been pulled out earlier, since they were smaller than the boys, but thank God the doctor got Seth out when she did! He was sick enough being 4th out; 5th might have killed him. But God in His sovereignty had that all planned out and under control.

Will was the only baby I could keep an eye on, and the intensity of the neonatologists's efforts scared me a bit; however, those little legs and arms kept waving! Seeing how hard it is to keep Will under control long enough to dress him now makes me laugh as I recall those reassuring waving limbs.

One thing Gavin told me was he thought one of the boys (Seth) had been born with the sac still around him. Turns out he was just grey from lack of oxygen. He was really the one buried on the bottom of the pile when I was on my back. Gracie was up under my right rib cage, so that's why she was last out.

Anyway, suddenly everything disappeared, and I woke up two hours later in my own room again, with my mom watching over me. I guess they just put me under completely when it came time to sew me up! Needless to say, I immediately asked how the babies were, and Gavin came over from the NICU to reassure me that everyone was doing well [This is called "honeymooning" in the NICU. The babies tend to do well for the first 48-72 hours, then the real problems show up. Seth didn't start to really struggle until a couple of days after birth.]. My siblings and their spouses were all there (I love them all!), really excited and moved and mesmerized by the babies, as was "Aunt" Deb.

It was driving me crazy that I hadn't gotten to see the babies yet, so I asked to get into a wheelchair and go to the NICU. The nurses couldn't believe it, they said they never had moms get up that early after a C-section. (Supposedly I set some kind of record for the floor, who knows, but I had five times the reason to get over to that NICU! Plus, thousands of people around the world were praying. My recovery was AMAZING, way better than I could have imagined!)

Anyway, I proved to the staff that I could move my legs enough to get into a wheelchair, and Gavin wheeled me over for my first look at my BEAUTIFUL, PERFECT, BELOVED babies. I fell passionately in love the moment I saw them, and a mother lion-like protectiveness just took over. From then on it was like half of me stayed at the St. Paul NICU, even if the other half was barely functioning at home between pumping, praying, crying because I missed the babies, crying because I was sad they were suffering through all the procedures needed to save preemie lives, loving Isaac and Gavin, sleeping, healing, crying some more because I thought we might lose Seth, etc. What a time! Thank you, Lord, that it's over! Thank you, Father God, for the army of prayer warriors you raised up for our family and especially for our precious little ones! And thank you, Almighty God, that each baby is healthy, happy, and completely normal for his or her age - a true miracle, especially considering Seth! I think it's a fitting ending to this post to announce that he officially no longer qualifies for physical therapy after December. He's just not "delayed enough," praise God! :)

With love and utmost gratitude,

Gavin, Carrie, Isaac, Will, David, Marcie, Seth, & Grace Jones

Gavin, Carrie, Isaac, Will, David, Marcie, Seth, & Grace Jones

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