Ten days before Madeleine and Reid were born, Christine unexpectedly gave birth to her own fraternal twins, Maja and Alexis at 24 weeks and 3 days gestation. Unsurprisingly, Christine endured many ups and downs during her twins’ NICU stay, and here, she has shared a little bit about it. (You can read even more about Maja & Alexis on Christine’s blog.)
I thought that my struggle with infertility was punishment enough; enduring failed attempts at insemination, followed by a successful course of IVF- little did I know that five short months later, I would go on to deliver my twin daughters at 24 weeks and three days. It saddens me thinking back to that stressful morning, discovering that I was 8cm dilated when I sat in a hospital bed, in active labour, alone. My husband was not by my side, as I had envisioned and neither was my Mom. None of this was how I envisioned my “perfect” pregnancy and delivery. In fact, my worst nightmare came to fruition when I had both a vaginal delivery, followed by an emergency c-section. I never caught a glimpse of either of my children as they were whisked away. Waking up in the recovery room alone was horrible. It brings tears to my eyes as I type this. Having to call my husband (who was just walking into the hospital after battling horrible 401 traffic) and tell him that we had two girls was not the most ideal situation. We named our girls sight unseen and later discovered that Maja weighed 640g and Alexis was 700g.
What ensued was over 125 days in the NICU, ventilators, chest tubes, heart surgeries for both of the girls, narcotic withdrawl for Alexis, CPAP, reintubation, brain bleeds, eye exams, enlarged ventricles, blood transfusions, countless blood tests, and even an MRI to boot. I pumped diligently for 4.5 months, even though I faced low supply issues from the beginning. Another low blow as I was determined to exclusively breastfeed my twins. This is the life of an NICU parent. My story is similar to that faced by parents of micro-preemies. The only exception is that when my girls finally got to leave wrath which is the NICU, we got to bring a large part of it with us. You see, my girls did not progress off of low flow oxygen and here, as I type, six months later, both babies remain oxygen-dependent. Yes, my babies are thriving, however, I cannot pick them up and walk with them around the house, like a typical parent, as I need to be conscientious of the length of the tubing. I cannot put them down for naps in their cribs unless I disconnect the oxygen, bring them upstairs with their pulse oximetry monitor. We cannot leave them unattended in case their alarm sounds and we need to intervene. As a result, my husband and I take turns sleeping on a foam mattress in their room, sleeping lightly, ready to respond if duty calls. Outings require more than ensuring that the diaper bag is packed and bottles are ready, we have to make certain that we have a sufficient amount of oxygen to take with us, spare tanks in the car just in case, that batteries are charged on the monitors and that cables are brought with us just in case. We have adjusted to the countless stares and abundance of questions regarding the tubes connected to our girls.
Recently, we learned that both of our girls have permanent hearing loss as a result of their prematurity. As such, we are learning about the tips and tricks of hearing aids and ensuring that they actually stay in the childs’ ear- case in point, I found Maja on the floor sucking on her hearing aid. Epic fail on my part! To add to our string of misfortune, my husband lost his job in June. Maybe it was for the better, as he was given the time to bond with his girls- time that might have been lost had this not have occurred. Regardless, the added help is greatly appreciated.
My story resonates with all parents of preemies. We have all been down a long road, with many ups and downs, yet, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My girls mean everything to me and I am so fortunate to be their mother. Alexis was given a 1 in 500 chance of survival, yet, she defied the odds. We are, and continue to be, their biggest fans. Their smiles and giggles melt my heart on a daily basis and I seek comfort in that when I think about their rough start.
Maja and Alexis, now seven months corrected.