Thursday, December 11, 2008

Part 3 — Happy Birthday, Girls!

If you need to read the prior story, Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

I never had any pictures taken of me while I was pregnant with the girls. Well, there was one. I had my second set of braces (first set from nine- to twelve-years-old) taken off the day I ended up getting put on bed rest, and while I was there they took a picture of me with the doctor. It was a Polaroid, and I do have it somewhere, but you can't really tell anything much so I don't count it. That's how I'm able to basically remember when I got put on bed rest, because I had those braces three days shy of one year. I remember things by association, and Hubby is stunned at the things I can recall. Usually they are inconsequential and have to do with what I was wearing, but I can tie it all back in to a date to figure something out.

The pregnancy had complications from the beginning, and then it was so high risk and there was no guarantee I could carry the girls long enough that they would live, so I didn't want any pictures to remind me visually. Crazy, maybe. And now that they are here I wouldn't mind having one, but I don't really have any great regrets. When I was expecting Buddy I didn't take any though because I didn't want any of him if I didn't have any of his sisters. I thought that wouldn't be fair. Well, I was so magnificently huge at the end, we took a picture the night before I went to the hospital with the girls standing by me and then a side view. We would have definitely had huge regrets if we had not taken those. Once I was pregnant with Caboose, we didn't care anymore and there are plenty of pictures, including one right before I left to go to the hospital. I look more like I needed a two-week vacation.

Chatty was 2 lbs 4 oz and 14 1/2 inches long. Here is one of her very first pictures, maybe even her very first other than the Polaroid the ICN staff took.

Sparky was 2 lbs 2 oz and 13 1/2 inches long, and ditto on her picture.

If you aren't familiar with preemies, they put iv's through their belly button area, so that's why you see little wires there. They are often in a warming bed as opposed to an incubator when they need to be accessed often or possibly quickly. If they are ventilated their heads need to be kept still so the tubes don't get dislodged from their throats and so the nurses will strap their heads down to the bed with cloth diapers.

The first night brought a bubble outside of Chatty's lung, but I never completely understood it. The doctors "helped her resolve it on her own" without putting in a chest tube, so that worked for us. Sparky had to have packed red blood cells since she'd lost so much blood during the delivery. It was a little bit of a traumatic first night for them.

Another thing is that preemies often don't produce a hormone that term babies will produce that closes off a valve in the heart. It has to do with breathing in the womb in a liquid environment versus breathing in an air environment, and it has to close off for the baby to breath properly. The baby can be given a synthetic version of the hormone to close off the valve if the doctor detects a heart murmur. After the three doses, Sparky's closed and Chatty's didn't. They gave her another three doses, and when it still didn't close, they had to send her to another hospital for surgery. We had two options, and since St. Louis was a straight shot on the interstate and we knew the city pretty well, we chose it. They flew her by plane, and since she had a twin they flew her back once she was stable (which was actually only a day after the surgery). She was two and a half weeks old when she had the surgery. We had one of my childhood friends who lived in Springfield go by and see Sparky as the surrogate parent while we were in St. Louis.

Normally the ICN staff would not let you hold your baby while they were ventilated. Because of this procedure they were flying Chatty off for (it was called a PDA Ligation), they decided to let us hold her. Here is one of the pictures:

She was mostly a bundle of blankets and tubes. This was the only picture where you could really see her face.

Now one of the things Sparky was known for was her 'Jane Fonda's', seen below. I would occasionally get a call across the street at the Ronald McDonald House asking me to come over and talk to her. It seemed that my voice would calm her down, almost immediately. They didn't call during the middle of the night, and when she did it then they usually gave her Demerol or morphine.

One of the girls' nurses made them Christmas dresses. They were from some kind of doll pattern. Chatty is in the first picture here, and I think that is my finger on the blue tubing (for perspective).

Sparky is in these next two pictures with her dress on. I also forgot to mention that these were taken on Christmas Eve. Let me just say that I was very nervous holding her head in that second picture, but I'm glad I did because you can see that we will never forget how small she was. All I have to do is hold up my hand like that. I mean, look at that nose, and look at a fingernail. Amazing...

I had Chatty hold one of the dresses for me so you could get an idea of how small they are. It's hard for me to remember how small the girls were, and I was there, so I know it's hard to try to see it in a picture with nothing to use as perspective. I also had her hold up the dress and one of her American Girl dolls in the second picture so you could get an idea on the size. I don't know if you can tell in the pictures, but the dresses actually went past their feet, and their legs were straight.

Well, you know why Sparky was doing those Jane Fonda's? She was trying to tell the doctors and nurses she wanted her ventilator out. They took it out on Christmas Day! We were warned several times not to get our hopes up and that it wasn't unusual for the babies to get tired easily and have to be reventilated. Not our little exerciser. She was finally able to get all cuddled up since she'd been so rudely yanked from the womb.

And a few days later her sister followed in her footsteps, although different personalities were already being exhibited. Chatty had been given a diuretic, so she's even a little tinier than before. She was at her low weight of 1 lb 14 oz here. That's my hand up above her head blocking the light (for perspective again).

And Chatty at 2 lb 8 oz below. I'm showing you this one because of the way the picture happened to come out. Look at my thumb compared to her legs. They are pretty much the same size.

I have failed to mention that Hubby got to stay until after the first of the year with me at the Ronald McDonald house before he had to go back to Virginia. They let him start the class over again with the next group. He was at least able to be there through the PDA Ligation and both girls successful getting off the ventilators.

Well, believe it or not, there was much more excitement after this, including surgeries. I think I'll have to quit calling it their birthday story though and figure out something else to call it. I'll also have to finish it another day. We have company coming for the weekend, but I'll get back to it as soon as possible, and house pictures too. Promise!


Heather and Reese said...

What amazing pictures! They were so tiny. I read through most of this post and all of the first one; I hope to get to the other one when I have a little more time. Thanks for sharing and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! to the sweet girls.



Mari said...

Those girls are miracles! Happy Birthday to them and thanks for sharing their story.

Lora said...

Precious pictures!! Isn't it funny how when they're your babies and you're in the middle of living life, you don't realize how tiny your baby really is compared to full-term until later--or when someone else points it out:) Your "norm" completely changes, doesn't it?

BECKY said...

Wow Karen!! What an experience and what special pictures!! Sounds like it was quite a ride!! Thanks so much for dropping by my blog! Our 3rd daughter's birthday is in 3 days, and she will be 20. Where does the time go?
Blessings to you and yours,

Anonymous said...

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Demara said...

Thank-you for the pictures! Your daughters were SO tiny!! So delicate.

You are blessed!

I'm excited to see the pictures of your house. :)

Betsy said...

Wow...they were soooo tiny! I'm amazed! My boys were born at 37 weeks..between 5 and 6 pounds each. I remember expecting them to be premies but it didn't happen that way! Their little Christmas dresses are adorable! :)

Ronnica said...

That's incredible! They were so, so tiny!

Betsy said...

Merry, merry Christmas, Kayren! xxoo

Controlling My Chaos said...

Wow, I was riveted the entire time reading this story. Your girls have come so far. Thank you for sharing this.

Bonnie said...

Wow !! They were so teensy !!

The Stylish House said...

Now that Chatty and Sparky (adorable names!) are teenagers I bet it’s hard to imagine once they were so tiny.

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