Nine months

Nine months

It’s time to start talking about that dirty four lettered word. That’s right. The word nobody likes to mention. Work. Urgh!!! I’m now on unpaid maternity leave and my return to work is approaching rapidly.

What really sucks is that the babies

Food please mum

are now really good fun!!! Their little personalities and unique characters are developing. They’re doing new things all the time. They have so much fun and laugh at everything. It’s such a glorious, uplifting sound when they both start giggling away. I just have to kiss their tummies, or pull a certain face and off they go into giggle meltdown.

So to have to think about work now is something I’m struggling with. And it’s not because I’m lazy!! It’s because I’m really enjoying this job and don’t want it to change just yet. I’m in a new routine now. We all get up at half eight and have breakfast watching Everyone Loves Raymond. Sometimes I think to hell with it, let’s have another cuppa and watch Frasier too. (I know, please don’t hate me. I’m aware this could all change at any minute!!!). The babies usually have a nap while I get ready then it’s off to Jo Jingles, or granny’s house, or to meet up with a friend for the much loved ‘coffee and cake’. Sometimes, we go out for a walk just the three of us. And if we’re feeling brave (or out of wine), Tesco’s!!! I suppose my point is, we do what we feel like doing that day. The babies had a cold last week during the heatwave. They were very sleepy so I took advantage of that and did something I’ve really missed. I sat out in the sun with a book. Not a magazine or a baby recipe book. An actual novel. Heaven.

Roll over Archie!!

So, here’s an example of how our day usually starts…

Archie: today’s the day I’m going to get my foot into my mouth. I know I can do it. All it takes is perseverance. Like when I found my thumb. At the end of my hand of all places!! And to think, it was only a few weeks ago I realised that it was my actual foot at the end of my leg!!! Amazing.

Harry: today’s the day I’m going to roll to the south side of the living room. It’s going to take four consecutive rolls and I’ve only managed three so far without mummy noticing but I can do it. Especially if my pesky brother doesn’t get in the way. He’s always rolling into me, kicking me in the face. Trying to suck his toes. What’s that all about?! Little weirdo. He needs to practice his rolling like me, then we can escape this shaggy rug place and explore new lands!! Anyway, focus Harry. I’m getting just like mummy. Look at her. Watching ‘that American shite’ as daddy calls it and drinking tea when she said ten minutes ago she was going for a shower.

Mummy: today’s the day I’m going to stop eating crap. Yes. I’ll go shopping and just buy healthy stuff. Lots of salad things. It’s summer now, we can eat salad. And we’ll walk down. Get some exercise. But we need wine. I could drive down and get the Kettlebells dvd out this afternoon. I’ll have another cup of tea first and maybe squeeze in an episode of Scandal while I think about it.

 

Harry

Anyway, I’m going to ease myself back to work by doing some KIT (keep in touch) days. To be honest, I’m completely bricking it. I don’t remember much about being a nurse. I used to forget stuff after a two week holiday, never mind a year away!!! And what the hell has happened to my brain?!? Baby brain!!! Is it worse because I’ve had two?! I’m scared a patient or doctor is going to ask me something and I’ll just be standing there, mouth open, knowing I know the answer somewhere but just can’t find the words to form a sentence!!

 

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Archie

After being in hospital for three months with the babies, I’ve developed a sense of dread about the place. That never used to be the case. Before when I went to work, it was exciting. All the monitors and equipment. You never knew what was going to happen. Critical care, post-op patients, always having to be one step ahead, so organised and on the ball. Now, I honestly don’t know what would happen if that emergency buzzer went off. The last time I heard it was when the NICU nurse told my husband to pull ‘that red button’ as Archie needed resuscitating for the third time.

I know all my training will come back to me and within a few shifts it’ll be like I’ve never been away. I’ll be back in the loop, privy once more to all the gossip and goings-on that fuel our long days and nights. But I know already a few things will change. As a recent patient and parent of patients I have so much more empathy and understanding for the people who visit my patients. I now get why they ask a million questions over and over. Why they might think I’m missing something or not looking after their loved one properly. Why it’s so important that their mum wear the pink nightgown, not the blue one as it’s her favourite. And it’s because while I’m busy doing a thousand things looking after two patients and thinking about getting home, all they are thinking about is their loved one. 100% focus on that one person. It’s not like I never knew all that already. It’s just that now, I get it.

Part of me is looking forward to getting back to a revised version of normal. Dusting off my scrubs and resurrecting professional nurse Katie. Using my hard earned skills and knowledge once again. Having conversations about anything and everything, not just baby stuff.

Fortunately I have plenty of distractions before the dreaded return to work. We’re moving house in five weeks time. I’m very excited and a little bit scared. It’s a much bigger house which is wonderful as we need the space. But it needs a lot of work doing to it which will take a long time, however it’s mostly decorative. I just like to get stuff done which of course doesn’t happen anymore when there’s two rug rats to think of!!! And we’re going to have a first birthday party for the twins. A combined housewarming. I really want to celebrate this past year and all the achievements it’s brought with it. The coming home of Harry and Archie. Buying our dream house and the adventure of turning it into an amazing home. Our family home.

Labour Day

Labour Day

Monday 5 September 2016, 4.45am. I wake up because my waters have broken. I’m 27 weeks and 3 days pregnant with monochorionic diamniotic (MCDA) twins.
Looking back I was calm about it all. I packed my bag, had a shower, and then woke my husband. We phoned our local hospital who told us to come in straight away. They confirmed my waters had indeed broken, administered a steroid injection, and informed me it was likely the twins would be born within the next 24 hours. They phoned for an ambulance to take me up to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 36 miles away. Although anxious, we weren’t panicking. Much.

You see, two weeks before, we were really scared. A routine scan picked up an abnormal blood flow in the umbilical cord to twin 2. The hospital in Edinburgh had no beds, so we had to drive to Dundee, 92 miles away. I was 25 weeks pregnant at this point. The obstetrician gave me my steroid injection; we rushed home to pack, and then headed up the road. Neither of us knew what to say. What to think. It took all our effort not to google ‘baby born at 25 weeks’. When we arrived, we were told that they would not be able to do a repeat scan until the next day. I naturally assumed that there could be no great urgency then. Neither of us slept that night. My husband later told me that he did go on google. I didn’t want to know what it said. The next day we had the scan and the results were fine. We had another three scans over the next two weeks; all showing that twin 2 was a bit smaller than twin 1, but otherwise okay.
So, when I went into labour at 27 weeks and 3 days, we felt lucky. Kind of.

I remember phoning my mum. She was on the way to the dentist. I told her not to worry but I was at the hospital and I’d keep her posted!! Soon after arriving at the RIE, the contractions started. Foetal monitors were attached and nothing much happened, but the contractions were getting stronger. I was given gas and air (wonderful stuff!) then the doctor came in to examine me. ‘You are ten centimetres dilated, I can feel the head’. What?!?! All of a sudden, the room filled up with people. I knew twin 2 was breech and had kind of expected a caesarean. Now I was being told that I was delivering my babies….immediately. No time for pain relief, or a caesarean.

I couldn’t breathe. This wasn’t happening. I’d not even written my birth plan. Where were the candles, my carefully chosen playlists? My husband gently rubbing my back and telling me to push? Me, perfectly tuned into my body, breathing through the pain and welcoming my babies into the world with a smile and open arms?

Instead, a team of doctors, midwives, nurses and anaesthetists were preparing for the arrival of two very premature babies. The midwife put a clear plastic bag and a tiny woollen hat at the bottom of the bed. ‘Don’t be alarmed. But we put the baby in the bag to prevent hypothermia’. Bloody hell. This was really happening.

I’ll spare you the details, but at 12.47 and 12.58, my two boys were born. Twin 1 made a noise when he entered the world. Just a small cry. It was the best noise ever. Twin 2 was quiet. Tiny, bruised and silent. It was the most horrific silence ever. Both babies were immediately taken away, resuscitated and ventilated. They were brought into my room for a brief hello, and then taken to the NICU.

I was overwhelmed and exhausted. As was my husband. We were both in shock and trying to get our heads around what had happened. The midwife and doctor delivered the placenta. I heard someone say something about it being ‘ragged’. Over the next hour we tried to make sense of the situation. Then I noticed that I was bleeding. A lot. The midwife took one look and pulled the emergency alarm. The doctor came back in and I was immediately taken to theatre. I remember thinking that I wanted to go to sleep and wake up and it would all be okay.

An hour later, I woke to see my husband standing next to me in green scrubs. Why? Where was I? Then I remembered. We went back to the labour ward and tried to let it all sink in. My husband later told me that after I was taken to theatre, he was left alone in the room. In the space of an hour, his two sons had been born and taken to intensive care, and his wife was taken into theatre for an emergency operation, and he had no idea if they would all survive. It sounds dramatic now but that’s what happened.

While I was in theatre, he was taken to the NICU to see the boys. He told me that the nurse that was looking after one of the babies was so calm and kind, it helped him to calm down too. This is what they do, 24 – 7. Our world had just been turned upside down but this is their job, to save tiny, premature babies.

I was taken round to the NICU in my hospital bed later that day. There are photos of me touching my babies through the incubator but I don’t remember it. They were so small, and bruised. Their skin too fragile to be exposed to the world. It was all so surreal.

Later that night, after my husband went home, I sat in my bed and just cried. I blamed myself, my useless body, for not being able to do its job. I was terrified my babies would die because of something I’d done. I was ashamed of how I reacted to being in labour. At one point I panicked and couldn’t breathe. The doctor told me to focus and I felt like I’d been told off for doing it wrong. I perceived myself to be a strong person, and I’d just fallen apart. Why was I so self-critical?!?! You could put it down to hormones, exhaustion and confusion I guess.

I was encouraged to express breast milk straight away. At last, I felt like I was doing something. Contributing to the care of my babies. I have a diary entry stating that I expressed 3ml at 9am the day after they were born. I remember at the time feeling amazed and in awe at what I had achieved! Little did I know I would go on to express on average 1000ml a day for the three months they were in hospital.

Our hospital stay continued for 12 weeks; 86 days in total. Six weeks in the NICU followed by six weeks in the SCBU at our local hospital, the Borders General.

It was filled with highs and lows. Please join me in discussing our journey and sharing your experiences too.

About me

About me

My name is Katie and I am a 40 year old mum to identical twin boys. They were born in 2016 at 27 weeks and 3 days. I have started this blog primarily as a way of dealing with the whole experience of being in hospital for 13 weeks after their birth, instead of getting to know them at home.

It was only after my babies came home that the full effect of what we’d been through as a family hit me. I’m still processing it, taking each day as it comes.

I feel so lucky to have my boys home and would like to encourage others to share their experiences and raise awareness of premature babies.

I hope that this blog will grow alongside me and my boys. It’s not just about their traumatic entry into the world. I’m excited about being a mother and all the wonderful adventures I’ll get to experience over the coming days, weeks and years. And that is what I’m going to write about.

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