Saturday, September 25, 2010

Happy 3 weeks my sweet babies

Don't be fooled by the lack of head gear/equipment on the babies. They got to take a 10 minute break from their oxygen while we gave them a good bath. They were allowed to do this because they were doing well and have the ability to sustain themselves for short periods of time on room air. They are still a ways away from not having to be on oxygen though. The nurses, respiratory therapist, and mommy and daddy were impressed with how pink they stayed and unstressed their breathing was while we did this. It was nice to be able to see better what they look like without all the stuff on their faces and heads. Both babies are doing really well with their tube feedings. Because they are growing so well, they both got to have their PICC lines (fancy IV's) removed and are growing strictly from breast milk via the tube! I have heard that in another week we might get to start trying to breastfeed once a day for a few minutes at a time. This would be just to get them to start smelling it and to get them to start rooting.
Here is our very cool Jacob Pierce with his spiky blonde hair. The thing on his nose is just a piece of silicone that protects his nose when on the CPAP. Our little J man is currently weighing 4lbs. 2 oz.!! Isn't he so incredibly handsome.

Another view of our J man. He was so alert.

Our sweet little Audrey who has grown some chubby cheeks this week. She pulled her feeding tube out and her silicone nose piece off, so you can really see what she looks like. She is currently weighing 3lbs. 11 oz.

She kept making this crazy face!

This is Jacob's hand. It gives you some perspective as to how small they are.

This is the most awake we've really ever seen the babies. They sleep at least 23 hours of the 24 hours a day, so catching them alert is a rare treat. We are grateful for their sleep because they grow when they sleep (and burn calories when awake).

I know many people have commented on how much they weigh and wondered if that would mean they could come home earlier than most 28 week preemies. Unfortunately, their weight really has no impact on their development...just like a 6 lb. full term baby would not be any different than a 9 lb. full term just happens to be bigger, but they do the same things. Now, they do have to be consistently gaining weight, but their isn't some magic number for them to come home.

The biggest thing with 28 week preemies is that their brains are not mature enough to tell their bodies to do certain things. This is why they forget to breath and will drop their oxygen and heart rate as a result. Their brains also haven't matured enough to remember to breath and suck and swallow all at the same time. This is something that happens those last couple weeks in utero...hense, why God came up with the magic 40 weeks gestation. So, if you are 39 weeks and miserable, just know that it is because your baby still has a few last things to learn!
Both babies take their turns having issues. I'm not sure we have had one single day where they both were doing equally well.

Jacob probably gives us the biggest scares. He is our drama king each week (week one: not tolerating feeds; week two: pneumothorax-collapsed lung; week three: possible sepsis; week four-yet to be determined!!)

Audrey's biggest issue so far just continues to be her respiratory stuff. Although, she isn't really doing anything that Jacob isn't doing. She just seems to fluctuate more than he does. She tends to have more apnea and brady spells than he does. Jacob mostly has these because he likes to pull his CPAP off and stick it in his mouth and suck on it. Audrey just likes to pull her feeding tube out several times a day. She thinks she is all grown up.

Both babies are doing really well though. They are growing and making strides in the right direction. We continue to pray that God will protect them from any infection as that would be the biggest set back. We miss them so much and I cannot tell you how much my heart yearns for the day that we are all under one roof.

I would like to say that this is getting easier, but it is not. In fact, the more and more I bond and fall in love with these babies, the harder it is. I still have yet to find a balance to really love on every one in our family. I miss spending time with Ella. I have been going up to the hospital less in the evenings so I can go outside with her and Andrew. That has helped, but then I just am really missing the babies come bedtime.

I continue to cling to the promise that God has great plans for us. I don't really ask God "how come?" anymore. I have a peace that God has a reason for this hard season of life for us. Greater things are yet to come.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A word from David

I call it my 11 o'clock hour. You know how children have their bewitching hour around 5 pm every day? It's the time of day where there is always chaos in the home and children get whiney and grumpy. For that hour, it always feels like the home is falling apart. Everyone is hungry and tired.

I find myself having my own hour each day around 11 pm. However, it isn't a whiney and grumpy time. Rather, it is the 11 o'clock hour that I find myself sitting in a quiet home and a sense of emptiness, fear, and loneliness overwhelms my heart. Everyone else is asleep and I find myself anxious and unable to rest my mind. It is the hour where I start to doubt God's presence in my life. It is the hour each day where tears are inevitable. It is the hour where I feel like life is out of control and that no one understands.

The truth is, most people don't understand. I doubt there are many women who have endured infertility, a miscarriage, 10 weeks of bed rest, been separated from her family, and then found herself giving birth to not just one baby, but two babies that are almost 3 months premature (and will not be home in our arms for many more months). There is nothing normal about any of this. I do not say this is in a "feel sorry for me" way. No...we continue to praise God for we have much to be thankful for. But in the same breath, life is still very far from being kind of normal. I say all this because I need to be allowed an hour each day where I allow myself to feel emotional and not feel like I need to always have my happy face on.

This morning I found myself reading some of David's writings in the book of Psalms. There is no doubt that he was an extraordinary man. He too, found himself desperately seeking God to give him rest. He writes:
"In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame;in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!~ Psalm 31:1-2

Rescue me...that's definitely what I find myself asking God. I pray to Him to give us rest and a time of calmness in our lives. I know in my heart that there are many more valleys to walk through, especially while we deal with the ups and downs of preemies in the NICU. I also know that I should be saying "if this is what it takes to praise you, Lord, then ok."...

But, at 11pm each night, I need this refuge that David speaks of. I need it when the staff tells me that our sweet Jacob could possible be getting septic (an infection in the blood). I need this refuge in these coming months as we continue to deal with this ride of emotions. Sometimes I feel like I am fighting a Goliath just like David.

*Update: As of September 20th (Monday), Jacob is NOT septic. Both sets of blood cultures came back negative. They are thinking now that he might just need a blood transfusion to get his hematocrit level up. This is very good news!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Arms Full

Happy two week birthday to our sweet twins!

Jacob (on my right) and Audrey (on my left)

I always enjoy it when I get to hold them

A very happy (and tired) mommy!

Arms Full...I just need Ella to sit in the middle and I'd feel complete!

Miss Audrey Helene (currently weighing 3 lbs. 2 oz.)

Mr. Jacob Pierce (currently weighing 3 lbs. 3 oz.)

Sweet Audrey...always so quiet and content

Mr. Jacob Pierce with his angry face...he is a little more particular than his younger sister

Jacob now happy being swaddled in mommy's arms and checking out his mommy

Audrey and her head full of medium blonde hair (her brother's hair is super blonde!!)

The babies had been doing really well on their high flow nasal cannula, but as of Thursday afternoon, they were starting to get really worn out. So, it was back on CPAP they went. We won't get to hold them for several days while we let them rest. I'm glad I got these pictures before they got hooked back up and snuggle them both at the same time. We won't be able to hold for many days so they can rest...because remember, they aren't really supposed to be out in the world yet. We are always understanding when the staff tells us they need to just sleep for a few days.

As of today (Friday), Audrey looks so much more comfortable than yesterday. She is not breathing as fast and not working as hard. She definitely needed some extra respiratory support to give her some rest. There is also some talk that she may need a blood transfusion because her hematocrit level is a little low. Jacob is still having some apnea/brady spells, but he recovers quickly on his own. Both babies are getting caffeine to help with this.

Although this all may sound concerning, they really are doing well. We were told to expect all these things by the neonatologist last weekend when we had our meeting. The babies are just doing things that 28 week preemies do. Their prognosis is still very good.

Otherwise, many of you have asked what you can do to help. We have many needs these days...and it seems like those needs will be even larger in the months to come. The babies will have a lot of doctors appointments, physical therapy, etc. this first year of their life. And of course, I need to make special times to just spend time with our little Ella. Andrew and I are struggling to find balance at the moment...balancing our need to be with three kids whom we love all equally, but live in different places at the moment and all have different needs. We need to just as importantly find time for each other as well. Earlier this week, we literally had to schedule time to talk. In my next post, I will write about our specific needs for the next few weeks. But for now, we would be humbled if you would just pray for God to help us find a good balance in spending time at the hospital, with Ella, and each other.

I read all your notes, texts, e-mails and listen to all messages. I am always very touched by your prayers. If I don't call you back or write back, please just charge it to my head and not my heart. I love you all very of these days, I hope I can return all the favors. It is hard to depend so much on others, but it has taught Andrew and I so much about servant hood. Please don't stop calling or writing. Sometimes, it is just a simple e-mail saying "I prayed for you today" that helps me get through an emotional hour.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Because the thank you cards can wait...

We have been overwhelmed by the blessings of others the past few months. Whether it was a meal or even those sweet friends who literally came and rubbed my legs and back when I was miserable from being in bed for so long...or those who brought their kids to play with our Ella...and those who helped with yard work...well, the list goes on and on for things we are so thankful for during this season of our life. There are blankets to be made, clothes to be washed, nurseries to be done, and many thank you notes to be written...

But, it will all have to wait. Because there is NO WAY I would miss out on little opportunities to do this:
Me and Jacob

Our little tiny, but oh so sweet.

I just love these two!

This is a great picture of Jacob with his full head of blonde hair (and loving his little paci!)

And one more of my sweet little Jacob *sigh*

So, the thank you cards will have to wait. Because I wouldn't miss this precious time for anything. My heart is so full of hope for these two.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Romans 15:13

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

To my youngest children, on your birthday...

Dear Jacob and Audrey,
Some people wonder if God is still in the miracle business. I think your story will always show that He is and continues to do so through your lives.

It has been quite the journey the past 2 and a 1/2 months. The last week in June, I sat alone in a dark ultrasound room listening to the hum of the machine and hearing words that no mother should ever have to hear. "Sarah, I just don't know if your body is going to be able to continue this pregnancy to a viable state for your son and daughter." I was 19 weeks at the time. As we talked a little more, I learned that this would not be a miscarriage, but rather, I'd actually have to labor and watch you pass away to heaven. Thinking back to that day is still a very emotional one for me. I knew, whatever happened, I would never be the same person again. Never have I fallen so quickly to my knees and prayed...and continued to pray every second of every day.

As your story was spread literally around the world (I received so many e-mails from people I have never met), the two of you (and the rest of our family) were covered in prayer. I spent every day, there after, in bed. I only got up to use the bathroom and take a quick bath. I even laid in the bath tub (until I got that awful infection at the end) because I was afraid any pressure would just worsen the outcome. The contractions never stopped. They were constant from that moment until your birth.
We pulled out everything known to mankind to stop my labor. Many things that the specialists and nurses thought were crazy and dangerous. Looking back, I am amazed that God sustained my health to do some of the radical things that we did. I am so grateful that I had one specialist/perinatologist who fought on your and my behalf. He believed in doing anything possible, against his partners advice, and fighting for you. I spent the remainder of this pregnancy wondering how much more my body could take. I truly believe it is because of all the prayer that I was able to handle all the medications that they had me on. At one point, I was on Mag Sulfate IV, procardia, and a turbuteline pump all at the same time.
24 weeks...26 weeks...28 weeks...we were constantly in awe of God's work. We prayed that I would make it to September 1st. I kept telling people I wanted our babies to have a birthday that ended in "ember". It was even written on a white board in my hospital room.

It is no coincidence that mid day on August 31st, I knew I was quickly running out of time as I felt my body contracting more and more. I still prayed to make it to September.
I was transferred down to labor and delivery while Andrew and I watched the clock. We once again tried to stop labor. At midnight, we celebrated making it to September. We rested very little, but our time together that night was so special. We laid awake all night feeling you both move inside my belly...we watched all your little kicks and punches. We wanted to embrace those last moments of you both alive in my womb where I was able to protect you from the world.

The next day, my body continued to contract through all the medicine (even though we had continued to increase it) and we knew delivery was imminent. At 3:30pm, with much peace, we decided enough was enough as I was already 5cm. My dear friend showed up to be my labor and delivery nurse. Because of her, we were able to have the serene and peaceful delivery we so desperately desired after so many weeks of stress. Shortly thereafter (at 6cm), I decided to get an epidural...I was tired of being strong and needed to at least be pain free by that point.
Andrew and I, along with my dear friend and another nurse laughed, cried, listened to music, and prayed. Outside my window was the most beautiful crepe myrtle. The sun reflected a perfect glow off the blooms as it set. It truly was a picturesque evening. I recently told the story about how I always think of Ella when I see wisteria blooming...and now, I was always think of my Jacob and Audrey when I see a white crepe myrtle.

I had a moment of insecurity and fear with the first push with Jacob. I just could not stop the tears...I felt like I failed these little ones. I told them I was sorry I could not hold onto them inside any longer. I feared what the next few minutes would hold for my precious little ones. I knew it was no longer in my hands...not that it ever was in mine to start with. In that moment of crying I truly felt the calming presence of God. I felt His strength carry the burden away and somehow give me the mental strength to push a couple more times. At 8:46pm, sweet Jacob Pierce entered into this world at 3lbs. 7 oz. and 17 inches long. He was breathing, pink in color, and let out the sweetest cry the world has ever heard.

6 minutes later and barely even a push, our perfect little Audrey Helene became the youngest member of our family. She weighed in at 3 lbs. 2 oz. and 15 inches long. She, however, did not breath and started to drop her heart rate. The NICU staff was amazing with both babies and were very quick and calm in getting Audrey intubated. What I'm sure was only a minute felt like ages as I waited to here them say "she's ok now. We have her intubated and her heart rate is going back up." I think I held my breath the entire time.
At that very moment, they allowed me to hold Jacob for a few seconds. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. It was one of those moments where it felt like no one else was in the room...just he and I. I still thank God for that moment as it helped me feel calm and peaceful again. I think it is the one thing that kept me from falling apart when they whisked my children away.

The days have been long and with many ups and downs. The day I was discharged without two babies was possibly the hardest day of my life. There were not two more car seats. There were not pictures to be taken of "mommy holding her babies" while being wheeled out to the car. It was just Andrew and me...and my empty womb.

I had to leave my precious children in the care of someone else...two lives that were still so fragile and somewhat unstable...two lives that I had to leave so that I could make up for all the time I lost with my sweet Ella. My heart ached for time with her. But, my heart also ached to just be present for my other two new loves. I was also desperate to just be able to sleep next to my husband curl up in his arms and feel safe and secure after being locked in the hospital for so long. My heart has never felt so torn in my entire life.

The journey is not over. The neonatologist warned us that the 10 weeks of bed rest and being in the hospital were the easy part. He said the roller coaster was really just beginning...and he was so right. Although we face at least 2 months more of the babies being in the hospital, I cannot help but feel so blessed.

I am blessed because I have felt my heart triple in size. I am blessed because I have become a completely different woman through this trial..for the better. I am blessed because my marriage is so much stronger because the pain we have suffered. I am blessed because I have felt what it truly means to be surrounded in prayer and seen what God can do through it.

And I am blessed because on September 1st, we celebrated not just one more birthday...but two. We continue to pray and believe that God will allow us to bring you both home. We pray that each day will bring positive news and renewed strength to our family.

Your journey has just begun my sweet little miracles. I cannot wait till that first night I awake to a babies cry...because that will mean that you are at home with us.

I love you a thousand times. Happy Birthday!

Friday, September 3, 2010

On the first day of September

On the first day of September, we welcomed two of the sweetest babies into this world. The details of the labor story and emotions are long. I look forward to sharing with you our story of our twins birthdays. Until then, please help us welcome...

Miss Audrey Helene-born at 8:52pm, weight: 3lbs 2oz

Mr. Jacob Pierce-born at 8:46pm, weight: 3lbs 7 oz

Both are doing well from a premie point of view. They were born at 28 weeks and 6 days gestation via a vaginal delivery...the most spiritual and beautiful delivery ever!
There will be more details in the days to follow.
Please continue to pray for these little miracles.