Friday, February 24, 2012

"This can't be happening!" – The Riso Twins Story

My husband and I decided to start a family sometime in early 2008. Like any other naive couple about to embark on the journey to parenthood we figured it would be relatively easy. I mean, we spend most of our teenage years trying NOT to get pregnant so logically, once we threw caution to the wind it should happen fairly quick, right?.......WRONG! Here's where that title phrase made its debut appearance....."This can't be happening!" Unfortunately, it was.

So, after about a year of disappointment we sought the help of a reproductive specialist. After countless blood tests, MRI's, sonograms, surgery, numerous medications and several medical procedures we still weren't pregnant. After each failed cycle I kept thinking "this really can't be happening." The desire to become a mother had grown so strong that it took over my life. We decided to try IVF (in vitro fertilization). So, after one round and many tears I finally got my Second line! We were pregnant!  Blood tests all came back normal and my first sonogram confirmed one healthy baby….or so we thought.

Cut to 10 weeks pregnant. I went to my OB for a routine sonogram. Little did I know that on this day my life would be forever changed. He placed the wand on my belly and was quietly scanning around. Then, out of nowhere he said "I need to do an internal sono, I think I hear TWO heartbeats." My initial reaction was, yep, you guessed it, "This CAN'T be happening. My Baby has TWO hearts." haha. I honestly didn't think he meant twins. I mean, I saw the sono screen. There was only ONE sac and as far as I knew it was impossible for there to be more than one baby in them. So, the internal sono began and he confirmed what he originally thought...."it's twins" he said. But his voice wasn't fact his whole demeanor changed. He excused himself from the room and said he needed to make a phone call.

After he left my husband and I tried to wrap our heads around the news we just received. I was excited yet nervous because I knew something wasn't right. When he returned he explained that I was to leave his office and immediately make an appt with the maternal-fetal medicine specialist office. He basically said that he suspected I had what is called mono-chorionic, mono-amniotic twins. I was told the next doc would explain this further.

So, of course, I didn't what anyone in the 21st century would do...I "googled" it. As I began to read the various websites that popped up I couldn’t help but think, as you probably already guessed, "This can't be happening." Information flew across the screen in a blur. Phrases such as  "50% chance of survival, cord entanglement, and twin to twin transfusion syndrome" flooded my brain. It was all too much to process. I cried my eyes out for days, ok more like weeks. I emotionally detached myself from the pregnancy, which I regret today and will touch upon more later on. Friends and family were under strict orders NOT to purchase anything for the babies. A friend bought me a journal for me to write down my experiences and feelings....that journal remained I convinced myself not to do it because, well, I didn't want to remember anything if something was to go wrong (something else I totally regret today.)

Then, I decided to google "momo success stories" and again, information flew across the screen. Only this time, it was stories of other women who were in the same situation as me. Some pregnant still, some with babies in NICU, and other with older “momo” children. For the next few days, I browsed their stories and as I completed each one something in me changed. All of a sudden there was hope! I COULD be one of those women some day! So from there, I began to plan. Planned my inpatient stay, made a registry, ordered furniture and so on.

Unfortunately, at this point I began having problems unrelated to the momo diagnosis. I went into preterm labor and lost a lot of my cervix. At about 16 weeks pregnant I had a cerclage and was put on various medications to stop the contractions. I was admitted to the hospital twice for observation but allowed back home on strict bed-rest for the remainder of the journey. That was a nightmare in itself! It didn't end there.  Then, my AFP test results came back stating that the twins had a 1 in 5 chance of having a chromosomal abnormality; one that would result in death immediately after they were born. "Seriously now, this really can't be happening" was all I could think. I declined any further testing as I couldn't handle any more bad news and I knew that no-matter what, I was going to do my best to get them here safely even if it was only for a few minutes.

Finally, the day had come. It was early June when I officially turned 24 weeks pregnant. This was the beginning of the inpatient portion of my journey. The next almost 6 weeks are a blur. I am not going to lie it was hard. I was still on strict bed-rest so I was confined to a hospital bed all day. I didn't have my own room so parades of women would be brought in for a few days and eventually go home with their families or a bouncing new baby in their arms. Yet, there I laid, still weeks away from uncertainty. Visitors came and went as did most of the summer. I was on continuous monitoring so not only was a stuck on my back I had three different machines attached to me at all times (two for the babies, and one for my contractions.) The highlight of my days were the 10 minutes in which I was allowed to shower. In the end however, it was more than worth it.

Now, It was August 4th and my husband had brought me a Burger King chicken sandwich just as he did every Monday night, as it was my guilty pleasure! I was enjoying my dinner when my OB busted through the door with a bunch of nurses and residents.  "What is the matter with you?" he said. "Why didn't you buzz us?" I was so confused. I didn't need them...or so I thought. "Your contractions are 2 minutes apart and the babies heart rates are struggling with every contraction. It's time to get them out he said. Up to labor and delivery you go." I had no idea how to feel. I was so excited, relieved, anxious, and scared. I was only 31 weeks 6 days. I had no idea what to expect and we still didn't know if they were genetically normal. So up to L&D I went. I was prepped for surgery while I called my parents and told them the time had finally come. As I sit here and type this I can't help but tear up as this was a day that I truly never expected to see.
The only way I can describe the whole birth is surreal. As soon as the OB pulled out the boys I remember yelling over the curtain, "Are they O.K?" I will never forget his response...."Yep, they are fine and have all 20 fingers and toes!" It was at this point when I heard a little voice begin to cry and thought to myself, "This can't be happening!" Except this time, it was a happy phrase. It WAS happening. I was in such disbelief. I got to kiss them both on their heads before they were whisked away to the NICU. I couldn't believe it, they were SAFE! I knew the next few weeks would be hard as well but I didn't care...I was a MOM!

Carson Joseph was born weighing in at 4pds 1ounce and 16 ½ inches long.

Mason John was born at 3pds 15 ounces and 16 ½ inches long.

The next few weeks consisted of me recovering, preparing the nursery, going back and forth to visit the twins, and finally having a baby shower....or as I called it, my "welcome to the world Carson & Mason party"; A much more appropriate title in my opinion.

The NICU journey for us was rather uneventful.  The boys suffered from the basic preemie issues such as breathing and eating. They were both jaundice and contracted a minor infection while there but it was easily treated with antibiotics.  Below are some pictures from our journey. 

(Above are pictures of the boys first week of life. Both are intubated here.  Mason is the top picture and Carson is the bottom picture. )

After four of the longest weeks of my life the boys came home and completed our little family. They were the tiniest little angels! Shortly thereafter we were hit with the realization that they were both colic with severe acid reflux...but that's a story for another time and another blog ; ). 

(Above is the boys very first picture together on the day they can home from NICU. Those are preemie onesies on them and they still look huge. Now I look at preemie clothes and cant remember them ever being that Tiny!)

That brings us to today. My boys are happy and healthy at almost 19 months old. They are up to date on all of their milestones and gaining weight like it’s their job! They are definitely all boy; running everywhere and climbing on everything. Being a multiple mom is hard but worth every single second!

So, for all the expecting momo mommies out there hang in there. Miracles CAN happen. Don't focus on the future what-ifs, focus on the now. Read to the babies, sing to them, make a registry, paint a nursery, buy some cute baby clothes, because when things DO turn out well in the end you will regret not doing it. Stay strong and always remember "Worry does not empty tomorrow of it's sorry; it empties today of it's strength."

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Overstreet Twins ~ It was Meant to Be!

August 2007
My husband and I were shocked to find out I was pregnant in August 2007. We had a 3 year old son and an 18 month old daughter and we didn't plan on having any more children. I had some issues with birth control after having my daughter and actually had an appointment to have an IUD placed at the end of August. Imagine our surprise to be pregnant. After the initial shock wore off we were both very excited to have a 3rd coming. It was simply meant to be....

My first appointment @ 9 weeks went well. Having been through this two times before, I went to the appointment alone thinking it was going to be no big deal. When I had the ultrasound to see the baby's heartbeat the tech asked me if this was my first pregnancy. I laughed & replied "No, my third and it was a surprise." Then she laughed and said "Here's another surprise, this is your 3rd & 4th!" I said "HOLY SH**!! I saw the two little heartbeats on the screen and couldn't believe it. I called my husband at work and he thought I was joking. I think we were in shock, again, for about a week. We were then referred to a perinatologist at Maternal Fetal Medicine for a routine first trimester screening the next week. That's the first time we heard the words "monoamniotic" and "high-risk". The only thing we knew about twins was that you could have identical or fraternal. We certainly got a crash course at that appointment. I remember getting home and doing some research on the computer (big mistake at the time). I was terrified by what I read.  I called my Ob/Gyn and he was able to calm me down, telling me that we were in this together and that I had to be strong. I didn't have facebook at that time and I looked for support groups but couldn't find any. I joined a twin website and my first post was "Pregnant with monoamniotic twins and scared", to which I got NO replies. I was even more scared and felt so alone. After two days I finally got a reply from a woman who told me that her hairdresser's cousin had monoamniotic twins and she was kind enough to pass my info on to this momo mom. This was the first person I was able to ask questions, a million of them, via email, and I am so thankful for her. She also told me about and I finally felt like I could relate my questions and fears to others who would understand.

We went back to MFM at 12 weeks and we were told that they thought the twins were possibly conjoined, another blow. The next appointment at 14 weeks the doctor suggested we abort the pregnancy because the cords were already tangled and it was going to be "an emotional roller coaster".  I was so upset and refused to see that doctor ever again. At our 16 week appointment we got the confirmation that there was no membrane, but the  good news that the twins were not conjoined, they were just moving in tandem because of the cords. Our MFM doctor was great and very informative during the 16 week appointment. This is when we learned of our treatment course, what to expect and when. The 18 week appointment brought the news that we were having girls, and that one of them had club feet, a small blow that my husband and I took in stride. From 18 weeks until 24 weeks I was seen by MFM every 2 weeks for ultrasounds and Doppler studies. MFM wanted me to begin inpatient monitoring at 24 weeks but my Ob/Gyn pushed to start inpatient at 28 weeks. We had 2 small children at home and the thought of leaving them and my husband was devastating. I also had a full time job and my husband was working full time and doing an accelerated Master's Degree program at night. We agreed on a compromise of outpatient monitoring from 24 to 26 weeks, and checked in to the hospital at 26 weeks for inpatient monitoring with a scheduled c-section at 32 weeks.

The first 2 weeks of my inpatient stay were the hardest of my life up to that point. Being there alone was awful.  My husband could only visit on the weekends because of our kids, his job, and his school. With the help of our family and friends we managed to work out a routine for the kids. Because my husband had class until 11:00pm three nights a week, the kids slept over my sister's on Tuesday and Wednesday, and she took a half day from work every Wednesday so she could bring them in for a visit and dinner with me. Wednesdays were the best. My parents and my mother in law took turns keeping the kids overnight on the weekends so my husband could sleep over with me at the hospital every Saturday night. So I saw my children every Wednesday, and my husband would bring them in early every Saturday to spend the day, then my sister would pick them up from the hospital so my husband could stay over with me. Then my sister would bring them back to the hospital on Sunday mornings to have breakfast with us, and my husband would leave with them around 1:00pm every Sunday. Sunday afternoons were the hardest for me. But that was our schedule and it worked.

During my stay I spent a lot of time at the nurses station, read a ton of books, used my laptop (wish I had Facebook back then), made a great friend with another pregnant mom on the unit, watched TV, napped, had tons of visitors, walked around the whole hospital, got a tour of the NICU, had Reikki, massages, a pedicure, and tried to relax as much as possible. I had a refrigerator in my room which was great for midnight snacks. I had a goal calendar marked for 28 weeks, 30 weeks,  and 32 weeks. It always felt great to scratch one of them off. I also started a CaringBridge website to keep all of our family and friends updated and to help pass the time.

Medically my inpatient stay consisted of one hour monitoring sessions 3 times a day. The monitoring sessions would usually go longer than an hour because it was hard to get both babies on the monitor, and keep them on. It became a routine of having an ultrasound with almost every monitoring session because the girls' hearts would beat in unison and the nurses could never tell if they had both babies on. I also had Doppler studies and growth scans at the MFM office every 2 weeks until 30 weeks, then once a week until I delivered. I called it my field trip for the day and I enjoyed being taken over to the MFM office in a wheelchair. My growth scans showed a slight difference in the size of the babies, so I was encouraged to drink Ensure for almost all of my stay. I was able to walk around almost the whole time I was in the hospital, up until the last 2 weeks. The girls never had any serious decels, but one of them had a scary accel around 29 weeks that lasted about a minute and the doctors were called in to see if they needed to deliver the girls. She recovered and it didn't happen again. On Valentine's Day I woke up at 4:00am with very painful contractions. I was 30 weeks and was sent down to labor and delivery for the day but thankfully they were able to stop the contractions. At this point I was put on complete bed rest because walking around irritated my uterus and started contractions.

My c-section was scheduled for Leap year, Friday, March 29th, 2008. I was 32 weeks 1 day. The day before, one of the neonatologists came to tell me that there was no room in the NICU for my babies, they were full. I was very upset. My Ob/Gyn was upset too. So we had to wait it out one last weekend, the longest weekend of my life, until Monday March 3rd, 2008 which brought me to 32 weeks 4 days.

March 3rd, 2008

Teagan Kathleen was born at 1:45pm, weighing 3lbs 15oz and 16 inches.

Taryn Cynthia was born at 1:47pm, weighing 3lbs 14oz and 16.5 inches.

The NICU was another emotional roller coaster, but in the end it was worth every bit of emotion. We have two miracle babies that have taught us more about life and love then we ever imagined. It changed our lives for the better. I have made life long friends with the nurses who took such great care of  me and the girls. My husband and I learned more about each other during this pregnancy and birth of our girls than we ever knew before, and for that I am so thankful. Small things that others may take for granted are cherished by us. We learned that you can't be afraid to ask questions or challenge a doctor, they don't know everything. If something doesn't feel right, don't be afraid to speak up? Always go with your gut. Most important, we learned how to be advocates for our children.  If you find a great doctor who knows about monoamniotic twins, you will be in great hands.

At this point our girls are almost 4. Sometimes I can't believe it. My husband and I joke all the time about having four kids, especially having twins. And then we was simply meant to be.