In 2005, my husband and I found out we were expecting our second baby. At my 16 week appointment, the Dr asked if my dates could be off. I told her no, I was certain of our dates. She wanted me to come back later that week to get an ultrasound. Being an OB nurse, I had a suspicion of what she was thinking, and suggested “how about today?” I called my husband and told him I was going to have an ultrasound to “check my dates”, he said he’d be there in a little bit. So our 2 year old, Noah and I went back to the Dr that afternoon for the ultrasound. After getting situated on the table, the ultrasound tech said, “There’s the heart beating…and there’s another one.” I was speechless. There was a knock on the door and it was my husband, I told the tech, “You have to tell him.” My husband was also shocked.
For 4 weeks we shared the news with family and friends but I still felt speechless about it. Twins scared me. I am a person who strives for quiet, peace, order, control. I knew my world was turning upside down. And all those things I liked were going to be thrown out the window. God had a lot of stretching in store for me. It took a LOT of soaking in.
With our first pregnancy, I did not want to know what we were having. I wanted to be surprised because I love surprises. Well, after finding out we were going to have twins, we decided that was our surprise and now we wanted to know their gender. So at my regular 20 week ultrasound appointment, we found out we were having 2 girls! My OB told me we needed to go to see a specialist, a perinatologist at the Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic because there were some concerns with their size discrepancies. So off we went to meet our new Dr. The Dr told us our babies had Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, rare syndrome that occurs in less than 0.1-0.9 in 1,000 births. The prognosis was poor since it presented itself so early in the pregnancy. I went from feelings of shock, to pleas to God to save both of our little girls.
The girls each had their own amniotic sac and shared one placenta. In TTTS, there are vascular connections in the placenta with unbalanced blood exchange. Josie, was referred to as the donor twin. She did not have as much fluid in her sac and enough blood as she needed to help her with her growth. She was the smaller baby. Anna, “the recipient twin” had too much fluid in her sac and had too much blood. At 20 weeks, I went on bed rest with bathroom privileges. My Mom and Dad drove up from out of state to move my Mom in to help care for our little 2 year old boy and take care of household chores. God gave me such a gift in this little boy. He became a little snuggler. We spent lots of time together doing puzzles, coloring, listening to music and watching movies while I lay on the couch. God gave me such a gift in my parents, Dad for being ok with Mom being away for so long. Mom for sacrificing all her time and energy to help us. She ended up living with us for 5 months. God gave me such a gift in my husband, who was supportive and understanding and even got along well with my Mom. That’s a big gift! God gave me such a gift in my co-workers who brought meals twice a week and showed God’s love to me in such a tangible way. God gave me such a gift in my Bible Study table group at our new church, that also brought meals. God gave me such a gift in prayer warriors who lifted us up in prayer. God gave me such a gift in amazing Dr’s caring for us. God gave me such a gift in pouring out his love and peace to me, in timely verses about how he never changes. He is the great I am. He is the same God who led Moses and the Israelites across the sea on dry land. The same God who protected Daniel in the Lion’s Den. The same God who instructed Noah to build the ark. The same God who sent his only son into our world to be born in a manger, die on a cross & arise 3 days later for our sins. He is the same God yesterday, today in this moment and tomorrow in whatever may come. He will never leave us.
|My Mom and Noah playing together. Boxes are the best toys.|
During this time of bed rest, I was listening to a teaching by Beth Moore about how God meets our soul needs. She walked through Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd.” I am defended. I am tended to. “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Well, that was literal, on bedrest, resting in Him. “He restores my soul.” He regularly restores, not restored. “He guides me in paths of righteousness for his names sake.” I am led. We have to believe in the sovereignty of God. Psalm 40:8 says, “I desire to do your will, O my God.” Trust Him. I am led. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” He uses these as weapons. He defends us against harm. I am defended. “You prepare a table before me, in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The goodness of the Lord is with us. As we lived this chapter out, I finally understood what always had seemed like such a mysterious chapter…Psalm 23. God is always with me. Oh dear friend, God is always with you.
From appointment to appointment, we never knew if the ultrasound that day would show them both alive. During my first pregnancy, whenever fear crept in about the safety of our baby, God reminded me that our baby is His. And He loves this baby perfectly, more than we ever could. No matter how long we have with this little life, we get to care for and love God’s precious child. We never know how long we will have with them. But we can lean on His love for them. This truth of God’s sweet love for our baby prepared me for this season. Our appointments were often and ultrasounds became daily to monitor them, with weekly echocardiograms by a Pediatric Cardiologist. to watch Anna’s heart wall thickness. But God loves me! God loves you in this season that you are in. Trust in His deep, deep love for you. Trust in His goodness.
At 26 weeks, we had our second amnio reduction done, where they remove fluid out of the recipient’s sac to relieve some pressure on her heart functioning. She was showing some tricuspid regurgitation, a beginning sign of heart failure. So our Dr’s sent us flying to the Fetal Care Center of Cincinnati to be evaluated for and most likely have fetal surgery done by one of only a handful of Dr’s in the country that could do this procedure. They would go in with a scope and coagulate the connected blood vessels to stop the TTTS. This was a risky procedure, only done if truly necessary. After our day of an MRI, Echocardiogram, EKG, Ultrasound & Lab work, we had a team meeting with Dr Crombleholme (the fetal surgeon), a perinatologist, and several other specialists from different departments to discuss the results of the tests we had done. Basically, we were faced with a tough decision of whether or not to go ahead with the laser surgery. The girls were in stage 3A (Stages are 1, 2, 3A, 3B, 3C, and 4) This basically means that the recipient (our bigger girl) has excessive blood volume, which is putting stress on her heart and is in the beginning stage of heart failure. In proceeding with the surgery there was only a 50/50 chance that BOTH would survive. They told us that we were right on the fence. Beyond 26 wees, they would not be able to do the surgery. They told us the decision was ours to make. We decided on not doing the surgery, and to continue the pregnancy with close monitoring of ultrasounds and echos and aggressive amnio reductions as needed and to leave the girl’s future in our loving, powerful God’s hands. We were hoping, with the Doctor’s, to squeak out at least 2-4 more weeks before delivery. Hoping, their fluid levels would stay in a normal range to keep any additional stress off of them.
|Dan reading Brokenness by Lon Solomon in our hotel room in Cincinnati|
|Me enjoying some room service, and the best fries I’ve ever had.|
When we got back home from Cincinnati, we celebrated Thanksgiving and then I was admitted to the hospital so they could keep a really close eye on them. I did not handle this well. I got so sad being in the confines of one room and only being allowed to the bathroom, not even a step into the hallway. I felt like I wasn’t able to be a Mom to my little boy and missed him so and it was Christmas time. Many other women in the hospital were from hours away with their families back home, not able to come visit every day like mine. I did not know how they were getting through this. One day I begged my Dr to let me go home. Dad came back to town and was willing to drive my to the appointments every day and I promised to stay on strict bedrest. Thankfully, he thought it would be ok for me to go home and then we started our daily drives to the hospital. I was able to watch my husband and little boy put up our Christmas tree and decorate it. It did my heart such good.
Well, we made it to 31 4/7 and the Cardiologist recommended the babies be delivered because the recipients heart wall was continuing to thicken. Delivery day was scheduled for 32 weeks. We were excited and nervous to meet these little girls, not knowing what would lay ahead of them in the NICU.
Dan wrote, “Yesterday at 8:30 we said hello to Anna Hope and at 8:31a.m. we said hello to Josephina (Josie) Faith. Anna is 4lbs. 5oz. and 16 inches and Josie was 3lbs. 16 inches long. Melanie is doing well. Today I asked our Dr. now that we are all done with the TTTS situation, what was He thinking when he saw us at 20 weeks. He responded almost immediately, I thought you’d lose one of them, if not both. Here is the thing that brings me chills. At the c-section the Dr. brought me over and showed me the placenta. She could see that Anna had maybe 75% of the placenta and Josie had 25%. She said that Josie didn’t have enough of the placenta to support herself and if they didn’t have TTTS Josie would have died. So what we have thought was the problem ended up being the life saver. “For the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone. The flowers are springing up and the time of singing birds has come.” -Song of Songs 2:11-12
With that news, we were in awe at the Sovereignty of God!
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
|Anna Hope Pitts – Anna was named after the Prophetess in the Bible who met Baby Jesus when his parents brought him to the temple. She was a widow who never left the temple, but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.|
Our little girls were tiny and sweet. Josie was on room air, without any breathing assistance by the end of that first day. Anna had a rougher start. They both had typical preemie needs like IV’s, feeding tubes, and isolettes to regulate their temperature. The NICU became our new home.
Five days after they were born, when we got home from church, we received a phone call from one of the NICU nurses telling us we needed to get down to the hospital right away because Anna needed emergency surgery. Her abdomen was looking distended, she had 2 feedings worth of milk in her stomach that had not digested, went back on CPAP( a form of assisted breathing), had a cool temp and had started looking lethargic. She had NEC (Necrotizing enterocolitis) a life-threatening condition and part of her intestine perforated. (If you are interested in understanding NEC a good simple explanation can be found at www.kidshealth.org/parent/medical/digestive/nec.html). This broke me. After all the weeks of uncertainty in the pregnancy that we had gone through, it seemed that we were in the clear so I was caught off guard. I sobbed and prayed that God would continue to protect her.
When we arrived at the hospital, the Pediatric Surgeon introduced himself and explained what had happened and what he planned to do for her. Then he proceeded to tell us that his in-laws are our neighbors. He said he was over at their house sitting at their kitchen table, and they were telling him about our girls. Just then, he said, he got the phone call to come in and do surgery on Anna. He told us he saw us back out of our driveway and followed us down to the hospital. There was such comfort in those words. To know that he had a vested interest in Anna. After they took Anna down for surgery, I went to the small pumping room. I looked out the window and watched large soft snowflakes slowly fall. God filled me peace and hope as I looked out the window. After one long hour of surgery, she came back up to us in the NICU. Her hemoglobin dropped after surgery so they gave her a blood transfusion. The surgery had gone well and they only had to remove a small portion of her jejunum (part of her small intestine).
Just 2 1/2 weeks later, Anna was doing well and went back into surgery for her jejunostomy take-down, where they re-attached her intestines. At end of that first month, the girls were able to move from the Level III NICU to a Level II nursery. They were transferred to the hospital I worked at, into the same unit I worked in. It was such a blessing to have my co-workers/friends caring for our little girls. And then one month later, the moment we had waited for, they were both discharged and able to come home for the first time.
We had lots of adjusting to do with 2 babies to care for at home in addition to our 2 year old growing boy. It was never a matter of who’s turn is it to do the feeding in the middle of the night. It was a matter of which baby do you want to feed, and then how quick can you get them back to sleep. We had lots of help and visitors that helped. If you have multiples, it’s a great time to invite friends and family over every day and you will get lots of willing help.
Before we knew it, the girls were smiling, doing tummy time facing each other, rolling over and getting to try foods.
(This is where the 911 blog post would be the next part)