Our second set of twins arrived much differently than our first set! At 33 weeks my doctor transferred me to a high risk practice after he was concerned that one of the babies wasn't growing properly. This new group of doctors validated his concern, and so began the roller-coaster of intensive ultrasounds and doctor appointments. The doctors believed there to be some sort of twin-twin transfusion syndrome or at least intrauterine growth discordance. The presenting baby was unusually large for his gestational age while his twin brother was unusually small for his gestational age. The big baby had too much fluid, while the little one barely had enough. The fear was that if this would continue, either baby could die before birth- the bigger baby from toxicity and the little one from not getting enough nutrients and blood flow. In the midst of those stressful few days, the Lord flooded us with His presence.
Although I was extremely uncomfortable due to the excess fluid I was carrying, I was comforted by the fact that the babies continued to be very active inside of me. We had our bags packed and ready with each hospital visit, not knowing if I would be admitted.
We had some hard decisions to make in regards to the birthing method, but after much discussion and prayer, we felt that a c-section would be the best for both babies. The day before my scheduled delivery, I went in for my pre-op blood work. When I got there late morning, my blood pressure had sky-rocketed and I was showing signs of pre-eclampsia. It was decided that our babies would be delivered that day. I was 34 weeks and 5 days. I walked into the OR a few minutes after 6:00 pm. At 6:39, Levi was born weighing 5 pounds, 12 ounces. At 6:40, little Benjamin was born, weighing 3 pounds, 2 ounces. Levi was whisked into an adjoining room with separate attendees, while a group of nurses and doctors attended to Benjamin just a few feet away. They were both quickly taken to the NICU, and besides a quick glance at each bundled up baby, that was the last I saw of them for the next 28 hours.
I didn't do so well with the spinal anesthesia. A few minutes after they administered it, I got the migraine of a lifetime and felt extremely nauseous during the surgery, vomiting almost the entire time. Not how I had imagined the whole thing to go! I developed severe pre-eclampsia during the surgery, and the next 24 hours I was monitored for seizures and put on Mag- Sulfate.I will spare you the details, but it was the sickest I had ever been.
Even though Levi was a good size at birth, he was unable to breathe on his own. He was on CPAP for over a week, along with a feeding tube.He was under a giraffe warmer to maintain his body temp.
Baby Ben was always able to breathe room air, even though he was so small! He also had an IV, monitors and a feeding tube. Because of his birth weight, he was confined to an isolette to maintain his body temp.
Here I am meeting Benjamin for the first time. All the tubes and wires were a little overwhelming. And bonding with these babies was so different than with my others. I never had to change their meconium, nor did I see their cords fall off. I wasn't the one giving them their first baths. I missed those first few days of cuddling skin to skin. Everyday I received a report from a stranger that knew more about my sons than I did! The turning point for me was when Levi first latched on- it flooded me with a love for my sweet boys. Everything was going to be okay. God is good, even when things go differently than we had anticipated.
Levi means "joined together in harmony." Although there was a lot of 'disharmony' in-utero, our prayer is that these brothers will share a harmony as they grow old together, most importantly, a bond in Christ. Benjamin means "son of my right hand." Our prayer is that Benjamin will be a faithful son even into our old age. Levi's middle name is Leendert, a Dutch variation of Leonard. Leendert was the name of Abe's paternal grandfather who had 11 children, and Levi is our # 11.Benjamin's middle name is Jacob. Jacob was my maternal grandfather's name. He was the father of 12 children, and Ben is our #12. We both come from large Christian Dutch families- what a rich heritage to pass on!
Both babies were fed through a NG tube. I am grateful that they were able to receive donated breast milk until my milk came in. Kudos to ladies who donate milk to help these sweet babies get the best start in life- what a blessing!! It took over a week for my milk to come in with round-the-clock pumping. Then they were given my milk through the NG tube while I tried to nurse them as well. Levi took right to breastfeeding, but it took Ben a bit longer to latch on. I was able to nurse them for 3 feedings in the hospital during the day and they were given bottles for the remaining feedings. I didn't know it at the time, but they also were adding formula to my breast-milk to give them more calories. The upside- they were gaining each day and meeting the milestones necessary to come home.
After I was discharged, I developed excruciating pain in my lower back and legs, to the point that I could barely walk. I believe it was from the spinal I received as it was just below the region where the needle was inserted. It was hard to sit long days in the same position in the NICU and I became exhausted. The sweet nurses in the NICU warmed up rice socks and made me ice-packs to help relieve some of the pain, but they finally encouraged me to stay home and rest for a few days. It was hard to leave my babies for a few days (and I shed plenty of tears during that time), but I knew I needed to heal. I am SO thankful for my amazing husband who daily went to care for our babies. He tirelessly held them, fed them their bottles, changed them and loved on them. He also prayed daily over each baby while he held each one. On one occasion he had Luke with him. Luke was holding little Benjamin and when he heard his dad pray over Levi, he started praying in a loud clear voice over his little brother as well. So sweet! And I know God heard that earnest prayer of a 10 year old boy for his little brother.
We had some kids with colds back home, but our older twins were well, so Abe took them along for a few days to help hold the babies. They were amazing- spending entire days in one position holding their brothers quietly. Never complaining. That's not easy for boys who normally have LOTS of energy. They were totally smitten with their little brothers. We called it the twin-to-twin infusion.
After 13 days, the babies were well enough to come home. They had maintained their body temp and hadn't had any decelerations in over 48 hours. Ben was 1 ounce away from being 4 pounds, the weight he needed to be to legally ride in a car seat! Levi was back to his birth weight. And we were so excited for them to officially meet their siblings. Life was about to get a whole lot noisier for these little guys!