I started this blog in December 2006, days after the boys were born. The journey really actually began in October. This day, one year ago. Today’s entry is about that cold, grey day in October where our lives changed forever.
The day before, Laurina and I went to her regular ultrasound. It was then that they noticed her cervix was only at 1 cm long. Usually, it would be at 6 or 7 cm. This would be her last day at work for a long time. Laurina’s Obstetrician ordered that Laurina stay at home, in bed.
The next day, October 27th, first day of home bed rest, Laurina felt that something was not quite right. It was after 5:00, too late to go to her doctor’s office so we decided to go straight to the hospital. A husband imagines that trip to the hospital a thousand times while her wife is pregnant, this particular trip was nothing like I’d imagined.
We had agreed early on that we would not want to know the genders of our babies until they were born. We made it clear during every ultrasound that we wanted to be surprised. On the drive to the hospital, I suggested that if given the chance today, we should find out. This upset Laurina, thinking that I was thinking something bad was going to happen. But I wanted to know because I thought it would help us bond with our unborn children even more. I felt then that they just might need every bit of our love to get through this. That night, we found out that our babies were boys. We never told anyone that we knew. It was a secret we held until the day they were born.
When we arrived at the hospital, at only 19 weeks and 5 days, we were supposed to go to ER rather than Labour and Delivery. But we told the nurse Laurina was at 20 weeks. Sitting in L&D, waiting for a bed, we overheard a medical team saying that another woman was there at an early gestation and her membranes were showing. We said “Thank GOD that’s not us!” Minutes later, Laurina was on the examination table – we were watching our boys play around on the ultrasound monitor. At one point their hands were touching each other’s through the membranes (until Alex kicked Andrew in the head). We laughed. Then, during the examination, the doctor said the unimaginable “I see membranes”. We were devastated. Laurina was dilating and could deliver at any time.
Laurina was rushed downstairs to the Peri-natal department for another ultrasound. They showed us the membranes coming out. The doctor said “At least we don’t see any fetal parts” and as he finished the statement, we all watched in horror as Alex’s foot slipped down through the cervix. It was at that moment that the doctor gave us three choices. Induce labour, deliver the boys immediately and they will die. Do nothing, the boys will be delivered in the next 48 hours and they will die. Try to push Alex back in and stitch Laurina’s cervix shut (cerclage) and maybe, just maybe, you might have a chance. If nothing else, you can say you tried everything. But option three came with many challenges to consider. The doctor said on average, if successful, the stitch would last 5 to 6 weeks. Some are born sooner, some later. But at best, we could hope for were 26 weekers. And then that’s when we were first told all of the stats about such premature babies and the possible outcomes. But we looked at the monitors and saw our otherwise healthy baby boys floating around, playing with each other. “How could you say that our healthy baby boys will die? How is that an option? We don’t understand!” Everyone left us alone to make our decision. We had to act within minutes. But it didn’t take minutes to decide. Laurina turned to me and with all the conviction she could muster exclaimed “I WANT THE STICTH!” With those words, Laurina was whisked away to OR for surgery.
Another in a long list of coincidences that day (I don’t believe in coincidences anymore), Laurina’s OB was on call and in the hospital. She explained that the chances of success are very slim. She would have to invert Laurina (practically hang her upside down) and try to push Alex back in without rupturing the membranes. Not likely. Then she would have to find enough cervix to be able to stitch up. Also not likely. But she would try. They were prepping Laurina in OR, I was standing by a bulletin board reading whatever was on the wall (it was actually more like staring at the wall). I didn’t know what to do or where to go. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Laurina’s OB. She offered whatever comforting words she could before heading to OR.
It was midnight. I was sitting on a chair just meters away from the OR. Waiting. And waiting. This was, perhaps, the most difficult moment of my entire life. Nothing that came in the next many months compared to the fear and loneliness I felt at that moment. My wife went into OR with our babies and I had no idea who, if anyone, would be coming back to me.
A man sat beside me saying that his wife is in delivery trying to have a baby. And I replied that my wife is in OR, they are trying to stop delivery to save my babies. And I started to cry. I remember sitting alone in the stairwell just beside the elevators . . . sobbing.
After an hour, Laurina’s doctor, dressed in green scrubs, came out of the OR straight to me and said that everything went well. She was able to push “Twin A” back in and was able to get enough cervix to stitch it closed. There was less than a centimeter. 7 millimeters was all that kept our boys alive. Laurina was sleeping while they moved her to her bed. A bed she would call home for the next five weeks. Months later, her doctor admitted to us, that even with the stitch, she expected Laurina would have delivered anyway within 48 hours. But she wanted to give us the peace knowing that we tried everything. And we did do everything we could every day since.
I sat beside Laurina that whole night. I was even afraid to move. The next weeks were filled with the constant fear that the boys would be delivered and would not survive. Laurina was so scared to move an inch for fear of putting extra pressure on her cervix. She was lying in an inverted position – with her head below her feet. We’d often joke that for a pregnant woman, her ankles looked great! Even when the doctors said she could take 15 minutes to have a shower she refused to. I’d wash her hair in a tub. I’d clean the bedpans. I’d read to her and the boys. We’d talk to them and I’d lay my head down and listen to them move around. And we prayed. Lots.
Every second or third day, we would have our date. Those were ultrasound days. I would help get Laurina moved to a stretcher and I’d push her downstairs for the ultrasound. I’d always take the long way back. I’d take her to the pedway – that was the only place in the hospital that the windows were low enough that she could see outside. It was her only glimpse into the outside world – 15 minutes, every 3rd day.
This moment, as I write this, tears still well up in my eyes remembering those early days. I can’t hold them back any longer and they begin to fall. Alex is playing beside me with his little purple elephant. He hears me crying now. He looks at me . . . then smiles. Like nothing is wrong. And he’s right. Today, THIS October 27th, everything is perfect.