Fort Birthday

NICU Part 1: Softest Landing Possible

Ultra sound image of twins

Twin Boys – Di/Di – dichorionic and diamnionic. Separate placentas and sacs.

“We are going to refer you to another specialist”

At around 24 Weeks into my pregnancy one of my twins started struggling. They referred us to the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Fetal Care. We traveled 1.5 hours each way 2-3 times a week for utrasounds and stress tests for weeks. The clinic worked with us like we were family. We were told to keep a packed bag in the car at all times. It was the start of the worst four months of my life.

Dog giving side eye

My own complications combined with stress meant I was effectively on bedrest. Our mutt, Hank, was my constant bed companion – which was awkward sometimes since he weighs 120lbs.

The magic of twins

Babies maximize their survivability in utero. They can literally sacrifice peripheral development (by diminishing blood flow) to protect crucial systems (liver, heart, brain). Baby B began losing blood flow to his intestines as part of this protective mechanism, resulting in a bowl perforation. Even I could see it on the ultrasound. The prognosis beyond birth was poor.

As a singleton, Baby ‘B’ was not likely to survive. Pumping his blood and maintaining his amniotic fluid was too much for him. But, because he was a twin, he had support. Baby ‘A’s’ presence was making Baby ‘B’s’ life easier, by literally holding my uterus open. The metaphor my Fetal Specialist used was that Baby B was hanging off the edge of a cliff. But that Baby A was holding onto him (I will quite literally NEVER forget this imagery). All this meant Baby ‘B’ didn’t have to work so hard and could ‘hold on’ longer than if he was a singleton.

Twin brothers di/di twins holding hands in the nicu

After many weeks in the nicu they started spending time together and loved being cuddled up and holding hands.

Pulling the rip cord and the twin paradox

When it became obvious I was not going to carry full term I got a round of corticosteroid injections to help the boys lungs develop ahead of delivery. Babies in crisis also pump huge amounts of stress hormones into their own systems. This has the impact of preparing them for early delivery – giving them the maximum chance of survival.

We scheduled my C-section for 34 weeks – the maximum amount of time they thought it was safe to allow. I went into labor two days after we scheduled delivery. Early labor, I am told, is a baby’s way of ‘bailing out’ of a failing situation in a desperate bid to survive.

Preemie in isolette

Our little survivor screaming his heart out and filling us with joy.

The NICU team took them right away after my c-section. Several hours later My husband told me that Baby B was breathing room air (he needed no oxygen support). Testing showed NO sign of his bowl perforation –  And after 10 days of ‘gut rest’ (no food to ensure that a problem wasn’t hiding) he began eating my breastmilk. My hale and hearty twin, Baby A, wasn’t as ready as his brother for the outside world. His lungs weren’t developed yet and he ended up on a vent for a time – the twin paradox. The twin under stress developed better mechanisms for early delivery. The other twin didn’t because he was living the good life.

Premmie wearing CPAP in isolette

He started on a C-PAP and then progressed to some time on a vent. Our healthier twin, in utero, struggled with his premature birth and underdeveloped lungs.

Softest Landing Possible

I call our NICU time ‘the softest landing possible’. Our sons unexpectedly good outcome after a tumultuous pregnancy and 8 weeks of prematurity was amazing. The seven weeks our boys spent there gave me time to heal from my c-section and come to terms with our sudden change in circumstances. After the first two weeks my boys mostly needed to learn to learn to feed and to grow.

I am astounded and impressed with families who walk out of the hospital with twins days after giving birth (you know who you are, you ROCKSTARS). Our personal NICU experience was extraordinary. I am aware that this is not the case for everyone. Not everyone loved our NICU. Not everyone gets to take home a healthy child. I keep those families in my heart whenever I think about our NICU time (you also know who you are, and I love you).

Twin boys in superhero onesies

My little superheroes. Just a few weeks after they came home. While they fight sometimes they always have each others back

Up Next NICU Staff – the best people on earth




Pinterest Pin for The Softest Landing Possible When time in the NICU is an unexpected gift

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  • Oh my gosh this makes me cry. It is so beautiful how they held each other. I can’t imagine how hard this was to go through. They are miracles! And it is amazing to watch them grow.

    • Thanks K- It gives me chills to think about sometimes. You will always have a special part of in their story.

  • Sheilah Egan

    Twin paradox was new to me. Very glad Baby A could “hold on” to Baby B. Good outcome = true blessing. Everlasting thanks to all who made this possible for you and your family.

    • Thanks Sheilah - the best we could have hoped for when we didn't even dare hope.

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