06 October 2015

My Comeback Post - 3 years in the making!

I read my last post about doing nothing for an hour, and I remember thinking that getting an hour like that in my whole day was such a luxury. And now, I would give an arm and a leg for that kind of time, and I still wouldn't get any!! That post reminds me of how relaxed I used to be and what has changed since then that has forced me to practically fall of the grid.

This is my comeback post, because, seriously, come back sleep, come back good skin, please come back 25-year old body with ache-free back, come back normal food habits and clean vomit-free clothes, and please, oh please come back peace and quiet!!

On the other hand, I am glad that was the price to pay, for the joy I have right now.

Here's what happened: (I have held off writing this for 3 years, since it is still difficult to put words to paper and express my thoughts clearly. Everything's turned out well since then, and that gives me the confidence to talk about things...)

During April of 2013, I was smack in the middle of my second pregnancy. In December of the previous year, we found out I was carrying twins and we were elated. Ours was the first twins pregnancy in a long, long time in both our families and everyone was eagerly looking forward to it. It was a difficult pregnancy at best (which one isn't!) and it was also one of the hottest years I have ever experienced in my whole life. I think 100% of all Indian residents will concur with me on that.

So anyway, we had just been to the doctor on 14 April for my 6-month checkup and the doctor told me everything was normal, and that I should start walking more. I, on the other hand, needed a person to help me to so much as roll over in bed! 'Huge as a house'would have been a crass understatement!

On the morning of 16th April, I woke up in extreme pain, and I couldn't sit or stand or keep any food down. We called our respective mothers, and both advised that we had better go to the doctor just in case. I could barely climb down the 15 or so steps leading down from our house on the first floor, and the trip to the hospital (which was literally across the street) was agony. Once there, the on-call nurses took one look at me, put me in a wheelchair and took me up to the labor room.

They said that my labor pains had started, and for the first time in my life I felt abject fear. More than 2 years after the fact, and my heart is still pounding as I write this. I just prayed, "Lord please hold my children inside of me for a little longer until they are strong enough to come out. You gave them to me, and now You are going to make sure I get to actually hold them in my arms." The doctor gave me some injections to strengthen the heart and lungs of the twins, and also some drugs to delay the delivery. We held on for another 24 hours, but finally on 17th morning I started to show signs of labor again, and the nurses suddenly whisked me off to the labor room. I was in there for a few hours with not a single familiar face to comfort me. All I had was the faith that God was with me in that room, and He was still in control of the situation, no matter how hopeless it seemed. At that moment I decided that I would talk more about God to Debbie and my twins (in the faith that they will be born healthy) because I realized that sometimes you can end up in situations where even your most loved ones cannot be by your side, and you may feel totally alone  in this huge, mean world. And the ONLY PERSON who can be with you wherever you are and offer words of comfort is God.

At around 3:30 pm, I entered the final stages of labor, and Judith Grace Hamilton was born at exactly 4:04 pm. 3 minutes later, out came Jason Russell Hamilton. I didn't know who was born first at the time, and all I remember was the doctor telling me that it was a breach delivery and that the chord was tied badly around both of them. They emerged looking so tiny, and grey, and .... silent. I think that was the most chilling moment in my life. Right this moment, my heart is stuck somewhere between my chest and my throat and my hands are shaking so badly I can't even type this....

The Neonatal first-aid team was standing by and my doctor just handed the babies over to them. She later told me that even she didn't get a good look at the babies. All she cared about was handing them over to the neonatal team so that the babies could receive the care they so desperately required.

The post-labor time was more difficult for me as my fear for the life of my children had taken over, and I had dropped my guard against the pain I was experiencing. I just wanted to know if my kids were alive or not. Later Hamilton would tell me how he was undergoing his own pain, as he stood feeling helpless and very afraid outside the ICU of the Neo-natal hospital while doctors and nurses took his new-born children in without a word to him. He said that the only thing he could do was pray and intercede with God for the lives of his kids. 

This is them at around 40 days. Jason on the left, and Judy beside him
Judy weighed 800 grams when she was born, and Jason fared slightly better at 890 grams. The neonatal specialist, a lifesaver in the true sense of the word, told us that Judy seemed to suffer from some kind of infection and was struggling to come out of the womb, and hence the premature birth. He said he had never taken in babies as premature as ours, but he would do everything in his capacity to help the babies. The twins were kept in the Neo-Natal ICU, on a heart monitor, respirator machine and ten other gizmos for the next two months. My kids required help breathing since their heart and lungs had not fully formed. In fact, almost all their internal organs were underdeveloped. For the first two months, they couldn't even accept mother's milk in its original form. The nurses used to re-grind some nutritional supplement powder and add it in small quantities to the milk to thicken it slightly so that it would settle in their stomachs and not regurgitate into their lungs and give them an infection, or worse, affect their breathing. The milk used to be fed through very thin tubes inserted through their noses, going directly to their stomachs. They were given blood quite a few times, and were also given a cart-load of medicines throughout their stay in the hospital.

I was allowed to hold Judy around 40 days after her birth. They was as tiny as newly born kittens and could barely open their eyes. When they cried their faces would contort but no sound would come out, since their throats were sore from tubes being inserted into their throats so many times.

Jason is on the left, and Judy with the extreme balloon cheeks, next to him
Judy was the first to hit the target weight of 1kg and was able to breath room air without support. Hence she was sent to our hospital room first, so that the doctor and his team could monitor us to see if we could care for Judy efficiently. I had to learn how to feed her milk orally from a tiny container. I had to learn how to mix all her medicines into the milk as I fed her, according to a huge timetable that was given to us. And I had to learn to stay alert at all times, even in my sleep, and be aware of every breath my child took. Jason joined us after a week, but the week away from his sister had dampened his spirits a little bit I think, and a day after he had been with us, he had some breathing trouble and had to go back into the ICU.
We finally left for home after having been in the hospital for 72 days. We practically lived out of that hospital room. Debbie would even come back there from school and do her homework sitting with us.

The hospital had very strict rules about people visiting the babies inside the ICU. Only parents were allowed to see the babies or hold them. Grandparents were allowed only for 30 minutes at a certain time in the day, and even then they were not allowed to hold the babies. This was done to ensure that the already struggling babies did not have to deal with further infections from outside.

Debbie with Judy

I remember that Debbie was so upset that she couldn't meet her brother and sister whom she had been waiting to see for so long. She made such a fuss, that the doctor eased the rules for the first time and allowed her to catch a glimpse of the babies through a window of the ICU. And one night, when the doctor was away, the nurses sneaked Debbie in for a couple of minutes to peek at the twins! I could see the happiness and pride radiating from her smile when she first lay eyes on them...

Debbie holds Judy for the first time.
The doctor said that we had to maintain a highly clean and infection-free area around the children for a few more months, and so we actually moved to a bigger house, so we could have one room specially for the twins. No one except me, my mom and my sis were allowed inside that room, since we were the primary care-givers. I lived in that room for the next 1 year, and only stepped out for a few hours to attend my sister's wedding... Yes, my sister got married in the interim, and I could not even be fully involved in it. I still regret the missed opportunity. She also had a little girl last year, and little Sarah is turning one this month.

Okay, here's a nice picture of those cuties:

My sister Jone and her hubby Wilson

This little chilli is Sarah Abigail Wilson

Anyways, our little twins have improved in health in leaps and bounds since our time in the hospital. They are now 2-and-a-half and are terrors in their own respects. They are doted on by relatives, neighbors and strangers on the street alike, and frankly, I think they're a little spoilt!

Debbie has introduced Judy to the awesomeness of bubbles and the concept has caught on. Jason... hmm... well, not so impressed.
They can fray your nerves to the last tiny thread and then give you such an angelic smile that you are suddenly confused as to why your were cross with them moments ago!

They love, LOVE, their dad and tolerate their mom. I've made my peace with that, since I figure it only serves to prove the fact that I'm the one who disciplines and brings up the kids in earnest and their Dad simply puts in an appearance at the end of the day, as the FUN GUY!

Although, it is sweet to watch him with the kids, so... 
Judy is the wisecrack of the lot, and just as I suspected when she was barely a week old, she's a control freak who has her brother and sister on a short leash!

The face that launched a thousand fights, spills, and hours of cleaning up terrible messes!
Jason is much quieter and reserved and always has an amused smile on his face, as if we all look comical to him as we scurry around with our lives, and he alone is aware of the higher meaning of it all, .

He loves his wheels, whether on a car, a bike, a kiddy tricycle, or broken off a toy and spinning helplessly on the floor!
Their best friend is their ever-patient, loving tolerant elder sister, who has had the good fortune of living with nosy 2-year old siblings just when she is beginning to appreciate having her own room, her own stuff and some privacy. Poor thing is often found crying that her homework notebooks got scribbled on, her hair accessories got thrown in the garbage or her Barbies got painted with markers... I empathize...

Side note: Proudest moment - watching my kid check books out from the library
I wanted to share this story because during our hard times I had read about a couple of families who had premature kids, and how they struggled. I just want to put my story out there because I believe it can give hope to others who have premature kids. I want to assure them that preemies are fighters and will overcome all odds to live a healthy life. All we need to do is have faith and patience and hope. Oh, and also, a LOT of patience, because, guess what, preemies are more prone to be extremely mischievous and they lack an appreciation for discipline and authority much more than other kids. So, yeah, get yourself an extra dose of patience and teeth-gritting and swearing-under-the-breath!

The Twins' first birthday

Judy bored when the food took a long time to come out at a restaurant

I love this chap to bits!
I want to end this post by saying Thank You! Thank you to all my readers, friends, colleagues, relatives and everyone who helped us out through this ordeal when our children were in the hospital. Some of you helped us financially, some brought us meals regularly, some stuck around for a really long time on the day of the birth and the days following, to hold our hands, encourage us, and just sit with us. Many of our friends visited regularly in the hospital, and we felt like we really had a protective wall of people watching out for us. I have to talk about some of our colleagues who gave blood for the twins several times. Words cannot express how grateful we are to you guys! And to all those people out there who kept us in your prayers, I just want to say thank you so much. Miracles can happen when God answers our prayers, and my children are the very proof of that. 

Phew... Okay, I am all talked out right now, and so glad I did this. Now all I have to do is have my fingers crossed and hope that I can keep doing this blogging thing at a sensible rate and that my kids don't delete my first drafts from the desktop when I'm not looking...

That's all for now, folks!


Sinduja Manikandan said...

Awesome post

Priya said...

This was such an amazing read Jane! My twins were in the NICU for 54 days, they came out on Dec 31st,2016 at 28 weeks. Often during those days, I would think I need to start blogging again. Like they say, it takes one to know one. As I read your post, I'm reliving those days when I would spend the entire day at the hospital, come back home and feel so guilty to leave my children for someone else to care for. They are only 3 months now (corrected to 1 week old).. but they rule our lives. Our older one is the "enlightened one" and our younger one (younger by 13 minutes) is the firecracker! Your kids are precious and like you've said, Preemies are born warriors! God bless.

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