Madison, Zoe and Jonathan's Story
I was very fortunate in that I began my fertility journey with an amazing doctor, only three months after Andrew and I got married. I had been diagnosed with PCOS about 18 months prior to our wedding. Since I turned 36 a month later, we knew we had to get going right away. We had heard horror stories about couples that tried for years and years to get pregnant with no luck. We didn’t know how long it would take, so we decided to start trying immediately. After four failed IUI cycles with increasing doses of Clomid, we decided to move on to IVF with ICSI.
The day of my egg retrieval was September 12, 2001. We stayed up all night on September 11th trying to decide whether or not we should go through with the cycle. Our final decision was that we had to, otherwise the terrorists win. We transferred four embryos three days later. When I went for my beta/p4 levels, I’d already had three positive home pregnancy tests. Ten days later I had my first sonogram because my numbers were SO high. The RE said he knew there was more than one baby in there, and he needed to know how many there were. We saw three yolk sacs, and a week later we heard three strong heartbeats!
At 17 weeks and five days, I had a sonogram to see if baby A was in a good position for an amniocentesis. We had already done one each for baby B and Baby C two weeks earlier. The perinatologist noticed that my cervix had effaced 85% over the weekend, and immediately scheduled me for a cerclage, followed by complete bedrest! Did I mention that this was New Year’s Eve?
To add to the craziness of this, we moved to a new house at the end of January. My bedrest continued and on the evening of March 8, 2002, 27 weeks and two days into my pregnancy, while lying in bed and chatting with my cousin online, I felt like I had to pee. When I stood up, there was a huge gush of water. I immediately called the doctor, who told me to come to the hospital. Once I arrived and they confirmed that my water had broken, they told me I wasn’t going home pregnant. I was praying to stay in the hospital for at least a few weeks.
Two days after my water broke, the perinatologist removed my cerclage in the delivery room. I had developed a severe infection, which probably caused the premature rupture of membranes. I was on IV antibiotics until my twenty eighth week.
On the morning of March 14, I had some pain down low, near where my bladder is. I thought, and so did the doctors, that I had a bladder infection. I had two or three ultrasounds that day. The babies looked fine and were doing lots of practice breathing. The spasms in my bladder kept getting worse. By late in the afternoon I was moved to a private room. While I was being moved, I mentioned to the head nurse that I was sure I was in labor, and that I wanted my doctor to be called in. When he arrived, I was crying, holding onto the side my bed and screaming at my husband, “Make it stop!” The pain was the worst I had ever experienced! (Had I realized that I was in full labor, my whole frame of reference would have changed and I believe I would have dealt better with the pain.)
I told the doctor that I was sure I was in labor and dilating. I was convinced that someone’s head was RIGHT THERE! He checked me, using a speculum. It was 6:30 p.m. and he said, “You’re closed tight. Nothing’s gonna happen to you tonight. I’ll see you first thing in the morning.” He gave me a pill that kind of paralyzes your bladder and was supposed to ease the pain of the bladder infection. Oh yeah, it turns your pee orange, too.
An hour later, at nearly 7:30 p.m., I had Andrew help me out of bed (I weighed 310 pounds) so that I could go to the commode next to the bed. I sat down and jumped right back up, leaned on the bed and told him to hit the call button, the baby was coming … NOW! He did, then ran into the hall to grab a nurse. As soon as the nurse answered the call, I told her the baby was coming. Before they got to my room, Madison literally fell out of me, into the commode. She was screaming when they pulled her out! (Hey, I’d scream too if I fell into a toilet with an inch of urine!)
The nurse cut the cord, wrapped her up and pushed me into bed. I was rushed to a waiting elevator and taken down to the labor and delivery floor for an emergency c-section. Someone checked me and I was only dilated to 7 cm. They began a spinal and then checked me again. By then I’d dilated to 9 cm. When the doctor arrived, he was laughing! He said that people were already giving him flak for the missed call with me. He also told me that he had stopped up to see Madison first and that she was breathing on her own and was beautiful.
Forty-eight minutes after her sister was born, Zoe arrived, followed three minutes later by her brother, Jonathan. Madison weighed one pound, eight ounces; Zoe weighed two pounds, one ounce; and Jonathan weighed two pounds, seven ounces.
I was discharged from the hospital four days following delivery, and the hardest thing I had ever done up to that point was to leave my babies and go home. The following evening, on our way home from being with the babies all day, I felt feverish. I took my temperature when we got home, then called my doctor. My fever was over 102 and I treated it with ibuprofen until the next morning. When I got out of the shower, I noticed that my ivory bath mat had turned pink. We went right in to see the doctor and he looked at my incision, removed my staples and the whole thing opened up. It was infected and had to be packed to keep it closed. I was readmitted to the hospital, on the same floor where I had been previously, with all the same nurses. I stayed there for another week while they cleaned and packed the wound. After that I had a home health care nurse come daily to clean the wound and change the dressing. It took nearly four months to completely heal.
I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. (In Hebrew, we say it’s b’shert.) I was still hospitalized when Jonathan, at ten days old, had perforated NEC in the middle of the night and was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for an emergency colostomy. Of course it was the one night that I’d sent Andrew home to get a good night’s sleep. After the surgery, the surgeon called and told me that Jonathan was one of the sickest babies he had ever seen and he didn’t expect him to survive, but that he was doing just fine. While he was at CHOP, they did a routine head ultrasound and found PVL (cysts) around the lateral ventricles. They couldn’t tell us why they were there, other than that there must have been a lack of oxygen at some point either in-utero, during birth, or at some point after birth. They also wouldn’t tell us much about what these cysts meant, other than that they were located in the motor cortex area and he may have some developmental delays.
Jonathan stayed at CHOP for 17 days, then was transferred back to be with his sisters. Zoe was sent home on the day after Mother’s Day. She was eight and a half weeks old and weighed a whopping four pounds, nine ounces. About ten weeks after the initial surgery, Jonathan returned to CHOP to have the colostomy reversed. That was the hardest for me. I had Zoe at home, Madison was at one hospital and Jonathan at another. I was always calling to see who had breast milk, who needed breast milk. I felt like “The Dairy Queen”! Fortunately, he didn’t stay there long and was sent back with Madison. She came home four weeks after Zoe, at 12 1/2 weeks. Jonathan, my million dollar miracle, came home at 14 weeks.
No one ever told us what the pathology report of their placentas had said, but we assumed that everyone was fraternal since they were conceived through IVF. I had three placentas, three amnions and three chorions. However, the girls began looking more and more alike as time went on. I called the hospital pathology department and they referred me to the perinatologist, since reports are deleted once they are sent to the doctor. The doctor told me that the report was inconclusive. We decided that we had to know for sure, so we had the girls tested.
Unbelievably, the girls are monozygotic twins!
Every three to six months, the children are seen by the neonatologist and a developmental specialist at Pennsylvania Hospital. This is part of their developmental follow-up program for babies who spent time in the Intensive Care Nursery. The staff there can hardly believe how well they are doing, and how big they’ve gotten. Mostly, though, they are blown away by how well the kids can talk. When testing them, they always do better than their corrected age. They tell me how smart my children are, and it makes me proud to know that all the playtime we share, all the books we read, and all the fun things we do each day really do make a difference. By the time they get to school, we may be looking at three gifted programs. It’s truly frightening!
Recently, we celebrated their second birthday. I took Jonathan for his very first haircut. He has a head filled with beautiful blond ringlets. He was fine, but I had a very hard time and cried before, during and after. He’s still my baby, but now he looks like a big boy. I made sure to save some curls, though.
As for me, I’m going back to school in September at our local community college. I’m going to get my Nursing degree. I don’t care that it’s only an Associate’s degree, because I’ll still be able to sit for my RN licensure. Plus, I already have a Bachelor’s degree. I’m seriously considering going into either NICU nursing or OB/GYN. One of the NICU nurses whom I’ve stayed in touch with thinks I should consider working for a fertility specialist, because I can say “been there, done that, got the grand prize” to the patients, especially those diagnosed with PCOS.
Nothing else is new right now. Of course, with triplets, things can always change in a heartbeat.
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