“The nurse’s energy completely shifted as she finished her exam. She looked me in the eye and in a very forced calm voice said, ‘I feel a bulging sac and a baby’s head. We are calling your doctor and you are going to the operating room now to deliver your twins.’
Tears ran uncontrollably down my face. Can babies even survive when born this early? I had so many questions, but no time to even process what was happening. We didn’t know the sexes, we didn’t have names, and we had no clue about the rollercoaster ride that had just begun. I asked my husband to call my mother because at 24 weeks and 5 days gestation, I was headed to the operation room to deliver my twins with a mountain of unknowns.
I lay on the operating table numb physically, but emotionally as alive and laser-focused as ever. In a conjoining room, two isolettes waited with a team around each incubator. Each twin had a doctor, nurses, and a respiratory therapist ready to leap into action once each baby was delivered. I will never forget what this looked like. This NICU team would become my twins’ surrogate womb and their guardian angels.
I know other mothers in similar situations who were asked the question, ‘Do you want us to do everything to save your babies?’ I don’t know what standard protocol is for extremely premature births or why we weren’t asked these questions, but I do wonder at times why we weren’t asked. Perhaps there wasn’t time or perhaps it is because everyone already knew our answer. We were ready to fight for our babies until they themselves told us otherwise.
The delivery room was tense, far different than my first cesarean delivery, which was playful. The energy was heavy and I could not get a proper read on the situation. No one truly knew what was about to happen. The medical team knew the statistics, but my husband and I had no clue. I sensed fear in the room. I, however, didn’t have fear, only because I didn’t have time to have fear. Everything moved so quickly and I was just a vessel along for the ride. In the operating room, the incisions had been made and the doctor was now inside my womb. He said, ‘I think this is baby A,’ as he aggressively searched around in my womb.
Again, all I sensed was fear in his crystal blue eyes and fear is the last thing you want to see in any doctor who is literally working inside your organs. Was this simply a delicate situation and the doctor was treating it as such or was something wrong? Was Baby A so far in the birth canal that he was difficult to deliver? Why doesn’t he know if he has Baby A or Baby B?
At 2:15 a.m. on July 18, 2017, Baby A was lifted from my womb and I heard a man yelling numbers. I didn’t know at the time, but he was counting the seconds it for Baby A to take his first breath. ‘One… two… three…’ He got to five and then the sweetest, softest baby cry ever emerged. It sounded like a kitten. It was soft but direct and strong. I exhaled. Baby A was breathing! As the baby was brought past the curtain for me to have a quick glimpse, my husband announced the sex, ‘We got our boy!’ He was beautiful although I only had a lightning-fast look at my son. Baby A was quickly rushed to his NICU team while the delivery doctor moved onto Baby B.
At 2:17 a.m., Baby B was born. There was no counting needed this time because he came out screaming and fighting. He was mad. Kyle then announced, ‘It’s a boy!’ We had two boys! I also had a quick glimpse and then Baby B was taken over to his NICU team. This would be the only time for months I would see my newborn babies without any tubes or wires on their little faces. I cannot even explain the burden that was lifted off of me once Baby B was born. I no longer had any control over the lives of the twins. They were here and no longer in my womb. The twins’ health was out of my hands. All I could do was pray and let them know how much their lives are needed and wanted.
Each boy weighed exactly 1 pound and 10 ounces. Their skin was transparent, eyes fused shut and their biceps were smaller than my index finger. We named Baby A Lochlan Timothy, which means warrior and to honor God. Baby B was named Lex Anthony, meaning the guardian of man and the priceless one. We knew this would be the greatest fight of our lives and whatever the outcome, our boys were warriors. My heart had just been ripped out of my chest.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was at the edge of a steep cliff and on the verge of losing it all, losing my babies. My pregnancy was over and I was barely 50% to my due date. Everything I had expected for this pregnancy was out the window. We were in the operation room while the twins were being taken care of in the NICU. I still needed to be stitched up, cleared, and sent to recovery. I had no idea what was happening in those first few hours because I was not able to see them and my husband stayed with me. Most babies are put on their mother’s chest immediately after birth.
Shortly after surgery, blood-tinged urine was showing up through my catheter. At first, the doctor just said he would keep an eye on it, but there was a concern I was bleeding internally. This is not what I needed, but we tried to stay optimistic.
About 4 hours out of surgery, I was allowed to go see my babies in their new home, the NICU. I was anxious to get to them and to truly get to look at their faces. I had never been in a NICU and had no clue what to expect, but I was dying to see my new bundles of joy. The anesthesia was still wearing off so I could not walk. I was wheeled to the NICU floor. The journey involved elevators and several long halls, it seemed to take forever. I became more and more nervous. I didn’t even know what their health conditions were or what I was about to see.
We reached the NICU and entered Baby B’s room. Multiple alarms were sounding and I had my first look. Tubes were coming out of his 1 pound body as he lay quiet, alone, and motionless. He was in a plastic box. He didn’t look like a baby; he looked like an unfamiliar creature. His head was about as large as an avocado.
As I sat in shock trying to process what I was looking at, the nurse began rambling. She was explaining what each piece of equipment was, how it worked, and how to read the monitors. She may as well have been speaking in a foreign language because I did not absorb a single word. I was so overwhelmed. I felt like I was in a nightmare. All I wanted was to tell her to shut up. She just continued and in my poor and exhausted recollection, she was talking faster and faster and I was hearing less and less.
I was flushed with nausea. The only words I was able to speak were, ‘I’m going to throw up.’ The nurses scrambled to get me a bowl, in which I immediately vomited, but I didn’t feel any better. When I was done, she almost immediately began explaining more about the NICU. I heard nothing. I was frozen and in shock.
After a 5 minute visit with Baby B, we were ready to see baby A. Really, I just wanted to crawl in a hole away from my reality. As they prepared to move me to the next room a nurse said, ‘Do you want a picture?’ I abruptly said, ‘No.’ I was trying to erase the past 6 hours from my memory. I didn’t even know if my baby would survive. Why would I want a picture or anything that would make me feel attached to this little creature? Baby B was barely alive.
The nurse then insisted, ‘Let me take one picture. If you hate it, delete it later.’ I had just been through a traumatic delivery and had just vomited because I could not process what I was looking at, but I said fine to get her out of my face. Today, I am grateful for it and that nurse. Because I was able to be irritated at her, it distracted me from me completely losing it.
The next stop was to see Baby A. I sort of knew what to expect so the initial anxiety and shock had faded. I was no longer nauseous. Numb, yes, but not nauseous. Luckily, the babies’ rooms were right next to each other. I wonder what they were thinking and feeling being separated for the first time ever. They must have missed each other, especially since delivery was so abrupt and unexpected.
This visit to Baby A was also quick. I was exhausted. In addition to trying to be there for my babies, I needed to recover from my cesarean section. We did our best to rest between the nurses pushing above my incision to get my uterus to shrink (ouch) and helping me pump to get my milk flowing. Unfortunately, my recovery would not prove seamless. An unforeseen complication of my surgery would soon reveal itself because I was continuing to have blood in my urine. The doctors became progressively concerned and a CT scan was done, showing that I had a hole in my bladder. The blood was going into my cavity and repair surgery would be necessary.
My boys were in the NICU fighting for their life and I was just told I needed to have a second surgery to fix the hole in my bladder. This time, I would be put under general anesthesia. My bladder repair surgery was set for about 17 hours after my c-section. The doctor would go through the same incision to mend up the hole in my bladder.
Each minute leading up to my second surgery seemed to crawl. We waited not knowing the fate of the twins as they were in a fight for life. I was about to be put under. We were optimistic about my surgery, but I did not have time for this. I needed to be present for my twins. My family was with me as I was wheeled to my second surgery.
In the minutes leading up to my second surgery, I had some real conversations with God. In my head, I thought, maybe God doesn’t have enough room for my twins’ souls and that’s why they were birthed so extremely early. Maybe they aren’t supposed to survive? ‘Well, God, if things are a little crowded down here, can we make a deal? I am about to be put under in my second serious surgery of the day. This is an easy out. Come up with some complications during surgery and take me instead of my twins.’
As I thought about this more and more, I thought, ‘Am I ready to die? No, I am not. I have more things to do in this life.’ So I went for a counter offer. ‘God, it’s me again. If you have to take me instead of my babies, that’s fine. I comply. However, I have a lot more to do on earth, a lot of good. Maybe you can find a little room to keep all three of us? We won’t take up too much space.’ I made a promise to myself to not take the rest of my life for granted. I planned to live fully from this day on, should God be open for a counter deal. I said goodbye and I love you to my husband, parents, and sister. I was off to surgery and was put under.
I woke up from surgery. God complied. The greatest and smallest fight of our lives had officially begun and if we were going down, we would go down swinging.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Savannah O’Malley from University Place, Washington. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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