Things started to get rocky when Mack failed the car seat test.
I didn't know there was a car seat test. Did you?
Dacey and Aliza Joy were born at 41.5 and 39 weeks respectively. Those big ol' fully full-term chicks didn't need to pass no car seat test to be released from the hospital.
But as we quickly learned with our 35 weekers, pre-term babies can run into serious problems when buckled into their car seats. Kyle hauled up both of the babies' seats to our room on Saturday morning, and a nurse took them off to administer the test. John Kyle passed the 90 minute endurance test with flying colors. Mack, however, did not. He was consistently showing oxygen desaturation problems, so our Sunday morning exit began to look doubtful.
Later in the day, Kyle's parents and my sister came up with the girls to meet their new baby brothers. Smiles abounded:
Other friends and family came and went, and we remained cautiously optimistic that we could still be released on Sunday. I was so incredibly ready to be home, even more so than when the girls were born. It broke my heart to be away from them, even knowing they were being wonderfully cared for by family. On Saturday afternoon, I tried to film a video of myself saying their bedtime prayers so my sister could show it to them that night, but I couldn't make it through without sobbing. Oh, post-birth hormones. You are the worst.
Oklahoma Children's Hospital has a 100% room-in policy (as many hospitals do these days). Sunday morning, I laid the babies in their bassinets and stepped into the shower. When I got out, I moved as quickly as I could to get dressed because I heard Mack crying. The moment I finished dressing, the pediatrician team knocked on the door to do rounds. OCH is a teaching hospital and so it was quite a team who came in our room.
They gave John Kyle a quick once-over but they were concerned about Mack. Can I tell you? I honestly don't remember exactly what it was, the technical terminology, that they were hearing and seeing. It had to do with his respiration, his little pre-term lungs. That's the only part I remember for sure. It was alarming enough for them to move him out of our room and to the NICU step-down room on our floor.
I called Kyle in a panic and he was there in minutes. He went down and talked extensively with the nurses, and he returned upbeat and feeling like he just needed a bit more observation. My doctor came by to check me, and told us that when twins are born with as big of a weight difference as ours had, it's often the smaller twin who is tougher post-birth. To this day, John Kyle is 100% more scrappy than his bigger but younger-by-a-minute brother.
Mack being taken away again was incredibly deflating. I continued pumping and continued working on getting John Kyle to latch, but progress was slow. After AJ's birth, I was so proud of myself that I was off of the pain medication and using ibuprofen only to cope with the pain by the time I left the hospital with her. Everything in me resisted continuing with the high-power pain meds but the post-surgery pain was so bad this time around that at times, it took my breath away.
So much of the rest of our stay is a sleepy, hazy, painful blur. Kyle had to keep encouraging me to go visit Mack. I hated going down to the step-down room, hated that he was in there and not with me. And I hated that I hated visiting him.
I did just happen to be in the step-down room with him when the nurse in there got a phone call. She immediately lowered her voice, but I could overhear enough to know they were talking about Mack. She got off the phone and said his newborn screening test had come back flagged - that he might have a metabolic disorder, that they would run another full set of bloodwork to see why his results were flagged.
I think that's the moment when I stopped trying to be so discreet about crying. (Remember when I wrote this?) That's all I remember about the rest of our stay. Crying through talking to doctors. Crying while pumping. Crying in the shower. Crying when people visited and crying when they left.
Eventually, though, we made it through. Though it felt like ten years had passed, it was really only a few days. Mack's extensive bloodwork came back totally fine. He totally passed the car seat test.
And the day before Valentine's Day, they turned us loose with these two.
The hospital stay was a dark and painful time, but stepping into our van with two infant seats clicked securely into place with our two - TWO - sweet boys was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. Even now, I think of us driving away from OCH and smile. What a glorious, glorious day.
And as I read over this last chapter, it feels all very anticlimactic. It was a rocky road, but then we were fine. Since yesterday when I shared part 3 of this story, I've pondered your comments as well as emails and messages and other conversations I've had with other women who have shared that yes, birth was a traumatic experience for them, but they also have felt guilty or ashamed or just plain unable to put words to how or why.
Sometimes I think our culture is just so uncomfortable with the realities of birth that we all (myself included) just want to hurry past the trauma and focus on the happy outcome. I'm sure I did that more than I realized before the twins were born. It has taken me a year to be able to finish because I still can't wrap this whole thing up in a pretty bow.
If anything, I've learned to be gentle with the stories of others, to not race past the hard to get to the happy. I've learned that though the physical aspects may heal in weeks or months, that the emotional and spiritual scars of birth can take much longer to heal. I've learned that the stories we carry are often different from the ones that we tell.
Once again, I just want to thank you so much for your collective grace, patience, and support. It was definitely a bright spot to know that in that beyond the walls of that small hospital room, there was a cheering section filled with invisible friends, praying us through every moment we were there.
Thank you for the part you played in our family's story.