Continued from Part 1...
As we got closer to the point of viability, we had a tough decision to make. I could do one of two things, either continue coming in for weekly check-ups, and hope for the best, or I could be admitted to the hospital for monitoring 24/7. The idea of leaving my 3 year old and 1 year old sons broke my heart. They were at the age where they needed me so much, but my twins needed me too. What was I to do?
I went on the forum page for my support group to see what other families had done on our situation. I read a tragic story of a mom and her twins who opted not to be admitted. When she went in for her next check-up, both babies had died. This helped make up my mind and I opted for admission around 22 weeks gestation.
Our new “normal” was not very normal. My husband would bring the boys up to visit me every day, as would my parents. Our church family was also a great source of support. Ministers would come to pray for me, and friends would visit. Despite so many visitors, living at the hospital quickly got quite old. I felt like a prisoner of my bed because I needed to be attached to the monitors 24/7.
Probably the most “memorable” experience of my hospital stay was not a good one. A neonatologist came to give me the “run-down” of scenarios in my girls' development week by week. He gave a details about what problems could arise at what stages. He began to list the possible impairments our twins were likely to have, both mentally and physically.
At the end of the conversation, he asked me a question I’ll never forget. I was between 24 and 25 weeks along at this time, and he asked if something went wrong would I want to deliver my girls? I didn’t understand at first what he was asking, so I asked him to repeat it. Finally, I understood. He was asking me if I my children could be disabled, would I still want to have them? I was suprised that this was still a "choice" for me as I was past the point of viablity. If a cord compression occured, I could choose to have an emergency C-Section, or I could choose to let my girls die. The doctor kept going on as to why some parents would make this choice, what struck me though was when he said that "Some parents don’t like to deal with the preemie stuff.” I angrily told the doctor that I had not come this far just to give up. These were our children, and my husband and I would love them no matter what!
Just over a week later my girls were born by emergency C-Section on August, 8, 2004, at exactly 26 weeks gestation, or 14 weeks premature. I’ll never forget the disturbing scene straight out of the old TV show, “ER” where I was woke from a deep sleep by a flood of doctors and nurses shouting things like “We’ve got to deliver NOW!” The last thing I remember is being squirt with iodine, a sweet nurse assuring me she'd call my husband, and a tube being inserted down my throat.
During my staty, my hospital room had been located directly across from the operating room as the staff knew with my pregnancy, I could need a C-Section at any moment. I was asleep during the procedure, so I remember nothing of the surgery. The girls were born within minutes. A nurse who assisted later told me the girls’ umbilical cords were so knotted together that it was nothing short of a miracle they had survived at all.
Alyese Laurine O’Fallon was born first, weighing 1 pounds 7 ounces and was 12” long head to foot. Kathleeen Elizabeth O’Fallon came next, and weighed 1 pound 11 ounces and was 11.75” long head to foot. Our girls had a long road ahead of them, a road that only just beginning.
The NICU staff at St. John's was amazing. We had very limited transportation during that time, as we shared a vehicle and my husband worked 6 days a week. Either my husband or my parents would take me to visit the girls at least once a day. I did most of my parenting via telephone, as I still had a three year old and one year old to care for at home. The hardest thing was leaving the hospital without my twins. Even though my girls were in good and capable hands, I cried all the time.
Our twins, who we nicknamed “Ally” and “Katy,” had very different experiences in the NICU. Ally started breathing on her own on just her third day. She was a very strong little lady, and only suffered from one infection during her NICU days. Katy on the other hand, didn’t fare so well. She had been the baby in distress, and was on a ventilator for over 50 days.
At one point she even had to be on a special ventilator that forced her to breathe 420 times per minute! She was on heavy sedation during this time, and suffered from infection after infection. Honestly, there were many times when I didn’t think we’d be taking Katy home. She kept fighting though, she got stronger day by day.
The thing that kept me going was my faith. Also, I kept thinking to myself over and over tha the girls would be home by Thanksgiving. Ally got to come go home first, 10 days before her sister did. I was a very strange thing, taking one home and leaving one behind. Katy again had some more setbacks, this time with her eating, so it looked like she wouldn’t be home by Thanksgiving. It looked like another miracle, as she same off her internal feeds, and joined us at home on Thanksgiving Eve.
Those NICU days seem so far away now, and my girls are now eight years old. I am happy to report that other than being a little bit smaller than their six year old sister, they are perfectly healthy girls. Just this past weekend, our family spent all day playing and riding our bikes at a local park. As my twins ran circles around each other on their bikes, I couldn’t help but think of the doctor who gave me a choice. In my mind it was an awful choice, one he may even have been legally bound to offer me. It was however, a choice that would have ended the lives of my precious girls.
Today is the 40th anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision, and it is a somber anniversary for me. This article was written not to pass judgment, but to affirm the life is precious and it is truly a gift. As a mom who has had the privilege that few women get, the opportunity to watch her unborn children grow in utero through my amazing "window into the womb." I can say with certainty that "a baby is a baby, no matter how small." I can’t help but hope and pray that more moms will choose “life” in 2013. Sometimes "choosing life" seems a difficult choice, but I can say from experience, it certainly is a worthwhile one! May God Bless you.