Gratitude

I know some incredible people. People who are caring, empathetic, giving, and kind. Some of these people I have never met in real life and probably never will. Others live far away and I don’t get to see them often. Still others live right here in my town, but we don’t meet up, because life, because kids, because social anxiety, etc.
 
Yet all of these people show their love and support for me in other ways.  A simple text, facebook message, or comment on my photos can lift my spirits so much.  I’ve had people take the time to make handcrafted items for my babies.  People have offered to take my older kids out to do things.  My mom will often come over and fold my laundry, which is such a huge help.  I’ve even had someone order boxes of diapers, on several occasions, and have them delivered to my door – how AMAZING is that?!
Parenting two infants plus three other kids is no easy feat.  No mother could do this all by herself.  I know that when I am struggling – which is often, lately – I have a whole network of supportive people all across the country who are rooting for me.  I never would have thought, when I was a shy, geeky kid who couldn’t manage to navigate the childhood social hierarchy, that someday I would have the amount of real, true friends that I have now.
Some of the most common remarks I hear as a mom of twins are: “I don’t know how you do it” and “supermom!”  The thing is, I am not supermom.  Not even close.  I’m just a regular, run of the mill mom.  A mom who is tired, a mom who struggles, but a mom who, above all else, loves her children.  And to answer the age old question of “how do you do it?!” I’ll have to quote The Beatles:
“I get by with a little help from my friends.”
i-get-by-with-a-little-help-from-my-friends-8
Image is a black on white graphic with the words “I get by with a little help from my friends” written in a cursive scrawl, surrounded by music notes and a peace sign.

Juliette’s 6th birthday letter

Juliette,

You turned SIX a couple of months ago!  Sorry for the slight delay in writing you this letter.  Life is busy around here right now.  A few weeks before your birthday, you acquired two new siblings: your twin sisters, Magnolia and Sunflower!  I am so proud of you for being such a good big sister to them.

You have matured in so many ways over the past year.  You have gotten taller and slimmer, and you look like a big kid now.  You spent the whole summer outside, playing with the neighbor kids, running around barefoot and getting dirty.  You’d asked to get your hair cut, so I took you to the salon and you charmed everyone there with your great personality as they cut your hair into a cute shoulder length bob.

Everywhere we go, you win people over.  You have this infectious enthusiasm.  I love to see your beautiful smile and hear your laughter.  You make everything in life more fun.

You and I always talk about how we are “besties.”  One of your favorite things to do is lie in bed with me, snuggling and talking about the things we will do together when you are all grown up.  I hope we really do stay close as you grow up.  I can imagine us going out to dinner, going shopping together, and getting our nails done.  Someday perhaps you will have children of your own and I will get to babysit.  It’s going to be awesome.

For now, I’m enjoying your “little girl-ness” and hoping you won’t grow up TOO quickly!  You are a kindergartner this year at montessori school.  You are going all day, which you love, and even sometimes eating hot lunch at school (the things you like are few and far between though).  Your teachers love you and the positive energy you bring to the class.

You are a very smart girl.  You can read easy reader type books already, and you impress me with your math skills too.  You are very inquisitive, always asking really good questions.

We had your IEP meeting in the spring, and you no longer qualified for speech or any other special education services.  You also “graduated” from your autism therapy program at the end of the summer.  You are still going on Saturdays for the next couple of months for a social skills group, which you are really enjoying.  We are very proud of the progress you have made!

This year has brought many BIG changes to our family, but as usual, you have adapted well and are still the same sweet, good-natured girl.  You are so special.  Please don’t ever change!

Love,

Your bestie, Mama ❤

 

img_3671
Image is a photo of Juliette on a skateboard.  She is smiling and waving, wearing a purple tank top, tired skirt, and pink converse sneakers.

 

 

Closure

I had sent my MFM doctor a message, thanking him for the wonderful medical care he provided, and his quick decision making when it was time to take my girls out. I also asked for a copy of the placenta pathology report.  Mono-di twin placentas are always sent to pathology for examination.

I was disappointed that during their birth, I had forgotten to ask to see the placenta. Once the babies were out, they were my only concern, and I completely forgot that I had wanted to see it. I just thought it would be interesting to see the one huge placenta with the dividing membrane that separated my twins and the two umbilical cords attached.

The pathology report is extremely eye opening. It shows that without a doubt, my twins are 100% identical (although I seriously question it sometimes because they look so different!). It was a monochorionic, diamniotic twin placenta. It states “the dividing membrane consists of a double layer of amnion without intervening chorion.” If there was a chorion in between, then my twins would be di-di and possibly non-identical. So there is no doubt.

Other items of interest:

Baby A’s cord was 10 cm long and Baby B’s was 16 cm. I had heard the doctor say “short cord!” as Magnolia was being pulled out, so this verifies that.

The placental shares for the two babies were not exactly equal. How they determine this is by running two different colors of dye through the blood vessels on each side of the placenta to determine where the division lies, and also see if any blood vessels are crossed (indicating TTTS or TAPS). The report stated that placenta B (Baby B’s share) was larger than placenta A (Baby A’s share).

It also says “many small vascular anastomoses are identified.” What this means is that there were crossed blood vessels carrying blood from one baby to the other. Here’s some more info on this:

“Monochorionic twin pregnancies are at increased risk of adverse outcome because of the vascular anastomoses that connect the 2 fetal circulation systems. The shared circulation is responsible for some unique complications in monochorionic twins, such as the twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, the twin anemia polycythemia sequence, the twin reversed arterial perfusion sequence, and monoamniotic twinning. Another consequence of the shared circulation is that the well-being of one twin critically depends on that of the other.”

I have suspected that my babies could have been in the beginning stages of TAPS, which is twin anemia polycythemia sequence, where one baby gets more red blood cells than the other. With TAPS, one baby will be born very pale and anemic, often requiring blood transfusions, and the other will be born bright red with too many red blood cells. I was told that both my babies’ blood counts were within the normal range, but looking back on the photos from their birth, Baby A was noticeably pale and Baby B was darker/redder. They still have different skin tones, with Baby B being darker, which could be attributed to this. I’m wondering if their RBC counts were on the high and low ends of “normal” and perhaps it was the beginning stage of TAPS.

There was a pathologic diagnosis of “plasma cell deciduitis” which is inflammation of the maternal side of the placenta. The most common cause of this is from fetal antigens. Remember the E antibody issue that I was being monitored for? Well, most likely, based on this report, the babies DID have the E antigens and it was affecting the health of their placenta. Plasma cell deciduitis leads to preterm labor/premature birth. I am pretty sure I was already in labor when I showed up at the hospital for my scheduled c-section at 34+3, so perhaps this is why.

The last thing of note is “chronic villitis” which is a “pattern of placental injury occurring in term placentas.” Villitis is “an important cause of intrauterine growth restriction and recurrent reproductive loss.” My babies had intrauterine growth restriction!

All of this information is extremely enlightening. I have been really struggling with feelings of guilt and inadequacy over the fact that I had failed to grow my babies well enough, and that they needed to be born early. Their NICU stay was extremely difficult for me emotionally, and I am still trying to process it and move on. I have failed to exclusively breastfeed them, in part due to issues related to prematurity. There have been times I wondered if my medical team had made the right decision in taking them at 34 weeks.

I know now that the right choice had been made. There were several things going wrong with their placenta simultaneously. It was time. I’ll forever be grateful that my babies made it into my arms safely. Perhaps I can lay some of my worries to rest now.  Closure is a good thing.