Saturday, March 30, 2013

Welcome Aviva Juliet and Violet Behira - 3.26.13

We did it! Aviva Juliet and Violet Behira were born on Tuesday the 26th of March. My perfect little monoamniotic girls both came out crying at around 10 in the morning. I survived the c-section (but I much prefer giving birth the other way). And aside from a couple minor setbacks which have since been overcome, the girls are doing very well in the neonatal unit.

The girls' cords were not tangled or knotted. Neil, who saw the babies come out, said the cords crossed over each other a time or two, but once the cords were cut, they quickly untangled. We are so incredibly fortunate.

I keep looking over at my little babies in their bed and being in awe that they were both in my belly and that they are both here with us and beginning to thrive. Having them in our lives is truly a miracle. I am already feeling the exhaustion that will come from caring for two newborns, but I also know it will all be worth it. It has all been worth it already and they have only been here five days.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Tomorrow morning if all goes well I get to meet my baby girls. It is incredibly hard for me to believe, but it is starting to feel real. Today we had our final ultrasound and met with a maternity ward doctor and an anesthesiologist. I also had a long conversation with a midwife and I think I am as ready as I will ever be to have my body sliced open. It is funny because I know so many women who have had c-sections, and they have all survived and said it wasn't a big deal, but to me it seems like a big deal because I have not experienced anything like it before. I am not totally freaking out, but it will be best for me not to think of it between now and then.

In about two hours, I will have my final monitoring session where we watch both babies' heartbeats for about 30 to 40 minutes. Since checking in on February 11, we have monitored them 128 times. Tonight will mark the 129th heart rate monitoring session of my inpatient stay and we had one session before I checked in making a nice 130 times these babies have been followed on fetal heart rate monitors, 130 times I will have had big straps around my belly securing the ultrasound-gel slathered monitors against my skin. Ah, memories.

We have had approximately 32 ultrasounds during this pregnancy! When we started out and still thought it was a normal one-baby pregnancy, I remember feeling bummed that in Denmark they typically only do two ultrasounds each pregnancy. I certainly did not need to worry about that.

I have gone through two tubes of Locoid 0.1% hydrocortisone cream to keep my PUPPS rash in check. And, as of today, I have been in the hospital for six weeks.

Tonight marks the first night of Passover and Neil, Riley and my mom brought a Seder to the hospital. Considering the fact that we were in a hospital with a 2.5 year old, it was a really nice Passover meal. Yesterday, the Copenhagen Chabbad rabbi, Yitzi, paid me a surprise visit. He gave me some matzah and told me that Passover is a good holiday to have surgery and to have new babies because there is extra protection at this time of year. I am holding onto that idea going into tomorrow morning. (Thank you, Yitzi)

Thanks again to everyone who has been supporting us in a myriad of ways through this whole crazy time. Thanks for your continued good wishes and healing thoughts as we go into tomorrow. It feels almost crazy to take these babies out now, while they are so little and still growing, but I keep reminding myself that from this point on they are safer outside than in. I can't wait to meet them and we will do our best to share news of their birth with all of you soon.

Friday, March 22, 2013

32 weeks! 4 pound babies!

When I wake tomorrow morning I will officially be 32 weeks pregnant with my monoamniotic/monochorionic twins. This has been the goal since we first learned about our precarious pregnancy in early November. To make it to late March, to survive all the gut-wrenching ultrasounds when we didn't know if there would still be two hearts beating, to get through six weeks of hospitalization with close monitoring, to survive my separation from Riley and Neil and my home, all seemed nearly impossible in November. But here we are. We've almost made it.

According to the most recent estimate, both babies are nearly 4 pounds (1800 grams). Hopefully by the time they are born Tuesday morning, they will have packed on a few more grams. This weight exceeds the goal I had of 1500 grams by the time the babies are born. Apparently all the protein I have been choking down has made a difference. And I am sure my nightly ice cream habit that lasted all of December and most of January had to help, too.

I am getting really excited to meet these baby girls. In fact, it seems that most of the staff at the hospital are excited to meet them too. I have really grown to love most of the midwives here. I know some better than others, but they are all fairly fantastic. I feel incredibly fortunate.

The head doctor of the whole maternity department will be doing my c-section along with the amazing doctor who has been doing our twice-weekly ultrasounds since I checked in. We just learned that she doubles as a labor and delivery doctor. I trust and feel good about both doctors. I suppose having a super-rare pregnancy has some benefits, one of them being high level professionals want to be involved in my care.

At this point I would really like to fast forward the next few days, go right past my operation and stop at the point when I get to meet my babies. We don't know how they will be doing, or how soon we will be able to hold them, but hopefully they will be strong and healthy from the start.

 A lot of friends and family have been remarking on how very strong we seem. (We being me, Neil, Riley and my mom). I will not dispute that. This experience has certainly tested my strength and the strength of my family and we are holding up really well. But I would like to confess to some imperfection. Finding the strength to get through this has not been easy and I have not always been a model of positivity and serenity. I spent much of November and the bulk of December watching every stupid romantic comedy on Danish Netflix and playing Plants vs. Zombies on my iPad. I was hiding. I am not proud of this, but it definitely helped me get through. I have not always been as nice as I should have been to my mom or to Neil. I am sure a large part of the reason for my lack of niceness was a need to release some of the stress I have been feeling, but it was unfair of me to release it in that way.

I am pointing these things out because I do not want to paint too rosy a picture of myself during this time. There was lots of crying in the beginning and many an asked but unanswered "Why me?"  The point being, it took a while to find this strength that I now seem to have, it hasn't been easy and I have not always been the best version of myself. I am hopeful that I can maintain my strength and improve upon it as we head towards the NICU chapter of this journey.

Thanks again for all the positive thoughts and kind words. Please keep it up as we head toward Tuesday. Lots of milestones yet to reach, but it is looking good. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

31 Weeks and 3 Days Pregnant With Monoamniotic Twins

I am 31 weeks and three days pregnant and exactly one week from meeting these special babies. When we learned about our monoamniotic twins in early November, I couldn't even visualize making it to this point. I hoped for it, but could not imagine. There seemed so many things that could go wrong between then and now. We are so lucky that nothing has gone wrong and we only have 7 days to go.

Something very cute has been happening in my inbox every day. My husband, Neil has been sending me photogtaphs of friends and family helping me to count down the days until the planned c-section on the 26th. I never know who will show up in my email, but I have really enjoyed seeing everyone and getting the support from afar. I don't think Neil got permission from everyone to post them on my blog, but the photos are truly fantastic.

My most recent roommate moved out of my room today and I am basking in the privacy I have been missing. Who knows when the next roommate will move in, but I will enjoy this solitude while I have it.

It snowed again last night in Copenhagen and looks positively wintry outside. I heard a rumor that it will continue to snow through April and then in May we can expect Spring to arrive. This sounds pretty bleak, but at least I am not stuck in a hospital during sunny and amazing weather.

I am not really stuck here, as I have made a practice of leaving for a few hours here and there, especially on weekends. I am under the impression that many people think I am here on bed rest. I'm not. I am really only required to be in my room three times a day for the monitoring of the babies' heartbeats. Other than that, I have twice weekly ultrasounds and occasional meetings with doctors. This week, Neil and I toured the neonatal unit to get an idea of what we're in for next. The doctors and nurses there are very optimistic about our babies and we hope they are right. A rule of thumb for a NICU stay is that we should not expect to bring our babies home any earlier than their due date (May 18th), but I am hopeful that we will get to go home with them before then. I suppose that next Tuesday when the babies are born, we will begin a new kind of countdown or will it be a count up?

I do not want to take anything for granted, so I continue to hope the heart monitoring and ultrasounds look good as we move closer and closer to March 26th and I continue to be grateful to have made it so far without incident.

One week from today!!! Can you believe it?


Friday, March 15, 2013

Eleven More Days Until We Meet Our Monoamniotic Twins

Eleven days can seem like a very long time when you go away on vacation to someplace tropical. You can become so far removed from your real life that you truly get a vacation. Or, 11 days can speed by when you're so busy you can feel your head spin as you bounce between work, family, an attempt at a social life and just trying to make sure you have enough clean clothes to get you through.

What will 11 days feel like as I await the birth of my twins at the hospital? Twins that, when we learned about them in early November, we weren't sure we were ever going to meet...

Tomorrow I will be 31 weeks pregnant with my Monoamniotic/Monochorionic twins and I will have 10 days to go before my c-section and their arrival.

There have been some questions about the timing of delivery at 32 weeks and 3 days. The main question is something like this, "If they are still doing well, could the doctors decide to leave them in longer and push back the c-section date?" The answer is a little complicated, but basically, risks increase after 32 weeks for monoamniotic twins to stay inside. This is because of the increased chance that one or both of the babies' cords could become compressed as the womb becomes more crowded. I have talked to six doctors and only one said she would want to wait until 34 weeks to take them out. So, we're going with 32 weeks and 3 days.

Since my last post, Riley has completely recovered from the chicken pox and only has some scabs and fading red marks to remind us of the horrible week he had. I have been using a very mild hydrocortisone cream on my PUPPS rash and it has made it nearly disappear from my body. I was a little nervous to use it at first, but I am SO incredibly happy to not be itching and sitting around with tons of ice packs on my body whilst becoming increasingly uncomfortable due to my massive belly. I want to know where this miracle cream was in June 2010 when I was nearly driven insane by my itching???

The hospital has continued to be a source of intrigue and drama. I have a new roommate now who is also a smoker. She is nothing like the ashtrays, but she does go out one or two times a day to smoke her cigarettes. She is very nice and is recovering from an emergency c-section due to a detached placenta. Her baby is in the neonatal unit and because she was deprived of oxygen at birth, may have brain damage. This has been a sad situation to see unfold and has added a bit of stress this week. I am hoping that things work out and the baby rebounds, but based on what my roommate has been saying, it doesn't look good. In addition to the baby being in peril, the father of the baby and of my roommate's older child has been here a few times causing some drama. I really feel for my roommate who is in a fragile position.

I have made a friend who is in a room down the hall, but walks around more than most of the patients in this unit. We met in the food line when we both announced that we do not eat pork. I suspected my friend was Muslim and at some point I told her I was Jewish, maybe because she wondered why I didn't eat pork. We have continued to talk most days and sometimes we have tea together in the evening. Tonight we talked about Muslim/Jewish relations here in Denmark and, of course in Israel. It was fascinating and completely non-confrontational. I feel fortunate to have met my friend.

I continue to be blessed with friends who visit me at the hospital and who call to check on me, or send emails or mail care packages. Every day I feel lucky. It has gotten to the point where I will not be able to read all of the books that have been given to me or watch all the DVD's. I have, however, managed to eat much of the chocolate. Next week I have a friend coming to help me make a belly cast so I can remember just how humongous I am with two babies in my belly. I remember arriving in Copenhagen in the dead of winter and feeling what it was to really be alone. We did not know a soul and were in a foreign country. How different things are two years later and how blessed my little family is to have so many wonderful friends here. 

I find it amusing that I just typed "my little family" because, actually, we are about to be not so little anymore. We will be a family of five! Five? As you can see, I may need some time to wrap my head around this twin business - what it means to have twins on the outside. We have been so concerned with their well being on the inside and their survival, that we've hardly thought about the logistics of having three children under three years old.  Maybe it's better not to think about it?

And finally, I thought you might like to see a photo of my strange tin-foil-covered light. Creepy right?

View from my bed. Note 1980's TV and tin foil light.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday Musings

I got to see Riley today! He is finally well enough to enjoy time out of the house and though we are still keeping him out of the hospital as a precaution, his chicken pox are mostly done and have turned into scabs. I didn't see him for 6 days, the longest we have gone not seeing each other since he was born. I was distracted during that time by two roommates, several conversations with doctors, visitors, etc. but it still wasn't easy. Today we went to brunch and after eating a little food, Riley laid down on the booth next to me and took a 2.5 hour nap. We spent quite a while at that restaurant. Fortunately, the staff was understanding and didn't kick us out.

It was very nice to have Riley sleeping beside me (and sometimes on me). I felt at peace for the first time in days. I wanted to smuggle him back to my hospital room and keep him here, but I can wait till tomorrow. I fervently hope that there are no additional childhood illnesses waiting in the wings to attack the poor little guy.

I had my first night alone in my room in more than a week last night and it is looking like I will get at least one more tonight. The midwives are actively trying not to give me a new roommate for a little while. I really appreciate it. Even though I really enjoyed meeting the last two women who stayed here, it is nice to have some alone time and to not have to expend more energy figuring out how to coexist with someone new in a small space under stressful circumstances.

I had a funny conversation with a midwife tonight. When I arrived at the hospital, the overhead light on my side of the room was wrapped in tin foil. Yes, that's right, completely wrapped in foil so that no light can escape it. At first I thought someone very strange must have stayed here who hated light. But after asking, I was informed that the light had been flickering and that is how it ended up in tin foil... Hmm. In my experience, a logical response to a flickering light is a light bulb change. But apparently not here. Here it must go something like this, "what? There is a flickering light? Quick, to the kitchen! Get that foil! Find a ladder!"

So, after a month of a dark room at night, I asked one of my favorite midwives about the light and she told me that the maintenance staff don't do anything anymore. She said the midwives don't like to have to call for maintenance over and over again because they have enough to do apart from worrying about the upkeep of the hospital. She said it used to be much better and she suspects part of the problem is the government's desire to save money and the she said, "I mean, you had to bring your own shower curtain! I saw that and I just laughed!" Then she promised to call someone about my light.

It is true, after a few days of showering with no curtain and getting water all over the place, I asked Neil to bring me a curtain and some hooks. Now I have a cute blue polka dot curtain which brings cheer to an otherwise drab and institutional bathroom and prevents me from flooding the place.

The televisions here are probably from the 80's and there are signs about DVD players that no longer exist. It is not a new hospital and it has not been updated. But, none of the physical stuff impacts the care I am getting here. It does, at times, make things a bit humorous though.


I have 17 days left until our scheduled c-section date. 17. It sounds like a lot, but at the same time, part of me thinks it will go rather quickly. Especially because, and I don't want to jinx it, but thanks to my doctor, I may have found some relief for the itchy rash. I'm optimistic. Stay tuned...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Three Pounds! (Itchy, itchy itchy.)

In our second-to-last growth scan yesterday we learned that the babies weigh about 3 pounds each (one just over and one a tiny bit under). This is very good news. When we set out on this journey, the goal weight we had in our heads was 1500 grams and they are currently measuring 1320 and 1380 grams. Tomorrow I will be 30 weeks pregnant and in 19 days (if all keeps going well)1 these babies will be born.

There is much to be excited about and grateful for and I need every bit of distraction I can get as I am itching so badly I would like to remove my skin. I have two weeks and three and a half days to survive the itch until the babies are born. If this rash is anything like the one I had in my last pregnancy, it should go away right after the babies are born. Please keep your fingers crossed that this is the case.

Apparently, I am a magnet for rare pregnancy conditions. The rash, called PUPPS, happens to about 1% of pregnant women. It is a bit of a mystery, but probably has something to do with hormones and/or severe stretching of skin. And, monoamniotic twins happen in about 1% of identical twins. I am the 1% and I am not sure I like it.

In other news, I have had two lovely roommates since my nightmare roommate was moved down the hall. The first was here for twin to twin transfusion surgery and the second was here for a blood transfusion for her baby while in-utero. Both surgeries were successful and I will continue to hope that things go well for both families. I had many great conversations with my roommates and their husbands/boyfriends. It was really nice. The second roommate left this afternoon and I have my room to myself again, which will also be nice. One of the midwives told me that there are not currently any plans for the other bed in my room. We will see what the next two weeks bring.

I sometimes glimpse my nightmare roommate down the hall. Today two of her ashtray visitors walked by and I got a whiff of them and felt enormously thankful that they weren't headed to my room.

And so, the hospital adventure continues. I am hoping for two quick, uneventful and minimally itchy weeks. The sun has been shining in Denmark and when the sun is out, I always feel that anything is possible. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Unsung Heroes

My aforementioned roommate and one of her ashtrays just moved all of her stuff to a new room!!! I get a night to myself and tomorrow I will have a new short-term roommate who is coming for a small surgery. I have been alone in my hospital room for approximately 15 minutes and suddenly feel a couple years younger, a few pounds lighter (though that is absolutely not possible) and much more clearheaded.

I am going to take this opportunity to mention two people who have not received their due praise on this blog.

Two weeks before I checked in to the hospital my mom came to town to help us. Since her arrival she has: cooked, cleaned, grocery shopped, learned to navigate Copenhagen on her own, visited me at the hospital, picked Riley up and dropped him off at school, brought Riley to the hospital in rush hour to see me, taken care of Riley when he got something resembling the stomach flu, caught the stomach flu-like bug herself, put up with me when I have been crabby, and now she is helping care for Riley as he goes through the chicken pox. If there was a sainthood for living Jews, I would be nominating her for it.

Neil and I both realize how lucky we are to have my mom here and I am sure that on some level, Riley realizes he is lucky to have his Grandma Gloria here, too. She put her whole life on hold to be here when we really need her. I suppose that is one of the definitions of a good parent and I feel so fortunate that even at 34, I have a mom who is completely in my corner and whose life is flexible enough at the moment that she could drop everything to be here.

Hero number two is my amazing husband, Neil. He is working, caring for Riley, coming to the hospital for appointments with doctors in the daytime and returning once Riley is in bed to keep me company during the lonely evening hours. Oh, and he got the stomach bug Riley had, as well. Neil brings me ice cream and does my laundry, he helps me change the linnens on my hospital bed and helps cheer me up by watching Modern Family while we wait for my night monitoring. Neil has been just as nervous as me as we've gone through this pregnancy. He held his breath right along with me at the weekly ultrasounds before I checked in and he never sent me to an ultrasound alone.

Sometimes in a marriage, it is the tough times that really show the strength and character of love. I am very lucky to have married such a wonderful and caring man and to have him supporting me now as we wait and hope to bring these two little girls into the world.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

29 Weeks Pregnant With Monoamniotic Twins, Roommate Disasters, Itchy Jodi and Itchy Riley

This has been a very trying week - not medically - but in every other way. First, let's celebrate the milestone represented by today. I am 29 weeks pregnant! Three weeks away from our goal of 32 weeks. The babies have been doing great on all their monitoring sessions, no heart rate decelerations, no irregularities. They looked great on the two ultrasounds we had this week and based on my poor stretching skin, they are getting bigger every day.

On Tuesday, I got another roommate. The day before, the midwives had cleared out all the furniture in my room that would be used for a roommate. They took the bed, they took the nightstand and I was thinking about putting a rug down to play on with Riley. Then, in the middle of my nap, a midwife I do not know well noisily burst in with a bed. I figured they just had an extra one and tried to go back to sleep. Shortly after that, I was reawakened by the stench of cigarette smoke and noisy women chatting in Danish. It literally smelled like the new people in my room had been bathing in cigarettes. Do they make cigarette smoke shampoo? Within about 10 minutes I was nauseous and had to leave the room. I had many questions running through my mind including, "Is my roommate, who is here for early labor, a smoker?"

When I next entered the room and her guests were gone I asked her if she smokes. I actually don't think I said anything to her before that. Just, "Do you smoke?" Her answer, "No, I quit. But my aunt just left to go smoke." Awesome. I explained to her that the smell was making me physically ill and she said she would ask her guests to wash their hands and eat breath mints. "Not going to take care of the shampoo and shower gel they are clearly using to bathe," went through my mind, but I just smiled. She told me her boyfriend also smokes. I am not sure if she was trying to make me feel suicidal, but she nearly succeeded.

Things went from bad to worse. When the walking ashtrays aren't in my room, my roommate speaks loudly on her telephone nearly nonstop. I have not had more than a 20 minute nap since Tuesday (and a big part of the benefit of being here is being able to rest.) I have told my roommate I need to nap and she acts like she understands, but yet she does nothing to make herself quiet. One day when I was napping an ashtray showed up and began talking to my roommate in top volume. When I got up (after being asleep for perhaps 25 minutes) my roommate said, "It has been nearly an hour so I thought it was ok to talk." Seriously?

The final thing that makes this roommate amazing is that her boyfriend comes at least once if not twice a day and spends the majority of the time practically on top of my roommate noisily kissing and doing who knows what else. I am not a prude, I don't have a problem witnessing people kiss, but whatever is going on in my room at the hospital is beyond what is appropriate. It is actually worse than a few awkward situations I found myself in in college involving bunk beds. I can't even fully block the sounds with headphones turned up full volume. And god forbid I need to walk to the bathroom and past her bed. Plus. keep in mind, the boyfriend also smells like an ashtray.

This morning, I finally decided it was time to complain. The roommate is looking at a long hospital stay and if I have to endure sharing a room with her for three more weeks, I may seriously lose it. I was so worried that I would be considered a trouble maker or complainer, but I couldn't take it anymore. To my happy surprise, during my tearful conversation with a midwife, I learned that the midwifes are also a bit uncomfortable with whatever is happening in my roommate's bed with her boyfriend and they have noticed the smoke smell. I have been promised she will be out of my room by Monday at the latest. I am hoping it will be sooner.

And finally, as if life hasn't been throwing us enough lately, two very itchy things have happened this week. When I was at the end of my pregnancy with Riley I got a very rare rash that 1% of pregnant women get. It started on my belly and spread all over my body. I had to stop working and just stay home applying lotions and creams, wrapping myself in refrigerated bed sheets and showering every hour or so with soap that smelled like a campfire. The doctor told me the rash would go away when I had the baby. It got so bad that I went to an acupuncturist three days before my due date and allowed him to poke me with needles for three hours in an attempt to induce labor. It worked and I had Riley the next day. My OB in the US told me that I would probably get the rash again if I got pregnant again. I chose to pretend he was wrong.

This entire pregnancy I have been warily looking for little red bumps on my belly, but nothing. Until, lo and behold, this week (maybe three days ago), the dots appeared and the itching began. I am ok so far. It is just on my belly and I am managing to keep it under control. I keep telling myself that the rash spread last time in part because of the heat and humidity in Washington, DC in June. It is not hot or humid here in Copenhagen and I am making a wish that the itching will remain in check. (Clearly, it is more important that the babies remain safe and healthy, but secondarily, I wish not to be in an excruciating itchy state for the next three weeks.)

About the same time the little bumps arrived on my belly, Riley got a small blister on his neck. I noticed it one day after school. A red spot with a clear blister. Hmm. Chicken pox crossed my mind, but he wasn't itching and there was only one. The next day it was a little bigger, but he still didn't scratch it. On Thursday he scratched it a little. Yesterday the blister was huge but he wasn't scratching and this morning he awoke with a fever, a few spots on his belly and, after a trip to the after-hours doctor, a chicken pox diagnosis.

Really? He has to get chicken pox right now when I am stuck here and can't care for him and he can no longer visit me at the hospital???? But, you know me, always looking for the upside. Here it is: It's good that he got it now because it will probably be a mild case and he will be done with it and, his sisters will have weakened immune systems because they are going to be born early, so it's better that he not bring this home when they are here. Chicken pox can be very dangerous for preemies.

I am hoping next week brings less interesting things. I'm hoping Riley feels all better soon, my rash doesn't spread and that I get to write here again next Saturday and report that the babies are still doing well.