Happy Birthday

Well, the twins are finally here. They were born on March 15, 2006 at 34 weeks gestation. The expected term for twins is 36 weeks; twins are expected a month earlier than a single baby.

Winston Davis Carlson Jasmine RoseMarie Carlson
Date of Birth 15 March 2006
Time of Birth 17:48 (5:48 p.m.) 17:47 (5:47 p.m.)
Weight 2 pounds 15 ounces
Height 14 inches 15 1/2 inches

The Story

Wednesday morning, Veronica had a doctor's appointment with our ultrasound doctor. The doctor's technician did an ultrasound and took the babies' measurements. The doctor arrived shortly afterwards and noted that the babies were not growing within the womb as well as they should be. He then did his own measurements and verified that the technician's measurements were correct. The doctor then disclosed to us that he is going to recommend we induce labor.

Alarms started going off in my head. It was difficult for me to understand why two perfectly healthy babies should be delivered two weeks away from being full-term. I was under the impression that babies should not be born early unless there was a life-threatening condition that would affect the babies.

The doctor explained that, normally the womb is the best place for a baby to develop. However, our babies were not developing as well as they should within the womb; the womb was actually restricting their development. The doctor told us that, in his opinion, the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) was a better place for our children to develop than within the womb. In other words, the decision to have the babies now was not because there was a life-threatening condition, but a way to prevent a life-threatening condition from developing.

Of course the doctor was not going to blindly make this type of recommendation though. He asked us to check into the maternity ward next door and get a fetal heartbeat reading over the course of two hours. He was looking for heartrate abnormalities that might explain why the babies were not developing the way they should be.

At around 11 a.m., Veronica checked into the maternity ward. The nurses there brought her to an evaluation room where they attached a fetal heartbeat monitor. While Veronica stayed at the hospital, I did some critical errands and informed work that I probably wouldn't be in for the rest of the day.

When I came back (about two hours later), I discovered Veronica's other doctor had arrived. The nurses and the second doctor were discussing the readouts. From what I could gather by listening to their conversation, the readouts looked normal. There was some evidence to suggest the first doctor's opinion, and apparently it was strong enough to get the second doctor to align herself to the first doctor's opinion, but I got the feeling the second doctor might not have made the same recommendation had it been her call.

The first doctor then wanted to be sure the babies' lungs were developed well enough to support them outside the womb. He performed an amniocentesis on Baby-B to get some amniotic fluid with which he could order a test for this. The test has a rating scale from 0 to 50. A rating of 50 means the lungs are fully developed and would be completely functional. A rating of 15 would indicate the baby's lungs were too immature to support it, even with help. The rating we got back from the test was 33. More alarm bells ring.

As a little aside, I was there while he performed that procedure. I'm the kind of guy that doesn't get bothered much by the blood and gore of seeing internal organs. Heck, while the C-section was being performed, I was able to take pictures of the doctors sewing up Veronica's uterus outside of her body. But something about watching a long needle go into my wife, and be within millimeters of my baby boy sent me to near my limits. As soon as the procedure was over, I had to regain myself lest I pass out. Amusing, huh. Blood and guts don't phase me but a simple needle or scalpel will bring me to my knees. :)

Enter interesting twist. At week 30, Veronica had an appointment with the ultrasound doctor. While performing the ultrasound, they wanted to get a measurement of the length of the cervix. This measurement tells the doctor how well the mother's cervix is handling the stress of carrying a baby.

A normal measurement for the cervix is around 4 cm. As a mother gets closer to term, this measurement will decrease. If the measurement decreases too early though, it means that the uterus is failing to support the load; without assistance, the child will be born preterm. Doctors typically draw the line at 2.5 cm. If the cervix shortens at or below this length, and the mother is more than two weeks to term, the doctors will recommend bed rest.

Veronica's ultrasound was showing that the uterine length was 2.2cm, but would shorten to 1.1cm every minute or so. This means Veronica was having "silent" contractions 1 minute apart. Once the doctors saw this, they immediately recommended Veronica go to stage 2-3 bed rest, and prescribed medication that will stop the contractions.

Fast forward back to the present. The very same day the doctors were evaluating Veronica for induced labor was also the same day Veronica was to stop taking her contraction medication. Over the last couple days, the medication was wearing off earlier than the next dose was to be taken. On this day, the last pill she took was at 12 o'clock noon. At around 3 p.m., Veronica started having contractions, though they were weak and infrequent. Within the hour, the contractions intensified to pain thresholds and dropped to less than five minutes apart. While this was happening, the doctors noticed that Baby-B, the boy, was not handling the contractions very well at all. What was once a decision that required careful thought suddenly became a no-brainer. Veronica had to be induced into labor.

At around 5 o'clock p.m., the doctors wheeled Veronica up into the operating room for surgery. I was asked to change into "clean" hospital clothes and waited outside the operating room while they prepared her for surgery. Outside the operating room, I paced. Every once in a while, a doctor or nurse would walk by and say a few words to try to relax me a little. The real effect was that it prevented me from going into a deeper state of anxiety.

Eventually I was invited into the operating room. I was asked to sit by Veronica's head. A makeshift cloth partition was dropped over Veronica's midsection so that we would not be able to see the surgery. V was conscious the whole time and didn't feel more than a few pokes and prods. We were even joking during the procedure and she was laughing; that probably wasn't the best idea in hindsight though.

What seemed like minutes later, the first baby was out. They wisked the baby away to the warming table fairly quickly, but it took a couple seconds before I heard the first cry. The second baby came out shortly after. The second cry seemed like it came much quicker. People began moving everywhere. All I wanted to do was go over and make sure they were O.K., but I wanted to make sure the doctors had plenty of room to do their job so I had to be content with the thoughts that crying means the babies are O.K.

After the babies were out, the doctors allowed me to take a couple quick pictures before they wheeled them to the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Soon afterwards, Veronica was sewn up and wheeled into a recovery room next door, and later, to the room she'd be staying for the next couple days.

In hindsight, the operation was not as long as I expected. The doctors were very quick, professional, and yet were calm enough to project a sense of routine. That feeling was much needed given the situation. Never, throughout the whole experience, did I really get to let out a sigh of relief knowing our children were O.K though. Instead, my mind turned to all the ways things could go horribly wrong. I'm sure, once the babies are allowed home, that those thoughts will be replaced by other concerns about their future. I guess that's the life of a father.

So, here we are, proud parents of a baby boy and a baby girl. Kiss your SO, pop open a bottle of champaigne, and make a special toast to the new members of the family.