Wednesday, December 31, 2008

1 week old

It's amazing what can happen in the span of 7 days: Believe it or not, all of our little ones are off their CPAPs, no longer need phototherapy, and are feeding regularly (which means no more IVs!). The nurses put them all together last night for their first picture together, and today they gave us a print to bring home. As soon as we get it scanned, I will post it here, but I couldn't wait to share the good news!

Of course, this progress leads to the inevitable question of when the babies will be able to come home. According to the nurses, each baby first has to be weaned from his or her isolette (incubator). This is accomplished gradually, by first dressing the babies in clothes (check), then adding a blanket (check), and then turning down the temperature in their isolettes over the course of several days. Once it is determined that the babies can maintain their temperatures without help, they will be moved to open cribs (and that will be our cue that a homecoming is imminent). The babies must also be either bottle or breastfeeding at all feeds (right now they still have feeding tubes in their noses, which are used to fill their bellies when they are too tired to suck), be gaining weight, have no apnea (which none of them have, anyway), and pass a car-seat test (that is, be able to sit up in a car seat for the length of their trip home without experiencing any dips in heart or respiration rates).

Based on this info, I would bet that our boys will be the first to leave the NICU (no wimpy white boy syndrome here—I guess it pays for their mommy to be half Peruvian!), and the girls won't be far behind. Although the prospect of being in charge of these four tiny beings is admittedly scary, we are looking forward to settling into life as a family. For now, though, we must be content with precious moments like these in the NICU today:

Ted holding Isaac for the first time and Suzy holding Jude for the first time

Isaac going a little cross-eyed for the camera

Lucia being held by Dad for the first time

Jude giving a big YAWN! for the camera

Dahlia being held by Mom for the first time

Monday, December 29, 2008

First quad pics

I apologize for the long silence on my end: The last few days have been action-packed with family and NICU visits, moving up to the post-partum unit, filling out lots of paperwork, talking to nurses and doctors galore, learning to pump, etc., etc.—not to mention that I wasn't even able to access the hospital's wireless network anyway all day on Saturday, which was my last day there. Yep, I'm home!!!! I feel like a prisoner who's been freed—a very tired prisoner who hasn't walked in 3 months, is recovering from a C-section, and still has a huge uterus that makes me look heavily pregnant (hopefully the pumping will help it shrink back down to a manageable size; Ted asked me what I would say if someone asks me when I'm due, and I told him I'd just give the quads' real due date of February 9, ha!).

But enough about me—I know that what you guys are really interested in are the babies! Without further ado, here are some first pics, along with the info that everyone's been asking for:

Isaac Nehiel

Isaac was Baby B in the womb. When he was born, he weighed 4 lb. 11 oz. and was 19 inches long. His first name means "laughter" in Hebrew, and he gets his middle name (pronounced "nay-yell") from my dad. He never required extra oxygen and was the first to come off his CPAP. I got to take his temperature (under his arm, whew!), change his tiny diaper, and give him his first bottle on Friday. After that, the doctor determined that his bilirubin levels were elevated (translation: he had jaundice), so the nurse put him in a blindfold and trained the phototherapy lights on him (but I just found out that they turned them off today, yay!). We think he really looks like Ted and can't wait to get to the hospital this afternoon so that we can see his cute little face again!

Lucia Celeste

Lucia was Baby C in the womb. When she was born, she weighed 4 lb. 5 oz. and was 17 inches long. Her first name (pronounced "loo-see-ah") means "light," and her middle name means "heavenly" (yes, there's a Beatles connection here—can you guess it?). Celeste also means "light blue" in Spanish and is the color of the Uruguayan flag. She never required extra oxygen and came off the CPAP on Saturday only to be put back on after her first bath (I guess the experience got her all excited or something). I got to hold her on Christmas while she was still on her CPAP, and then she went under the phototherapy lights, so we didn't get to see her face until a couple of days ago, when we happened to visit while she was taking a break from the blindfold. She is super-cute, and so far I think she also favors Ted. Now that she's on CPAP again, though, we're not sure when we'll get a good look at her next.

Jude Wesley

Jude was Baby A in the womb. When he was born, he was our big boy at 4 lb. 15 oz., and he measured 18 inches long. His first name is a direct reference to a Beatles song, and he shares his middle name with Ted, Ted's dad, and Ted's grandpa. He never required extra oxygen and is now off his CPAP, although he is usually blindfolded due to jaundice and phototherapy. Ted got to hold him the day after Christmas, I got to give him his first bottle yesterday, and we narrowly missed being able to give him his first bath. His hair is a little darker than Isaac and Lucia's, and his face is a little wider, so maybe he looks like my side of the family? Whoever he looks like, he is an adorable, alert little guy and I think he will be a lot of fun when he gets a little stronger!

Dahlia Solis

Dahlia was Baby D in the womb (but the fact that her name also starts with a D is a coincidence). She is the runt of the litter and was responsible for the doctor deciding to go ahead and deliver the quads before we got to 34 weeks (which would have been today). When she was born, she weighed 3 lb. 9 oz. and was 17 inches long. Her first name (pronounced "dowl-ya") is the name of a flower that Mom grew in our front yard in Uruguay, and her middle name (pronounced "so-lees") is the beach in Uruguay where my family used to vacation when I was growing up. She is the only quad who's needed extra oxygen, but it's only been a small amount (regular room air is 20% oxygen, and she's been given between 28% and 40%). She hasn't yet been taken off her CPAP, but the nurse practitioner just called to say that that might happen in the next day or so. We hear that she's a feisty little girl, and we can hardly wait to see what she looks like under all those tubes and the blindfold!

Everyone is feeding regularly now and has been gaining in grams, although not enough yet to impact the pounds and ounces. The docs say that if they keep this up, they should all be able to get their IVs out soon. And do you know what that means? Quad pics where they're all together!

We are so blessed!!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

They're here!

We are proud to announce that the Fab Four made their debut this morning in the following order:

Isaac Nehiel at 8:40am, 4 lb. 11 oz.
Lucia Celeste at 8:40am, 4 lb. 5 oz.
Jude Wesley at 8:41am, 4 lb. 15 oz.
Dahlia Solis at 8:41am, 3 lb. 9 oz.

Ted got to see the babies in the resuscitation room while they were putting me back together, and then we were able to go up and see them in the NICU after I got out of recovery. They are all on CPAP machines for the time being to help them breathe, but otherwise they are doing great (as am I). I'm pretty sure they're super-cute, but it's hard to tell under all of those tubes and wires!

Thanks so much for all of your prayers this morning, and please keep them coming, as the nurses say that it's not unusual for preemies to backslide a bit in the first couple of days. Also, please be aware that the hospital staff has advised us that visitors are not a good idea until we can be sure that everyone is stable. For now, I am trying to rest as much as possible, but I'll keep everyone posted on how we're doing and will upload pictures after I've had a chance to go through them.

What a wonderful Christmas this is turning out to be!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's go time!

Amnio results are back, and Dr. S says there's only a 5% chance that Baby A will need ventilation once he's born. This is a good sign that the other babies' lungs are also developed enough to function properly outside of the womb. Therefore, in the interest of getting little Baby D out of there before she gets into any trouble, I will be going into surgery tomorrow morning at 8am. That's right, folks: We're having some Christmas Eve quads!

The timing certainly couldn't have worked out better, as my parents flew in yesterday to spend Christmas with me, and my brother and his girlfriend are flying in tonight. I am beyond thrilled that my whole family will be here for the big event! Please pray with us that the babies are born healthy and stable, and also that I come through this riskier-than-usual C-section with no complications so that we can all enjoy our precious time together before my family flies back to Texas at the end of the week. Tomorrow promises to be hectic, but we'll post names, weights, and all that good stuff as soon circumstances allow!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas quads?

This morning, my reward for making it to 33 weeks was to finally get the babies measured again. During the ultrasound, I got some very good news: Baby A weighs 4 lb. 12 oz., Baby B weighs 4 lb. 7 oz., and Baby C weighs 4 lb. 5 oz. However, I also got some not-so-great news: Baby D hasn't grown at all in the past 3 weeks and is still weighing in at just 3 lb. 6 oz.

Yesterday Dr. S warned me that, if we learned today that any of the babies hadn't been growing properly, we might need to deliver them earlier than the original goal of 34 weeks. Since that's exactly what we found out, he did an amniocentesis on Baby A to check for lung maturity (for some reason, the largest baby usually has the least-developed lungs). We are currently awaiting the results, which should be ready later today or tomorrow. If Baby A's lungs are not sufficiently developed, we will wait a little longer to deliver. But if his lungs are mature enough, it will be go time! Stay tuned ...

Monday, December 15, 2008

There's a light at the end of the tunnel

Yesterday, when I reminded Dr. E that I was set to earn my A+ today, he replied, "You're not getting the A+! We're getting the A+! We're the ones doing all the work!" I just laughed, but really I was thinking, "Hmm, I'm pretty sure it's a lot harder to be me right now than it is to be you guys!" I then proceeded to try to pin him down on a timeline for the arrival of these quads. He told me that, although he and Dr. S had not put together a plan for me yet, he was pretty sure they wouldn't let me go past 34 weeks; he also mentioned that, after today, they wouldn't "torture" me with the mag anymore (since I am still on it, though, I assume he merely meant that I wouldn't be given any more boluses to reduce contractions).

So now we're in the final stages of the waiting game, unsure of just when in the next 2 weeks these babies will come. I am torn between wanting to make it all the way to 34 weeks for their sakes, and selfishly yearning to have my body back already. My belly is growing so fast that, every single day, I can detect a marked decline in my ability to move. I have never been allowed to leave my bed except to use the bedside commode (and every other day to shower), but even the seemingly simple acts of getting out of bed, standing up, turning around, and sitting down are laborious—and then I have to repeat the whole sequence in reverse (more than a dozen times a day, no less!). And forget about finding a comfortable position once I'm back in bed. Let's just say that, after nearly 7 weeks here, my rear end is sick and tired of sitting on this mattress!

I don't detail all of this to complain—I just want to provide a small glimpse into how increasingly difficult this pregnancy will be as its final days unfold. I sometimes I worry that I'll be completely bedridden, with a catheter and everything, before it is all over, but I just have to keep trusting in the Lord's timing for these babies. Although Ted and I can't wait to meet them, we know that their well-being is a million times more important than my comfort or our convenience. As long as the babies continue to be active, practice their breathing, grow at a similar rate to each other, and retain plenty of amniotic fluid in their sacs—and as long as my blood pressure and contractions stay under control—we shouldn't have a problem in making it all the way to December 29!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A sad note

The joy of hitting 31 weeks today is tempered by news of my Grandpa M's unexpected death yesterday. He recently turned 90 years old but was still living on his own, so his passing comes as quite a shock. At first we thought that Mom wouldn't be able to travel here for the funeral because her surgery is so recent, but her doctors are going to try to work with her to make it happen (she has an appointment with them tomorrow morning for evaluation). Obviously, I cannot attend.

The quads were going to be my grandpa's 55th, 56th, 57th, and 58th great-grandchildren, and he was highly interested in my progress. My mother and I kept him up to date on how things were going and, just a couple of days before coming to the hospital, I was able to visit with him so that he could see my big belly. Turns out that was the last time I would ever see him.

The day my mom found out she had cancer, Grandpa called me and gave me a good talking to. I was a mess, but he reminded me that I was the mom now, and that my job was to take care of these babies; he told me that the most important things for me to do now were to talk to the Lord a lot, to keep a good attitude, and to not lose control. He was right, of course, and his words pulled me straight out of the hole of self pity that could very well have swallowed me up in those difficult first days.

So, Grandpa, although I am very sad to lose you, I know that you would want me to keep focusing on the quads and their well-being right now. And that's what I'm gonna try to do.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Going for the A

From the beginning of this pregnancy, I've maintained that a birthdate "anytime in December" would be swell. Well, folks, we made it! Even the usually pessimistic Dr. E showed enthusiasm regarding reaching the 30-week milestone this morning—imagine what he'll be like on the off chance that I actually earn the A+ he promised me if I can last 2 more weeks!

In other exciting news, the babies were finally measured again today (after 3 long weeks of waiting). All of them were practicing their breathing during the ultrasound (yes!), and their estimated weights were exactly what we were hoping for: They are all over 3 pounds, with just a few ounces of difference between them. (According to the neonatologist, crossing the 3-pound threshold prior to premature delivery decreases the likelihood of severe problems after birth.) With more than 13 pounds of baby to support, though, it's no wonder that my back is beginning to protest; hopefully, both it and my ever-contracting uterus can hold out for another week or two.

You know, it's a good thing that Ted and I finally settled on some names last night because there's no doubt about it: Baby time is drawing nigh—it's exciting and terrifying at the same time!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What a difference a day makes

To everyone who prayed for my mom and me yesterday, thank you! I know that, without your intercession, I might not have been able to share with you today two pieces of great news:

First of all, my mom's surgery yesterday went perfectly. Not only that, but the sentinel node biopsy indicated that the cancer has not spread—HALLELUJAH! I was able to talk briefly with her this morning, and she sounded pretty good for someone pumped full of morphine. As I understand it, she should be going home later today to begin the healing process. Let's pray for a quick recovery so that she and Dad can fly up here when the babies come!

Secondly, the babies continue to cook ... despite giving us a big scare yesterday morning. It all started after I got another bolus in the middle of the night because I was once again having too many contractions. When Dr. E saw me in the morning, he told me that we were hitting a wall as far as boluses go and, since my contractions were becoming uncontrollable, he'd advised the nurses to get ready for some babies. Not long after he left my room, I began to feel very hot. The nurse turned on the fan and that helped, but I was still very uncomfortable. I started to feel like I was going to faint (which I never do) and no change in position provided relief. When I got up to use the commode, I thought I was going to pass out, so I called the nurse. Then I started having serious pain with my contractions. The doctor came back, they took away my food and drink, and the nurse drew blood to prepare for a possible C-section. I called Ted and told him that he needed to come now. The resident did an ultrasound to make sure the babies were okay (they were), but I was in so much pain that I didn't even open my eyes once to peek at them! The doctor then noted that I was a little dehydrated, so they increased my IV fluids. I think this must have been the problem because shortly thereafter my symptoms subsided and I began to feel more "normal." By the time Ted arrived, things didn't look so urgent, and he ended up sitting in my room all afternoon as I slept (I guess those big contractions really wore me out or something). By evening, my uterus had been quiet for several hours and it was clear that the crisis was over.

This morning I feel completely back to normal, which is good since the doctor just got done telling me that he really thought he was going to have to cut me open yesterday. He also told me that if I can hold out 2 more days (until the 30-week mark), he'll give me a B grade. If I can wait until 32 weeks, I'll get an A+. Those of you who know me well will know that this is exactly the type of motivation I need; I've always been a straight-A student and I certainly don't want to start breaking the pattern now! Plus, we still don't have names for the boys—I guess we'd better get on the stick, huh?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Uncertainty is the only certainty

Disappointingly, I believe that I am already approaching the limits of mag therapy. Why? Well, when I woke up this morning, my nurse informed me that I'd been administered yet another bolus in my sleep because the one I got last night just didn't do the trick. And then during my ultrasound this afternoon, the resident casually asked me what would be my "happy place" (weeks-wise) to deliver these babies, as if she were fishing to see how I would feel about going earlier than originally hoped. I answered that, although I've always wanted the babies to wait until at least the first of December, my mom's surgery and recovery time is pushing that wish back to mid-December now. It will be interesting to see if the doctor drops any more hints about an imminent delivery tomorrow. Regardless of whether the quads come next week or a month from now, I am quite anxious to see what their estimated weights are when they get scanned on Monday!

I am also very anxious about what tomorrow holds: My mother is going into the hospital early in the morning to get prepped for her double mastectomy, which is scheduled for around noon Eastern time. I wish so much that I could be there with her, and I am sick with worry about how her surgery will go (it's supposed to last 3 to 4 hours). Would you join me in praying for her tomorrow and also during the next couple of weeks as she recovers at home? We are hopeful that the mastectomy will get all the cancer and that she won't need further treatment; if all goes well, she should be well enough to travel here within a couple of weeks, if necessary. Whether we get good news or not so good, I am so thankful that she was able to fly out here last weekend to keep me company, help me feel a little pampered, and see in person how HUGE I really am—I absolutely dwarf her!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Four weeks down

I end my fourth week in the hospital as the nation prepares to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. And, although the past month certainly hasn't been an easy one, Ted and I have much to be thankful for, including the fact that the babies continue to stay put and grow (believe it or not, I gained 12 pounds last week!).

Unfortunately, my poor uterus is sick and tired of being stretched out, so it keeps contracting like crazy. As I type this, I am getting my second bolus of the week in an effort to calm down my relentless contractions. I guess that this Thanksgiving I'll just be substituting the traditional tryptophan coma for a magnesium sulfate brain fog. (Hmm, I'm pretty sure that I'd rather eat too much turkey ... )

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Three weeks down

I think I'm finally emerging from my week 2 slump. Part of it is that I haven't had a mag bolus in several days (keep your fingers crossed for a quiet uterus!), part of it is that I've finally been granted shower privileges for every other day (much better than once a week!), and part of it is that I just found out my mom is flying in for the weekend! She wanted to see me before her surgery (which is scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving) and I am so thrilled—especially since she has promised to give me a little pedicure while she is here (I haven't been able to reach my toenails in a while and, well, let's just say that I could be considered armed and dangerous).

The babies continue to look strong on the daily ultrasounds—although my next measuring session isn't due for another week, it's clear that people are growing in there! This is reassuring in light of the fact that I haven't gained any weight since coming into the hospital (prior to my hospitalization, I'd been gaining 2 to 5 pounds a week). The doctor is considering ordering protein shakes for me and, since I expressed some boredom with the cafeteria offerings, he has advised me to acquire outside food as often as possible. I've taken to watching a lot of the Food Channel and dreaming about all the things I'll make once I'm outta here (or once the kids are out of the house!).

It's still hard to think about being here 2, 4, or 6 more weeks, but I am trying to just take it one day at a time. I couldn't do it without all of you, my faithful cheerleaders!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Third trimester, here we come!

Today marks the close of my 28th week, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief: If the babies were to be delivered now, they'd have an excellent chance of not just surviving, but doing so without major health issues. Praise God! That said, we are so thankful that the babies continue to stay put—there's a reason that it takes 40 weeks to grow a singleton, so we'd really like to get as close to that as possible (without endangering me or the Fab Four, of course). Dr. S now seems to think I will have no problem getting to 34 weeks; in fact, on Friday he joked about how he thinks he can take me to 38 weeks! (I laughed and told him that would be fine as long as I got to do some of that time at home.)

As much as I want the babies to do their maturing while still in utero, though, I must admit that I dread the aches and pains associated with them running out of room in my short-girl torso. The boys haven't given me too many problems yet, but the girls are already demanding more space. For a couple of weeks now, Baby D has been positioned so deep in my pelvis that when she kicks, it feels like she is in my leg! And for the past two days, Baby C's head has been directly under my right ribcage, making it impossible for me to find a comfortable position in my hospital bed (not that it was very comfortable to begin with). Poor squished babies! I am starting to think that Dr. E's repeated suggestion of putting me on the rack to stretch me out a bit might not be such a bad idea after all ...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two weeks down

I'll be frank: My second week in the hospital has not been easy. Most nights, Ted has had to work later than planned (which obviously eats into our precious time together), and neither of us has yet been able to sleep well here. The stress of separation and sleep deprivation have no doubt played a part in the sore throat and general feelings of malaise that we've both come down with in the past couple of days. Add to that my ever-increasing (and grog-inducing) doses of magnesium sulfate, plus some bad news we've recently gotten regarding my mother's health, and it's no wonder that I could sometimes cry at the drop of a hat.

Thankfully, the babies seem to be doing a lot better than their mommy. Their movements are more frequent and stronger than ever, and the daily ultrasounds to check their heart tones confirm that they are not in any distress, despite the continuing contractions. They are also growing well: As of Friday, they weighed approximately 2 lb. 7 oz., 2 lb. 1 oz., 1 lb. 11 oz., and 2 lb. 1 oz. (A to D). I asked the doctor whether we should be concerned that Baby C is so much smaller than her siblings, but he said that she is doing fine and will probably just be a little more "petite" than the others. (Since her femur measures second-longest, though, I am choosing to think of her as tall and slender—you know, like a supermodel!)

Most importantly, we are now just 5 days away from the 28-week milestone. In light of this, a neonatologist recently came in to talk to us about the prognosis for babies born at this stage. Although they would have a good chance of eventually making it, the immediate and long-term risks (including all sorts of breathing problems, bleeding on the brain that could result in cerebral palsy, and a fatal inability to digest food properly) are scary to think about. Knowing a little more about what the babies would have to go through if they were born right now really reinforces our hope that they don't come for several more weeks—no matter how stressful and uncomfortable a long hospital stay proves to be. We can endure anything if it means an ounce less of pain for our babies once they're born.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bed-restless

I've come to the conclusion that the words "hospital" and "bedrest" belong nowhere near each other. Sure, I am confined to the bed all day, but I would definitely never describe my time here as restful. For one, a nurse comes in every hour to check on me, day or night (at first, they were also taking my vitals every hour, but that's now been knocked down to every 4 hours, thank goodness). Plus, I have to use the commode every 90 minutes or so, due to the massive amounts of water I am drinking and all the IV fluids they're pumping into me. Add to that 5am visits from the residents, midmorning visits from the doctor, daily ultrasounds, twice-weekly physical therapy, twice-weekly massages, twice-weekly weigh-ins, and daily visits from chaplains, volunteers, patient relations, room service, and housekeeping, and it's hard to squeeze in a nap, let alone a full night's sleep!

I guess all this activity is good for me, though—it makes the time go by a little faster and helps to keep my mind off of home (have I mentioned that I miss Ted terribly during the day?). And yesterday I actually got to make a new friend; at the doctor's suggestion, a nurse put me in a wheelchair and took me down the hall to meet a girl who is 22 weeks pregnant with triplets. She was admitted on Monday and, like me, is probably here for the duration. I am hopeful that we will get to visit each other again soon so that we can keep each other encouraged during the long weeks ahead. Even though 28 weeks is the short-term goal (for an 80% survival rate versus 50% at 24 weeks), we would both love to gestate our babies much longer than that—the less time they have to spend hooked up to all sorts of stuff in the NICU, the better!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One week down

Things have quickly settled into a monotony around here, which is why I have not posted an update since moving into my sweet pad. My contractions seem to go through cycles, at times stopping almost entirely for hours on end, only to start picking up again the minute the doctor implies that he might take me off the magnesium sulfate. I am very fortunate, however, in that the dreaded mag has spared me its worst side effects; my only complaints so far have been a dry mouth and fatigue (Ted would add that I must also feel very hot because the room is "freezing" but I feel totally comfortable). In fact, I am feeling well enough that I wouldn't mind taking a few phone calls (hint, hint!). The prospect of being here for several more weeks is admittedly starting to bum me out, but I just keep reminding myself that anything I can do to keep my babies from being born too early is worth it. We're only 12 days away from the 28-week mark!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Movin' on up

I've just been moved to a (much nicer) room with a view, and this can only mean one thing: I'm in here for the long haul. I'm not too surprised, as I've been piecing together clues pointing in this direction for a couple of days now. First of all, every new nurse on duty has automatically assumed that I will be here until the babies come. Also, the chaplain who visited me yesterday mentioned that someone could teach me to knit or crochet while I am here (!). And this morning, a nurse suggested that Ted bring some of our own pillows and blankets to make things feel more homey.

Most telling, however, was this morning's exchange with my doctor's partner (Dr. E) who, after seeing my contraction patterns, ordered both an increase in my magnesium sulfate and a return to Indocin (a pill that relaxes the uterus):

Me: "Soooo ... I'm not leaving anytime soon, am I?"
Dr. E: "This is when you leave" (proceeds to write "HFO" [Hell Freezes Over] on the whiteboard in my room).

'Nuff said, no? I am not too unhappy about being here long-term, though; everyone here is wonderful and I feel increasingly reassured that I am getting the best care possible for these babies.

Incidentally, almost as soon as I got my bathroom privileges yesterday, they were revoked due to my sudden increase in contractions. So I'm back to the bedside commode (ugh) and who knows when I'll ever see a showerhead. I guess all the activity yesterday (getting out of bed so they could change my sheets, washing up at the sink, walking to the real toilet umpteen times, talking to nurses and getting somehow poked or prodded by them every half-hour or so, undergoing my daily ultrasound, etc.) was too much for my humongous uterus to handle.

All this is why I've asked people to please not visit or call for the time being—the slightest increase in activity (including any sort of extended conversation) drives up my pulse to as high as 145 (compare that to my pre-pregnancy resting heart rate of 60), which just totally wipes me out. And the last thing I need right now is to be using up my energy on anything other than growing these babies and keeping them from coming for at least 2 more weeks. I absolutely love hearing from everyone via the comments on this blog, Facebook, or just plain e-mail, though. Your words are a constant encouragement to me, so please keep them coming!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Day 3 and counting

Yep, it's day 3 and I am still on the mag pump. I didn't sleep very well last night, so I napped most of the morning and plan to nap some more this afternoon (one of the perks of being on bedrest!). Dr. S came in a few hours ago (for about 2 nanosececonds—I counted), and all he said was that my uterus seems to be calmer and we'll see how I do over the weekend. The nurse came in later to expand on that, saying that I'll definitely need to be on the mag for at least 24 hours after my last steroid injection (which I had at 11am today) and then, once they decide to take me off the mag, I'll need to stay an additional couple of days for observation. So according to my calculations, the best-case scenario has me going home Monday at the earliest (although I am not holding my breath for that to happen).

In fun news, I had an ultrasound yesterday afternoon to check the babies' heart tones (they say this will be a daily occurrence while I'm here). The resident who performed the scan was pleasantly surprised at how "big and beautiful" my 25-week quads are, and when I told her their 23-week weights, she was quite impressed (yay for my overachieving children!). She noted that the babies are very active and was glad to see that they are practicing their breathing as they should. I don't have any pictures to post, but at today's ultrasound I will try to remember to ask whether the hospital's machine has the capability to burn the images to a CD (I remembered today that I stashed one in my purse before leaving home, just in case).

The best thing that's happened so far today is that I have been granted bathroom privileges (no more bedside commode, woohoo!). And the nurse is hoping that I will be allowed to take a shower tomorrow (they let me get up to wash at the sink this morning, but it's just not the same). But now I need to lie back; the nurse just informed me that I've had six contractions in the last half-hour. RATS!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quick update

My doctor (Dr. S) came to see me this afternoon, just after I got my steroid shot, and asked, "You know why we're torturing you, don't you?" He stressed that once labor gets going, the momentum is very hard to stop, so we have to put the brakes on it now, while it's in its early stages. He also told me that we need to get my uterus completely quiet before I can go home—and he said that that might not happen for several more days (boo!). The time estimates for a discharge date seem to get longer and longer, but I am glad that I and my babies are being so well taken care of. Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes you have been sending our way today!

In the hospital

Well, after 2 uneventful weeks of the doctor saying I was "doing awesome," I somehow ended up in the hospital all of a sudden yesterday. The trouble started in the morning when the nurse called to tell me that I'd registered 10 contractions in an hour. I gave myself an extra bolus of terbutaline and remonitored; doing that cut my contraction count in half, but I was still over my threshold of four. I remonitored again in the afternoon—same story: five contractions in an hour. That's when the nurse called to tell me that the doctor wanted me to come to the hospital.

Ted brought me to triage, where they put me on a contraction monitor for over an hour. When they saw that I was still contracting every 5 to 6 minutes, they decided to admit me for overnight observation. Once I got to my room, I found out that the doctor wanted to put me on a magnesium sulfate pump to "wipe out" my contractions. So they hooked me up and I prepared to be miserable. Fortunately, I tolerated the prescribed dose very well; the only side effect I experienced was that I felt very hot. We turned the air down and got a fan, and I was fine for the rest of the night (although Ted just about froze to death—sorry, honey!).

This morning I am having contractions every 10 minutes or so, which is better than yesterday but still not great. The resident told me that sometime today they will give me a steroid shot to accelerate development of the babies' lungs. They say it's just a precaution, but the nurse did mention that they give the shot to women who have a very good chance of delivering in the next few days. It's scary because I am not feeling any pain or anything different, yet they are telling me that these babies could come at 25 weeks and 3 days.

Please pray with us that I can keep these babies cooking for at least 3 more weeks. Thanks to a visit from my mom last weekend, the nursery is ready to go, but just about everything else (including those four little bodies) is not!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shrinking spaces and two sweet faces

Our little Fab Four have increasingly been making their presence known during the past couple of weeks, making it feel like an air popper is constantly running inside my belly. In fact, about a week ago Baby C kicked hard enough for Ted to feel baby movement for the first time, which was pretty exciting for both of us. And on Monday I was actually able to feel a body part (head? heel? elbow?) when I pressed on the top of my belly!

At Tuesday's 23-week ultrasound, I found out why I've been so much more aware of the babies lately. The tech determined that they now weigh 1 lb. 7 oz., 1 lb. 5 oz., 1 lb. 2 oz., and 1 lb. 3 oz. (A to D), which is just over 5 pounds combined (up from less than 3 pounds at my 20-week ultrasound). To further confirm the babies' significant growth, the nurse said that my belly has now surpassed full-term size (37 weeks) by nearly 2 weeks. It must be getting crowded in there!

I also got to see more 4-D images of two of the babies. Here is a video of Baby B, who let us have a good, long look at his cute little face:

video

And here's Baby C (she had her arms in a very dramatic pose and refused to move them so that we could get a better look at her):

video

Babies A and D acted bashful and turned around every time we trained the camera on them. The ultrasound tech said that we'd try to get 4-D images again next week (when Ted will be with me), so hopefully I'll have more videos (or at least stills) to share at that time. I am anxious to get my first look at Baby A, and I would like to see how much Baby D has changed since the 20-week mark.

Incidentally, the round-the-clock terbutaline hasn't entirely gotten rid of the contractions, but it's definitely helping: I haven't had more than four an hour since I began the therapy. And the initial side effects have subsided except for when I get a bolus; this extra-high dose is delivered every six hours and drives my pulse up to about 120 beats per minute, often making me feel weak, shaky, and short of breath for a half-hour or more. My doctor says that this spike is normal and I shouldn't worry unless my pulse reaches 125 or higher. Otherwise, things are looking good: I have no swelling, my blood pressure is staying nice and low, and I have no protein in my urine. My body's just gotta keep this up for at least 5 more weeks!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Contractions, be gone!

At yesterday's 22-week appointment, I unexpectedly got to hear the babies' heartbeats for the first time. When I reacted to the sound, the ultrasound tech laughed and said she always forgets that moms of multiples miss out on listening to the heartbeats. I got to hear only a couple of seconds' worth for each baby, but it was long enough for me to notice that each one has a distinct rhythm. Even after all this time, I still can't believe that there are five hearts beating inside of my body!

After the ultrasound, the nurse got out the measuring tape and determined that my belly is measuring at 36 weeks—that's 4 weeks larger than I was measuring just a week ago! This could explain why I suddenly started to experience so many contractions last week; with this huge uterus, my body thinks it's time to get these babies out of here. In fact, when the doctor saw how many contractions I'd registered over the weekend, he decided to take me off the Procardia and start me on something a little more hard core: a terbutaline pump. The pump is about the size of a beeper and delivers the terbutaline (an asthma medication that has been shown to prevent preterm labor by decreasing contractions) straight into my leg muscle via a thin, flexible tube. I get a low dose around the clock, with a big dose (called a "bolus") being delivered every six hours. It makes me really weak and shaky, but the nurse said that these side effects should abate after a couple of days.

The other big news to come out of yesterday's appointment is that the doctor told me that I needed to quit working, even from home. To help keep my uterus quiet, I am to lay on my side as much as possible and avoid any unnecessary stress (these babies make sure I have enough of that as it is). So as of today, I am a woman of leisure—ordered to stay off my feet and lacking the strength or mobility to do anything else anyway! We'll see how long it takes for me to go out of my mind.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Meet our virtual offspring

When Ted and I were first married, we saw one of those machines that morphs two faces together and just couldn't pass up the chance to see what our future kids would look like. Over the years, we've joked about the amusing results, and now, in a matter of weeks, we're finally going to see how accurate the machine's predictions were!

Allow me to introduce to you our kiddie composites (is it wrong to hope that the technology still has a ways to go?):

Friday, October 3, 2008

Good news

The lab results are in, and I don't have preeclampsia! The nurse said that my protein levels were around 250, and they don't start worrying until levels hit the 500 range. Whew!

As for the contractions, they seem to have quieted down. I had only one during my monitoring session this morning, but I did feel several throughout the day. Fortunately, the contractions do not hurt; it just feels like my belly is tightening up and shrinking in on itself for about a minute or so—a very odd sensation, indeed. We'll see how I do over the weekend.

In any case, thanks for all your words of encouragement, as well as your continued prayers for me, the babies, and Ted. They really do make a difference!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A roller-coaster week

My first week of bedrest ended on a high note, with a baby shower thrown by my mother-in-law's friends (don't worry, I had permission from my doctor to attend). I had met most of them only once or twice (several years ago, when I was but a blushing bride), and some I had never met before. The ladies immediately put me at ease, however, with their excitement about the quads, myriad questions about how things are going, and offers to help out when the babies arrive. Ted and I were so surprised by their generosity; it's clear that they must love his mother dearly and we are so thankful that they extended that love to us. The hostesses did a fantastic job and, as you can see, I got another cute cake out of the deal!

Unfortunately, the days following this final baby shower haven't been quite as much fun. At my doctor visit on Tuesday, they found a small amount of protein in my urine. Since this could indicate the onset of preeclampsia (click on the link if you aren't familiar with the condition), the doctor decided to run some additional tests (results should be available tomorrow afternoon). On top of this, I've had contraction monitoring sessions registering five, six, seven, and even eight contractions in the past few days. For this reason, my doctor has put me on Procardia, which is usually used to treat high blood pressure but is also effective at relaxing the uterus. I am not very happy about being on meds already, but I'd rather take a pill than be in the hospital or lose my babies. Hopefully this Procardia will do the trick, and my uterus will stay nice and calm for a few more weeks.

I should be used to the highs and lows by now, but I admit that it's been hard for both Ted and me to balance excitement about the quads and the realities of a high-risk pregnancy. Fortunately, we are a team and we are growing stronger every day. I haven't enjoyed losing my independence (even if I weren't on bedrest, I have no energy and I just plain can't move like I used to), but it's definitely given me a chance to appreciate how much Ted loves me and the babies. I couldn't do this without his help, and I try to let him know every day that I don't take his willing sacrifices of time and energy for granted. I am so blessed to have his support, both physically and emotionally. He is going to be a great dad!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I've just seen a face (or three)

So the reason my doctor appointment was so exciting was that Ted and I unexpectedly got to see 4-D images of three of the babies! They actually looked like morphing gobs of goo most of the time (the ultrasound tech had to fiddle with a bunch of settings in order to get the right angle), but once they were brought into focus, it was so cool to see their little faces.

Without further ado, here is a screencap of Baby B (apparently we were disturbing him so much that he had to cover his ears):


And here's Baby C (the poor thing was getting kicked in the head by her sister most of the time, which is probably why she's frowning):

And finally, here's Baby D (not a great picture, but funny because she's in the process of getting kicked in the face by Baby C—that'll teach her!):

Unfortunately, Baby A was left out because he was too deep in my pelvis to see him clearly. Hopefully we'll have better luck next time.

In case you were curious, the babies weighed in at 14, 11, 11, and 12 ounces (A to D). I won't tell you what the scales read when it was my turn to get weighed, but rest assured that the doctor was very happy with the amount I've gained so far. My 20-week belly is measuring at 30 weeks, and the nurse commented that I am "stretching nicely" (whatever that means). So far I am not having any swelling and my blood pressure remains low, both of which pleased my doctor greatly.

He did warn me, however, that at this stage I will be experiencing contractions on a regular basis. Since I can't feel them yet, I have started using a home contraction monitor for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. (The babies go wild when I wear the monitor; I don't think they are fond of it, but I love it when they move around so much!) If I would ever have four or more contractions within the space of an hour, I would need to go to the hospital for further evaluation.

So my job for the foreseeable future is to stay hydrated and restrict my activity as much as possible in order to keep contractions to a minimum. Although I hate not being able to do anything, it's getting to the point now where it's difficult for me to move much, anyway. I predict that my new 3-month Netflix membership (thanks, Johnny and Holly!) will be getting quite the workout!

Some last hurrahs before bedrest

Perhaps not surprisingly, the days leading up to the 20-week mark have been somewhat of a blur.

It all began on Thursday, when my wonderful coworkers threw me a baby shower pitch-in, complete with Beatles song-themed cupcakes! Despite being fully aware of what wonderful people I work with, I was truly astonished at their generosity and touched at the effort they made to celebrate the upcoming arrival of these babies. It was a perfect excuse to take a break from the daily grind and enjoy each others' company for a while—I mean, where else can you sample a dozen potluck dishes while recounting your favorite toddler bathroom horror stories? Good times.

On Friday, I pretty much cleaned out my cubicle in preparation for a couple of months of working from home—it's amazing to realize how much stuff you use on a daily basis! I said goodbye to some of my pals and extracted promises that they'd visit me while I am on bedrest. Leaving at the end of the day was a very strange experience, knowing that the next time I stepped in those doors I would be a mother of four!

Saturday, we drove to my Grandpa M's house to celebrate his 90th birthday—which my parents flew in for! My aunts had set up a tent in my grandpa's backyard, and he sat enthroned in his motorized chair as dozens of friends and family arrived to offer their birthday wishes. It was a beautiful day for an outdoor party, and I got to see several cousins that I rarely have a chance to spend time with. We'd hoped that all 11 of my grandpa's children would be able to make it, but 9 out of 11 ain't bad!

Unfortunately, all this activity proved to be too much for this pregnant lady, and on Sunday morning I woke up with a racing heart. I stayed in bed all morning, hoping that it would calm down before the afternoon, but no such luck. Despite the fact that I was feeling puny, I had another baby shower to go to! This time it was a family shower, hosted by my awesome cousins Tiffany and Charisa and their mom, Holly. The theme was "Four Peas in a Pod"—check out the adorable cake that Tiff's friend made! I loved it! The lovely hostesses even found favors with four peas in a pod; I was super-impressed by their creativity and resourcefulness. They and the other family members present at the shower blessed me with cute baby outfits and other needed items, and I was again so thankful for the ways people are helping us get ready for the quads.

My parents flew home yesterday after a much-too-short visit, and now that I am on light bedrest, things should be slowing way down for me. The only exception will be my doctor appointments, which will now be occurring weekly rather than every other week. And speaking of doctor visits, I had a rather exciting one this morning. But that post will have to wait until Ted has time to make some scans ... stay tuned!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Reality check

"Think you're big now? You'll start growing even more rapidly in the weeks to come."

This startling (and unintentionally hilarious) bit of information was featured in the latest BabyCenter newsletter to land in my inbox. Believe it or not, I occasionally forget that my pregnancy is not a "normal" one—after all, I've never been pregnant before, so I don't know any better! Fortunately, I have BabyCenter to remind me how freakishly big I already am ... and to terrify me as I contemplate what it will be like to grow even faster than I have been doing for the past 6 weeks or so.

Something else that got my attention this week? The illustration (at right) of what my body should look like at 19 weeks, according to Your Pregnancy Week by Week. Honestly, I don't think I looked much smaller than this lady before I became pregnant! Prepare to be astonished as you compare this drawing to my corresponding "19 weeks" belly shot:

You know, sometimes I just sit here and can't even believe that this is happening to me. I'm so glad that I can (usually) laugh about it!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A week of firsts

In the past week, I've gotten to experience a lot of "fun" things about pregnancy for the first time. Lovely stretch marks have begun to appear, my right hip has decided to randomly give out on me when I stand up, and on Sunday I woke up in the middle of the night with one of the worst charley horses I've ever had!

More importantly, however, Ted and I also got to visit our hospital's NICU for the first time last week. It was a far cry from the brightly lit beehive of activity that I'd expected: The lights were dim, sounds were muted, and the nurses seemed relaxed and friendly. I'm sure it would have been a different picture if we'd walked in during an emergency, but it was nevertheless comforting to see in what a soothing environment our babies will spending the first days and perhaps weeks of their lives. The nurse in charge also took us into the little room off the C-section rooms, where the babies will be stabilized directly after birth, and she explained a little bit about all the things the nurses will be checking and administering to the babies during that critical time.

Hearing the nurse talk about preemies and the things they have to go through depending on how many weeks they're in the womb before being born was a great reminder to Ted and me about the importance of making it to 34 weeks. According to the nurse, babies born at that stage can usually breathe room air on their own, which means they don't need to be on ventilators or CPAP machines. They also have usually developed the suckling reflex by then, which means that they can feed from breast or bottle instead of via feeding tubes. And, of course, being born at 34 weeks generally means less time in the NICU before going home.

So let's keep praying for a December 29 birthday ... 15 more weeks to go!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Manpower and a baby shower

Bedrest is less than 2 weeks away, and the flurry of activity has begun! The busy-ness kicked off on Labor Day weekend, when my family (minus Dad) flew up from Texas to help us get some things in shape while I am still mobile. Although Johnny and Holly were only able to be here for a couple of days, they made a huge impact, helping Ted to transform the guest room into the babies' room within a matter of hours. It seriously would have taken ten times longer without their assistance! Here is the nursery in progress (notice how the cribs barely fit into one shot):

After Johnny and Holly left, my mom stayed on through the end of the week. Her most important accomplishment during this time was to keep me exceedingly well fed with her delicious cooking—not a small feat! Having a full belly definitely helped me sleep better and just feel better overall. Mom was also able to finish up a cross-stitch project to decorate the nursery with (I'll post pictures when we get around to hanging it), and on Wednesday she helped me celebrate the big 3-2 (thanks for sharing her on our birthday, Dad!).

At the tail end of Mom's visit, we attended my first baby shower, which was hosted by a group of my wonderful college friends: (left to right) Amy, Lisa, Becky, Andrea, and Kristen. The girls did an absolutely fantastic job, preparing a lovely spread, coming up with non-cheesy shower activities (thanks, guys!), playing Beatles lullabies, and even finding decorations with four baby faces on them! (The cake replicated the design; isn't it so cute?)

I can't tell you how blessed I felt by the girls' hard work and attention to detail (everything was perfect!), as well as by all the friends from different parts of my life who came together to celebrate the upcoming arrival of these four babies. All of your love and support, plus my family's visit during the past week, mean the world to us. Ted and I truly couldn't do this without you guys!

THANK YOU!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Surprise!

Yesterday morning I had some strange pains in my belly and back. A couple of hours after they started, I decided to called the doctor. They told me to come to the office in the afternoon so that they could hook me up to a contraction monitor, take a urine sample, measure my blood pressure, etc., to make sure things were all right. When I got there, however, I learned that they were also going to go ahead and do the full scans that I was scheduled to have done on Friday.

I called Ted to tell him that he was going to miss the scans (which were going to measure the babies' heads, abdomens, and femurs), but neither of us thought it was a big deal. As soon as the ultrasound tech came into the examining room, though, she asked, "So are you here to find out what you're having?" I hadn't expected to find out for a couple more weeks! I told her that I would love to know, if she could tell me, so she got to work. Within seconds, she was able to determine the sexes of all four babies!

She gave me a bunch of pictures, but it's hard to make out what exactly they're supposed to be showing, so I won't be posting them. I will, however, reveal our happy news! Without further ado (drumroll, please):

Baby A is a ... BOY!
Baby B is a ... BOY!
Baby C is a ... GIRL!
Baby D is a ... GIRL!

I asked the tech how certain she was, and she said, "I'm 98% sure. I've been in this office 20 years and have only been wrong once." So we feel pretty confident that these boys will stay boys and the girls will stay girls. The tech said that when I have my next full scan (in a month) the babies will be so much bigger that it will be much easier for the untrained eye to see who's what.

Thanks to everyone who voted in the poll; I had fun seeing what the trends were each day (people really thought I was full of boys!). Special props go to Staci, who exercised her sonography skills by examining the ultrasounds in last week's post and determining (correctly) that Baby C was a girl! And a big thank you to Becky, who brought me these pacifiers a few weeks ago in the hopes that we would have an even mix of niños and niñas. Aren't they adorable?

For those who like numbers, I am currently at 16 weeks gestation but am measuring at 27 weeks. Babies A, B, and D weigh about 6 ounces, and Baby C is a little smaller at 5 ounces (the tech says this is nothing to be concerned about). Oh, and the tests showed that I was not having any contractions, did not have a fever, and had normal blood pressure; the pains were probably due to the fact that I've been growing so fast (2 inches in the last 5 days!).

Now it's time to start thinking of some names ...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Drummer boy ... or girl?

After recovering at home for a week, I went back to work on Monday. That morning, as I was walking back to my desk from the copy room, I felt one of the babies move! The sensation was like a very light *thump* from the inside, as if someone had hit a drumskin (my uterus) with a padded drumstick (a foot?). At first I thought the kicker was George (Baby C), but based on the babies' positions on the ultrasound I had yesterday, I am now convinced it was Ringo (Baby D). Quite appropriate, no?

Despite my heightened awareness, I didn't feel any more movement until last night. This time I felt less distinct but more numerous little taps; it kind of felt like little bubbles were popping all across the top of my belly. (And no, I did not have beans for dinner!!) People keep reminding me that I'll soon grow annoyed and uncomfortable with all the gymnastics in my belly, but I am blissfully refusing to let anything lessen the thrill of feeling my babies move for the first time.

Something else I'm getting more excited about is finding out how many of my little drummers are boys and how many are girls. I am not alone in this: "Do you know yet what you're having?" is by far the number-one question I get these days. In fact, interest is so high that a colleague of mine even suggested that I start an office pool! Although I don't plan on doing that, I'd love for people to submit their guesses in the "What's in My Belly?" poll (at right). The nurse says that we should be able to find out what we're having in another 3 to 4 more weeks.

And now for yesterday's 14-week ultrasound pics. It's a good thing that we weren't trying to see the sexes this time since all but one (Baby A, aka John) kept their backs turned to the camera:




Thursday, August 7, 2008

The kindness of friends

Ever since we announced that we are expecting quads, I have been repeatedly surprised and touched by people's generosity. Already, a number of friends have offered to give or lend us their used baby paraphernalia, bring us meals during my bedrest, and help with the babies when they come home. This week during my recovery, friends have stopped by to see how I'm doing, bring us food, and even drive me to the doctor's office on short notice.

Several of my girlfriends have also been kind enough to give or lend me a sufficient number of maternity clothes so that I hopefully won't have to purchase more than a couple pairs of pants (being short stinks). Just yesterday, in fact, I acquired my latest piece of maternity clothing, courtesy of my friend Karen (whom I went to school with in Uruguay and haven't seen since the 8th grade). Look at how adorable this T-shirt she sent me is!!

The thoughtfulness of this gesture by an old, old friend really moved me, and I know that this and every kindness that has been extended to us up to this point is just the tip of the iceberg. Your prayers, support, love, and friendship mean more to us than we can express. God is good, and He is providing!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Suzy's big adventure

As most of you know by now, I came home yesterday around noon. What most of you don't know (because I forgot to include it in my last pre-op post) is that my mom was able to take time off to be with me for my surgery! Ted and I were so glad that she could come; it was exactly what I needed in order to feel completely serene and prepared. She flew in on Thursday afternoon and we did a little last-minute shopping to make sure I had everything I needed for my little "vacation." Then she stayed up with me until midnight so that I could eat and drink until the very last minute (I knew the babies would be so mad at me in the morning when I wasn't allowed to eat breakfast or even have a sip of water, so I wanted to keep them happy for as long as possible).

After a great night's sleep, I was completely ready to go. I got a nice surprise in the triage room when quad mom Jen showed up. She offered some firsthand advice, encouragement, and a prayer, all of which were greatly appreciated. Shortly after she left, they wheeled me into the OR (a little earlier than expected, but I didn't mind). They gave me my epidural and then did a quick ultrasound to make sure all the babies still had heartbeats (they did). The first epidural didn't take, so they gave me another one. Because my uterus had grown so much in the four days since my last appointment, the doctor had them wheel the ultrasound machine back in so that he could see where the top of my uterus was now, to verify that he could still get away with a horizontal cut rather than a vertical one (he could, whew!). The resident who was assisting him commented that I am measuring at 20 weeks, 7 weeks ahead of singleton schedule. Because of these detours, the actual TAC didn't get underway until probably closer to 2pm.

The rest of the procedure, which lasted a little over an hour, seemed to go off without a hitch. I had no pain from the actual surgery, although I did have what they call "referred pain" in my upper arm (not pleasant, but not the worst thing in the world). When all was said and done, the doctor told me that my uterus was "very conducive" before heading to the waiting area to tell my family that I'd lost only 6 tablespoons of blood (fantastic, considering how much the babies need every ounce of blood in my body) and that I had "the perfect anatomy" for this type of procedure (I'll take that as a compliment).

I was in recovery for about an hour, during which we got to see another ultrasound of the babies, kicking around and being more active than ever. I used the morphine pump a few times to relieve the burning sensation in my incision, and then I was wheeled to Room 237, my home for the weekend. I clicked the morphine pump once more (kind of out of habit, I think); I didn't have to use pain meds again for the rest of my stay. Mom stayed with me that night, and it was so nice to have her there! She's had several surgeries (including two C-sections) herself, so it seemed that she knew exactly what I needed when I needed it. Neither of us got much sleep due to the nurses coming in to check my vitals so often, but I was nevertheless glad to be in such a great hospital.

On Saturday morning the nurse took out my catheter and IV, and told me to call her when I needed to use the bathroom so that she could help me get up. Well, I was so uncomfortable in the bed that I called her before I needed to use the bathroom, just so she could show me how to get up and walk around the room. It felt so great to stand up and sit in a chair! The nurse was amazed and thrilled that I had started walking around so soon of my own volition. After that, it was just a matter of making sure that my temperature and blood pressure stayed down (they did) and that all my "systems" were back in working order (they were). I got plenty of rest on Saturday (listening to The Beatles on the iPod, watching Tootsie on the in-room DVD player) and made sure that I did a lot of walking around (which was much more comfortable than laying there, anyway). I got another nice surprise when Kristen stopped by to visit (after a big detour to the main St. V's hospital, HA!). Ted stayed with me that night and took me home when I got discharged on Sunday.

I won't see the doctor again until the 15th, which means that I won't see the babies until then, either. They definitely aren't letting me forget about them, though, considering how much my belly seems to have grown in the past few days. Hopefully my incision will continue to heal in record time so that I have minimal discomfort in the growing days ahead. I am thankful that everything went so well, and also that I had the chance to see the hospital and meet the wonderful staff. Knowing that I will be so well taken care of will surely make my inevitable return to the hospital much less stressful. Let's just hope it's not for a long, long time!

Friday, August 1, 2008

The surgery went great!

I thought Ted would have to post in my stead to let everyone know how things went today, but it turns out that I am feeling pretty good, post-TAC. Later this week, I'll fill everybody in on the details of the day, but for now I just wanted everybody to know that I am doing very well and my doctor says that the surgery couldn't have gone better. I am glad to have it behind me, and I cannot express how thankful I am for all your prayers and encouraging words in the past few days. If everything keeps going well, I'll go home on Sunday.

Monday, July 28, 2008

It is scheduled

I will be undergoing the aforementioned transabdominal cerclage (TAC) procedure on Friday at 1:30pm. It actually wasn't that hard of a call to make after I decided that I just cannot ignore all the good outcomes that my doctor has had with dozens of triplet/quad pregnancies. Plus, I figure that if I didn't go through with it and the babies came too early to have a chance at a normal life (or even at life, period), I would always wonder whether things would have turned out differently if I'd had the TAC.

Something else that made my decision a little easier was the opportunity I had to talk with a wonderful triplet mom named Linda (thanks for the contact, Christine!). She had the procedure done a few years ago with the same doctor and was able to answer a lot of my questions (most of which seemed too trivial to ask the doctor himself). I am all about studying up and having all the information beforehand, so my chat with Linda really set my mind at ease. And hearing about her once-tiny babies and how well they're doing three years on was really encouraging. I hope that a couple of years from now I can share my successful quad pregnancy story with a newbie!

In other news, I had my 12-week appointment with the doctor this morning. I got a full first-trimester screening, which means I got to look at my babies for a whole half-hour! For those keeping track, they now range from 5.5 to 6 centimeters in length (crown to rump). The ultrasound tech was excited when she stumbled upon the view below, which shows all four of them in one shot. She says not to expect it to ever happen again:



Part of the screening involved measuring the skin folds on the back of the babies' necks. To do this, the tech had to get a profile shot of each baby. To my delight, while she was measuring the distance between the neck muscles and skin, I got to get a good look at the faces of each of my babies. I think that Baby A looks just like Ted:


And Baby B looks like my brother did when he was little:



Babies C and D were harder to pin down, looks-wise, but it will be interesting to see if my first impressions of the other two babies turn out to be accurate. It's so exciting to see them looking more and more like little individuals!

My next ultrasound will be right before they wheel me into surgery, and then I'll have another one a few minutes after the procedure to reassure me that they all made it through okay. I will probably be too out of it to post, but Ted assures me that he will take advantage of his contributor status in order to let everyone know how things went. If all goes as planned, I'll be back in posting form by early next week!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

This is where it starts to get hard

I had my second visit with the maternal-fetal specialist a couple of days ago. As the first order of business, we got to see the babies again. No measurements this time; the tech was just looking for heart tones. She focused on each baby individually and showed us the flicker of the heartbeat. It was very clear that the kiddos have done some growing in the last couple of weeks; we could see them moving around and even waving at us! It's amazing to think that there's all that movement in my body, and yet I can't feel any of it. I am sure that I will long for this kind of oblivion once I have eight tiny feet (and eight tiny fists) vying for room in my torso!

Here are a couple of snapshots from the latest ultrasound (the babies are shown at 10 weeks gestation):




The second part of the visit was less fun, as it involved hearing a little more about transabdominal cerclage (TAC). The TAC is an optional procedure in which the uterus is temporarily removed (with babies in it!) via a C-section-type incision so that a band can be placed around the top of the cervix. The surgery has serious risks (including, rarely, the loss of one or more babies); however, it appears that outcomes for triplet pregnancies are encouraging (there is not much data on quad pregnancies, for obvious reasons). According to my doctor, women who have the surgery are less likely to experience the degree of preterm labor that results in a much-too-early delivery. The babies will come early regardless, of course, but this could lengthen their time in the womb (which, in turn, would mean less time in the NICU—always a good thing).

If I decide to have the procedure (and I'm pretty sure I will), my surgery will be August 1. My doctor says that I can expect to be in the hospital for two nights, and then at home for a week. Please pray for me as I face this scary prospect, that I may have peace about the decision I make. My main goal is to do whatever is best for the babies.

To end on an up note, Ted and I will celebrate our eighth anniversary on Tuesday. That's two years of marriage per baby—and you guys thought we were waiting too long to have kids!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I am full of babies

That's how my coworker Jon described me today, and it cracked me up! Of course, I can't feel any of the babies yet, but that doesn't mean I'm not constantly aware of their presence. Mostly, they make me tired and extremely hungry to the point that I cannot even sleep through the night without waking up for a hearty snack (okay, it's more like a meal). I hear that's pretty normal, but I can't help suspecting that four babies make you hungrier than just one.

In other news, at 9 weeks I can no longer button my jeans. I am using a hair band looped around my button and through my button hole to extend the reach of my waistband. It's working pretty well so far, but I have to admit that I had to unzip my pants on the car ride home from work today (I don't think the drivers around me noticed). Any day now, I won't even have to inform people that I am pregnant. Things are already happening so quickly!

What's not progressing quickly is the name selection. The truth is that we have been so overwhelmed by the thought of having quads that baby names are the last thing on our minds. We've kind of decided that the most efficient thing to do is to wait to make those decisions until we find out the sexes of John, Paul, George, and Ringo (yes, that's what I immediately dubbed them when we got the quad news), which won't happen for a few weeks yet. That way we don't waste a lot of time deciding on names that won't even be needed.

Nevertheless, we do have a number of helpful friends who are having fun coming up with names on our behalf. Here's the most complete (and the most inspired!) list I've received so far, courtesy of Jana (coworker and cat-sitter extraordinaire):

The basics (read: boring!)—these are the top four names for boys and girls in 2008-2009 (in order):

Girls: Madison, Hannah, Emily, and Alexia
Boys: Jacob, Michael, Joshua, and Matthew

In no particular order, here are the more—shall we say—colorful names!!

The 4 food groups: Ham, Broccoli, Milk, and Wheat
The Growing Pains kids (kinda appropriate): Mike, Carol, Ben, and Chrissy
I Love Lucy: Ricky, Lucy, Ethel, and Fred
The Scooby gang: Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy (I'd be remiss if I didn't include them)
Deck of cards: Heart, Club, Spade, and Diamond (although these do sound stripper-ish!)
70s disco: Earth, Wind, Fire (and Water)
The 4 elements in all living things: Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, and Nitrogen
4 really bad celebrity kids names: Pilot Inspektor, Prince Michael II (yes, because there's a Prince Michael I), Zahara, and Kal El
The 4 seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter
The 4 corner states: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico (the kid who gets the name New Mexico could definitely be shortened to "Mexi"—just a thought)
If you have 4 girls, how 'bout 4 flowers? Daisy, Rose, Lily, and Iris
Popular city names: Paris (of course, right!?), London, Brooklyn, and Dallas
And finally, what seems to be the most logical of all, The Fantastic Four: Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and Thing

Other interesting suggestions have included rock stars (Axl, Slash, Izzy, and Duff), comedians (Larry, Curly, Moe, and Shemp), and biblical characters (Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Chuck—hey, sometimes it's hard to come up with that fourth name!). If you have any more name ideas for us, leave a comment—we just might use one of them!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

We know the meaning of shock and awe

On June 3, 2008, Ted and I were elated to learn that I was 4 weeks pregnant. We spent the next couple of weeks making plans and smiling nonstop. When we went for my first ultrasound, at the 6-week mark, we were just praying to see a heartbeat. So imagine our utter surprise when we saw this:

Ted was speechless, and I just had to laugh. Even our doctor was stunned. Quadruplets!! Never in a million years did we imagine having more than two children total. In an instant, our entire life as we had planned it went out the window.
The doctor told us that it's not unusual for a multiple pregnancy to self-reduce this early in the game, so he warned us not to spread the news until we came back the next week for another ultrasound. When that day finally arrived, it was clear that they were all still there and growing (which is why they no longer fit into a single shot):


With this news, my doctor immediately referred me to a maternal-fetal specialist. We had our first visit with the new doctor a couple of days ago, and the ultrasound showed that the babies are all measuring approximately 1.5 to 2 centimeters. The ultrasonographer verified that none of them are identical, and she even named them for us: A, B, C, and D. Here is what they looked like at 8 weeks:



We are thrilled and feel so blessed to be having quads, but we are also terrified and very nervous! Not only do we have to worry about how we are going to afford to raise four kids, but we must also do everything in our power to keep these babies from coming too early. Quadruplet pregnancies are very risky, and preterm labor is the norm. Although my due date is February 9, the doctor says that these babies will almost certainly come before the end of the year (and spend several weeks in the NICU). He says that for them to have any real chance outside the womb, the first major milestone is 28 weeks (November 17). Ideally, however, they'll stay put until at least the 30-week mark (any time in December would be swell; the later, the better). To maximize my chances of carrying them that long, I will be going on bedrest around 20 weeks (September 22), at which time I should measure as large as a full-term singleton pregnancy!

As you can imagine, our minds are constantly racing with thoughts of everything that needs to get done before I go on bedrest, and then what needs to get done before the babies arrive, and then what needs to get done when they come home. Please pray for us as we make this big adjustment and figure out how to make it all work, pray for me as my body goes through changes that it was not really built for, and pray for our babies as they develop so that they may arrive healthy and strong. We plan to update this blog as often as possible to keep everyone posted on the status of the quads, so check back frequently for the latest news. I'm sure there won't be a dull moment!

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