The nurse’s energy completely shifted as she finished her exam. She looked me in the eye and in a forced calm voice said, “I feel a bulging sac and a baby’s head. We are calling your doctor and you are going to the operating room now to deliver your twins.”
For the first time this high risk pregnancy, tears uncontrollably ran down my face. I was only 24 weeks pregnant. I came to the hospital that day just to be checked out and expected to be sent home on bed rest like my last pregnancy. Can babies even survive when born this premature? I had so many questions, but no time to even process what was happening. I looked at my husband and asked him to call my mother. I didn’t know the sexes, we didn’t have names, and we had no clue about the roller coaster ride that had just begun. At 24 weeks and 5 days gestation, I was headed to deliver my twins.
The boys were delivered via emergency Cesarean; each boy weighed 1 lb 10 oz each and came out breathing and screaming. The nurses kept saying that our boys were so big, but all I could see were the tiniest creatures I had ever seen. They didn’t even look like humans. Their skin was transparent, eyes fused shut and their biceps were smaller than my index finger. We named Baby A Lochlan Timothy, which means “warrior” and “to honor God.” Baby B was named Lex Anthony, meaning “guardian of man” and “the priceless one.” We knew that this would be the greatest fight of our lives and, whatever the outcome, our boys were warriors.
On the second day of their life, a nurse told me, “This will be a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ kind of journey.” And it would prove to be truth. Honestly, some days were 12 steps forward, 11.999999… steps back. I was desperate for information. I had no medical background, but had so much to learn in a short amount of time. I learned that in certain moments, I had to take everything one breath at a time. I had to stay present and optimistic if I wanted to survived the 101 day NICU roller coaster. And I did survive, we all did.
Feeding tubes and breathing machines were the only thing keeping our warriors alive. In the first couple weeks of life we had serious sit down conversations with the complex care team. They said, “Lex is more sick than his brother.” Lex had heart surgery in the first month which almost immediately improved his health; he weighed 2 lbs. He also had hernia surgery toward the end of his NICU stay. Today, you would never know Lex has overcome so many obstacles. He doesn’t walk; he runs. He is funny, curious and absolutely makes me melt.
Both boys developed brain bleeds in the first few days of life, but Lochlan’s was more severe. Because of his bilateral brain bleeding, he developed hydrocephalus and required a shunt. During his first of two neurosurgeries, he had a complication that caused a second severe brain bleed. We were told many times that his neurological state was unknown and that we would just have to wait and see as he developed. At the time, we did not know that the hemorrhaging had caused permanent brain damage affecting his left arm.
Lochlan is currently in therapy and, without falter, he perseveres. One neurologist said, “You would never know this was the same child by looking at his MRI.” Lochlan is incredibly verbal and observant of his surroundings. He makes everyone fall in love with his charm. Although he is developmentally delayed, we do not expect his neurological situation to limit him in any way as he becomes a young man. He does not get held up on anything developmentally, he is just taking the scenic route. I’ve seen beautiful views atop a hill, but when you are looking down from the summit of Everest the view is simply richer.
Our warriors, Lochlan and Lex, turn two years old on July 18, 2019. They continue to defy the odds and I cannot be more proud of those souls. What I have learned while riding the NICU rollercoaster is that statistics are just numbers and that miracles happen every day, especially in the NICU.
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