Readmission

On the evening of December 12, Tristan had a fit of strange little jerks of her knees. By noon the next day, she’d had several more and, on consultation with the nurses in the family, we took her in to the Children’s hospital ER. Going back to the hospital woke a lot of feelings in me I didn’t expect. I had thought, hoped, assumed that once the babies were home all would be well. But all wasn’t well. I was on some level more upset about taking her back to the hospital than I was about the possibility that something might be really wrong.

We didn’t have video of the spells when we first took her in. It was, hands down, the most pleasant ER experience I’ve ever had, in that there was very little waiting around. But the resident and then the attending examined Tris, said she “examined very well”, and thought that the spasms we described sounded like “myoclonic jerks”—usually harmless spasms, like large hiccups. They started a referral to neurology just to be on the safe side and sent us home.

That night, we caught the above video; by this point Tris had had seven or eight episodes in 24 hours. At 10:30 at night we decided to head back. If I thought we’d been seen quickly before, this time was lightning. We just handed the registration nurse the ID bracelet Tris had gotten on the first visit, and were shown directly to a room. The resident and attending from before were still on shift, and considerably more concerned about the video than our descriptions. They showed it to the neurologist. We were assured that he still didn’t think they looked like real seizures, but they were going to admit Tris anyway.

Those words hit like a hammer.

Before that, it was the “everything’s probably fine, they’ll check things out just in case” bubble. After that, it was real.

They took us back upstairs, to the pediatric ward, one floor down from the NICU where we had spent so much time. The same but different. I was stunned, robotic. Going through the motions, while inside My vrai chanted how can I leave her here again???!?” over and over.

More upset, in that moment, about being back in the hospital than about the possibility that something might be really wrong with my baby.

Leaving her there was like tearing my heart in half all over again.

On the other hand, sleeping with only one baby at home was a huge treat.

The next morning felt like a surreal repetition of our NICU lifestyle. I packed up River and a little cooler of pumped breast milk and trudged back to the hospital.

They did the EEG that afternoon. As medical tests go, it’s pretty non-invasive, and I gotta say the funny little head-sock they use to cover all the wires was pretty adorable. And surprisingly stable, which is good because she had to wear it until she had an episode, and I was worried how it would handle nursing, since she often tries to whip her head back and forth wildly.

PICU was like a more chill version of NICU. I was a bit stressed about managing with River there and just me, but on the other hand, unlike in NICU I COULD HAVE RIVER THERE TOO. I could nurse them whenever they wanted. The nurses even held River (not a patient) a few times while I was feeding Tristan.

Tristan, for her part, seemed to fall back into the hospital routine, too, spending most of her time sleeping or sucking on a soother. They hardly ever use their soothers at home, and tend to spit them out after ten seconds when they do. She did enjoy the little fish tank video that plays on a screen above the bed.

And then, a couple of hours into the EEG, while the nurse was on her break, Tristan had her seizure.

It felt weird to be excited about that. But that was what we needed to happen.

The EEG confirmed seizure activity, but not the worst-case scenario, infantile spasms. The neurologist recommended starting an anticonvulsant, and ordered an MRI to see if there was any obvious cause for the seizures. The MRI would be sometime the following week, and if she tolerated the medication well, the neurologist was reassuring that Tris would be home before Christmas.

I won’t tell you the diagnosis was easy to take. Even though it was about as good as it could have been, in the circumstances. I cried. I just wanted to hold Tris and make it better. And the most likely cause of these seizures is brain damage related to the premature birth, so bring on another wave of guilt and maternal failure from that direction.

But I cried through it. Went home. Came back for an evening visit with my husband and Tyo. Cried some more. Bought a one week parking pass. Enjoyed another night of sleeping with only one baby at home.

By the time we came in the next day, they had already done her MRI. We were pleasantly stunned. No brain abnormalities detected, just a remnant of what might have been a minor bleed, probably from birth (so minor it didn’t show up on either of the two head ultrasounds she had in NICU). No tumors (my husband’s nightmare.) The neurologist said she could go home that afternoon.

So I guess we wasted some money on that parking pass.

It’s a mental adjustment, for sure. My baby who I hoped would be perfectly healthy, once we got through the whole NICU thing, isn’t. She might grow out of it, but she might not. But at least so far, it isn’t impacting her brain development, and now that she’s been on her medication for a couple of weeks she’s getting over the sleepiness that is the main side effect in infants. And the measures you have to take to protect kids with seizures are basically the same as what you do normally for infants. So that will be more of a thing later than it is now.

So for now, we’re good.

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Healthy and home

We spent eight weeks in the NICU and there’s a lot to say about that, good and bad, hard and beautiful. There’s stuff I want to say about it, but it’s a long post, and a hard one. I’m not ready yet. Maybe by the time I’m ready, it won’t even matter. In hindsight, it feels like a voyage to the underworld out of a Greek myth (the internet just taught me the word “katabasis“). There’s some trauma wrapped up in there, for sure. But both twins came home by the end of October. Not in time for Thanksgiving as I had hoped (Canadian Thanksgiving is the second Sunday in October) but before Hallowe’en, and before their November 3 due date, at least. In our time there the twins went from three pounds apiece to five; they learned to breath, eat, and even breastfeed. They had no major medical scares, although for every step forward it seemed like there was a half-step back.

First pic of all four sisters together

Having them home is emotionally easier but not practically easier. Sleep is a real issue. And they’re not bad sleepers, as babies go, but they take turns. And the strategy that got us through the first month stopped working in the second.

Getting anything done with a small baby is hard. With two, it’s nearly impossible.

Other than sleep, getting a handle on the bottle feeding we had to do was really, really hard. In NICU I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed the babies more than two or three times a day, for no more than fifteen minutes at a time. Every breastfeed was followed up with a bottle of pumped breast milk fortified with preemie formula powder for extra calories and minerals. They also have to have two feeds of special preemie formula a day. And that was the feeding strategy that we brought home, topping up each feed, formula twice a day.

I had never sterilized bottles before, certainly never prepared formula. It didn’t seem so onerous while we were in the hospital and the prep was all being done for us, but at home it was a massive struggle of constant bottle-washing. And laundry, a whole other issue. Fortunately the twins got the hang of full-time breastfeeding within a couple of weeks, and became less and less interested in their top-up bottles, so at this point we only have to give them the supplements. It still feels like a lot of work, and it’s hard to get out from underneath babies long enough to do it, but my system has improved a bit. I’m still excited to phase it out, once they’re three months past their due date.

Other than those struggles, and a health issue I’ll cover soon, life is good. I spend a LOT of time stuck under babies. Sometimes I’m bored or resentful, or just stressed that I’m surrounded by disaster, but often it’s calm and blissful.

I miss wearing makeup and clean clothes. There’s puke. So much puke.

They don’t fit these preemie outfits any more. They were already getting too small when they came home from the hospital.

Getting to let them just lie side by side felt like such a privilege to begin with.

I have neither the ambition nor the organizational skills to dress them alike at all times, but it’s fun sometimes. I particularly like coordinating but non-identical outfits.

They don’t interact obviously, but they do subtly synchronize, movement, waking, even bowel movements.

I try to nurse both together often, for the time saving as well as the abundance of milk. It’s kind of like the Wild West of breastfeeding—they move their heads around a lot and grunt and swallow air, but it gets things done quickly.

Dresses on babies who can’t walk yet are a little ridiculous and awkward, yet still adorable, especially at Christmas. Those “infant” sized tights are as long as they are, however.

There are some really sweet moments.

The newborn sized clothes are getting outgrown now, too.

Just in the last week or two they’ve been getting interested in their play frame, kicking and batting at the hanging toys, sometimes even long enough for me to eat breakfast.

So yeah, if you need me, I’ll be over here under the pile of babies.

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Too much information

(A birth story. Don’t read if you don’t want gory, nitty-gritty details.)

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There aren’t enough words.

The last few months are too much, and nothing. I could write a book, or not even a paragraph.

The twins were born ten weeks early, at the end of August. They weighed three lbs (1350g) apiece.

It was terrifying, and wonderful.

I don’t know how to find the balance between exhausting, tedious detail, and glossing over everything. Nothing has happened except sitting–in hospital rooms, at home. Everything has happened.

For now, I’ll gloss. They’re home. They’re healthy. They’re over six and seven lbs, respectively. We’re figuring things out. Sleep is elusive. Sewing is nonexistent. Days slide by in a haze of baby feeding, changing, and spit up. I’ve been posting play-by-plays on Instagram, under the hashtag #tanitisisandthetwins , if you’re interested. I’m fantasizing about Victorian baby clothes, and Jalie Clara leggings for me. But mostly we’re just feeding and napping and cleaning things.

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A wee little thing

In a rare (these days) burst of energy a few weeks ago, i made a baby onesie.

I used the free onesie pattern from Small Dream Factory. (Apparently somehow I don’t have any baby onesie patterns?) I didn’t go back to the page to check the instructions after I managed to get it printed, but it’s pretty simple. The one thing I’ll recommend is make sure you mark the shoulder on both front and back pieces so you can line them up properly. The drafting is maybe a touch odd at the bottom of the armscye, but the finished garment seems to work well enough. And the pattern could’ve been tiled to use less paper, but it’s hard to get too fussy about something free. 🙂

I cut it out entirely using my rotary cutter, which is nice for small pieces and wiggly knits, especially since I took over some of the countertop in the basement kitchenette to have my cutting mat at a comfortable no-bending-required level. It’s especially nice for cutting perfectly even binding pieces, which helped a lot with the bound edges in this thing, and I do think they turned out pretty nicely, if I do say so myself.

I did my usual triple-fold binding, which has a tiny raw edge on the inside, but is much easier than trying to make a knit stay in a double-fold configuration, and I am NOT up for hard right now. Sherry of Pattern, Scissors, Cloth covers the method, except that she overlocks the unfinished edge to look nice inside, whereas I just trim mine close as needed once it’s stitched down.

The smallest hammer-in snaps I had for the bottom of the onesie were these pearl snaps, and they’re a bit heavy duty. I should probably have added some interfacing or something to support the fabric, too. So not really ideal, although I like the colour.

Obviously I can’t try the onesie on a baby yet. From comparison with some storebought ones we’ve received it’s a little on the wider, shorter side, which is certainly how my previous babies ended up, but I’m not at all sure how the twins will start out, at least.

I don’t have any more of this fabric, having turned the last few scraps into Watson Bikini underwear, but I wouldn’t mind making a second onesie for a wear-home-from-hospital set, if I can figure out something vaguely coordinating.

I realized (with some dismay) this past weekend that I’m no longer comfortable lifting and moving the various stacked plastic bins that hold my stash, which means that I either need to make do with the fabrics I already have out or ask for help to reach stuff in the bins, which isn’t impossible but will definitely make me think twice about things. So there may or may not be a second baby onesie… we will have to see. At the moment even getting off the couch feels fairly strenuous. On the other hand I will be reducing my work hours and even going on leave in a few weeks, so it’s possible I’ll have energy for something else, but I’m reluctant to set any lofty goals, even if I am fantasizing ceaselessly about things.

The 30-week belly

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Maternity sewing alert!

(Lingerie edition)

Ooo la la. Bra pics. Belly pics. You’re warned.

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The (not so little) black dress

A couple of months back, maybe not too much after I announced the impending twinpocalypse, one of the sweetest people on the internet, Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow, offered to make me (and/or impending babies) a present. Being an irredeemable mooch, I naturally eagerly agreed, and then didn’t think much about it. Me Made May came and went, June whizzed by, and my wardrobe shrank slowly, while my energy and motivation to sew replacement pieces ebbed lower.

Well, last week Gillian let me know a package was on its way. How exciting!!
In the meantime, the latest Sewcialists Mini-Challenge dropped: spin the wheel, get a colour from the Sewcialists logo, and make something in that colour. By Sunday. Anyway, I conveniently (or boringly) spun black. Blue would’ve been more fun, but I have plenty of black fabric, and my machine and serger are both threaded with black from the Myosotis, so there was a lot to be said for it. I was toying with the idea of a black knit dress, not too flashy, maybe in a rayon knit if I could find the energy to dig through the bins, with either a circle or handkerchief skirt. I’m really liking how my knit Vogue 1312 is holding up to the rigors of pregnancy, and something along those lines (but sleeveless, and a simpler skirt) seemed appealing.

So imagine my excitement when I opened the wee little package (which arrived Friday afternoon) and found a black rayon knit dress with a handkerchief skirt!!!!

It also came with strict instructions to modify and hack as needed, for fit or boredom.

The theory was perfect, the practice a little less so—in the super-stretchy black rayon the bodice was loose, and the weight of the skirt pulled it WAY down, to around where my waist used to be–when it was meant to be more empire-lined. But this also made it perfect for the mini-challenge. I carefully cut off the skirt, took in the side seams, and trimmed an inch off the bodice. While I was at it, I narrowed the binding a wee bit, for a more delicate look and also cleavage (I did not do a good job, I will note. Oh, well.) So in the end I wound up re-sewing every seam but the shoulders, including the awesome tag:

And I did take a goofy before picture (as per Gilliam’s request), but apparently not in a form that I can find later.

In any case! Behold the dress! In final (?) form. It is, of course, perfectly comfy and breezy and stretchy while also being suave and possibly even svelte (to the extent that anyone pregnant is svelte).

I may still have to trim a bit of length off the skirt, as it’s long even in these heels and likely to keep growing. But that’s easily done, and either way I have a fabulous and practical new dress!

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