Saturday, April 22, 2006

From the Beginning

This is one girl’s leg and the other’s head.

As we said earlier, we wanted to go back and tell this story from the start. This way you know how we got to where we are. Specific answers to prayer will be noted like this.

We found our we were expecting at the end of September. Amy’s doctor wanted her to have an ultrasound in the middle of October to help determine what the due date would be. It was at this ultrasound that they determined that we were having twins, but that news also brought some scary news. The ultrasound hinted that there was no dividing membrane between the two babies (both babies would be sharing the same “sac of water”). The impact of this was that they could be conjoined worst case or at the least the chances of the two babies and their umbilical cords getting tangled would be greatly increased over that of a normal pregnancy. This was on a Friday and they wanted us to go to Portland on Monday for another ultrasound with a better machine. Understandably, that was a long weekend of prayer and worry.

In Portland, they told us they were not conjoined, and though they could not be certain they thought the membrane was there. We went back 2 weeks later to confirm this, but instead they determined that it was not there. Because of this it means the babies were identical. This type of pregnancy is called mono-amniotic, mono-chromatic, or mono-mono for short. Many think that all identical twins are like this, but that is not the case. In the majority of identical twins, each baby has their own sac. “Mono-mono” pregnancies occur only one in every 25,000 and only 1% of identical twins. For more info see

What did this mean for us? It meant that we could lose one or both babies at any time. It meant that the babies would have to be born by C-section as the cord tangling would be to dangerous for natural. It meant that they would be born 6 weeks early as at that point they would be safer “out-than-in”. We would travel to Portland every 2-4 weeks for monitoring until gestational week 26. At that time the babies might be able to survive if they found anything. From weeks 26-34 we could do three things:

1) Go for monitoring 3 times a week.
2) Go for monitoring every day.
3) Be admitted into the hospital for a more constant monitoring.

This was with the understanding that even if we were in the hospital, there would be times you would not be monitored and even if something acute were to happen there would only be a matter of 3-10 minutes to do anything. After discussion with the doctors we would look for chronic problems (a cord slowly tightening) by going 3 times a week, and later 6, and leave the acute problems to God.

Around Christmas we found out that they were girls. Girls are a rarity in Brian’s family.

In all we made 50 trips to Portland for sonograms. The 50th trip was one week to the day before the scheduled C-section. Our trips had become routine. At this visit Olivia did everything to pass the biophysical tests except move. She even did the practice breathing that is said to be the first thing to go when a baby is in distress. The doctor told us to go admit ourselves into the hospital for the night for monitoring. He later told us that he almost let us go home and that he thought we would probably just be going home the next morning. The admitting process took almost half an hour and it took them some time for the nurse to find Olivia’s heart rate on the monitor. A resident ended up bringing in a sonogram machine (we later found out that this rarely, if ever, happens) and when they found the heart rate it was only 50 which is dangerously low. This set a lot of wheels in motion really, really quickly. Amy was taken immediately for an emergency C-section and Brian was left to pace the room and call everyone he could think of in his calling list. Less than one hour from when we left the doctor’s office across the street from the hospital, the girls were born. Alysa at 6:33pm and Olivia at 6:34 on April 3rd. They were 4lbs. 6 oz. and 3 lbs. 15 oz. respectively and both were 17 inches long.

The night was a whirlwind for us. We had routinely gone for our 50th sonogram thinking it would be like all the rest.

Shortly after they were born, the Neonatologist came in and said that Alysa would likely be fine, but that Olivia’s cord had been in a knot and she had lost oxygen to her brain for a never-to-be-determined time. Being realistic with us, he had concerns that she would survive even the night due to the damage to her brain. In the morning they did brain scans that came back abnormal, but showed no horrible damage. The next day they did the scan again and it was almost normal and still showed no horrible damage. The scan being abnormal does not mean a whole lot. With babies it is very hard to tell what the scans really mean. That is why they are planning the MRI.

That pretty much tells the story. The struggles that Olivia is having are not due to her being premature. They really go back to the type of pregnancy and the brain damage caused by the knot in the cord. There is nothing anyone could have done differently that could have changed it for the better.
We were struggling the other day after talking with the doctor who almost let us go home and the nurse who told us that the residents never just come in to help find a heart beat. The problem had also been an acute problem that we were told that would be near impossible to do anything about. We realized that God had providentially worked out the circumstances, but didn’t understand why we might still lose Olivia. When mentioning this to Olivia’s doctor the other day, she simply remarked “You still have Alysa”, and she was right. If we had gone home of the resident had not come in, we likely would have lost both girls. God is Good.

We also would like to thank all of you for your prayers and gifts. The support we have received over the past 7 months and especially 2 ½ weeks is very much appreciated

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