Ethan's teacher was lovely, understanding, kind, and supportive. And as it turns out, there was another Ethan in his classroom with the same last-name initial. After having a discussion about his name, Ethan made a very grown-up decision; he decided that he would like to be called 'Ben' (his middle name) at school to alleviate the confusion of having 2 'Ethan M.'s' in the same room. We talked through all the pros and cons, but he was resolute.
After "meet the teacher," I came home, took a much needed shower, began to pack my bags, and received a phone call from the hospital. Emmett and Owen were being taken down to the OR for their central lines to be placed. The anesthesiologists and doctors needed my consent to perform the procedures.
I had wanted to be at the hospital before the babies went to the OR for their central lines in preparation for the BIG surgery the next day - I wanted to tell them that I loved them and I would be waiting on them when they got back, but I found out that I couldn't be there for all my boys at the same time, and this made me cry. I gave consent, though, with a very emotional and wavering voice, then apologized for being unable to control my emotions. I was disappointed in myself, and upset that I couldn't be there in time.
We arrived at the hospital and waited for the boys to return from the OR. Around 5:30, the boys came back to their room, but fluids needed to be changed, and shift change quickly followed. My mom arrived shortly before shift change, and she decided to be locked in the NICU during shift change so that she could see the boys before heading to her hotel room.
The nurses tried to get fluids, TPN, sedation, etc changed out quickly so we could visit with the boys, but the process is a lengthy one, and we were only able to visit for 10 minutes before we had to head downstairs. Other family members had arrived at the hospital to wish the babies luck, and with them came Ethan and Liam. I watched Ethan and Liam in the lobby while several grandmas accompanied by Dave went to visit with the baby boys. By 10pm, we loaded in the car, drove Ethan and Liam to the apartment, grabbed a few forgotten items (insulin, for one), and headed back to the hospital. We unloaded the car and took our overnight bag to our hospitality room, then went back upstairs one last time for the night to see our boys.
They were lightly sedated and gently stirring. Dave and I cried over them, talked to them, encouraged them, and loved on them until we decided to let them rest for the big day. I crawled into bed around two, and slept restlessly until 5:40 am.
I woke Dave up and told him we needed to get up to see the boys. We quickly dressed and went upstairs. The babies were resting peacefully. We visited with them, kissed them, touched their sweet little heads, encouraged them, cried over them, and told them to stay strong and brave, and to come back to us by evening. I tearfully mentioned to them that they had a lot more beads of courage to collect as 'rent payment.'
Dave's parents were also able to come in for a short visit while we were with the babies.
The surgeon came in, prayed with us, and headed to the OR to oversee the final preparation for surgery.
Before I was ready for it, the anesthesiologists and other medical team members began arriving to get the boys ready for the transport to the OR. Dave and I stepped out of their room to allow the large group of professionals enough space to work. As we were standing outside the NICU room watching, one of the plastic surgeons stood with us and chatted with us. It was a welcome distraction from the frightening helplessness that I felt.
Within 20 minutes, the boys were being wheeled down the hall to the elevator. We followed and were allowed to ride with the babies and medical team to the 3rd floor. The team of doctors and nurses stopped just before passing through the double doors to the OR to allow us to say goodbye to the boys. Once we had loved on them one last time, the medical team walked them down the hall and out of sight.
The hospital chaplain, who had visited the boys daily since their arrival, along with one of our nurses stood with us and prayed with us that the surgery would be a success, and that our hearts would be peaceful, despite the fear that we felt.
As a mother, I hope I never have to experience a moment like that again. I didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't know if I would see my babies alive again, if I would see only one, or if I would see them after they had gone to be with their creator.
Dave and I went back upstairs, gathered a few of our belongings, and joined the rest of our families in a room that the hospital had prepared specifically for us. The hospital provided refreshments, a tv/DVD player, cots, blankets and pillows, recliners, and security specifically to watch over us throughout the day. The room was spacious and precisely what we needed.
I greeted the family members and went to work organizing Ethan and Liam's entertainment for the day. As it turned out, the twins' big brothers had plenty of entertainment between visiting with all of their grandparents, friends who stopped by, and nurses and doctors who came in to update us throughout the day. One of Dave's family's friend surprised us by taking Ethan shopping for school clothes Saturday afternoon!
My college roommate, Paula, arrived with a puzzle per my request, and shortly after that, Paula's friends and contacts arrived with a plethora of food for all of my family. We were very well taken care of on that front.
The puzzle proved to be a source of distraction for me, and a much needed reprieve from the overwhelming anxiety. Nearly everyone joined in on putting a piece or several pieces together throughout the day. Jenine, one of the Advanced Maternal Neonatal Institute (AMNI) liasons, along with Shelly, the ob-gyn nurse for the AMNI program spent nearly all day with me putting together the puzzle. We laughed over the silly thing, cried over it, and celebrated over it.
The OR had set up a system of updating us in two ways: 1) Our OR contact would call my cell to update us and 2) a director of the OR would come to our room and give us updates. Each time the phone rang, my heart stopped. Each time I hung up the phone, sometimes beforehand, my tears flowed abundantly.
At 9:48 am we received the first call informing us that the boys were situated and surgery had officially begun.
10:52 am - the boys were doing great, and they both had a biliary tree, which was huge news!
11:52 am - the boys were doing well, and dissection of the liver had begun.
12:42 pm - boys were still doing very well, and the liver was separated. Reconstruction on some of the liver had begun.
1:47 pm - separation of the small bowels was underway. The boys were doing great!
3:12 pm - WE HAVE A BEAUTIFUL SET OF SEPARATED BOYS!!! And they were doing amazingly well!!
At this point, the room exploded into clapping and cheers, hugging and celebration. My babies were two, and I rejoiced with streaming tears of joy and amazement! Dave and I clung to each other and rejoiced.
I gave myself some time to allow my tears to dry up, then I told Ethan, "We have two babies. Emmett and Owen have been separated." And this is what he asked: "Can we take them home with us, now?" I explained that we couldn't take them home yet, but hopefully we would be able to very soon.
As each team of surgeons finished, they came to our room and spoke with us, laughed with us, some hugged us, but they all thanked ME for allowing THEM to work with Emmett and Owen, but I am the one who is thanking all of THEM for their preparation, prayers, skills, time, and willingness to give Emmett and Owen the beginning of a new life!
The plastic surgeons completed the final step of the operation by carefully closing the operation site with bio-mesh and placing a wound vac on top to promote healing.
After nearly 9.5 hours, we completed the puzzle.
After eleven hours, the team of surgeons nurses, techs, anesthesiologists, and many others returned our boys to our NICU room. Emmett arrived first. Then Owen.
After another couple of hours, Dave and I were allowed into the NICU room to see Emmett and Owen. Before we entered, one of our nurses, who is also a new and dear friend asked if we would like her to take pictures beforehand to prepare us for their appearance - they were both swollen and rough looking from the fluids and transfusions that they had during surgery. I told her that was unnecessary. Regardless of their appearance, they were my babies. They were alive. They were doing well, and I couldn't wait to see them!!