NICU Progress

Just a quickie update about the twins … Gabriel has been drinking 33 CCs of my breast milk (the targeted amount for his current weight) by bottle and has been off his IV for quite a few days now. Zeke, who is playing a little catch up, came off of his IV today, and is at 30 CCs by bottle and is expected to be up to 36 CCs (his targeted amount since he weighs a bit more than his brother) by tomorrow afternoon. They’re also both extremely easy burpers, which makes Mommy a very happy camper, since burping Houston always proved challenging for me. Gabriel and Zeke are both currently tolerating a 27-degree-celsius incubator, which is something they have to do for a full 24 hours. Then they have to tolerate an open crib for the same length of time without having a great loss in body temperature; they should begin this test tomorrow. I started breast feeding my squeaky monkeys yesterday and they latched like champs! Their nurse says she rarely sees preemies accomplish this feat on the first try. We did round two at the breast again today with equal success. I gave Gabe his first bath today and will give Zeke his first cleaning tomorrow. (It’s amazing how sweet my angels smelled having not been bathed for nearly two weeks of some hard living … too bad adults can’t pull this off the way babies can.) Since Zeke’s progress is quickly meeting the same health standards as is his brother’s, one of the nurse practitioners told me that she wouldn’t be surprised if both boys were home in as soon as three days! She said not to quote her on that, of course, but that was certainly music to my ears. So as long as Gabriel and Zeke keep eating, sleeping, pooping, peeing and growing, Clan Dillingham will soon have all their kids safe and sound under one roof … and then the real fun begins!!!

I hope to post some recent pics of the twins in the next day or so, as well as some adorable photos of Houston, like him playing Rock Band II with Daddy and Granny.

Photos of the Dudes … Finally!

The Dillingham twins celebrated their one-week birthday today! They are both doing well, each weighing in at 3 pounds, 14 ounces. So, Gabriel is already back to his birth weight and Zeke isn’t trailing far behind his. And that’s basically the overall story with their progress in the NICU: Gabe hits the milestones first and Zeke is usually about a day or so behind his brother — very typical for preemie twins, the neonatologists tell me. 

Gabriel is born!

Charles Gabriel is born @ 2:43 p.m. on 10/16/08.

Both boys have been off their CPAP and other oxygen devices for a while now. Gabe no longer gets the meat-and-potatoes IV and Zeke is being weaned off of his. Gabe is finished with his photo-therapy for his jaundice, whereas Zeke still probably has a few more sessions under the bright lights. Gabe is eating my milk via bottle, as long as he can stay awake for the entire process, and is eating via feeding tube when he decides to take a snooze mid-meal. In fact, he finished his first complete bottle today while I was feeding him; this, of course, made me feel pretty darn awesome. Zeke is eating my milk only by feeding tube, but once he starts rooting, we’ll get him started on perfecting his bottle-sucking skills.

Zeke is born!

Stephen Ezekiel is born @ 2:45 p.m. on 10/16/08.

I can already tell the twins apart. Not only do they look different to me, but their personalities are already showing through. Just like we had thought (because of their experiences during the TTTS), Gabriel is a bit of a wild child, with a penchant for trying to steal the show, whereas Zeke is calm and mellow, taking things in stride. It’ll be funny to see how long these traits hold true and how the nature-versus-nurture influences pan out. Not sure who the boys are going to look like yet, since they’re still so small, but my guess is that they’re going to favor Daddy.

Gabe snoozing in the NICU.

Gabriel likes to snooze in the NICU.

Today I got to hold both boys at once. This was the first time Gabriel and Zeke had been next to each other since the day they were born. I asked the nurses if I can hold the twins at the same time once I start “kangaroo care” (which means holding a baby on your chest for skin-to-skin contact), since I figure each brother is lonely without the other. They said that shouldn’t be a problem, so I’m excited to get that rolling soon.

Zeke snoozing in the NICU.

Zeke also catches up on his Zs in the NICU.

It has been quite the challenge divvying up my time between the NICU and home. I want to be at the hospital for the twins for as many feedings and diaper changes as possible, while also being at home with Houston to keep his life as normal as possible. I need to bond with my new babies, mother my 16-month old, get the twins’ nursery ready, recover from my c-section and start slowly taking part in this household again, all while fighting hormonal breakdowns in an effort to retain my sanity and the sanity of those I love. Like Stephen says, we have been and continue to be so blessed that getting down about such things is just pointless; instead, I should be thanking God at every instant for the miraculous triumphs made in growing our beautiful Clan Dillingham and celebrating the loving support showered upon our family in our time of need! 

As far as pictures go, click either c-section photo to see all the photos from the OR, and click either snoozing picture to see all the photos from the twins’ first four days in the NICU.

Greetings From the Hospital

Gabriel and Zeke are doing great, especially considering all that they’ve been through. They are well taken care of in the NICU, where the RNs, nurse practitioners and neonatologists are extremely judicious when choosing a course of action for preemies. When a baby shows any sign that he or she might be in distress, the err on the side of caution.

As of my last visit to see the boys a few hours ago, Gabriel was still breathing freely on his own, but Zeke had been put back on his CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) in order to help him achieve more fluid breathing. They still have IVs and are being fed what the nurses call “meat and potatoes” — liquid form proteins, carbs and fatty acids. The doc says that Gabriel can probably start having real food via IV later today. I think that means the colostrum (also known as “natures first food” and “immune milk,” and referred to as “liquid gold” by the lactation consultants around here) I’ve pumped thus far, supplemented with preemie formula.

It takes about two weeks for moms to really start producing large amounts of regular breast milk, so I have to pump every three hours to help my milk come in. Once I can hold the babies, I’ll start practicing breastfeeding with them, really just mimicking the process, since they will still be too small and weak to latch on. That way, they’ll be ready for the real thing once their big and strong enough to get the milk on their own.

Yeah, not being able to hold my beautiful boys is torture, especially since the human touch is known to be a relaxing and stabilizing thing for newborns. Once I get the okay from the NICU folk, I’ll be allowed to do “kangaroo care” — just having Gabriel and Zeke lay on my chest and feel the warmth and security of their mama through skin-to-skin contact. I’ve been told that I might be allowed to hold Gabriel tonight, but not Zeke, since all that moving around could compromise his CPAP and monitors.

The boys look like skinny little dolls, with long bodies and big feet and hands. (Note: Even though Zeke weighed 5 ounces more at birth, he is an inch shorter than Gabriel; they are 16″ and 17″ respectively.) They have especially large big toes, just like Houston, and look like miniature versions of their big brother. Although, they’re identical, I can already tell them apart by the shapes of their heads and their cute noses and lips. You’ll get to judge for yourself, though, ’cause Stephen plans on downloading all the pics from my camera and putting them up on the site tomorrow (hopefully), so keep an eye out for those.

Another interesting tidbit is that Zeke was “born in the caul,” which means when Dr. Stringer took him out of me, Zeke was still wrapped in the amniotic sac. It’s harmless since the sac is still intact. Therefore, Zeke didn’t gasp for his first breath of air till the caul had been ruptured and removed. It’s a rare thing, occurring in only 1 in 1,000 births. Moreover, being a “caulbearer” was considered a sign of good luck in medieval times; as the legend goes, it was thought to be an omen that the child was destined for greatness.

It’s as if Gabriel and Zeke are always defying the odds, from being identical twins, to sharing a placenta, to getting TTTS, to pulling through fetoscopic laser surgery, to making it well beyond what anybody thought they would gestationally, and now a darn caul. I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of my boys causing trouble, especially when led by big-brother Houston … here’s to the Three Amigos!

Another factoid is that Dr. Stringer and his c-section team “oohed” and “aahed” over what my placenta looked like post-laser surgery. Apparently, the ablated vascular connections were pretty darn freaky looking, evoking childlike wonder in the OR personnel. It’s a weird feeling to have all these medical professionals so excited by something that had previously been inside of me. I told Dr. Stringer he could have the placenta, if he wanted it obstetric study or posterity. Not sure if he took me up on that or not.

P.S. For those of you who were wondering, the quote that began Stephen’s 10/15 blog can be attributed to Sgt. Apone from the 1986 blockbuster “Aliens.” My sci-fi-loving hubby says that it’s the best line from film.