Friday, May 22, 2009

The Emotional Rollercoaster

Having babies in the NICU is an emotional roller coaster. Babies born prematurely are just not ready for life on the outside of the womb and our babies are no exception. Today our little angels celebrate their one week birthday. It has been a week of both wonderful joy and immense sorrow. Today I watched all three of my children stop breathing for what seemed like an eternity. That is a sight no parent should have to see. Every day brings new challenges equally as frightful. But among the immense sorrow, we are also experiencing such amazing joy. We got to hold our little babies for the first time in a method called "Kangaroo Care." We sit in a reclining chair with our shirts off and the nurse gathers up our baby with all of their tubes and cords and gently places them on our chest. The nurse then covers baby and parent up with a warm blanket. Its amazing to hold their little bodies and to feel their breathing against your skin.

We are so grateful that so many of our friends and family are sending so many prayers and thoughts our way. We are surrounded by so much love, but yet we feel so alone. We have found that it is difficult for people to understand what we are going through. As if simply recovering from living in the hospital for 5 1/2 weeks wasn't enough, we are also trying to cope with the fact that every day our little babies fight to stay alive. Every day we have to learn to trust that every doctor, nurse, or technician that cares for them isn't going to make some terrible mistake. Every day we struggle with the deep desire to protect our babies and the reality that we can't.

Here is the latest on our three beauties. Oliver and Audrey have a heart murmur. The doctors are watching them closely as they are concerned it is preventing oxygenated blood from reaching their little bodies. All three will have head ultrasounds today to check for bleeding in their brains. They drew blood from Oliver today to check for a possible infection. His labs will be back on Saturday. They may also check Audrey and Grace for infection as they are showing similar symptoms. Grace is handling Mommy's milk great, but Oliver and Audrey are not tolerating it very well (breat milk is being injected through a feeding tube straight into their stomachs). The doctors tells us this is common in preemies as their digestive tract is not fully developed yet. Breathing in all three has been hit and miss. There were days this last week where all three did very well but over the last few days they have been having more difficulties breathing. Our little angels are completely in the hand of God - Please pray for them (and their parents - we are exhausted physically and emotionally).

Oliver William

Audrey September in her incubator.

Grace under the UV lamp (only as big as Daddy's hand).
Mommy and Grace.

Daddy and Grace.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bennington Babies are born!!!!

Friday, May 15th, 2009 started out like the previous 36 days in the hospital. We expected and hoped for another quiet day of rest and the occasional barage of nurses, doctors, and visitors. Holly had experienced some intense contractions the night before, but with several forms of medication her doctor was able to get the contractions to stop. At 27 weeks of gestation our babies were a lot better off than when we came into the hospital at 22 weeks, but we hoped we could keep them in Holly for several more weeks (normal gestation for single babies is 40 weeks, for triplets it is about 32 weeks). That was not God's plan though. Very quickly Holly's contraction returned full force and her cervix started to rapidly dilate. Dr Carlson (Holly's OB) alerted the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) staff of the situation and began prepartion for her C-section. At 3:00 in the afternoon Holly was wheeled into the operating room in front of what seemed like the entire medical staff for the hospital (about 30 people). Her C-section went smoothly and as each baby came out they were quickly handed off to a team of about 6 doctors and nurses. Each baby had their own team working on them so the operating room was a buz of activity. The first baby to come out was our daugther Audrey. At 2.7 pounds she was the largest of the three, but also our most fragile. After about a minute of chest compression her team of doctors was able to get her to start breathing. The second to come out was our son Oliver (2.6 pounds) who was able to breath right away. The last to come out was our little angel, Grace. At a whopping 1.9 pounds she was (amazingly) the strongest out of the three.

I left the OR to follow Audrey to the NICU (while Holly, Oliver, and Grace were still being worked on in the operating room). The NICU is an overwhelming place, especially right after the babies are born. There are so many different sounds coming from so many different machines. What seems like hundreds of people are racing around calling out orders and inserting all kinds of tube and wires all over our babies. Slowly Oliver and his team of doctors and nurses made their way to the NICU, followed by Grace and her team. Each baby with their team was put into a different room where they worked diligently for the next 4 hours. I stood there watching helplessly as these people I had never met worked to save my three babies. All three were stablized by the evening and the mass of people that had arrived with my children to the NICU slowly started to disappear. The evening crew of nurses arrived and were updated by the day staff on the status of Audrey, Oliver, and Grace.

As I write this our babies are approaching 48 hours since their first breath. Each is stable and progressing nicely. Grace has been completely removed from breathing support and doing great. Oliver is still needed some support, but has progessed very nicely. He has a heart murmur that is causing some concern and the doctors are watching him closely. Audrey has had the most complications so far. Because of the chest compressions she had right after birth, she is most at risk for bleeding in her brain. Her doctor plans to do an ultrasound of her head on Monday.

Momma Holly is doing much better today. She lost a lot of blood during her surgery and because she has been on bed rest for the last 5 weeks she is still very week. It took about 30 hours for her to gain enough strength to sit in a wheel chair to see her babies. The stress of seeing her babies hooked up to so many tubes and wires combined with her already weak state caused her to faint in the NICU giving her husband and the NICU nurses quite the scare.

She is doing much better today and is now able to walk to the bathroom on her own. The nurses expect to beable to discharge her either Monday or Tuesday.

Audrey, Oliver, and Grace need your prayers. They have a long road a head of them as well as their parents. The nurses said today they expect us to celebrate 4th of July with them. In other words, they expect all three to still be in the NICU into July. We appreciate all the support we have been getting from our family and friends. Please keep the Bennington family in your prayers as well as their grandparents. This is very emotional for us all.

Last photos together with babies in the belly before surgery on Friday.

Holly's team doing the C-Section (Holly is on the table).

Dad watching over mom during the C-section.

Oliver's team.

Audrey September Bennington

Oliver William Bennington

Grace Maria Bennington

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Our First Month of Bedrest

My view!
Baby A (our boy) was sticking his bottom up
and giving me a very lopsided belly!

Mommy and Daddy

(on a quick trip from the bathroom back to bed!)

Robert and our new little cousin Taleah

Dear friends and family
(look how many we crammed into my room at once!)

Taleah getting a smooch from Great Uncle Scott

Holding hands:)

Look at that face! Precious baby Taleah Scout

My lovely cousins Julie and Kellie from Arizona
(My mom stopped by for a visit and got to meet baby Taleah)

Drinking Indonesian "avocado shakes" with Paul and Sheila
(they're good if you like thick, cold guacamole:))

Just like home:)

Cuddling in my hospital bed

Robert putting on my sexy white circulation stockings

Edible flowers from our dear friends Gary and Laura

Some of my lovely flowers - thank you everyone!

Snuggling with my "Snoogle" pillow

Praise God that the babies are still in!!!

Today marks day 30 of my bedrest at St. Charles, and during these past 30 days I have been poked, prodded, and "probed" (yes folks, it's exactly what you're thinking) more times than most people experience in a lifetime - lucky me! But as boring, frustrating, and uncomfortable as lying on your back for an extremely extended period of time can be, I know I am doing the best thing for our babies and I am thrilled that we have been able to keep them in for 4 extra weeks - and counting! I arrived at the hospital at 22 weeks 0 days, and today I am 26 weeks 1 day. Developmentally, 26 weeks is a huge difference for the babies: if born today they would statistically have about a 75% chance of survival versus a 0% chance at 22 weeks (when we arrived), and every single day that passes brings incredible hope and relief. At 28 weeks the babies will have about a 90% chance of survival without major complications, so that is our next big goal! Robert's convinced we'll make it into the 30 week range, but I just can't think that far ahead at the moment:)

The staff here has been incredible. We've had 25 different nurses, and although we have our favorites, all of them have been super friendly and accomodating. We've only had to give one "the boot" and the poor thing was our nurse the very first day we got here, when our judgement was probably a bit clouded by our hyperemotional state and severe need of nurturing and reassurance - she, unfortunately, was a "get the job done" kind of gal. Overall, the nurses have done a great job of recognizing that this is our home now, and even though dogs are only allowed to "visit" their people, the staff here at the Family Birthing Center has turned a blind eye to the fact that our 75lb doggie stays with us every day... and even spends the night! In fact, Robert walked though the hospital the other day without Kai, and all the nurses were worried and asking "where's your dog?!"

Dr. Carlson, DO

We also feel extremely blessed to have the most devoted and wonderful doctor. We always enjoyed our visits with him at the clinic and were impressed by his thoroughness and sincere attention to us, but he has proven himself to be an even more concerned and thoughtful doctor than we every could have imagined. Incredibly, the weekend we arrived here was his "on call" weekend (which he only has one weekend of the month), so he was here by our side during our scariest first few days at the hospital. And for the past 30 days, he has come in nearly every single day - even on his days off - to check on me and spend time talking with us. As an added bonus, he's also an extremely funny guy and often just sits in our room telling us funny stories about his kids, past deliveries, his dogs, and even his favorite beers. I told him about my love of Fat Tire Amber Ale, and as any good doctor should, he made a deal with me that if I make it to 28 weeks (only 13 more days) he will buy me a case of it from Costco!!! Hey, I've already been here for 30; 13 more days is CAKE.

The other huge thing that has helped get us through this past month has been our wonderful family, church family, and friends. We have had a steady stream of visitors, some of whom come on a very regular basis. At least one of our parents makes an appearance every day, and at times we've even had all five together in here (that hasn't happened since our wedding nearly 4 years ago!). Our pastor and his family visit us several times a week, we've had friends visit from all over the state, and my wonderful cousins even made a special trip out from Arizona! I feel very blessed (and spoiled) to have so many fans:)

So, 30 down, and who knows how many more days to go! In some ways it would be nice to know when these babies are going to make their appearance, but I suppose if I knew how many more days of bedrest I'd have to endure, how many more needles, ultrasounds, and probes, I'd probably go insane. And don't we want to keep the big day when I'll be stabbed in the back, semi-paralyzed, gutted like a fish, and stapled shut again a surprise?! I'm referring to my impending C-Section of course... or as Dr. Carlson likes to call it, my "Triple Vaginal Bypass" :) And to think, that's the happy thing that's going to get me out of this bed. Oh, what we do for our children!!!