December 31, 2010

A premature day

Life throws things at you sometimes for which you can't possibly prepare. And, it can happen so entirely fast and surreal, you can't help but question the reality of it all.

Up until 11:30 yesterday morning, my wife's pregnancy had been across the board normal and successful, with the obvious exception of her carrying a twin boy and girl. Nothing out of the ordinary had presented itself, with the only notable occurrence being her difficulty urinating during the last couple days.

After eating lunch at a nearby pizza place yesterday, however, she felt some pressure deep in her abdomen, and 20 minutes later, at Best Buy, she could barely make her way through the aisles. We realized only later she was experiencing contractions.

We went home, where she tried to get comfortable in bed, but within ten minutes we had my wife's mother over to watch our 15-month-old boy, while my wife and I loaded into the car and went to the hospital.

Doctors initially suspected a urinary tract infection (UTI), which isn't uncommon and explained most of her symptoms, but an initial exam revealed amnionic fluid discharge, which was followed in quick order by a vaginal exam that revealed her cervix was at five centimeters dilation. This was at about 3:30 p.m.

We had gone from a totally normal and enjoyable day to an impending C-section in less than five hours. Doctors tried to slow the labor using magnesium and to prepare the babies for delivery by introducing steroids, in an attempt to jumpstart the babies' lungs.

At this point, we had seen more doctors and nurses than I thought could possibly all work for the Mayo Clinic health care system.

My mind coped with such rapid-fire developments in a curious fashion. When I thought it was UTI, I was actually making jokes like "I can't believe I'm rooting for UTI." Ten minutes later, I found myself practically begging a doctor for some way to stop my wife's labor.

Thirty minutes after that, listening to another doctor tell us a C-section was imminent and our 23-week old babies had very little chance to survive, I was both extremely angry and inconsolably sad. An hour or so after that, asking a hospital Chaplain to baptize our babies before they were transported to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), I was beside myself with grief.

Thrown into the minutiae of all the big developments were other developments that came complete with their own unique sets of emotional musical chairs. An example: seeing the twins' final ultrasound before my wife went in for surgery; they were still kicking at each other, as if nothing was remotely wrong. I actually smiled, albeit sadly. I couldn't believe the human mind was capable of such on-the-fly coping mechanisms.

The C-section birth brought about a bit of an epiphany. After hearing a doctor present a prognosis that could have entailed only 20 precious minutes with our twins during which to say "good-bye," I couldn't bring myself to record the C-section, as I had done with my first child just 15 months ago. When the second child was removed, and I caught the briefest flicker of a grimace, I regretted my decision immediately.

It could be debated whether, in that brief instant, the line between gestational life and death became considerably more blurred to me. I don't know. All I do know is, after all the day's emotional roller coasters and surreal turn of events, I couldn't believe I was stupid enough not to catch my little boy's first grimace out of the womb on video. So, when I was invited in to see my babies shortly after they had been somewhat stabilized, I went in determined to capture as much video as I could, and I did.

I don't think I will ever--no matter how much writing I do between now and the life hereafter--be able to adequately convey the range of emotions, both grave and great, I experienced while the hospital Chaplain baptized my babies, using just the tinyest droplets of water, and with the utmost care and gentleness. I honestly can't recall how I was able to stay standing. The memory will bring me to tears for as long as I can imagine, I'm sure.

I was actually on the phone with my wife's friend, providing an update, when I saw my precious little twins loaded into the nearby elevator en route to the NICU. When next I saw them, they were resting in their own incubator.

I can't really convey the unfairness I felt and feel. Not for me, but for the babies. Up until the moment they were removed from the womb, they were rock star babies. They were as healthy as any 23-week developing babies could expect to be. They hadn't done anything wrong. They just were, and they were beautiful, and they were suddenly being required to pull off something nearly impossible. That's not fair to expect of most adults, let alone a human being no bigger than a television remote control.

Obviously, I haven't written this on the fly over fifteen minutes. This has been an ongoing, piecemeal memoir spanning many, many hours. In that time, our little girl has remained stable, but we were just informed Finn Patrick's lungs are no longer responding well, and things look quite dire.

I love my babies. It's astonishing I can have so much affection for such tiny humans I just met 36 hours ago. I can't tell you how many tears I've shed over the last two days, and we're looking at almost four more months of this roller-coaster if the babies are up for such a drawn out fight.

I wrote all this because I don't want the details to fade with time, and they always do, in subtle ways, often to numb the pain here and there.

I don't wish this pain or fear on anyone. It hurts so bad. So unfathomably bad.

Upates to follow as developments unfold, and I can stand to write about them.

UPDATE: I should note, I obviously don't sleep well but, when I do, I sleep best with a premie diaper clutched to my chest.

UPDATE: My wife is the rock when we're with the babies. She holds their hands and strokes their heads, talking and singing to them, while I stand by mostly with tears streaming off my nose. When we're back in our room, she's the one crying and I'm the composed one. I'm not sure what to read into that dynamic.

UPDATE: Jan. 1, 2011, 5:15 a.m. -- Picked up some Motrin for my wife at Super America. Clerk told me to "keep my head up." I must look worse than I thought.

UPDATE: Jan. 1, 2011, 10:26 a.m. -- My wife and I thought seeing our 15-month-old for the first time since the ordeal began would help our mental state. Turns out, the 15-month-old behaved far worse than his brother and sister have behaved in the last two days.

UPDATE: Finn Patrick Rhodes d. Jan. 1, 2011. 7:46 p.m.

UPDATE: Jan. 2, 2010. Zoey continues to be strong. Funeral arrangements being made for Finn. Never realized how many balls you have to keep in the air during times like this. Plus, you have to remember to shower.

Posted by Ryan at December 31, 2010 11:44 AM | TrackBack

Ryan, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Posted by: MojoMark at January 1, 2011 02:47 PM

I'm so sorry, Ryan. My thoughts and prayers were with you all day yesterday, and will continue to be.

Posted by: Beth at January 2, 2011 06:45 AM

Ryan, In all your pain and sorrow, you continue to amaze me. You are a beautiful writer. Talented is an understatement...your words are beyond moving, your quiet thoughtfulness is contagious. I simply cannot say how very sorry I am for your sweet little family. Man, it's just not fair.

It's so good to see you still have your HS humor-even in the darkest of times...that's gonna help get you through, call on it, ryan...

Take care, my friend...I hope for some positive posts in the near near future.

Lisa (Maland) Manion

Posted by: Lisa at January 3, 2011 09:45 PM
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