Home, at last

After 9.5 weeks in the hospital. Nicu. Several Infections. A few blood transfusions. And lots of ups and downs…I’m thrilled to share, actually yell from every roof top, parading down the street, like a proud mamma, a male peacock. Waving my colorful, Mia and Zoë feathers. My girls are home!

It’s been 3 weeks since Mia and Zoë arrived home. They came home on a Sunday after Chanan and I decided to spend Shabbat at the hospital, so we could be there for all their feeding (feels like feeding hour at the zoo…), and help them finally finish bottles without lowering their oxygen saturation levels. That was all that was keeping them at the hospital.
They had arrived at all the other necessary mile stones. They had passed the 35 week mark, they were both over 2 kg, they were able to maintain their body temperature. All that was left was mastering the art of ‘multi tasking’-Swallowing while remembering to breathe…they look at you with their big beautiful, deep eyes, and trust you to nourish them and help them grow.
Like any other day, I was there all day Friday. Chanan arrived right before Shabbat, after farming out our other kids by grandparents and dear friends. As soon as he walked in, I had a nervous break down. I started crying…” They’re never coming home”, “I’m done.”.., ” I’m not coming to the hospital anymore, if they’d like to see me, they’ll just have to find me at home..!”
Chanan was all there for me as usual, and gave me a much needed hug, and sent me to sleep. I slept almost through the night, with one session of pumping in between. Chanan spent the entire night by their hospital bassinets, patiently bottle feeding them, and teaching them how to succeed. In the morning I took over, and by Motzei Shabbat we had achieved the necessary 24 hours of feedings without drops in saturation. All this time, we thought Zoë would come home before Mia, but now they had both done it. Zoë apparently, was just waiting for Mia to catch up, so they could come home together! A feat nearly unheard of in the hospital. I was sure I’d have one baby at home, and another in the hospital. I was up for that challenge- I was rocking it- so I just tuned in to my “whatever-it-takes, I-can-do-it” attitude…This new scenario was such a sweet surprise! We had all worked so hard together the entire Shabbat. Now we had to wait till Sunday to hopefully be discharged. Chanan decided to stay and spend yet another night by their bedside, to ensure successful feedings. We were terrified that if left to the caring nurses, their bottle feeding would be rushed, and they would have dips in saturation, and we’d have to start the 24 hour count all over again…
I came back home, to our other 5 children. Who very much, needed their Imma.
On Sunday morning, I left early, before the doctors rounds and headed to the hospital with car seats, a double stroller, blankets, baby hats and a lot of faith, determination and hope. When I arrived, Chanan awaited me with a smile from ear to ear ” they’re coming home!”, ” we did it!”. Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart skipped a beat. I couldn’t believe it. I felt the high of a woman, having just given birth, bringing her babies home.
Mia and Zoe’s homecoming was beautiful. We surprised our children with their return home. I must say, we were (and still are) a bit strict. No touching the babies, without washing hands and alcohol shpritz… Mia and Zoë spent such a long time in a sterile environment, that we feared that their transition to our germ infested, runny nosed, full house, home, would be too much for them. Everyday, as they grow, we chill out a bit. And try and treat them more like ‘ regular’ babies, and less like preemies.
I kept their return home a secret at first. It was my much needed missed time with them. Filling in the gaps in utero, and the amazing endorphin rich post birth bond.
They’re still being bottle fed every 3 hours day or night. I’ve been pumping around the clock to keep up. Their first night home was so difficult, Chanan and I looked at each other
” why did we want them home?”, ” can we send them back for another week, so we can catch up on sleep..?”
Slowly we are getting used to our sleep deprived state. Mia and Zoë are gaining weight beautifully. We are getting to know them and are trying to find our new routine. The first night, when we cut the hospital bracelets off their legs, we were terrified of not being able to tell them apart…Now, we seem to be able to distinguish between them (except for some 3 am feedings…). Even our kids are mostly able to tell them apart. They all want to take their baby sisters to ‘ show and tell’ in school. For now, they’ll have to make do with pictures…
Having 7 children is overwhelming. In my mind, it’s actually not 7, rather broken down to 5+2…its easier to grasp that way..
In the afternoons we’ve been enjoying amazing help with the kids, and at times, we also have morning help, so we can sleep a bit…thank you, Debra 😉
The next major hurdle to overcome is the transition from bottle feeding to exclusively breast feeding. Not an easy task with preemies, let alone twins…

– – – –

6 days later…
I am pleased to report for those of you at home keeping score, that I have been exclusively breastfeeding since last Friday.
I decided to dive in, since I couldn’t take even one more session of pumping!
We’ve been carful, monitoring their diapers and weight, and are pleased to report that they’re doing great.
Sarah my soul sista, is here. Snuggling my babies. I must say that I feel on top of the world. We’re making it!
Thank you all for the support and out pouring of love.
I’m hoping to update, when I have a moment to breathe…


Welcome to the world

Late wednesday night, early thursday morning, I began having contractions: “Oh, that’s prob. Nothing”, I thought to myself.
Just before, Dr. Yuval Gialchinsky texted me to check in. I told him nothing was going on, and to expect a quiet night.
“I’ll just take a nice hot shower, and go to sleep” I decided. And so, I did. An hour later, at 2 am, a cleaning lady decided it was the crucial time to empty my garbage can in my room. It woke me up. I was so frustrated. Since becoming a mother, almost 13 years ago, my sleep is light. I always have one ear and eye open, listening for my children’s needs…I guess being on call as a doula, as well as being pregnant doesn’t help with the light sleeping either…
After my initial anger at being so abruptly woken up, I realized that I was still having steady contractions. I figured, I am in the hospital on bed rest, I should probably tell someone about this… I walked over to the nurses station, and told the chatty nurse that I wanted to go down to the delivery room to get checked out.
I figured, it’s prob. Nothing. They’ll be able to stop it. No need to bother Dr. Gialtzinsky yet. No need to wake up Chanan (who was not feeling well. On antibiotics for an abscess in his wisdom tooth, that he had scheduled to pull out the next day).
An orderly came, and wheeled me down to L&D (labor and delivery). I noticed that I was very alert. Wide awake and in a good mood. I brought nothing down with me. “No need”, I figured. They’ll send me right back up. “I’ll be back in bed in an hour”, ” I’m just being responsible and safe” I thought to myself. Boy, was I in serious denial, possibly delusional.

When I got down to the “Cheder Leida”, the triage of the delivery room, I felt immediately at home. I’ve been a doula for 12 years. This is my home away from home. I was surrounded by familiar faces. Warm doctors and midwives. I felt in good hands. Rachel, a friend and midwife that checked me, I was 1.5 cm dialated, 80% effaced. My contractions, though, at this point were not painful, were still steadily coming. The dr. on call decided to start with the ‘magnesium protocol’. I would be getting 12 hours of magnesium intravenously in order to help protect my babies brains from cp. and possible brain bleeds that could occur, if they would be born now, at this stage. The magnesium could also help slow down or stop contractions. Once I knew the plan, I facebooked a closed group of friends, letting them know what was going on. Still hoping I wouldn’t need to call Chanan.
As I lay in the hospital bed, attached to 3 monitors: 2monitoring my babies, 1 monitoring my contractions. Connected to 2 iv’s: the magnesium drip and an antibiotic drip (because of my amniotic fluid leaking from the day before), I thought to myself, this is so surreal. Had I walked in on any other laboring woman, I would tell her: ‘get up, off your back, get moving, off the monitor’. But, I was trying to ignore the contractions and keep my legs closed and my babies in…
The initial, larger dose of magnesium made me nauseous, hot and clammy. That’s when I decided to call my Imma (mom) . Soon after, by morning I called Chanan. And realized I was getting teary eyed, and the words that were coming out of my mouth were: “the contractions are getting stronger”. That was the first moment I realized, this may be it…
My good (doula) friend Batsheva was on her way, leaving a sick child at home. I was so great-full!
First, my mom arrived, then Chanan. After a short while Dr. G called to speak with me on the phone, and then came in. He was updated by the staff at L&D. He was smiley and calm. He said that we will all do our best to stop this. But, if this is it, we are at a good place. I was about to receive my 2nd round (1st at 24 weeks) and 2nd dose of steroid shots to help prepare babies lungs. I was getting magnesium, which was passing to the babies. I would be getting more meds to try and stop the contractions. He also said that a nice amount of time had passed from the laser surgery. Babies were stronger. I was at a milestone of 28 weeks. Babies were considered good weights. He was so reassuring and positive. I was so thankful. We were still talking about keeping them in till 32 weeks. It was a nice goal and dream. I told him, “I think I’m progressing. I think I’m about 3cm”. “How do you know” he asked? With genuine curiosity. I think he feels that I am some type of sorcerer.. ” just a feeling” I said. He asked if he could check me. I agreed.
Once he checked, he said with a surprised look: ” you’re right. 3 cm. almost fully effaced”. He later told me, that I had been already 4 cm dilated…
At that moment the OR nurse walked in, in order to prepare me for an imminent c section. Dr. G sent her away. “No, no she’s not having a c section yet. Lets see which way this is going. Lets buy the babies more time”. We discussed some options. I felt safe. I felt that I had a team watching my back (or rather my uterus and my babies..).
Dr. G went back to teaching at the hospital university. I would keep him updated. He said he would come in a minutes notice.
By this point Batsheva walked in. She grabbed my doula birthing bag, that Chanan had just brought from home, and started using my oils. Rubbing my feet. Dr’s and nurses were coming in to the room, being pulled in by the scent and energy of the oils. I was feeling loved. I had one hand in Chanan’s hand, one hand in my imma’s hand. My feet were being rubbed by Batsheva, and my brother walked in, and gave me a kiss. (My Abba (father) wished he was here, he was busy caring for my other children..).
Contractions were coming. At times close and intense and at times far apart. My body, my mind was deciding: “is this it?”, are the babies coming? Is this their time? Or, could I hold them in? ” I felt like this was happening. but, I was also getting medication to try and stop it. I was being pulled in every direction. I was not fighting, not controlling, not scared. Just flowing. Observing, breathing. Trusting. I was listening to hypnobirthing guided imagery and guided meditation. Had my eyes covered. Batsheva was working hard cooling down my burning up body (from the magnesium) with cold compresses. I was In my zone. Still unsure if this was “it”. My labors are usually quick and powerful. This was calm, focused, collected. It was part of this pregnancies journey. Part of my path and my teaching/learning. I am not in control. I am in good hands. I am letting go, and doing my best. Trusting the process and the people who are sent to help me. Trusting Hashem (g-d).
Midwives shift changed. Vera left, Batya arrived. Everyone was perfect. Just as it should be.
Time went by. I had to stay in bed. At times heaving into a bucket, at times peeing into a potty. I could tell I was progressing.
In Hebrew there is a saying. Especially used in birth. “B’shaa Tovah”. In the right time. All in due time. I felt, that whatever would happen, would be in the right moment. In the right time. Whether labor would stop, or I’d be having my babies, it would be in good time. In the exact moment it should be.
Before shifts changed again, Batya got the ok from the dr’s to give me a short shower break (that I was pleading for, for some time..). I went to the shower with Chanan, and had a luxurious 30 minute shower. This was familiar. This was how I was used to laboring (my 5 other children). Contractions were coming strong and close. It felt right.
As soon as I got back to the room after the shower, it all slowed down again. It was ok with me. I wasn’t trying to bring anything on. I wasn’t controlling or holding back. I was just being. Observing. Riding the waves.
Chanan was in pain. High on pain meds. I had sent him to my room upstairs to rest a bit.
Shifts changed again. I moved to another room. Moriyah the midwife came and left. She must have not been the right match for me…Carmella was now my midwife. it helps to know theses midwives well. She seems tough, but is actually soft and caring inside. She is very professional and had already updated Dr. Gialchinsky. At this point Dr’s shift was changing. A slew of familiar, fresh faced smiley dr’s walked in. They shut the magnesium off. My 12 hours were done. I think on some level, i felt safe to now, let my body take over. The important magnesium course was done…The plan was to receive more antibiotics, contraction meds and observe. If all was well, I’d go back up to the ward, and try and keep babies in longer. On one hand I was making plans with friends to come bring me dinner (I hadn’t drinken or eaten all day..except for a bit of cheating here and there), on the other hand I couldn’t imagine going up to the ward, holding babies in like this for hours, days or weeks. I knew I was still having contractions…
I had just discussed with Batsheva and my Imma different options. I thought that there was no point in being checked. I thought to myself ” what does it matter if I’m 5 cm or 7 cm, if contractions aren’t coming steadily, maybe I can still hold them in. Better not to know…”.
I got up off the bed to pee. I then had a strong mamma contraction. Carmella took one look at me, and said: “I’d like to check you”. Ironically, I immediately agreed.
” 5cm, wait, 7cm. Don’t push!” She said.
“Imma, run. Go get Chanan”.
I ordered.
Dr’s rushed in. Started wheeling me into the OR. Wait, I said. “Please call Dr. G.”
I was at peace with having a c-section. I was at peace with having it when I was ready. When my body was ready. Not before. Not at 3 cm.
This was it. This was the time. I did have fantasies in my head. Alternate realities. Pushing out baby A. Keeping baby C inside for months longer. But, I felt a true clear reality that these babies needed to arrive gently. Safely. Obliviously. A Caesarian was ok with me. I wasn’t scared. It was all just happening very fast.
As a doula, I do all I can to prevent a woman from having an unnecessary c section. There is nothing more frustrating than watching a woman have a Caesarian, and feel like it could have been prevented. Feel like she was pressured into it, or feel like she was ill informed…
I didn’t feel like that at all. I felt strong. Focused. Powerful. A Mamma about to have her cubs. I was ready. I felt like these precious preemie babies were coming, and I, had already gone through a lifetime together with them. This was the culmination of it all. The end, and yet just the beginning. I was excited to meet my babies a and c. Looking forward to part with my angel, baby b.
Batsheva was walking beside me teary eyed, as they wheeled me into the OR. I managed to get a glimpse of Chanan and my mom through the door. Got a cherished wave and a kiss.
In the OR, everything was happening so fast. I requested an epidural and not general. But, I was already fully dilated. They were prepping me for general. All of a sudden, Rachel the midwife appeared beside me. Grounding me. Holding my hand. A quick few deep breathes and I was out.
I awoke to dr. G sitting beside me. He was holding baby B. I had a precious moment with her. She was dainty and perfect. She had a footprint in this world.
Everything looked a bit blurry, because at this point I didn’t have my glasses on. He assured me that he had taken pictures of her. In the midst of this crazy scenario he had managed to arrive into the operating room. Speak to the head dr. In the Nicu. And give me the time, place and emotional support with baby b. I was so great-full.

Chanan was up with the babies in the Nicu.
I was being taken to recovery, where I was reunited with my support team. I heard the babies were doing well. Came out with strong cries. I was relieved.
I was also, taken back by the pain. Kept on asking for more pain meds. This hurt. A lot.
I was in recovery for a few hours, then taken to a room upstairs in the maternity ward by the Nicu. I couldn’t go in to see my babies yet. I had to wait 8 hours after surgery. That felt like torture. I ended up sneaking in sooner.
My babies were beautiful. Dainty, yet perfect. Their incubators side by side. They were tiny. Baby a weighing 830 gram, baby c (now b) weighing 1000 gram. They are beautiful. Perfectly formed. They look like they belonged to me. To the Elias clan. They are fighters. Survivors. They could do this. It felt like I was glimpsing into their mysterious place in my womb. They are here, but not quite yet here. It will be a few days till hopefully I can hold them and give them kangaroo care. This will be another journey. I am so in love!

We decided to name our precious girls today. So that we can all use their names for prayers.
Baby A is Mia Emunah. Faith from G-d. She and her identical sister are our deep teachers of faith.
Baby B is Zohar (Zoey) Osher Aviyah. Zohar Osher, Liminous happiness. (As she was blissfully unaware of the woes going on bellow her penthouse in the womb…). Aviyah after Chanans Abba (father) that recently passed. As well as her being the child of Hashem (g-d).

Please keep them in your prayers.

מיה אמונה בת גאוליה שומרונה

זהר אושר אביה בת גאוליה שומרונה