By: Heather Somaini
March 9th – 10:00a
“They took Free to the NICU at midnight.”
I stood there staring at Tere. My “second day parent” high crashed to the ground. I must have misunderstood her, right? Why would they take Free to the NICU? That was for super small and sick babies. Free was just under 6 lbs. and had been fine when I left the night before.
“What? Why?” I asked. My heart was racing. My head was spinning. I was running through every scenario, every possibility in my head desperately trying to figure out what needed to happen next. Tere told me that Free’s breathing had gotten steadily worse in the night and they admitted him into the NICU so they could give him oxygen.
It made sense but I was in shock. How could I have slept so soundly while all this was going on? Why wasn’t I there when my family needed me? Why didn’t Tere call me??? In the five seconds all of that ran through my mind, Tere said I should go to the NICU and check in on Free. Of course!
“Where is it?” I was sort of overwhelmed and completely freaked out that they had taken our son some place and neither of us even knew where it was! I took the elevator upstairs and saw the woman at the desk. I signed in, got a badge, and she escorted me into the NICU. “Escorted me into the NICU” – it sounds so orderly and normal but to be truthful, it was the longest, hardest, most heart-wrenching walk I’ve ever taken. The walls are lined with photos and stories of babies that came to the NICU in devastatingly bad condition – some as small as one pound. They are ultimately success stories which are incredibly powerful and uplifting.
But the other side of it is what fills your head during that long walk. No parent wants to think that their brand new baby is now in this category of sick. No parent wants to think that their brand new baby needs this much help just to survive. No parent wants to think that their brand new baby isn’t like everyone else and able to go home.
I had to wash my hands for what felt like an extraordinary amount of time, an eternity. The whole place felt foreign to me. Scary in fact. I knew when we went through the doors I would see things that I wasn’t sure I wanted to see. We entered Bay 1 – almost every baby admitted to the NICU is placed in Bay 1. It’s where the babies most in need go. As they get progressively stronger and healthier, they advance to Bay 2, then Bay 3, all the way to Bay 6 and then they’re out – sent home to be like everyone else.
But Bay 1 is sort of intense. It’s deathly quiet with monitors beeping and nurses and doctors going about their work with an efficiency that is hard to explain. I was a stranger in this new world, not sure of my surroundings and wobbly on my feet. I walked past baby after baby on my way to Free. Some of them were very ill but all sick and fighting for their lives. I tried not to look but I couldn’t help myself. It all seemed so sad.
I finally got to Free, sleeping soundly with a few tubes sticking out of him. He was on oxygen alright. He was bundled up tight. My precious little boy asleep in this new place. Everything was taking a little getting used to in my new world and I had only been a parent for a day and a half. I was terrified of what tomorrow would bring.
By: Heather Somaini
March 8th, 3:30pm
Dr. C saw us go by and stopped us with “Oh good, you’re here so I can tell you what happened.” That never sounds like something good has just transpired. My Mom and I stood there listening to Dr. C explain that Tere’s postpartum hemorrhaging was fairly severe. It usually happens when a woman has one of a few complications like advanced maternal age, gestational diabetes, or multiple gestation (aka twins). Tere had all three. She explained that making a quick decision and opting for the hysterectomy was a good one and Tere had only lost a liter of blood. A liter of blood??!?%&!? How in the world could THAT be a good thing? She shared a recent similar case with us that caused a lot of complications for a new mom so she was happy that Tere made a quick decision and would recovery quickly. “Quickly” is a relative term here, isn’t it? Dr. C also told us that a very unusual thing had occurred where the placenta from one of the twins had started to grow into the uterine wall. It could have created a host of problems and they would need to monitor her for the next year, but overall, catching it now was fortuitous.
I went to see Tere in the recovery room and to give her an update on the babies. To this day, she has no recollection of that conversation or pretty much anything that happened for the rest of the day. I handled a bunch of paperwork when my Mom said that I needed to eat. I looked at her like she had two heads. I was fine and besides, I needed to email everyone the good news about the babies being born! Of course I had a pre-set email that was all ready to go as long as I attached a picture and filled in all the pertinent info like birth weights, etc. My Mom allowed me this one task and then dragged me down to the hospital cafeteria. We ordered some food, sat down and I almost passed out. You have to love Moms – when they’re right, they’re right. I was exhausted, dehydrated, starving, and had been running on adrenalin for hours.
As the congratulatory emails rolled in, I devoured my food. I’m sure it was comical to watch. I ran upstairs to hand-off the cord blood kits to the messenger when my brother arrived with my niece in tow. It was awesome to have not only my Mom’s support but his, too. Over the next few days, my sister-in-law, my nephew, and my Dad would all arrive to see our family’s newest additions. It was an amazing time.
I came back up later and got my first lesson in feeding babies from the nurses. They trained me well. Tere was finally moved into a regular room later that evening and I was able to have both of the babies brought down to her. It was honestly the first time she got to see them. We spent a quiet evening with them and then the lovely, gorgeous, scrumptious Judy E. arrived. I can’t say enough about her. Judy is Dr. C’s right hand woman and for some reason she likes me and Tere and adores the twins. It was the perfect end to our day when Judy arrived to sit awhile and hold the babies. She came after visitors’ hours so she knew it would be quiet. It was perfect.
March 9th, 9:00am
I arrived at the hospital for our second day of parenthood. I was reasonably rested, showered, and had my coffee in hand. The day before had been a little rough but Tere and the babies were alive and healthy. Life was good. I was on Cloud Nine and couldn’t wait to see what was in store for me at the hospital.
My Mom and I entered Tere’s room and I smiled when I saw her with our daughter. I asked if Free was still in the nursery when Tere said “They took him to the NICU at midnight.”
My heart sank; our bumpy journey was not letting up.
By: Heather Somaini
March 8th, 2:30pm
Dr. C asked me to sit down so she could talk to me and Tere. I had just seen the anesthesiologist injecting a series of what appeared to be escalating levels of drugs into Tere’s IV, her arm, and finally straight into her uterus. I knew what we were about to hear was not good.
Dr. C explained that Tere’s uterus was not contracting like it should after birth, which is necessary to stop bleeding. It’s generally called postpartum hemorrhaging. She explained that they had given Tere a number of drugs to help while Dr. K was massaging the uterus in hopes that it would start to contract. She said they had a little bit more time with this and hoped it would work, but if not, they may need to take more drastic measures. I looked at Dr. K, my doctor of over 15 years. He looked right at me and with the smallest, almost imperceptible movement of his head left to right, he let me know this was not going to do the job.
I swallowed hard and looked at Tere. She had gone through so much and now this? To lose the one thing that defines most women –the ability to have children – would be incredibly difficult for anyone. What could I even say that would be comforting? I resorted to humor and said “no more periods for you Tere – woo hoo!!” She laughed and said “I told you this was a one-bake oven.” As usual, Tere took it in stride and brushed it off as just one more thing that needed to happen.
The nurses handed both babies to me and I sat down so Tere could see them. They were gorgeous and perfect and everything we could possibly hope for. I started to count their fingers and toes at one point and then decided that was ridiculous since the doctors would have known from the ultrasounds if they were missing any. Funny the things we do because that’s what everyone did when we were born.
The nurses took that picture I had kept for so long in my head of me holding both babies. I just kept staring at them and trying to angle them for Tere to see. It was about that time that Dr. C called off their efforts and we agreed to an emergency hysterectomy . They started the surgery immediately.
I had my face close to the babies when I noticed that Free’s breathing was unusual, different than Izzy’s. I asked one of the pediatric nurses if that was normal and she put her ear down to listen.
After just a moment, she looked back up and quickly said “You’re coming with me. Let’s go!”
March 8th , 1:30pm
They wheeled Tere into the operating room to prep for the c-section. The funny thing is, they didn’t let me go in with her. Instead I was instructed to sit in a chair in the hallway just outside the operating room. I stood there trying to peek in the little window in the door and the nurse gave me a stern look, pointed at the chair and said “sit”. I guess she told me.
Picture me in those oh-so-chic blue scrubs, sitting in a deathly quiet hallway by myself. We’ve spent 35 weeks waiting, praying that today would come; the level of activity had been rising incrementally for days and now I have to sit in this hallway by myself, staring at a blank wall –without my blackberry I might add –for what feels like an eternity. I was completely cut off from everything and everyone, alone in my thoughts. It’s amazing where your mind goes when it’s left alone, under stress. I kept thinking about every decision we had made and worried whether they were right or not. I was petrified that the babies would come out “not right”.
Finally, after what felt like an hour, a nurse came to get me. Come to find out that they actually sort of forgot about me and only realized I was still stuck out in that hallway when Tere suddenly asked where I had gone. I was rushed in to what can only be described as organized chaos – multiple sets of nurses and pediatricians were there to assess and quickly decide what would need to be done for the twins.
Dr. C started the surgery and told me to get the camera ready. I soooo wanted to look over the partition and watch the babies come out but I was told that Dr. C was pretty “old school” about these sorts of things so I kept my butt in the seat, not wanting a repeat of the nurse telling me to “sit”. Soon I was taking my favorite picture ever of our daughter, Isabella — “Izzy”. I like to say she was fresh from the oven with all the goo and everything still on her.
Izzy was quickly moved over to a bassinet-type thing where a team of medical professionals started a battery of tests to make sure she was ok. Her brother Libero “Free” came out so fast right after that I never got that first picture right out of the oven. They were both crying, their skin was pink, and I was busy trying to take a ton of pictures for Tere. I knew she was going to be pretty out of it after all of this.
I’ve watched tons of c-sections on Discovery Health and generally know how it all goes. I know how the surgery works and what they do and in what order. I’m sort of a nerd that way. I noticed the anesthesiologist putting a syringe of some drug into Tere’s IV and although it seemed odd, I chalked it up to a normal “something” and looked back at the babies for a minute. When I turned back to Tere to talk to her, he was now injecting something directly into her upper arm. That didn’t seem like standard operating procedure. A couple more minutes passed in this organized chaos and then the anesthesiologist stood up, leaned over and injected something directly into Tere’s uterus. I was standing up and watched the whole thing. I was shocked because the doctors didn’t appear to be at the stage in the surgery that I expected – putting Tere back together. And something looked very strange – Tere’s uterus seemed unusually large. I looked down at Tere knowing that something was not right. My fears were justified with what Dr. C said next.
“Heather, can you sit down so I can talk to both of you?”
By: Heather Somaini
March 8th – 7:00am
Dr. K was doing rounds that morning and came in to check on Tere. Not much had changed but he let us continue to progress as is. We knew Dr. C would come by in a few hours so I opted to run home, take a shower, change into clean clothes, pick up my Mom, and most importantly bring coffee and some “real” breakfast back to the hospital for Tere. Oh, and I had to remember to bring the cord blood kits!
I can’t tell you how happy I was to have my Mom with me. After months and months of feeling so alone, I had my best friend, my most trusted confidant, my biggest supporter with me to help. I was beside myself ecstatic that the timing worked out perfectly and she would be there for her grandchildren’s birth. I can’t imagine a better gift to either of us. It made me giddy thinking that she would be able to hold them right after they were born. And her support of us was extraordinary. I knew the world would not fall apart on her watch.
We arrived back at the hospital to a flood of emails. Coincidentally, a good friend of my boss’s went in to labor the same day we did and everyone wanted to know who was going to increase the world’s population first. Needless to say, we lost. We spent the rest of the morning hanging out and chatting – just the three of us. It was such a great time with nothing to do but wait. Tere was comfortable and hadn’t felt one contraction. We laughed and told stories and asked my mom’s advice for hours.
A little before noon, Dr. C came by to check on Tere’s progress. She was still right around 2cm dilated – virtually no change in 18 hours. Dr. C said it was time to throw in the towel and get the babies out. She wanted to do a C-section. She had taken such good care of us; we were well trained to heed her advice. We readily agreed to the surgery.
It would take almost two hours for them to ready an operating room for our soon-to-be arrivals. It was now that time started to speed up on me. I suddenly had to call and email a ton of people to update them on our progress and our new change of plans. Tere’s good friends Christopher and Bobby wanted to be with us for the birth and started their drive up from Laguna Beach. My boss was flying back to the states and wanted updates. My fingers were typing as fast as I could to keep up with the flow of information.
The level of activity from a normal vaginal birth versus a C-section is dramatic. It increases slowly in volume and intensity, sort of like a pot of water on low heat. You don’t even notice it at first and then at some point it’s deafening…but I’ll get to more of that later. The nurses started coming in with paperwork and information. Each detail had to be explained and then some decision needed to be made.
Christopher and Bobby arrived at the height of activity. Soon after, the anesthesiologist walked in and introduced himself to Christopher asking if he was the dad. We all stared at him in silence for a minute and then finally said “no”. He then moved on to Bobby, shaking his hand and asked if he was the dad. We all stared at him again and said “no”. He then looked at all of us and said, “then who’s the Dad?”
Everyone pointed at me and said “she is.” From the corner of the room, I looked up from my laptop and waved and smiled – “I am”. That poor man looked incredibly confused. That was probably the easiest and probably the funniest part of the rest of the day.
Soon after they had me put on those lovely blue scrubs. What a fashion statement! There is just no way to look cute in those things.
By: Heather Somaini
March 8th – 3:00am
I’d been desperately trying to get some sleep in preparation for what I’d assumed would be the craziest, busiest, most emotional day I’ve ever had in my short 38 years. Tere is essentially an insomniac and is used to odd sleep patterns. But she took it to a completely new level while she was in the hospital. Every few hours they would wake her up to take her vital signs and check on the babies. She was a complete trooper by this point and trained to the nurses’ schedule. I, on the other hand, was not so trained.
This was the moment in time that I mentioned, as the slingshot was being pulled back slowly. Everything seemed to take forever. Two hours in between “checks” felt like an eternity. Time itself was stretching and creaking all around me. When Dr. C removed the cerclage , Tere immediately dilated to 1cm. Nine hours later, she was barely at 2cm, so at 3:00am they broke her water. I figured we’d go back to sleep – isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in the calm before the storm? Not Tere.
She and the nurses decided to have a mini-party in her room. They were all wide awake, laughing and having a great time. If I could have overcome my utter anxiety of what was about to happen, I would have joined in. Instead, I knew that only sleep would help my condition –-I needed to completely forget, be knocked out to all the clutter in my head.
I wonder what soon-to-be dads feel like at this moment. There had been a huge sense of responsibility up until this point but now it was starting to sink in that two living, breathing, incredibly fragile babies were about to come into the world, and I was going to be responsible for everything about them. And where I was only responsible for me at one point, and then Tere too (in a way) when we married – now two barely breathing creatures would need me in a way I had never known. I think I had been so stressed about them even making it to this point that I really hadn’t had the energy to worry about their actual arrival. We never really knew if this day would even come. There were so many opportunities for this to go another way. But we had made it.
And now they were almost here. I realized that if I gave the anxiety too much room in my head, it would take over and I might become paralyzed in a way that was absolutely unacceptable. Tere needed me more than ever to be strong, to handle all of the details that would be coming at us in short order and to be clear when she wouldn’t be able to.
I started to doze back off, listening to Tere and the girls giggling and making jokes. She was happy which made me happy. I’m sure she had a ton of anticipation running through her; she had worked so hard and sacrificed so much for this day. She deserved to laugh and have fun.
I loved her more than she knew and finally fell back to sleep. It was good that I did, as the rest of the day was going to give me a run for my money. That slingshot was about to let go.
By: Heather Somaini
Tere really wanted a normal delivery. We both knew the recovery would be much easier for a vaginal birth versus a C-Section and honestly, we just wanted something to go “easy” in this whole process. Dr. C knew what we wanted and ordered a pitocin drip to get Tere’s contractions started. We had watched enough birth shows to know that pitocin was serious stuff. Most women can barely manage through the intense contractions that pitocin produces. Before Dr. C could even ask, Tere demanded an epidural.
We all know about epidurals, don’t we? It was almost 6:00 pm by now and they were starting to prep Tere for the epidural when I realized I needed to go to the airport to pick up my Mom! We had planned my Mom’s arrival exactly to the 35-week mark because we figured that, with all of the complications of our pregnancy, there was no chance Tere would make it past that. Who knew that she would make it to 35 weeks and my Mom would land about an hour after they began the induction?
By this time, Tere was so used to the hospital and knew the nurses so well that she essentially waved me out of the room when I told her my Mom was just about to land at LAX. I know it seems callous of me to leave right at this critical moment but I had so many balls in the air and was wearing so many different hats at the time. I was so determined to be everything I needed to be to everyone but mostly, I knew Tere was in great hands and that bringing my Mom to the hospital to see her would bring her great comfort. My Mom does that. Tere always feels that much better when she’s around and with babies about to arrive, I knew we needed her more than ever.
I rushed out of Cedars as they were about to start the epidural. Tere laughs to this day that the nurse who stood in front of her and held her couldn’t have weighed more than 100 lbs. Tere likes to joke that by the end of the pregnancy, she was so big she had her own zip code. She had a lot of baby in there! Tere kept thinking to herself during the procedure that if she just tipped forward, she’d squoosh that skinny, little nurse like a bug.
My Mom had been on a plane for most of the day so she knew none of what was going on. I picked her up, let her know that the babies were coming, and we went straight to the hospital. I was petrified that I had missed something, as if those babies were going to arrive in an hour! We spent a couple of hours with Tere and started to realize that nothing was happening quickly. We were going to be in for a long night and my Mom was looking tired. I took her home and put her to bed. Now she was sharing our house with my friend Jim Krueger!! I showered and put on clean clothes knowing full well that it could be awhile before I could do that again.
I drove back to Cedars and prepared for the one and only night I stayed over with Tere. She laughed at me as I tried desperately to get comfortable on that silly chair that converts into a bed. We settled in for what was to become a very long night.
Luckily, Tere had lots of company. Sadly for me, they were a loud bunch.
By: Heather Somaini
Ah, March 7th. We got up early and were at the doctor’s office by 8:00. We were the only ones there. I think Dr. S did the entire procedure by himself – but don’t hold me to that.
I was nervous. So was Tere. I had been told the needle for an amniocentesis is gigantic and the whole procedure is super scary. I had researched it the night before and expected to see the needle on the ultrasound. Sometimes the baby will even try to grab at it.
Nothing. We saw nothing.
We did get one last, amazing ultrasound of our son.
The results would take a while so Dr. S sent us home. I dropped Tere off back at the house and went to work. That week was a little more relaxed than normal because my boss was in Europe for work. I remember wandering through the rest of the day waiting. By this time, I knew to be patient but honestly it was hard. I called Tere often to see if she had heard anything. Each time the answer was the same – no. It was sort of slow motion-like –the calm before the storm. I think of it almost like time slowing down as if stretched like a slingshot in preparation and then let go and sped up at warp speed. It’s fascinating looking back at that day. I had a splattering of meetings all day long and everyone knew I was on pins and needles.
Tere finally called with the amnio results: the baby boy’s lungs were mature. He would be able to breathe on his own if he were born today. Dr. C wanted to induce delivery because of Tere’s mild pre-eclampsia. There was only one problem: they didn’t have an available delivery room at Cedars. No rooms available at one of the largest hospitals in the country? Yep. Strange, but true.
They said they would call when something opened up. I tried to work but honestly my head and heart just weren’t into it. I should have just gone home but I stayed at work. At around 4:00, we finally got the call that a room was available. They highly suggested we not delay our arrival at the hospital as anything can happen. With me at the office in Santa Monica, it could take about an hour in early rush hour traffic to get home and then another 30 plus minutes to get to the hospital. But my dear friend and co-conspirator, Jim Krueger, was at the house and more than happy to take Tere to the hospital. I could meet them there.
Tere had envisioned one of those movie scene trips to the hospital complete with me nervous and rushing all over the place. Now I was meeting her at the hospital while some nice but fairly unknown man drove her in his convertible to Cedars. At least the car was easy to get in and out of since the top was down! Jim had taken three trips to the hospital with his kids with his ex-wife, so I knew Tere was in good hands.
By the time I arrived, they were prepping Tere to have the cerclage removed. We had been joking for 13 weeks that the cerclage was the only thing keeping the babies inside and the minute it was removed, the twins would just fly out. Dr. C removed the cerclage and Tere immediately dilated to 1cm.
We were on our way!
By: Heather Somaini
Tere was now at home and resting comfortably on our sofa but she was completely obsessed with looking her best on delivery day. So much so that she convinced the doctors to let her have an afternoon of beauty. One of her girlfriends came up and took her for a spa day – she had her nails done, her hair cut, a leisurely lunch. Tere had been saying she felt like she had her own zip code, she was so big. At one point, she leaned on a car for support to step off a curb!
When I got home that night, I took one look at her swollen feet and gasped. They were gigantic. I was petrified that something was about to go terribly wrong and I’m confident I gave her a piece of mind about her bad behavior that day. She swore to me she would keep her feet up and stay in bed from that point forward.
We had an appointment with the perinatologist a couple days later and Tere had been complaining that she thought her blood pressure was higher than normal. I couldn’t believe it; just when we thought we were out of the woods, it looked like –on top of the incompetent cervix and gestational diabetes –she now had pre-eclampsia. I was insistent at the doctor’s office that they check her blood pressure and whatever else they needed to do. Sure enough the protein test came back with mild pre-eclampsia.
Our regular perinatologist, Dr. P, was out of town probably speaking at a conference in Switzerland or something so Dr. S was taking care of us. He said that he wanted to talk to our regular OB/GYN and see if she agreed that we should induce. Dr. C gave the thumbs up. The only thing they all wanted to be sure of was that the babies’ lungs were mature. Since we were having a boy and a girl, they were most worried about Baby B – the boy. For whatever reason, baby boys’ lungs take longer to develop than a girl’s.
I was in shock over what he said next – we had to do an amniocentesis. The dreaded procedure we pretty much refused to do early on because of the risks. Dr. S reassured us that at this stage, almost 35 weeks, it was a much different procedure, especially since Baby B was positioned very well for it. Since it was the end of the day on a Tuesday, Dr. S wanted to do the procedure first thing the next morning so we agreed to be back in super early for the big needle.
We went home and decided that, since life was probably about to change dramatically and because the lottery was pretty high, we should go for a drive. If I never give you another bit of advice, please listen to this: never take a 35-week pregnant woman to a 7-11 the night before anything. Tere demanded I allow her to have the largest Slurpee made to go along with her lottery tickets. She was pretty happy.
By the way, it was March 6th. Do you remember what date Tere had up on her vision board at the hospital?
By: Heather Somaini
Jim Krueger arrived in Los Angeles one day in January that year. A magnificent man you can only hope to meet one day. I met him a number of months earlier in Atlanta at a film conference. While everyone else was politically correct and saying all the things they thought they should say, Jim was saying the things I was thinking and believing. Out of a room full of people, he was the one person I wanted to meet and listen to.
That evening while everyone else was out watching and discussing movies, I spent the evening with Jim and a filmmaker friend of his drinking wine and snacking on cheese at our little boutique hotel. Jim told the most hysterical and outrageous stories. Wine and cheese hour turned into multiple hours and when we offered the hotel manager some of the pizza we had delivered, he brought out more wine! A lasting friendship was sealed that evening.
When Jim moved to Los Angeles a few months later, he reached out immediately. I was spending all my time at the hospital so he came over to visit. He was literally staying on some guy’s couch over an hour outside of LA. I was barely sleeping in our four-bedroom house and told him he had to come stay with us – well, me.
Jim was a huge help. He actually put a few perishable items in the refrigerator. He helped me install a new garage door opener. Just because we had to hire a professional to finish it…well.
I wanted to introduce Jim to some of our favorite things in LA – I like thinking that Tere and I are awesome ambassadors to our favorite city. Unfortunately, I tried to do it all in one night. First we picked up pizza from Cheebo and frozen yoghurt from Pinkberry (Tere’s faves) and headed over to Cedars. Tere was ecstatic – not only did she have pizza and frozen yoghurt but she also had someone witty and charming to entertain her. Jim took to his new job with gusto and we proceeded to polish off a bottle of wine with our pizza. I know for a fact that we thought we were hysterically funny that night. I’m sure Tere did not feel the same. On our way home very late that night, we drove through In-N-Out on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, which is always a scene on Saturday night. Wine, pizza, Pinkberry and then burgers, fries and shakes!?!?!? Oye!
The best thing about Jim staying at the house was I knew he would be there when Tere came home – most likely before she went into labor. And that’s exactly what happened. At 34 weeks, the doctors finally sent her home. She was on modified bed rest but I was so relieved Jim was there most days just in case anything happened or Tere needed anything.
But it wouldn’t be too long before life heated up again and Jim was about to play a big part in it!