Twin Pregnancy, Preemies & the NICU

I am completely overwhelmed with my Savior's love for us. He has blessed Rence and I more than we could have ever imagined. We have always known and trusted that God is capable of anything, but it's absolutely breath-taking to experience His miracles in the making. His blessings are truly by His grace alone (a free gift that we don't deserve)!

Many of you already know that I have had severe back issues. The onset of my back condition was at 15 years old and has gradually worsened since then. I have been diagnosed with two torn/leaking discs (my L4/5 and L5/S1) and three bulging discs (my L3/4, L4/5, and L5/S1), as well as fibromyalgia and sciatica. Needless to say, I experience moderate to severe pain on a daily basis; however, I have complete trust that the Lord uses this in my life to help and relate to others (and I have already seen Him at work through my circumstances). I was highly discouraged by my doctors to pursue a pregnancy. They warned me that my weakened back (especially in the lumbar region) would not be able to support the weight of a pregnancy and would likely cause more damage. I was also told that my pain would worsen during a pregnancy and that I would have to manage on very little medication. As a result, the severity of pain could throw me into preterm labor.

Rence and I knew we wanted a family. We were battling with what to do...do we adopt?...do we go against doctor's warnings and pursue a pregnancy?...what would my back condition be like after a pregnancy?...could I take care of a child if my back was damaged further? There were many occasions that Rence and I held each other while in tears. We wanted a family so desperately. We didn't have the finances to adopt, and we thought our likelihood of me carrying a baby without negative repercussions to both me and the baby was slim. After a couple of years of battling with our desire, we both gave it up to the Lord. While in tears, I wrote this in my prayer journal:
Father, I love You and praise You for what You've done in my life. Father, I've obviously faced many challenges, but also many victories through You. Having children is the strongest desire I've ever experienced, and I believe that this exact desire is the work of You. I pray that You will give me the strength to continually pray about this. I also pray that You would give me peace and clarity about this if it is or is not Your will. With all of that being said, I want the desires of my heart to be shown to You. We want our own child, and I think of the stories in the Old Testament of women who were by all means past the ability to have children. They were heartbroken about not being able to have children. When they finally trusted You with the situation, You blessed them. I pray this will continually be my hope and peace - that You are in control. Again, Father, I desire this so very deeply and ask of You to provide children that are healthy to Rence and myself. These are my desires, but I also need to trust in Your will and Your timing in every situation. I realize that this may not be in Your perfect will for us, and I pray that You would give me clarity and peace. Thank you for your loving arms that are around me right now and always! Amen.
We continued to pray about our desire, but we were not at peace with the possibility of starting a family. In late November, Rence and I began to feel an overwhelming peace about starting a family (the kind of "perfect" peace that only God can give). We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we should pursue starting a family. We knew that my health during a pregnancy would be at risk, but we also knew that God was in control of the situation.

This would be our one and only pregnancy, even though we desired two children. Needless to say, we were thrilled when we found out we were pregnant in mid-January. After finding out we were pregnant, I was in my daily prayer time and "mentioned" that if He knew I could handle two babies at once, I would love to have twins so that our family could be "complete." We went to our first prenatal visit at 10 1/2 weeks into the pregnancy (February 28th) and found not one, but two little blessings! We were in awe! This was again the work of our one true Savior.

I began coming off my medications gradually. By the last trimester, I was only on 1/4th of my medications and doing very well. My pain seemed to decrease as my pregnancy progressed. I was amazed by how the Lord was taking care of me and these boys during the pregnancy - many of this was a direct result of devoted brothers and sisters in Christ who were lifting us up in prayer.

At 31 weeks, my water broke, and I was rushed to UAB Hospital in Birmingham where my labor was stopped. The plan was for me to remain at UAB as an inpatient until 34 weeks, when I would deliver our boys. As soon as we sent news of this, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ began to pray. Those prayers were felt and the results were powerful. Prior to me arriving at UAB, I was being evaluated at RMC Hospital in Anniston. The doctors and nurses were preparing Rence and myself to deliver that night. When I arrived at UAB Hospital in Birmingham (after news had reached others and prayers were being lifted up), the nurses and doctors were able to stop my labor within 12 hours - those prayers made a difference! Even though they were able to stop my labor, there was a 50% chance that labor could begin again, which could not be stopped. I went into labor three days before my scheduled c-section (at 34 weeks); however, I was able to make it to the date of my scheduled c-section (on August 13th) - again, prayers were heard and answered!

At 34 weeks (August 13th), I delivered two beautiful boys by c-section. They were breathing on their own, but needed help supplying oxygen, blood, and nutrients to their little bodies. As we expected, they were moved and remained in the NICU/CCN at UAB. There were many ups and downs that we did not expect. One day the boys would be off all IV's and tube-feedings, then the next day they would be back on them. There were unexpected infections and exposure to potentially serious illness, as well as minor procedures that had to be performed (spinal taps and transfusions, for instance). It was during this time that Rence had to return to work (1 1/2 hours away) while I stayed at UAB with the boys - much of the time, I was alone. It was terribly hard for Rence to go a week at a time without seeing me or his precious boys, and hard on me to not be able to see Rence. Even though our boys were born very healthy compared to many others, the situation proved challenging for me to deal with alone. I only had one person to lean on - my Savior. My faith (especially in the area of my prayer life) was strengthened greatly. I also saw other ways that the Lord was working through the circumstances. I ran across many young ladies like myself that were going through similar, if not the same, situations. I was honored to be placed in their paths and lend a listening ear, encouragement, or a shoulder to cry on. The Lord placed me in that situation so that He could use me as His vessel, even though I am so unworthy. I grew so much closer to my Savior during this time. He uses the mountains and valleys in our life to help us grow in our faith.

I am still in awe of how the Lord heard and answered our prayers about our little family. It's amazing how He used the trials leading up to the pregnancy and the boys' situation (after birth) to help Rence and I grow in Him. I praise the Lord for all He has done for us!


                          Gavin Noah Cochran
                            4.4 lbs / 16.5" long
                 Born at 11:01 A.M. on 8.13.2011


                      Brayden Thomas Cochran
                             5 lbs. / 16.5" long
                 Born at 11:00 A.M. on 8.13.2011


                          First Family Photo!
                     1 Week Old in the NICU

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Pregnancy:







Sonogram at 10 1/2 Weeks









                               10 1/2 Weeks









17 Weeks                                                
                                                                                        







                                         
                                                                       22 Weeks












26 Weeks                                                                      






                                                        31 Weeks








32 Weeks, 6 Days






                                                      33 Weeks, 5 Days

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Birth:

We choose to do a c-section over a vaginal delivery for 2 reasons. First off, my health issues presented some questions as to what effect a vaginal delivery could have on my body in the long haul. A c-section was a safer option for this reason alone. Secondly, baby A (Brayden) was head-down, but baby B (Gavin) was breech. Some doctors feel comfortable performing a vaginal delivery if baby A is head-down, as baby B has a 50% chance of turning after baby A leaves the birth canal. I had done my research and asked several health professionals in the field, and most whom I spoke with said that they see too many patients deliver baby A vaginally, only to be rushed into an emergency c-section (a scary and stressful experience) to deliver baby B. This can also compromise baby B's safety. 

The c-section went beautifully, and the recovery from the surgery itself was not as bad as I had expected, although it was still rough getting in and out of bed and on/off the toilet for the first few days. I'm thankful I had my hubby there to lend a helping hand. I did have a pretty hefty infection that set in 24 hours after the c-section from the ruptured water/membranes of baby B a month prior. It took 7 days in hospital of 5 different IV antibiotics before the infection was brought under control. In many ways, I didn't mind, since my boys were still in the NICU only 2 floors away (my home is over 1 1/2 hours away).

I left the hospital heartbroken that I was empty-handed for the time-being. Yet I also felt extremely blessed to have two babies that were "making do" with medical intervention....after all, we weren't supposed to "logically" have any children (it was by the miracles of God alone). 

My emotions were constantly conflicting. I was happy to have just delivered my precious baby boys, but I was already sad thinking about leaving them when I would be discharged from the hospital (and be 1 1/2 hours away if something were to happen in the NICU). I would walk into their NICU room and be so excited to see them, yet nervous as to what I find and what the nurses would report to me, as well as disappointed many-times by not being able to hold them (at the beginning stages, they had to either be fed in their isolettes/not be held, or be fed quickly and be put back into their isolettes after their feeding).

The first night away from them was extremely hard for me. I cried a lot that night because I wanted to be with them so badly. I felt helpless being so far away. I started driving back and forth to Birmingham the next day, spending as much time as I could with my precious boys. 
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NICU:

Those 30 days in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) were extremely taxing, both emotionally and physically. One of the hardest battles to fight was that of my own emotions (especially considering the crazy hormones that kicked in following delivery). A new mom who experiences a normal delivery will even have a hard time with emotions due to hormonal levels changing after delivery. Add to that the mix of a premature delivery, and the unknowns of the NICU. I wanted to swap places with them...take all the needle sticks...take on all the hardships. I was also overjoyed with the arrival of my miracle boys...I didn't know how to feel or when to feel it.

I also couldn't be there constantly, as we lived 1 1/2 hours away from the hospital. My mother stayed for a couple weeks to lend a helping hand while my husband worked 2 full-time jobs (he didn't have sick leave because of my month-long hospitalization and premature labor episodes prior to delivery).

Being so far away from them gave me a terribly helpless feeling as well. Sure, I could call in to check on them at any hour, but it wasn't the same as being able to drive over there quickly if anything went wrong.

As far as medical needs, we were extremely blessed to have fairly healthy babies in comparison to the micro-preemies in the rooms next door. The boys weighed in at 5 lbs. and 4 lbs. 4 oz. when born, and dropped to 3 lbs. 7 oz. and 3 lbs. 14 oz. They regained their weight via tube feedings for the first 3 weeks. The last week, we were finally able to get them to feed from a bottle fairly successfully within the time limit given by the doctors.

They needed spinal taps, blood transfusions, platelet transfusions, IV fluids and antibiotics, and oxygen. They were not able to hold their own body temperature until the third week, which also affected their oxygen stats. They consistently had brady's (sudden drop in heart rate - below 90 BPM) until 5 days before their release from the hospital. 

The night the boys were released from the hospital was a huge relief. Those 30 days seemed like months, and I was ready to begin our life with Daddy at home as a family. This experience has given me a heart for others who have to walk through the NICU process. I know it is a blessing to have someone that has been in those shoes themselves and understands, and now I can be that blessing to others.

The March of Dimes organization raises awareness and provides support to families of premature babies that must spend time in the NICU. They were a blessing to me during my stay, and I encourage you to support this organization through fundraising, prayer, and public awareness.

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