option b: an unexpected adventure home


As some of you might have noticed if you follow me on instagram, or know me personally, our dear Elle didn't come home with us from the hospital immediately.  In fact, she didn't come home with us close to immediately at all; she spent 72 days in the NICU.  I had mentioned in previous posts that we had identified a complication prior to their arrival and though she's fine and home with us (thankfully) things did not go according to plan or as expected.  Though I do believe that all of parenthood/motherhood should be titled Option B or Not according to Plan regardless of your situation.  I'll be kicking off my Motherhood Monday series with a bit about our experience to date.  There's a lot to unpack regarding our adventure to bringing both of our girls home, but this is as good of a place as any to start.

Back when I was almost 30 weeks pregnant. I found myself precariously laying on my side listening to a mix of the cantankerous sounds of the MRI machine and Bruno Mars. I had been put in this machine to determine what the ultrasound was showing in one of the ladies: something entirely benign or something that presented a more complicated scenario. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a more complicated scenario and I was whisked upstairs to the high-risk maternity labor and delivery floor to await steroid injections and a c-section in two-days when the ladies had officially reached 30 weeks.  After 6 hours of not too much information, the specialists had been able to convene and share with me that the ladies, in fact, would not be delivered at 30 weeks, but that it was less-risky for the ladies to continue to grow and the twin with the issue would be better served being older, bigger, and more developed for the surgery that she would more than likely require immediately post-delivery.  I'd be more stringently monitored and we'd keep our fingers crossed that I could hold these ladies in as long as possible. Which, as luck would have it, I was able to hold off until 36 weeks (6 days shy of my scheduled c-section) - a feat that I am exceedingly proud of given my size.  It all sounds very dramatic (it was), and very scary (oddly enough it wasn't) though I did cry (a fact that I will place sole blame on my hormones).

In all of this I think we were very fortunate.  Had I been having one baby, this issue might not have been identified until post-birth and the issue that was identified was 100% fixable. Since we were able to identify it early, we were able to make some preparations and set our own expectations for what would happen.  We met with specialists, we took tours (something that we never did with our son), and we dutifully went to doctor appointment after doctor appointment with quite possibly the most excellent healthcare team I've ever had the benefit of working with - which, though was incredibly time consuming, provided a sense of comfort that everyone was doing well.  We were told the tentative plan - that Baby A would require surgery almost immediately and that her recovery would likely take 4-6 weeks post-op (it took longer) which a potential for a follow-up surgery to finally resolve the issue between 6-8 weeks from the first surgery depending upon the lay of the land once they were able to examine her (She did end up having to have follow-up surgery exactly 8 weeks from her first).  Still I had a lot of questions: would we be able to see her after my c-section, when could we hold her post-op, and most importantly to us - when could she come home - none of these could be answered with any level of certainty.  We explained what was happening to our 5 year old, who asked which sister was going to require surgery, Eleanor or Charlotte.  We told him we didn't know as we hadn't picked who would be named what as we had always expected to name them once we saw them.  But in that moment, we told Liam that he could pick who was who, without telling him which required surgery and which did not.  And so Baby A became Eleanor and Baby B became Charlotte.  

We scheduled a c-section at almost 37 weeks and waited.  (As an aside, scheduling a c-section was one of the more bizarre exercises, particularly having gone into labor on my own with Liam.) Then my water broke at 36 weeks, Cinco de Mayo to be exact, and our plans were moved up a bit.  I walked into surgery and after a quick kiss and cuddle, Eleanor was whisked away with Scott. Though Scott was able to see her, I didn't get to see her for almost 24 hours and when I did, there was a lot to process. Between the vent (which she was put on to assist her breathing during surgery), all of the monitors, and sounds, it was a tremendous blow.  And then there was the waiting: the waiting for her to come off the vent and begin the process of recovery.   No one prepares you for the heart wrenching feeling that it is to have to leave your little baby at the hospital that first time and all of the times after that.  It is never easy.  And there's no amount of she's-in-the-right-places (which she is) or the-NICU-team-is-fantastic (which they are, seriously the best & most amazing people I have ever had the privilege of working with, I cannot say enough positive things about them) that will console you or make you feel any better about the fundamental fact that your baby is not home with you.

I came to realize quickly that this was our Option B - juggling time between a newborn & five-year-old at home, and another newborn in the NICU.  During the first few weeks at Eleanor's bedside, I read Sheryl Sandberg's new book Option B.  Based on her experience in the death of her husband, it discuses her journey of coping, facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy.  And for all of the sucking that this situation is (and boy does it suck), I have to say that this book came at the right time for me.  Because, look, life - it isn't easy.  And sometimes you are dealt a really unfortunate hand and sometimes you've gotta lean into the suck.  But during those times, I've come to find that you really find out what you are made of, as trite as it sounds.  You are able to grow from these situations and gain a whole new level of resilience, empathy, compassion, and strength that you never really thought possible.  During our time in the NICU, we saw some devastating cases, but we've also seen such joy, love, & compassion.  The staff came to be an extension of us and our family and they cared for and loved Eleanor as much as their own.  We're very fortunate to have been steered in their direction and to have such excellent care so close to home.  I'm also well aware that not as many people have that opportunity, nor do most people have the lead time that we did to make a little more peace with their Option B before it became reality.    

In addition to that, I've been continually blown away by the support we've received from family a friends.  The texts; the meals; the cups of coffee (and bottles of wine); all of it has made our lives a little easier, a little better.  One of the parts that truly resonated with me out of Option B was a comment surrounding how people interact with those who are going through a life-altering situation and that is the use of platitudes to 'assist those in coping'.  (You know what I am talking about - the everything-happens-for-a-reason-silver-lining crowd)  I can tell you that I've heard my share of them and though they are wonderfully well-intended, I can tell you that the advice that is offered in Option B is far more impactful: that is the simple act of acknowledgement.  To say that you acknowledge the pain that the person is going through and you are here with them - for whatever that looks like.  And this, is how I know we have the right tribe of people around us.  By-in-large, most people got it.  They allowed us space to lean into the suck, to forge our own path out, and assisted along the way.

Elle's stay ended up being a lot longer than anticipated mostly because initially they had expected her to get to come home between her first and second follow-up surgery.  This didn't happen.  So on her 72nd day in the NICU, she was discharged.  And when our sweet Elle came home, that tribe celebrated right along with us.  They had seen us come out the other side, stronger, happier, healthier, and ready to move forward as a family of 5.

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  1. Loved reading your blog Chelsea! Parenting is always full of option B - that's for sure. Glad you have your babies all home with you and Scott. They are precious!

  2. This is SO AWESOME. LOVE YOU GUYS TO THE MOON, GF. I need to read that book.

  3. I love you, Chelsea. So proud of who you are as a soul-sister, friend, mother, and human. xoxox

  4. Maybe it is the post pregnancy hormones, but that brought tears to my eyes. You guys are amazing! I'm so happy to see you all together at last!!


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