Welcome to the Blog on Clara and Wilson McGarvey!

Clara's amniotic sac ruptured on June 7, 2011 when we were 24 weeks and 5 days pregnant. Ten days later, Clara and Wilson were born. They have already enriched our lives in ways we couldn't have imagined, and we wanted to share those experiences with our friends and family. So sit back and enjoy the read - they are full of excitment and surprises!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Month by Month

Clara at birth - 1lb, 8oz

Wilson at birth - 1lb, 15oz

Clara and Wilson at one month

Wilson at two months

Clara at two months - she had been moved into seclusion in the MRSA wing

Wilson was home when he turned three months old

Clara was still in the hospital

They were reunited when they turned four months old

They were not off "house arrest" until shortly before they turned 11 months old
Yay!!! One year old today!!!

Happy Birthday Clara! Happy Birthday Wilson!

We started today by re-visiting Kosair
Clara and Wilson McGarvey turned one year old today and we couldn't be happier! One year ago we did not know if our children would ever leave the hospital. Tonight we are going to bed exhausted from a day of birthday cakes and presents. We haven't had the time to fully internalize the events of the past year, but somehow that doesn't feel as important as savoring this moment. We have plenty of time to recount their story. And having this as their story instead of their explanation is more than we thought possible at this time last year.

We took off their cute birthday outfits before having cake.
Chris insisted on each of them having their own cake.
Much to their chagrin, we also sang two renditions of "Happy Birthday"

Chris also made a cake for the adults.
Appropriately, it was Clara's chocolate cake - a family recipe perfected by the woman for whom Clara is named.

We probably won't do this every year, but this year we felt champagne was necessary

Clara had her cake and got to eat it too!

"Yaaaaayyyyyy! I got the ball I wanted! I got the ball I wanted!"

"Oh yeah, we could get used to this whole "presents" thing."

As usual, Clara and Wilson were the centers of attention.

Friday, June 15, 2012

One Year Ago Today, Part II

Last Thursday we wrote our first post dealing with the events leading up to Clara's and Wilson's births. This post further describes how Clara and Wilson ultimately ended up joining us 14 weeks before they were due. Clara and Wilson each turn one year old this Sunday. We are publishing this final post on the events of their birth slightly in advance of their one year anniversary because Sunday is reserved solely for the celebration of what they have accomplished. Again, this post is not for everyone.

The 48 hours after Chris' water broke were horrific. The doctors explained that Chris stood a 75% chance of giving birth during the first 48 hours and, if they were born, Clara and Wilson had a 25% chance or less of surviving. Chris remained on the magnesium sulfate drip for roughly 24 hours to slow contractions. During that time she was injected with a steroid to create surfactant in the babies' lungs. The steroid needed 48 hours to achieve the maximum effect and was the only thing that would increase Clara's and Wilson's chance of surviving birth. Thus, the stress of waiting began.

Chris was on complete bed rest for the first full day after her water broke. The catheter remained in place and she literally could not get out of bed unless she needed to be wheeled down the hall for an ultrasound. That Wednesday (the day after her water broke) remains somewhat of a blur. We talked to family, doctors, and I constantly watched the contraction and heart rate monitors for any signs of alarm.

On Thursday, we had our first scare. The contraction monitors had not been kind for the past few hours and, when Chris needed to be changed, it was obvious blood was coming out with the constantly leaking amniotic fluid. The nurses hoped it was stress and decided to give Chris something to calm her down and, hopefully, force her to sleep. Before receiving the drugs, we prayed. Chris then asked to speak with our minister alone and my mom and I quietly filed out of her room. He came out a few minutes later, she went to sleep, and we all waited in the hall. A few hours later, all things being relative, she was fine.

I still don't know exactly what was said, but this was miracle number one in what has been a year full of them. We made it through the first 48 hours and Chris' contractions began to level off. Since that time we've discussed what we were feeling and thinking. I confessed to Chris that I never told her exactly what the contraction monitors showed or what the doctors said could be happening. She got a weird smile upon hearing this revelation and told me she never told me how scared she was by the fact she could feel Clara's spine through her belly. I've remained amazed that Chris was trying to protect other people during this extremely personal crisis. 

By Friday we were hopeful. We defied the first set of odds and our positive outlook was returning. Chris, by nature, is an amazingly goal-oriented person. She quickly set a goal of getting to at least 34 weeks and would pepper the medical staff with questions of whether her goal was possible and if there was anything she could do to accomplish that feat. Friends and family were also allowed to visit and Chris' spirits were lifted by every visitor, every card, and every gift. One of my favorite memories from our time in the hospital is from that Saturday night when I brought Chris' favorite pizza and a copy of the Godfather to the room and we had our Italian "date night."

We continued celebrating making it through every morning, every afternoon, and every night. I went back to work the following Monday and on Tuesday we celebrated making it one week after Chris' water broke. Chris' Mom came into town and gave me a chance to get a little extra rest while she stayed at the hospital to help Chris during the night.

The celebrations were ultimately short-lived. By Wednesday night, Chris was noticeably concerned and told me something didn't feel right. We had a rough night. She wasn't feeling any better Thursday afternoon and I went back to the hospital. By Thursday evening, Chris was in excruciating pain. She was convinced she was having contractions and, every so often, would abruptly stiffen in pain as she strangled the handrails on her hospital bed. The nurses hovered but could not detect any contractions. They were convinced she was having braxton hicks contractions, but decided to leave the contraction monitors on and, once again, gave her something to calm her down and help her sleep. Unfortunately, sleep never came.

This time the pain kept Chris awake. Around 2:00 a.m. one of the nurses asked her about her pain level and Chris said it was probably a 5 or a 6 on a scale from 1 - 10. I followed the nurse out of the hospital room and let her know that Chris admitting to her pain being at a "5 or 6" was the same as any normal human saying their pain was at a "10". I let them know they were dealing with a woman who tore her meniscus and then skied for five days because she didn't want to miss out on the ski trip. Chris might not have admitted to a pain level of "10" during delivery. By this time, the hospitalist, Dr. Baker, was aware of what was going on in our room and stayed close.

The next four hours were tense. Chris continued to suffer incredible pain while we both helplessly waited to see if this was another blip or something worse. Unfortunately, the doctors could not give Chris anything to slow her contractions because, if one of our babies had an infection, it would be worse for them to stay in utero.

Around 6:00 a.m., the decision was finally made to put Chris on a muscle relaxer. They removed the contraction and heart rate monitors so Chris could use the bathroom and the nurse left to get the medication. I helped Chris out of bed and was waiting by the sink when she called to me and, in a calm but worried voice, quietly confided "I think I feel something between my legs." I tried to mimic her calm by telling her I would be right back, but bolted out of her room into the hall. I immediately saw Dr. Baker talking with several nurses and bluntly blurted out "Chris feels something between her legs!!!"

I know I sounded like an idiot but, as they had been for the duration of our stay, the nurses and doctors were prompt and professional. They swarmed into Chris' room and got her back in bed to check things out while I waited in the hall. Dr. Baker purposefully came out of the room and said "Dad, you need to follow me to delivery." One of the nurses trailing him looked at me and said "it's a foot about to come out."

Chris was wheeled in her hospital bed to a delivery room. By that time a team of neonatalogists and high-risk OBGYN's had been dispatched. It was also shift change so several of the nurses stayed on to make sure we were alright. Things were happening so quickly I never put on scrubs or even washed my hands. I just held onto Chris while wearing one of my oldest undershirts, workout shorts, and a pair of loafers that I had worn to work the previous day.

There were at least five doctors, probably more, in the operating room and twice as many nurses. Some of them helped me try to keep Chris calm as she delivered Clara naturally, breach, with no pain relief. Clara was immediately taken by the neonatalogists, put on a ventilator, and whisked away in an isolette. Not knowing what we would see, we declined to look at her before they took her to the NICU.

Even though it was early, we still celebrated
the day Clara and Wilson born.
What happened next was possibly the weirdest part of our entire ordeal. Wilson's amniotic sac survived Clara's violent and unexpected birth intact. The doctors placed what they could back inside, brought in an ultrasound monitor and debated leaving Wilson in for the duration of his pregnancy.  I held onto Chris and alerted the family to everything that was happening. Eventually, the doctors decided Wilson should also leave the confines of Chris' womb. We left the initial operating room and Wilson was brought into the world via C-section a few hours after Clara was born. Not long after that we made our way to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and met our children for the first time.

The rest of the story has been chronicled in this blog. Now you know what happened the first few weeks. The doctors told us every day Chris kept the babies in her womb saved them 5-7 days in the NICU. More importantly, she likely she saved Clara's and Wilson's lives. Her courage, compassion, and commitment is rewarded by every gesture, smile, and sound from our two beautiful children.

We also wouldn't be here without you. The prayers, love, and support we received were unbelievable and unforgettable. From the crew of people who helped get our house ready for Chris to come home, to everyone who visited the hospital, made us a meal, helped with the kids, sent us a card, or simply followed the blog, thank you. You made our bad days better and our good days great. The knowledge that we weren't alone propelled us through this roller coaster ride. It also hopefully made us better people, parents, and friends. We hope you'll stay with us for the rest of the journey.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

We're Back in the Saddle Again

We're back from vacation and everything is back to normal. Although no one told us taking babies on vacation nullified much of the "vacation" - we naively took books and magazines to read as if we were spending a normal week at the beach - we had a blast. Clara and Wilson have only been off house arrest for a month and it was great to see them experience the beach, the water, new surroundings, and new people.

Wilson is already making faces at the camera.

With twins, we usually get one toy and see if they it like before getting another.
Uncle Dave bought this float for Clara. Who knew it would be the biggest hit of the trip?

I'm pretty much a natural at this. Too bad Wilson doesn't have one, sucker!

Hehehe, I got a float too. I just needed to have a talk with Mimi.

Maybe if I dig a moat around me they will stop taking pictures!

I'm a trend setter. Look for this style on the runway this fall.

How effective are these sunglasses? Let me see, I'll stare directly into the sun. Yep, they work. 

Mac, I don't want to get out of the pool.

Ok, that's a little better.

Ahhhhhhhh, that was good. But don't think I'm waiting 15 minutes before getting back in the water.

Mom, do we have to leave?

We left the sand and surf last Saturday during Clara and Wilson's morning nap and drove to Jacksonville to hang out with Chris' best friend and surrogate family, the Rubachs. Chris grew up with Ali Rubach (now Ali Freedman) and her four older sisters in Jefferson City, MO. The entire Rubach family has since relocated to Jacksonville and it is like a family reunion whenever we visit. We were last there in April of 2011 and Ali, Chris, and Ali's sister, Amanda, were all pregnant. (Amanda delivered identical twin girls!) Instead of three sober drivers, this time it was three moms and five kids.

It was GREAT to see everyone and meet the new additions to the Rubach family. Ali, Amanda, Heidi, Julie, and their Mom (which is what Chris calls her), were all on hand with kids, significant others, and another friend, Tommy, who also relocated to Jacksonville from Jefferson City, MO, to welcome Clara and Wilson into the family. They even threw a birthday party for our kids! After a fantastic day we packed up the kids, drove through the night, and arrived back in Louisville around 7:00 a.m. on Sunday.  We have a new appreciation for energy drinks and the vacations our parents took us on as kids.

Chris, Amanda, and their FOUR kids! Clara, Wilson, Addison, and Katelyn 

(from left to right) Heidi, Clara, Tommy, Chris, Wilson, Noah, Gracie, Ali, and Jonah

You try getting 8 kids to look in the same direction.

They even had birthday cupcakes

And Wilson LOVED his first bite of cake!

Clara and Wilson also got to open birthday presents.

Before getting packed up for the long drive home. (Wilson was already asleep)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

One year ago today

We started this blog four days after Clara and Wilson were born to keep friends and family informed during a difficult and scary time. We didn't know what was going to happen, but knew we would frequently be sharing news that wasn't suited for a mass email or facebook. Although it remained our intent to relay information on Clara's and Wilson's condition, this blog quickly became a therapeutic outlet to help us cope with our new reality and feel closer to a process over which we had no control. At some point, this became the de facto "baby book" for Clara and Wilson - complete with pictures, stories, and comments from friends.

It is in that spirit that we write this post. Like all journeys, this one has a beginning, and we have never documented what happened before Clara and Wilson were born. I'm not sure we will ever forget, but it is a major part of their story and is worth preserving here. Maybe it will help someone going through same thing, or maybe it will help us achieve some closure on a very difficult experience. Either way, as we approach these milestones and grapple with many of these issues again, we feel it necessary to record this part of our experience. This blog entry isn't for everyone and we take no offense if you simply scroll down to the cute picture at the end!

One year ago today Chris' water broke. As this milestone arrives, we are forced to look back and examine how things unfolded and how it continues to affect us. The day started like any other; we got up, went through our routines and left for work. Sometime around mid-morning, Chris called me laughing. She couldn't believe it, but she had just peed her pants at work. She had already called the doctor's office just to make sure nothing was wrong and they told her it wasn't uncommon for mothers of multiples to lose some bladder control. We both laughed at the idea of Chris wearing diapers for the next three months and she left work to change pants. The next phone call changed everything.

Chris didn't stop "peeing" on the way home. Instead of changing her pants she drove to the hospital. Once the doctors confirmed it was amniotic fluid, she called me. I have never driven so fast in my life.

"Unexpected" doesn't begin to describe our reaction because there was no reason for us to suspect anything was wrong. We had just completed our 24 week check-up less than 24 hours before Chris' water broke and the doctor told us everything looked so good we didn't need to come back in for another month. Until that moment, we had a picture perfect pregnancy.

When I ran into the triage room where Chris was being set up, it was immediately apparent our lives had changed. Chris was lying in a bed hooked up to a heart rate monitor for her, a heart rate monitor for each baby, a contraction monitor, and an IV line. Normally stoic, she was crying when I walked in the room. I couldn't hold back either. Seeing her at that moment was the most afraid I have ever been.

The next few hours are still blurry. Chris was quickly put on magnesium sulfate, a nasty chemical that makes you feel like you're roasting inside but slows down contractions and decreases your chances of giving birth. She was also given a catheter because she couldn't get out of bed and, as we found out later, they needed to monitor her urine while she was on the magnesium sulfate. At some point my mom and our minister arrived to lend their support. 

The high risk specialist visited with us after Chris was stabilized. She was very professional and compassionate, but her prognosis was clear; they could no longer care for us at Baptist East hospital and the odds of giving birth were high while the odds of both twins surviving were slim. The odds of either child being "normal" if they survived were even worse. Her percentages were specific and merciless. I called Chris' mom to break the news before the ambulance transported us downtown to Norton/Kosair. 

Scared and disoriented we arrived at Norton/Kosair and were taken to a room that could be used as an operating room. The temperature was incredibly low to accommodate Chris' magnesium sulfate drip and the room smelled appropriately cold and sterile. Operating lights watched ominously overhead as we began the worst part of all . . . waiting.

I finally left Chris' side around 10:30 p.m. to get a toothbrush and a few things to spend the night. When I got back to the hospital a neonatologist was going through what would likely happen over the next 24 hours. She concurred we would probably give birth and, starting with the head and moving down to the legs, explained exactly what would likely be wrong with our children as a result of Clara's amniotic sac rupturing. I'm not sure either one of us felt sicker or more powerless at any point than we did when that doctor walked out of the room. It was only a few days later we learned the neonatologist was not supposed to visit our room.     

When the neonatologist left, we were moved to the antepartum wing of Norton Hospital. In the only bright spot of the day, we knew our nurse for the night shift (Kim) and were comfortable that we were in good hands. But that didn't help us sleep. I was curled up in a chair and couldn't get the percentages and possibilities out of my mind. Chris couldn't sleep either because of her worries and because the nurses had to check her urine and medications every 45 minutes. 

The next morning began our new reality until Clara and Wilson were born. We made a pact to celebrate small victories and always congratulated each other on making it through the morning, the afternoon, and the evening. By the weekend, we were beginning to accept our situation and were hopeful the babies would stay in utero for a somewhat normal gestational period. As long as Clara produced and received amniotic fluid through her lungs, she could continue growing her mother's womb. We had to guard against any infection but were somewhat "lucky" because Wilson was closest to the birth canal and his amniotic sac helped block ascending bacteria. I also employed my own secret weapon and constantly wiped down the hospital room with Lysol wipes. I know now it would never have made a difference, but it made me feel better at the time.

We were also showered with more love and support than we could have ever imagined from friends and family. People brought dinners, lunches, magazines, and sent emails, cards, flowers, and candy. We were placed on prayer lists across the country and contacted by people from around the world who wanted to let Chris know they were cheering for her. All of it helped!

We'll write more about Clara and Wilson's birth as we near their first birthday, but today marks the beginning of the 109 days we spent at Norton/Kosair. In many ways this day was far more traumatizing for us than the day Chris delivered the twins. We are still haunted by those experiences, but truly appreciate how blessed we are to have two wonderful children enjoying their first family vacation. And while we don't know exactly what lies ahead, we continue our pact and celebrate every day. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

We Made It!

We made it to the beach roughly 14 hours after beginning our journey. We only made five stops, the driver stayed awake, and the kids (mostly) slept. Although exhausted, Clara and Wilson arrived to great fanfare. Aunt Sara, Uncle Zac, Uncle Dave, Mimi, Mac, Aunt Pam, and Uncle Zac's parents were waiting with open arms . . . which was great because we were all tired from the overnight drive and needed the help.

At first Clara and Wilson acted like the pool and ocean water contained molten lava. However, they warmed up the second day and by yesterday wanted to be drug around the baby pool. Wilson even wanted to splash around in the ocean but Clara is still suspect of the salt water. Although it rained yesterday afternoon and is supposed to rain again today, we're going to try putting them on floats and/or in life jackets and see if they like even more freedom in the pool.

And of course, they love the sand of the beach!

Miss Michelle rode out the trip in the middle seat between the twins.
Did we mention she is a saint?

An early morning diaper stop for Wilson.

Mac, Chris, and Wilson at dinner.
It was great to be able to take the kids to a restaurant . . . until they got way too tired and we had to have the family bring us our food so we could leave early.

Uncle Dave is seeing the kids for only the second time since they were born.

McGarvey, family of four!

We don't know if Clara and Wilson like it better than our neighborhood,
 but we really enjoy taking our morning walks on the beach

No Mom, today we LOVE the pool. Please take us back!

Mimi and Athleen (Uncle Zac's mom) playing with Wilson in the baby pool.

We're biased, but we think Clara is the sweetest little girl at the beach.

Wilson is getting braver in the soft sand and is closer than ever to walking.