Wow. What day is it? Where am I? What planet are we on? This has certainly been the craziest 24-hour period in our lives!! I would love to recount all of the events of last night because there were so many God moments through the whole process from Kate feeling like the contractions were building in intensity and duration to when the boys were delivered. I will just stick with the highlights. When we were moved downstairs to the labor and delivery floor at about 12:30 A.M. this morning, one of the first nurses in the room was a friend of my Aunt Nancy named Connie. She told me that she knew my aunt and uncle and that she had been praying for us for a little over a week now. She was kind of in charge of taking care of me while about 75 people took care of Kate and the boys...more on that in a minute. When they checked Kate at about 1:00, she was dilated to 5-6cm and the decision was made to deliver the twins. As soon as that decision was made, everyone in that room knew what needed to happen. Two nurses were talking with Kate and helping her "breathe through" the contractions while another head nurse was explaining to Kate what was going to happen in the following minutes. This head nurse was talking with Kate and I while using two phones to coordinate and get all of the appropriate people to the appropriate places. I felt like I was watching a Navy SEAL team perform a "breach and clear" maneuver with surgical precision (pun intended). About 5 minutes later they wheeled Kate away to prep her for the impending C-section and told me to "gown-up" and they would come and get me when she was ready. Nurse Connie then assisted me in this "gowning-up" routine. This is where God decided to inject a little humor into the night. Connie sized me up and came back with kind of a coverall type deal. I thought it looked a little small for my frame, but decided to give it a go any way. I was able to get my legs in, but when I pulled it up to put my arms through, the garment turned out to be about 2 feet shorter than I am. I looked like I was getting ready for a flash flood or wearing scrub capris. I thought Connie was going to hurt herself she was laughing so hard. I told her I was flattered she thought I was a skinny, 5-foot tall girl, but we might need to try a different size. She went to find a larger coverall and we were able to get my arms in and the collar up around my shoulders, but that is where it ended. I felt like I was in a straight jacket and my range of motion was zero. I started singing "fat guy in a little hospital coverall" in my head because I could have split that thing down the back from head to toe with little effort. Again, Connie was wiping tears from her eyes and we almost had to get another nurse to help get the thing off. I ended up using some scrub pants that I could have fit into twice, and a top that was at least tolerable.
They came and got me and I went in to the operating room. There were four doctors tending to Kate, two nurses on "stand-by" and two teams of six people each from the neonatal unit ready to tend to the boys when they were delivered. They had kind of forgot about me so by the time I got into the OR things were well underway. I took a seat up by Kate's head and held her hand. She was crying and really scared for the boys. She kept saying, "I am so sorry, Mark...it is just too early, they need more time". We prayed together and cried together. Maxwell James (his middle name is in honor of my dad, James Wiersma) was born at 1:51 A.M. and Wesley Mychael (his middle name is in honor of Kate's Mom who's name is Myra, but many of her friends and family call her "Myke" for short, hence the spelling) was born at 1:52 A.M. Kate was slipping in and out of consciousness, and now says she remembers very little about the whole event. She leaned over and said ,"don't let go of my hand, okay?" I responded, "I won't, but I have to leave for a minute because I think I am going to pass out". The emotion, the temperature in the room, the fact that I was breathing into a surgical mask...all these things kind of built up at the same time and I was starting to feel a little woozy. The anesthesiologist took one look at me and asked if I wanted to sit down. I told him I could walk out to the hall just fine. He was not a big guy, and he offered to give me a hand. When I stood up, he came up to about my shoulder. I could see in his eyes that he didn't want me holding on to him too tight if I was feeling a little uneasy...because if I started to go down, he was certainly coming down with me. I made it to the hallway and Connie got me some orange juice and I got to see out little boys as the swept them away to the neonatal unit. I was feeling better so I went back in to be with Kate. She was VERY relaxed at this point and I just held her hand and told her how beautiful out two sons were. As they finished up and were preparing to move Kate to a new bed, she started singing. The anesthesiologist told me she was singing when she came in as well. He asked if I new what song she was singing, and I told him she is singing "Be still and know that I am God". He kind of looked at me for a minute, and then he put his head closer to Kate so he could hear her singing it. It was so beautiful. Kate has no memory of this event but I will never forget it. They moved Kate to the recovery room and it was about 2:30 at this point. I think Connie's shift was done, but she told one of the nurses in the recovery room that she could leave and Connie stayed with us. She got Kate comfortable and then she prayed with us. Kate doesn't remember this either, but it was so special. We waited there for about two hours and then they wheeled Kate in her bed all the way to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), which is about 14 miles from the recovery room. We got to see out little boys, name them, and take a few pictures. I will try to post some on here when I run home sometime tomorrow. Their hands are just a little wider than the finger nail on my index finger. And they are just beautiful.
Mom and Dad Blauwkamp and Becky and Henry (Kate's older sister and brother-in-law) and I went down to see them around noon and it was just really special. Mom B's grandmotherly instincts kicked in immediately. She kept saying how they were such sweet, precious little boys and that she couldn't wait to hold them and take them home. At about 2:00 Kate, myself, and my parents went and visited again. This was Kate's first time seeing them with a few less drugs in their system, and it was really beautiful. My Dad started in with the nurses about the technical things that were going one while we just admired their tiny little frames. I went back down to hang out with them alone tonight. It was great. I got to put my hands on them and pray for them and tell them how much their mom and dad love them, and how we can't wait to tell them about the love of their Heavenly Father, which surpasses even our own.
Max and Wes are both doing good so far. Wes needed a little less attention and has actually been weened down almost completely off the ventilator. He is not ready to breathe on his own (he needs the ventilator to create enough pressure to open his lungs), but he is breathing 21% oxygen, which is what you and I breathe. He also had a chemical in his blood that was a little high (they say it is very common in extreme preemie babies), so they had him under a UV lamp to neutralize this chemical. He looked like he was working on his tan. He even had these sweet little foam sunglasses on. His hat was off too, and he has some hair, but it has not started to curl yet. Max has made a lot of good changes too. He was on a high-frequency ventilator this morning to get the oxygen level in his blood up. He responded well and they were able to back him down off of this ventilator all together and are currently using a different type of ventilator just like his brother, and he is also breathing 21% oxygen. They did take a scan of his brain earlier today to check for any bleeding. We have not yet received the results from this test, but please pray that any bleeding be minimal and not a major issue. The nurses also told us that the boys are in what they call the "honeymoon" phase, meaning that they are still operating like they are in their mother's womb. This is likely why they have responded so well to the ventilators so far. They said this phase can last a few hours for a few days, and the longer the better. I don't fully understand everything they were saying, so Dad, if you are reading this, maybe you can shed more light from what you remember, I know you were grilling the nurses for all the info you could get.
All in all, it has been a great day. Throughout this journey we have learned so much about what it means to take things one day at a time, and we have learned even more about God's providence in carrying us through each day. It seems that the last 17-days in the hospital and in and out of labor have been a tool that God used to prepare us for a long journey of visiting our sons in the hospital for likely many many months. We do not know what the future holds for our little boys, and the developmental statistics for children born at 24-25 weeks is not the most encouraging stuff to read. If God's plan is to work a miracle, and these two boys grow to be "fully functioning' men of God, then Praise the Lord!! If God's plan is to work a miracle, and these two boys do not fully develop physically and/or mentally, then Praise the Lord!! If God's plan is to work a miracle and then call these boys home to be with Him, then Praise the Lord!! Our prayer is that Kate and I do not try to fathom the plans of our Abba Father, because we are not like Him. He promises to give us our "daily bread", and Kate and I will need to lean on that promise over the next number of days, weeks, and months. God has already worked a miracle in our lives. Pray that He continues to do the same in the lives of Max and Wes...the two most beautiful things I have ever seen.
I also want to take this opportunity to tell you all how amazing my wife is. Kate has been through what I can only describe as hell over the lat 17 days. She went into labor 4 times and fought tooth and nail for our little boys. She, by God's grace and strength, managed to hold onto our sons for 2 and a half weeks. When we went into Holland Hospital, Kate was 22 weeks 3 days pregnant. They estimated that the boys weighed around 435 (Max) and 415 (Wes) grams at that time. Over the next 17-days Kate was poked, prodded, drugged, checked and re-checked. Whenever any doctor would suggest a new medication, her response was always, "as long as it will not hurt the boys and you think it will keep me pregnant, I will do it." Her selfless devotion to our sons astounds me. When she was in the recovery room after her C-section she kept crying and telling me she was so sorry she couldn't hold onto them any longer and that they needed more time. It just broke my heart. When she delivered Max and Wes, they weighed approx. 750 and 735 grams. The 17-days she fought for our boys has made all of the difference in their chance of survival. I am so proud of her for fighting so hard, for leaning on God when she was scared, for singing "Be still and know that I am God" in the operating room after delivering her babies at 24 weeks 6 days. She has left an indelible mark on me, and although I may be twice her size and the likely favorite in an Indian Leg Wrestling match, Kate is without a doubt the "strong one" in our marriage. Please pray that God will comfort Katie as she is missing the boys being in her belly. She feels lonely without them, and I think part of her still feels like she let me and the boys down by delivering them too early. The reality is that she fought harder than anyone would have fought for those boys. Her love and devotion for our sons is undeniable and is a direct reflection of the love she has for her savior Jesus Christ. She has taught me what unconditional love "looks" like, and I am so incredibly blessed to call her my wife and the mother of my two baby boys.