Our Journey with Conjoined Twins
Abby & Erin
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
This past week has been one of the most intense weeks of my entire life. It included being excited, nervous, terrified, relieved, worried, stressed, tired, overjoyed, overwhelmed, and curious.
On Tuesday morning the girls went in for a scheduled surgery. The plan was to separate a lot of the blood vessels that they share, close them up, wait to weeks, and then go back to the OR and separate them. We knew that this surgery would be probably the most risky once since they were going to be playing with the main veins. So my mama heart was struggling. On the outside everyone saw a strong mom who was ready to do what she needed to, but on the inside I was crying, and had been for weeks.
If you have never had your child undergo any type of surgery you may not understand this, but the surgery itself is the easy part. I can wait in the waiting room. Yes giving your children off to be operated on is not an easy thing. And i will tell you that I did fall apart for a little bit there. But at that point you know it's in God's hands and all you can do is wait. But for the past few weeks what I have been dreading is the post op. Watching your child go through immense pain that you can't even fathom is one of the most horrible things a parent can endure. You feel lost and helpless and everything in you wants to take it away from them but you can't. So needless to say during those few weeks leading up to surgery post op was heavy on my mind. We had no idea how intense this surgery would be and what recovery would look like.
So lets back track. The girls went off to surgery and Riley, myself, and our families went and waited, and waited and waited. We would get updates every hour or so but they were updates that were like "vitals are stable and everything is going good" and that was all we knew. About 5-6 hour into surgery our neurosurgeon came out and explained that they did what they wanted to do. They got more than halfway and had no problems. The girls did seem to share a tiny bit of brain tissue but nothing that he felt we really needed to worry about. Then it was time to hear about a decision that we knew couldn't be made until the girls were in surgery.
The decision of whether or not to continue and go on to separate them.
At this point everything had gone well and the girls were doing so well that between several surgeons they had decided it looked like it would be a better idea to continue.
They were going to separate!
In that moment we were flooded with emotions. This went from a fairly straight forward surgery to a very complicated one in a matter of minutes. This was no longer something that I was fully prepared for. This became the day that we had waited over a year for. Since the day we found out that we were expecting conjoined twins this day was on our mind. So many questions and thoughts race through your mind. When you have conversations with your surgeons and anesthesiologists that start out with "I know you know the risks BUT this is incredibly risky" you know that the surgery is not a little one.
Earlier in the day we had found out that this was a possibility but in my mind it wasn't going to happen. We had wanted it to happen for so long it felt like it never would. But in knowing that it was a possibility we were shown a 3d printed model of the girls heads that showed all their vascular structure. That model showed where the girls saggital sinus' were connected. It was explained to us that when they were to separate that they would most likely separate the sinus' behind the conjoinment meaning that Erin would get all of it and Abby would be left with very little, meaning that Abby would have a much harder time and would have a much greater chance of death.
When you are told that sort of information your world stops. And at this point the girls had already been taken back to the OR. I wouldn't have a chance to give her a little extra kiss, be able to give her a pep-talk and tell her to be extra strong. To tell her how big and brave she was. I wouldn't have chance to give her that little extra umph. Not that I didn't do all those things before, but to know that her sister had a better chance than her broke me. I felt so broken in half. And then after receiving that information how do you walk into a room and tell your family that. How do you, as broken as you are, go and tell a room full of people, who also love Abby so incredibly much, that she has the short end of the stick and may not make it through when they get separated. How do you watch everyone else feel broken when you yourself feel like your world is upside down?
You don't figure it out, you just do it. You tell them and let them work through it and pray that it doesn't happen, and you make yourself move forward.
So back to the story, so hearing that they were going to separate my mind immediately went to Abby. My heart ached and all I wanted to do was be able to hold their hands and tell them that they could do it. That they would make it through the surgery. That they were so big, and strong, and brave, and that they could do anything. But I couldn't. All I could do was sit, and pray, and wait. And so that is what we did. At around 7:30pm (12 hours after they were wheeled away from us) they gave us another update that they were still working and that their vitals were good but that we should probably move closer to the OR to get updates sooner (at this point we had been hanging in a reserved room on the other side of the floor as to not take over the OR waiting room with lots of other families). That is the point I should have known something was up.
Between that 7:30 update up until about 10 we didn't know much. We got very few and very vague updates. I had this weird pit in my stomach. I knew that they were close to that saggital and knew that that was the last thing that they were going to tackle. And I knew they would tell us when they were separate. So the fact that it had been a few hours and the updates hadn't changed made me very nervous. I was afraid to tell everyone how nervous I was feeling because I didn't want our families freaking out, but I have a feeling they could see how antsy I was getting and how I couldn't seem to focus on anything.
Around 10pm we got an update that our neurosurgeon wanted to speak with us. My heart was in my throat. This was the moment. The moment I would hear what happened and if they were separated and made it. And as I saw him come around the corner I could see the stress on his face. I could see the emotions trying not to spill out of him as he came towards us and sat down in the little room with us. He went on to say that the girls in fact had been separated and they were already almost all the way closed. And I was confused because I felt like we should have known sooner. But he went on to tell us what had happened....
When they separated the saggital Abby started to bleed. And when I say bleed I mean they replaced her total blood volume between 10-15xs. That is more than many of the anesthesiologists on that case had ever seen let alone have the patient survive. He said that he almost lost her several times but she kept hanging on.
At that moment I couldn't feel relief. I felt more like terror. Thinking that while we were sitting out in a waiting room one of our children was clinging to life by very little. I felt almost as if I could throw up. I hope and pray none of you ever have that feeling where you know how close to death your child was and how critical they still were.
We had never had a surgery or procedure that didn't end in "everything went well". So to have to end on a note of...we don't know what's going to happen left me in shock.
We went in to tell our families and everyone was happy and crying and excited, but all I could feel was shock. I didn't care that they were separate, all I cared about was seeing them. All I wanted was to have more information. I wanted to lay my own eyes on them and hear the report being given to nurses. I wanted to know what kind of condition Abby was in and see how Erin had tolerated everything. There were so many unknowns I felt like I couldn't even breathe.
We were told we had a little bit of time before they were actually out of the OR so we ran some stuff up to the girls new home the PICU while we waited. Seeing the room all set up for two beds brought me right to tears. Hearing the nurses say that they were going to be Erin or Abby's nurse was such a surreal moment. They were separate. They were their own person. It wasn't Erin and Abby anymore, it was Erin on that side of the room as her own patient, and Abby on this side of the room as her own patient. The realization of what had happened hit me like a brick wall. But we didn't have much time before we knew our plastic surgeon would be out to talk to us so we headed back downstairs.
And sure enough within 10 minutes he was ready to talk to us and tell us how his end of things went. He was actually able to fully close Erin, and almost close Abby. But because of the swelling in their brains they added some synthetic skin the give it some extra room to stretch as the brain swelled. As he talked a lot of things went in one ear and out the other. Thinking back on it I now realize how much shock I really was in. But when he finished telling us how it went he said...the girls will be headed up to the PICU very shortly.
In that moment I just wanted to leave everything, and everyone, and run to get upstairs. That feeling in me of NEEDING to be there when they got there was so strong I would have crawled through fire to get there. I have never felt that "need" so much before in my entire life. So we grabbed everything and ran.
When we got upstairs everyone was there waiting. It was around 11-11:30pm at this point. The girls had been in the OR for 16 hours and I was dying to see them and see that they made it through surgery. Within a few minutes Erin cam down the hallways. Surrounded by surgeons, doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, nurse practitioners, and cameras. It was truly a sight to be seen. They wheeled her past me, and it was just Erin. Not both the girls just one. Erin had made it, she was here, she was independent of her sister! I didn't even realize that tears were rolling down my face. I realized in that moment how separate I already had seen them, because she didn't look much different. Her little face was still recognizable underneath the tons of head dressings. And she looked perfect. She was here and she was alive. And she had made it and it was a miracle.
As the pulled her into her bed spot I noticed a lot of worried looks and the monitors started beeping. They couldn't seem to get her connected to the Vent. The air would go in but none would come out. Someone had to stand and bag her while the tried to figure out what the problem was and as they were bagging her they realized it was getting harder and harder to bag her. So they ended up putting a camera down the tube and found out that the had gotten her tube clogged with some mucus. And while all this was going on I heard the Doctors in a tizzy because Abby was on her way up and they didn't have the man power to be helping get Erin breathing again, while trying to get Abby to stabalize.
It was at that moment that I realized I was about to have to pick between my two sick children. Who was more critical. Whose team did I need to listen to more. How am I supposed to make a decision like that. So as I heard the beeping coming down that hallway I decided I needed to see Abby. Erin had a great team who knew what they were doing. People who had been working with her since she was born. I knew they had her. They knew what her problem was and they were fixing it. So I changed my focus to Abby.
When Abby came in the tears flowed freely. I am usually a crier. I cry at the drop of a pin. But when it comes to the girls and hospital stuff I tell myself I have to hold it together or else I can't seem to hear anything. It's like when the tears turn on the ears turn off. And that's what happened when Abby came in the room. I just cried. She was here, her heart was beating, she was fighting, and she wasn't giving up. I didn't hear a word that was said. All I knew was Abby was here. She had made it out of the OR and the team was getting her stabilized.
At that moment I stood in the middle of the room in-between two beds and realized what had happened. We had two girls. Two separate girls independent of each other. They were on their own. They were fighting on their own. They each looked almost lonely in their beds without the other. It almost felt wrong in a way that they couldn't be with each other. I realized that I was now going to have to split myself between two children. Before I could stand in one spot and read them both a story. I could change Erin's diaper while chatting with Abby. I realized I couldn't do that anymore. I couldn't kiss them at the same time, and it blew my mind.
That night was a lot of ups and downs. Abby needed to get another PICC line placed to have more access for meds. I had paper work signed and they were doing that within what felt like minutes of her getting brought up. The doctors where nervous and I knew they didn't know if she would make it through the night.
But the morning came and Abby was still here. Both her and Erin stabilized enough during the night. They were both fighting harder than I have ever seen a child fight. They were under so much medication and paralytics that they just laid still. I could hold their hand but it wouldn't squeeze me back. I couldn't hear their voices, I couldn't see their eyes. It was very hard.
After that night things have slowly been getting better. The girls get a little more stable everyday, but having the sickest children in the hospital is a scary thing. Between heart rates and blood pressures and lots and lots and lots of different meds it has been a crazy few days. The girls have been heavily sedated, and on paralytics to keep their brain from trying to "turn on". They want the brain to rest in order to reduce swelling and heal a bit. Yesterday the girls got their paralytic turn off and their sedation turned down a little bit. They are by no means "awake". But they are starting to twitch and slightly move and pull away from pressure. Which is all good signs.
Both girls had some brain bleeds happen while they were in surgery. Abby significantly more than Erin. So we are waiting to see exactly what that means. Babies have this ability to bounce back from things like this because their brain still have so much growing to do. So we are hoping and praying that with some physical, occupational, and speech therapies the girls will bounce back. The girls are by no means out of the woods. They are still critical but they are taking steps towards being back to normal everyday. The weaning process will be a long one and we ask for prayers.
God apparently has incredible plans for these little girls since he got them through so much. They are a real life miracle and I am so blessed to be their mom. Yes this has been tough. Yes living at the hospital is not something I would wish on anyone. But I would do it any day of the week for these little girls. These days are scary. One minute the girls will be great and the next minute things change and meds are being switched and doctors are being called. Yes the girls got separated, but this is only the beginning.
Keep us in your prayers as the girls get more stable. Riley needs to head home soon so that we can start trying to find a house. This past month our finances have taken a hit since riley was here, so finding a house may be a little more challenging than we anticipate. It's just another thing to worry about. So he needs to get back to work and keep real life moving.
I will keep updating as things change. Hopefully within the next week or so the girls will be awake and extubated and I will be able to finally hold them, a moment that I have waited a VERY long time for.
Thank you so much for all of your prayers. They made a difference in my girls lives this week, and without them I don't know if they would still be here. It makes me tear up knowing what could have been and that it was because of your prayers that it didn't. We still have a long road to go but we've made it this far!!!!
We are also so grateful to everyone who has sent us gifts and donated to our gofundme! Those things have made it possible for Riley to be here and still have our bills get paid. We are very blessed and so grateful. It brings me to tears knowing that complete strangers want to help support our family during this tough time.
Right now we are not doing interviews but will be open to in the near future. If you are associated with any type of media outlet and you would like more information please contact Ashley Moore in the CHOP PR department. Thank you so much!!
Senior Public Relations Specialist
Sorry it has been a little while since my last blog update. My computer has been abnormally slow so anything getting done on it has taken quite a bit of patience (and usually by the end of the day I have used up much of what I have). But at the moment it is working so I am going to do as much as I can before it freezes on me.
The girls are doing well! Their skin expanders are getting very very large and they are starting to be annoyed with them, but they have been doing so incredibly well! They are still doing physical and occupational therapies throughout the week although it is getting harder and harder for them to hold their heads up and turn them in any way because of how heavy the expanders are. And the girls are at the age now where they just want to start exploring and I can see the frustration in their eyes when they want to grab a toy or are trying to roll. It is tough but they are troopers. I just keep telling them that so soon they will be able to try and do these things on their own and it will be so much easier! The girls only have a few more expander fills before surgery happens and that blows my mind.
Riley is here (I am trying to get him to post a blog update on here so you can all hear from him, hopefully I can encourage him enough to do so)!! He was able to come and surprise me for mothers day and have some time to enjoy the girls before surgery. He always comes when the girls are having procedures of surgeries so it is really nice for him to be able to be here and just enjoy some time with three of us before all the crazy happens. He was granted FMLA leave which is wonderful! But we did just receive his last paycheck and that is a little unnerving. We are trying to be so careful because we also need to try and save since when Riley goes home we will be trying to buy a house. We don't have much of a down payment saved up but we are hoping and praying for a miracle. God hasn't let us down yet!!!! Everything just has to happen in HIS timing. But keep that aspect of our lives in your prayers as we so badly want to give our girls the very best that we can. I dream of the day that I can put their room together and have a happy warm place that they can call theirs. I've been dreaming that since the day I found out I was pregnant (I think every mothers dreams about that when they know a baby is on the way). I long for the day when we are in a home back in North Carolina, away from the pokes and the prods and the millions upon millions of vitals.
With surgery this close Riley and I are experiencing so many emotions. It is a terrifying thing to send your very well developed and normal seeming children, through the OR doors, now knowing if they will come out the same or if they will be completely different. I think that is what scares me the most about all of this. The doctors seem to be confident that the girls will make it through surgery, I just know that the brain is a complex thing and there are so many things that can go wrong during and after surgery. We are enjoying soaking up all the giggles and smiles we can as we know they will be gone for a while. We are loving hearing all the little sounds and the "dada's" that they have just discovered. Even the miserable teething is something that I am so thankful for because it is "normal" for a baby to be cranky when they teethe (Erin has her first tooth!!!!) All these little things that sometimes people take for grated or would frustrate or annoy some we are trying so hard to enjoy and soak up because the girls will be gone for a while and we know that during that time we need to have something to hold onto.
I am also having a difficult time dealing with the fact that they are going to be "normal". And now I KNOW that sounds crazy to some of you. But I have gotten so used to them as they are and how special they are. I am so beyond proud of them for overcoming all the obstacles that they've faced. Yes, some people will stare as we walk down the hallways, but most look in wonder and say what amazing little girls! I am going to miss that fact that people aren't going to be able to straight out see how incredibly special and strong these little girls are. Once they are separated they will look almost "normal". Yes they may have scars and such but nothing that will make people say "wow those girls were conjoined and now they're not that's amazing". It is such a weird thing to process and deal with. We love those little girls so incredibly much! And if it wasn't necessary for them to be separated (if they weren't they would be bedridden the rest of their lives) we wouldn't. Because to us they are perfect. I don't expect many of you to understand (some I know will) but it is just another thing that I am going through as the surgery days draw near.
We wanted to thank everyone that has been sending us things off of our Amazon registry for the girls. We never had the chance to have a baby shower and since there are quite a few things we need before we are able to have one we really appreciate the help this way. It would be overwhelming to try and get everything we need to get these girls home on our own. You all have been so generous and we will never be able to thank you enough! We seriously cannot wait till the day that we are able to help out another family in a situation like ours. To make someone else feel that way that you all make our family feel is something that I literally cannot wait to do!!!
I may not be updating as much in the near future because things are going to be getting crazy. I will try my very best, but we are also trying to be so careful because we are generating some media attention. We want to be able to focus on our girls and therefore we haven't posted dates or anything like that in fear or being bombarded as they days get closer. If you are involved with any type of media outlet that is interested in our story please contact Ashley Moore in the CHOP PR department. She has been helping us since day one and is our go to when it comes to this. She will be able to answer your questions regarding our plans with the media. Thank you so much for understanding!! Her information is as follows...
Senior Public Relations Specialist
Riley and I are also so overwhelmed that our facebook page has over 10,000 likes on it. Because we have so many people liking the page daily I will post the links to the other pages that we have, to keep everyone in the know. We so appreciate each and every one of you. We appreciate the thoughts, the prayers, the cards, the gifts, the donations, etc. We are so incredibly blessed and you all figure out ways to make our day that go above and beyond what we ever thought! Thank you again so much!!!
-For the girls surgeries to go smooth and to have a smooth separation
-For the surgeons, doctors, and teams to have wisdom in how to care for our girls
-For Riley and I as we are about to face some of the hardest times in this journey
-For our finances are we are starting to get ready to start the process of looking for a place to live
-For our families as they process and deal with the girls being separated as well (they are such a wonderful support system who all love the girls so much!
-For sleep for myself and I and having a harder time getting some now-a-days
-For the girls skin to stay healthy and stretched until it's needed
-For the girls to have a quick and speedy recovery, that the pain they feel will be lost in their memories and they will be back to themselves quicker than we are anticipating.
-For Riley and I as the girls will be transferred to yet another floor with a new team of doctors and nurses after surgery. I have a hard time when it comes to change in this place and am very nervous about being under incredible amounts of stress and in a new environment with a team that I am not familiar with and who are not quite familiar with the girls.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR PRAYERS! THEY ARE FELT AND THEY MAKE THE DIFFERENCE!
Tomorrow will mark 300 days that I have been in Philly. Come the end of June it will be a year. Lately the number are getting to me. Counting up the days we are here and counting down the days till surgery. 300 days is too long to be away from home. 274 days is too long for babies to be in the hospital, and the fact that there still is no real idea of when we will be home is so daunting. Yes we have surgery dates, and yes the prognosis is "good", but no one really knows how the girls will be after surgery and how long it will be till they get, or should I say we get to go home.
Having Riley here is so wonderful. Watching him with the girls fills my heart to overflowing. But it also fills me with such a sadness. Knowing the pain he must be feeling since he is missing so much. We try to fit so much in when he is here but it doesn't change the fact that he got pictures of their first smiles, got a video of some of their first giggles, he wasn't there to feed them their first spoonful of baby food, or to help them roll themselves over for the first time. I can see it in his face how much he misses them and wishes he could be here for all those things. I can't imagine what he goes through on a daily basis, and especially on the girls' hard days. The days Abby stopped breathing, the days the girls had horrible procedures, the surgery day that he couldn't be at because it was such short notice. He is one of my heros because he puts his family above his own desires. He knows that if he were to come and stay here, we wouldn't be able to have anything to go home to. And that is so incredibly important. But it doesn't make him having to leave any easier. We miss him every second he is away. Thankfully he is able to take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act and will be able to be here for over a month starting the end of may so he can be here for the girls separation and few weeks afterwards. Granted FMLA doesn't include being paid, but he will have his job waiting for him when he goes back home once the girls are stable. So that is fantastic news and may 19th can't get here soon enough!
The girls are doing well. The skin expansion process is going well. Minor hiccups here and there but nothing crazy, Thank God! Your prayers work and we are so grateful! We spoke with our neurosurgeon while Riley was here last week and he is hopeful that the girls will make it through these next two surgeries and come out on the other side as two little girls who are no longer attached. There will be three teams of neurosurgeons involved along with our plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, and so many others. We are incredibly nervous, but we are confident in the team. It is such a surreal though that within the next two months the girls will be separated. Like I said 300 days is a long time to be waiting for this. And it is more than 300 days that we have been waiting for this one event. On March 11th 2016 we found out that the girls were conjoined, that was 410 days ago. We have been waiting for this for over a year. So much worry, hope, sleepless nights, tears, and joys are going into this one day. This one day will change not only Abby and Erin's lives but also Riley and mine as well. I have to give it to God every second. There is not a second that goes by that I am not thinking about it. And I know that if I don't give it to God every time I think about it I am not going to make it.
Sending your children in for a surgery like this is something I would hope and pray those reading this will never have to do. We don't take this decision lightly. We know the risks, and we know what the benefits could be. But that doesn't make it any easier. These little girls have already been through so much in their little lives. I cannot wait to snuggle them for the first time as their own little self. Holding them is tough. They usually just lay on my lap, or it is uncomfortable to hold them and within 10 minutes its just too much not only for myself and whoever else is helping me, but for the girls as well. It is just not comfortable to be held. The other night as the girls were falling asleep I couldn't help the tears falling down my cheeks. They were fussing like they normally do, but were little more because they are teething and just aren't very happy in the evenings from it, especially Abby this night. And as I watched her fuss every ounce of my being was screaming "pick her up and snuggle her" but I couldn't. I couldn't hug her and rock her to sleep. I couldn't give her that little bit of comfort. And it broke me for the umpteenth time. I am so ready to be able to hold my babies. But getting there is so incredibly hard. It's a constant battle between hope, and fear. And only God can make that battle stop and like I said I try and give it to him every time I think about it. The outcome is already written and there is nothing I can do to stop it from happening. He already knows. I just have to be willing to follow His lead because He knows what He is doing.
I know I ask for prayers so often but please keep praying. We need that constant flow of prayers. The girls have a CT scan coming up around the 13th of may. They will make another model of these scans so they can have a very recent 3D model of the girls vascular structure to prepare for surgery not even two weeks after that. Riley will be here on the 19th of May. Thank God he will be here because going into this is very scary. Having him here to sign all the paperwork and sit in on all the meetings will be more helpful to me than anything.
The girls are a little stuffy right now, pray that is is just teething and no sickness. Sickness could push our timeline back by months and I am so terrified of that happening. So please please please pray against sickness. I don't know if I could handle an extra 6 weeks because of the girls getting sick.
Pray for our surgeons and doctors as they go into this. From what I understand this is the first time CHOP will be separating craniopagus twins. If they have done it before it was a very very long time ago. I can only imagine how our doctors and surgeons feel. They are not only our team, but have become our family. I can tell they truly care about the girls. They are incredibly qualified to do this and I have faith that their hands will be guided by the ultimate physician. So pray for them as this must be an incredible weight to bear, knowing you will be changing lives.
Pray for our family that we can make it through these next few months financially. If things end up going a little funny Riley could end up having to be here longer. Like I mentioned before he will not be getting paid for most of the time that he is here so we live off of the generosity of others. God always makes a way and if this is where Riley is supposed to be, God will make it so.
We so appreciate all of the support we receive. The notes I receive in the mail lift my spirits so much! I know I have posted the address of the Ronald McDonald House, but if anyone were to want to send Riley an letter please let me know and I would be happy to give you the address where you could send that as well.
We are so blessed. Even though this journey and excruciating some days, we know how blessed we are to have two healthy little girls who despite the odds are doing so well. They truly are little miracles and we couldn't be more grateful for them!
So I was scrolling through facebook and came across a post by Audrey Roloff. I love reading her posts and her blog, they are always so uplifting and filled with hope and joy. Today her post really struck me. It said, "I was recently reading a devotional that I receive via e mail, and I was struck by these words: "I tell you honestly that it is not your ability that matters; it's the strength of your faith in My (God) ability to do what you cannot. You must stop relying on your own efforts and common sense and begin to rely on Me..." I feel there are so many days where I try so hard to rely on myself. And those days are normally not good days. So many times people will ask "How do you do it?" or will say "You are so strong". But in all reality it isn't me. There is no way I could make it this far on my own. These is a verse that talks about how His (God) power is strongest when we are the weakest. And that is the story of my life right now. I wouldn't still be standing if it weren't for the all knowing God who comforts me every single day. He knows the outcome, He knows the process, and He knows every little bump along the way. So why not trust him. I want to challenge you all to do the same. We each have varying degrees of needing to rely on God in our lives, whether that is getting through the day with sick kids, or passing an exam, or getting through the work day without stressing, or dealing with the death of a loved one, or like me watching your children fight the hardest fight of their lives. We all need to rely on God and realize it is Him at work through us, it is not us on our own.
That all being said things are pretty status quo here in the Delaney girls' world. We are expanding right on schedule and everything seems to be looking good so far. The girls are handling everything in stride and are such little troopers. One weird thing that has started to happen is that Abby seems to want to choke on her spit ups. We don't know what has changed to make her do this but it has happened twice so far that she will go to spit up and get "stuck" so to speak and stop breathing. I am not sure if it is related to her reflux and it hurts and so she bears down and stop breathing or if she actually gets stuck. It is pretty much a guessing game. But like I said it has only happened twice, but those are the two scariest moments I have ever endured and I pray that I never have to go through it again. If Abby were to stop breathing Erin would also have ramifications since they share blood supply. So that thought alone terrifies me. My knees go weak and I feel like the world moves in slow motion. But God willing she doesn't do this again and things will keep moving smoothly.
Riley comes to visit for Easter next week and we are BEYOND EXCITED!! He hasn't been here in 6 weeks and we are so ready to have him back. A lot of the reason he is able to take a week and a half off is because of all the wonderful donations we have received over the past few weeks. We are blown away by peoples generosity. It makes it so that we are able to be a family under one roof, even if just for a little while. That means the world to us. We are also going to start trying to save a little bit so that we can buy a house for when the girls and I come home. I so badly want to have a nice house to bring the girls home to where they have a nursery and a play room. One that we can stay in and that the girls can grow up in. God willing we can save enough up that we won't have an insane mortgage. But we would much rather a house than having to move into an apartment. There isn't enough room at my parents for us all to be there so God willing we will have a new place to go home to before we actually go home.
If anyone is near the Tri-State Area (NY, NJ, PA) there is a fundraiser happening this Saturday for our family. Bounce houses, snack bar, pizza, rollerskating, animals, pony rides, and so much fun for the whole family! They will also be having a bake sale going on! It is $7 admission to play. I worked there for a few years and the staff are like family. We so appreciate what they are doing for us. It has even been broadcasted on the Sound of Life Radio Station. Please tell your friends! We will also be skying most likely a few times during the day to say Hi and be a part of the fun! There is a facebook events page you can get more information from. I will post the link below.
Please keep us in prayer as we get closer and closer to separation! We are trying to get as much fun time in with these girls before things get hard again. We so appreciate all the prayers and donations. We wouldn't be able to do the things we have without them. We are incredibly blessed.
Also please say a prayer for my family as my grandfather passed away this morning. We are sad that he never had a chance to meet his great grand babies, but I know he is watching them from heaven. We are happy that he is at peace and no longer in pain, but it is still sad since we will miss him very much!
I can't tell you how many times I have sat down to write a new post and never seem to finish it. Well today I am determined.
Abby and Erin are doing wonderfully. They have begun getting their expanders filled to stretch their skin, and let me tell you they are amazing. They cry for the first second or two of the needle going in, but aren't quite phased by the actual skin expansion. I know that this is still the very bringing and that it will most likely get harder. But for now I am beyond thrilled at how well they handle it. The girls unfortunately had to have another surgery about 2 weeks ago since one of the ports from the expanders had moved and wasn't able to be accessed. So they went in and put it back where it was supposed to be. Because of this the girls have only been able to have 2 of the 4 balloons filled until today where all 4 were expanded. It was unfortunate but we made it through and are back on track.
We now have dates for the next surgeries. There will most likely be 2 between now and the separation. We will have one surgery in the end of may to do some separation work, and then a few weeks later in June will be the actual separation. I am reluctant to release any dates yet since things change so easily around here. We have hope that these days seem to stick, but there is always that possibility.
The girls are growing in leaps and bounds. They never cease to amaze their daddy and I. Developmentally they are right on target. They are babbling, playing with toys, engaging while books are being read, they are trying to mimic words, they are taking baby food, and Erin is able to roll, but Abby is just not feeling it yet (its a little chaotic when Erin attempts lol. I am so incredibly proud of them and how far they have come. All of the doctors, surgeons, and nurses are very happy with where the girls are right now.
The thought of surgery coming up is getting more and more real everyday. It is honestly becoming scarier and scarier. I try so hard to not let all the possibilities of what could happen creep into my brain. But they are there and they are so so real. The girls share a portion of their saggital sinus, which is a very large vein in your brain that drains blood down to your heart. And we have known from the beginning that this is a pretty big deal. Of course they won't know for sure exactly how it is connected and exactly how much until they get in there. The girls past surgeries have been more "superficial", but this next one will be much more significant. Yes, the girls have had many many scans done to see what is going on in there, but there is only so much you can see and how accurate they are. Yes, the girls aren't as connected as they could be, but it still scares me to death knowing that really anything could happen. We could go home with two completely happy healthy girls, we could go home with two happy girls have that have different limitations, we could go home with only one little girl, or possibly loose them both.
The thought of loosing the girls is one that literally makes me feel like I am going to puke. But it is something I am working through. I know I have said it time and time again on here, but God has a plan and a purpose for these little girls. He knows every breath that they will take, even if that means only a few months more. I have to rest in the fact that he has already decided what their outcome will be, and Riley and I are just along for the ride. You don't realize how real your faith gets until something big like this happens.
I have always been the good girl. I grew up in church, never really got in trouble, and tried to do everything right. Like I said I grew up in church, and even went to bible school, but it really wasn't until recently that I realized how little I actually relied on God. From this whole experience God has shown himself in more ways than I can even go into. He has proven his love for me and my family time and time again. And some of you would say "how can she say that, she still has conjoined twins" and to that I would say yes, I do have conjoined twins. But these girls have done so much for mine and my husbands lives. We get a front row seat to a miracle. We get to watch God work in a very real way every single day. And not only with the girls but with our regular lives as well.
I am not going to lie, bills will be the death of me. This has been the most trying time of my life in that aspect. Yes, Riley is home working, but we were never expecting to have to go to just one income. And when we did it was and still is very very hard. And like I said before God has made himself very real and proven himself time and time again through this journey and especially with our finances. Right now Riley is living with my family back in North Carolina because we just could not afford rent anymore. We were just making it paying all the different bills. And by just making it I mean there was some type of financial miracle that happened every month to keep us afloat, whether that be someone sending us a check, a fundraiser being held, a foundation choosing to help us, that is how we have been getting by. I have gotten to the point where I am not worrying anymore because somehow God always provides. He sends someone in just the right moment to help us out. It is really one of the most amazing things I have seen. But that doesn't mean it is still hard, and it doesn't mean that I don't stress at least once or twice a month wondering how we are going to make it. Especially when I want more than anything for Riley to be here with us. But when he is that means that we are going to take a hit financially because he isn't working.
If there is anything that I am upset about in this whole journey it would be just that. It literally hurts me to know that Riley can't be here. I do my very best to share the joy of the girls with him, but there is only so much I can video tape and send to him. Smiles, giggles, little coos they are all so hard to catch on video. I wasn't able to get their first smile, the first time they grabbed a toy intentionally. The little things hurt my heart because I so badly want to share them with him. I seriously hate money. If it were a person I would really have to check myself because I would be bitter at it. I hate the fact the money is what keeps my husband from his family. But we don't have a choice in the matter, and it is so so hard.
Living far away from your significant other is NEVER something I wanted to do. Riley always talked about how he would have loved to go into the service, and I always said no. I never thought I would be able to handle being without the person I love. But here I am. It has been a month since I last saw my husband (other than facetime) and I hate it. With every fiber of my being. I know with all my heart that God has a plan, and I trust him, I really do, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt in the process. I miss him more than I ever thought I could miss another person. He is such a wonderful husband and daddy, it just seems not fair that he has to be there and us here.
Thank you all again so much for all of the support and love we receive. I cannot wait till the day when we are able to do the same thing for another family. It makes my heart so excited to think that we will be able to bless another family like ya'll have blessed us.
Time for baths for the girls :)
Many times throughout this journey of finding out I was going to be the mother of conjoined twins I have developed expectations of how I thought things would go. How CHOP would be, how my delivery would go, how the doctors would be, how surgeries would go, and so many others. I have thought about so many things when it comes to the girls. And usually my expectations are different than the reality of it all. And I feel like that happens with most things in life. We anticipate something going a certain way and then it actually happens, and it ends up completely different than you expected.
One thing that I had thought about and read about and prayed about was dealing with how other people view my children. Obviously I'm very open about the girls. In no way do I want to "exploit" them, but if some way we can reach out to another family dealing with a similar situation and give them hope or encouragement that would be our goal. So I am very willing to answer questions, openly talk about the girls, and even share pictures. To me our girls are absolutely perfect and created to be who they are. God had a plan when he decided that Abby and Erin were going to be craniopagus twins. I view the girls are separate individuals with different personalities, different likes/dislikes, and even different skills. There are even times when one of them is being fussy that I have to remind myself that I can't just pick her up like my instinct tells me to. And there have been times I have even reached for one of them and then stopped myself. That is how separate I view them already. To me they are just two little babies who need their mama.
So recently since being moved to a different floor we have been able to take the girls on walks, which we weren't allowed to do down in the NICU. On Friday and Saturday we were able to take them to one of the hospitals outdoor areas so that they could feel the warmth of the sun for the very first time. It was glorious. Watching their little faces squint as the sun shone on their little faces was a moment frozen in time. One that I want to remember forever. The wind would blow and they would gasp and then smile. It was one of my favorite moments with them so far. The feeling of being able to take the girls out with me is such a great one. Over the weekend we took them on little walks every day.
On Sunday we went to a place in the hospital where there is a big "sculpture". I say that with quotes because it is more of a "contraption" that has balls traveling through it on little roller coaster like structures that ring bells, and bounce off of things. It is really a neat thing to sit and watch. Needless to say I knew the girls would love it. What I didn't really think about was going into such a public area. Yes, we had been outside, but that was traveling through hallways and out to a patio that not many people visit in the end of February. Where this sculpture is, is definitely more of a public space. Now like I said I am very open about my girls. And I prepared myself for how people would react. But at one point I looked up from watching the pure joy on the girls faces to see people staring. Granted I have known people would stare from the beginning, but it has never really happened before since we were always "hidden". And since the girls are so normal to me I didn't think twice about it. I thought "this thing is really cool and the girls would enjoy it so lets bring them to it". I didn't think "oh man people are going to be walking down there and they are going to stop and stare at us". Not only did people stare but we also had a complete random stranger come right up to us and exclaim "wow, can I look" . I was so taken aback by this. The lack of manners. I didn't even know how to respond.
I've never been one to draw attention to myself. I would much rather stand in the background and help someone else stand in the spot light. So I have been learning slowly to come out of my shell and have a "thicker skin". Working with camera crews who are putting footage together for the girls story (that will be released after everything is said and done) has grown me in ways I could have never imagined. If you had told me even a year ago that I would be getting used to doing interviews on camera I would have said NO WAY. I've just never been that person. I've always been very cautious about how I am perceived and like I said would much rather stay out of the lime light. So to be in a public place and have people staring was so uncomfortable. I want the girls to be able to get out of their room and experience life. It is not fair that because they are different and it makes me uncomfortable that they should be able to go see the cool ball contraption. It is just another one of my expectation vs. reality battles. People will be people. I just need to try and be the best mom that I can be for these little girls. If I want to raise them to be confident and proud of who they are, I need to be just that. I need to be confident and proud that I am who I am and that I have these two wonderful little girls that I get to watch grow and experience life.
People will stare, but we won't let that stop us. We are going to enjoy every moment we have and be confident in doing so. And if someone oversteps their bounds, they better watch out because this mama will very quickly turn into a mama bear who will protect her cubs.
Pray for us as we navigate this new territory. We are also still getting used to a new team which has it's stressful moments. We are so grateful that God has brought us this far, and I know He will keep walking right beside us as we keep moving forward. Thank you all for lifting us up in prayer and encouraging us through this. If it weren't for all the support and love our family receives I don't know if we would have the confidence to take the girls out of their room. Your prayers and well wishes are felt very deeply. We love you all!!
This has been a big month for the Delaney Family. We have had quite a few new things going on.
Patience......patience is my downfall at the moment.
The girls turned 6 months old on Tuesday! These little girls inspire Riley and I every single day. They are the ones that give us hope. Every time they smile and you can see the wonder that they are filled with you just know that they have that fight in them. These past six months have been the absolute hardest that I have ever imagined, but they have also been some of the very best. I have learned so much not only about being a mom, but about myself and who I am as a woman and a wife. I've learned to speak up and be an advocate for the girls. I have learned to be "ok" with living in this exact moment and not thinking about tomorrow. I've learned to completely trust God with the lives of our children (and am still learning). I've learned that just when I think we aren't going to make it, God does something and makes everything better. I've grown in ways I can't even comprehend. But I know in these past 6 months I have changed, and I am so grateful that God chose me to be these little girls' mommy.
We had a meeting last week about the new plans for the girls. We has been doing some new processes to make the actual separation of the girls easier. And in the past few weeks we have kind of hit a brick wall and knew it was time to change. So after a battle with RSV, we are now scheduled for an MRI sometime next week, and then hopefully another small surgery in February. This surgery will be to put internal skin expanders in. This is something I have been dreading. I know that it is the last leg before separation, but I also know it is another mountain to climb. I'm worried about the pain, worried about how fragile the skin on their scalps are, I worried about infection, and I'm worried about loosing any progress that we have made.
The MRI that we have coming up is big one. We are nervous to find out if the things we have been doing have worked. If they have it makes the girls actual separation SOOO much safer. We are praying with everything that we have that things have worked and that we will have a less chance of loosing one of the girls. It is a terrifying thought that one may have a harder time once they are separated and we are praying and praying and know that God already knows what is going to happen.
If everything goes swimmingly we are looking at the girls having their separation sometime around May. We have been told many dates but I think this one is going to stick. Please pray for our family. Every day that we are separated from each other is really hard, and seems to be getting harder. As of right now we don't even know when Riley is going to be able to visit next and he hasn't been here in a month. He is in the process of figuring out some new work ideas and is just not sure when he will be able to make it here. It is also really hard for him to take any time off because we need every penny. It's been stressful and very hard since we can't be together to work out all these things. So please pray for that as well, pray that Riley will find the right position for him, one that will allow him to be able to visit more but also still make enough money to pay the bills.
I also want to thank everyone. So many people have gone above and beyond. Between cards of encouragement, gofundme donations, gift cards, care packages, church groups getting things together, and so many words of encouragements through comments and emails we are so so so grateful. It brings me to tears how many people are rooting for our girls and our family through this time. I would have never imagined in a million years that I would be living at a Ronald McDonald House, 500 miles away from my husband so that I could care for my conjoined twins for a year. I seriously could never have imagined it. And all of those who have read my blog and done these wonderful things have made this experience something that I will look back on fondly, being able to remember how wonderful everyone was. I can't wait till one day years from now when we are able to help another family going through times like these. We are truly blessed and so grateful!
So here is to another 6 months or so! Go baby girls Go!
Everyone looks at things in different ways. Someone sees the glass half full, the other sees it half empty. Something you look at may seem beautiful to you, but be ugly to me. Perspective is a funny thing. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Being in this type of situtaiton seems to like to change your perspective on things. My husband tells me all the time that his view on life is completley different since we found out about our girls. These things can make your perspective do a complete 180. One day life is great, and then the next day life is miserable. But he has always said that they have changed his perspective to be a better one. To always see the glass half full. To see the good, and the reasoning behind things. I admire him for that.
Recently we were told some news about the girls that was not the most wonderful news we could receive. Because of the way things have been moving we are most likely going to switch directions. Not saying whats been going on hasn't done what it's supposed to, but it hasn't done everything we were hoping. Because of that we will most likely be here longer than we were anticipating. And I am not going to lie, that pretty much cut right through me. I am not one to cry in the NICU. I always try to be as strong as I can when it comes to this because I know if I crumble, I might not be able to pick myself back up. But this news made me cry. To hear that what I thought was going to be happening in a month or two, now isn't going to happen for more like 4 months just frustrated me. Thats more months of watching my girls fight, more months of being away from my husband, and more months of the "unknown". I was frustrated, upset, defeated, and sad. I felt like nothing would be able to make me see that any differently.
Then the next day I saw another mom who has been here at the ronald mcdonald house for the past three months. Her son was in the hospital. When I saw her I asked how she and her son was doing. Little did I know, but he had passed away the morning before. I could see and feel her pain. But what she told me will ring in my ears forever and completley changed my perspective. She said "hug those babies, because you have them now, enjoy every second you have with them".
In that second my perspective went from "why me, why us?" to thank you God for bringing us this far, even if it is going to take longer. I realized how grateful I am for my little girls. Yes, being here is hard, yes seeing so many people have beautiful perfect babies hurts, yes hearing people complain about stupid little things annoys me to death, but I am so so so grateful for our girls, and the outlook they have given my husband and I. They have showed us so much and continue to do so every single day. I decided in that moment, when that mom told me through tears to enjoy my babies, that I will. As much as it may hurt, as much as I may be frustrated, as much as I may ask why, I will enjoy them. I will thank God every day that I have them because they are such gifts, and such miracles.
Please say a prayer for that family, I cannot imagine the feeling of loosing a child that you have watched fight so hard. She is the kind of mom I want to be. One that stands by her child, and even after she lost him, was able to speak into my life through her pain. If you ever read this please know how grateful I am for your words yesterday!!
Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
I saw a quote on Facebook recently that talked about David, and how the giant was put in davids way to get him to the throne. It then went on to say that the giants in our lives are there not to defeat us, but to promote us. And it was such an encouragement because lately I feel like we have been up against a giant that is trying over and over to destroy us, and we are becoming weary.
My name is Heather Delaney. I married the love of my life Riley on 10/02/15 and we now have two beautiful girls Abby & Erin, who are conjoined twins, that were born 07/24/16. We are trusting that God is going to work all this out for his good!