In recovery, the onslaught continued. Vitals checks, chaplain visits, and still waiting for hubby, who upon hearing the news had to get from the venue back to the hotel and pack up before embarking on the mind-numbing, four hour drive to us.
Baby B was busy fighting for her life with a whole team of nurses, who during her three month stay would filter through and tell me that they remembered the day she came in and how far she'd come. One day, I would finally ask how bad it really was and a nervous neonatologist said they were very concerned the first 72 hours. I had to state which funeral home I wanted to use and with all we had been through over the past year, I was all too familiar with our wonderfully helpful local director.
When there is this kind of loss, everyone wants to help, however, they can. To my dismay, most of them wanted to talk. They would push and prod and I was busy trying to hold it together for everyone around me. That and I still had school work to do all the while. The staff dressed Baby A and wrapped her in a blanket and brought her to me in a comfort cot. It was a bassinet with a cooling system under it, so I could keep her with me and hold her for as long as I wanted. I kept her in my room til the day I checked out. The bereavement specialist offered to do hand and foot castings, have a special volunteer photographer come, and even make special arrangements to allow big sister to come visit. I took her up on all of them. Anything I could do for my little girl, who was already gone.
The other thing people would keep doing throughout was implying I needed to be medicated. This is a sad experience and I am allowed to be sad about it. I am allowed to cry. I am allowed to be disappointed and angry and hurt. It will never go away, but I will never give up.
As you've read, Multifacet Mom is many, varied things. This is just one more unique part. After my time in the hospital, I would add "mom who has a child waiting for them in heaven" and "NICU mom" to my never-ending list.
Tonight, say an extra prayer for every mom who came home without their baby and see #prayersforbabyb for her miraculous struggle.
What do you say to people when you have to break news? How do you do it? Who do you tell? Especially, when it is something so personal and makes you feel that you have let everyone down. How do you hold it all together to do all that needs to be done at a time like this? You take a deep breathe, put your head down, and just do it.
As we drove, I quickly contacted people I needed to tell. A quick note to work, "They sent me to the hospital. Lost at least one. Don't know when I will be in next. Will keep you updated." Not sure what passed through my supervisor's head. Hopefully, he hugged his own twin daughters a little harder that night.
Then my best friend, who was expecting me for quiz bowl practice just two days later: "Won't be in Wednesday. Headed to the hospital. Pray for me."
Next, I had to tell the most difficult people, my mom, grandmother, and husband something. I knew hubby was still working so just sent, "Call me as soon as you are free." I didn't want anyone to worry. My grandmother, who was watching my then three year old, got, "Heading to the hospital. Be home late." Finally, my mother, who had been most excited about this and maybe the biggest disappointment she would ever get, "Going to hospital. Will be home late. Bad, just bad."
We arrived at the hospital and my dad asked if it was ok for him to come in with me. The security guard had to escort us up to maternity and said, "Oh, exciting day, huh?"... Like, read the room, dude. As we reach the desk upstairs, they had decided to skip the triage room and send me directly to a labor and delivery room. I got into a gown and situated in bed still waiting to hear from my husband.
The specialist arrived with his equipment and scanned and searched. Then, I'll never forget, he said, "We need to have an adult conversation." In a multiples pregnancy, the babies are labeled by how close they are to the exit. They could't find a heartbeat on Baby A and Baby B was not doing well. I had a choice to make: do nothing or have an emergency c-section. (The nurses in NICU would later tell me that they were under the impression that the staff was pressuring me to let the babies go.). I asked how much time I had, said I just wanted to talk to my husband, and asked what Baby B's chances were.
One hour. They needed to start the process and perform the section within the hour and maybe Baby B would have a 50/50 shot. I, finally, was able to talk to my husband who also spoke with the doctor, but really, I had made my decision. If we had a shot, we needed to take it.
The whirlwind began. IVs, a shot to help surfactant production, and a fetal monitor that a nurse had to sit with me and hold in place to try to watch the baby's vitals. They asked if I wanted my dad in the operating room.
"Yes. He's a pastor. He needs to baptize them. Does he need to be in the room to do that? I need to make sure they are baptized." The consensus was that yes, he would need to be in the room. The nurses brought him operating room gear to change into. One kind nurse noticed my phone and asked if I would like her to take pictures. I wouldn't realize til later how grateful I would be for those shots.
We headed to the operating room, and the anesthesiologist did her thing. They laid me down and got me situated, but all the medication made me so sick, I felt like I had tunnel vision as I projectile vomited over my left should. I told them frantically, I felt like I couldn't breathe and it was in my nose. They must have given me something else because then, I calmly stared at the wall as I felt all the pressure and pulling of the procedure. They had asked me if I wanted to see the babies as soon as they were delivered. I said that I would rather they get all the medical attention they needed first.
Later, my dad noted how busy the room was and I would think about how much I had traumatized my father. There was the doctor, anesthesiologist, dad, me, and fifteen nurses. Five busily attended to me, five to Baby B(who he rushed over to baptize), and five who just stood around...there was nothing they could do. A cleaned up Baby A was brought to my dad on my right side and I watched, trying to keep it together, as he baptized her.
From the drive over to the hospital to when I was sitting in recovery, less than two hours had passed. Less than two hours and everything had changed. So much had happened in those two hours, and there was so much more to come.
"I can't believe I am telling you this."
Hubby had made it safely to Chicago for a week of work which in January is a feat in itself and I had enlisted my father to drive me to my afternoon appointment. It was the first day back to school after Christmas break, but I had written my supervisor to be sure it was ok that I do some grading from home that morning. We were hoping the appointment would hold some answers to help resolve my discomfort. Who knew? Maybe they would put me on bedrest.
I hadn't felt great, so I had a blueberry muffin first thing in the morning, no coffee (because I was being super careful and not allowing myself any caffeine), and submitted the last assignment I had to complete for my second Master's. I made sure I was ready to go and grabbed an apple just in case I got hungry. Grandma arrived to watch big sister, dad texted that I was in the driveway, and big sister came to give me a hug. "I won't be long, just a couple hours for the babies appointments, and I will be home with you," I told her.
I grabbed my purse. After all, all I needed for the appointment was my ID and insurance card. The drive to the doctor was only about 30 minutes. I wasn't too uncomfortable, but I was glad that I didn't have to drive. Dad needed a couple directions to make sure he knew where we were headed, but my "Vehicle Operator" father (No, really. He literally, actually wrote books (textbooks) on the subject) didn't let me down and we were at the office door in no time. "Be back soon. It usually doesn't take long." He headed to the neighboring Kroger to look for deals and wait out the exam time.
Things were normal. Check in and present ID. "Do you have any changes to your address or insurance?" they asked and I sat to wait to be called. They called me, weighed me, and sent me to the ultrasound room. All normal. I explained the past week to my tech as she slathered on gel and started her scans.
I was having a lot of difficulty laying for the exam. As most pregnant women know, you really can't lay on your back after a certain point because all the pressure of what ya got going on up front, will cut off circulation to your extremities. All the weight and pressure made it hard for me to breathe and I had to set up every often to catch my breath. The kind staff offered me a Sprite and kindly let me remove my mask to try to alleviate my discomfort.
Another thing most pregnant women can attest too, is how excitedly ultrasound techs like to point our features and print out pictures. Not only was this not the case, but the tech stopped out to get the doctor, who usually doesn't appear until you are move to the next room. The tech kept focusing on the same area and didn't chat. I have dealt with many nurses and techs recently...How many do you know that don't chat?
The tech left and the doctor came in. "I can't believe I am telling you this," she said.
I stopped her. "Twin transfusion (that I had been asking and asking about) happened. Something's wrong," I said.
"We can't find Baby A's heartbeat," she said. My mind flashed to the times I had complained that they shouldn't be able to kick me in the ribs and the hip at the same time, at least not so early. "I called a specialist (who I was familiar with because we had been referred to him for a scan for my first child after mentioning the same concerns that we stated with these...when there was only one and I was five years younger) and he will meet you at the hospital with his equipment."
I texted my dad, held it together til I got to the car, and dad drove. Luckily, all the main hospitals were in the same direction from the doctor's office. It took me a while to get it together enough to tell him which one.
As we approached the time to make the announcement, the world seemed in need of a little good news. On Christmas Eve, we lost my great-aunt, who was the sister to my grandfather who we had lost in January 2020. It was this grandfather whose birthday was the twins' due date. Upon hearing the news, I texted my cousin, my great-aunt's daughter, and let here know I was expecting. I was hoping maybe the joy of two new souls as we lost two would be comforting.
Christmas morning, however, still wasn't quite as joyful as I hoped. Getting up with big sister and discovering overflowing stockings and gifts from Santa was thrilling for all, but when we were getting ready to head to my mom's for festivities, I went to set down some gifts that we were taking and...Ouch! I pulled something in my back. Now, I had had back issues before and I know it's a matter of time, Tylenol, heat, and Bengay, it was just a disappointing event. Luckily, mom picked up big sister and brought back Christmas dinner.
A few days later, I was still having pain and on top of the exhaustion of this pregnancy I wasn't sure what to do. I attended the viewing for my great-aunt and felt like I could barely breathe sitting through it. The next morning, New Year's Eve, as we were prepping lunch before the funeral, I decided to call the doctor.
I called in and explained what had happened. I added that the pain had seemed to extend to my left side. I also noted that I had been tracking my weight gain and wrist circumference and both had increase dramatically in the last week. The nurse on the phone just laughed and said that most people didn't keep track of things so well. I informed the nurse that I was at 24 weeks with twins and wasn't sure if all this was a normal growth spurt or if I should come in to get checked out. She asked when my next appointment was (four days later) and how I would rate my pain (Who knows? What is just before tears? Maybe a 7.). She said oh well we close at noon today, so if your pain reaches an 8 go to the emergency room...
I though, perhaps I am just being a wimp, but I am not sure how the next four months are going to go. Needing some cheering, I posted my pregnancy announcement for the world to see, or at least my Facebook friends, I hunkered down, tried to relax, and asked my boss if I could work from home the morning of the appointment until I could get some answers. Thankfully, he was agreeable. Part of me wondered if the doctor would put me on bedrest.
Meanwhile, my husband, who pre-pandemic had traveled extensively for work, was preparing to leave for a meeting in Chicago the day before the appointment. We have had lots of experience being apart and usually it is not a concern, but this time with both expressed unease as his absence. It was a little disappointing because this would be the first baby appointment that he had missed. Not to skip work unnecessarily, I arranged for my father to take me to my appointment, told my husband not to worry, and asked my grandmother to come watch big sister.
"Yes, just tell me," I repeated.
"Are you sure? We could email it or put it in a sealed envelope to have picked up or mail it to you."
"Just tell me."
"It's girls!" the nurse reported cheerfully.
This was the last bit she revealed after our genetics testing came back. All normal and identical twin girls! How exciting! I had been doing my research and I knew we weren't out of the woods yet, but oh what a relief! I was thrilled to be able to call my husband who was ecstatic at the news and wanted to know when we could tell people. At about eight weeks we had told our parents the good news and we were bursting to tell about the twins as soon as we got out of our ultrasound appointment, but something was keeping me from making a formal announcement.
I think most people realize that with any multiple pregnancy there are added risks, but until I was faced with our special circumstances, I had no idea how many issues there could be. As a Girl Scout from kindergarten to high school graduation, I abide by the motto "be prepared" and as an avid reader (Well, I was before kids anyway.) and learner, I was in full research mode. What could complications be? What could we do to head them off? What were signs? Two particular issue caught my eye.
Both the complications that were extremely worrisome had to do with the circulatory system, which we were already extra contentious of because of daddy's bifurcated valve and his father's life saving heart transplant (Yay, 10 years and counting! Check out organ donor.gov). The first condition happens when one twin has a fully formed heart, but the other does not. This means as soon as they are born, the heartless twin passes and sometimes the other twin also cannot survive because of the stress of supporting them both in the womb. I knew when we got to the anatomy scan, this was something we could rule out.
The second complication is also something that often happens after sibling are born: they do not share well. In this case, the placenta is unevenly divided and the twins do not share the blood supply equally. This can result in the loss of one or both twins.
Armed with this information, I made an extensive list of questions for our next doctor's appointment which thankfully was only a month away. We got our scan and I requested confirmation of beating hearts in both girls and the patient tech walked me through where all the chambers were forming in our perfectly on track girls. Ahh, one disaster averted.
Next, all my questions...Most importantly, how do we tell if the girls aren't sharing blood properly, which is technically called Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome? My doctor didn't seem worried at all and explained that usually an excess of fluid collects around one of the twins (which I was assured they were carefully monitoring at each appointment). When they notice this is happening, there is a laser procedure that can reallocate the blood vessels in the placenta and correct the issue. I still wasn't satisfied. "So this isn't something that can happen all of a sudden? You would see signs?" I inquired. The doctor assured me that this was true and scheduled my next appointment a month out, right after the Christmas/New Years holiday.
My husband was excited and wanted to tell everyone, but something was holding me back. Even my father had said, "Well, the more people who know, the more can pray for them." True, but I just thought so many things could still go wrong and it was still so early that I didn't want people to get so excited and end up with bad news.
Finally, I compromised. I thought maybe I could announce it in steps. On New Year's Eve, which would be just after 24 weeks and the girls would be considered viable, I could announce the pregnancy. It was getting a little difficult to conceal after all. Then, I could wait a week and announce that I was having a girl. Finally, I could wait one more week to announce that we would be welcoming twins, the most exciting part of our news. I looked up a multitude of twin announcement possibilities, thought about doing a pregnancy photoshoot (I hadn't with my first.), and even got a little excited about doing the plaster cast belly keepsake that I had received in a mommy-to-be trimester shipment (TheStorkBag.com).
My husband said upon hearing of the double residency that had taken up in my belly, I went completely white. Now, I am already pretty pale, so there was probably some translucence happening. The nurses chose the next moment to take my blood pressure...
The doctor let me know that multiples automatically qualified this as a high risk pregnancy. Since I am no spring chicken (more like an early autumn hen), I had already had some concerns about my age at which time the doctor informed my that I was an elderly multigravida. Doesn't that sound mystical? Ahh yes, the elderly multigravida can only be summoned by mixing ground chicken bones and groundhog saliva in a virgin glen under the light of a waxing moon. It just means it's at least your second pregnancy and your due date is after your thirty-fifth birthday. Boring and couldn't they have thought of a nicer way to say that?
The doctor let me know that they would confirm the type of twins, but they believed they were identical with separate sacs, but sharing a placenta, otherwise known as monochorionic diamniotic twins. Due to some uncommon complications that can occur, my practitioner said that she usually delivered these types of twins by 34 weeks gestation. She sent me for some tests and blood work to rule out a few genetic issues and off she went.
Meanwhile, what was I thinking...
34 weeks? Does that mean it will have to be a scheduled c-section? Could they induce? Do they both have to be head down? I only have four place settings for my everyday dishes. How is a family of five going to work? When we visit my husband's parents, they won't be able to get us from the airport. Will we rent a car or will they have to take two? How do you breastfeed twins? I'll never sleep again. I need to start designing a new house (Our current one, I specifically designed to have two children's rooms with the same dimensions.). If they come early, what if they are born on our oldest daughter's birthday? You know, that happened in Full House. Becky's twins came early right in the middle of Michelle's Flintstone-themed birthday party. I don't want her to have to share a birthday. You know my first child was 10lbs 14oz. I bet these will just slide out. We aren't going to have any time after they are born, so hubby better schedule his vasectomy now.
Is your head spinning? Mine definitely was and I was off to do some research...
Random Side Note: As a child, one of my favorite things to do was get graph paper from my mom and draw out house plans. Priorities were a little different then. Ironically, I planned for two sets of twins(a set of girls and set of boys, probably because my best friends at the time were twins), having a room just for the many cats I thought I'd have on each of three floors with their own stairwell, and an indoor pool. A girl can dream. ;)
Happy Fourth of July! Today we are also celebrating Baby B’s half birthday, which brings me to another reason I am endeavoring to create the Multifacet Mom blog. My last pregnancy did not go as expected, however, the more I talk about it, the more people relate to my situation. I am hoping the mental work done while completing this writing practice not only hopes to pay tribute to our loss, reach a sort of catharsis within myself, inform people for the future, but also lets anyone in a similar situation know that they are not alone.
I always thought that I would have more than one child. For most of my adult life, I assumed this would be two, one girl and one boy. I always hoped it would be in that order because that was my experience and for some odd reason I thought that would make me more comfortable with the situation.
I know it is early in the blog, but for those of you that have not caught on…I’m what you call, a “bit “ of a planner. This is in the sense of, since before I had my previous child I had mapped out the best times to conceive and have my children my preferred age apart. I had thought through job options, length of pregnancy, possible disruptions for time to conceive (We never had issue with this one when our minds were set. Thank all that’s good that it was planned.), and what I believed were all the various issues we could come up against.
Like I mentioned, I always thought I’d have two children and I believed that the best possible time to conceive the second would be at our fifth anniversary trip to Sandals in Jamaica that we had planned for July 2020. Well, as any plans for 2020 went, ours… did not. I had also thought, “well as long as I have a long term position, we could still handle having a second child.” Did I? No. In the long run, did we still try? Absolutely! I knew I didn’t want to try after age 35 and because my husband had missed so much baby time with our first (due to work travel), I though, “OK, we will try once and if it is meant to be it will.” I can tell you, not to get into the nitty gritty, but we “tried” exactly once. I can tell you the exact location and position, that we tried exactly once…
So August 10, 2020, we took the test. Of course, it was positive! I was able to get a position with a local school to help with their distance learners for the year and we weren’t too concerned. This was our second round after all and I had had quite the bout with morning sickness then. I don’t know if my husband was prepared this time though.
I was sooo sick. Nothing sounded good. I would occasionally crave Arby’s French Dip sans swiss or Steak’n’Shake Cheese Fries, but I could eat hardly anything else and absolutely nothing spicy.
I made my first ultrasound appointment at the beginning of October. Unfortunately, my appointment with Dr. Butler, was rescheduled at the last minute. I had to call back and due to availability at my clinic, I was forced to switch providers. I really didn’t have a preference, since my previous provider had moved between children.
That Monday, I left work early, met my husband, and headed for the appointment. The COVID slowdown made it possible for hubby to attend all our baby engagements, which I though was something that he would appreciate being a part of. We went in and of course they ask if you had any issues. I really hadn’t, but I did mention to the ultrasound tech that I felt my “morning sickness,” or constant nausea, was worse this time.
Our tech took one look and said, “Oh, of course you are! Twins!” …
Rayna Moore -
© 2021 by Rayna Moore