There aren’t many regrets I have in life, but the one I do have is major. I regret not listening to my gut about going away while I was 20 weeks pregnant with my twins. Twins that took over 4 years to conceive after 15 ART treatments and 5 miscarriages. As you can imagine, there was a lot physically, mentally, and financially we had invested in those babies. This regret comes wrapped up with lots of could have/should have, longing and guilt. I have had time and therapy to work out these feelings, but to some degree, they will always be there.
I remember being so excited to share the news that we had not one but two babies in my belly. I hit my second trimester on the day of the royal wedding of Kate and William. The crazy thing about a second pregnancy that also happens to be a twin pregnancy is that you look about 12 weeks at about 8 (or at least I did). I spent weeks trying to hide and cover up my growing belly from friends who knew how hard we were trying for a successful second pregnancy. So, on the day that I turned 12 weeks, I was about to reveal our beautiful secret to the world.
I remember the joy I felt after our latest ultra-sound that all was going so well with our babies’ development. I felt blessed to be carrying two babies, and I couldn’t wait to flaunt my belly about. I look back now in disgust at what a false sense of security I had. At how naive I was to think that the struggle ended once I got past a certain point.
I remember trying to not google my concerns over every ache and pain for fear of causing myself undue stress. The pregnancy was by far the smoothest first trimester in that with my other 2 pregnancies, I spotted for various reasons. The pressure you feel is doubled as the babies grow. Still, aside from a little discomfort, I felt well, not gaining a ton of weight and so very happy and grateful for our last cycle’s outcome.
At our 16 week u/s, the radiologist was concerned over my cervix. Still, when I followed up with my MFM, he had none and did not suggest modifying anything. In fact, he allowed me to go on vacation to an island without a thought. He actually told me that even if something were to go wrong, they could do the exact things he would do.
The day before we left for our trip was Father’s Day, and we were at a friend’s house. A mom there had triplets a few years prior, and she asked if I saw “the” doctor who all the multiple moms go to. I wasn’t, and I made a mental note to call him when I got back from my vacation as I had noticed some things, and even though my own doctor didn’t have concerns, I did.
We were driving the next day to the ferry to take us to our destination, and all was well. It was sunny, and the 3 of us couldn’t wait to spend some much needed time at the beach with friends. What made the trip even more meaningful was that my husband and I met on this very island and had not been back since. We would be returning with our 4-year-old son and would be able to show him all our local hangouts.
We took the picture above in front of the spot where we met. I started thinking about where I could put this picture of the 5 of us once we returned home.
The fun quickly turned into panic later that evening when I began bleeding heavily. It was an ordeal to get to the local police station and wait for a police boat to take me to an ambulance on land. The only hospital nearby was small and not equipped to handle an emergency like mine. There was no MFM there at that hour, and even getting into a room was one of the most traumatic things I have ever been through. I will spare you the exact details because they are not memories I wish to unpack in such a public way. No woman should ever be forced to face the decisions that I was presented with on that day.
It was clear that while the babies were healthy, my cervix was opening prematurely. The only thing to be done was to be put in a Trendelenburg position (where the head is down and feet elevated) to alleviate the pressure on my cervix. I spoke to my MFM many times throughout the night as he received updates from the staff taking care of me. At one point, they told me I had become septic, and there was fear for my life. All I cared about was them saving my babies and, at that moment, was willing to face my own death happily in exchange.
Morning finally arrived, and it was clear that my husband was in shock, thinking that we would be getting back to the beach as soon as this was all over. It took the nurse explaining to him the gravity of the situation to truly understand what was going on. I knew all that was going on was not a good sign, and now he did too.
As luck would have it, although I’m not sure I would use that word to recount any of this, my MFM knew the one that showed up the next morning. It wasn’t good news, and it was decided that I would be taken via ambulance back to my hospital that was several hours and a different state away. Before they got me on my way, they told me that if I went into labor, they couldn’t do anything for me. I was numb, but I accepted and agreed.
The trip back felt like forever, but thankfully, my big-hearted mother in law flew in to be with me. Pretty much as soon as I got to the hospital near my home, my water broke, and it was obvious that I would need to deliver.
We never found out the sex of our babies, twins included. I always felt like there are so few surprises in life and that meeting your new baby was one of those times I wanted to be surprised. But, at that moment, when my world came crashing down on me like a piece of glass that had broken into thousands of shards, I wanted to know. A quick ultrasound before delivery still showed my babies alive and well, despite the stress we were all under. There was no time to look to see what they were, and the doctor didn’t remember. The irony was thick and very obvious.
I remember blurs of people, tons of talking and questions and instructions for the team that would be in the OR with me. Due to an immune condition, I need to be on blood thinners during pregnancy, and because of this and the emergency nature of the situation, an epidural was not possible. I needed to be under general anesthesia and be put out completely.
I remember waking up and trying to stay as still and quiet as I could. I was scared to ask if I was still pregnant and what had happened. The longer I prolonged the truth, the more time I could push off the pain I knew I was going to feel. My silence was interrupted when the nurse realized I was awake, and she quickly told me that I still carried baby B but that baby A needed to be delivered. The details of the delivery make me sad and tear my heart apart still to this day. There are legalities that a pregnant mother should not have to deal with in such times. The choice to “terminate” part of my pregnancy was not a choice but the only way I could save one of my twins. Baby A, a son we named Alef, was delivered, and miraculously my cervix closed up as soon as he came out. There was an empty space in my womb. Baby A’s placenta was all that remained of him. Baby B had lost her womb mate, but as we tell her to this day, Baby A literally saved her life.
I remember my mother in law and brother in law there with me shortly after waking. I don’t think I was ever more grateful for the family I married into than I was that day. Great pain showed in their eyes and a silent empathy on their faces—my last name taking on a new meaning. I was Rich in love and support blessed for the family rallying around us.
Repeatedly, the nurse asked me if I wanted to hold my baby boy, and I wrestled with a decision for hours. Ultimately, I asked for pictures to go along with the blue satin box of memories I was to be handed later on. It was a decision made out of necessity. I knew that if I allowed myself to feel all the feelings in that very moment in time that it would not be what was best to the baby still in my belly.
To this day, I regret not listening to my gut that was telling me to get a second opinion on my cervix, especially since my first child came at 34 weeks. I regret not holding my baby boy and sending him back to the earth without knowing his mother’s arms. Yet, in life, we make hard decisions and what I know now is that life happened as it was supposed to.
Things that helped me during this time:
1) Giving myself permission to do what I needed for me. I’m sure that not everyone would have made some of the same decisions, and I’m ok with that. No one was in my shoes at that moment and knows what it felt like.
2) Asking for help. Being a people pleaser, accepting help from others is hard for me. Making the call to my mother in law and telling her the heartbreaking news was hard. Telling her that I needed her even harder, especially since my husband, being cut from the same cloth as I, didn’t want to “put” her out. I knew this was big, and in order to get through it, I had to ask for help and support.
3) Staying positive. If ever there was a time where this was impossible, this was it. Yet, I refused to listen to the doom and gloom; the team of doctors was constantly spewing. I always tried to see the glass as half full.
4) Taking each day moment by moment. One day, one decision at a time. Life had literally changed for me in a split second. Long-term was not something I had the luxury of dreaming about. I needed to concentrate on making each decision count knowing that things could change drastically at any moment. I did the best that I could with the information I had.
This was difficult to write, and no doubt, some of this is difficult to read. If you have made it to the end, I pray that this information is helpful to you. My hope is that by sharing openly and honestly that I can help you do two things.
1) Be informed and stay diligent. If something in your gut doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
2) To give you some real strategies to get through the devastating reality of losing a baby or pregnancy gone wrong.
I hope you will come back for Part 2 next week when I talk about my hospital stay and what helped me through the nearly two-month stay.