Originally written in September 2006:
Nick and I decided in April that it was the right time to start trying for a family. As you probably know, we’ve been together for a long time and married in November 2005. Well, had we known our odds, we might have played the lottery that day. Just a few weeks later, I felt awful. A friend of mine asked if I could be pregnant, and I told them there was ONE chance. We found out on April 27, 2006 that I was expecting.
I consider myself to be pretty healthy – prior to conceiving I was doing yoga 2x per week and working out with a trainer 2x a week as well. So I am aware of what’s happening with my body as well. I knew something wasn’t quite right when I developed SEVERE constipation – nothing relieved it. So we went to the ER on May 1, 2006.
The doctors there did a blood test and my HCG was 2400 – because of the level, they felt that they needed to do an U/S and were sure that they would see the baby in my uterus. Prior to be taken to radiology, I was catheterized (without any sedation – OUCH!). I know that this isn’t normal procedure but it didn’t occur to me that something might be wrong. I’m not sure why – maybe b/c this was my first pregnancy and I was still in shock/elation/bliss after finding out that we were expecting.
During the U/S, I kept asking Nick, “why is she pointing to my ovaries?” The technician tried to tell me that that was normal procedure – they always looked at the entire reproductive system. Well, when the docs looked at the U/S they said that they were “75% sure that it is ectopic.” They were so convincing that Nick and I elected exploratory laparascopic surgery – if it was ectopic, we hoped to save the tube and conceive successfully in the future.
After surgery, I was told that the large mass that they saw was a corpus luteum, which supports the pregnancy. I guess it didn’t occur to the docs that there was another reason why they couldn’t see the baby in the uterus – my HCG was so high that they expected to see something in there.
I asked Nick, “what if it’s twins – that could be why it’s so high and they couldn’t see it.” We went on Friday for another blood test and it had doubled. The lady at the lab said, “congratulations, you’re still pregnant!” I was worried sick about whether or not I was going to miscarry, since the docs were SO sure and had told me that 1 of 3 things could be happening. 1) I had already miscarried and didn’t know it. 2) I was in the process of miscarrying. 3) I was still pregnant.
At our appt. on May 10, 2006 we learned that we could be expecting twins. The U/S showed two sacs, but the OB said we’d have to wait another 4 weeks to see what exactly was going on in there. Many times, there can be a ‘blighted ovum’ or ‘vanishing twin’ so another U/S would confirm what was going on.
On Thursday, June 1, 2006 I had another U/S. Sure enough, there were 2 sacs – with 2 babies. We were expecting TWINS! As you can imagine, we were excited, nervous, and very happy! Everything with my pregnancy progressed well, though I did complain of heaviness in my abdomen to my OB on several occasions. He OK’d my continuing to work out – 2x per week on a modified routine with my trainer, and I even golfed on a league once a week with Nick – though at the midway point in July I decided I couldn’t walk the 9 holes anymore and we started getting a power cart.
Everything seemed fine, until just before 9pm on August 16. I had just gotten home from having dinner out and had changed into my PJs. I went to the bathroom, and heard a pop and felt a gush. My water had broke!
We called 911 and were taken by ambulance to the hospital with the NICU that my OB was affiliated with. Unfortunately, we were not happy with the care that we received. We were told, after waiting over 3+ hours in the Maternity Triage, with little care, to go home – there was nothing that could be done given the gestation age of my babies. Who knows if that made the difference?
The next day we went to see my OB. He too, told us the outlook was grim and recommended termination. I told him, “No. That’s not an option for us.” He said, “you really need to listen to what you’re facing.”
When I felt the babies really kick (for the first time, no less), I said “NO, NO, NO! – you need to listen to us!” I figured it was a sign that they wanted to live. My sister Monica (whom had 2 high-risk pregnancies) pulled some strings and she got her OB/Gyn Dr. Marino (sp) to recommend/refer us to some high risk specialists. They did and we immediately drove the hour to the other Medical Facility. The medical staff immediately did an U/S, and found that baby A had lost most of the fluid. It could possibly be replaced a little at a time, but not completely, as my membranes had completely ruptured. We didn’t think little Baby A was going to make it.
The outlook for baby B was better – our sacs were separate so we thought we may have a CHANCE to deliver baby A and keep baby B safe – at least the hope was to keep her in there until at LEAST 24 weeks, where we’d have a better chance. Still, the outlook was not good but at least the doctors were willing to do all they could. We learned on August 17, 2006 that baby B was a little girl!
Dr. Mariona admitted me right away. In fact, one of the things that he said that surprised us (but not really, I guess) was, “I can’t believe they sent you home.” Meaning the other hospital. He explained it by saying that I basically had an open would and he couldn’t believe the other facility would send me home knowing that I would probably get an infection. He just kept saying how he couldn’t believe it. By 5pm, I still hadn’t gotten my IV with my antibiotics, and I remember him asking the nurses, “I didn’t know that we had to go all the way to China to get her an IV”. This pleased me…he was at least willing to try.
Unfortunately, I experienced more complications with baby A (a prolapsed cord), and her strong heartbeat steadily slowed to a stop on Friday morning, 08/18, though I didn’t deliver her until Sunday, 08/20/06. We named her Angelina Nicole, for she was born sleeping, and she is our first born (so we named her after Nick). Unfortunately, I didn’t deliver her placenta, which meant more risk to baby B and me – a very high chance for infection.The infection did set in, quite quickly, despite my best efforts to fight it. Within 16 hours of delivering Angelina, Nick and I made a decision to save my life and our chance for a family and future.
Nick told me that he didn’t want to lose me and his girls. It was the MOST DIFFICULT decision that I have ever had and hope I’ll ever have to make. Because we already had Angelina, I chose to induce labor. I wanted to have a baby to have a proper burial. Baby B – whom we named Gabriella Marie (Gram’s middle name and after my middle name, Maria), was delivered on 08/21/06 at 8:16am. She was a fighter, and she survived for 6 hours and 4 minutes. We’re not sure how.
The social worker at Hurley gave us the names of some funeral homes, and I immediately chose to work with Keehn, in Brighton MI. They contacted St. Patrick Catholic Church for us (who graciously donated the girls’ grave at no charge). The service was held at St. Pat’s on Friday, August 25. Shortly after, we made a temporary sign for their grave, and I put out a shepherd’s hook with some windchimes. We miss them terribly, and think of them often, as you can imagine.
I want people to know that it’s ok to talk about our babies. They will always be our babies, dead or alive. They will always be our first and second born. When people ask, “do you have kids?” I say, “yes, twin girls that live in Heaven.”
Please don’t be afraid to talk about them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about them. And please, don’t worry if I cry a little when we do talk about them, or if I think about them. It’s quite normal and will happen for many, many years to come. It doesn’t upset me to talk about them; it upsets me to pretend this didn’t happen.
UPDATE January 2010:
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my precious daughters.
People ask, “Now that you have your boys – do you think about them less?” And I always answer, “No, more.” The fact is, when you have subsequent children after a loss like ours, you’re faced with a new challenge – watching your children grow and wonder, “Would the girls have done that?” ”Would they look like Nicholas or Christopher?” ”Would they like books as much as Nicholas?”
Losing our daughters was the single-most life-changing experience that I’ve ever endured. As difficult as it’s been, it’s made me into a more compassionate person; I was always SO uncomfortable when someone was faced with a loss – now, I am usually one of the first to contact the person with my condolences.
It’s made me treasure the moments that I DO have with my boys. I love to sit and observe them, and see how they interact in this world.
Losing the girls has made me realize that capturing moments in time is key to keeping the memories alive.