Mother’s Day, It’s Bittersweet

As Sunday approaches, I find myself dealing with some uncomfortable feelings.  It took me a few days to establish exactly what I was feeling.  I’ve been continually surprised at the fall-out from losing the twins.  So many things have affected me in ways that have caught me off guard; or surprised me.  My feelings regarding Mother’s Day are no different.  Last years’ Mother’s Day was rough.  Pretty easy for anyone to understand why.  While A was here and healthy, I was less than 2 months out from having lost and delivered the twins and I wasn’t yet pregnant with Baby C.  I don’t remember it.  I don’t know what we did or if I received a gift of any kind.  I’m sure I spent a good chunk of the day in an alcohol-induced daze.  I do remember spending time with the twins, looking at their pictures and holding their ashes telling them I loved them and missed them.  It was important for me to spend time with ALL my children that day.

As this Mother’s Day get closer I’m surprised to find myself feeling a slight sense of dread.  Feeling that I wish we could simply gloss over the day.  Feeling that I want to wake up and it’s magically Monday morning instead of Sunday.  Feeling that it would just be best if everyone around me simply forgot it was Mother’s Day and we could go through the day like it was a normal Sunday.  I’d even be ok celebrating my own mother but avoiding the fact that I’m a mother.  I feel bad, on one hand, because I never want it to seem like A and Baby C aren’t enough for me, but Mother’s Day is just a vividly staunch reminder that I am a mother to 2 little girls I will never know in this life.  If I can’t celebrate being a mother to ALL my children, I’m not sure I want to celebrate it at all.  I dunno, I still haven’t reconciled my feelings.  I just know I’m not looking forward to Sunday.  Not looking forward to being reminded of what I don’t have and not looking forward to having to force a happy face because my 2 living children are too young to understand why Mommy’s upset.  I feel pulled in 2 different directions on Mother’s Day.  On one hand I want to celebrate being a mom to the 2 happy, healthy children I do have.  On the other hand, I want to weep for the 2 babies I don’t have.  On a day I should be celebrating getting to be a mom (a gift I know many people aren’t so lucky to have), I’m broken-hearted by the sense of loss I still feel.  It’s difficult for those around me, too, I’m sure.  The Hubs tends to follow my lead.  He’d throw me a party if that’s what I wanted.  Instead, I told him I wanted to take pictures with A and Baby C and I wanted to take a nap.  My mother-in-law brought me flowers, which was sweet, but I often feel she and my father-in-law have completely forgotten the twins ever existed.  My mom, on the other hand, will most likely call me with a cautionary tone in her voice to make sure I’m doing ok, but expecting I’m not.  None of it is ok.  It’s not ok that I don’t want to celebrate, or be celebrated.  It’s not ok I’ll spend the day feeling highly emotional and weepy; with the sadness outweighing the joy.  It’s not ok that my in-laws never mention the twins.  And it’s not ok that my mom calls expecting drama.  But it is what it is.  It’s another example of how we’re continually learning to live in a new normal.

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The Twins – Part IV

There is no end to this story.  There is no conclusion.  You can’t take all the pieces, put them in a box, close it, put a bow on it and call it finished.  No, their story will follow us the rest of our lives, and continue to unfold.  Possibly into further generations, we have no way of knowing.  As I sit here just days away from giving birth to our 4th daughter, and almost a year after their birth, I feel I need to offer some sort of end to their online story.  There are things that happened I haven’t yet written about.  The days immediately following their death and the intense emotional experience we went through just a mere month after the twins died.  This is the final part of their story.

The twins were born on a Thursday and Friday, respectively, and I was released from the hospital on Friday afternoon.  I don’t remember much about the ride home.  It was sunny and warm, I remember that much.  I also remember wanting desperately to see A, to see her smile, to see LIFE.  I slept a lot those first few days home.  Lots of flowers were delivered to our house, which I still find odd.  The last thing I wanted around my house were the living, beautiful floral arrangements to remind me of my dead babies. I know people were just trying to be kind, but I found it repulsive.  We put a sign up outside asking delivery men not to ring the doorbell.  My mom told me later about a conversation the Hubs had with one.  Hubs was asked if we’d just had a baby as he was accepting a flower delivery.  “No,”  he responded, “We just lost 2.”  How does one respond to that question?  It would only be one of many, many awkward conversations we would have.

We had a lot of time in the hospital to discuss what we would do with the twins’ remains.  We knew we would hold them, talk to them, keep them with us for some time, and we chose to have their bodies cremated and then we would take possession of the cremains.  Because the twins died before 20 weeks gestation, our loss was still medically classified as a late miscarriage.  Had they died past 20 weeks, we would have been forced, legally, to either cremate or bury their bodies.  This was my first experience with death.  I’ve lost grandparents, but I was never that close to them so conversations such as these were never had.  I’ve always avoided the casket at wakes and at funerals, but holding the bodies of my dead twins never felt gross or strange to me.  It didn’t matter if they were alive or dead, they were my babies and they had souls and I was going to miss them no matter what.   It was a no-brainer that we would want them home with us in whatever form we could have them.  There is a local funeral home that doesn’t charge a fee to cremate the bodies of stillborn babies.  They picked up their bodies from the hospital morgue on Friday.  We checked, and checked and double-checked with the hospital and funeral home about our 1 request.  We requested the twins’ bodies be kept together.  Cremated together, ashes placed in the same bag and then that single bag was to be placed inside the urn.  As impossible as it was to lose 2 babies, there was some sense of peace they at least had each other.  Because the twins were never alive, they didn’t receive birth or death certificates.  The only paperwork we have that bears their full names printed on it are the consent forms we had to sign for the funeral home to take possession of their bodies.  Those pieces of paper are very important to me.  I’ve read recently about certificates of stillbirth; it’s something I’m going to look in to.  We were anxious to get the twins home.  I left the hospital with a huge lump in my chest that wouldn’t go away.  It’s like I couldn’t breathe.  We’d been given a bunch of literature at the hospital and most of the books referenced this feeling and called it a broken heart.  The lump wouldn’t go away until we were able to collect their remains.

I don’t remember the exact day we got the call we could pick up the twins.  I think it was the following Thursday, a week after Megyn’s birth.  I know A was in school.  I pass by this funeral home a lot these days…it’s right down the street from the hospital.  I remember where we parked and I remember feeling so very sad, lonely and empty as we walked inside.  We agreed to pay $50 to have their remains placed inside an urn instead of a plastic box.  It’s very small, I remember both the Hubs and I being surprised at how small it is.  It’s ivory and gold colored, shaped like a heart and fits in the palm of my hand.  We confirmed again their remains were together inside the plastic bag inside the urn.  I held them close to my chest as we walked out of the funeral home and got back into the truck.  On the way out of the house, I grabbed a blanket given to us at the hospital.  I’m forever grateful to the organization Threads of Love for providing a handmade, crocheted blanket for our girls.  We had nothing for them, and I’ve felt guilty about it ever since.  It never occurred to me to purchase them something, anything.  A blanket, a stuffed animal…something that we could have taken with us that was intended for them.  The nurses took pictures of the girls on this blanket and it’s the only thing we have they actually touched.  As soon as I got into the truck, I wrapped their tiny urn up in this blanket.  “All babies go home wrapped in a blanket,” I explained to my husband.  I remember sitting in the truck, their remains wrapped in a blanket in my lap and taking a deep breath.  For the first time, I could breathe.  The lump was gone.  It finally felt like the longest day of my life had ended and we could attempt to move forward.  The twins’ cremains are in our bedroom.  In those first several weeks and months I would touch them daily, talk to them.  On Mother’s Day last year I held them near my heart and looked at their pictures.  It was important to me to spend time with them on that day.  I haven’t looked at their pictures since then.  I still touch them a lot and tell them I miss them.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about them in one way or another.  While it may seem odd to some, having them home with us was the right choice.  We talked about burying them, but neither of us feels rooted here and I would have a really hard time moving away and not being physically close to their gravesite.  We may still bury them at some point, but not yet.  In the meantime, they’ll stay with us.  Their urn is small and in our bedroom.  It doesn’t exactly spark a lot of conversation from people visiting our home and the fact we have their remains here at our home is not information we openly share.  The weeks after that are a blur.  There was a lot of crying.  There was a lot of conversation. There were intense conversations about how odd it felt to be straddling life here on Earth and life in Heaven. I’ve never felt like dying, or taking my life, but it’s a strange feeling to suddenly feel like you’re in more of a hurry to get to Heaven. I believe my girls are there and I will meet them one day.  There was almost an immediate shift in life goals and priorities and there were relationship changes with our friends and family.  Family became really important…still is.  Some friends became more important, some friends fell away, and that’s ok.  I appreciated text messages and emails from friends, but I didn’t want anyone around me except my family.  I felt that way for a very long time and I still prefer family almost a year later, though I’m working on being a little more social.  I have a few close girlfriends that I’m constantly in touch with.  I took a year long leave of absence from the volunteer organization I’m a member of, stopped posting on facebook and didn’t return phone calls for months.  I needed some time to re-evaluate my life.  What was important to me and frankly, figure out exactly what I was going to do with this new life I was facing.  Things changed, I changed, my husband changed.  We were visited by a family friend who has had her own life’s battles after we returned from Sea World last April.  Since we’ve been dating, both Hubs and I have looked up to this couple as people we’d like to model our life after.  They don’t have children, they couldn’t because of a cancer diagnosis she got at a young age.  She talked to me about that stage of her life…how it changed her.  How it made her into the person she is today, the one I so respect and admire.  How it did things for her marriage no other experience could do.  She wakes up everyday and if she faces adversity, well, at least she doesn’t have cancer she says.  She wouldn’t trade her experience and I appreciated her visit very much.  It gave validation to what I was feeling, validating the feelings of change I had been experiencing. It also gave validation to the fact the Hubs and I had been discussing the changes in our marriage, how it seemed through tragedy, we actually grew closer, deepening our relationship, and it gave me confidence that losing some friendships was ok…that there would be people that would fall out of our lives because they couldn’t deal with the changes that were happening to us.  We still see those changes and almost a year later, I find it almost overwhelming to reflect upon all the changes in our life. This tragedy of losing the twins will foster positive growth, and something big and great will come out of it. I know it beyond the shadow of a doubt.

As husband and wife, we were doing the things that husbands and wives do about a month after losing the twins. It was that night I discovered a tiny lump, almost like a grain of rice on the Hubs, in a place you don’t ever really want to find a lump. I brought it to his attention, asking him if he’d felt it before. He said no. He was actually scheduled to head out of town that Monday and I was freaked out. I left it up to him, but thankfully, he squeezed in a doctor’s appointment that morning to see our family practitioner.  He was given an exam, and then a prescription for an ultrasound at the hospital as soon as he returned from his business trip. Not the diagnosis I was hoping for. I’m sure he was also hoping to hear it was no big deal, a cyst or maybe some connective tissue. I’ve never felt so panicked and fearful in my whole life. I called my mom in a state of absolute panic who in turn sent my dad to sit with me until she could get here. I was terrified of the Hubs leaving, of me being by myself. It was the first time he’d left town since losing the twins, and he was leaving with the knowledge that we might be facing a diagnosis of testicular cancer upon his return. It was heart-wrenching to think about. Not for one second did I think there was no way he’d be taken away from me. Not for one second did I believe God wouldn’t do that to me, to us. If he’d allowed the twins to die, what’s to stop me from thinking he’d take my husband too? I remember sitting in my den, on my knees, sobbing and begging a God I didn’t really trust anymore not to take my husband away from me, not to take my best friend. It’s a moment that has been seared into my mind. I was helpless, hopeless and broken. I had absolutely no where to turn and I was left to put my trust in a God that, in my mind, had hugely failed me only a month before. I can’t explain the kind of fear and panic I felt. I’ve never experienced it before, and haven’t experienced it since. Between the doctor’s visit and the ultrasound appointment I did as much research I could online. One of the hardest things to read about were the fertility discussions. We had been talking about when to have another baby after losing the twins and when dealing with testicular cancer, based on the diagnosis, future fertility becomes a question. Things like sperm banking and such are real discussions your doctor will have with you. We were both a nervous wreck on the day of the ultrasound. We actually had to check-in at the hospital and hurry up and wait…as is the case with most hospitals. The Hubs chose to have me go with him, for such an awkward appointment, I again, left that decision up to him. I promised him the tech would either be some gnarly dude or a 60+ year old Gerta. I was wrong. The tech that came to get us with 30ish, cute, spunky and had long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. Looking back now, I feel bad for the guy. At the time, I didn’t care. I’d spent the last month with a doctor’s hand halfway up my vagina…who was I to judge? Even though she isn’t supposed to give results, she identified the mass pretty quickly. After she was done she let us know she was fairly certain the mass was simply a fluid filled cyst. There was good circulation and she didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about. We had to wait until the next day to hear back from the radiologist, but he confirmed the mass was a cyst and only needed further attention if it grew in size. We were relieved, to say the least, but I certainly haven’t forgotten about the whole experience. It left its mark on me; reminded me how precious ALL life is, how important my relationship and friendship is with my husband. How very grateful I am to have him in my life.

Part of me wishes there was a way to wrap all this up and call it finished. But I know that’s not realistic and I think, as I approach the end of my life, I’ll look back and be thankful I was never given a conclusion. It’s an ongoing story/experience for a reason. I’m still struggling with the fear. The fear of something happening to A. To Hubs. To Baby C while she’s still inside me and of course, once she’s born. I don’t believe you have one gut-punch in life and you’ve then somehow paid your dues. I believe there are people who go through life unscathed, and people who go through life experiencing tragedy upon tragedy. Then there are those who fall in the middle of the spectrum somewhere. So, I struggle with the fear. I’ve known loss and I’m terribly afraid of it happening again. I’m also struggling with my relationship with God. I’m finding it difficult to trust Him, find it difficult to pray – to ask for things. However, I do believe what happened to me was intentional…was crafted by God and I believe it was intended to be a blessing in my life – I just haven’t been able to see it yet. I do not believe what happened was a random occurrence, an unintentional chain of events. These are the things I’m currently working on and I’m sure as time goes on I will find other things I’m struggling with and working on. Again, I think it’s a life-long experience. On a Saturday, a few months after the twins had died, I was sitting in a nail salon waiting to get a pedicure. I was at a place I don’t normally go, and I was facing an hour long wait. I decided to stay, A was sleeping, I had no where else to be and found myself sitting next to an elderly lady who had walked in to make a later appointment and was simply waiting for her husband to pick her up. I don’t even know how we got on the subject, but I learned she lost her youngest child, at about 7 months, to SIDS. For the first time, I was able to gather the courage and have the emotional stability to tell her that I lost identical twin girls at 19 weeks. I know it’s not the same as losing a 7 month old, but it’s still losing children. It seemed like such an out-of-body experience as she placed her hand on mine and told me how very sorry she was. She was gone shortly after that. I have no idea who she was. I believe that as I go through life, I will have opportunities, both big and small, to share my story. I’m very open about what happened, about the processes I’ve been through both physically and emotionally and I’m not afraid to tell people what I regret. I’m glad to have started blogging, to have a spot to share my story in hopes that it brings comfort or understanding to someone who is going through something similar. So, that’s where I’m at. I have my ups, I have my downs. I’m not sure I’ve handled this whole experience as well as one can, but I’m doing my best. I’m longing to share my story with others, to let them know the despair they feel will eventually subside, but to also let them know it never truly goes away. To let them know it’s ok to feel how you feel, no matter what. It’s ok to embrace your fear, your anger, your guilt and work through it. Don’t bottle it up or repress it. It’s ok to lose friends and relationships and to tell them you WILL change and that it’s ok. I want to encourage parents to not turn towards bitterness about their experience…to embrace the anger, pain and hurt for a time, but then to try to move forward. To start seeking out a purpose, a reason for the loss. To say I had it all figured out, I’d be a liar. I don’t. But I’m trying and hoping that some answers are coming our way soon.

I’ve seen changes in myself that I never expected. I’m much more conservative (not in a political sense) than I’ve ever been. I’m taking a deeper look into how I spend my time. Taking a closer look at what exactly I’m doing with my time, with my life. Focusing on fostering the relationships that are important to me and letting go of the ones that aren’t benefitting me. I think the Hubs and I are putting in a small garden this year, we’d like to start paying much closer attention to what goes into our bodies – trying to make the move to more organic foods, and trying to eliminate processed food. We’re also tossing around schooling options for A and one thing that has come up is a part-time homeschooling option. These are all things that were incredibly foreign to whoever I was before losing the twins. I hope this, in some way, wraps up our story for you. It’s taken me almost a year to write 4 installments and I feel their story deserved that much time. We will continue to recognize them on special Holidays and will recognize their birthdays on 3/24 and 3/25. We will forever consider Megyn and Whitney a part of our family, and will pay tribute the small but HUGE impact they’ve made in our lives. Although their time with us was short, the changes, decisions and goals we’ve made are substantial and never would have happened without them in our lives. We love you Megs and Whits and we WILL see you again; and until we can tell you in person, thank you for being in our lives, thank you for the changes you have brought about and thank you for making the ultimate sacrifice so that we can go on to fulfill our life purpose and destiny.

Welcome, 2012.

First of all, 29 weeks as of this past Friday.  Hard to believe and if I’m being honest (which I always am here) I’m still not convinced we’re having another baby.  She moves quite a bit these days and is making it very difficult to sleep at night.  Sometimes I get so excited about meeting her and holding her tiny body in my arms I can’t hardly stand it.  I don’t think about it often because I’m still afraid of something going wrong.  But so far, things are going splendid.  Passed my 3-hr glucose test with flying colors and we’re rounding the corner into the home stretch.  Baby C has a place to sleep and a car seat so as long as we swing by the store to pick up diapers on the way home from the hospital, we should be good.  I kid, I kid.  Sort of.

29 weeks

At first glance, 2011 was a truly awful year. I mean, for months I’ve been thinking about how glad I was going to be to see 2011 end. How much relief I would feel to put the year behind me. Upon closer inspection, however, I’m starting to think 2011 may be one of the best years of my life. Not without its hardships and difficulties, of course, but the start of something. Hubs and I have discussed 2011 at length. He says 2011 was full of emotional extremes…I agree. There is no denying it was a year that changed us. Drastically. Forever. You see, there were 2 people who were simply living their lives, unencumbered by tragedy, that died in a hospital room right along with our twins in March. 2 new people were born. 2 people with a new passion. 2 people with a burning desire to change their world. 2 people who were no longer satisfied with saying, “someday” or “what if”. 2 people who were no longer going to simply dream, but were going to DO. 2011 has been a year of reflection. A year of thinking. 2012 will be a year of doing. There is a lot of work ahead of both of us. We each have ideas that have formed in our minds, in our souls, and we share a long-term vision for our life together. We’ve been given an inkling about how to get there. For the Hubs, he formed and founded his own company. It’s small, on the side for now, but has the potential to grow into an enormous beast. I’m not sure how long it will take to get there, but it will eventually be what he does for his living.  I know it like I know the sky is blue.  I’ve got my own little business idea brewing. I’ve had it for a while, but only recently had the courage, mental capability, whatever you want to call it to put my thoughts into action and see where it goes. My husband is fully supportive and actually has a greater vision for my little biz than I do right now. I’ve also taken steps to advance my photography. That’s a totally personal hobby/passion, something I’ve never really spent time on but I’m finding it important. It just feels good to be behind the lens. Once I pick up the camera and start clicking, I can’t stop. It fulfills a place in my soul I didn’t know existed. This little blog here was born out of the tragedy of 2011. I’m not sure where it’s headed either. I love having a place to express my thoughts and share a few of my pictures, but I’m certainly not attracting thousands of readers. I haven’t told anyone in real life, except my husband, that this blog even exists. Maybe someday, but not right now. I just feel like I need to keep writing, need to keep sharing. Hopefully my story, my journey, will help someone else through a difficult time. At the very least, I can read through some of my older posts and see growth, which was really my intention all along.

We rang in the new year last night laying in bed, with me struggling to keep my eyes open until midnight. It’s never been a big party night for us, and last night was no exception. Save the fact we got all the Christmas decorations taken down and put away…that deserves a little celebration, right? Except I think both of us wanted to see 2011 off last night and take a deep breath, look 2012 in the eyes and say, “bring it on.” I’m still not sure where this little life of ours is headed, but I do think 2011 was the start of something big; so it seems wrong to just write of 2011 as a big pile of crap and move on. And I think 2012 holds a lot of potential so long as we’re willing to put in the work. The general fear of failure or fear of the unknown isn’t so great once you experience a loss such as ours. It makes you more willing to take risks, knowing that if you can get through something like losing the twins, you can get through pretty much anything. Teaches you that fear, or not knowing, isn’t a reason not to try. That’s a tough lesson to learn, one I’m not sure I could have learned any other way. So we’ll start 2012 just like any other Sunday. Up early, groaning, as we hear A banging around in her room. We’ll head to church soon and we’re spending the afternoon working on A’s new room so hopefully Baby C will have her own room once she gets here in a few short months. Either way, the Hubs and I head into 2012 with the knowledge that if we work hard enough, if we dig deep enough, if we stay the course, our true purpose and visions will start to become our reality.

The Twins – Part III

Baby B
Whitney Quinn
3/25/2011 1:19 AM
2.96 ounces (84 grams) 16.5 cm long

Here’s the thing about twin deliveries.  You pretty much know what to expect with Baby A, but Baby B typically has a mind of its own.  There’s a reason twins are always delivered in the OR, even vaginal deliveries. Even if both babies are head down, there’s a strong likelihood of Baby B flipping around after Baby A is born requiring an immediate C-Section.  We never made it to that point, obviously, but I just wanted you to have that information.

After I delivered Megyn, I was stuck somewhere between euphoria and immense sadness.  I felt like I had all the time in the world to marvel at this little being, yet I had never been given the opportunity to know her.  I was slightly on edge at how quickly she was delivered and so every little “feeling” I had going on down below had me ringing the bell for the nurse.  No one expected to wait as long as we did for Whitney to be born, but there really is no textbook process to follow either.  You see, during live births, the baby’s own movements help guide her down the birth canal.  Since my babies were already dead, they had no way of helping themselves.  We had a lot more lucid time with Megyn than we did with Whitney.  I was able to talk to her more, to look at her more, to inspect her tiny body more.  I kept having feelings of my water breaking.  You see, we’d been told that the girls were in separate amniotic sacs, so it would make sense to feel my water break twice.  However, once we called the nurse she informed me what I was feeling was blood.  Lots and lots of blood.  They had those puppy-pad things underneath me and she changed it.  Then we called her in the second time I thought my water broke.  Again, blood.  Lots and lots of blood.  The third time I thought my water broke, she took the third puppy-pad, weighed it (to determine exactly how much blood I had lost) and called my doctor.  This is where things got interesting.  My doc comes in, looking exhausted and for some unknown reason, I apologized for waking her up.  Looking back, I could tell my medical staff was concerned, but at the time, they did a great job staying calm and performing their duties.  Whitney had to come out, and she had to come out now.  She obviously wasn’t coming on her own no matter how many contractions they could make me have.  I’m not even sure how to phrase this next part, the best way I can think to describe what happened is that I was calved.  You see, Whitney was tangled in her umbilical cord.  There was no way she was coming out.  I remember laying flat on my back, watching my reflection in the light box above the bed.  I remember thinking, “Gosh, I really do like my glasses.  It’s nice how the blue frames match the blue hospital gown.  I look kind of pretty laying here.”  I could see, in the reflection, the doctor with her arm halfway inside my uterus fishing around for my little girl.  Her hand kept bumping against my belly…reminiscient of what baby kicks would have looked and felt like had I made it that far.  I can’t recall how long it took her, but I do remember my blood up to her elbow when Whitney was finally born.  I remember a faint sigh from the nurse, Sam, standing by my head.  I didn’t know why at the time, her response was so different from when Megyn was born.  After her umbilical cord was cut I was asked if I wanted to hold her, or if I wanted them to clean her up.  This is my point of most regret.  I was under the impression everything would be as it had been with Megyn, so I told the nurse to go ahead and clean her up.  Hubs went with her.  I wish I would have taken my little girl in my arms right away.  The doctor was still feeling around inside my uterus, I suppose she was trying to figure out where the bleeding was coming from.  It didn’t take her long to tell me my placenta had only partially come away from the uterine wall.   That she felt the safest thing at this point, was for her to perform a D&C to remove the remaining placenta.  I cannot tell you how quickly and urgently they prepped me for surgery.  They were worried I was going to bleed to death.  I got to hold Whitney for a few moments before surgery, but it wasn’t long before the anesthesiologist was there injecting me with sleeping medicine so I was fuzzy.  Whitney was a beautiful sight.  She had long legs, just like her sister, and she had one eye open.  They are normally still fused together at this point, but she had one eye open.  You see, it was very obvious that Whitney was the one that was starved of nutrients and blood when my placenta failed to equally distribute their needs to them.  She was basically white.  She almost appeared to have skin, like you or I , but at that stage, babies don’t have skin.  Her little limbs were laying in funny directions, almost like a rag doll.  She looked as though she had starved and my heart broke for any pain or hurt she had to endure.  Yet, somehow, she still had perfect feet, perfect hands, 10 fingers and 10 toes.  The girls were identical, so we know based on the stronger features of Megyn what she would have looked like.  The one eye that was open had a blue hue.  I know you can’t tell eye color at that stage, but I believe my girls would have had blue eyes.  I told her that I loved her, that I was so sorry and that her sister was waiting for her.  I told her how glad I was they were finally together again and that they would have each other.  I cried, I smiled and I touched her little hands and feet.  I couldn’t stop looking at her, this tiny little miracle of a person…I don’t think, if I could gaze at them forever, it would be long enough.

My room had flooded with hospital staff.  Maybe it was because it was 1am.  Or perhaps they recognized the gravity of the situation.  I handed off Whitney’s tiny body, still warmly and securely wrapped in a blanket and was quickly wheeled to the OR.  I don’t remember much of what happened next.  Just that everyone was very kind, and I was very sleepy.  I was thankful for the strong drugs, thankful for the respite from the nightmare I was living.  Looking back, I could not be more thankful for the procedure my doctor performed at 1am to bring Whitney into the world.  It wasn’t pretty, it’s not a fun tale to re-live, in fact, it’s downright gruesome to some.  But, had she not hand-delivered Whitney, Whitney would have been extracted, most likely in many pieces, during the D&C.  My doctor recognized the emotional importance of delivering Whitney, whole, from my body while I was awake.  Again, my medical care was beyond outstanding.  She easily could have come into my room, taken account of my blood loss and insisted I needed a D&C immediately despite what would happen to Whitney’s body.  But she didn’t.  And for that I am eternally grateful.  In the days that followed, I learned what happened while I was in surgery.  The surgery itself didn’t take long, but it was an eternity for Hubs.  As soon as I was wheeled out, the nurses came for the girls.  They asked to take them to another room to clean them up, gather foot prints, hand prints and take pictures.  They would be returned to my room as soon as they were done.  Hubs agreed and suddenly, he was alone.  He’d just lost 2 daughters, witnessed their very traumatic stillbirth, given permission for their tiny, frail bodies to be taken to another room and watched in fear as his wife was taken away for emergency surgery.  He told me afterwards that he couldn’t stop staring at the floor, at a lone drop of my blood that had rolled off the table at some point.  In the midst of all of this, there was a Code Blue announcement that came over the speakers.  He panicked.  He said the Code Blue was for Oncology, but at the time he either truly didn’t know what Oncology was, or couldn’t remember.  He said he was frantically searching his phone to find the definition for Oncology.  He thought the Code Blue was for me.  My broken heart broke even further listening to my husband tell this tale; his voice cracking and breaking.  How alone he felt.  How scared and frightened he must have been.  How sad I was for him.  For me.  For all of us.  And just how much more were we expected to take?

I woke up back in my room, and immediately asked for my girls.  They had been returned to our room, swaddled together in a little blanket, and were laying in a bassinet just like any other baby.  Hubs handed them to me and we proceeded to talk to them some more.  Over and over again we talked to them.  Told them we loved them.  Told them we missed them.  Told them we were so glad they had each other, but that we missed them terribly.  The tears would come, the tears would go and we would take turns holding them.  I would un-wrap them to get one more look at their amazing little bodies only to swaddle them back up for fear of them being cold or uncomfortable.  The nurses had taken great care to make sure the girls were touching each other; their arms were intertwined, their hands resting on the others chest.  I had just come out of surgery so I would fall asleep quickly and wake up wanting to hold them again.  I had Hubs roll their bassinet beside my bed so they would be close while I was sleeping.  Even though we never really talked about it, both of us knew we didn’t want to avoid the unavoidable.  There was a point coming where we would have to say goodbye and both of us knew it was quickly approaching.  They looked so peaceful wrapped up together in their blanket and I loved how they felt in the crook of my arm.  I loved watching Hubs hold them in the palms of his hands…listening to the heart-wrenching words of a daddy telling his little girls how sorry he was that he couldn’t protect them…that he couldn’t take care of them.  The nurses had been fantastic about telling us what would happen to them.  We’d already made the decision to have an autopsy performed on them and to have their bodies cremated.  We knew the girls would spend the night together in the hospital morgue and would be picked up by the funeral home the next day.  I was given hospital bracelets for them and had the option of seeing them again whenever I wanted before I was discharged.  Once we said goodbye though, that was it.  They would be gone.  There would be no seeing them again.  The only thing we had left at that point, the only thing we could do for them was to ensure they would be together.  Really together.  The staff was happy to comply.  When we called the nurse to come get the girls, I told them again that I loved them, that I would miss them forever and that I was again, so grateful they had each other.  I gently kissed each of them where I could and watched as the nurse gently placed them back in their bassinet and covered them with a towel to keep them hidden from wandering eyes in the hallway.  She returned shortly with a beautiful, heart-shaped box.  She wanted me to see how they would go to the morgue.  She also told me they were together, tucked inside the box and she, herself, would be taking them to the morgue right then.  It was all I could do to nod my agreement.  I was moved to the post-partum unit, all my wires and tubes removed.  I crawled into bed, Hubs in the chair beside me and passed out.  I woke up a few hours later, it was still dark.  I couldn’t hold back the tears and wanted my husband.  He was sleeping so hard my voice alone wasn’t enough to wake him.  I struggled to sit up in the bed and then struggled out of bed towards him.  Once I woke him he just sat there and held me as I cried.  There would be a lot of that in the coming days, weeks and months.  I woke up later that morning to my doctor, my actual doctor seated by my bed.  I was so far beyond able to control the tears at this point and even though I didn’t want to cry in front of her, I couldn’t help it.  She told me I would be ok.  That I was strong.  And she also told me that as much as she would like for everyone to arrive at her office or hospital and go home with healthy babies that’s not how it works.  That at the end of the day she’s there for the shit.  Her exact words.  She got me discharged with instructions to see her in a few weeks.  She also had strict instructions for Hubs that included calling her if I couldn’t sleep or couldn’t eat.  He was to keep a close eye on me.  My transport out of the hospital arrived shortly and my first encounter with the real world was close at hand.  You see, Hubs had gone to get the car so this young man and I were alone.  He was a very nice, polite young man.  I guess whatever unit I was in is also the unit where moms with complications go for monitoring.  He asked me as the doors opened and the morning light flooded my dry, stinging eyes when I was due.  It was the first of many painful conversations I would have.  I had to tell him that I had just lost twins.  He was horrified, embarrassed and ashamed.  I didn’t fault him though, how was he to have known?  These kind of things don’t happen.  I don’t remember my drive home.  I remember being ready to hug my little girl though.  To hear her sweet voice, to hear her laugh, to see LIFE.

Names are important to me.  As is their meaning.  It was an episode of House Hunters International that I heard the name Whitney and was like, “Hey, that’s a really great name.  I need to run that one by Hubs.”  When it came time to name the twins, I struggled with Whitney’s name.  I liked it, a lot, but the meaning of Whitney is “white island.”  It didn’t seem to fit to me.  She’s no island I kept telling Hubs, she’s an identical twin!  I really liked the name but refused to commit to it 100% because of the meaning.  Their names were only quasi-established when we learned they had died, but they were cemented right then and there.  There was NO WAY we could have known what we would see in the delivery room.  Megyn was red when she was born.  She got all the blood; too much actually, it caused her heart to fail.  Whitney was white.  She’d been starved of her nutrients and blood supply.  And while she was right there in my womb next to her twin sister, I’m sure she felt like an island, left all alone fighting a losing battle to stay alive.  No one knew of her struggle until it was too late.  The meaning of her name still gives me chills when I think about it.  In some small way I feel like God was there all along and this is my clue to that fact.  That even though their lives ended too soon, it was His plan.  It was in His plan all along and the little story of her name is His was of letting me know He was, and is, in control of the whole thing.

Social Un-Networking

I curse the day I joined facebook. Really. I do. For the longest time, I had absolutely no desire to have a fb account. In fact, I remember telling people that I flat-out didn’t have the time to be on fb. And I truly didn’t. I had a full-time job that occupied my mind and conversations even when I wasn’t there. I had a social calendar, volunteer work, a husband and honestly, I didn’t care to reconnect with a bunch of people I knew in high school. I didn’t like them then, why would I like them now? Turns out, people change and one shouldn’t base life-long opinions on the actions of a bunch of 16 year olds. But I digress…

Once I had A and started my life as a stay at home mom the idea of fb became rather appealing. And so I joined right up and haven’t looked back. It was a great way to keep up with my former colleagues without having to actually maintain a relationship with them, a great way to stalk the kids I hated in high school and a great way for distant relatives to keep up with the life and times of A. I was a responsible fb user. I didn’t over-do the posting. I tried very hard not to post things that would stir controversy, committed to never, ever, EVER, discussing potty training on fb and would occasionally treat my fb friends to some of my witty comments. I find myself hilarious, by the way. I also tried to keep the bragging to a minimum. Nothing drives me batty like the narcissistic facebook-er. I was a responsible fb user. It never occurred to me NOT to announce my pregnancy with the twins on fb. I mean, I was just one of a TON of my fb friends announcing their pregnancies. There was clearly something in the water. I’m not one to start talking about it at 6 weeks or anything, I mean, geez, I’m smarter than that. You should at least wait until you’re out of the 1st trimester…when things are much, much safer. So after our 3rd sono at 14.5 weeks, I posted the fb status that we were expecting twins. Very exciting stuff. Lots of comments, only a few that required the side-eye. Posting about losing them was MUCH harder than the original announcement. You can imagine this time around my feelings about announcing my pregnancy on fb. There’s about a 99% chance it won’t happen. At all.

After losing the twins I tried to maintain my fb life, but it just didn’t hold the same appeal. I recently (well, actually, not so recently) took the app off my phone and haven’t really missed it. I still access fb several times a day but I rarely post. I’m sure my fb friends are wondering what’s happened to me. Actually, I know for a fact they haven’t noticed. The whole point of fb is to talk about yourself, not care what’s going on in anyone else’s life. I have a Twitter account that I spend more time on these days. I have MUCH less traffic and it just feels safer. I feel like I can say whatever I want. My parents don’t follow me. Relatives don’t follow me. People that know my in-laws don’t follow me on Twitter. It’s just safer.

Part of the reason that fb lost its appeal after losing the twins was this: Things that had never bothered me before all of a sudden PISSED ME OFF. Part of it was hormones. Part of it was grief. Most of it was due to the fact that I had just been sucker-punched into realizing life is too damn short and way too valuable to be dealing with most of the crap on fb. And that most people are incredibly shallow. I mentioned that I was just one of a multitude of girls that were pg and most of them, like I was, are due this month. The same month the twins were due. It’s tough to see them progressing nicely through their pregnancies, getting to glide through without the fear that I now have to feel. There is one in particular that is so care-free I wonder if she even realizes there is any danger at all?! My current favorite (and by favorite I mean the one that makes me want to spit nails) is the one that is on baby #1, has NO IDEA what to expect, and feels the need to regularly update people on how excited she is to give birth naturally, at home. (And she of course feels this is the only and the right way to give birth.) She can’t wait to watch her body respond to the changes (she’s talking about labor) and to watch the relationship between herself and her husband deepen (again, during labor). 😮 I’m of the mindset that until you’ve experienced it PERSONALLY, you can’t talk about it. I don’t care how many videos you’ve watched, how many classes you’ve taken or how well you can breathe deeply. She has NO CLUE what to expect. As one that’s been there twice now, I hate to inform her there is no way you can focus on your body responding to the changes or think deeply about the relationship with your husband. You’re thinking about pain. And getting the pain to stop. And last time I checked labor wasn’t the time to be all lovey-dovey with your mate. That’s what got you into this situation.

Coming in a close second is the one that every week posts her progress from one of the pregnancy calendar websites. I can’t help but feel stabby every time I see it. For some reason I feel like a massive failure each time she posts it. I feel like she specifically thought of me and said, “Hey, let me post this so B can see just how great things are going for me and just how much she screwed up.” Now, realistically I know I don’t enter her thought process at all, but that’s all part of coping with a loss. There’s still a ton of guilt for losing the babies. No matter how many times people tell you it wasn’t your fault, I still feel embarrassed. I feel like I should hang my head. I feel kind of like Hester in The Scarlett Letter; like I’m now labeled somehow as a mother that couldn’t keep her babies alive. It just sucks to be reminded, daily, that there are women out there that will never understand the fear that comes with subsequent pregnancies. It sucks to feel that I am some how “lesser” than a woman who has never lost a child. It just plain sucks to feel kind of like an outcast. Like that’s the only thing that people can see when they look at you. It’s a big part of why I’m refusing to tell a lot of people about this new baby. My close friend knows, Hubs’ boss knows, some of our good friends in another city know (and only because they experienced a loss right after ours and are also currently expecting again) and our parents and sisters know. That’s it. And I plan to keep it that way for a very long time. I just can’t stomach the thought of publicly going through another loss. I can’t imagine the embarrassment I would feel if God-forbid something happens to this baby. I realize it seems a foolish thing to be worried about, but I’m just being honest. I still view losing the twins as partly my fault. My body failed me and it failed my babies. I can’t go through that again in front of a few hundred of my closest (ha!) friends.

I did a lot of reading when I was pregnant with the twins. A lot of reading about how people handled being parents of multiples and several times I came across a statement like, “God chooses only the most special people to parent multiples.” When I was pregnant, I was like, “Yeah, I can get behind that statement. That makes me feel better. If God thinks I can handle it, well, then, by golly I guess I can.” But if that’s true, what does that make those of us that have lost babies? Whether it be 1, 2, 3 or multiple babies? Where do we fall in the spectrum of specialness? Or have we been completely kicked out of the specialness spectrum into some abandoned “screw-you” wasteland?

The Twins – Part II

Baby A
Megyn Kaye
3/24/2011 10:14 PM
3.74 ounces (106 grams) 17 cm long

It was a Thursday. I had spent about an hour the day before in my OB’s office finding out that my girls had died and having a drug called Laminaria (painfully) inserted into my cervix in an attempt to soften my cervix in preparation for induction. I returned at 9am on Thursday to get a fresh dose of Laminaria. I was then to return home and go back to the hospital around 6pm to be induced, assuming I didn’t go into labor on my own. I packed a bag that morning before my 9am appointment and kissed my daughter goodbye for several days. I had no intention of returning home only to sit around and think about my dead babies inside of me. My doctor had no problem admitting me right away. This was my show now. I was making all the calls. I can tell you exactly what I wore that day. I’m thinking about tossing the t-shirt since I remember standing at the nurses station in L&D as I watched her write the word “demise” on my paperwork. I remember standing in the bathroom in the hospital room, having already changed into my gown, looking at myself in the mirror and telling my belly goodbye. I remember touching it, feeling how hard it was and imagining just how large it would have been had I been in L&D months later under different circumstances. The check-in process took several hours. They weren’t really ready for me since I wasn’t supposed to show up until later that evening and I of course, hadn’t pre-registered. Our nurse was fantastic. I can’t imagine having gone through this nightmare with anything less than the best nurses and doctors, and we didn’t have to. I had been written orders to get as much pain medication and narcotics that I wanted. Therefore, I was given an IV in preparation for the epidural and was also started on the labor inducing drug, Cytotec. Now, if you and Cytotec have never been properly introduced, it’s a teeny, tiny white pill that packs a mean punch. It’s also inserted into 1 of your 3 orifices. I wasn’t lucky enough to receive the oral dose and well, my cervix was already being “ripened” by the Laminaria, so I’ll let you guess where my Cytotec was placed. I told my nurse several times (the drug is re-administered every hour) I’m glad we got to know each other first. I also apologized profusely for my unshaven, ungroomed state. I hadn’t planned on having any action below my belt the day before and by the time I checked into the hospital the last thing on my mind was whether or not I had time to squeeze in a bikini wax. I checked-in around 10am and delivered Megyn around 10pm. A lot happened in those 12 hours. There was physical pain, there was emotional pain, there was some laughter, there was a lot of talking and there would be thousands of tears.

My body reacted to the Cytotec almost immediately. And when I say immediately, I mean contractions within 5 minutes. Enough to make me sit up in bed and put the nurse on notice for the epidural. I’m no hero and while I’m not afraid of pain, I knew this was one situation I had no intention of going through without the drugs. I didn’t want the narcotics, but I’m all for the epidural. I didn’t want to wait too long since the drugs were working so well. No one could tell me how long the delivery would take. There’s no pushing since the placenta isn’t removed from the uterine wall at all. There’s a serious concern of a placental rupture that could leave me bleeding to death. So the basic idea is to dilate your cervix and start contractions until the uterus expels the fetus on its own. It was during these several hours that the Hubs and I made the decision to get the hell outta’ here for a while. That’s what our trip to Antigua was all about. We talked about a lot.  I apologized a lot.  We cried together a lot and we both just kind of walked through the whole experience together. There’s no handbook for this kind of thing. You learn as you go. I’ve mentioned how wonderful the nurses were and right before our first nurses shift was over, she turned down the lights in our room and pulled a chair up beside my bed. She gave us the opportunity to ask as many and as graphic questions we could think of. I wanted to know what I would see. As a mother I worried about being disgusted by my own children. I asked if they would have facial features and how big they would be. She told us we could choose to hold them or not. That they would be happy to take photos for us and give us the disc and prints. That we would be allowed to spend as much or as little time with them as we chose. She let us know they could stay in our room and she also provided us with some literature about the whole awful process of losing your children and literature on grief. All that was helpful, but I’ll never forget what she said before she left the room. She told us that as she was driving to work that morning she just knew she was going to have a demise. That she felt it in her heart and that she just didn’t know it would be a couple as sweet as us. She wanted us to know that although she didn’t know us before 10am that morning, she had been praying for us all day. Her name was Vickie and while I may never see her again, but she will always hold a special place in my heart. For being so kind, and so generous with her prayers for a family she didn’t know going through an unimagineable situation.

The nurse that was with me when I delivered both girls was Sam. Actually, the only other person in the room when I delivered Megyn was Hubs, but Sam showed up shortly afterwards. The other thing that happens during a stillbirth labor is the decision about what to do with the babies once they are born. Laws vary by state but since the girls were born before 20 weeks, we had no legal obligation to bury them. The Chaplain and her staff are responsible for taking care of these kinds of details and we were continuously visited by numerous members of the staff. It got to be annoying. And very frustrating. They all had good intentions but I think each of them was waiting for one or both of us to break down so they could use whatever they learned in their grief counseling class at Chaplain College. We needed their information and we needed their help with what to do with their remains, but we didn’t want their counseling. Here were our options: 1) Deliver the girls, send them to pathology for testing and have them disposed of as medical waste. 2) Deliver the girls, send them to pathology for testing, have them cremated (for free) at a local funeral home and the funeral home would then store the remains until the hospital opened its Memorial Garden where their ashes would then be spread. 3) Deliver the girls, send them to pathology for testing, have them cremated (for free) and then pick them up from the funeral home to keep at home, bury, whatever we choose. Needless to say, we chose option 3. I’m not sending my children to the dumpster in a Bio-Hazard bag. And I wasn’t about to leave them on a dark shelf in a creepy funeral home for who knows how long until their ashes could be spread in some random garden. We chose a lovely heart-shaped urn that fits in the palm of my hand and they are lovingly kept on top of my chest of drawers in my bedroom. I touch them every now and then, tell them I miss them and kiss them occasionally. When I’m having an especially rough time, I pick them up and hold them close to my heart. The paperwork we had to sign to give the funeral home rights to cremate them is actually the only printed document that bears their full names. They were never alive outside the womb, so there were no birth or death certificates. And we asked over and over and over again to be absolutely positive they would be remain together. Their remains are together inside the plastic bag that is placed inside the urn…there’s no separation at all.

I didn’t experience pain with my first childbirth. I was heavily drugged and terrified at that point of the pain so I opted for the epidural as soon as they started the Pitocin drip. The twins were a different experience. The epidural didn’t take particularly well on my right side. I could feel a decent amount of pressure and there was a sharp, stabbing pain down the front, right-hand side of my pubic bone. I didn’t complain much about the lack of epidural on my right side. I wanted to feel the pain. I needed to feel the pain.  I needed to do my part as their mother and I was glad to be given the opportunity to labor and deliver them.  I was laying on my right side breathing through the stabbing pain when my water broke. There was a pop, then a warm gush. No sooner had a I told the Hubs “my water just broke” Megyn was born. “She’s out”, I said. Almost sadly. It was real now. There was no going back. I felt her slide right out. And there she lay on the hospital bed, tucked behind me and in the crook of my knees. I was covered and I stayed that way until Sam came into the room. She moved the blanket back to confirm that I had, indeed, just had a baby and then called for help. Hubs started to stand up to take a peek and I stopped him. Told him to sit down. Not quite sure what I was thinking at the time, but I was concerned for him. I wasn’t sure if he would lose it at the sight of her or if I was worried he would be disgusted by her. I still don’t know.

“Awww, she’s so cute!” announced Sam.

“Her name is Megyn.” I said.

“Hi Megyn!” Sam responded.

They picked her up, cut her umbilical cord and proceeded to treat her like any other baby. Sam introduced her as Megyn as other nurses entered the room. I think it was about this time Hubs stood up to go see her while they were cleaning her up. I remember hearing him cry as he snapped pictures of her. It was about the time I saw Sam walking across the room with Megyn in a blanket that I had the strangest sensation in the world. There was JOY.  And even a little happiness.  I had just given birth.  I was a mother.  And I was about to see and hold my baby for the first time. She laid Megyn in my hands and I got to look down upon one of the most precious sights I will ever see. You’re not supposed to know what babies look like at 19 weeks, but I do. I know just how perfectly formed they are. That they have 10 fingers and 10 toes. They have noses (teeny little nostrils), and ears, and lips, and eyes (Megyn’s were closed) and even a tiny bit of hair. I know that my girls would have looked like their daddy. They had his eyebrows and the bridge of his nose. I know they would have been tall and long-limbed. I told her over and over again how beautiful she was. How precious she was and how much we loved her and wanted her. I told her that I was so very glad to have been able to meet her and hold her even for just a few moments. I told her about her house, about her dogs and about her big sister. I told her about her grandparents and her aunts. I told her that we were waiting to meet her twin sister. I told her just how very sorry I was that all this had happened and that I was so sad that her life ended before it had begun. I held her, I rocked her. I watched as her daddy held her and talked to her. I uncovered her to look at her, touched her tiny feet and hands and covered her up again in case she was cold. I touched her head and I kissed her. And I loved her immensely. And I immediately missed her. And I immediately missed everything that would have been her life. We couldn’t know it at the time, but it would be several hours later that her sister would arrive. In the early hours of the next day, actually. We had a lot of time with Megyn. She stayed in our room, she was measured and weighed and placed in the plastic bassinet right next to my bed. I could look at her, talk to her and hold her anytime I wanted. It was a few of the most precious hours of my life that I never wish to forget. One of the things that stings the most about Megyn is that her daddy picked her name and she bears the same middle name as me. She was her daddy’s girl from the very beginning and it still breaks my heart that we lost a child that he named. And so there we stayed, a new family on the brink of being separated forever, staring a life we never imagined or wanted in the face, stuck in a place between euphoria and grief while we awaited the arrival of our Baby B…

Is it a big deal?

Lately, I’ve caught myself thinking maybe I’m making too big a deal about losing the twins. I feel like maybe I’m holding onto the experience when I need to start letting go. I get especially frustrated on days when my emotions take over and I can’t control my thoughts. It just feels like the whole ordeal takes up so much space in my brain.

Then I remember two children died. And those children were my daughters. They were my identical twin daughters. And they were 2 of my husbands girls. And they were my daughters sisters. And they weren’t removed from my body during a 45 minute medical procedure, but delivered from my body after laboring with them for hours. I saw them, held them, rocked them, touched them, talked to them and kissed them. I knew their faces, I knew their bodies. I am their mother and they are my children. And we’ve been separated by circumstances out of our control.

It is a big deal. A very big deal. And it will always hold a very big place in my heart and in my mind.