Mom to Owen Innes Tolerba
Born still March 6, 2012


Payton Innes Tolerba
Born March 6, 2012 and died March 9, 2012

San Jose, California

My pregnancy with my twins began in September 2011. We found out we were having twins. I was so excited because I am a twin myself. However, I had no idea how completed twin pregnancies could be. We found out they were “monoamniotic-monochorionic” or single placenta, single amniotic sac. This meant that both twins were in one sac and their umbilical cords were at a high risk of becoming entangled. Only 1% of all identical twins are mono-mono twins. This means the embryo split later than with most identical twins (around day 6-8). This made me nervous as I had read only50-60% of mono-mono twins survive. However, I decided to continue thinking it would be o.k.

At about 22 weeks of pregnancy, on January 29, 2012 I had gone into Labor and Delivery to get checked for a little bleeding. It was determined to be o.k., however, one of the twins (Owen)was discovered to have Fetal Hydrops, which is swelling and fluid buildup.  Despite many sonograms, echocardiograms, and visits with experts, the cause could not be found.  Although, their guess is that it was the lymphatic system that had complications. This meant that Owen would not survive outside the womb.  Because of the shared amniotic sac and placenta, this also meant that his brother (Payton) was dependent on his continued survival in order to have a chance at life. They shared a placenta and many blood vessels that connected them, so anything that affected Owen would most likely affect Payton. All of this left us with grief for Owen and anxiety that Payton’s life depended on Owen surviving to a “viable” age for delivery.

I checked into the hospital at 26 weeks for monitoring of the boys’ heartbeats due to the mono-mono twin situation. The plan was that if there were any sign of trouble through fetal heart monitoring or the cords becoming knotted, I would have an emergency c-section in an attempt to save Payton.  (We were hoping that Owen would be born alive so we could say goodbye, even though he would not survive.) Any sign of decelerations would mean immediate c-section. Unfortunately, after one week of monitoring, that situation came. The night before, I was monitored from midnight to 3 a.m., the monitoring showed Payton had a normal but elevated heart rate for a short period.  Because of this, I asked to be monitored earlier than usual the next morning.  During Tuesday morning’s (March 6, 2012) monitoring, Owen’s distress was detected and the doctor immediately ordered an emergency c-section.  I called my husband as I was wheeled away. I checked my phone later and that was at 8:34 a.m. I had Owen and Payton at 8:52a.m. Later, the doctors said it was the worst case of cord-entanglement they had ever seen. Baby Owen’s heart just couldn’t handle it anymore.

Though there were two heartbeats before the c-section, sadly, Owen, who was born first, did not have a heartbeat at birth.  Though we knew and expected this, it was still heart wrenching to know he passed, and somewhat of a shock. Pure grief had set in.  He spent the day and night with us, but we had to let him go to have an autopsy performed to help his brother.

That being said, Payton immediately went into the NICU. I wasn’t able to see him until 2 a.m. the next day, so I never met him on his birthday. This makes me sad every time I think of that, but it was because I was on major drugs and the nurses wouldn’t let me go because I couldn’t stand up. And, honestly, I wanted to stay with Owen because I thought Payton was going to be o.k. 

But on Day 4 (March 9, 2012) of Payton’s life, Payton suffered substantial brain bleeding from all the blood products he had to be given from his liver and kidneys failing from the toxins that had passed through to Payton when Owen was dying in my womb. The brain bleeds made it so he would not survive. We decided he had been strong so long and we were able, with the doctor’s advice and care, to let go of him and keep him with us when he passed.  We stayed by his NICU crib and after the doctors and nurses had taken him off all the wires and respiratory, we held him and brought him to a private room where we could be by him as he passed peacefully.

The only comfort we have is that they are now together as they always had been in the same amniotic sac. We cremated them together and had their footprints made in a ceramic piece (a very nice lady came to the hospital to do this). Everything they did was together. My most treasured memories are being able to be by my babies for one whole night each. I thank God for giving us the little while we had with each of them. We love and miss them every second of the day.

You can contact Jessica at

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  1. Holly Harrison says:

    I hope your story is a support for other mommies that need it. Owen and Payton are such precious babies, and I know how much you love them.

  2. Oh Jessica, my heart goes out to you. I’m so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story here, I know that it’ll help other mom’s who are on the same difficult journey. Wishing you Peace and healing. XO

  3. Jessica, losing your little loves has been life altering. I know its a tough road ahead for you. Thank you for supporting others through sharing your important story.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story Jessica. I lost twin girls to cord entanglement last month and have been struggling to survive it. Worse still I couldn’t find any other cases of cord entanglement. I am truly sorry for your loss and would like to know how you have been coping. Do you have other children? They were my first.

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