Mom to triplets
Evie, born and died December 14, 2009,
Jack, stillborn December 22, 2009,
Will, born January 1, 2010 and died January 14, 2010
Currently Tampa, Florida (military family)
Time to Tell Their Story (written February 3, 2012)
I have never written about the details of losing Evie, Jack, & Will. It’s been over two years now since we lost the pregnancy and tonight is the first night that I’ve actually felt like I could write about how they were born. I don’t know how this is going to go, but I feel ready to give it a try. I am going to ask for patience, please, as I search for the words to tell this story.
It started the night of December 2nd, 2009. It was a Wednesday.
Hubby had gone to Chicago that morning to an awards ceremony where he had won a major award. I was 20 weeks pregnant, by myself, and feeling sicker than a dog. But that wasn’t anything new, the sicker than a dog part, I mean. The entire pregnancy was difficult and around 11 weeks I pretty much had stopped being able to walk farther than the bathroom to the couch. Plus I was measuring over 38 weeks pregnant by this point. I was told this was normal in a triplet pregnancy, that I was fine, and my cervix was long and tight – over 7cm long – at my 19 week checkup, the week before.
I went to bed early that night, after spending the evening debating if I should drive myself to the L&D in Columbia, a 45 minute drive at least. I was due for a shot in the morning, anyways, and figured I could talk them into giving me an ultrasound to allay my fears, so I waited until morning. During the night, I felt E completely flip in a weird way. I knew it was her because she was the lowest baby down, closest to my cervix. I thought my girl parts were going to rip open with that move. But the pain subsided and I tried to sleep, pretty unsuccessfully.
The next morning I drove myself to the OB for my shot and per my request, they gave me my much desired ultrasound. At 17 weeks we had already had the typical measure everything, look for birth defects, detailed ultrasound that had taken over 3 hours to do for each baby. Everything had come back perfect. So I was a bit alarmed when the same ultrasound lady that I had for each checkup said she needed to call the doctor. Of course I pressed for more details but she refused, ramping up my blood pressure.
My OB came in and started the entire ultrasound over, checking each baby. He called for my nurses (I had two at the time who handled my case) to come in and be with me because he had some bad news. J, our littlest baby, was in distress. So was his larger identical twin, W. Apparently over the previous 3 weeks, J had not gained any weight and W was putting it on in mass. Also the amniotic fluid in W’s sac was measurable by the bucketful. Meaning we had something called Twin/Twin Transfusion. And the pregnancy was in deep, deep trouble.
At that point, they checked the length of my cervix and I was funneling terribly, meaning my cervix was opening from the inside, and E’s fluid and sac were on the verge of pushing it the rest of the way open. My entire cervical length was 1 cm…barely closed.
The doc went on to tell me that J was most likely severely brain damaged and from what they could tell, W’s heart was in big trouble. If you want details of what Twin/Twin Transfusion is, please Google it. It’s too much for me to talk about on here.
Of course by this time I was sobbing. The nurses were holding me. And the doctor was telling me he was admitting me to the L&D immediately, with the hope of getting me a cerclage that night.
I spent the rest of the afternoon being denied liquids by the L&D in prep for my cerclage, trying to call my parents in Turkey, and trying to get a hold of Hubby.
I’m not sure how it all went down but thanks to my friend Em, I was able to talk to everyone I needed to and she kept me calm. I was full on contracting and peeing every 5 minutes at this point, still not drinking anything, and no IV for fluids. The dehydration was causing my contractions and I knew that if something didn’t change immediately, I was going to have these babies in hours. I could feel the pressure of E’s sac and the weight of the pregnancy pushing my pelvis apart. And the THREE heart monitors they put on my belly only made the babies dance around inside of me harder, and the urge to push stronger.
I begged the on call student doctor to help me stop labor but because I was 20 weeks, he said he couldn’t do anything to help me. By this time I had been without anything to drink for over 8 hours. I begged for an IV and finally got one.
Sometime around 7pm or so, my neighbors from on base arrived to keep me company until my hubby got there – he had literally jumped on the next flight available out of Chicago.
My doctor said he had to put off my cerclage until the next morning, but in the meantime he would do an amniotic fluid reduction on W’s sac to try to relieve the pressure on my cervix. It was terrifying, without anesthesia, but he was able to remove more than a liter of fluid before W got curious and tried to grab the needle.
Hubby arrived sometime around 10 pm, my neighbors left, and I was given an Ambien to help me sleep. At about 4 in the am I felt a desperate urge to pee. Hubby got me a bed pan, and in the middle of peeing, my water broke. I knew what it was as soon as it happened. The nurses checked and sure enough, I was right. They did an ultrasound and it was only E’s sac that had popped. I was not calm, but through the tears I asked what was going to happen. I was told that I was probably going to deliver in the next few hours and offered was Pitosin to speed everything up.
Hubby and I had decided earlier that evening that come hell or high water, we were not surrendering ever with this pregnancy. We were going to do whatever we could do to save each baby – we were a family and we would either all make it out of this or none of us would.
So of course we said no to the Pitosin.
With the bursting of E’s water, my contractions subsided. At around 7, my other OB doc was making his rounds, heard what happened and asked me what I wanted to do, since my labor was not progressing. I told him I would stand on my head for the next four months if it would keep my babies inside me. He decided at that point to put me on medication to stop my labor – magnesium, via IV, and hardcore antibiotics. He checked and my cervix was only dilated about 1 cm. We discussed what might happen and he told me that this had happened to another lady, but she had stabilized and carried the pregnancy until 28 weeks, long enough for her child to make it with a long stay in NICU. He said that E was perfectly fine and showed me her on the ultrasound to make me feel better. He said she might be a little crusty on the top of her head when she was born because her sac had a leak, but she still had fluid all around her, and since amniotic fluid was made at least partially from baby pee, she would keep replenishing her supply. As long as I did not catch an infection or go into labor, I could theoretically stay pregnant for weeks. But if I caught an infection, I would lose the pregnancy and probably my uterus as well. Was I willing to take that risk? Hell to the yes. Then I could stay and he would do everything he could to help me keep my babies.
I was put on strict bed rest, and monitored for the next few days.
Nothing changed in my status and all the babies were stable so the following Monday, Dec. 7th, I was moved out of L&D and into the wing of the hospital for women who could deliver at any time but who were way too early in their pregnancy.
That area was hell. The nurses were mean. They wouldn’t give me toilet paper when I peed. They didn’t want to change my chuck (a pad very similar the puppy pads you use to potty train your dogs) even though I was constantly losing amniotic fluid. I had to beg for washcloths and warm water to use for sponge bathing. They were constantly screwing up my food, bringing me gluten contaminated stuff like fried chicken or gravy on my mashed potatoes. Some days they completely forgot to feed me and I would tell them I needed food, but they wouldn’t listen. It was awful.
On top of that, I was laying flat on my back the entire time. I would contract if I barely moved. I could only reach whatever was only an arm’s length away. I couldn’t sit up or anything. Getting emotional would send me into labor. I couldn’t get mad at the nurses without fearing I would lose my babies. I tried to stay calm. But I was worried out of my mind.
Hubby tried to spend as much time as he could with me. He would spend the nights on weekends, visit me for hours after work, bring me food, wipe my butt for me. My mother- and father-in-law were awesome, too. All three of them kept me in as good spirits as they could. My MIL would take bedpan duty whenever she was around and would sleep in the hospital with me, too. I think the two of them were there every weekend and sometimes in the middle of the week, driving back and forth to Alabama to take care of me. My parents were scheduled to fly back on the 15th of Dec. and I was just trying to hold on with the nursing staff until my mom came and could take care of me.
I didn’t make it that long. Monday, December 14th, I woke up and I knew I was giving birth. I watched the contraction monitor but nothing was showing up. But I knew. E was low…too low. I could feel her slowly over the course of the next few hours kicking the wrong side of my bladder, the side she shouldn’t be able to reach. But I kept hoping I was wrong. Eventually, I knew I had to call for the L&D doctor, who ended up being one of my favorite student doctors. He came in and gave me a finger exam and could tell that E’s head was in the birth canal.
And, that I had a massive, massive yeast infection due to the antibiotics and the lack of my chucks being changed.
He had me moved up to L&D, and I explained the whole situation to him, what had been happening in the pre-partum department. I asked him if I was going to lose my boys as well. He said, through the tears in his eyes, that I probably was. Such a sweet man. He called my husband, and Hubby made it to the hospital in record time.
Of course my labor stopped, or uterine irritation, rather, as I was told I never truly went into labor for E. I begged them to leave her alone, not to make me give birth to her, to push her back inside.
Apparently, once your baby is in the birth canal, that’s it. There’s no going back.
I pushed without the aid of labor, and E was born late afternoon, December 14th, just shy of 22 weeks of pregnancy and weighing 15 oz. Small, but perfect. Beautiful, in fact. Her eyes never opened, but she was beautiful. No bruises. Creamy skin. Flat, wide little nose. Rosebud lips. Perfect little fingers with tiny nails. She looked the spitting image of her Lola, but white, not brown.
She lived for a few minutes in my arms. It hurt to see her struggle to breathe but mostly she was peaceful. The nurses let us keep her for a few hours.
We didn’t have a camera, so we borrowed the hospital’s and the photos of her are safely tucked into her box, along with the little shirt the nurses dressed her in, the booties, the hat, the blanket. Her footprint and hand print cards are there, too. God, she was so tiny.
Whatever you could call what I had, stopped, and the boys were both fine so again, I refused Pitosin, the nurses took care of me, and we were left in peace.
Hubby played Frank Sinatra’s “Fly me to the Moon” song and danced with tiny E around the hospital suite. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was dancing with her now because he would never be able to dance with her at her wedding.
Giving her back to the nurses at the end of our time with her was one of the hardest and most emptying events of my life.
The OB doctors came to see me the next morning.
By this point I was told my case was no longer textbook. In fact, going for 11 days between water breaking and delivery was anything but textbook. But the fact that I had delivered one triplet but not the others was nearly unheard of. Again, the game plan stayed the same – make it as far as we possibly could, hopefully to 24 weeks, and then 28, and then…
The one major change was that because of the treatment I had received from the nurses in the pre-partum department, I would be staying in L&D. Praise God, because as much as the nurses in the other department were from hell, the L&D nurses were angels. Seriously. So gentle, loving, kind, compassionate, caring, etc. They took care of me. Washed my hair. Changed my sheets. Spent as much time as they could chatting to me. Brought me books to read. Visited me even when I wasn’t their patient. Fed me. Brought me new food when the cafeteria screwed up and sent me gluten stuff. The ones that were believers prayed over me. They encouraged me and for the first time I began to believe that maybe I could leave the hospital with my boys.
And on the night of the 15th, my parents arrived. I think it was the first time I breathed a tiny sigh of relief.
I continued for the next week on magnesium, antibiotics, and yeast infection cream, and I had my 3rd and 4th and 5th amniotic fluid reductions on W’s sac, etc. My in-laws, parents and hubby decorated my suite for Christmas. Everyone was impressed with my family and constantly commented on how blessed I was to have such an awesome support group. Things were looking up.
Then, at around 7pm on the 21st, another Monday, everything unraveled. J was jumping around like mad inside of me as I was eating g-free pizza. I thought that might be it and told him sternly to knock it off.
The next moment, a flood of water came pouring out between my legs and I lost it. Something inside of me broke, mentally and emotional, and came tearing out of me. I screamed and I screamed and I screamed. I couldn’t stop screaming that my babies were dead, that I had lost my boys.
I’m not sure what happened, but the doctors came flying in with the nurses, brought an ultrasound machine, and started checking me out. No one needed to argue that my water had broken. I knew it, and they knew it. And I couldn’t stop screaming. At one point my favorite student doc grabbed my hand and told me that I had to calm down, that my babies weren’t dead, and they needed to figure out what was going on, but that I had to be still. Somehow I got quiet.
(Hubby later told me that he had never heard someone scream like that, not even in the aftermath of car bombings. He has done three combat tours, and that moment that I started screaming like a wild animal is what gives him nightmares, not what he saw or experienced in the field.)
The doctors and nurses checked everything and started whispering to Hubby and everyone else. I knew something was horribly wrong. I kept asking but no one would look at me or tell me what was happening. I threatened to start screaming bloody murder again and that’s when my favorite student doc said that W was fine and his sac was still completely intact, but J’s heartbeat had dropped to about 70-80 beats a minute. I asked what that meant, if it meant he was dying. Again, no one would look at me or answer me. But I didn’t need them to. I knew what their lack of communication meant. Eventually, I was told that in the process of J’s water breaking, his cord had been pinched and his blood supply was severely limited.
My main OB doc was called in and he ordered me put on oxygen and put in Trandellenburg, my bed dropped at the head, so that I was in a slightly upside down position, to see if we could relieve the pressure on J’s cord. I think he did it more for me, so that I would know we had done everything we could to save J, even things that were a long shot in the best of circumstances.
I was given my nightly Ambien, and thankfully my main nurse that night had been a trauma/ER nurse. She had seen everything and was very good and helping me stay calm, talking to me calmly as I was checked hourly by the doctors and nurses.
All I remember is praying for J to be born quickly. I didn’t have anything left to fight with, any will left to drag his death out. I knew he had to be born quickly in order not to continue suffering. He was going to die. I just didn’t want it to take hours.
But hours are what it took for me to start having contractions. Around 1 am on the 22nd, I knew he was going to be born. I was groggy from the Ambien, from the awful dreams it made me have. I remember thinking I was on a roller coaster ride and throwing my hands up in the air and squealing, “Throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care!” I didn’t know where I was, but I came out of my craziness enough to know that J was coming fast.
I was checked and finally my cervix was dilated enough. The problem was J was frank breach – feet first. He was tiny, but still, his head could get caught.
Apparently at that point, Hubby had the nurses slip me something so that I wouldn’t know what was going on. I guess he was afraid I would start screaming again. For the rest of the birth I was living a nightmare. I didn’t know where I was. I thought I was in the Amazon, with the pygmies from The Mummy II chasing me. Then they were throwing their spears at me, throwing them into my cervix. I don’t know if I was screaming or thrashing in reality, but I was in my head. Somehow I still knew I was giving birth and at one point, when I thought I had hundreds of spears stabbing my vagina, I screamed out, “YOU’RE KILLING MY BABY!!!!!” at the top of my voice.
Then I passed out.
The next morning I vaguely remember my two main OB doctors visiting me. I still didn’t know where I was.
I was in and out of consciousness that whole day. When I was finally awake enough to understand, I was told that J had been born, that in the middle of being born he had turned sideways in the birth canal, and that Dr. B had actually had to put her hands inside of me to turn him the right way and pull him out. And that I had screamed and cussed and spat at her the whole time, accused her of killing my baby, and that I had had to be held down by several nurses, my mother, and my husband during the process.
And the whole thing had made Dr. B. weep.
But W was still ok. And I was only a week away from making it to 24 weeks.
I felt awful for what I did and said to Dr. B. She was a tiny little thing who was training to be an OB doc, so sweet and nothing but kind to me before and after. I made sure to apologize profusely to her for my behavior. The last thing I wanted was her to swear off the OB ward because of me. Of course she understood and was so kind to me, but I still feel bad for how I treated her. None of this was her fault and she felt terrible – everyone in L&D did – for what was happening to me. But blaming her, even if I was drugged and messed up in the head, was not a nice thing to do.
Again, the plan was to make to 24 weeks and after Christmas I did. In fact, I made it to 24 weeks, 2 days, before I knew again that I was giving birth.
This time, because W had reached viability, the game plan was different.
I woke up New Year’s Day, 2010, after dreaming my pelvis was being split apart. This was not wholly uncommon, but it left me wondering. Still, I said something to my nurse quietly, not wanting to alarm anyone or wake up my mom. And hey, if I was dilated, my water would probably have broken and I would be a screaming mess once more. She agreed and brought me breakfast.
Shortly after eating, I felt something wet and warm, but no gush, between my legs. I felt really lightheaded, too, like I was going to pass out. My mom checked and I was bleeding. Profusely. I stayed calm, not knowing what this meant. I had never bled before. The doc on call came into check me and I was fully dilated, hemorrhaging, and that she could feel W’s feet in the birth canal, but his sac was intact. I needed an emergency c-section or we were both going to die.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, went into this smooth orderly rush. I was instructed to remove my jewelry, the anesthesiologist had me sign consent forms, and literally two minutes after hearing I was getting a c-section, I was in the OR, getting a spinal block, and having my hands strapped to the board like being on a cross. Three minutes later, W was born, and whisked out of the OR into the NICU. My perfect little boy with a full head of hair.
He never cried.
In a way I was so relieved not to be pregnant any more. No more threats of water breaking. God had answered my prayers and I had hemorrhaged instead. Weird answer to prayer, but I don’t think I could have handled W’s water breaking and survived.
He lived for 13 days in the NICU. The hardest days of my life. Every day he almost died, lurching from crisis to crisis, all the while we did everything we could to help him make it. And then early one morning we got the call that he was really doing poorly, that we should drop everything and come. We spent that last day with him, singing to him, trying to let him know we were there with him and loved him and that we wanted him more than anything else in the whole world. My mind was blank. I couldn’t think of any stories to tell him or any songs to sing him except one. I told my little boy that as much as I wanted him with me, if Jesus, who was there with him, holding him because I could not, told him to go with him to Heaven, he needed to be a good little boy and obey Jesus. Even if he knew it would make me sad and that I would miss him. I told him it was ok to fly with Jesus…and truly live.
Shortly after that W started convulsing and having seizures. I wish I could say that I stayed with him the whole time. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I couldn’t see him like that, swollen and unrecognizable, his mouth curling up in cries that were never heard because of the tubes. I couldn’t watch him die. And I will never forgive myself for leaving him.
Thankfully, Mom and Hubby were with him the rest of the time and the next morning when the doctor said it was time to take him off of life support, once W was disconnected from the tubes and machines, Hubby ran back to our room with W in his arms and handed him to me. At that moment, W raised his right arm, as if in farewell, and he quietly and gently left us.
And that’s when it hit me. The fight was over. There was no one left standing. They were all gone.
Sometimes I wonder how I survive every day without those three beautiful little souls here with me. All I know is that we are stronger than we can imagine, because we do not stand alone. That God carries us through these losses, even if we don’t recognize that it’s his hand that stabilizes us when the rest of the world is crumbling all around. The loss of Evie and Jack and Will will always hurt. The trauma of their births have left scars deeply etched on my heart. Sometimes the pain is soft and gentle. Sometimes it robs me of air to breathe. Sometimes it knocks me flat on my face. There is nothing good in their deaths as such. But the wonderful thing is that God can use their lives for good. He has immeasurably blessed me through the joy of knowing them and, yes, even the pain and suffering of losing them. And even more wonderfully, He will reunite me with them one day. My pain in this life, is temporary. Some days, that promise and truth is the only thing that gets me through.
I hope and pray that their lives will continue to leave a mark on the world for good, that they won’t be forgotten. That they will leave a lasting legacy and their lives and the hope that they represent will continue to be a blessing, even to those who never had the chance to meet them.
Kate blogs at http://www.chaiandmandazi.com.