IMG_1096Vanessa

Mom of Max Michael and Leo William

Born and died July 16, 2013

Boston, Massachusetts

My husband and I found each other when we were both in our late 30’s. We were ready to be married and we were ready to be parents. In the next 14 months (after our honeymoon) when we weren’t yet pregnant, our excitement turned to surprise and then soon to worry. I changed my diet (I’m a registered dietitian so of course this would help, right?) to follow the “fertility diet plan”, reduced my work hours from full to part time, started acupuncture, reduced my caffeine, reduced my physical activity to keep my heart rate under 110… you name it and I did it. My husband too, though all of his tests were fine, started reading about increasing his testosterone with cold showers, more cholesterol from food, etc. Basically, we felt like we had nothing to lose and if there were a chance it could help, why not?

I have Endometriosis and the fertility doctors say that this was the most likely cause for my infertility. We tried a few IUI’s with Clomid that failed and then after only one IVF cycle, we were over the moon to learn we were pregnant. What a miracle! We got pregnant on our first IVF cycle! I was so happy for so many reasons but also because the IVF process for me was stressful and painful and I swore I would never do it again. Right away in those first few days, our nurse suspected twins since my HCG numbers were so high. Sure enough, on the 7 week ultrasound, I saw it with my own eyes. There were two beautiful heartbeats that looked like flickering stars to me. Each baby was in their own sac, so they were fraternal twins. My fertility doctor reassured me that day that I was at no higher risk for any medical issues than any other mother of twins at this point and we were discharged to our OB.

Next came the first trimester fatigue, the nausea and the outgrowing of all of my clothes pretty fast. This took some adjusting to, but I would still say when people asked, that I was grateful to be pregnant. I bought as many books on multiples as I could find since I learned right away that many twins came earlier than the due date. I read books on how to have healthy twins that don’t need a NICU stay, how to eat and gain enough, how to breastfeed twins and books for my husband on fathering twins. I joined La Leche League and the Moms of Multiples group in my area. I made a giant checklist inspired by The Bump’s list for my husband and I to be sure we had everything ready by the 3rd trimester. I started a pregnancy journal as a way to enjoy each and every step of being pregnant. My hope was that someday I could pass the book on to my children so they could know how much they were loved and cherished, as well as to document what it was like for my husband and I to go through the pregnancy journey together. Many of the multiples books recommended that I see a high risk doctor to follow me for this pregnancy and I do regret not doing that, as I think it could have prevented this. I stayed with my OB after reassurance from her that as long as I didn’t have any complications, then I wasn’t considered high risk which is the standard of care for uncomplicated twin pregnancies in this area.

The second trimester came and my beautiful belly and twins grew by the day. We often thought we could tell that I was bigger from the start of the day to the end! At my 19-week fetal measurement ultrasound, every inch of both the babies as well as my placenta and cervix were healthy with no concerns about anything from the high risk doctor who read the scan. We learned that day that we were having 2 boys. At my 20-week OB appointment, I talked to her about reflux, constipation, and the feeling that one of the boys would move up under my ribs and make it hard to breathe. She reassured me that because I was measuring as big as someone in their 3rd trimester, that all of these side effects were normal and she gave me ideas on managing them. She had an ultrasound machine in her office and she always took a quick peek at them to see that they were healthy and growing, which they were.

In hindsight, I can tell you now that I had been having contractions from weeks 19-20, but I didn’t realize what they were. They happened once or twice a day when I was walking or on a long car ride or relaxing in bed for the night. It was that same feeling like one of the babies was up in my ribs and it was hard to breathe. What also happened with that feeling, is that my stomach actually got tight if you felt it, but I didn’t realize it at the time as anything other than a big pregnant belly growing. Also, this feeling always went away, so I didn’t think any more about it. I had menstrual-like cramps off and on, but nothing notable then. I also thought that I could have passed my mucous plug, then just reassured myself that I was worrying for no reason. I had just had 2 ultrasounds during those weeks and we were all healthy.

On the morning of Sunday, July 14th, my husband and I had sex and when I went to the bathroom, there was a spot of bright red blood. I include the sex piece as I think it was significant despite my doctors reassuring me otherwise (and in case it’s happened to anyone else). They said if sex caused labor, then the human race wouldn’t exist. I had read a sentence in one of my twins books about sex causing contractions from the orgasm or the semen due to prostaglandins. So honestly, I was trying to limit it until after we got past the first trimester. We had sex maybe 3 times the whole pregnancy. Anyway, since it was a Sunday, I paged the OB on call about the blood and he reassured me that this was normal after sex because semen has prostaglandins and that I might even feel cramps. [He told me] to take Tylenol and call my doctor tomorrow if the bleeding continued. That day we took our “parenting multiples class” which was so much fun– how to change a diaper, swaddle, all the tips and tricks from another mom of twins. It was such a cool feeling to be in a class of 10 other parents expecting multiples, like we had belonged to a very special club. I did feel crampy that day; they felt like period cramps but those had come and gone through my whole pregnancy so I didn’t think much more about it. There wasn’t anymore bleeding and it seemed to get lighter. In the past week, I had just started to feel them kick and so was reassured with each kick that everything would be fine.

The next afternoon on Monday, July 15th, I had another spot of bright red blood. When I called my OB this time, she told me to go into the hospital to be monitored. I learned from the monitor that I was having contractions that were 3 minutes apart. To me, they felt like the menstrual cramps I had been having or what I remembered. Also, I learned that the feeling like one of the babies was in my rib was also a contraction. When the nurse touched my stomach and brought my attention to the tightening that went along with each contraction, I told her that this feeling had been happening for a couple weeks and I just thought it was a normal pregnancy feeling. They did an ultrasound and saw that both boys were ok with healthy heartbeats.

Next was to figure out if my cervix was dilated on exam. The doctor that did the exam wasn’t sure and wanted to be positive, so they sent me to the maternal fetal medicine specialists for an ultrasound. I heard and saw their beautiful flickering heartbeats again. I learned from the high risk doctor that I was 2 cm dilated and since my contractions were coming on so strong, that this would cause me to continue to dilate and there was nothing they could do since the boys were only 21 weeks.  I asked her what that meant and she said that I would need to deliver the boys and they likely would not survive or live for only a few minutes. Shock, disbelief, anger, fear, anguish, grief, sadness, all repeated themselves over and over in me as I sat on the exam table feeling my boys kick inside my belly.

I had told my husband a few hours earlier that I thought it was ok that he went to work (at the time it seemed like an ok idea). So I had to send him the unthinkable message to come to the hospital as soon as he could and that we were losing our boys. By midnight, I was 9.5cm dilated. By 2 a.m., my water broke and by 5:30 a.m., I delivered Max Michael at 1.02 pounds and 11 inches, stillborn. At 6:04 a.m, I delivered Leo William at 1.22 pounds and 11 inches and he lived for two unforgettable hours. We held them both, loved them, sang them happy birthday and said good-bye. We had them cremated and laid their remains to rest in the ocean near our home.

It’s a month ago today [at time of writing] that I went into the hospital with bleeding. I’ve had my follow up appointments with my OB and a high risk doctor and there are no explanations. I’ve heard many times that I was at higher risk of everything with a multiple pregnancy, which makes me angry. Angry that I didn’t insist on getting a specialist OB and that my OB didn’t give me any education on signs of preterm labor since I was at higher risk. I got more education on listeria, mercury and Down Syndrome. If I would have known the signs, maybe there could have been something done sooner? It was striking to me as a healthcare provider that I never received so much as a handout on something I was at such a risk for and yet, after they died, the social worker offered me many, many handouts on infant loss with several of those resources being for parents of multiples. I’m angry to learn that out of my OB’s 28 years in practice, she’s had only 4 patients have a 2nd trimester twin loss. All unexplained, and the only thing we have in common is that we all got pregnant with IVF.

I have good days, neutral days and very, very bad days with grieving this loss. I don’t know if this will ever be resolved and I don’t believe that this happened for a reason. I don’t believe in karma anymore or that the universe has a balance or score sheet and is keeping track of losses v. joys. The doctors say there is no reason (incompetent cervix?, just a result of a multiple pregnancy from IVF?) and to me that means anything is a possibility. I’m astounded that in 21 weeks you can grow to love in such a life-altering way. That gives me hope for the future. I help myself feel peace by thinking that I was and am their mother and loved them every single minute of their lives.
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Comments

  1. Dzulani Rampfumedzi says:

    Im so sorry for your loss I too lost my b/g twins at 24 weeks on 04 December 2014. I was also told the its a twin thing reason and it makes me so angry that I was not warned about the possibilities of this.

    I miss my babies everyday. life will never be the same

  2. I lost my twin girls on Jan 3, 2015. I was also told it was a twin thing. One would think they would tell parents of twins that this could happen.

  3. Kristina says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I lost my perfect twin boys at 22 weeks 5 days just 8 days ago. The emotions of this are overwhelming. I had a rupture in one of the membranes and they held on for so long. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope you hold on to the hope that you will be a great mom sometime soon!

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