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October 23, 2013

Pregnancy Loss Guest Post - Lindsay

{This is Lindsay, and her experience with losing twins. To see all the pregnancy loss guest posts, click here.}

In February 2011, my husband, Charlie, and I were in the thick of early parenthood. We had a rambunctious, beautiful 1 ½ year old son, Gus. We had many dreamy conversations in our early relationship about the large family we one day hoped to have, so we started entertaining the idea of “trying” to add to our family a few months after Gus turned 1. A month later, we were staring at a positive pregnancy test. We were absolutely thrilled. This baby would be due in November, right after Gus’s 2nd birthday. My OB scheduled an ultrasound for a couple of weeks later so we could nail down an expected due date.
On the day of the ultrasound, we were shocked to learn that we were expecting twins. The ultrasound tech warned us that Baby B’s sac was a bit on the small side, but not to worry too much.
The next couple of weeks were a blur of excitement and terror. Twins? Twins! We have a 900 square foot house; where were we going to put three children? How are we going to afford this? We have to move. I’m going to have to quit my job. Two beautiful, precious babies, how could we get this lucky?  But how will we make it work? Each time I started thinking the negative thoughts about the hardships twins presented, I felt so guilty and thought of the ultrasound tech’s warning about Baby B. I reminded myself to just be thankful that we had twins; the rest would fall into place.  Things are things; these two little lives are miracles.
About a month after the ultrasound, Charlie had to leave for a business trip to Texas. The day before he left, I had some light spotting. Worried, I called the doctor and was reassured this was completely normal, especially with a twin pregnancy. The day Charlie left, the spotting was a bit heavier. I called the doctor again and was again reassured, but they offered to schedule an ultrasound for a couple of days later just to check and make sure everything was ok. That night, as I talked on the phone with Charlie, I started crying. I told him I knew something wasn’t right. He comforted me as much as he could from half way across the country and told me to get some rest. The next morning, the spotting was still there but hadn’t changed, so I went to work. Later that morning, I went to the bathroom and blood poured out of me. I wanted to lay down on that bathroom floor and go to sleep, and pretend this wasn’t happening. I went to find my principal and tell him I had to leave. I completely fell apart in his office just trying to get the words out, so he called a close friend of mine who worked at a nearby school to take me home. She dropped me off and promised to come back to take me to the hospital for the ultrasound my OB ordered for that afternoon after a desperate phone call. I laid down in bed, laying as still as I could, simultaneously begging God to spare my babies and trying to stay as calm as possible, figuring stress hormones wouldn’t help the situation.
That afternoon, when we arrived at the same hospital where Gus had been born, we went into the ultrasound room and the nurse got to work looking at my babies. After awhile, the two little bodies showed up on the screen. I breathed a sigh of relief, realizing they had grown significantly since I last saw them. If they were growing, they must be fine! I said this out loud, sure it must be true. The nurse sighed and tapped the monitor, and said, “Well, this must have just happened. There are no heartbeats, see? There should be a flicker here and here, but there aren’t.” I thought for sure she was wrong, and asked her to check with the Doppler. She turned it on and the silence was deafening. She removed the ultrasound wand and I sat up, stunned, sick, confused. There were a lot of words flying around me and she was handing me pictures of my dead babies. I told her I didn’t want them but she told me someday I would, so take them. Besides, Charlie needed to see them. Charlie. I grabbed my cell phone to call him. I remember apologizing to him. I remember him asking repeatedly if I was sure. I remember him telling me he loved me and he was coming home. The nurse was trying to explain everything medically that was happening, and I just stared at her, a million thoughts flying through my head.  She left and came back into the room with a handful of tiny plastic fetus models. She told me to hold out my hand and she placed one in my hand, explaining that’s how big my babies were. I stared at the tiny baby in my hand in shock, thinking, “Is this really happening? Why is she doing this to me? “
After a flurry of medical information and logistics, we left.  When I got home later that night, there were three white roses on my front door with a note that said “Love, Gus.” I still don’t know where they came from, but I have them dried, hanging in my library with the roses Charlie bought me when Gus was born. Later that night, I buckled Gus into his car seat in his pajamas and started the 90-minute drive to the airport to pick up Charlie. When he walked towards me at the airport, I held onto him as though I were drowning and he was my life raft. We went home, put Gus to bed, and cried.
     The next day was the most painful day of my life, both physically and emotionally. In a cruel twist of fate, my OB wasn’t available because she was in the midst of delivering her own stillborn son. The OB on call had prescribed medication to speed up the miscarriage but nothing for the pain. I decided not to use the medicine; I wanted to give my body a chance to handle things naturally. Besides, mistakes happen all the time. What if the medicine turned out to be a horrible mistake?
The pain hit my body in waves so similar to the labor pains I’d experienced while delivering Gus. With Gus, I knew there was a baby at the end of the pain. This time, my worst nightmare was at the other side of this pain. It was intolerable. All I wanted was Charlie. I had this need to be in constant physical contact with him, almost as if he could save me from being swept away by this. I curled up in his lap most of the day and we cried and talked and consoled each other. Throughout the days surrounding this nightmare, a small group of close friends reached out repeatedly through phone calls, texts, and Facebook. Most of them were mothers, and some of them had losses of their own. They were the voices of comfort and reason in those dark days. Not many people even knew I was pregnant with twins, let alone that they had died. I had confided in these women, and they surrounded me with love and support. They said all the right things and offered so much support.
  Throughout the experience, the most difficult platitude for me to hear was, “They are in a better place now.” I am a Christian and I believe our babies are healed and have eternal life in heaven. However, all I felt was that there was no better place for our babies to be than in their mother and father’s arms, and they would never experience that. I would never gaze into their eyes, smiling, cooing, and soothing them. I would never smell their fuzzy little heads or kiss their dimpled cheeks and chins. Their Daddy would never carry them like a “sack of feed,” or watch late-night TV with them so I could sneak in some sleep. He couldn’t protect them from death, and I couldn’t comfort them through it.
The gut-wrenching grief left eventually and our new normal was established. In case we didn’t learn the first two times, we found yet again how easily pregnancy comes for us when, 6 weeks after their deaths, we were looking at another positive pregnancy test. Throughout that pregnancy, we both struggled with our emotions and feelings of detachment. We didn’t want to let the twins detract from our excitement over this baby, but we just couldn’t seem to help it.  We didn’t make a single purchase for that baby until I was 7 months pregnant. On February 19, 2012, Catherine Maureen was placed on my chest; a chubby, beautiful 8 lb. 9 oz. rainbow baby.
     A few people who knew about the twins had expressed that we were meant to have twins and that we would have twins again. When Catherine was a single baby, a lot of people were surprised because so many seemed to be convinced we would have twins. As fate would have it, we had yet another huge surprise in store when we found out on Fathers’ Day 2012 that Baby #3 was on the way and due on Cate’s first birthday. Our third child, Lucia Francelina Anne, was born on February 23, and though not true “Irish twins” because they are 369 days apart, the girls are pretty close. Though I have no way of knowing if this is true, I had a gut feeling that the twins were girls and think of them as Rose and Violet. Watching my two Irish twin girls learn what it is to have a sister gives me a glimpse of what it would’ve been like to watch Rose and Violet grow up together.
Having been through 2 pregnancies since the twins, I’ve found that life after a loss is so different, even after a successful pregnancy and birth. When each one of our children was born, I felt that they had been missing all along and they were finally here to be part of our family. I think I will always feel that there are 2 little faces missing in our day-to-day lives. The grief still hits me at times, sometimes completely unexpected. We recently moved and when I was transferring my files, their ultrasounds and the few sympathy cards we received, ultrasounds, and mementos of the twins fell out of a folder. I had to take a few minutes and let the tears roll as I sat with those papers in my lap. I have stacks of memory boxes for my other children; it isn’t fair that the material representations of two lives can fit in an envelope.

Since the twins died, we’ve lost several precious family members. Most recently, we lost my husband’s only brother, Ryan, at 25 years old. I take great comfort in knowing that the twins are surrounded by the souls of family, and perhaps those sweet babies made the unexpected transition to heaven a little easier for Ryan as well. 

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