Monday, November 11, 2007. A holiday – for us here in Canada, Remembrance Day, a day to remember our Veterans and what they did for us.
I remember that day vividly. I woke up thrilled to have the extra weekend day off. DH was gone for the morning, so I got up and headed to the gym. The conversations I had with people there still echo in my head and when I close my eyes, I can still see my pregnant silhouette in the gym wall mirrors. I stopped early as Braxton Hicks contracts started to ripple across my belly. New for me, my midwife had mentioned that they were normal, so although mildly alarmed, I simply stopped working out, drank a bunch of water and continued on with my day.
I met up with my parents at the local hardware store, as they were looking for help picking out some pieces for their home reno. I commented on my newly developing waddle as we walked into the store. Standing debating sinks, a sharp pain ripped through my stomach. Rubbing my side, I brushed it aside. With a constantly expanding belly, sharp pains were ordinary. I know now that it was my first contraction. To this day, I struggle to go into that hardware store.
After lunch with them, I drove home. I continued to get sharp pains occasionally – one made me gasp in pain. I debated whether or not they could possibly be contractions, but as they were irregular and there was no fluid or blood involved, I figured it couldn’t be the case. DH and I spent the rest of the day together, a very relaxing day. We sat and talked, watched TV, read … yet, all the while I didn’t feel very good. Pains continued coming, although at very irregular intervals and generally, I just didn’t feel right at all. With a midwife appointment in the morning, I set everything aside and decided to talk about it all then.
After dinner – which I made for us both, quite monumental since making dinner at this point was still a rarity for me – and a shower, we settled in for some TV. My pains grew in intensity and frequency – but I still didn’t consider the possibility of contractions. They didn’t feel like what I imagined contractions would feel like, they weren’t regular and there was still no blood or fluid. I figured that something I ate must be bothering me, and that it would eventually pass. Although knowing what I now know about TTTS, identifying them as contractions wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but I still find myself beating myself up over it none-the-less.
At just after 9:30, feeling an incredible need to use the washroom, I rushed to the bathroom. Shortly after sitting down, there was a loud pop, and fluid gushed from between my legs. It was at that moment that my heart shattered into a million little pieces – I knew exactly what had just happened and what it meant for our precious little girls, still shy of 20 weeks. As we waited for the ambulance, sobs wracked my body. The ambulance attendant tried to encourage me that maybe one of the babies could be saved – I simply shook my head, I knew it wasn’t good.
Our midwife met us at the hospital, and I have to say, she was the saving grace of that night. Without her, I cannot even begin to describe how awful that night would have been. She was the one caring and nurturing person we interacted with – constantly interceding for us and explaining what was happening.
The emergency doctor was horrendous – I think he must have been fresh out of school. After checking my cervix, he told us that they would be giving me drugs to speed up my labour, and that both my babies would be born and would not survive. I remember being devastated that they didn’t even check for heartbeats, even though I knew it didn’t matter. He started in on the “sometimes nature does what nature thinks is best” speech. I cut him off quickly informing him that was a dumb thing to say, that these were my babies. My midwife informed me shortly thereafter that they would be getting a different doctor for me.
I was taken to L&D – what a cruel thing. There is nothing quite like staring at the “how to nurse your baby” sheet while in labour knowing your babies only have the next couple hours to survive. Thankfully I was drugged heavily throughout my labour – I feel horrible for DH, who was awake and cognisant the entire time. I can only imagine what it must be like to know you are losing your babies and watching your wife in pain at the same time. I only felt intense pain shortly before the girls were born.
Just before 3:00am on the morning of November 12th, our girls made their entrance into the world, just a few minutes apart. In some ways, I wish I had been more prepared for their deaths. Instead of asking if either was trying to breathe, I turned away – hoping they wouldn’t make a noise. Although we did hold them both, I remember feeling awkward, like others were watching and judging. Even so, we were both taken aback by their absolute beauty. The midwife had prepped us for the incredible prematurity we would face, but honestly, all we saw was our wonderfully, perfectly formed little babes.
After only a few moments, they were taken away. I regret not holding them longer, not counting their fingers and toes, not taking a picture to help me remember their little faces. I am so thankful that the hospital thought to take their foot and handprints for us, as it didn’t even occur to me to ask … not until I received them did I realize how important it was to me.
Within the hour I had stabilized enough that they let us leave and go home. I have never felt so empty in my life. Being rolled out of the hospital, leaving my babies behind … everything about it was so wrong, no one should ever have to experience that.
Over a year later I can still remember the rawness of that pain, tears still stream down my face thinking of that day. It is still so hard to fathom that I had two sweet baby girls that slipped away from me that day – I would give anything to have Avery and Sophie instead of “things” that fit into a small box.
That day forever changed us, it altered us in ways we never could have imagined. Our hearts were shattered, but slowly we are putting our lives back together. Step, by painfully small step we have made it out of the deep bit of grief. Do we occasionally delve back in? Yes. But we crawl out further each time – smiling, laughing, enjoying things we never thought we would be able to again. Slowly we are healing.
We still love and miss you baby girls …