Archive for Our Story

Part III: The Day My Heart Broke

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 …

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My Girls, My Heart Cont …

Part II: Our Short Time Together

After finding out about our little stowaway, the next couple days were spent happily sharing our news, crunching numbers, and re-planning out our expectations for the pregnancy.

Friday, November 2, 2007 – we got the first call indicating that everything might not be well.  While getting dinner on the table my midwife called.  After explaining that everything else looked good, she mentioned that the girls’ fluid levels weren’t even.  TTTS was mentioned, but more in a “don’t worry about it, they are both doing well” sort of way.  My midwife mentioned that she set me up with a obstetrician appointment for Monday, just to be sure.  Although I took note, I remember being much more concerned about my steam burn from making veggies than the news.

That weekend, I learned all I could about twin-to-twin-transfusion-syndrome.  What I read troubled me – IF my girls had it, their odds were not good.  Found before 20 weeks, survival rates are exceptionally poor.  It took all my strength, but I tried to push it out of my head … we didn’t know for sure yet, and the midwife had sounded very positive.

Monday’s appointment felt like a dream.  I remember going in, wondering how our lives had changed so quickly.  It was suddenly all so different.  The high-risk OB talked through all the risks of TTTS before checking me over.  We talked about the viability/meaningful existence time line for them.  He found both of the girls’ heartbeats for me.  They were close together, so he moved from one to the other for me repeatedly.  I laid on the table crying at the beautiful sound, I couldn’t believe they were both there.  He didn’t seem too concerned about our risk for TTTS, and set up our next appointment and ultrasound for several weeks away.

Sometimes I wonder if he knew more than he let on – that he may have known the odds were not in our girls’ favour, but that instead of saying anything, he let us enjoy our last remaining time with them.  Maybe not, but from what he said, and did not say, sometimes I wonder.

The next week was wonderful, although the risk was in the back of our minds, I really didn’t think our girls were in danger – not from TTTS anyways.  No one else seemed that concerned, so I tried not to be either.  I made it through work each day, and fell into bed exhausted at the end of each day. 

Friday, November 8th … the date that started the beginning of the end, although we didn’t know it at the time.  I didn’t feel good that day, looking back, I think one of the girls was starting to be in distress.  I had incredible pressure in my abdomen, and felt very off.  I called my midwives, but was assured it was all normal.  If the contracting became painful or regular, or if I started to leak fluid or bleed I was supposed to call, but they weren’t otherwise concerned.  I hung up feeling silly, but still did not feel well. 

The weekend was spent planning for our little ones.  Saturday was the one and only time we got our baby shopping – we started shopping around for cribs, strollers, car seats – everything times 2!  We proudly asked about multiple discounts and tried to figure out how the numbers were going to work.  On Sunday, we went to church.  I remember walking in, proudly displaying a very large belly.  Everyone commented on the girls, my size, our situation – we loved every moment of it.  That night we decided on names.

I never want to forget that weekend.  It was an amazing time … by then, we had started to feel like we finally were starting to “know” our girls.  How were we to know that the weekend would be our last?

The two weeks we had with them were so short, I constantly wish we had known longer, that I had pushed harder, that we had been given even a couple more days.  It wasn’t long enough – but then again, in my head I know that it never would have been enough.  Our little girls were our world.

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My Girls, My Heart

For months I have wanted to type out Avery and Sophie’s story, get it down on paper.  But I haven’t … knowing how much energy and emotion it would take, I have kept it in.  I think I am finally at a place though where I am ready to share it.  And so it begins …

Finding Out: Part I

When we found out we were pregnant in August 2007 we were ecstatic.  Our first pregnancy, we were not tagged as high risk so decided to pursue working with midwives for the pregnancy.  I spent the first trimester incredibly ill, and we could not have been happier to see the end of it in mid-September.  We could finally breathe a sigh of relief – our baby was fairly safe.

We excitedly shared the news with friends and family and at 14 weeks we heard a heartbeat at our midwife appointment.  I remember our celebration dinner that night – I didn’t eat much as I was still dealing with extreme nausea, but we were thrilled none-the-less.  The only real concern at this point was my lack of weight gain, in fact I was still losing weight at this point.

At 16 weeks my sister-in-law and myself went to visit my sister in Texas.  I remember it as the first week I could actually eat again.  When we went down early in the week, my belly was just starting to show, nothing that anyone really noticed though.  Throughout the week, the three of us watched in amusement (on their part) and alarm (on my part) as my belly grew each day … seriously, you could practically watch it grow.

Although we joked about twins, we didn’t seriously consider it.  There had only been one heartbeat at 14 weeks after all, and there was not a risk of twins in the family.  Everyone kept telling me not to worry.  After all, I was terribly thin and had only just started to really eat again. 

I continued to brush it off as nothing, even when I began to get questions about my due date on the trip home at the end of the week.  I knew this was a little strange for only 17 weeks along, but again, didn’t think about it too much.  That said, I was definitely looking forward to our ultrasound the next week! 

That Thursday, my husband and I headed into town for my 18 week scan.  Although excited, I was terribly nervous, knowing all the things that could still go wrong.  I remember getting myself onto the bed, in pain as I tried to lay flat.  The ultrasound tech began, slathering the cool gel on my now very large belly. 

Within a couple minutes she turned the screen towards me, mentioning she wanted to show something to me.  I remember being thrilled at a “sneak peek”.  I immediately saw a baby, and she showed me the basics.  As she began to move the wand away, I wondered where she was going.  The words “and this is your other baby” completely stunned me.  I burst into tears, simply from the shock, joy, and relief (finally, I wasn’t huge anymore :)).

I felt horrible as my husband was ushered into the room.  He saw my tears and started to panic a little, thinking something was very wrong.  His smile when he saw the two babies on the screen was amazing, I will remember that forever.  All he felt was pride and joy … As my scan continued he took himself to a local coffee shop for a celebratory coffee.

I wish now I had known more then – questions to ask, things to look for.  But I was naive and in shock, I can honestly remember very little of the actual scan.  I regret not paying more attention now, I wish I would have absorbed every little detail of their bodies, their hearts beating, their movements.  But the tech mentioned how this would be the first of many scans, and I believed her … I spent the ultrasound just staring at TWO.

We walked away from the appointment in awe of our news, clutching our set of ultrasound pictures that clearly showed both our babies.  We spent the day sharing the news with family and friends.  We had the goofiest grins that would not leave.  Although our minds were reeling with the news, we were so unbelievably happy … the next couple days were honestly some of the happiest of my life.

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