Kathryn Louise & Abigail Rose
Our first child was born in April, 1998 after a completely normal pregnancy and relatively easy delivery. She was the joy of our lives and so two years later, my husband and I decided to try for a second child. We got pregnant the first month and found out on Mother’s Day, 2000. It was a wonderful Mother’s Day gift. This pregnancy seemed to be as easy as the first. I had some trouble with headaches and sciatica but nothing I could not handle. I got very big, very fast. Everyone kept telling me that you get bigger during the second pregnancy, everyone except my husband. He knew somehow. He kept telling me it was twins. He just had a feeling. Our doctor did not agree. He did not think I was big enough to be carrying twins. We had heard one heartbeat but did not really look for a second. Once I felt the baby move, I was surprised at how active it was.
Finally at 21.5 weeks we went for our first ultrasound. When the ultrasound started, the technician said, “I have something to tell you.” I looked at the screen and saw them both. Two babies. Two little girls. I could not stop laughing and crying at the same time. We were excited but totally overwhelmed. We quickly told everyone we knew and they were all so happy for us. We named the girls and gave them middle names for our grandmothers. Our older daughter was excited to be getting two babies. All of a sudden, there were tons of people telling us that either they were a twin or had twin children. In most of these cases everything had been fine with no complications. But I did have a cousin who had lost one of her twin sons in-utero and a colleague at school who told me that she was a twin but her brother had died shortly after birth. I can remember thinking that it was awful but it never occurred to me that it could happen to us. We quickly gathered a second of everything. Everyone was so generous. It was starting to feel like a reality and we were becoming less overwhelmed and more excited.
In early October, when I was about 26 weeks pregnant, my husband and I went away for the weekend. On our way home I started having contractions. I thought they were just Braxton Hicks and they did go away after a few hours. Looking back, I think it was probably when we lost our Abigail. I never thought anything was wrong because I was still feeling so much movement. At our next doctor’s visit, at 28 weeks, the doctor had trouble finding the second heartbeat. Finally, he thought he found it and I was comforted. I knew it was sometimes hard to find them both. At 29.5 weeks we went for a second ultrasound. The technician said that baby B, Abigail, was moving around too much and she couldn’t get her on the screen so she did baby A, Kathryn, first. She spent about an hour on Kathryn and by the end I really had to use the bathroom so she allowed me to go. When I returned, our doctor came into the room and told us that baby B, Abigail, had suffered a “fetal demise”. I was in shock. I cried so much, as did my husband. We were sent to a perinatologist and were unsure of the prognosis for our other baby.
It was the beginning of a nightmare that I kept praying I would wake up from. The perinatologist confirmed that Abigail had no heartbeat and told us she had Hydrops. She said this could have been the cause of death but more likely developed after she died. So far Kathryn looked fine. They were fraternal and they each had their own sac. We were told that this was a good thing. I was put on partial bedrest and pulled out of work. Then I went home to wait it out. My husband was wonderful. He made all of the phone calls to our family and friends. I just could not say the words. I know it was hard for him too but he became my strength. I will be forever grateful for that. Support came pouring in. Family came by and cried with us. Friends dropped off food and offered help. One friend watched our daughter for us. My coworkers sent so much food that we had to buy a freezer to put it all in! They also surrounded me with things to do on bedrest to keep me busy.
Two weeks later, my husband was away for business when I went into labor. My mother-in-law took me to the doctor where they did a non-stress test. They confirmed that I was having contractions every two minutes, although I did not feel them. I was immediately sent to the hospital and given terbutaline. My husband drove back as quickly as he could. When he walked into my hospital room, I was shocked at how pale he was. He was so frightened for me and for Kathryn. Fortunately, we were both OK. I stayed in the hospital overnight as a precaution and was put on total bedrest. While I was in the hospital, I met a nurse, Caroline, who runs their support group for parents who have lost a child. She sat with me and told me her story of loss as she listened to me cry. She was such a comfort to me. The next day I went home on Terbutaline and total bedrest. I had nothing to do but think and cry. I tried to stay positive for my husband and our daughter. She was only 2 and really did not understand what was happening. My husband wore himself out trying to do all the childcare, cooking and cleaning. I went into labor again about two weeks later and after a trip to the hospital, I was again sent home with an increased dose of terbutaline.
The third time I went into labor I expected to be sent home again. I was 34.5 weeks pregnant. But when the doctor examined me, she said I was dilated 4 cm and she could feel a foot. She called the perinatologist who came right over. The ultrasound showed that Abigail was the lower baby and she was coming out. Their heads were overlapping and they would have gotten caught in the birth canal. The doctor decided to do an emergency C-section. I had known this was a possibility but I was still scared. It all went so fast. They made my husband wait outside while they did the spinal and I was even more frightened without him there. There were so many people in the room and it all moved so quickly. We told the doctors that we did not want to see Abigail. We had done some research on hydrops babies and knew that they often did not look good. In addition she had been gone for at least five weeks at that point. We wanted to remember her as perfect in our minds.
Kathryn was born first at 1:44 a.m. on November 30, 2000, weighing 4 pounds 6 ounces. She did not cry at first but I found out later that this was because they had to suction her lungs. I caught a glimpse of her across the room while the doctors worked on her. She was quickly whisked away to the NICU. I did not see her again until the following morning. Abigail was born one minute after her sister at 1:45 a.m., weighing about 1 pound. They took her out of the room quickly. After they were born, they gave me a lot of pain medication and I must have fallen asleep. I have very fuzzy memories of the next several hours.
When I woke up, the nurse asked again if we wanted to see Abigail. They were very encouraging and I will always be thankful that they were. My husband saw her first and told me it was OK. When I saw her I knew I needed to hold her too. I don’t think I would ever have forgiven myself if I had not. They wrapped her up in a blanket and had a hat on her head. I now know this was to hide some of the damage that had been done after so many weeks. She was so tiny but looked so perfect to me. I was the only one to hold her other than the doctors and nurses. We were given pictures and mementos from the hospital, which I keep to remember her. The pictures are ones that only a mother could love. We don’t show them to others and even my husband doesn’t look at them anymore. But I still take them out and talk to her once in a while. They are the only pictures I have of her.
We did a small memorial service at the hospital with just our parents and the priest there. I know that there were others who would have liked to be there with us, but this was all we could handle at the time. It was just too painful. We had an autopsy done which showed nothing abnormal. I still don’t understand why she died when they could find nothing wrong with her. Then we had her cremated and buried with my grandparents. I could not bear to think of her being alone. We go to visit her grave when we can. It is hard to explain it all to our older daughter. She does not quite understand how Abigail can be in heaven and in the grave too.
Kathryn was in the NICU for only 9 days. She is truly a little miracle. She did not need a ventilator and was eating from a bottle within a few days. She was so tiny and it was hard not to be with her all the time. She had jaundice but no other real problems. I sat in the NICU so many times while feeding her, thinking that there should be another isolette next to hers for Abigail. Kathryn’s ID tags all said “Baby A”, a constant reminder that Baby B was gone. I was so grateful to have Kathryn but I also missed Abigail terribly. Just looking at Kathryn reminded me of her sister.
It still does. I walk into her room and know there is a missing crib. I put the girls into the car and know that one carseat is missing. I watch Kathryn as she accomplishes each new milestone and I wonder if Abigail would have reached it at the same time. I wonder what Abigail would have looked like. It has been a year and a half but not one day goes by when I don’t think about Abigail in some way. I no longer cry every day but there is a permanent hole in my heart. I have gone on with my life but that life is changed forever. No amount of wishing or praying will ever bring her back. It is like I now belong to this club that I never wanted to belong to. I know I should be grateful for what we have been given, and I am. We still have two perfect, beautiful daughters. I know there are parents out there who have faced harder situations. My heart goes out to all of you.
So many people talk about the hurtful comments they received from others. I am grateful that I did not once experience that. I have been blessed with wonderful family and friends. They have been supportive and caring. They listen to me talk when I need to talk. They remember her too. My parents have purchased a stone at church in her name. My mother wears a pin with two little girls and one angel on it. My mother-in-law wrote a wonderful poem for her memorial. I wear a mother’s ring with all three stones on it. I buy white roses for her on October 26th and November 30th. People understand. I have truly been blessed that way. But above all others I am so grateful for my husband. We grieve so differently but I know that he misses her too. Yet he has always been my rock of strength. He is there to listen and support me whenever I need him. We share the greatest loss two parents can but we have been blessed with our love and our children, all three of them.