Isaiah & Gabrielle
It’s been three years this summer since my twins were born. In so many ways it doesn’t seem that far in the past. That summer changed me in so many ways and my family and I will never be the same again.
In many ways my story begins after the birth of our first daughter, Hannah. I got pregnant with her the first try after we “decided” we were ready to have a child. That pregnancy progressed perfectly and we had no reason to believe we would ever experience anything else but perfect pregnancies.
When she was two we decided to try again and were successful. However, that pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage at 7 weeks. I remember being very upset but accepted the fact that I just happened to be one of the 1 out of 3 people whose pregnancies result in miscarriage.
We tried again after a few months and once again I conceived. At 24 weeks I began to have contractions. I felt bad for a few days but had no idea that I was having contractions until the day it was too late. I laid down for a nap at 4:30 p.m. one day and woke up at 5:00 and knew for sure that I was in labor. When I arrived at the hospital three hours later I was 4 centimeters. I was placed on Yutopar but the contractions would not stop. I began to throw up and hemorrhage and it was determined that I was experiencing abruptio placenta, where the placenta detaches prematurely from the uterus. I had an emergency c-section in an attempt to save my son’s and my life. I lived. My first son did not. My first son, Jeremiah, was born on September 8, 1995. He lived for 20 minutes.
As hard as that loss was, it prepared me in many ways for what was ahead of me. My doctor said that I had a good chance of experiencing abruptio placenta since it had happened once, but that I did not have more than a 50/50 chance of it happening again. I asked if she would try again if she were in my shoes. She said, “yes”. So we began trying after she said I’d had time to heal physically.
It took us over a year to conceive again. I felt like such a failure. I felt like my body had betrayed me and my son. I felt like my body was broken and had kicked my son out before he had a chance to live on his own. Then it wouldn’t allow me to conceive again.
In January, 1997 I discovered that I was pregnant. We were so excited. Because of my history I was followed very closely and had many ultrasounds very early. At 10 weeks the radiologist found that I was expecting twins. I never imagined such a thing would happen to me. We were so very excited and overwhelmed at the thought of such a blessing and I cried when they told me the news.
I saw my OB often and my pregnancy progressed quite smoothly. I remember how different this pregnancy felt from the other single pregnancies I had had. I remember feeling two different babies move, one who moved quickly and the other who just kind of nudged.
My husband and I sold our house in May and moved into another one when I was 5-1/2 months along. I packed nothing but had friends who would do it for me while I sat and directed. We were taking it so easy with this pregnancy. Friends cleaned our old and new houses and moved us. They unpacked our things into our new house as well in an attempt to put me under as little strain as possible. We stayed in our house a week then went to visit my husband’s parents who lived three hours away. It was to be my last trip before my pregnancy progressed to a point where I would not want to be far from my doctor.
Two weeks after moving into our home, I woke up and began to have contractions. Fear overcame me and I couldn’t believe it was all happening again. I was 24 weeks along and when my OB checked me I was dilated 1 cm. I was admitted to the hospital and put on Yutopar and when it did not seem to be doing much to stop the contractions, they added magnesium sulfate. I hated that drug at first but it soon became my friend. I believe my daughter may not be here today had it not been for that drug.
I went into the hospital on Monday morning. On Monday evening the drugs did not seem to be helping at all and my doctor informed me that they were giving me the maximum amount of both and that there was nothing else she could do. My husband and a friend spent the entire night in my room praying that God would spare our children’s lives.
On Tuesday things seemed to settle down a bit but the contractions did not go away. They only slowed down. I had been in Trendelenburg position (in the bed with my head tilted down and my feet up) to keep pressure off my cervix which made the effects of the medications worse. I felt like my head would explode and I could hear my heart beating in my ears. The magnesium made me feel as if my blood was on fire. I was nauseated and scared to death but was glad I was still pregnant.
In the very early hours of Wednesday morning I began to have trouble breathing. My muscles seemed to be having spasms and I could not relax. I kept shaking and I remember needing my husband, David, to rub my back just so I could listen to someone talk to me. As the time passed I began to feel as if huge sandbags were being piled on my chest. I could hardly breathe and I thought it was because I was afraid and tense. By 8 a.m. on Wednesday I could only get out one word per breath. It was determined that the medications had caused pulmonary edema, which meant that my lungs were filling with fluid and I was drowning.
Things happened quickly and I remember lots of people and machines being in my room. I came so close to death. I remember asking God to not take me. I could not bear the thought of my husband and daughter going home without their wife and mother and two babies. I believe God heard me and said okay.
I was sent to intensive care where I had a nurse sit with me constantly. I was on 100% oxygen and as the day passed things seemed to settle down some. We got a new nurse at 11:00 p.m. and my husband, David, and I were filling him in on the events of the day. At 11:15 I felt a gush of water and prayed it was only that the catheter had come loose. I was checked and it was determined that my water had broken. That diagnosis made me feel sick knowing that the birth of our babies was inevitable.
When my doctor arrived and examined me it was determined that my son, Isaiah’s head was already at the edge of the cervix with only the bag of waters, which was bulging, holding him in. We went to the operating room in order to be prepared for a possible c-section. We waited for a long time and when nothing happened, my doctor broke the bag of waters, pressed on the pelvic muscles and Isaiah simply slid out. He was alive! I was so relieved and yet knew too well the reality of the situation. He cried the tiniest cry I’ve ever heard and they rushed him to NICU.
We waited another two hours to see what would happen. What should have happened was for Isaiah’s placenta to deliver. It did not. The contractions stopped and my cervix closed some. Dr. K. decided to take a chance and put in a cerclage. If the placenta had delivered as it should have, it would have signaled my body to deliver the other baby. That did not happen.
I was put on several IV antibiotics to help prevent any infection that might come about as a result of the placenta still being in the womb. I remained on antibiotics and oxygen for several days and stayed in the hospital on bedrest and magnesium sulfate for 7 weeks. The contractions never stopped totally and every day we wondered if our other twin, Gabrielle would be born too.
After Isaiah was born I remember being so incredibly sad. I felt so betrayed by my own body. I felt like my body had kicked him out into a cruel world in which he was not yet ready to enter. I hated what I knew he would have to go through just to live. I felt so sad for Gabrielle to no longer have her companion. Did she feel lonely? Did she wonder where her brother went?
I remember feeling so empty inside. The spot where Isaiah had been felt so still. I missed him being there. I was no longer pregnant with twins. It had not lasted long enough. I remember looking down at my belly and seeing how much smaller it was. I wanted my two babies back.
The day after Isaiah was born my doctor allowed me to be wheeled in my bed to see him. All I could do was look at him and say how sorry I was that he had been born. I felt so quilty and so helpless. He looked so perfect and so tiny. He weighed l lb., 7 oz. and he looked like my husband. He even had hair on his head already.
After his birth we began a rollercoaster ride that I pray we never have to experience again. We were told that things could change from hour to hour and even minute to minute. We were allowed to visit him and I am so thankful for that. The nurses would take me, bed, IV’s and all and never complained of the trouble.
Staying in the hospital that long was hard in many ways but if I had not been there I would not have gotten to spend as much time with my son as I did. David and I would go to his cubicle and touch him and talk and sing to him. He would grasp our fingers when we would place them in his hands and often would open his eyes when we would talk or sing.
He lived exactly one month and died from an infection. My heart hurt so much that I could hardly breathe at times. I was sad for all he had had to go through just to fight to live and I was sad for Gabrielle who would never know her twin brother. I was sad for my daughter Hannah who lost another brother in less than two years. We were going to take care of the twins together, one for me and one for her. She asked me if Gabrielle would die too. I could not promise her that that would not happen. All I could say was that we hoped she would not.
When the doctor from NICU came to my room to tell me that it looked like Isaiah was dying, I was glad that I had called David to come to the hospital early that day. He was on his way. They wheeled me to NICU and brought in a rocking chair and then placed our son in my arms. He was taken off everything but the respirator and David and I were able to hold him and rock him until he was no longer with us. We then took him to our room where we were able to dress him and hold him as long as we wanted. Hannah was with us and she even got to hold him. It was the saddest day of my life.
Two days after he died we held a funeral in the chapel of the hospital. I was allowed to go in a wheelchair with the IV’s and all and my doctor went with us. The doctors and nurses who had worked with him all came as well and told us the impact Isaiah and our family had had on their lives. They were so good to us.
After Isaiah’s funeral I went back to my room where I remained for another three weeks. At that point I was able to get off the Magnesium Sulfate and the contractions were controlled with Brethine. I went home for three weeks on bedrest but was back in the hospital twice during that time to control contractions.
At 35 weeks, 11 weeks after Isaiah was born, it was determined that the contractions were putting too much stress on my cervix and it was removed. The following morning Gabrielle was born by c-section. It was such a bittersweet day. I was so relieved that she was here and was okay but I so longed to have her twin brother with us too. Everyone in the delivery room cried with us that morning. We had all been through so much together and we were like family. I knew I would miss these people with whom I had shared so much.
We took her home three days later weighing 4 lbs. 11 oz. She had lost a pound in those three days but no one seemed concerned. After being home for two days and having trouble nursing, we called our pediatrician and expressed concern over her eating and asked if we could have her weighed. We took her to the hospital nursery and she weighed only 4 lbs. 3 oz. I remember the doctor examining her and I realized how dehydrated she was and how close we had come to losing her. No one could convince me that we would not lose her. She looked so tiny and frail. I felt like it was all my fault.
She and I remained in the hospital for 10 days, fed by a tube until she was strong enough to suck on her own. I continued to try to nurse her and when she was six weeks old she finally caught on. I felt like something was finally working right.
Once Gabrielle was home and we were able to accept that she was going to be all right, I was able to allow myself to fully grieve the loss of Isaiah. As long as I had been pregnant I could not allow myself to get too upset because doing so made the contractions so much worse. I entered a depression that lasted a long time. I finally got help from a counselor and medication and was so thankful for the help I got from that combination.
Things are going much better now. When Gabrielle was 16 months old I found that I was pregnant again. We were quite surprised since were had not been trying to conceive and really did not want to chance losing any more children. Our third son, Noah, was born a week before Gabrielle turned two. He was born 4 weeks early and spent a week in NICU until he could breathe and eat well on his own. My pregnancy was fairly smooth except for one bleeding episode and two months on bedrest. Noah’s full name is Noah Brennan. Noah means comfort of God and Brennan means gift of God and he is a very comforting gift of God. I watch him and Gabrielle play together and it makes me smile. It also makes me miss Isaiah.
These experiences have changed me and taught me many things. One is that there are many things that I can’t control. It has made me value and concentrate on the little things in life that really matter. I don’t take much for granted any more. I am reminded often that life is uncertain and that I can’t live for tomorrow. I have learned that there are no promises and no guarantees in life and to enjoy every day.