Carolyn & Colin
My husband Dave and I got married in September 1994 – first time for both, me 34 and he 35. Exactly 9 months later our son Kyle was born and we were thrilled. Life was good! We started trying for baby #2 in early spring 1996. That fall we still weren’t pregnant – my doctor suggested clomid. We agreed. I took it for one month – BOOM – a positive home pregnancy test! My doctor order a blood test to confirm. Levels were ‘high – possibility of multiples’. ‘What?’ I said, ‘that’s not what we planned’. In January, 1997, I had a vaginal ultrasound. Sure enough, there were two babies! At first I was overwhelmed and scared …those feelings quickly changed to excitement and joy. My doctor gave me a due date of August 8, 1997 but went on to say the twins usually come early. She also went into detail about how multiples are high risk, that I might need home uterine monitoring along with bedrest and to start scheduling extra help. I shrugged off all the ‘negative’ possibilities –I was feeling great. Besides, my maternal grandma had twins, my maternal great aunt had two sets of twins and two of my cousins have had twins – this was going to be a breeze for me. I honestly believed I’d practically jog into the delivery room. Big sigh now.
We had our first ‘real’ ultrasound in February, 1997. The nurse said for sure one boy, possibly two. Deep down I prayed for our ‘mystery’ baby to be a girl – I yearned for a daughter. I joined the Mothers of Twins Club in March and went to their huge spring sale. We got double car seats, crib bumper pads, not to mention 17 matching outfits (mostly blues and greens). Three weeks later the ultrasound showed our mystery baby was a girl! I was so excited – our family would really be complete! I dreamed about lacy outfits and pink shoes.
In April, at 25 weeks, I felt contractions, sometimes up to 6 per hour. My OB sent me to the hospital for observation. I was sent home 6 hours later on a low dose of Terbutaline and home uterine monitoring. The babies were fine and I hadn’t dilated. I was told ‘these things are common for a multiple pregnancy – it’d be odd if you didn’t contract early’. The next 10 weeks actually went by rather quietly. I continued to have contractions and the Terbutaline dose kept getting bumped up. By 33 weeks my cervix had dilated to 1/2 cm. but no one was too concerned. My mom-in-law watched our son two days a week so he had something to do other than watch TV with me. We were slowly but surely getting ready for our precious twins – offers of help were pouring in. On July 2, I had my 35-week ultrasound. I felt so ‘safe’ now, I had made it this far. Babies looked great. Baby A, Carolyn measured 5-1/2 lbs., Baby B, Colin measured 7-1/2 lbs. My doctor said we could stop the home uterine monitor but to continue the Terbutaline through the holiday weekend. Carolyn was in a transverse position and a C-section was scheduled for July 21 – we had 19 more days! or so we thought.
That very night, around 12 midnight, I started having stronger contractions. I remember walking around my house reading about real vs. false labor. By 4:30 a.m. my husband and I were on our way to the hospital. Probably a false alarm I thought but better be safe than sorry. I cringe thinking about the rest of that fateful morning. The hospital staff put me in a room and a nurse and the OB doctor on call started hooking up the monitors. We briefly saw two heartbeats on the monitor but just that fast Carolyn’s was gone. The nightmare began. The doctor kept moving the ultrasound wand over Carolyn, his face showing concern. He then slapped the wand on my abdomen. He slapped it again. And again. ‘What’s up?’ I asked. His words blew me away – ‘Baby A has no heartbeat’. He turned to the nurse as he started discon¬necting the belts: ‘EMERGENCY SECTION – LET’S MOVE!’ They rolled my cart out of the room so fast it hit the wall. My poor husband stood in the hall looking so helpless as my cart went crashing through the operating room doors. People were running around everywhere. I felt like I was in a movie. Even up to this point I remained in denial – this was 1997 and modern medicine had come so far. Babies born at 27 weeks and only 1 pound were living – surely they’d save my baby girl. Everything’s foggy but I’m waking up.
I feel my cart once again rolling down the hall, slowly now. I remember asking, ‘Did you save my daughter?’ The blurry figure at the foot of the cart answers, ‘I’m sorry, but we couldn’t save your daughter. Your son is going to be OK, but he needed CPR for 3 minutes and is on a ventilator in the NICU’. Instantly I feel my world crashing in – the shaking and sobbing begin and seem relentless. I want to crawl into a ball and die. This can’t be happening – please, please someone – wake me up. Next thing I know my husband and I are in a small room and the nurse brings in our sweet baby girl. She was so perfect and absolutely beautiful yet so painfully still. We baptized her. She was so alive just hours before and now she’s forever dead.
Carolyn Sue was stillborn at 5:14 a.m. on July 3, 1997. She weighed 5 lbs. 9 oz. and was 18 in. long. We had a funeral for her on July 9 and buried her in Babyland at the cemetery close by our house. Colin Jonathan was born at 5:15 a.m. He weighed 7 lbs. 5 oz. and was 20 in. long. He was intubated for 24 hours but improved quickly and he and I were discharged from the hospital 4 days later. I wasn’t having labor pain that fateful night but experiencing a rare event – placental abruption. I lost 1500 cc of blood but not one drop vaginally, which would have been my signal something was really wrong. Time has helped but I still have a difficult time seeing, hearing or reading about anything twin-related. Thank the Lord for Jean and CLIMB, I can’t imagine where I’d be without the support. P.S. I’m pregnant and due any day with a baby girl. It’s been an anxious pregnancy, especially now that the end is here.
Three Years Later…
On July 3, 1997, I checked into the hospital with my baby name book in hand – we still hadn’t decided on names! I was at 35 weeks, the ‘pains’ to me meant labor. It was soon discovered I wasn’t in labor. I was suffering from a placental abruption. Forty-five minutes after being admitted, our twins were delivered via emergency c-section. Colin Jonathan’s placenta was 50% abrupted. He required three minutes of CPR and 24 hours of NICU care. Carolyn Sue couldn’t be revived – she was stillborn. Her placenta had totally abrupted. After 15 minutes of CPR they pronounced her dead. We buried our perfect baby girl on July 9, 1997.
That initial grief and entire first year were so utterly painful-it truly was like living a nightmare. Our baby had died! I wanted to climb the highest mountain and scream ‘MY PERFECT BABY JUST DIED’-to me the world should come to a complete halt! Carolyn’s death should be national news. How could people be carrying on business as usual? Hadn’t this catastrophe affected everyone as much as me?
Time (along with faith which I had lost for a while) has helped heal my pain and for that I am so thankful. I thought I’d never laugh or be truly happy about anything ever again. But even time will never totally heal everything as ‘down the roaders’ like myself know. I ‘talk’ to Carolyn almost every day. I smile when I see a beautiful sunset, big and fluffy pink clouds or on a beautiful night with a bright moon and twinkly stars – I tell Carolyn ‘thank you’. I even thank her when I get a front row parking spot or am in a hurry and make a green light – she’s definitely ‘grown’ from my precious baby in a casket to my forever guiding spirit. I’ll always be sad that I can’t have her here in human form, but I know she’s here in spirit.
Certain words or phrases are so bothersome to me now. When someone jokingly says ‘I could have died’ or tells a joke and uses the word ‘casket’, ‘morbid’ or ‘cemetery’. Those kinds of things send cringes through me. And it still bothers me to see twins, hear the word ‘twins’ or to see a pregnant woman – is she carrying twins? Angel pins, ornaments, statues, shirts, etc. have also taken on new meaning, I just can’t use the term angel loosely. The word angel to me means my precious Carolyn.
The long-term effects on Colin are yet to be seen. We lovingly talk about Carolyn and have pictures of her sitting out. We frequently talk about heaven and that we’ll all be together again. Colin is a very loving, touchy and gentle little guy – he’s always rubbing my arm or leg or climbing into my lap for a hug. Even strangers comment on how kind he is to his baby sister (born 16 months later and now almost 2). He’ll take her hand and help her do things, he kisses her head, he shares his snacks with her – he’s even mellow to her when she’s being rough and hitting him! Times like that really pull on my heart strings. Does he sense his little buddy in her?
In closing, I’d just like to send a gentle hug to all the CLIMBers out there – especially those with a recent loss. I remember the piercing pain, the deep, deep ache of that initial grief and basically entire first year. Birthdays are still hard – those intense feelings come back so strong. Losing Carolyn will always hurt – even when I’m 90 years old and in a nursing home – but for now I can honestly say that life has gotten easier. I tell myself ‘life is for the living’ and that our Carolyn wants us to be happy ‘down here’. In my heart I believe she’s happy ‘up there’.