CLIMB

Colton & Kallie


I thought I could never be happier than I was on October 30, 1995, when after three years of infertility and treatments I heard those longed-for words: “you have a positive pregnancy test!” That is until November 21 when I saw those two precious tiny heartbeats. And then happier still to learn I was carrying a boy and a girl. I said my thanks every single day of my pregnancy and thought I was finally being smiled upon. Little did I know…I did worry some during the pregnancy about losing both of my babies, and the thought never occurred to me that I might lose one! Sometime in there I starting relaxing and just enjoying the ecstasy of anticipating my two longed-for angels.

Meanwhile we had five baby showers, fixed up the nursery, picked out the names, and did everything I could possibly do in advance, thinking I’d never have time for anything again. I wrote to my two babies in a journal I kept faithfully the whole time. It was a “model” twin pregnancy according to my OB. At 32 weeks she was so happy, because she said that we were out of the woods even if I delivered then. But she urged me to continue bedresting, and she didn’t have to twist my arm. At 36 weeks I had my monthly sonogram, and both babies were fine. Neither baby was head down. Kallie’s placenta was lowest in my womb and sort of “under” Colton’s, so they couldn’t measure her very well but said she was fine. I remember asking the attendant if she could see her moving, because I hadn’t felt her much lately. In fact I’d always felt less movement from her than from my son, and she was always smaller, but was always assured that that was normal for a twin pregnancy and especially so in my case because of their positions.

My OB was out of town that week, so when I went in for my weekly visit with one of her associates she said I’d have to have a C-section because of their positions. I really hoped she was wrong and that my OB would have another opinion. I took extra care with my bedrest that week because I wanted MY doctor there for the big event, and she had said she didn’t want to miss it either. At 37 weeks (a Monday) I saw my doctor, who confirmed that I’d need a C-section. I half-jokingly said, “Let’s get them out tomorrow! You said 37 weeks is term for twins.” She said, “Let’s wait a week. Everything’s fine and the longer they’re in there the better for them.” I said, “How about the end of this week?” She said she’d see what she could set up.

The next day someone on her staff called to say my C-section would be Saturday morning, June 22. They tried to set it up for Thursday or Friday but the OR’s were full and since it wasn’t an emergency situation my doctor was confident with Saturday. We called all the family and everyone made their plans to come into town.

On Friday morning at 10:15 I had my last pre-op visit with my doctor, and we listened to two strong heartbeats. I was on a cloud. That night at about 9:00 my water broke. We called the doctor, who said to meet her at the hospital. My fluid was a bit brownish, but I wasn’t alarmed and didn’t mention it to the doctor. My husband Robert and I excitedly drove to the hospital, followed closely by my mother and mother-in-law. They left a note for the rest of the family expected that night to meet us at the hospital.

When I got to the maternity ward I pulled out the towel I had placed between my legs so I wouldn’t leak fluid on the seat of the car. The fluid was greenish. I learned later that this is a sign of fetal distress. None of the nurses seemed alarmed, so I wasn’t either. A nurse hooked me up to monitor the babies’ heartbeats, and found Colton’s right away. They had a hard time finding Kallie’s, but kept trying. Supposedly it was also common to hear one heartbeat more strongly than the other. She kept getting my heartbeat, which we realized because of how slow it was. Finally the nurse said she got it and gave me a big smile. I relaxed.

I don’t know how long all of this went on. I was just waiting for my doctor to come in. Robert saw her down the hall at the nurse’s station and figured she’d be there shortly. Soon after, Robert was looking at the monitor and saw that Kallie’s heartbeat was much too slow. Finally my doctor came in after we’d been there about an hour. All this time I was just assuming the nurses were keeping her updated and she wasn’t worried – it was standard procedure for the nurses to care for you at first. When she came in she was happy as a lark and said, “Are you ready?” When I told her they had a hard time finding Kallie’s heartbeat her face dropped immediately. She tried. Then she brought the sonogram machine over and started to look at Kallie, keeping a poker face the whole time. She looked and looked for what seemed like eternity, then said, “I’m not trying to keep anything from you, I just want to be sure of what I’m seeing.” My heart started to sink. She called in another doctor, who looked and looked. I had been watching their faces more than the monitor the whole time. The second doctor finally looked at us sadly, with tears in her eyes, and shook her head.

I was holding Robert’s hand this whole time, and looked at him as I heard my doctor say she was sorry, but Kallie’s heart was not beating. I kept looking at my husband, hoping he would tell me she was okay and it was all a big mistake. He was looking back at me with the most loving and sad expression I’d ever seen. I felt like I was not in my body at this point. That I was looking down from somewhere else, looking into someone else’s tragedy, not mine. My little girl dead? Impossible. For some reason it did not occur to me to be worried about Colton – perhaps because his heartbeat was fine. Then I heard my doctor gently saying we needed to get Colton out ASAP – she didn’t even have to spell out that since we didn’t know what happened to Kallie we had to worry that it might get him too.

Then she left us alone while she went to prepare. I just kept looking and looking at Robert. The phone rang in the room, and he picked it up. I have no idea why he picked it up. But it was one of our diving friends calling. Robert had called the dive shop, where we sometimes hung out on Friday nights with 15-20 others, on our way out the door to the hospital. This group was very excited for us and had given us one of the showers. They were calling to find out what was happening, and the switchboard put them through to our room. I listened in disbelief while Robert said, “We lost one of them.” I don’t know what our friend said, but the call ended quickly.

They wheeled me down the hall. I don’t even know if I was crying at this point, because I simply don’t remember. Most of it is a fog. I do remember that everyone looked so sad. I got the epidural. My doctor asked me if I wanted to see Kallie when they took her out, and I said no. But I did want to see Colton. They got to work. I remember the anesthesiologist looking at me with such sadness and compassion while he stroked my forehead. Robert was holding my hand and watching the whole operation, even though fathers aren’t normally allowed to look beyond the sheet.

I don’t remember if my doctor told me she was doing so, or that I just knew it when she pulled Kallie out. Then came Colton, and she held him up for me to see. His cry was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard, and I began to weep and weep and weep.

Suddenly I realize why it’s taken me so long to write this story for CLIMB. Putting this into words is making me re-live it, and I’m getting that “I’m hitting a brick wall at 100 miles an hour” feeling again. So I’m going to try to wrap this up. Besides, you know what happened next since I shared my poem. “I have no idea how” in a previous edition of this newsletter. Kallie died of an infection called villitis, which caused infarctions (dead tissue) in her placenta. We think it happened gradually over the last two weeks, because while Colton had grown from the time of their last sonogram to the birth, she had not. If only we had gotten her out sooner…

The autopsy put the time of death at 8-24 hours before her birth. We already knew she was alive during my doctor’s appointment that morning, so it must have happened shortly after. It also convinced us that the nurses did nothing to cause her death, although in another situation such unprofessionalism COULD result in disaster. This was a hard realization because I so wanted to blame somebody – the nurses, the doctors….but concentrated on blaming myself. I have been able to move past most of that now, because I could not have known, BUT it still rears its ugly head sometimes.

I think the grand irony is that I held onto by babies TOO well. If I only hadn’t done so much bedrest! But then I remember that Colton is healthy, so I did the right things. (This is a whole other sad story, but Colton had some seizures of unknown cause when he was four and five months old. A year later he is off the medication and has had two normal EEG’s. We’re hoping he’s outgrown it and we’re almost out of the woods. You can imagine what a basket case I was when he was in the hospital for three days. I kept telling Robert that I just couldn’t handle this, that I was already past my limit, and that he would have to handle everything. He justifiably convinced me that I had to be strong for Colton, so I was. But when we got him home I lost it!)

I have many regrets about my Kallie’s birth and death: that I didn’t hold her more than once, that we didn’t take our own pictures, that we didn’t have a formal memorial or funeral service (I could NOT face anyone at the time and was a hermit for weeks). But I can’t go back.

To make it worse, this condition that took Kallie can recur in subsequent pregnancies. But now we know what to look for. Despite my fear I am pursuing infertility treatments again (the rollercoaster!) and will consider adoption.

I’ve also enclosed a letter I wrote to Kallie and read aloud on the twins first birthday during a family memorial service.

One final note: I am SO GRATEFUL to Jean and other CLIMB volunteers for being supportive and for putting me in touch with other Moms who have become my support network. I give them part of the credit for the fact that I am still walking, talking, carrying on with life, and am living with this tragedy. Thank you.

Diane
…Diane became the mother of another little girl about three years later, through adoption from Russia after further infertility treatments were not successful.

Dear Kallie,

A year has passed since you lay safely in my womb one day, and had died the next. The pain is still as raw as a year ago, deep down. The difference is this: while the pain overshadowed my every moment for a very long time, it is now integrated into my soul and feels more manageable…some of the time. Other times, without warning, it flows forward to drown me again.

Just when I think I have moved toward acceptance of your death, something happens to tell me I haven’t. Just a couple of weeks ago, Betsy called while I was in the shower, and left a message with Robert to call her right back because it was important. When he told me that, the first thing that flashed into my mind was that she was calling because she had found you, and confirmed my belief that it had all been a horrible mistake. In the next second, I was drowning again.

The questions have not ceased, rather more arise the deeper I search for the answers. My heart cannot believe that God purposely took you from me and that there is some reason. If I were to believe this, than I would believe I am being punished or that He doesn’t love me. That’s a scary thought. Rather, I must believe that there is randomness in the universe, that there is disease and death in this world God created, and we were just extremely unlucky. And that God hurts for us as much as we hurt. This is the only theory I can believe, perhaps as a form of self-protection. Even believing in this theory does not stop the questions about why? Why am I writing this letter to you now instead of shopping for your birthday present and your birthday clothes? Why are some families blessed with twins and we weren’t? Why am I left with just your ashes instead of both babies to love?

I suppose that once the questions stop, that will mean I have found peace and acceptance. I’m not near that point. And even in all this searching for answers, I will never know if I have found the truth in this lifetime. I can only hope I know later. And even more I hope that your death truly has some meaning.

I know you are always with me. I often feel you and know you’re here. I know you are the one who has given me strength to move on and take care of Colton. I know you prompted me to walk into the living room that time that he was having one of his seizures. I know you are his guardian angel. I must thank you for giving me this strength, especially when I feel the well of strength has run dry. Somehow you pull me out.

Since you are always with us, you know what a beautiful, smart, loving baby your brother is. He has been SO good, and I often think I really would have lost it otherwise. But my overwhelming joy and pride in Colton makes me miss you that much more. Since I did SO MUCH fantasizing and dreaming while I was pregnant, I still see my two babies in the nursery. I still see both of you crawling around, getting into everything. I still have the vision of the joyous first birthday, with a cake for you and a cake for Colton. It is too hard for me to let them go. I am not ready yet. The dream is all I have of you. You will always be perfect in my dreams – my perfect little girl. Because I was denied the privilege of watching you grow up to be a person, with faults and all.

Colton likes to look in the mirror a lot, and I know he thinks he is seeing another baby. He kisses it, talks to it and tries to play with it. This is too much for me to handle, because had you lived he would have his sister to do this with. I would be watching you two interact. It adds fuel to the fire of my visions.

Most of our family and friends will make it a point to recognize and acknowledge Colton’s birthday to us in some way. But most will not be brave enough to remember you today. Most will think they shouldn’t bring it up, and think they’re being considerate by not reminding us of our loss. I will not be angry with them, as I was in the beginning. Those who haven’t walked in our shoes cannot understand, and I am glad for them. They cannot understand that we will never forget you, could never forget you, and do not want to forget you. Not an hour goes by that you are not in my thoughts. You are a part of us.

I find only slight comfort in the fact that you are with us spiritually – it’s like a consolation prize. If this earthly life is but a blink of an eye, why couldn’t I have had you for that blink? Perhaps some day we will be reunited forever on another plane, and then this void in my earthly life will be forgotten. Perhaps you will come back into our lives, as another child or grandchild? This is my dream.

I go back and forth between thinking of you as a mature, evolved spirit who needed only a short time on earth this trip, and as my helpless little baby who may need me. If the former is true, that is how you have helped me find the strength to care for Colton and not try to follow you. If the latter is true, I know you are surrounded by our relatives and friends who have passed on, and they are taking good care of you.

I guess I needn’t be reading this aloud for you to know it. I didn’t even have to write it. I know you know what’s in my heart and soul. But it just feels better to say it out loud.

Another mom who lost a twin said, “We will heal, a tear at a time, a cell at a time.” I had no idea one person could cry SO MANY tears. And it’s far from over.

I keep thinking that if I could only go back…but I can’t. I love you, and I miss you. You will always be in my heart, my precious daughter, my beloved little girl who I had for such a short time.

Love always,
Mommy

I have no idea how…

I’m walking, I’m talking, I’m carrying on.
But I have no idea how.

I look down at my body
and am surprised to find it all in
one piece.
For it feels as if it hit
a brick wall
going 100 mph
on the day my Kallie
died and was born.

Life is surreal, as if I’m
looking down on my body
as someone else makes it function.

I’m caring for her twin,
my beautiful Colton.
His Daddy says I’m doing
a good job.
But I have no idea how
Except that he needs me
and he and his Daddy are
the only things
that give me the will
to carry on.

Part of me died with
my daughter.
My joy for my son
cannot change that.
My grief
cannot change my joy.
They are separate
and each oh so intense.

It seems as if there is not
enough time to grieve.

I’m accepting visitors
We’re resuming activities and
planning trips.
I even laugh sometimes,
mostly at Colton.
But I have no idea how.

I’ve been told we’ve handled this
with dignity, strength and grace.
But I have no idea how.

Those who believe that have
not seen as blubber like babies;
have not seen me
rock back and forth
back and forth
back and forth in the chair.

Wondering through floods
of tears how I will get
the strength
to get out of that chair
and care for my crying son.
Thinking that only crazy people
rock back and forth
back and forth
and wondering if I’d lost my mind.

I may seem ‘together’ on
the surface.
But the indescribable pain
lurks just below
barely underneath.
Ready to bubble forth
like lava
at anything
or at nothing.

Permanent knots are living
in my throat
and my stomach.

My feelings are a jumble of
sadness, terror, anger, disbelief,
pity (for myself), denial, joy, hope, love
and they fight for my attention.

I can be functioning and feeling
like I can handle this
one minute,
and the next
I’ve crashed.

I rail at the unfairness of it all.

We’re thinking of the future;
we want a sibling for Colton.
But I have no idea how
I can get on that roller coaster
of infertility again…
Afraid to add that angst to the grief,
Afraid to wait because of my age;
Afraid of being petrified for nine months
because of the medical risk
that we will have to go through this
again.
I could not.

I cannot bear to see
dark-haired, dark-eyed little girls;
for I see Kallie.
I cannot listen to the radio
for all the songs about
loss of ‘my baby’ or ‘my girl’.
I hear another baby cry sometimes
when Colton sleeps peacefully
in my arms.

If I could go back to
the day before they were born,
when the world was perfect.
We missed her by eight hours.
Eight short hours in the 38 weeks
my body nourished hers.
My body betrayed me
by killing her
the day before she was to be born.
Instead I held her dead body in my arms.

At 37 weeks I jokingly
asked my doctor,
‘Can you take them tomorrow?’
She said, ‘Let’s wait a week.
Everything’s fine.’
I said okay.
If I had ONLY INSISTED
we get them out.
Me, the
Great All-time Worrier
had finally stopped worrying
about my babies.
Did I ignore an intuitive reaction
because it wasn’t strong enough?

With the two little words,
‘I’m sorry’
my world went from
the best it had ever been
to the worst it had ever been:
the shock still
reverberates in my soul.
If I could ONLY GO BACK…
But I have no idea how.

My faith is in shambles;
this is scaring me.
People say this should strengthen it
but I have no idea how.
If God took my baby away
or let her be taken away
without intervening
how can I thank Him?
Most of the time I am angry with him.

The questions never end:
why did this happen?
why me?
doesn’t God love me?
am I being punished?
am I not worthy?
am I incapable of mothering twins?
why didn’t I die instead?
The questions burn holes in my soul.

People say ‘there’s a reason’
But this hurts us.
There cannot be a reason
for a senseless act.
If it was due to randomness
in the universe,
and not an act of God,
who’s to say we won’t be struck again?

I live in numbing fear
that Colton will be taken, too
and I won’t be able to stop it.
Then I truly would die.

People concentrate on Colton
and most don’t mention Kallie’s name.
He deserves all the attention he gets.
But this hurts
because Kallie deserves it too.
I want people to acknowledge
that she existed,
that she was loved and lost.

I feel so alone in my pain,
and know that those who haven’t
been there
cannot begin to understand.
It is not their fault.
I have no idea how
to make them understand.

People ask me how I am;
I say ‘I’m fine’ or ‘okay’ or ‘carrying on’
because it makes them feel better,
less helpless in the face of my pain.
But I want to scream
‘Our baby died
Our dreams of having a daughter died
Our chance to be parents of twins died
Our son’s sister died
And often I want to die.’

And then I feel the guilt
as if Colton isn’t enough.
He’s perfect, he’s good, he’s innocent.
If we hadn’t ever had his sister
I’d be the happiest woman in the world.
But we had her, and she died.
And now I’m
the happiest
and the saddest
woman in the world.
When I want to die
it is not because I could bear
to leave them,
but because I sometimes feel
Colton and his Daddy would be
better off without me –
this broken, grief-stricken, shell
of my former self.

And I know my little Colton grieves.
I can feel it that he feels something wrong,
although he doesn’t know what.
He loved her too.
We must learn the best way
to tell him about
his sister.
And worry about him having
a sense of loneliness
and incompleteness
that they say haunts twinless twins
no matter when the loss occurred.

Pe ople want to help,
but they have no idea how,
and I have no idea how, except
just to say ‘I’m sorry’ is enough.
And give me a hug.
And let me talk about my daughter.
And maybe help me to manage my life
since all is out of control.

I feel the love pouring in
and wish that it could
bring her back.
But it cannot.

I lay down on the bed
with my little girl’s ashes;
this and a few of her things
are all I have of her.
I don’t even have pictures
because the nurses said they
would take them.
But they waited too long
and her body was completely discolored.
We can’t bear to look at them.
I am so angry about this!
All I have is the memory of her face
when I held her,
so much like her brother’s.
I must hold that memory and hope
it doesn’t fade
with time.

I call to her and beg her
to answer me
tell me she is happy
and will return to me someday
in whatever form.
But the silence is as deep
as the absence of her cry
when she came into the world.

The world is still turning
but I have no idea how.
The sun still shines
but I will forever have
a cloud as a shadow.
Forever have aching arms
and shattered dreams.

How long will this take,
this journey to regain my
hope for the future
and sense of peace?
Can it even be done?
I must resolve this, accept it
and move on.
But I have no idea how.

9/7 – 9/19

Diane