Matthew Ethan & Michael Evan
This is my story, one that has been told many times over. The circumstances are different but the loss and grief are the same. This is for our boys Matthew and Michael. My husband and I have been married for 18-1/2 years now. We married in 1983 and were blessed with our first child, Josh, in 1984. We wanted more children so we began trying again in 1987. For two years nothing happened and after many tests, in 1989 I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. We were told we would never have any more children. We continued to try, not using birth control of any kind (and had not since 1984) to see if we might prove the doctors wrong. In 1992 we did resort to using clomid for a few months but we were not successful. In 1996 after losing some weight (some women with PCO tend to be overweight) I became pregnant – on my own! Seven short weeks later I miscarried our baby. We were devastated but my new OB/Gyn was hopeful. He suggested I have a laparoscopy procedure done to help my ovaries to ovulate more successfully. It’s called “wiffle ball surgery”, where the cysts are removed from the ovaries. In June 1997 I had it done and went back on the clomid at the doctor’s recommendation.
By October, 1997 I was definitely pregnant!! The morning sickness was horrible but I was even happy about that. I was working at our local elementary school as the computer lab manager so I had time to sit when I needed to, which helped with the nausea and tiredness. My first appointment was scheduled for December 11 and I thought it would never get here. My husband met me at the doctor’s office and I suppose we felt like the first people in the world to be pregnant because of our excitement. After the usual lab tests and questions we were led to the sonogram room. I was 8 weeks at this time. The tech began scanning and looking for the baby. She stopped and turned the screen towards my husband and me. I asked, “Is that the baby?” and she said, “No, it’s them.” The impact of her words hit us like a brick. We were pregnant with twins. I can’t begin to describe how elated we felt, shocked and scared, with a million questions forming in my mind. The tech went and called another tech in to look at the screen and she scanned for a minute and she sent the first tech to get the doctor. We were getting concerned by this time.
The doctor came in and looked at the screen, congratulating us about the news of the twins. That’s when he said there didn’t appear to be a separation between the babies. I wasn’t told what that meant and I didn’t think to ask at the time. The only thing I could think of to ask was if that meant I was carrying identical twins. The second tech asked if that was going to be a problem. Of course I said no (how could that be a problem to a woman who had tried for 10 years to have a baby and now is pregnant with two?) Now that I look back at the whole pregnancy I realize I should have tried to educate myself more and asked questions. I guess I trusted my doctor and staff to tell me what I needed to know. I know better now. No one ever mentioned the terms “monoamniotic” or spoke to us about the risks with twins, except to set me up with a perinatologist, a specialist who sees high risk pregnancies – like mine. I thought it was because of the twins that I was scheduled to see him. Now I know better. I went along my merry way happy and very sick – getting bigger. One of the most beautiful sights to me is the sight of your unborn child, or children, on an ultrasound screen. I have the tape of the scans done while I was pregnant with the boys. There are several, but I haven’t felt like I could view it yet. Maybe someday. I felt apprehensive though, since I had miscarried before. Due to my age at the time, 34, I was labeled as an AMA – advanced maternal age patient – which made my pregnancy a bit riskier.
The sickness got worse and I got to the point that nothing was staying in my stomach. Morning sickness is truly a misnomer – I was sick 24/7. I felt the babies move at 15 weeks, just a little flutter but you just know. It’s a momma thing. At the end of my 15th week I got so sick that I became dehydrated and my husband stayed home to take me to the doctor. That was on January 28, 1998 – the day our grief journey began. The doctor on duty in the office determined I needed fluids and nausea meds to get me through this rough spot so she wanted me to stay overnight at the hospital. Before I left she decided to do a sonogram. I was due in next week anyway and it was just a precautionary thing. One minute into the sonogram it was discovered that the babies had died. She was very blunt and unemotional after that and we were shuffled off to a back room so other patients wouldn’t see us so upset. We wound up waiting two hours while she wrapped things up with her other patients before she called us into her office to tell us what happened next. My head was spinning and I heard very little except “induce, labor, deliver, maybe a few hours,” etc. I couldn’t believe I was going to have to be induced and give birth to these two babies who were now dead inside me.
The ride to the hospital was short and I was taken to the ER and from there to L&D. I was given a room and an IV was inserted to start me on fluids and the nausea med. It was decided to induce the next day so that I would be stronger physically. There were papers to sign and questions to answer. We also had to decide what our plans were for the babies. January 29, 1998 dawned bright and sunny. I was prepared for labor and given Pitocin to induce and Valium for pain – so they say. All it did was numb my senses. My labor lasted seven hours but I didn’t have to completely dilate to have them. Around 3 p.m. Michael was born, his head bruised from being in the birth canal so long. Eight minutes later Matthew was born. This same doctor I saw the day before was also the doctor who delivered the boys. She showed us the reason that the boys died – they were monoamniotic twins and their cords had wrapped together like a rope. They were the tiniest babies I had ever seen and so beautiful.
I had a wonderful nurse who took care of me and the boys. She dressed them in a gown specially made for very tiny babies – like ours – and managed to get a footprint from each of them as well. She brought us a treasure box with mementos of the boys. We were allowed as much time with them as we desired and we took several pictures. Later on that evening the patient rep came in my room to discuss arrangements. We chose to bury our little boys and plans were made. The day I went home from the hospital was one of the hardest since I had planned to be coming home with two babies. The hardest times for me were the days afterward. Not the service or burial, but the lonely days when the cards and calls stopped and my husband went back to work and my son back to school. It was hard for my son, who has to this day never talked about the loss of his brothers. I planned to take a few weeks off from work to recuperate but the administrator at the school where I worked had other ideas so I went back to work two weeks after the boys died. I was still struggling with the postpartum hormones and the gut wrenching grief along with the physical aspect of labor. My milk came in the day before returning to work and depression set in. Everyone at work treated me as if nothing had occurred and no one talked about the boys. I know it’s not unusual for others to react this way but it sure is hard on the one who is hurting.
To shorten this story I resigned from my position at the school and my husband and I decided to try one more time. I went back on the clomid and in October, 1998 we found out I was 8 weeks pregnant with our daughter Anna Naomi who was born 3 weeks early on May 18, 1999. She has helped heal our broken hearts, but due to severe gestational diabetes (I had to take insulin shots twice a day from four months until I delivered) I cannot have any more children. I am blessed to have my two living children and my three angels in heaven. When asked how many children I have I say five – two here on earth and three in heaven with their granddad. Talking about my boys helps keep them alive for me. As I see things, I am the mother of five children, the mother of twins. Talking helps with the grief I still deal with from time to time.