My husband and I were married in August, 2000. By September I was pregnant, I couldn’t have been happier. On January 10, 2001 I went in for a routine ultrasound at 20 weeks. I had a difficult pregnancy. I suffered from heartburn, nausea, extreme food aversions and drastic mood swings. I was nauseous all day every day and was crying all the time for no apparent reason. But despite all this I was excited to be pregnant and couldn’t wait to have a baby.
At the ultrasound the technician told me I was having twins. Quite a shock since the doctor had only heard one heartbeat. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my husband. I was a little scared at the same time. We didn’t know how to care for one baby, would we know what to do with two? About 15 minutes into the exam the mood changed. I quickly realized that something was wrong. The technician had gone quiet. He then brought back another doctor. They told me the babies were joined and that they were “not compatible with life”. We were sent to a large women’s hospital for further testing and consults with specialists.
The six days until the appointment were some of the longest days of my life. My husband and I talked about our options. We spent six days knowing that when we left the house, we’d probably not be coming home with our babies. I packed away the clothes that my husband and I had picked out, the blanket my grandma had crocheted, and all the teddies, blankets and sleepers my parents had bought for their first grandchild. Everything for the babies was packed before we left.
Six days later we were in Vancouver (BC) awaiting our appointment. After a morning of meetings and ultrasounds, my husband and I were told to go for a late lunch and a walk. The specialists would consult with each other and any other people (from across North America). We came back three hours later and met with our doctor.
The doctor told us that the babies were conjoined. He showed us a diagram of them showing their anatomy. They shared one body with two heads and two spines. They had one set of arms and one set of legs. They had one set of organs except their hearts. They had one complete heart and one partially formed heart that beat at the exact time but was connected a little. They would have been a perfect baby if there had been just one.
The doctor told us they had a 0% chance at life. Their spines each controlled different functions and their hearts would give out. There was no way to save either of them. We were given three choices: 1) carry them to term knowing that they could die at any time and definitely at birth; 2) a D&E available 3 weeks later and with a number of possible complications; 3) early induction, our safest choice for and our only way to have the option of seeing them.
We chose to go through early induction. As much as we wanted to hold on to our babies as long as possible, this was the only decision that was safe for the babies and would let them go peacefully. They wouldn’t go through any pain. That was the hardest decision of our lives. The induction was to be done that very night. Labour was 12 hours. Those were so hard, knowing I was doing something that would end my daughters’ lives. I knew we were doing what was best for them but we loved them so much. The next morning they were born. They were 21 weeks and perfect except for one obvious fact.
We had the most incredible social worker. Before the girls were born she came in and talked with us, gave us our options and just chatted. After their birth she brought us the forms to fill out and helped us do it. Then she asked if we wanted to see the babies. We were a little apprehensive but the way she described them was “beautiful, perfect and peaceful”. We couldn’t help but put our fears aside and see them.
She brought them dressed in a little gown with little white knitted hats on. They were in a little basket. She was right-they were beautiful. We spent about 30 minutes with them. It could have been longer, I don’t really know. She asked if we wanted to hold them but we both declined. They were so small and fragile-looking. They looked so peaceful. We were given a memory box. In it were their little white hats, their nightgown, bracelets, measuring tape and hand- and footprints. One day I’ll send for the pictures.
That night I was released from the hospital and we started the 5-hour drive home. When I got home, someone sent me a copy of the CLIMB newsletter from 2000. The stories helped me a lot.
I have no regrets about the decisions we made except two. I regret that I gave up my only chance to hold my daughters. They were just so small and peaceful-looking I didn’t want to disturb them. But now I wonder, “What kind of mother gives up her only chance to hold her babies?” The second regret I have is not naming them. We weren’t prepared at the time to deal with all the decisions thrown at us. We just couldn’t name them. My husband still doesn’t want to. But I’ve given them names.
It’s been two months since they died and I’ve encountered a lot of people who have come to tell me they’re sorry for our loss. I’ve discovered that there are a lot of people who just don’t know what to say. And there are a lot of people who say really stupid things.
I have good days and bad days, but lately more good than bad. The newsletter saved my sanity. The stories showed me my feelings were normal and that things do get better.
My husband was incredible throughout this whole ordeal. He was so supportive while I was pregnant, always there to comfort me. He was there for me throughout the whole ordeal. Even though he was hurting terribly he was always there loving and supporting me. Now we’ve decided to start trying again. That has opened up a whole new bag of worries for me.
I would love to hear from anyone who has been in a similar situation, and I’d like to hear from people on pregnancy after the loss of multiples.
MJ…This mom gave birth to a healthy son at term almost exactly a year later.