Ryan & Shannon…and 8 years later
As the 1st year birthday of our daughter Shannon approaches, I find myself torn between emotions. It seems that not so long ago our life was total euphoria. After four long years of wondering if we were ever going to have a family our dream was soon to become a reality. For three years I went through numerous tests and medicines in order to conceive a child. I spent two of those years with a terrific doctor who methodically eliminated different approaches after two laparoscopies and several other procedures. Finally my doctor suggested that we go for IVF. In-vitro required more medicine more timing and more procedures. The procedures went very well my body responded well to all the medicine and I produced more than enough eggs for the procedure, 25 in total. Of those 18 actually fertilized and 4 were implanted in me. Waiting on pins and needles for two weeks we got the exciting news that we indeed were pregnant and as an extra bonus we were having twins.
You can imagine how excited we were to find out we were having two babies due on November 13th. Thirteen has always been a lucky number in our lives. We began our planning right away. Never in our wildest dreams did we feel that anything but happiness would come out of this pregnancy. We started looking around for the perfect cribs, the perfect theme for the room and all the accessories necessary. We did our baby shower wish list and found out in July that we were having a little girl whom we will name Shannon Margaret and a little boy whom we will name Ryan Frederick. We indeed were on top of the world. My husband always had this strange premonition about having a set of twin girls so he never thought he would have a son. When he found out one was a boy he was twice as happy. All along all we really wanted were two healthy, happy babies. I prayed nightly asking for the babies to be healthy and for a safe delivery We were always the type of people that things did happen to us but they always turned out good. That was the philosophy that we lived by. So when things were tough we could always say that we have to work hard for what we want and in the end we get rewarded for our efforts.
Things were going along well. They were worried about my blood pressure and swelling in my legs near the middle of the pregnancy and decided to pull me out of work about a week ahead of my schedule. My doctor just wanted me to rest at home and do as little walking around as possible. He wanted the swelling to stay down. Then on our anniversary day, which was September 28th, I was keeping my feet elevated and the swelling just would not go down. I was now 33 weeks 4 days. I called my doctor’s service since it was Sunday morning and they told me he would meet me at the hospital. I figured the doctor was going to check me over say all was fine and that I was overreacting and would just send me home. Well that is not how the day played out. I was at the hospital by 10:30 in the morning and they were constantly taking my blood pressure it kept going up and my doctor became more alarmed. They put me on magnesium sulfate and told me that this should bring my blood pressure down. After a couple hours on that medication the blood pressure was not going down and my doctor decided we had to induce labor.
I was scared it was too early, but there was no other choice. Again I was living with the idea that things happen and we never do things the easy way but it always works out in the end. They started the pitocin and I believe that labor must have started somewhere in the late afternoon. With all the medication time was getting blurred. They had me in the labor room across from the c-section room to begin with since I was having twins and my son was going to be breech and they wanted to make all the arrangements in case I would need an emergency c-section.
As the hours went by I kept meeting different staff members since my labor continued through shift change. They were planning to deliver the babies in the c-section room and I was moved there at about 11:30. There were thirteen people in the delivery room with us. A team for each of the babies and a c-section team standing by, when I pushed my daughter into the world at 12:34 weighing 4lbs. 5 ozs. She immediately screamed and was taken by team 1, my husband went to see her and told me she was beautiful. I of course was not done yet they needed to deliver my son. He was breech and the doctor moved quickly to deliver him. He was born two minutes later weighting 4 lbs. 13 oz. The second team immediately took him and were working with him at a warming bed farther away. With my daughter screaming and my son farther away all I kept saying was that I could not hear him crying. Nobody was listening to me I wanted to know why I didn’t hear him cry. My husband went over to see him and within a few minutes I was shown my beautiful baby boy all wrapped up and looking really mad at the world. They also brought over my daughter for me to see and she looked beautiful. They quickly ran both children out of the delivery room and to the NICU.
I didn’t know for three days afterwards that my son was not breathing when he came out. They had to bag him and that is why nobody was talking to me they were busy working with him. They were both in the NICU. Ryan my son was put on oxygen in an incubator and Shannon was in an incubator but was not put on oxygen. She was a tough little girl from the start. Shannon was born with lots of dark hair and looked like me. Ryan was a blond redhead and very fair skinned just like my husband. His eyes lit up his entire face.
Shannon remained in the NICU for twelve days and had to go under the bilurubin light. Ryan remained in the NICU for 17 days and was not as strong. He came out of the incubator and had to go back in because he was not maintaining his body temperature. He was taken off oxygen after a few days. He was having some desaturations while in the NICU but always self started himself. Never did the nurses have to stimulate or resuscitate him he had acid reflux and was put on a low level of caffeine to give him a little kick as the doctors said. Hen medicine and was put on a low level of caffeine to give was growing like a weed we took him home on October 17th and he tipped the scale at 5 lbs. We brought Ryan home on an apnea monitor and things seemed just fine. We were finally all together as a family under one roof.
The kids were doing great. We were settling in as a family and were getting ourselves into the routine of having newborn twins. We had pictures taken of them at home at just about 7 weeks. They were not very cooperative and the photographer almost rescheduled but I insisted she try again (thank goodness I did that). Three days later our world would forever change.
It was Thursday, Morning November 20th, 1997 and my husband decided to take the day off of work. We went to the mall to have the kid’s pictures taken with no incidents for some time now and he had even been retested and the doctors said he was making progress. No red flags in his tests. They told us he could be off the monitor when we were with him so that day we had him off the monitor since the tabs did such terrible things to his sensitive skin. We drove home from the mall and halfway home Ryan was crying because he lost his pacifier. My husband Paul stopped the car, got out and gave him his plug and we continued home. We got home and brought the kids in. They had been sleeping so we put them on the couch in their car seats not wanting to disturb them. Brought packages in the house, let the dog out back and the next thing I knew was my husband telling me he didn’t like Ryan’s coloring and to call 911. It seemed like forever before I was able to get through (it probably wasn’t). My husband began CPR and after that moment everything began to become a blur. The police came, the paramedics came, they grabbed Ryan and ran him out to the ambulance. The police took Paul, Shannon and me in the police car to the hospital, which was only 3 miles away. I was upset in the car because the ambulance had not left yet. We arrived at the hospital before they did. When we got there they escorted us to a private room to wait. They would not let me see my baby because they were busy working on him. The police said a prayer with us and the doctors or nurses would update us. Finally we were able to see him and he looked so pale. While I was there he again had an incident and they had to use the paddles to get his heart going again. They told me that he had stopped breathing for some time and they would not know what type of brain damage he may have suffered. They wanted to transport him to C.H.O.P. (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). They didn’t hold out much hope but wanted to give him the best shot they could. I should have known then when they transported him by ambulance and not helicopter that things would not turn out to be ok.
During this night my Mom had arrived at the hospital and the police took her home with Shannon. We took my Mom’s car and followed the ambulance to C.H.O.P. I remember thinking that if my little boy was going to have severe permanent brain damage that I didn’t want him to suffer that way and asked God to have mercy on him. I still don’t know what would have been right. If my little boy had permanent severe brain damage would it be right to have him live as a vegetable or better to be at peace. I don’t know if I will be able to fully answer that ever. We arrived at C.H.O.P. and the head doctor of the NICU happened to be on that night. He went to see Ryan and came out to talk with us. He told us that Ryan’s body had taken quite a shock. That was the first real time we realized that the possibility existed that he may not survive. We waited in the waiting room for some time and finally were allowed to see him. I met his nurses and we were just beginning to settle in to sitting with him. I told him that Mommy and Daddy were here and we each were holding on to his hand when all the buzzers in the room went crazy. (I think he waited for us to be with him before he let go.) The nurses did not immediately panic but then suddenly we were taken to the room next to his. The nurses kept coming out to tell us what was happening. The one image I will never forget was the doctor walking across the room. I knew it was not good. I remember him telling me that Ryan didn’t make it and I remember screaming. They let us see him and we sat with him for a few hours (I think). I asked the doctor what caused this and he said one small word: SIDS.
The counselor came to see us and I was afraid that our church would not allow us to give him a proper service because he had not been baptized. Thankfully that did not happen, the nun from the church I spoke with was very wonderful about it and renewed my faith in the Catholic Church.
We had the most perfect life for 7 weeks. My daughter Shannon is now just over 2 years old, it has taken me that long to complete this story. I have told Jean that I wanted to tell this story and did not have the courage. Ryan’s Angel Date is November 21, 1997 – soon it will be two years. I don’t have that numb feeling like I did for the first year, but I don’t know if it will ever be the same again. I hate seeing twins. It is still much too painful to see what I had. I am happy that I got to be his Mommy even for a short time. That is something nobody can ever take away from me. I am so very happy that those first few weeks I was such a shutterbug and took lots of pictures of Ryan and Shannon together and separate. These pictures are all over our house and I kiss his picture good night every night. I tell Shannon about him often and how she will always be a twin and she has a special guardian angel watching over her. She is talking a lot more now and the other day I got her to say his name.
My husband and I are part of the Bucks County (PA) SIDS Alliance a local support group and for the past two years we have been responsible for a SIDS Comedy Benefit. It is our way of honoring the memory of our son. This past year we raised over $6,000, which will go to research, support and education on SIDS. Maybe someday no other parent will have to endure the pain that we endure every day.
On a happier note, January 16, 1999, I gave birth to my subsequent son Kyle Ryan. He too was early (4 weeks) but came into this world a whopping 7 lbs. 10oz. He is technically a triplet to Ryan and Shannon since I went through a frozen embryo IVF procedure. He is now 9-1/2 months old and doing wonderfully. Without CLIMB I would feel as if nobody understands what it feels like to lose a multiple.
8 Years Later
Well here I am on Ryan’s 8th Angel Date, November 21st 2005. This is the first year that I am not with my family on this day. For the 1st year we went to Maryland to the SIDS Alliance Office to see his stone and leaves on the Tree of Hope. One of the volunteers there at the time named Shari was nice enough to take time out of her weekend to meet us and open up the office so that we could see the Tree of Hope. That year we knew that was exactly where we needed to be. Shannon (Ryan’s surviving twin) was 1 year and 7 weeks old when we went and she didn’t understand. At the time I was also pregnant with my subsequent son Kyle who was born in January 1999.
The next 4 years each Thanksgiving we had our family vacation to DisneyWorld we decided that we wanted to be somewhere that we could be happy. We knew that Ryan would be with us in spirit and instead of making November 21st this day that the kids would dread we decided that we should make it a family day where we are together someplace really fun. So that was how we spent the first five years.
On the 6th year we went to visit my mother-in-law who lives in Las Vegas. We had been promising to go out there and thought it was time. The kids enjoyed Circus Circus and we went to see Red Rock Canyon, which was breathtaking. It was still our way of being together and knowing that Ryan would be with us. Last year was the first time in six years that we didn’t go away. November 21st fell on a weekend and I don’t recall us doing anything special except for spending time together. Each year there were tears and sadness remembering what should have been, but there was also appreciating what we have. I never in my life wanted Shannon or Kyle saying that we loved Ryan more than them, because that would never be true. I have a special place in my heart for each of my children.
I find myself not struggling as much as I did those first few years. I don’t get as upset when I see twins because my twins would no longer be babies. Shannon is now in the 2nd Grade and Kyle is in 1st. When people ask me how many children I have I don’t struggle with that question. I tell them I have two. I know I will always be the Mother of 3 but somehow I don’t feel the need to let everyone I meet know that anymore. There are actually times when I come out and tell people about Ryan and I don’t quite know why, maybe because in that instant the person that I am talking to somehow needs to know.
I do however let my children’s teachers know about Ryan just in case my kids mention him I don’t want the teacher saying anything that would make them feel bad. My kids have always known about Ryan and they also talk about him. There are times when they tell me how much they miss him and if they can visit him in heaven or why can’t he visit us. I tell them that he watches over us and will always be part of our family. My husband and I lost a dear friend named Herman a couple of years ago and when we went to see him, I asked him to watch over Ryan and for a short time I found myself a bit envious of Herman because he was soon going to see my little boy. I know that may sound strange and it didn’t last long but it was a feeling that I had. But believe me I know and appreciate the special gifts that I have every day when Shannon and Kyle wake up and give me a hug.
I also don’t think of Ryan as a baby anymore either. Thou I lost him when he was only 7 weeks old to SIDS, I feel that since Shannon has grown so would Ryan. I also always wondered if Shannon would remember something about Ryan as the years went by and I know there are probably some mothers who lost recently that would like to ask me that same question, and unfortunately the answer to that questions was no. I guess she was just too young to recall anything. She does miss him and talks about him often and someone told me that one day Shannon will do something in honor of her brother. I truly believe that will happen.
My husband and I have stayed involved in the SIDS Community and helping to raise money for research and to bring awareness to people. My husband has even served on the National SIDS Alliance (First Candle Board) for the past three years and will continue for another three years and I think that has helped us to get through those darkest of days.
So for those of you who are in those early years, there is one thing I have to say. You never forget your beautiful baby, but you do find ways to enjoy what you have and to let go of what my husband and I have always called “The Would a Should a’s”. We embrace the family that we are blessed with each day and enjoy their successes. It seems very strange to me this year that on this 8th Angel date we are visiting our children’s school for parent teacher conferences. Life does continue on no matter what you do that was probably one of the most difficult things for me to understand. I always wondered how, can the world keep going on when my family and I have suffered such a loss.
I would also like to Thank Jean for C.L.I.M.B. and for being there during those very dark days knowing there were other families out there that lost a multiple made me feel that I wasn’t so alone. My best words of advice for anyone reading this is to do what you need to do to get yourself through the dark days eventually you will notice that you have less dark days and more happy days. Allow yourself to smile, to laugh and to enjoy life again. I use to tell myself that if it was me who had died I wouldn’t want my family suffering and not smiling then all the happy memories of me will have disappeared. My love and sympathy to all Parent, Grandparents, Siblings and Friends of those who have lost a child, there is no greater pain imaginable.
Kim (Mother to Shannon, Ryan and Kyle)