Alex, Brendan & Collin

I found out I was expecting twins when I was 7 weeks pregnant. I was very excited, but also guarded. I was a Labor and Delivery nurse at the time and had seen some of my patients experience the loss of a child. When I would see a father holding a baby who died, I remember thinking, I hope I never have to watch my husband in a similar situation. Well, because I am writing in CLIMB you can guess the ending of this story.

At a routine 18-week ultrasound, the tech asked “You’re having twins, huh?” By this point we had come to accept the upcoming changes in our lives. We looked at each other, smiled and said proudly, “Yes we are”. She then proceeded to tell us, “I see 3 heads, and 6 arms and 6 legs! You’re going to have triplets! ” Needless to say we were shocked. My husband had joked with my doctor a couple months earlier during the first ultrasounds and asked him to double check to make sure there were only two. We had conceived triplets on Clomid, a very unexpected finding especially at 18 weeks.

From that day, one of the babies was noticeably smaller than the other two. Low fluid surrounding this baby indicated that it wasn’t growing well. Four weeks later at another ultrasound, we were told this baby might not survive. The doctors said there was nothing they could do. We then went for weekly ultrasounds. We prayed he would still be alive and held our breath at the start of each ultrasound until we saw the heart beating. I started to prepare my family and myself for an intra-uterine death. My husband reassured me and helped me think positive thoughts. The weeks passed and our little fighter was still hanging in there. We started to feel more hopeful and found out we would be having three boys.

At 27 weeks, my bag of water broke. I was in denial. I waited until the next day to go to the hospital. About 30 hours after my bag broke I delivered 27 2/7-week triplets, Alex 1# 2, Brendan 1# 15 and Collin 1# 11. They were all born alive! We knew we all had a rough road ahead of us, but they were out and alive. Brendan was the first to scare us by coding one night at 4 weeks. He had contracted Group B Strep (GBS) meningitis and almost died. Alex wasn’t gaining weight and still couldn’t breathe on his own. Collin was the model preemie. I kept telling him he didn’t have to scare us to get attention. We would spend time with him and enjoy his “healthiness”.

One day, one of the doctors in the NICU said the boys had gotten past their rough times. She thought survival wasn’t in question. Even Alex had gotten off the ventilator and had put on some weight. At that point, they were 8 weeks old. We started to get ready at home, clothes washed, cribs set up. Collin and Brendan were going to be coming home within 1-2 weeks. They just needed to gain some more weight.

When the boys were 9 weeks old, our perfect patient, Collin, got sick. His doctor said, “He just needs another blood transfusion”. We weren’t too concerned – it was only a little more blood. But that afternoon Collin was re-intubated and diagnosed with GBS meningitis. When I looked into his eyes, which were the brightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen on a baby, I really thought he would make it. Brendan did. Collin was strong. At 8 p.m., we were told he wouldn’t make it through the night. We stayed over his bed and hoped and prayed and held his tiny little hand. We gave him all the love and support we could possibly give him. When things looked like they weren’t going to turn around, we whispered to him it was OK if he needed to let go. He died in my arms about 10 p.m. I had to watch my husband say goodbye to one of his precious babies we loved so much.

The next day, after Collin died, we were right back in the NICU to see Alex and Brendan. No parent should have to watch his or her baby die and then go right back to the place it happened. We couldn’t stay away from our other babies who also needed us. I was completely numb. The hardest thing we had to do was tell the other boys what had happened the night before, even though we knew they wouldn’t understand. The following day, Alex became septic with GBS and was treated with antibiotics. He never got meningitis.

We pushed to get Brendan discharged. We would do anything to take him home. He came home on an apnea monitor and various medicines two weeks later. Alex began to get more and more sick. He was extremely jaundiced and his belly was filling up with fluid. No one knew what the problem was. He wasn’t tolerating milk. He wasn’t growing and he was getting more edematous each day. He was transferred to a children’s hospital nearby where he could be seen by specialists. Alex was diagnosed with liver failure, possibly from the GBS. The liver specialists told us Alex would not survive without a liver transplant. They said that he would need to be a minimum of 10 pounds to receive a transplant. At this point, he was barely 3 pounds. Soon after, we watched him go downhill, they couldn’t ventilate him because his abdomen was too full of fluid. It was like watching Collin die all over again. We told him it how much we loved him, and that it was OK if he had to “let go”. He had fought for so long, we didn’t want him to suffer any longer. We were hopeful, but we expected him to die too. The next day, one of his lab tests came back slightly improved. He got a little better every day. He was even taking some of his feedings for the first time by mouth. Alex eventually came home after two surgeries with a feeding tube. One of his doctors told us he had only seen three miracles in all his years practicing medicine and Alex was one of them. I don’t use the word miracle often, but I truly believe Alex is a miracle. He had his brother in heaven giving him strength.

Caring for two challenging babies put my grief on hold. It wasn’t until I returned to work that I started to realize the impact of Collin’s death on my life. Returning to work at the unit and hospital where my triplets were born, I was constantly reminded of the painful memories of the boys’ NICU stay. After six months of subjecting myself to seeing so many people having healthy babies, a job opened up for me working with parents of multiples! This job has offered me other opportunities to heal as well. I started searching for information on multiple birth loss and raising survivors. There is not much information out there. Luckily I found Dr. Beth Pector’s website ( synspectrum /multiplicity.html) which has a great deal of information and has helped me immensely. From there, I’ve joined e-mail support groups, met some wonderful women with similar experiences and have started receiving CLIMB newsletters.

Sixteen weeks ago, I delivered a full-term healthy baby girl Savannah Collin. The “normalness” of my pregnancy and delivery of her has helped heal a small part of me. She is truly a joy. Most of the bitterness that I once felt is gone. I no longer say to myself “one year ago today things were normal…” I don’t get secretly jealous of others when they have healthy babies. But, I do hope every person appreciates the joy their children can bring to their lives.

My boys have just turned three at the end of August. They have each had various preemie-related issues, but are very active, loving little boys. When they get a little squirrelly, I remember how far they h ave come and how truly lucky we are to have them. We are still missing somebody. We often hear, “Are they twins?” It is hard to come up with an answer that feels right. I know the difference between twins and triplets. The difference is our son, Collin.