The loss of a triplet…our daughter Kelsey

It has just been a year since our precious triplet daughter Kelsey died and I am finally able to share my story. It’s funny how nobody wants to talk about the one who died anymore… I feel the need to keep her memory alive by talking about her as part of my healing.

Never in a million years did I think I would ever have triplets! Our first daughter was born in 1994 and she was premature. We tried conceiving for two years with her and was just about to start Clomid when I found out I was pregnant. Finally!! We wanted a child so badly. So, when we were ready to have another baby, I thought – no problem. Well, it turned into trying and trying and tests and Clomid and more tests and everything was “normal”. There was no medical reason why I couldn’t get pregnant. So, my OB/Gyn Dr. H. (who was absolutely wonderful!) thought I should try Pergonal. Of course she told us the risks of having multiples but I thought‚ “Yeah right‚ I can’t even have one more baby let alone having more than one”. Well, one cycle of Pergonal and bam‚ I was pregnant! We were so excited and really only wanted to have one more child and our family would be complete.

I had some bleeding early in the pregnancy and they did an HCG level which came out extremely high. I think all along Dr. H. suspected multiples, but said, “Oh it could just mean a good, healthy pregnancy but we better make sure.” At six weeks I had my first ultrasound and my husband Tom came with me. I basically was in denial that there could be more than one, so I just had my mind set. We went to the office to have the ultrasound done and as I laid there waiting all I could see was the look on my doctor’s face as her eyes got bigger and bigger and then looked at my husband who was about ready to pass out. Dr. H. said‚ “I see 3 babies and they all have heartbeats! ” The nurse with us was actually looking for another one and I just about freaked out. All I could do was cry!! I had so many emotions going on at that time and it was just a shock. To tell you the truth, I was not excited (at first), I thought, “how am I ever going to carry three babies?! ” I didn’t have much going for me, I already had a premature baby at 34 weeks and am only 5’0 tall and not a very big person. I am an OB nurse so of course I knew all the complications that could go wrong with the pregnancy and the risks of having very premature babies. But I thought‚ “well if God wants me to have these babies, then he will take care of me”.

Basically my pregnancy went pretty well. The biggest problem from the beginning was morning sickness! It was terrible…that is all I did was throw up. I worked until I was 16 weeks pregnant and then went on bedrest at about 21 weeks. I had so many ultrasounds done and each time all of the babies looked great. They all had their “parts” and were very healthy with no obvious problems. We knew we were having two boys for sure and thought the bottom baby was a girl but weren’t 100% sure. Kelsey held her brothers up and was such a strong baby.

Bedrest was so hard! I had a 4 year-old who was very active and a husband who was on the road a lot. The ladies from our church were so wonderful and brought us in meals. Our friends, family, and neighbors helped out so much. Week 26 came and it was my birthday and got the okay from my doctor to go to lunch with some friends. It was soooooo nice to get out and see the world. The only time I got to leave was to go to my doctor’s appointments. Later that evening, I started contracting. Of course I did all the things I was supposed to do, but they wouldn’t stop. So, off to the hospital we went thinking it was nothing and I would come back home…NOT! I ended up there for 3 weeks!! My uterus was so irritable and I started to dilate and Magnesium Sulfate was my new best friend. Oh I will never forget the feeling from that medication! Whew! Our goal was to at least reach 30 weeks, but the babies had a different plan. I delivered three healthy, beautiful babies at 29 weeks and I remember the sigh of relief when I heard all three cry. I thought…things are going to be okay. If only I knew the worst was yet to come.

Kelsey weighed 2# 8 oz, Alec weighed 2# 9 oz. & Lucas weighed 2# 4-1/2 oz. They were small but they were actually doing very well. Alec had the most problems with breathing and was on the vent for quite some time. Kelsey was only on the vent one day and Lucas never needed any assistance. They all were doing well and actually Kelsey was doing the best out of all three! We were never happier. And by the way‚ after the shock wore off I did eventually become very excited about having triplets!

Christmas was right around the corner and all the babies were doing fine. Our parents lived about 1 hour away and we thought if everything was stable we would enjoy Christmas with our family and try to give our 4-year-old Makayla some attention and spend some time with her. All was well, so we left on Christmas Eve for the night. I must have called the hospital 10 times to check on the babies. Everything was great! I woke up Christmas morningso thankful for my new family and called NICU to get my daily report and I knew something was wrong. The nurse who always took care of Kelsey and Lucas was now taking care of Lucas and Alec, which was odd. She gave me “report” on the boys and then said, “The doctor wants to talk to you.” My heart sank! Our regular neonatologist had been out of town on vacation for the holidays, so they had a travel neonatologist covering. He was from another country and it was hard to understand him. He got on the phone and said: “Kelsey is not doing very good and we had to put her on the ventilator. She has some type of infection.” WHAT!!! Why didn’t anyone call me! I can’t believe this. Here is my daughter who is stable one minute and the next she is sedated and on the vent! I was SO angry! Then he proceeds to tell me that if we just want to call and check in later that would be fine. Yeah right, like I was not going to come to the hospital!

So, my husband and I left immediately and when we got to the hospital it was terrible. She looked awful! They had her sedated and on a vent and tubes and wires everywhere. Her stomach was just huge and she was all puffy. What is happening …this just can’t be. My babies were doing fine and now Kelsey is so sick. Here it was Christmas Day and we were watching our baby get sicker and sicker. The hospital where we were at does not have pediatric surgeons and Kelsey needed to be flown out to a bigger hospital. Unfortunately, the best one was 8 hours away. We could not ride in the plane as there was no room so the next morning we drove (on hardly any sleep in a snowstorm).

Kelsey needed surgery ASAP. She had Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) which is a bowel disease that is common in premature babies although it does happen to full term babies. The worst part is it is like SIDS…they don’t know the cause or why it happens. Of course they have theories just like everything else, but it remains a mystery. Kelsey had surgery as soon as she got to the hospital and actually came out of the surgery okay but she was a very very sick baby. The doctors were great and the nurses explained everything. She looked so bad… she was so puffy and of course sedated. To top it all off, our doctor (who was now back from vacation) called us and said the boys were on NEC precautions too. Here we were 8 hours away with Kelsey, and Alec and Lucas were sick and our 4-year old with our parents. It was a nightmare.

Days went by and not much improvement with Kelsey’s health. Her kidneys had started to shut down, she hardly had any bowel left, and even if she did survive‚ they weren’t sure if she could live with the amount of bowel she had. Then the doctor did a test on her and she ended up with a Grade 4 bleed in her brain…the worst you can have. If she did come out of this on her own, she would basically be a vegetable. Now what!!! The doctors gave us little hope and we had to make that awful decision to take her off of the ventilator. That was the hardest decision of our lives and of course we weren’t sure if we were doing the right thing or not. How do you ever know that??

Both of our parents came down to be with us and we were so glad to have them there. We had no family in the area and since we were away from home‚ we didn’t know anybody. I felt so alone at times, but Tom and I became so close. I am so glad that all of Kelsey’s grandparents were there and got to hold her and kiss her good-bye. My brother flew in to be with us and was hoping to make it there before she died but didn’t. At least he got to hold her and see what a beautiful baby she really was. I will never forget the last time I held her when she was alive. She hadn’t opened her eyes since we first got to the hospital on Christmas and I was saying my good-byes to her and kissing her and wondering if we were doing the right thing or not and the best thing happened…she OPENED her eyes and looked at me as if to say, “It’s okay mommy, let me go.” I will never forget that moment. I felt so much more at peace with our decision and to this day I know we did the right thing. After they took her off of the vent, the nurses brought her to us and she died in my arms. They had tied a little pink bow in her hair and she looked like a little princess. I can’t tell you how empty inside I felt after that day. This was New Year’s Eve and we were supposed to be celebrating. We left the next morning and I will never forget my husband’s words. He said, “We came here with a baby and now all we are leaving here with is this purple box.” It was the box that they gave us with all of her things in it.

All I wanted to do was get home and go and see Alec and Lucas and I thought I would feel so much better. We got to the hospital and it was terrible. I guess I was just trying to find comfort by holding on to them, but to this day I have realized… nobody and no other baby can replace Kelsey.

This year has been so hard and losing a multiple is even harder because EVERY day you are reminded of your loss as you watch the other two playing and you know there should be three. I know this may sound silly, but there is actually some times when I sit and watch the boys and I vision Kelsey with them playing and how much fun it would be. I feel so blessed with having the boys and that they are now healthy, but yet I feel so cheated. I don’t have the title of being a “triplet mom” anymore and everyone refers to the boys as “TWINS.” I could just cringe. They are not twins, they are triplets and always will be. I am not trying to sound selfish as I am sure of the mother who had twins and one died would wish someone would ask if they are twins.

It has been a long year and the boys have had many ups and downs with medical things. They each have had two hernia repairs, but all in all they are doing well. They are a little behind developmentally, but that is to be expected. As for my daughter…how do you explain to a 4 year-old that her sister who she has held and loved and bonded with has died? It has been a rough time for her but with God’s grace we have made it through. The triplets’ birthday was hard…very bittersweet. Christmas was hard as we started reliving the events of last year and her first anniversary of her death was such a sad day. I have become a stronger person through all of this and my faith in God has become much more of a priority in my life. I have found many friends on-line who have gone through similar losses and they have become so very dear to me. It is nice to talk to someone who really knows what you are going through and doesn’t judge you for having bad feelings. Our lives will NEVER be the same and there is no greater pain than that of losing a child. I have done an on-line memorial for Kelsey and that really helped with a part of my grieving. I wish all of you Love, Peace, and Happiness in the upcoming year.