Callahan & Sydney

It’s been 5 months since the birth of my lovely daughter, Callahan Sydney, and the stillbirth of her twin, my son, Sydney Gervin. It’s only now that I feel ready, in fact feel the need, to share my story.

Because of DES exposure and a multiple gestation, I was seeing a perinatologist on a regular basis. We were having ultrasounds every three weeks, as well as our regular check-ups with my OB. The morning of our scheduled ultrasound my husband and I were getting dressed and he commented on how lucky we’ve been with no complications at all with our twin pregnancy; I can picture exactly where we were when he said this. I was 27 weeks and 5 days. Never had morning sickness, no spotting, no huge weight gain, no scares…

At the perinatologist’s we had an intern who was going to do the measurements. We knew we had a girl (Baby A) and a boy (Baby B). Our Baby B had always been smaller, and a little less active when we saw them on the ultrasound. Never did we imagine, however, we would hear the news we were about to hear. As the internist scanned a picture of Baby B, I could see this horrible look on her face. I immediately looked at the monitor and could see his heart, completely still. I asked her what was wrong, but I knew. My husband, however, hadn’t seen the screen. I, of course, completely broke down and rolled up into a fetal position while she stepped out of the room to call the doctor. She hadn’t said a word to us, just left us there to guess. And then she actually had the nerve to come back in and ask me to stop crying or she was going to cry herself. And then she told me I had to stay still because she had to get measurements on Baby A before the doctor arrived. Meanwhile she STILL hadn’t said a word about what was wrong. I kept saying to out loud, “Let her be wrong, she had to be wrong, please let her be wrong.” The doctor finally arrived, and my husband and I really like and trust him. He took the wand and took a look at Baby B’s heart and held my hand and said, “I’m sorry. Your baby has died.”

They told me they weren’t sure why, but it was probably a cord accident. I was then admitted to the hospital for observation overnight. They told me that it was a very high probability that I would go into premature labor due to the “fetal demise” (I HATE that term) of Baby B, and they wanted to do everything they could to prevent that. I was told if I didn’t go into labor that night they would let me go home, but on modified bedrest, with twice weekly fetal monitoring and weekly injections of steroids for lung development. It’s funny, as they walked me down the corridor to the attached hospital I knew I wouldn’t go into labor, I wasn’t for a second concerned about her. I was just in shock over what was happening.

This was October 8, 1999. On October 9 I was to have my baby (babies) shower. It was being thrown at my house with my mother-in-law catering the event. We had guests from the West Coast already in flight, others were already driving in to spend the night, the tables and chairs for outdoor dining were delivered, the china and silver and serving pieces were delivered, the centerpieces were delivered, the food was already purchased and preparation had begun, the linens were in place. My husband and I went back and forth on what to do, but I just didn’t want to go on not celebrating the life we were going to bring into this world, the life of our beautiful daughter, so we went ahead as planned. My mother-in-law, who was hosting the shower, and my mother and one or two close friends went about calling everyone invited to let them know what had happened. If anyone was too upset or felt uncomfortable about coming to the shower they were told it was completely understandable. Only one elderly aunt declined to come (and only one “friend” decided to share her thoughts with me that she thought we probably shouldn’t have the shower). The next morning I held my breath that the doctors would let me out (otherwise everyone was coming to the hospital), and they released me. The gravity of my not going into labor at this time really hadn’t occurred to me.

I came home that morning and as soon as we hit my driveway, I was filled with anxiety about entering my own home. I was so afraid of the enormity of emotion that I knew would hit me the moment I walked through my door. I immediately went upstairs to shower and spend some time alone, which I knew I’d need for the transition. We had a beautiful shower. The sun was out, it was unseasonably warm and we were able to dine outside on our patio. Everyone showered us with such wonderful things. It went so smoothly, with only happiness rushing through me. The only hard time I had was in reading the cards that went along with the gifts.

I couldn’t – so I just set them aside if they were too difficult and opened gifts (for what seemed like hours!). In the end, I couldn’t possibly have imagined coming home on the day I knew was to be our shower to an empty house. I’m so happy we went ahead with everything.

The bedrest was bearable, but the steroid injections put me in the hospital with contractions every time (somewhat rare of an effect, but I got it). I also ended up on terbutaline (living hell!) for about 4 weeks. In addition to all of this, my husband and I dealt with our loss completely differently. I grieved, and he pretended our loss didn’t exist. I got through reading CLIMB information, and watching the pregnancy show on TLC (I cried EVERY time!). But it all helped enormously.

When my twins were born, I felt pretty prepared for the event (I switched doctors – long story – and my new doctors told me everything to expect and promised to help me every step of the way). I knew I wanted to see and hold my son, but I first wanted the nurses to tell me what I should be prepared to see. They were wonderful! I was able to hold my son, and even though he didn’t look like I thought he would, like a baby, I’m so happy I held him. I did, however, decide not to take a picture with both of my babies together. Our baby had been dead inside me for 8 weeks, and the demise was more than I wanted to see so close against our beautiful healthy baby girl.

In the end, I gave birth at 35 weeks and 5 days, not bad! Callahan’s lungs were completely mature, no oxygen needed. She was hypoglycemic, however, and then a bit jaundiced so we stayed in the NICU for three days. Still, it could have been so much worse with her! Of course there were a couple sets of twins in the NICU, but with the exception of being in the lactation room when I overheard the only other woman in there on the phone talking about her twins, it wasn’t that difficult (hello, talk about emotional!!). We brought her home at 4 lbs. 13 oz. with NO meat on her little bones! She was attached to a biliblanket. I don’t know if anyone else was able to go home with their baby on a biliblanket but she looked like a little glow worm.

As I said, it’s been 5 months now. The first few months just flew by. We buried our son with my maternal grandparents, with just my husband, myself and our daughter attending. Callahan was a very quiet baby, having been born 5 weeks early she was still in her premature stage. She spoke at the cemetery, however. My husband said to the rabbi she was saying her good-byes, as well. It would seem likely, after all, she really knew him best.

It seems to be getting harder for me now. I’ve been very emotional about it lately. Every time I see her doing a “first”, I can’t help but think that there should be two. Every time I watch her talk to me, I wonder if they would be talking to each other at this stage. It still really hurts.

Callahan’s 7 months now. I stopped writing after that last paragraph, and just couldn’t pick up the story again until now. I seem to be pulling out a bit of the sadness, but I’m prepared for it to come and go in my life. I still wish he was here with me, but I guess that’s pretty obvious. Thanks for letting me tell my story. In some way, it validates that Sydney did exist, and not just in my body, heart and soul. I’ll love him always. We just recently had a baptism for Callahan (my husband’s Episcopalian, I’m Jewish), and at the ceremony we had the reverend read a poem I put together from different pieces of literature I’ve read on babies who’ve died (including CLIMB). I’d like to share it.

A Prayer For My Baby

Every good and perfect gift comes from above

We were blessed with twins to cherish and love.

Born together to grow apart,

One in our hands, one in our hearts.

Sydney Gervin,

Never to have known you, but to have loved you.

Never to have held you, the way mothers do.

With you I bury my hopes and dreams

For an unknown child I’d never seen.

But also I bury the love in my heart

And the sadness of knowing that we must part.

And I pray to God to do for you

All the things that I would like to do.

And to keep my baby safe from harm

To laugh and frolic in springtime’s arms.

As I finish writing this, it is October 6, 2000. It’s taken me one full year to tell this story. In two days it will be one year from the day we heard that our son had died. This had obviously been a very difficult week, and I promised to myself and as an honor to my son that I would finish, and submit this story, his story. My daughter is 10 months old and doing so well. It’s still so difficult to see twins when we go out, I never know if I “relate” to them or not. The reality is that I wish so hard that I did, but I don’t. I’ll never know what it is like and it still leaves me so open and wounded. On Sunday, the anniversary, we are going to the cemetery where he is buried to say a prayer and leave a stone. We’re having the headstone engraved this month, as well. Hopefully these little steps will help me feel a little more like his life was “real”, even though it was only while he was inside me.

Thank you for making me feel like there is someone out there who understands.


…”wife to James, mother to Callahan Sydney, 10 months, and her twin brother and baby angel Sydney G., b/d 11/30/99″ . She writes that she made it through Callahan & Sydney’s first birthday – with some of the days beforehand being worse than the actual day – and when they went to the cemetery, the rabbi who had been there last year was there for the Jewish holy day, and came and joined them in remembering Sydney.