Connor & Sierra

We had our first ultrasound at 15 weeks and were shocked and thrilled to learn we were expecting twins. I had just told my mother-in-law and her sister two weeks before (after they teased me about having twins) that I would LOVE to have twins. I thought it would be great. But I never once even considered it a possibility.

My husband and I were immediately in contact with our community twins association and our thrilling adventure of life with twins began. We were told that twin pregnancies are high risk, but in hindsight, we never thought anything could go wrong. We were concerned about a premature birth, so I left work 2-1/2 months early to take it easy and keep the babies inside me for as long as possible.

My pregnancy wasn’t great, but there certainly wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. This was my first pregnancy, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to, but it was just “run of the mill” things like four months of morning sickness and fatigue that were problems.

We had our second ultrasound at 28 weeks and the technician said that everything looked great – the babies were both healthy and one was definitely a girl. We named her Connor right away. She couldn’t tell the sex of Baby A, and in fact it wasn’t until birth that we found out Sierra was a girl too. She did say that Sierra was a bit smaller than Connor, but this was common in twin pregnancies. Because of Sierra’s position, the technician couldn’t get complete measurements for her, so she told us that the doctor would probably ask us to come back in a couple of days to try again.

At our appointment the following week, the ultrasound report had not yet arrived, but I did tell the doctor what the technician had said . He said that was okay and also told us that this was common in twin pregnancies and scheduled our next ultrasound for a month later. The next day his nurse called to say that he had received the report and the size differential was larger than he thought, so he figured it would be a good idea to do another one the following week and we would have our regular appointment right after – just to make sure everything was okay. This did make me worry a little that things weren’t okay, but I kept thinking, “Oh, stop being silly. Everything is fine.” I started thinking about how I didn’t really get kicks on Sierra’s side the way I did on Connor’s side, but I never did – I always told people that the baby on the right was a kicker and the baby on the left was a roller.

My husband and I were actually looking forward to our next ultrasound as we were hoping to be able to find out Sierra’s gender. During the ultrasound, however, I started getting nervous because the technician who had been quite chatty last time was rather quiet and evasive this time when I was asking her if she could tell the sex of Baby A. She finished and said the doctor would explain everything to us. I could see she was really awkward and I immediately panicked …something was wrong – she wouldn’t look at me! Just what was going on? Somehow, I knew Sierra was dead and then I lost it. Our doctor then came and confirmed that Sierra has died. Time stopped for me at that point and I don’t remember too much from then until getting home. Thank God my husband was with me because I don’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t. My husband did manage to ask the doctor a few questions but we didn’t get much information. He said he didn’t know what happened but “these things happen with multiple pregnancies”. He made an appointment with the high-risk unit at the Ottawa General Hospital for us in two days’ time as he was now out of his league.

We spent two days in HELL!!! We didn’t know what was happening! Why did Sierra die? Was Connor going to die too? Was I going to die? I was carrying my dead baby inside me and terrified for my other baby. It was absolutely, without a doubt, the worst time of my life.

Once at the General Hospital, we saw a barrage of doctors who, fortunately, were kind, supportive and up-front. I was to have appointments twice a week until I gave birth and they said they thought I would be able to carry Connor to term. I had a hard time adjusting to the thought of carrying a dead Sierra for that long, but I managed – what choice did I have? They didn’t know either why Sierra died and said we may never know – especially since they never saw her before she died. They told me everything was fine with Connor but they would be keeping a close eye on her. It was to Connor’s advantage that they were in separate amniotic sacs.

Close to a month later, at 33-1/2 weeks, I went into labour. The doctors injected me with steroids for Connor’s lungs and drugs to hopefully hold off my labour until they could take effect. I almost made it the 48 hours, but they finally conceded that my labour wasn’t being held off any longer. My contractions were every 2-3 minutes so they took me off the drip which was at maximum. I didn’t manage to dilate past 8 cm. so they decided to do a c-section as the long labour was starting to get rough on Connor.

Connor was born at 7:27 a.m. and Sierra at 7:29 a.m. on Friday, December 29, 1995. Connor was a healthy 5 lbs. 6 oz., 19″ baby who went right to the regular nursery instead of the NICU. Sierra was 1 lb. 7 oz. and 13″ and didn’t get to go to either nursery.

The mixed emotions were enormous and draining. I had decided well before that I wanted to see Sierra. Because of the c-section and being “out of it” from various drugs, I wasn’t able to see her until the next night. The nurses urged my husband to try to talk me out of it and had him see Sierra first to show him why, but he knew I had made my decision and respected that. Everything I had read suggested you see your baby because usually what one imagines is much worse than reality. Unfortunately, in my case, this wasn’t so. I certainly don’t regret holding or seeing Sierra, but she looked a lot worse than I had imagined. At the time I’d wished I had just held her without looking, because I was haunted by the image of what my body did to her, but later was grateful that I’d held and seen her. I also wish I’d held her longer, but at the time, I was unable to cope. So much to deal with and so little time in which to do it. My hormones were raging and I was on an emotional rollercoaster. I had to keep it together for Connor’s sake.

Connor came home with us after our 4-day post-partum stay and we authorized an autopsy on Sierra and then had her cremated. We planted two birch trees beside each other this spring as we had always planned to do for the twins, and we later decided we would spread Sierra’s ashes under her tree – but when the time came, I couldn’t do it. She will always stay with us in the house. I want her near us.

Connor is a beautiful, healthy, entertaining, vivacious girl that I just love being able to spend time with. It is the love I have for her that fuels my despairs about Sierra. I want them both here. I want to watch them play together and grow up together and be each other’s best friend. What kind of baby would she have been? How would they have been alike? How would they have been different? What is also hard is the fact that my best friend had identical twin boys in May. I’ve managed to maintain the friendship and contact, but the pain is very severe after seeing them or talking about them, especially since I have to hide my pain and pretend everything is fine so I don’t make my friend feel bad. I’ve never felt jealous (thank God) of her – but I am very envious. I’m thrilled for her and sad for me. She’s very lucky. But as hard as losing Sierra is on me, I too feel very lucky. I have my Connor and a wonderful husband.


Down the road…

It has been quite a while since I last wrote, so I am taking the time to give you an update on our lives. Our biggest news is that we have another daughter! Her name is Clea and she was born January 8, 1998, as our area was hit with a MAJOR ice storm – our first national disaster of 1998. We survived the ice storm relatively well – at least we had our beautiful daughter as a ray of sunshine through an otherwise dark period. We had already had one ice storm on January 5th which broke a lot of trees and hydro wires, but it was the night of January 7th whose storm did most of the damage. I live in a small town about 45 minutes outside of Ottawa (our nation’s capital) so it’s a longer trip when the weather is bad. I had an appointment with my obstetrician January 7, so I went into the city with my husband to work in the morning, had my appointment – where my doctor gave me “a good exam” to hopefully get my labor going as I was a week overdue – and then spent the afternoon with my parents who were visiting from out of town. As my husband and I were on our way home, the weather news was forecasting another bout of freezing rain for that evening. I didn’t feel comfortable going home in case I went into labor and we ended up having to drive back through freezing rain. We decided to get a hotel near the hospital and called my mother-in-law who was at home taking care of Connor. This sounds stupid – but it was while we were driving to a hotel that I realized that I was already in labor and the “pressure” I’d been feeling periodically was contractions – and now they were 2 to 3 minutes apart! So we went to the hospital instead of a hotel…It was a good decision because the storm was so bad – all the major highways were closed – we wouldn’t have been able to get to the hospital! In fact, one shift of nurses had to stay through the overnight shift because the others couldn’t get to work! Meanwhile – unbeknownst to us – the power went out at home so my mother-in-law and Connor had to spend the night in the back room with the wood stove and a flashlight!

The good news is that Clea was born the next day at 12:02 p.m. (with a little help from forceps) weighing 10 lbs. 4 oz. and 23 inches long – OUCH! She looks a bit like Connor and is a very easygoing baby! Connor is now 2 (December 29th) and really likes Clea! I was all ready for a bout of jealousy – but nothing – she’s great with her! I hope it lasts…

Connor is talking pretty well now and understands a lot. There are a couple of “Barney” episodes with twins and when we watch them I tell her she is a twin too – but I think she’s still too young to understand the concept of “twins”. So I’ll wait until it seems like the right time before I explain any more. I’m also continuing to collect information on twins and twinless twins for her to have when she’s older and gets curious about her “twinness”. I’m happy to report that Connor and Sierra’s 2nd birthday was a much happier event than their first. I focused on Connor having a fun time and threw a big party and tried to think of it as a good day instead of a bad day – and thought Sierra would prefer that too. I find I’m dealing with Sierra’s death in a much healthier way now. But it is amazing how out of the blue I still get hit with bouts of sadness. Strange things seem to set me off. I’m so glad to get the newsletter because it is still a major outlet for my grief. It somehow brings me closer to Sierra. It is strange – maybe not so strange – but just writing her name still makes me cry and creates a hollow pain in my chest. I’ve come to grips with the fact that the pain never goes away – it’s just less often and not so “all-consuming”.

My best friend, who also had twins as I mentioned before, and I are even closer now. I enjoy being around the boys now and still get to share in some of the craziness of life with twins. She too had a traumatic experience in that her boys were born 10 weeks premature and spent quite a while in NICU. They are both healthy now, thank goodness, but she too had a rough go of it. Plus, she didn’t feel comfortable talking to me because of what I’d been through. And quite frankly, I would not have been able to help because even though they were tiny and in NICU, she had both her children while I didn’t, so I can’t imagine having felt sympathetic at that time. Anyhow, at this point our experiences have seemed to bond us even more.

I hope this all makes sense – it has been written piecemeal over a 5-1/2 hour period between feedings and diaper changes and boo-boos and laundry and clean up of toys and nap time etc., etc. Take care.