Julia Rose and Hayden, Stella and Jackson
After trying unsuccessfully to conceive on our own, my husband and I had in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to get pregnant. We were successful with the first attempt and I found out at 6 weeks that I was pregnant with twins. The pregnancy was uneventful until about 16 weeks. I had some bleeding on a Wednesday night, in the middle of a snowstorm. My husband was in Colorado Springs teaching, so I had to drive myself to the university hospital. I remember I saw a fox on the way (in the middle of Denver) and I took that as a good sign, that everything was going to be okay. Ultrasound showed that nothing was wrong with the babies. I again had bleeding at 18 weeks and then at 19 weeks I had a huge amount of bleeding. As before, the babies were fine on ultrasound. At 19 weeks, we found we were having a boy and a girl, Hayden Adam and Julia Rose.
At 25 weeks, I went for a routine ultrasound. I knew the minute they put the ultrasound on that there was no heartbeat for Hayden. I am a labor and delivery nurse, and have spent 15 years working with high-risk pregnancies. The tech started to stutter and went for the doctor. My husband had no clue what was happening. The doctor came in and said, “There’s no easy way to say this.” I said, “One of our babies is dead, isn’t he?” He said yes, and thought perhaps Julia Rose was in trouble too. But, Julia Rose looked great, but they wanted to follow her more closely. We were shocked and stunned. Even with my obstetrics experience, I had never dealt with the loss of a twin. No one knew what to say to us. I was terrified we were going to lose both babies.
At 29 weeks, Julia Rose’s growth slowed and her fluid levels dropped. I got steroids and went on bedrest from my labor and delivery job. I borrowed a Doppler from a friend and checked Julia Rose’s heartbeat daily. On June 27, 2000, I checked her heartrate (30.5 weeks now) and she was having decelerations. I screamed for my husband to come on, we were going to the hospital. I could feel her moving on the way there, so I knew she was still alive. We got there, got put in a waiting room, even after I explained what was going on and that I knew what I was talking about (this was not the L&D where I was working, but had the same physician staff as my hospital). I waited for a few minutes, and then told my husband we were leaving and going to my hospital, 10 minutes away. Then a nurse came in and when I told her what was going on, she rushed me into a room, put me on a monitor, and the baby’s heartbeat went down again. Everyone crowded around me and got me ready for a c-section. Her heart rate came back up and was fine after that, but she had no fluid left and the placenta looked horrible, so off to the operating room we went. Julia Rose was born weighing 2 lbs., 9 oz, 15 in. long, and screaming. She didn’t even require oxygen. They delivered Hayden after her. He was so tiny, not having grown past 19 weeks or so. We got to see him and hold him after the c-section. His placenta was deformed and the doctor attributed his death to that.
Julia Rose had a pretty benign course in the NICU. She was there 6.5 weeks. She just learned to eat, and grew and grew. We visited her 2-3 times a day. I shudder to think about it now, leaving her there at night. She was so tiny. I grieved so much for Hayden I thought my heart would break. We didn’t have a service for him, but had him cremated. I have his ashes in a sealed heart charm necklace.
When Julia Rose was 1.5 yrs old, we moved to Arkansas. We decided we wanted to try again, and had some frozen embryos to transfer. I traveled back to Colorado, and had the transfer. Again, the treatment was successful, and at nine weeks I found I was pregnant with twins again. I was terrified. I worried throughout the entire pregnancy. We were in a new small town, and knew very few people.
The pregnancy progressed well. Both babies grew well and we had no repeats of complications from the first pregnancy. I had one episode of preterm labor at 33 weeks, and then at 34 weeks, my water broke. Our babies, Stella Caroline and Jackson Thayne were delivered by c-section. We were so relieved that we made it 34 weeks, and that the babies did so well. They were beautiful – so big compared to our Julia Rose at 30 weeks! They needed to stay a few extra days to gain weight.
I went home on Friday at 2 p.m., and at 8 p.m. the nursery called to say both babies were having apnea spells and perhaps were developing sepsis. We rushed back to the hospital and saw them. Jackson was struggling to breathe, and looked horrible. We talked with the pediatrician on call, and asked that they be transferred to the Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. He said antibiotics would improve their status soon, and there was no reason to transfer them. We stayed in a room at the hospital. Some friends came and prayed with us. At about 4 a.m. Jackson became much sicker, and they decided to transfer both. The helicopter didn’t arrive until 7 a.m., and the medical team immediately put Jackson on a ventilator. We drove to the hospital in Little Rock.
By the time we got there, the babies had been assessed. Stella was put on a ventilator too. The neonatalogist told us that they most likely had a viral infection, since they weren’t responding to antibiotics. Jackson began to need medication to keep his blood pressure up, and the doctors told us he would not survive the night. Several times they came to get us in the waiting room, to be with him, only to have his pressures come back up. By Sunday night, just a few hours before he turned 1 week old, his body just gave out. We held him and sang to him as he died. My husband told him all about our home and the mountains of Colorado, and all the things we had wanted to do with him growing up. It was a nightmare.
I could not believe that this was happening to us. The doctors and nurses at the Children’s Hospital were wonderful, sat with us, cried with us. The doctor also told us he thought Stella was going to follow Jackson’s path too, and wanted to try an experimental antiviral drug. We agreed, and started the medication. On Monday she was worse, and the staff worked all day with her, doing complete blood exchanges, calling all over the States talking to experts. Every specialty in the hospital, it seemed, came to see us and give their opinion. Our church family surrounded us in the waiting room on Sunday as Jackson was dying, and during the next few days as Stella’s life literally hung in the balance. We discovered that thousands of people all over were praying for us and Stella, even fasting. She started to recover by Tuesday afternoon, and on Wednesday she was off the ventilator. She was in the hospital for a total of 3 weeks.
The day before she was discharged, we had a memorial service for Jackson. My husband, who is a writer, wrote a beautiful piece, and read it at the service. Another friend wrote a poem. It was very nice, but I sat there stunned. I could not believe God would let this happen to us twice.
Stella is now 22 months old, and Julia Rose is 3.5 years old. They are very close in size, and we are constantly asked are they twins. I want to say yes, but…and blurt out the whole story. Both girls have done very well despite their rough beginnings. They are wonderful sweet girls and we are so fortunate to have been blessed by them. But my heart aches daily for my boys, and I can’t wait to see them again some day.
A member of CLIMB who lost one of her triplets read Lisa’s story and commented (quoted with her and Lisa’s permission!): We all wondered at times if we could do it again would it work out better – that just proves you never know and we do NOT HAVE CONTROL of the situation so quit blaming ourselves!