Our Triplets, and Jacob & Sam
My husband and I started trying to get pregnant in June of 1998. I was 27, healthy and so excited to be a mom. I’d been babysitting since I was 10 years old and my husband and I babysat our friends and neighbors children just because we both love kids! So many people had told my husband that he’d be a great dad! This only fueled our desire to have children. After 6 months of trying on our own, I knew we weren’t getting anywhere. I’d had irregular cycles my whole life so I thought we could possibly have problems conceiving. I’d been in communication with my family physician and she had me start the temperature charts. After three months of those, we still weren’t getting anywhere. As is the typical referral pattern, we went to a reproductive endocrinologist next. He determined almost immediately that I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and thought it would be best to get me started on clomid. We tried that for 3 months with no luck either. So, by now it’s been 1-1/2 years of trying. When I write that, it doesn’t seem like very long, but when you’re in the midst of those 18 months, it feels like an eternity! You feel stuck in that time period.
Our next step was to try the injectibles with artificial insemination. I can’t write this story without expressing my heartfelt struggle with my faith. I thought for quite some time, “If God wanted me to be pregnant and have a child of our own, then He could make that happen. So why am I doing all of this?” Well, it took some time, some soul- searching, and a lot of prayer. I came to the conclusion that yes, God could make it happen, but he also has allowed these medicines and these doctors to intervene and assist and give people the desires of their heart. I prayed my way through the process and I always said “If I’m not meant to do this, please make it clear to me.” So, on we went. The first cycle failed but the second one worked! My husband and I were on a Caribbean Cruise when I took the test and discovered I was pregnant. We were so excited, and yet a little reserved, as we didn’t know how many babies to expect! I’ll never forget the look on my husband’s face when we returned from our trip and had our ultrasound to reveal three babies! We were prepared for two, but not three. Shock. I remember asking the nurse “Do people successfully have triplets?” I didn’t know of anyone who had more than twins, and it just seemed so unreal to me to think of three babies. She told me yes and off we went.
I had a rough pregnancy, but since it was my first, I didn’t really know how bad it really was. I was just so tired, and so sick. I had all of this pressure as my body grew so fast! I was under the care of some wonderful Perinatologists; little did I know how wonderful. I was 19-1/2 weeks along when I came home from work one Wednesday and went to the bathroom. I lost my mucus plug and immediately called the doctor. Since I was already scheduled to come in the next morning, she said I’d be okay until then. My husband was away on business, which didn’t help any. I was so nervous. I read in my What to Expect When You’re Expecting book that women typically deliver within two weeks of losing their mucus plug. That didn’t help either. Well, thankfully I wasn’t dilated or anything, but she did put me on bedrest. She said I could still go a lot longer into the pregnancy than two weeks, so that was reassuring. She even said I could go to my baby shower that weekend, but that I shouldn’t be up for more than two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. That was Thursday. I was scheduled to goback in on Tuesday….for the shock of my life.
I spent the weekend as I was told to. I went to my baby shower on Saturday and then one on Sunday too. I sat with my feet up in a reclined position at both places. On Monday I had a dentist appointment so I called my physicians and asked her if I should go to that or not. She said it was fine. Looking back, I really wish I wouldn’t have done any of those things. The rest of the time, I was in bed. I know I was completely naïve to what could potentially happen, actually, to what was about to happen.
We went in Tuesday to learn that I was dilated three centimeters and contracting. I had no clue. I was admitted to the hospital and started on magnesium sulfate. My husband stayed with me during the admission and started calling people and making a list of what I’d need from home. My doctors made it sound like I was staying for a long time. My husband headed for home to gather my things together and after everyone left the room; I was laying there, in a daze. I could barely comprehend what was going on, let alone, what was about to happen. Then I felt a gush. A huge gush of water. It took me a minute to realize what had happened. My water broke. I pushed the call button and my doctor came and told me we were going to have deliver. I called my husband on his cell phone and told him to come back right away because my water had broken. The look on his face as he entered my room was pure sadness. I started to cry and apologized over and over. We continued to cry.
Katie Lynn was born later that evening weighing 12 ounces at 20-1/2 weeks gestation. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my whole life. She lived for a few brief moments and died in my husband’s arms. I was completely out of it because of the mag. I kept saying, “I’m a Mom!” I remember barely being able to open my eyes to see my husband holding our daughter in the chair next to me, crying…silently, but hard. I guess what happened next isn’t too common, but my cervix closed up after Katie was born. Unfortunately, her placenta didn’t deliver. I was in the hospital for another 10 days, hoping and praying to keep my other two babies and carry them until they could survive.
The next few days were a rollarcoaster of hope and then despair. It seems like as soon as we were out of the woods, we’d go right back in. Well, it ends up that Katie’s placenta was a breeding ground for bacteria. An infection set in and it was decided that we’d have to deliver our other two babies. An infection would severely damage them and me so on Saturday, August 5th, 2000, Matthew John and Natalie Lynn were born. They each weighed a little over a pound and were 11-1/2 inches long. We held them and shared their brief lives with our parents. The doctors who took care of me were so incredible. They not only walked me through this experience physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. I will forever be grateful.
I spent the next few days in the hospital on high dose antibiotics and the next six weeks at home recovering. I journaled and went on the internet looking for support. We buried our triplets together that next Saturday along with a letter from each of us. Letting two pink and one blue balloon go at the cemetery was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I knew I had to let them go. So many questions and so many tears. I didn’t want this to have happened to us. You really start to think about what you ever did to deserve this or what you’re supposed to learn from such a horrific experience. I continued to struggle with my Faith for awhile; not in anger, just in questions. I know bad things happen to good people, it’s just so hardto understand.
Our journey to parenthood continues as we decide to try again a year later. I was pretty set on going right to in-vitro this time so we could have control over the number of babies. I knew triplets weren’t an option again. My doctor suggested trying clomid again just in case my body had changed after the pregnancy. After three unsuccessful months of that we went through IVF. I was pretty set on only putting one embryo back in until talking to a girlfriend who had been through the same process without success. She said, “Julie, you don’t want to go through all of that to risk it with one.” So, we decided on putting two in. Thankfully it worked the first time, and yes, both embryos took. Two boys!
I tried so hard not to be fearful and to enjoy my pregnancy. Much easier said than done. I just wanted these babies here! By about the fifth month, I started to really believe I was going to bring these two boys home. My doctors watched me pretty carefully this time. I had ultrasounds every week to check to see if I was dilating. It was Sunday night around my six month when I was making dinner and felt more pressure than usual. I had to sit down and take breaks a lot more than even the day before. So I called my doctor and she said to come in and get checked out. She found that I was funneling (what apparently happens before you start to dilate.) I was sent home to pack as she thought it would be best to keep me in the hospital for observation for awhile (especially since things happened so fast last time). I agreed without hesitation.
I made the best of my hospital stay. I didn’t care what I had to do to get these babies here. I had ultrasounds every day to check things out and everything was going fine, no dilation. Wednesday morning came and the nurse had trouble finding one of the heartbeats with the Doppler they use. It took about five minutes and then she found it. I wasn’t scheduled to go down for my ultrasound until early afternoon that day. I spent the morning lying in my hospital bed visiting with a friend and her new baby. I remember being so hopeful and positive.
When it came time for my ultrasound that day I had no clue what I was in for. It was like stories I’d read. The technician comes in, scans the babies and says, “I’m going to check with the doctor and make sure she doesn’t need me to do anything else while you’re here. Hold tight.” I didn’t think much of it but for some reason I sat there for a very long ten minutes trying to remember the 23rd Psalm (The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…). It still intrigues me that that is what came to my mind during that time. Well, my doctor finally came in and did another ultrasound on me and told me the sad news: “Julie, Baby A doesn’t have a heartbeat.” She rested the scanner right on Baby A, Jacob. I watched for a second as he lay there still. Then the tears came. I couldn’t believe it. All I felt was pain and despair. How could this be happening?! What did I do this time? All the questions came back. Was I not meant to have children?
My doctor hugged me and called my husband and my mom. I sat in that room alone for a long time. Then one of the nurses came in and sat with me. I just cried and cried. To tell you the truth, I lost hope for Baby B making it either. I just didn’t care anymore. The nurse took me back to my hospital room and I lay there in a trance until I saw my husband walk through the door. That same look he had when we lost the triplets, pure sadness and many tears. We held each other and cried for a long time.
Then I got mad. I went through an angry stage for a long time. I was mad at God for allowing this to happen again. My pastor came for a visit and as I told him this he reassured me saying, “Be mad, it’s okay, God can handle it.” Then my doctor came back in with no explanation for why we’d lost Jacob. She also told me that I had another baby in there that I had to be strong for and that they were going to do everything in their power to get that baby here. For some reason, that really clicked with me and I realized I did need to be strong for my other baby. They sent me home on Friday on complete bedrest. I was 24 weeks along.
On December 23rd I was 27 weeks and three days along and woke up to hard contractions. I knew what they were this time. I got up to go to the bathroom and blood gushed out. I called my doctor thinking I was going to deliver at home. My husband rushed me to the hospital (of course it was a cold, snowy winter morning in the Midwest). I couldn’t have been happier than when, on a scary ride to the hospital, thinking we’d lost our other little guy, he kicked. It was like he was telling me he was okay and to hang in there.
We got to the hospital and I was so relieved to realize I was only dilated a fingertip. So, I thought, “Okay, we’re here, my baby is safe and they’ll stop the contractions and I’ll just be in the hospital for awhile.” However, nothing was going to stop this little guy from coming that day. So, we first delivered Jacob Wesley, stillborn, without a dry eye in the delivery room. And at 3:38 p.m. Samuel John was born, weighing 2 pounds, 5 ounces. It was such a bittersweet moment. I mean, you’re so happy to have given birth, so devastated to have delivered a baby who wasn’t alive and so scared for the baby that was alive and so extremely premature. They whisked Sam away immediately to the care of the NICU team. I didn’t think this was real.
Fortunately, I can end my story with overwhelming joy and gratitude. After 79 days in the NICU, Sam came home and has no complications from being so premature. I truly believe he’s a miracle. We’re enjoying him more than I could ever say. I don’t know why we had to go through what we did, but I have decided it’s not for me to question. I’m going to live each day with gratitude for every one of my babies and with anticipation of seeing them again someday. I am so grateful for Sam. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of how blessed we are. My heart goes out to everyone and their losses. My hope is that you can find peace and joy in the midst of whatever you’re going through.