Ryan John & Jacob Daniel

I had always planned on writing our story before now, but somehow almost 7 years have slipped by. I certainly have a whole different perspective than I did 7 years ago…well, here goes…

My husband John and I have been married over 16 years. Back in April of 1994 we eagerly planned our second pregnancy. Our daughter, Emily, was 2-1/2 and would be 3 by the time that the new baby was born. I never had any difficulty getting pregnant with my daughter, so we planned on getting pregnant in April and did. My due date was 12/29/94. The pregnancy progressed normally, and although I was “big for dates” I didn’t think much of it as my daughter was almost 10 lbs. and 22-1/2 inches when she was born. I did have much dizziness and lost weight early on in the pregnancy but I was not concerned.

I went for my first sonogram on July 25, just 1 week after our 9th wedding anniversary. I was 17 weeks pregnant. I nearly fell off the table when the tech Ella, said, “Hon, you’ve got two of them in there!” After the initial shock, we fell in love with our two little boys and loved the thought of being the parents of twins. I really felt chosen and special. We found out that there were two amniotic sacs and two separate placentas (probably fraternal).

I loved being pampered at work, at the time I was night shift nursing manager at our local hospital. I loved the attention that I got when I told people that we were having twin boys. The big joke was that I hoped I had them before the start of the new year for the tax write off…how wrong we were.

Everything was going well. I was put on terbutaline prophylactically and at 25 weeks found out that I had gestational diabetes. I judiciously followed my diet and the boys were fine – growing rapidly – at 28 weeks they predicted 8-9 pounds each if I went to term.

I went on maternity leave in October at around 27 weeks. I was big and very tired. I couldn’t keep up with the pace at the hospital. My last sonogram was October 28 and the boys were great. Ryan John (twin A) was vertex, head down and Jacob Daniel was transverse, always kicking my ribs. I was eager to have a normal delivery, as I had no difficulty with my daughter.

Then the week from hell! On November 14, the plumbing in our house broke – we had flooding in our master bathroom and had to use bottled water. Plumbers were at our home on November 16, when I passed what I thought was my mucous plug and leaked some water. I immediately called my doctor. I was 33-6/7 weeks. She wanted me to have a non-stress test. I wasn’t having contractions. My non-stress test was normal or so we thought – they had quite a bit of trouble obtaining Ryan’s heartbeat – but finally located it (we later found out that it was probably an echo from Jacob).

I went home after the test with a diagnosis of urinary tract infection and pyelonephritis (kidney infection). I felt ok until around 5 p.m. when I stared having mild cramping in my lower back and abdomen. I never dreamed that I was in labor – I thought that it was pain from the infection. I was only 34 weeks and my boys were fine (just a little denial going on!). Around 9:30 p.m. I couldn’t stand the pain any longer – I should have had a clue when I was panting hard through the pain.

My mother-in-law picked up Emily, and John and I drove to the hospital 35 minutes away. I was completely dilated. We were petrified – we realized that we would be having two premature babies – but we knew that at almost 34 weeks they had a really good chance of survival. My doctor broke my water after calling the surgery crew (just in case). She was unable to find Ryan’s heartbeat and when she broke my water it was blood. I was rushed into emergency surgery at 11:30 p.m. and given general anesthetic. I was terrified…even though I was a registered nurse and knew what was happening I was still terrified…I can’t even imagine what mothers who have no medical background must go through.

I woke up around 1 a.m. to the sound of the nurse, Patty, and my doctor telling me that surgery was over. I remember my doctor saying that Ryan was dead, stillborn (how I hate that word), and that Jacob was needing to be transferred to the children’s hospital in Fresno, about 70 miles from our home. The next few hours were a blur, but I remember being told that once Ryan had been delivered I had started to hemorrhage and the incision that was made in the uterus had closed off. Another incision had to be made in order to get Jacob out…he was wedged way up under my ribs on the side. Ryan weighed 5 lbs. 6 ounces and was 21″ long and Jacob weighed 5 lbs. 12 ounces and was 19″ long. Later, my doctor told me that Ryan had probably been dead for about a week, due to the condition that his body was in. I probably had gone into labor due to massive sepsis (build up of toxins from Ryan’s body). His cause of death was listed as a cord accident, although we couldn’t be certain the gestational diabetes and polyhydramnios hadn’t played a part. We opted not to have an autopsy due to the deterioration of Ryan’s body and that in 95% of stillbirths an exact cause of death cannot be determined.

A very wonderful nurse was with us during this most difficult time. She baptized both Ryan and Jacob, gave Ryan a bath and took several pictures. We have a lock of his hair, his footprints, the cup he was baptized with and the blanket he was first wrapped in. Jacob was transferred to Valley Children’s Hospital where he stayed 9 days due to problems with temperature maintenance and feeding difficulties. He came home the day after Thanksgiving, two days after we buried his brother and three days after his sister’s third birthday.

The first few months after Ryan’s death were awful. I was needing to be able to grieve with my family; I needed to be with my husband to talk about what had happened yet I was thrust into caring for a preemie child of whom I was terrified and my three-year-old daughter who had regressed to incontinence and stuttering. After Thanksgiving, my husband went back to work; we own a retail nursery and flower shop – it was the busy Christmas season. Jacob had a malformation in his trachea which made every breath sound like his last and he also had severe gastroesophageal reflux. I was certain that I would find him dead in his crib from aspiration. I felt that I had no one to talk to – my friends didn’t call; Ithink that they were afraid, and my husband was gone at work. I truly felt like I was on the backside of hell and I wasn’t sure how to get back to a safe place where I could continue my life. I finally went to counseling…it made a difference talking to someone not personally connected. I began to talk to my husband; it started out as screaming, crying and breaking things, but progressed to actual talking. We began to pray together, I knew if we didn’t our marriage would end.

Every day brings new challenges; at first I could hardly speak to others, but now I can speak and share my experiences. I have been blessed with helping new friends that I have met at work and at church through the terrible ordeal of the death of a child; planning funerals and accepting a new role in life – that of a bereaved parent. Some people originally made hurtful comments, “Oh at least you still have one” or my personal favorite, “Oh, at least you didn’t have time to learn to love Ryan” – but mostly my friends, family and co-workers have been truly wonderful and a great comfort to me.

Jacob is a wonderful child – he was diagnosed with Autism when he as almost 4, and really that is a whole different story. Suffice it to say that I also have the role of being the parent of a developmentally disabled child. He is in a regular classroom, 1st grade, loves to read and the other children love him. He has a quick wit and a wonderful smile, and his eyes absolutely dance (I think they sparkle for two!!).

Emily is almost 10 and a great big sister. She can connect with her brother when I can’t, she does a wonderful job.

My husband continues to own his own business, our relationship is good – much stronger …we have certainly been through many tests of faith.

As for me, I now work the night shift as a charge nurse in a busy emergency room. I have found my place, I am able to comfort grieving families when others are too uncomfortable, and am especially drawn to those that have lost children and children with special needs. I know now that this was God’s plan for me, for if I can help one person get through the death of a child, Ryan’s brief but perfect life will continue to have meaning.

November, 2001