Jennifer & Jessica (stillbirth and SIDS)

I wondered why I have let time slip away without putting my story on paper. Now that I sit here trying to put my pain, anger and disappointment on paper I know why it has taken so long. To have that day happen again is not one of those things one wants to relive, but if it will help other parents know that they are not alone in this painful world it will be worth doing again. For those parents who wrote their stories, thank you, you have helped me more than you will ever know.

Our first story appeared in the newsletter in June, 1989. It was about our twin daughter, Jennifer’s death (stillborn at 35 weeks) from congenital heart disease, and her healthy surviving sister Jessica. The day I received this newsletter I sat and read it and cried because Jennifer’s healthy twin, Jessica, died on May 10, 1989.

I dropped Jessica off at the sitters that morning. She had a little cough and sniffles so I called the pediatrician when I got to work to see about some medicine. I was going to stop and get what he had prescribed when I got off work.

Around 4 p.m. that day I was called to my supervisor’s office, and as I walked down the hall he met me and told me I needed to go to the hospital, that my daughter was there. Someone drove me to the hospital while a friend called my husband at his work.

When we arrived at the hospital I went to the emergency room only to be told they knew nothing about my daughter coming in. As I began to get panicky the young girl told me to calm down and she went to check on this, returning with a nurse who reported to me that our daughter had stopped breathing at the sitter’s and they were bringing her in by ambulance.

As I waited for her in the hall, the ambulance arrived. They brought her out with a tube down her throat, an IV hooked up and other monitoring equipment. I stood back and just watched in disbelief as they took her through the double doors. My thoughts at the time were that we had already paid the price with the death of our other twin and Jessica would not and could not die.

My husband arrived shortly after they brought her in and I told him what little I knew. I called our pastor at the church and he came over and most of my co-workers came after they got off work. We were told there was not much hope for her because they could not get her breathing. My husband and I called our parents and told them what had happened. The pastor and I went to the prayer room at the hospital and were praying for my daughter when my husband came in and told me she had died. The only thing I could think about at that time was that I did not want her dead and if she was dead I wanted to be with her.

Jessica was pronounced dead on arrival by the doctor in the ER, but they worked on her for some time when she arrived anyway. Her body was taken to Houston for an autopsy and the cause of death was listed as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the sudden and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby. Jessica had been so healthy, and she weighed over 19 lbs.

Jessica and Jennifer were born on July 22, 1988. Jennifer died on July 22, 1988, and Jessica died on May 10, 1989. I am 30 weeks pregnant and due on July 18, 1990 with another baby girl. We want this baby very much because we loved Jessica and Jennifer and being parents is a wonderful part of life. I know that there are no guarantees in this life, but I know with God’s love and support we have the strength to have another baby and love what we have and what we have lost.

…Debbie became pregnant again with a daughter who was born near term, and then again; and wrote:

Our first loss occurred in August, 1987, in a miscarriage at 8 weeks. Then in July, 1988, our twin daughter Jennifer died at birth from congenital heart disease. Then in May, 1989, her surviving twin Jessica died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and we were faced with an empty house, pain and sorrow in our hearts and the fear of not having children.

We knew that our chances of having another miscarriage were slight, and to have a baby with a heart defect was 3% and they don’t know a lot about SIDS, you just have to go on “guts”. My husband Glen and I decided we loved being parents and we missed our girls so much that we would try again. Six months after Jessica’s death I became pregnant again.

This pregnancy started out with bleeding and bedrest. The fear of another miscarriage was there, but I felt that I had bleeding in my previous pregnancy and one of the twins was okay. So finally that passed and we were coming to our due date. Six weeks before delivery I went into pre-term labor, and was put on medication and bedrest. Finally the week came but no baby. I had high blood pressure and was on medication so the doctor decided to induce. Our healthy baby girl, Katie, arrived weighing 7 lbs. 3 oz.

Now it was time to take her home, but we had already been in touch with the National SIDS Foundation and were told they did not know if SIDS was hereditary or not, so we decided to put Katie on an apnea monitor. Jessica had died at the babysitter’s home so the option for me to go back to work was really not there. The way the monitor works is that if the baby stops breathing, the heartrate drops or increases, or there are loose leads, the alarm will go off. We had Katie home for a couple of hours, and Glen decided to go to the store. He wasn’t gone 5 minutes and the breathing alarm went off. I panicked (I knew CPR), and shook the baby who woke up and began to cry; now the breath alarm had stopped but the fast heartrate alarm was going off (the doctor had it set too low), the phone was ringing, and I was crying. The phone call was the nurse checking on us and the monitor. She got me calmed down and the baby was fine.

The alarm sounded many, many times after that day but the more times it went off the more comfortable I began to feel. I think it was because when I would check on her, she was fine and that made me feel good and think these were nothing serious.

Katie was monitored until she was 15 months old. Then in November she was hospitalized with bacterial pneumonia. To have my child poked with needles, chest x-rayed and an IV started was more than I could take. I knew if I got too upset they would make me leave and I have been on the other side of those doors and had them come out and tell me my child had died, and if anything happened this time I was going to know first and go through it with my baby. Katie was released after 24 hours and has had minor illnesses since. She is now 2 and a beautiful, handful of a child.

The worry that something may happen has not gone away, but as with other parents it will always be there maybe just a little stronger. I know a lot of times when I say, “I wish I could get someone to keep her overnight”, or yell at her because she is being bad, then I think I should not feel like that and I should be thankful I have her. Then I realize I am having the same thoughts that parents who have not had an experience like we all have had in the loss of a child or children, and know that there is some “normal” in our painful lives.

I am pregnant again for the final time, and people have asked me if something were to happen to this baby would you not have another. I can say without hesitation NO, because I have been pregnant 4 times with 5 babies and if all ends well with this pregnancy I will have two surviving children and to just have one healthy alive baby to me is great, two would be a “blessing”.

This pregnancy has been perfect. As I write this (September), I’m 6 months along. I don’t have the same worries, but part of me says be on guard, the other part says, it doesn’t do any good to worry. I think having a surviving child helps me because I know it does work out sometimes. I will not monitor this baby because I feel good about everything and the monitor is also very stressful.

Now on the matter of wanting it to be twins, with Katie I never thought about it, but with this pregnancy I was a little disappointed. I think it is because of an unfulfilled dream of “what would it be like having twins in the house”. I know we are parents of twins, but we don’t know what it is like to raise twins. Please keep us in your prayers and thoughts, our due date is December 31.