For My Children (Quintuplets)

Is it possible to write a “down the road” story when you have never written the beginning? I know that I have been helped by the CLIMB newsletter and Jean so I want to try to comfort others with our story.

Where to start? Like so many others my story is hard to tell. Where do I begin??? It amazes me to realize that it has been over a year since our loss. My husband and I had been trying to have children for years. We had tried everything the world of infertility had to offer. Years of drugs, tests, doctors and one miscarriage. Our most difficult year had been 1995. We started IVF and experienced four failed attempts. In October, 1995 we decided to try a GIFT cycle and combine it with Heparin, baby aspirin and IV Immunoglobulin treatments. The day after Thanksgiving we got our first positive pregnancy test.

From that first test, my instincts told me that we had conceived multiples. At 7 weeks into our pregnancy we learned that 5 beautiful babies had been conceived and all had good strong heartbeats. We never looked back, only forward at our five wonderful gifts from God. The doctors advised us to reduce the pregnancy but we never considered this procedure. We knew in our hearts it was not our place to decide which children would live and which were to die. To this day I have NO regrets about our decision. It’s funny to say that we had an uncomplicated pregnancy but it is true. The only sign that I was carrying quintuplets was the speed in which my stomach grew and our awesome ultrasounds. I went on bed rest at 17 weeks only because of the size of my stomach and the strain it was putting on my body.

All our dreams shattered so quickly that weekend in March 1996. Mid-morning March 23rd, I found a small amount of blood when I went to the bathroom. I wasn’t feeling contractions, just incredible pressure. Earlier that week my OB had examined me and my cervix was still long and closed as it had been throughout the entire pregnancy and my uterus was measuring 42 weeks. When we called that Saturday, we were told to go to the hospital to be checked out. The doctors examined me and hooked me up to the monitor. Again we were told my cervix was fine and the blood was old from that week’s internal exam. The monitor showed that I was not having contractions just that my uterus was irritable, so we were sent home to bed. Later that afternoon I was able to get a few hours of sleep and my husband brought me dinner. About 6:30 p.m. I found more red blood and called the doctor immediately. We were told to pack a bag and go back to the hospital. Once we arrived our world started spinning out of control. We got to L&D and the intern that examined me all but ran out of the room. I wouldn’t let him leave until he told me what was going on. He told us I was 2-3 cm. dilated and he ran to call my doctor. All the drugs were started and my head was lowered. Because of all the drugs the events of the next 24 hours are blurred. Sometime during the night, two of the children’s membranes started to bulge through my cervix. We had gotten so close, 21+ weeks! The doctors did everything they could to stop our children from being born too early. Complications required that the medicine be turned off on Sunday, March 24, but our OB was still optimistic that even if two of the five children were born, the other three still had a chance to stay in utero.

I guess our five precious babies had a different plan. Meghan was born at 1:30 p.m., so tiny and perfect and just a few weeks too early to have a chance of surviving. She was given to us to hold as she fought for life. Thirty minutes later her sister Lisa was born and she joined Meghan in our arms. How horrible to be holding two of your children and see the other three still moving about in my womb on the ultrasound. With an internal exam we learned that I was 9 cm. dilated and Molly, Marc, and Kelley were born much too quickly. We had all five of our children in our arms as they struggled, clinging to life. Their chests rose and fell and their small hands grasped our fingers. The doctors had to rush me into emergency surgery so I was forced to say goodbye and leave my children in my husband’s and mother’s arms. I made them promise me that they would continue to hold them till they slipped away and I made the doctors promise me they would keep them in my room until I got back. My husband told me that they each lived about an hour and as promised they were waiting in my room. The doctors let us keep them for several hours – to hold, to look at, to count fingers and toes, and to cry together. The nurses had done an emergency baptism for each of the children. My pastor rushed from church to the hospital and prayed with us as the children slipped from our hands into God’s.

What a blur our world became. Instead of preparing our home for life with five babies we planned their funeral. Instead of picking out cribs, we picked out their coffin. We decided to bury them together as they always had been as one. My husband and I were able to put them in their coffin – saying our last private goodbye and kissing and holding them one last time. We put in with them special gifts and our life has never been the same. It’s so hard to write about all this but even a year later I treasure every memory of the short time we had with them.

What a year it has been since then. We faced our second Mothers and Fathers Days with a mix of joy and sadness. This past year has been difficult and eventful. We made the decision in May of 1996 to start treatments again. We had a failed GIFT in May, a failed ZIFT in June, and finally a GIFT in July blessed us with another pregnancy. God determined that this would be a singleton pregnancy. As I sit here and write this my sixth miracle baby, Hannah Lee, is stirring from a nap. She was born on April 10, 1997 – a healthy, full term baby. Our labor was ironically induced and was relatively easy and short. Hannah was born in the same hospital as her siblings and by chance in the same labor and delivery room. At first being in the room upset me, but as we waited alone in the room for the nurse to start my IV a calm peaceful feeling came over me. For the past year that room had been a blur in my memory. All the drugs that were given to me to stop my labor with Meghan, Lisa, Molly, Marc and Kelley had also made it very difficult to remember the details. When I calmed down some of the fog in my mind began to lift as I looked around the room for the first time with clear eyes. I saw the sink that provided water for their baptism, the bassinet where the neonatologist examined them and simply shook his head that there was nothing that could be done to save their lives. I saw them all again wrapped in their pink and blue blankets and remembered unwrapping those blankets to look at every inch of their small bodies. Now a year later, my memories are clearer and I have the comfort of knowing that all my children spent the beginning moments of their life in the same place.

Little things still bother me and I’m sure they always will. No one really will ever talk about my children. I guess people believe it would be easier for me if they pretend that they never existed, but it really just causes more pain. Our family and friends are thrilled for us about our daughter but we’ve received several cards and notes referring to Hannah as our “first born”. Hannah is my beautiful daughter, but she will never be an only child. She is my sixth child and when people ask I will tell them the truth – she is our only living child. If they ask for more details I will explain. She will grow up knowing about Meghan, Lisa, Molly, Marc and Kelley and know how much all of our children were wanted. Also as any mother of multiples living with a loss can attest to, stories in the news about multiple births still are painful. I tell myself not to watch but for some reason I can’t tune it out.

Another mother of who is living with a total loss asked me if having a subsequent baby helped deal with the pain. The only answer I could give her was that Hannah has been able to bring a joy back to my heart that I never thought I would feel again. It doesn’t take away the pain and tears of living every day without my quintuplets and Hannah will never replace them in my heart. She is special in her own right and she has made me smile again.

Down the road for us, 17 months after the birth and death of Meghan, Lisa, Molly, Marc, and Kelley means returning for more treatments. Hannah will be 5 months old when we attempt our 9th procedure – another chance to hope, to dream, another GIFT….

…This mom gave birth to a healthy subsequent son, induced at 39 weeks. Now she is dealing with issues about their remaining frozen embryos, and she is completing her masters degree.