Our Children Never Cried
My intention is to attempt to capture our story into words. I have read other CLIMB members’ stories, often with tears in my eyes. I was never able to get beyond writing the first few chapters of our own story. Maybe because it happened to us twice. How does one capture so much sadness and grief into words? How does one continue to live after the loss of seven children within a year?
To recap our history, I got pregnant with quadruplets in my first pregnancy, two of the babies were identical twins. Due to the high risks associated with having quadruplets as well as the risks associated with identical twins, we decided to follow the doctor’s advice and went through with selective reduction, the most heartbreaking decision we ever made in our life. I had been bleeding before the reduction, and the bleeding and spotting never stopped. At twenty weeks and four days I felt some painful contractions, was admitted, and subsequently gave birth to our two stillborn children, Peter and Felix, on June 29, 1996. It was the most heartbreaking experience, to hold our beautiful, silent little children in our hands, the children we had so hoped and longed for. It broke my heart to see that Peter had Christoph’s bent toe. I had always longed to see that little bent toe on one of our children. We thought that the worst which could happen had happened to us. Little did we know, that it could get worse…
The doctors decided, due to the difficulties I had during the pregnancy, that the loss had been due to the reduction, and we decided to give IVF another try. In my second cycle, all three embryos implanted. We were very scared, but mustered up the courage to hope for the best. I was doing everything I could, was off work at thirteen weeks, and on bed rest from this time on. At seventeen weeks I was placed on home monitoring, and remained on strict bed rest. At nineteen weeks and three days I was admitted for a checkup because the monitor was showing increased irritability, but it was too late, I was dilated three centimeters and the membranes of Baby A were showing through. I can still not put myself through the pain of writing about the ordeal, during which we tried to save our babies, but lost Leah on February 22, and Rebeccah and Raphael on February 26, 1997. The ordeal combined Trendelenburg and magnesium sulfate, an unsuccessful attempt to maneuver Leah back into the uterus after an amniocentesis to remove some of the fluid from her amniotic bag, then her birth, more magnesium, an emergency cerclage, thirty-six hours of hope, then increased difficulty breathing (due to infection, as I was told) and high doses of nasal oxygen, and finally, fierce contractions during which the cerclage had to be removed and Rebeccah and Raphael were born.
Once again, we were holding our dying babies in our hands. This time, however, I was in critical condition, fingers and nails purple in spite of high doses of oxygen. My husband Christoph, who was the only person by my side as our babies were born, assumed responsibility as my care provider, since the nurse on duty panicked and abandoned us, and the doctors refused to believe Christoph when he called them to tell them that the birth was imminent. He was the person increasing the oxygen, reducing the speed of the intravenous drip, taking the babies’ footprints, and so much more. There is no question in my mind that he saved my life. I know that this story may be hard to believe, but it happened to us. After this I remained very sick and hospitalized for another ten days. Sometimes I wonder how we were able to go on, after this tragedy.
We are originally from Switzerland, so in addition to the grief of the loss, we also had to deal with the isolation of feeling that most of our family members had no idea what we had been through, and could not understand our continued quest to have a family. Luckily we do have several good friends here who have been supportive.
I also found returning to work very difficult. It was the second time, not the first, that I had been out for disability. Some of my responsibilities were taken away, and my job has never been the way it was before. I stopped working in my part-time job, which was as a Registered Nurse in a freestanding childbirth center. How could I continue to help families give birth after losing all our children twice? Being a very responsible person, this has been difficult for me: I lost my children, I lost some of my friends and relatives who could not be supportive, because they have objections to IVF (and we have confirmed their objections), and I also lost my career.
What kept us going was our love for each other and our love for nature. We are very close, closer than ever, and have been able to support each other, and both feel very fortunate for this. Every Sunday we went hiking and sat in the quiet of Nature at some lake in Harriman State Park.
As I am completing this letter, we are once again expecting; I am seven weeks pregnant, with one baby this time. It is scary, though. We feel very isolated now, even more so since our last loss. How do we hope for a different outcome? How do we believe that there may be a different outcome? How do we believe that our child might be born crying, and that she or he might live?
As I write these words, I am thankful for all of the CLIMB members out there who might be the only people who truly understand us and know what we have gone through, and I send my thoughts out to all the members who are in our shoes and are hoping for fulfillment. This is a piece of poetry by Rumi which we used for our birth announcement for Peter and Felix:
The way of Love
Is not a subtle argument.
The door there
Birds make great sky circles of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling
They are given wings.
– Rumi, 13th century
Carol...She suffered a miscarriage soon after this story was written. She went on to conceive a daughter through IVF with a single egg used, who was born healthy at 36+ weeks after a cerclage and months of bed rest, nearly two years after the triplets. Again through single IVF, she conceived a daughter who was born at term in an uncomplicated pregnancy, three years after her first subsequent child. She is now working part-time in maternal-child health nursing, visiting high-risk families in their homes.