11 years ago….
I essentially became a patient. I mean I had always gone to my pediatrician, gotten my immunizations. Even though I was a healthy grad student, I went out of my way to get Chicken Pox vaccine when it came out because I had never had it when I was a child.
But 11 years ago, I realized what it was like to fight for my life and my childrens’ lives. I was pregnant with twins and had already been hospitalized at 16 weeks for dehydration and fatigue. So when it happened again in December, I just imagined that I would get a couple of day hospital stay with IV fluids.
That wasn’t anything but the case. We described my symptoms to the doctors in the ER, they quickly sent us to Ultrasound, but the tech was already at home. They called one in from home to do an emergency Ultrasound, giving us plenty of time to wait. Thankfully (in this case), my husband is a quiet guy and kept a lot of his imagined possibilities to himself. Since I had a regular prenatal check-in days before, I just assumed we’d get the ultrasound and then we’d get a hospital room.
Tech came in. Did ultrasound, much like the ultrasounds we’d been having all along for my high risk pregnancy. Left room. Gone a long time. Then the doctor returned, talked to my husband. Told him we were going to be transferred to Boston. I chatted all the way to Boston with the EMTs in the ambulance. They probably wondered what I had (medication wise) – but I believe my brain tries to help my body be calm by being as far away from reality — and to distract as much as possible.
Matt (my husband) had stopped by the house, realizing that we were in for a long night at Boston – and also picked up a dear friend. I didn’t quite understand the why of this – but it was truly a miracle to have this particular friend there. She was a non-smoker who had lung cancer and had developed keen skills in navigating hospital life. I learned later that what Matt was imagining as possibility was that I would die.
I was whisked directly into the ultrasound room in Boston and the ultrasound was performed by this nice gentle spoken doctor. It was at that time he finally called it what it was – “demise of Baby B”. Until then, our local hospital had only ever said “We can’t find baby B heartbeat.” This is where my husband had also linked those two statements, but I did not put it together until Boston. (Keep in mind that I had years of schooling, but I am well aware that in moments of stress – the brain just can’t hear and make sense of language that you’ve known all of your life).
After confirming Baby B demise, we were taken to labor and delivery. I was at 29 weeks, the babies had always measured small – they estimated they were each about 1lb at that time. It seemed a little odd but finally the doctors explained that they were afraid what my body would do, given the death of Kaitlin. In many cases, it goes into labor immediately. They pushed steroids that would help the lungs of Baby A develop in case of premature delivery. And we waited. Keep in mind, this was before smart phones…. (the agony). We had cell phones, but they weren’t the distraction that they are now. We all talked and waited. We heard other moms come in and deliver babies.
The next day, I was checked and they moved us into the “Miscue” (it was an acronym – but pronounced Miscue). Basically it was private hospital rooms for moms who were pregnant but had something wrong. Now you understand why I remember the part of the hospital – I mean, really – and they still call it that. For a mom who was pregnant with twins and only had a surviving twin, “Miscue” just sounds like the hospital was laughing at me. But yet, I was tough, strong and aware that it would take all of the fiber of my being to make sure that if Alexis (Baby A) was going to fight – that I was going to fight. I was sad, but losing Baby B made me even sadder for the moms who were in Miscue and had lost their only baby. And sad for the moms who had experienced that or what I was experiencing.
After several days of “demise of baby B” and hospital life, doctors made a plan that I would be discharged. I would be on strict bedrest at home and have appointments every 3 days in Boston. Thanks to wonderful friends, I survived the 8 weeks of bedrest with the sole purpose to keep Alexis alive. If she was going to fight, then I was going to fight. We were going to get through this.
I tell people (some who ask and some who don’t ask) – that this period of my life is known as the ‘wodgy’ period. The time in no one’s life when you are carrying an alive baby Alexis and a dead baby Kaitlin. I carried on like this for 8 weeks – distracting myself with the full series of “Sex in the City” (never watched it before) and reading books. I probably talked on the phone a lot, and of course, every 3 days into Boston for check-ups.
I do often wonder what Kaitlin would be like – would she be another Alexis – full of joy, happiness and spirit (but super-tough medical nut)? or would she be a Jessica – full of energy, curiosity and compassion (and only 1/2 tough medical nut)? Or would she be a Kaitlin – the child I carried but never met. The child I love but never held alive.
11 years out, it’s still hard to see twins – talk to other moms about their twins – talk to moms who aren’t at least 29 weeks along – talk about the day that Kaitlin died.
I know now that that moment in my life – taught me that I can handle the toughest of situations given to parents. I know it made me stronger. December 15 will never get easier. But the experience makes me grateful for the joy and compassion from Alexis and Jessica.