Hanging with Mama Kat again today.
March 3, 2003. 3/3/03. The very day the number 3 took on a whole new meaning.
The pregnancy blood test had come back positive. It was time for the fertility doctor to do her first ultrasound to confirm that the fetus was viable – that the tiniest little heart was beating.
My heart was pounding as the exam began. I know too much. Perhaps there is a fetus there but there is no heart beat. So much can happen. I hold my breath.
Then the doctor smiles. There is the heart beat. What a joyous moment. I am able to breathe. And then there is another heart beat, on another fetus. And then another heart beat on yet another fetus. 3 tiny little beating beings living inside my body.
Suddenly I couldn’t breathe again.
My mind moved rapidly. The will be early. The will have complications. They may not survive.
And yet… There they are. Fighting against the odds. My heart filled like I never knew possible.
The care of these sweet little beings was transferred to a Maternal/Fetal Medicine doctor. Exams every two weeks with monthly ultrasounds.
I lay on the table, excited about that first ultrasound. It had been weeks since I’d first seen those little hearts. I could hardly wait to see them again. The tech took a lot of pictures. She studied each of them very carefully. I was moved back to my room.
And then the news.
We believe your daughter has choriod cysts on her brain. This is typically an indicator of Trisomy 18. We would like to do an amniocentesis. If she has this genetic abnormality then she will die in the first year of her life.
But the odds of miscarriage after an amnio are 1%. I had only a 3% chance of becoming pregnant with triplets. So, no. You won’t do the amnio. And really? What does it matter. She is my daughter. I love her no matter what. I will hold her and love her every moment of her life, no matter how small.
I collapsed in the hallway to the parking garage. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. My baby will suffer. I know the outcome of Trisomy 18. I know the suffering these children bear. How can I do that to my baby girl? But I do love her, more than most anything. I will fight for her.
The very next ultrasound finds me holding my breath again. I expect the cysts to be larger. I expect other abnormalities to show up on my daughter. I expect nothing but the worst for her.
But the cysts are gone. Must have been something incorrect on the last ultrasound. What a relief! How many people make rash decisions based on incorrect medical information? I shudder at the thought. The tech takes more pictures and I’m returned to my room.
One of my boys is not growing like the other two babies. He is significantly smaller. If we end his life now – use “natural selection” so to speak – the other two babies will have a much better chance in life.
You’re asking me to kill one of my babies, sacrifice one of my children if you will, so that the other two might survive. Um… No. You were wrong about my daughter. I can see that my son is smaller than the other two. In my heart I know that there is a plan for him. The doctors are not about to decide that plan. No, you may not get rid of this baby.
Summer is now upon us. I am getting rather large and thinking how uncomfortable it will be to get through this summer. I welcome the challenge, knowing that my babies will be flourishing inside me.
I am on bedrest now. My body simply doesn’t like the thought of carrying 3 babies and has started to force contractions. It will certainly be a long summer if I can do nothing but lay in bed. Thank goodness for air conditioning and a TV and a VCR.
Then there is spotting. My babies are only 23 weeks gestation. I am admitted to the hospital for monitoring. I am terrified. I know in my heart that this will not end well. Still I have hope.
I am put on medication that is to stop the contractions. Really it just makes me loopy. I begin to lose movement in my extremities from the meds and the dosage is lowered.
June 30, 2003. 6/30/03.
I awoke that morning with a strange sensation. I need to go to the bathroom, only I can’t. My doctor comes in. She says she wants to check to see if I’m dilated. Her eyes show it all long before she ever says it. I’m fully dilated and one of the baby’s sacks is bulging out. I will have to deliver.
I’m wheeled to the operating room. The babies will be delivered there in case an emergency c-section needs to be done. NICU staff is standing by. An anesthesiologist is walking next to my bed as I’m rolling down the hall. He’s talking to me but I have no idea what he is saying. I’m only aware of how rapidly my heart is beating and how bright the lights are above me.
My doctor stands at the end of my bed and tells me I have to push. I tell her I can’t. There is simply no way. But I must. I need to give my babies the best possible chance.
My baby girl comes out first. She is trying to cry. She is a fighter like her mommy. I don’t get to see her before she is whisked away to an incubator and a crowd of doctors and nurses start assisting her in her first moments of life.
My tiny son is born next. He was protecting his sister. He had his arm up around her as she came through the birth canal. He was bruised and battered from delivery. He weighed only 11oz. He was too small for the technology at hand. He was brought to us wrapped in a receiving blanket that swallowed him whole. My honey held him while I lay on the table with one baby still inside of me.
Contractions stopped. My cervix began to shrink. My body was willing to keep my youngest son for a while longer.
I held my tiny son. I kissed his head. I was overwhelmed with joy and sorrow. I was a mommy. A for real mommy. And I was facing a heartache no parent should face. I held him until his tiny heart stopped beating. That little beat that I knew so well was gone. The nurse took him from our arms after we had said our goodbyes.
I was returned to my room for sleep and recovery. A procedure was done to clip the umbilical chords of the two babies who had been born. I was numb. I asked for ongoing updates on my daughter. I sent my honey to the NICU to see her at regular intervals. The doctor came in to tell me he had seen her and she was trying to breathe around her tube. What a strong little girl.
July 1, 2003. 7/1/03.
In the middle of the night I was awoken by the familiar pains in my abdomen. It was happening again. I called in the doctor and she confirmed my fears. Soon after I found myself in the same OR as before. Only one incubator remained.
This time I felt stronger. I knew what I had to do for my son. I prayed for a safe delivery. I prayed for his health. He was bigger than his sister by 2oz. A lot at this young age. He too was whisked off to the NICU team before I could see him. They came over to tell me that he was doing well, his APGARs were good.
Upon my arrival back to my room there was a nurse waiting with a wheelchair. Damn the medical personnel in this facility need to get better at having poker faces. Something was wrong. I was needed in the NICU immediately.
I don’t remember how I got from the bed to the wheelchair. I’m certain there was a group of family and friends who simply lifted me over. When I entered the NICU a team of doctors and nurses were working on my daughter. She’d had her “honeymoon” period and now it was over. Her vitals had crashed. Her heart had stopped beating. They were performing CPR on my tiny baby girl.
I did not cry. I found a strength within me I did not know existed. I looked at the nurse and asked how long they had been working on her. She looked at the chart and replied 20 minutes. I asked the doctor to stop. Stop hurting my baby. Let her be. She cannot possibly survive after 20 minutes of being without a heartbeat and oxygen. It’s not right to bring her back for us. Let her go. The nurse looked at me with tears in her eyes and whispered “thank you”.
She was disconnected from all tubes and wires and handed to us in a receiving blanket. She was not swallowed nearly as much as her tiny brother. Somehow we returned to my room and I found myself sitting in a rocking chair holding my daughter and singing Amazing Grace to her. My FIL had to leave the room. He couldn’t take it. He was too sad. My honey and I held each other and our baby girl. Sorrow set in a little deeper. Still we had done what was best for her. Exactly what a parent does for their child.
We held her until she took her last breaths. The nurse who had thanked us took her back to the NICU after we had said her goodbyes.
After a bit of sleep I was encouraged to get up and walk around. I had a variety of nurses and doctors coming in to check the status of my mental health. They were watching my body for unexpected bleeding or other internal concerns. I wanted to get away from them. I walked down to the NICU with my honey and my brother-in-law and my sister.
We were greeting by the hospital chaplain at the door of the NICU. She asked if we would like to have our son baptized. We agreed. We entered the NICU for the small ceremony. I saw my son for the first time since his birth. He was so beautiful. Dark black hair. He had good vitals. He had good color. I wasn’t sure how he would do in this life without his siblings. Perhaps that was the goal. For his brother and sister to just get him here.
After another nap my honey and I strolled back to the NICU to see our son. We wanted him to know we were there. We wanted him to hear our voices. We were greeted by the neonatologist. He shared the latest x-rays. Our son’s lungs had filled with blood. There was no way to remove it. He was not going to survive. We could take him off life support and leave in the tubes or remove all tubes and wires and hold our son for his last breaths.
I’ll never forget the image of the doctor’s very large, very delicate hands removing all tubes and wires from my last surviving baby. It all seemed so surreal. He was placed in our arms and the privacy screen was pulled around us. We thanked him for being our son. We honored that he belonged with his brother and sister. We cried still more tears.
After his last breath we took him to my room so that the rest of his family could say their goodbyes. It was a truly beautiful family moment. We all mourned the three of them together.
I asked to be discharged from the hospital as soon as I was healthy enough to leave. I couldn’t be in that hospital another moment. When I was released I was wheeled to the lobby with 3 teddy bears in my arms. One for each baby lost.
I was a mom. I had cared for my babies to the best of my abilities. I had made decisions for them that only a parent could. I was leaving the hospital empty-handed. My heart had forever been changed. It was not empty but it was not filled.