With the news that we were going to have twins, we started making preparations and adjusting the few plans we had already made. We learned from our doctor that the babies would be identical- they had separate amniotic sacs but shared a placenta – monozygotic twins. This was less common than fraternal twins (two sacs, two placentas) and also meant that it came with more risks. But, things were going well. I felt great and my checkups were going well. My students found out that I was expecting and were so excited. They had so many questions about pregnancy and twins and babies and names – it was amazing that we got anything accomplished in class at all.
The days went by, and my babies grew inside me. And I was happy, so happy – pregnant glow and all. By mid-September, I started to get some energy back after feeling so tired during my first trimester. I loved being pregnant. I felt a freedom in my body that I had never felt before. It was as if my soul had been self-actualizing and was telling me, “Yes! This is what we’re here to do!” And I savored every moment as the skin over my belly began to stretch and tighten, reaffirming my feelings that all was going well.
Before we knew it, I was 18 weeks pregnant and the day came for my big ultrasound. By this point I was accustomed to having ultrasounds. With a multiple pregnancy, we learned that ultrasounds were a regular occurrence, as opposed to only listening for a heartbeat, because with two it can be difficult to distinguish one heartbeat from the next unless you see it beating. But this ultrasound was different from my regular check-up ultrasounds in that it was much more thorough – all the measurements were taken to determine growth and development. We also got the option to learn the gender of our babies, and after much discussion, we decided we would find out. So, I met my husband at the clinic and we anxiously rode the elevator downstairs to the lab and were escorted into a small dark room. I got up onto the table and laid back. The ultrasound technician came into the room and I presented my doming belly to her. She spread the gel on my skin and through the grey and black blur on the monitor, our little wriggling children came into view. I took it all in as a warm happiness spread through me. I looked from the screen over to my husband as he squeezed my hand. He was beaming in a way that was new to me. This was a pride that only could come to a man who was becoming a father. After soaking in the glow of the monitor and a lot of goo, the technician said that she had been able to identify the gender of the first baby if we would like to know. My husband and I smiled at each other and nodded. “It’s a girl!” she said with a smile, “now let’s see about the other little one.” We knew they were likely to be identical, so even though it took the technician a little while to identify the second baby, we knew they were both girls. “Girls…” I smiled as tears welled in my eyes. We floated out of the appointment with more happy phone calls to make and news to share.
A few more blissful weeks passed while I continued to eat, sleep, exercise, work and grow and grow. My wonderful students threw a gender reveal party for me, complete with surprise cake – colored pink inside. My husband and I began getting our home ready for the babies. As we started picking out paint colors, we started talking about names. Everything was in order for us to welcome two new additions to our little family. We quickly agreed on one name but had a harder time deciding the second. And so the days passed… Before we knew it, October had ended. I even dressed up as a big, fuzzy, round bumble bee for Halloween (you could call me Queen Bee, and baby I ruled!)
November began on a Friday, and I ended my work week an hour early to leave for my next check up, 21 weeks along now. Again, meeting my husband at the clinic, we went into the doctor’s office. Cheerily, our doctor entered the room and began chatting away, asking how we were both doing and if we had any concerns, questions, etc. – the usual routine. One of my questions was about any risks that we should be aware of because of my type of twin pregnancy. My doctor responded that one of the things that they would be watching for, although rare, was TTTS or Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. He went into detail about how we would deal with this if by chance it did occur, but not to worry too much about it because it was quite rare and so far things were looking good. After our discussion he asked me to climb up on the examination table and we would begin our regular ultrasound to check the movement and heartbeats of the girls. Right away the two little forms appeared on the monitor and the doctor went to work. Right away we saw the first little one, Baby A, wiggling body and fluttering heart. Then, Baby B. She was calm on the screen. Her little blurry body, easy to identify by the trained eye, was still a new mesmerizing alien wonder to me. After a quiet moment, our usually bubbly doctor turned to my husband and I with a serious, composed face and said, “I’m having a hard time identifying a heartbeat.” My mind went silent in a numb disbelief. “I’m going to send you over to the hospital now for a more thorough ultrasound…”. I know that he continued to speak, but I had entered a fog. I know my husband and I left the clinic, road in the elevator, got in his car, drove silently over the the hospital, checked in, and waited. In silent shock. I was vaguely aware of the tears slowly rolling down my cheeks and Justin squeezing my hand as I reminded myself to keep breathing. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe he just missed it. Her heart was still beating. It had to be.
We were brought back into the darkness of another small ultrasound room. A technician came in and began her work. I couldn’t see the screen so I watched my husband’s face for any glimmer of Hope. He held my hand tightly and stared into the screen as if willing it to give us an answer of relief. His focused, worried face only became confused, unsure what he was seeing. The technician left the room after some time and returned with the radiologist who could evaluate the images. His conclusion sealed our despair. All Hope was gone for Baby B and for the third time in the last few months our entire world changed.
My numb shock of disbelief was beginning to subside only to be replaced with a hollowing ache like I had never before felt. We were left alone in the room, told to wait for our doctor to come and speak with us. We waited in silence, holding each other together. After an unknown amount of time, our doctor and his nurse came in to speak with us. I remember his calm sympathy trying to be a comfort while explaining the situation. What now? Reality began to set in as I quit trying to fight back the sobs resonating with the breaking of my heart.
We made it home after some time. Now a much different kind of phone call needed to be made to our families. A different future needed to be planned. Confusion. This was a hurt that no one could have prepared us for and we had entered a world that we had to learn to make sense of. And we needed to learn how to mourn the loss of one child while continuing to foster the growth of another.