Thursday, May 30, 2013

Apple and Banana's Story, by their mama

Post by Evelyn

Our story begins in the year 2005, my husband and I had been trying for a child for some time but no success, then I was diagnosed with having PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome). We began to see a fertility specialist through out the next several years, went through several methods to try to conceive. Medicines and injections to try and help stimulate ovulation, but every attempt failed us. We knew that there was a chance we had early miscarriages but they were never far enough along to medically diagnose.

Once the year 2009 arrived I was the healthiest I had been in years, lost over 100 lbs, and we were ready to move forward onto the next step in conception or so we thought. Everything moved so quickly, too quickly in fact. We had scheduled to have an IVF done that late summer but began to rethink what we had scheduled, we were not financially committed as of yet. We knew that our condo with only two bedrooms would be a concern factor if we became pregnant with multiples, because that is always a chance with IVF. So we canceled our procedure and moved forward in a different direction, buy a house instead and save up the money for IVF when we would next be able.

By spring 2010 we were living in our new house, a ranch home with four bedrooms, two full bathrooms and hope for filling those rooms with babies. We tried but still unable to conceive we returned to the original plan, IVF. I called a new office in 2011 with hopes that our dreams would finally come true, but we had to cancel our opportunity before we even began because the consult alone would cost us too much. We felt like our dreams would never come true, but we would be wrong, that would not be the end.

By spring 2012 we met with a new doctor for a consultation, this time it was a free consultation, and we proceeded forward after all the attempts over the years. We scheduled our IVF for August, put down our down payment and it was all actually happening, it was real, we were ready. July began birth control, then different injections that stops ovulation, others help your eggs mature, then a booster that helps everything complete it's maturity before egg retrieval. We were hopeful the entire time because the years prior we got positive news, all my labs came back normal, my tubes were clear, uterus looked beautiful and pear shaped, my cycles regular after all the years of irregularity, and absolutely no sign of having PCOS.

Finally the time came and our eggs were retrieved, it was all happening, out of all the eggs they retrieved six ended up looking perfect and the best two would be transferred fresh in a few days, the remaining four would be frozen for the future. Transfer day was relatively easy, our hope grew when we were told the doctor thought our chances for pregnancy were 60%. Then the two week wait began.

By the time August 30th arrived we were nervous and excited. I went in for my blood draw and patiently awaited to call in for our results on our pregnancy test. I met up with my husband for his lunch break and we made our phone call, anxiously awaiting for whatever we would hear, we were pregnant! It was finally happening, it was real, overjoyed and in tears we had our first happiest moment.

Days later I had my second blood draw, we needed to see that my beta numbers were doubling as they should be, test my progesterone levels too. Not only did it look to have doubled, but it looked to have increased even more, we would have to wait for our first ultrasound to see if both embryos took and if we were pregnant with twins or it was just one baby.

I visited the doctors office while I was there that day for the second blood draw because I wanted to ask about the symptoms I had been having. There is always risk of hypersimulation of the ovaries when you have PCOS and go through IVF, we understood that risk but were hopeful I would not have that happen to me. Upon visiting the doctor that day I was told that not only had my ovaries hyperstimulated but that it was the worst case he had seen and wondering why I wasn't in any pain or more discomfort over it, my ovaries were the size of large grapefruits. It was official, I had OHSS, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. For the next two weeks was put on blood thinner injections, all while still taking my progesterone injections, increased fluids and first round of bed rest.

My follow up appointment would be about a week later and we were excited to see our baby for the first time, hopeful that my ovaries were finally less swelled and the hyperstimulation better. I remember seeing an area of black on the screen during my prior doctors visit but I was there for my ovaries that visit so that was not the area of concern that day. Finally the moment arrived and after my ovaries were checked, yes beginning to look better, this is how I remember the appointment going while looking at the screen during our ultrasound. "Ok, do you see this area of black on the screen, this is where your baby is", the image was zoomed in. "Here is the baby, do you see this circle here and this flicker? That is your baby and the heart beat.", and then our life changed forever, "..and wait, there is a second circle, you're having twins. I can't find the heart beat on the second baby so it's too early to tell right now but it looks like you're having twins." Our second happiest moment had happened.

During our appointment learning we were having twins, we learned they would be identical too. I remember the ultrasound sonographer labeling the picture we would be taking home with us, Baby A and Baby B. I remember turning to my husband and saying to him, "Baby A and Baby B, our little apple and banana", our babies had nick names and we were so overjoyed, our dream of having twins was coming true.

Weeks later in September we had our first scare, I woke up early on a Saturday morning with pain in the left lower part of my abdomen. Knowing that it could either be a ligament that stretched or a cyst rupture I wasn't about to take any chances. After hours of no pain relief I was told to go to the hospital, and was to stay in the hospital for the night for observation. I will never forget what our babies looked like on the screen during our ultrasound while the sonographer was checking to make sure everything was ok, we should have taken pictures because that machine had the best clarification and magnification we had ever seen. After that night of observation I was discharged and instructed to go home and rest, this would be my second round of bed rest.

October finally arrived and my ovaries were beginning to heal, things were moving along smoothly or so we thought, and then mid-late of the month arrived and we had our second scare, bleeding. Drove to a different hospital because now I was under the care of a high risk obgyn because of my health history and our having twins that were monochorionic, which meant that one egg split late, identical, two separate sacs but a shared placenta. While in the ER that day we checked heartbeats, had a quick ultrasound done, and visual checkup, everything looked to be fine at the moment but we were told that we had a threatened miscarriage. A threatened miscarriage? After years of trying, then finally conceiving, and hearing that diagnoses there has to be a better way to describe potential problems in pregnancy. Third round of bed rest and it looked like everything would be ok.

By October we learned that there could be risk of our twins developing TTTS (twin twin transfusion syndrome), which is where one baby will receive more nutrition than the other baby and may not grow as quickly as the other. Despite what we were told could happen, we were told not to worry about it until it looked to of been of concern.

November was our best month, we watched our babies grow, yes there was slight size difference between both babies but nothing to be too concerned about. From little circles, to little tadpoles, to alien like babies with large heads, to babies with buds for arms and legs, to what we remembered most in November, babies with full arms, legs, and our beautiful little pieces of us growing larger each week. We felt like we could finally relax, week 12 was well behind us and we had hope for the future.

Week 17 changed everything. Our December 3rd ultrasound checkup we learned that there could be a problem. I could see the the fluid around our Baby A wasn't as much as Baby B, and because of that Baby A wasn't allowed to grow like Baby B was. We were diagnosed with possible Stage 1 TTTS and told to see a specialist that week as soon as possible. We scheduled to see the specialist on the 6th. Stage 1 TTTS is basically where it looks like there is a growth difference between the babies, less fluid around one baby than the other, and where one baby is larger than the other.

December 6th was the longest day ever, half a day of several ultrasounds checking their heart rates, measurements of bladders, measurements of size of the babies. I could see visually that just between the 3rd and the 6th that there was less fluid around Baby A and I was told I was correct in my observation. Our twins were upgraded from the possibility of having Stage 1 TTTS to having Stage 3 and beginnings of Stage 4 TTTS. We were heart broken, scared, and knew without surgery our pregnancy would be fatal. We knew what we had to do and not even a moments hesitation, "Save our babies doctor, please do what ever you have to do and save our babies!" The differences in stages of TTTS are basically this, once the amount of fluid around the babies becomes a large enough difference to where it begins to effect growth of the babies, difficulty seeing the bladders, medical intervention is almost the only way to save the lives of the babies, Stage 5 TTTS is too late.

On December 7th we underwent a surgery to try and save the lives of our babies. My uterus was the size of a woman who would be 35 weeks pregnant, it was not surprising that yet again the size of my belly did not discomfort me. We were all three put to sleep for the surgery, a small incision made around the side of my belly to reach around the back of my uterus to laser apart the large connecting blood vessels on the shared placenta. The doctor was not able to be successful with the small incision made on the side of my belly so he made a vertical cesarean incision, pulled out my uterus and performed the surgery. While the doctor was performing the surgery he also drained several quarts of  fluid to help with discomfort, I later told him that he didn't need to do that because I wasn't uncomfortable. Surgery was now over, it was time to rest.

Highly medicated and resting after surgery, having contractions are common after a surgery like this, this surgery is not something minor. After awhile the contractions were finally gone, some of the medications could be discontinued and I could relax a little better, but not for too long. That night on December 8th through the early am hours of the 9th I bled, a lot, but upon examination it looked like both babies were ok, so I tried to rest and remained hopeful that all three of us would be ok.

On December 9th our doctor visited my room for the daily ultrasound to check on the babies. Upon examination I could see some movement but it looked like our Baby A was sleeping, our world shattered the moment our doctor told us that our Baby A was gone. Baby A's heart was not beating, there was no movement, but our Baby B was still alive, their heart just didn't have to work as hard as before because it was just them now. Our hearts were broken but we decided we had to stay strong for our Baby B.

That night with Baby B wasn't easy either. I was given a medication that is helpful for women who are having contractions, but I wasn't having any, it was a teaching hospital so just because one medicine doesn't work for one patient, doesn't mean it can't help another. I remember telling the doctor that morning, the same we had seen the prior day who also performed the surgery, telling him how the medicine made me feel, I had a horrible reaction to it and seemed like I was actually allergic to the medication, I wasn't able to sleep that night and both our heart rates were elevated all night, difficulty breathing or feeling calm enough to rest. The doctor told me that he did not prescribe this medicine to me, that the hospital was a teaching hospital and that it should not have contributed to any potential problems, but that it certainly did not help either. Baby B was still with us but heart rate wasn't beating as quickly, heart rates through out pregnancy were anywhere between 140-160 beats, then at that moment was more around 118, but again informed that it was just one baby and the heart didn't have to work as hard because it was just one baby now.

Later that day it came our second ultrasound check of the day. I remember the doctor on call coming into our room and checking Baby B, looking and being very quiet. I could still see flickers of colors moving in the baby's heart, but the doctor said nothing but, "I can't find a heart beat on Baby B..." and stepped out to get another doctor to confirm something. Another doctor came into the room and looked at the screen with the other doctor and then we heard the worst thing you could possibly hear after everything we had been through, it basically went like this, "I'm sorry, there is no heart beat, your baby is dead.." and then they walked out of the room leaving us shattered, completely and utterly shattered.

All of our hopes and dreams were suddenly dashed away in just a moment, we were beyond heart broken. In tears, screams of tears, everything over. Our lives had been turned upside down and I wanted out of that hospital. I was told earlier by my doctor that if I felt fine I could leave that day, no more contractions, no reason to stay, and these babies were not going to be labored any time soon.

For the next 18 days I had contractions every day, usually brought on by car rides but it seemed like anything would trigger a few painful contractions every day. My husband and I wanted a fresh start going into the new year as laboring naturally after our babies passing could take weeks if not months. We scheduled to come in for induction, on December 27th I arrived at the same hospital where we tried to save our babies lives, where they both died, and now I was about to labor them. I was not dilated and my cervix was not soft for labor, so it would take several doses of medication to help induce labor. It was after 7pm that I received my first suppository and within the hour the contractions began, though too light for me to notice until later through the night.

As the night continued the contractions became stronger, hourly monitoring helped to know where I was visually and every few hours another suppository to help soften the cervix and help with dilation. By around 2am on December 28th the back pains were beginning and the contractions becoming more frequent through out the night. By about 5am enough was enough, I decided to take one pain pill to help take the edge off so I could sleep. The patient across the hall from me was in labor and her yells and moans were quite loud, and for some reason her nurse kept opening the door to her room, I couldn't sleep. My nurse kept shutting her room door but this happened through out the entire morning, I didn't sleep but maybe five minutes.

Once 7am arrived I needed something more for the pain because the back pains were too painful by then, I had never thought I would experience back labor but that is what it was. For me it felt like the pains started in my lower abdomen but then shot straight to my lumbar spine and stayed there. Years later I had had two different surgeries on my spine, the second a lumbar fusion which left with me permanent nerve damage and disabled. This was not helping the back labor.

One hour later I was due again for another suppository and they would not be able to give it to me until they were able to control my pain. At no time was it ever recommended to me to try to get up out of bed and stretch, take a shower, use a birthing ball, walk around, nothing was recommended to me except the use of pain pills, drips or an epidural. First we tried the morphine drip and of course that did not work and the machine kept having complications, then finally another pain pill but this one was supposed to be stronger than the first I had taken, that did not help either. I was at my wits end, looking into my husbands eyes I decided it was time to try the epidural. Amazingly enough the epidural did not work! Probably the first time in history that the staff had ever seen an epidural not work for a patient who was in labor because I could still feel everything.

I remember finally laying back and trying to relax, it was finally around 11am, everything was a painful blur to me but finally my water broke and after that felt the urge to push, it was all happening so fast now. At 11:20am our first was born into the world, Baby A, a girl, 5.6 ounces. Minutes later our second was born into the world, Baby B, a girl, 7.4 ounces. After our twins were born it was like something popped in my spine, I felt it after Baby B was born, like the compression of them in my body and the back labor was preventing the medicines and the epidural from working all this time. There suddenly I could feel everything working, all the medicines and the epidural, I began to go numb and everything from then on was a blur to me. I was in for the real struggle now and the fight of my life. This placenta was not wanting to be born.

The placenta was larger than our twins were and I wasn't dilating anymore even though I was in labor, it took two more hours before the placenta was birthed. Two hours and I was losing so much blood it was terribly frightening. I was told that if it continued for much longer that I would be rushed into surgery and they would have to preform an emergency D&C to get the placenta out and a blood transfusion because of my blood loss. I reminded the doctors and nurses in the room that our doctor wanted the placenta to be sent off for examination and I wanted to birth it naturally if at all possible. A last attempt effort was done and success, they were able to pull the placenta out of me. Finally it was all over.

When I finally came to I realized that my mother was there in the room with my husband and I. Our twins were in the cradle across the room but I wanted to have more awareness before I saw them. I was pale from blood loss, weak, exhausted from labor and lack of sleep, all I wanted to do was sleep but I stayed up as much as possible to be able to try and eat and drink fluids. It wasn't until around 6pm that evening on the 28th that we finally saw and held our babies for the first time. Looking back now I wish we would have done it differently, I wish we would have known what to expect, wish we would have done more, but what we did know is we had no idea and were not prepared for any of this.

Our babies were beautiful, identical twin daughters we had. We named our Baby A born at 11:20am Apple Marie, and we named our Baby B born at 11:30am Banana Lee. It was all too real to bare. Part of us wished it was a nightmare we were both having, that we would awaken from it and everything would be ok but we knew the truth, our babies were gone, this was it, our babies had finally been born into the world and they had earned their angel wings.

beautiful little sisters <3
I was able to spend one night with our twins in my room, I held them that morning, spent time with them, had every urge in my body to bring them back to life somehow but knew there was nothing I could do. There was nothing I could do other than tell our beautiful girls how much I loved them, sing to them and hold them some more. I will never forget how their weights felt in my hands and in my arms. We said goodbye that day on the 29th of December. By the 31st were arranging for our twins to be cremated and by January 7th 2013 our twins returned to us in their urn on my birthday, bittersweet.

I still miss holding our girls to this day, months later I miss them and have wished that my arms were not empty. May 9th 2013 was possibly one of the most difficult day come to date so far. This date was our twins expected due date and even though we knew our twins would most likely be before before this date, as early as 35 weeks, this date was still important to us. May 9th was also the five month anniversary of our Apple's passing and May 10th would be the five month anniversary of our Banana's passing. Even though the week was a blur, sleep became a myth, and my heart was low, nothing could prepare me for how I would feel on Mother's Day.

Mother's Day arrived and by this time we should have been parents for the first time in every way, but instead we were parents to angels, empty arms and insomnia. Somehow again I made it through the day and with the support of my husband, who I don't know where or what I would be without, he who is our girl's daddy and my best friend.

Now it's all about healing and moving forward the best way we can, one day at a time. I have no idea what the next set of anniversaries will feel like, August through December this year will be filled with so many emotions I'm sure of it.

What we hope for now is our rainbow, that baby you have after loss. That baby that will help heal your heart after it's been broken into an unrecognizable amount of pieces with no idea how to put it back together again. To be honest, your heart is never the same after the loss of your child(ren), you are never the same, your heart my mend but it's like a scar. The loss and love for your child(ren) is always there and that scar will always be a reminder of them.

I hope for peace someday and currently trying to heal, both of us are. I participate on several support groups, support different types of baby loss charities and have started my own support group and charity in memory and in honor of our twins.  You can find it here.

The best gift that our twins ever gave me was our last days together. It had been flutters before but the last day with both girls were good solid kicks. Apple's kicks were like a flick on the palm of your hand, we thought of her as our little soccer player with how those kicks were. Banana's kicks were like a ballerina dancing on your belly, very gentle and sweet compared to her sister. We thought of her as our princess ballerina with how her kicks were. I used to have phantom kicks too, but those too stopped once our twins were born.

Our baby girls were with us for 18 weeks 3&4 days. I do not regret what we did to try and save our daughters. I miss our twins every single day and not a moment passes that I don't think of our girls. I love them so very much, some days it hurts to breathe and feels like my heart is literally breaking apart, but somehow I find strength. I know our girls would not want us to live in grief and miss them not being able to live our lives, our girls would want us to continue on, to have more children.

You see, we angel parents have something in common, we all have something that connects us all, we are a family of angels. Take comfort in knowing you are not alone. Much love, peace and healing to all who have experienced the loss of a child. It is not an easy journey to heal from, this is a loss like no other, it is not natural to lose a child and only becomes more heartbreaking the longer time you have with your child(ren). So you see it does not matter if your loss happened at four week or forty years, the loss of your child(ren) is devastating. There are many supportive places to turn to, understanding and caring people to be there for you, and ways you can honor and remember your child(ren). Know that your child(ren) love you and know that you love them. Remember most of all that you are never alone. We are a family of angels.

To our precious and beautiful daughters Apple Marie and Banana Lee, your parents love you very much and miss you every single day. Please visit us on the wings of butterflies, send us snow flake kisses, remember that you don't need to cry rain drop tears but when you do know that we love you too, and sparkle on your little diamond hearts in the sky so we can see you both at night shining down on us. We will never forget you. Thank you for making me a mother. Momma loves you both, forever and ever!!!


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