Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mother like you!
So, today I had planned on speaking to you about something completely different, but I woke up in a funky mood, right? I think it was a Facebook post I read yesterday about a woman who is pregnant but is spotting. And of course, she was frantic into asking what this meant, and the spotting was pretty heavy. And of course, all the moms were trying to encourage, to be supportive, but at the same time, gently let this poor woman know that she’s probably losing her pregnancy. And it just stayed with me. You know I went to bed, trying not to think about it. And I woke up several times at night not because of the post, but because the orthodontist had adjusted my braces, and my whole mouth hurts today (and it did last night). But every time I woke up, I thought of this mom. And I think part of it was it mirrored my experience in so many ways. It just really brought to the forefront one of the most terrible memories as an older mom. So, what do I mean by that?
Well, I started losing my babies around week twelve. What do I mean by I started? That’s when the nightmare began. And it was just this horrific nightmare for me (I’m sorry I’m kind of getting choked up and teary even remembering). But my husband had surgery, and I had to spend most of the day at the hospital sitting and walking. And the next day, I awoke to heavy spotting. Just really heavy spotting. And of course, my in-laws rushed me to my fertility doctor, and she said, “You need to be in bed rest for at least a week. You stressed out yourself too much. You’re going to be okay.” So, I was on bed rest that week.
The whole time, the spotting kept coming back. And every day, I would think, “Please don’t let me lose these babies. Please don’t let me lose these babies. Please. Please, dear God, don’t let me lose these babies.”
But that was just the first week of what became twenty more weeks of bleeding, day in and day out. That somehow, things would work out, and I would not lose my pregnancy. About a week after, I think it must have been week thirteen, the bleeding had stopped. But my fertility expert sent me to a perinatologist, which is basically an ob-gyn for high-risk pregnancies. And almost immediately, he said, “You’re probably going to need a cerclage.”
Now, I knew what a cerclage was because I had a friend when I was in college who had to have one to have her babies. And I remember thinking at that time, I never want to go through this much. I never want to take it this far. If it requires this much for me to have a baby. I just don’t want to do it.
But when my husband and I began talking about the possibility of adopting, he said, “I’m fine with it as long as we try to have our babies at least once, our own babies. I want to try IVF1.” The thing was, I never wanted to do IVF. I just didn’t want to. It seemed really daunting, really overwhelming, and I have to tell you to this day, I think every woman that goes through IVF, is incredibly courageous and deserves absolute support and understanding of everybody around her.
It is such an incredibly difficult process. And I admit that I was incredibly lucky. I got pregnant on the first try, and I gave birth to twins on the first try. I remember being at the doctor’s office and hearing women talking about it being their second, their third, their fourth, even their fifth try.
So, while I was going through these difficulties, I felt such enormous guilt that I wasn’t grateful that I had taken at the first time. I was miserable, and I was absolutely miserable after hearing the word cerclage.
So, what exactly is a cerclage? Well, they basically put you under, waste down basically. And they’re going to go in and sew your uterus shut. Because of course, I may be in a Ph.D. program and a Master’s degree program at the time. Very competent professionally. Very competent student. But my cervix was completely incompetent. The thing kept opening up! It was slowly opening. So, a cerclage was the only way to keep it shut.
But of course, this doctor was in Irvine, and by then I was living in San Diego. So, he recommended his colleague. And what he told me at the time was, “Now this woman is completely competent but absolutely has no bed sign manners. So, you need to psyche yourself for this, okay? She is the absolute best in the area. No bedside manners.” I was like, okay. Because things are not difficult enough, I’m not already stressed out enough. The best doctor in San Diego is probably going to be a bitch. Fabulous!
So, we go in, and we meet her. She was not a bitch. And she did turn out to be an absolute great doctor. But when he said that she had no bedside manner, he wasn’t kidding! This woman did not relate at all to the plight of the women that she was helping. She’s incredibly mechanical, incredibly distant. And you know, now I say these things I think perhaps it’s not that she doesn’t relate, perhaps she knows that many of us are struggling with pregnancies. And there’s a high probability that we’re going to lose those pregnancies, and maybe this is the way she copes. But she really acts like an automaton!
So, she tells us, “Yup. You are going to need a cerclage. Your cervix is receding. There’s no question. There’s no option. If you want to save the pregnancy, you’re going to need to have a cerclage.” But of course, simultaneously she tells me, “If you have a cerclage, because it’s late in your pregnancy (about sixteen weeks by then), you could end up losing the pregnancy.
Okay. So, I’m damned if I don’t, and I could very well be damned if I do (you have no idea how hard it is for me not to cry right now). Sixteen weeks, and I have to take a risk of losing the pregnancy. But if I don’t risk that, I probably will lose the pregnancy. I have never not wanted to do something with my life more than that time. I did not want to do this!
I mean, the idea of somebody sewing my cervix shut, just sounded horrific! The possibility of losing the pregnancy because I had the cerclage sounded horrific. And if I did nothing, I was going to lose it. My husband, who’s a Pollyanna, came to the rescue, and he’s like, “Yes, let’s do this. Everything’s gonna be alright. You just have to trust that somehow things are going to work out.”
So, I went in, the day of the cerclage. And not only that I do have the best doctor in San Diego, but I’m also at the best, most wonderful hospital (I think) in San Diego which is, Mary Birch Hospital for women. If you’re in the San Diego area, oh my God. This hospital is just absolutely wonderful. The nurses were wonderful. Everyone was just positively wonderful (except for one, but I’ll tell you about her in a minute).
So, I go in and I’m a bad stick. But there’s just always somebody who doesn’t believe me, okay? Always somebody who thinks I’m exaggerating. So, they tried to put in the IV once, but they failed. Twice, they failed. Three times, they failed. And it hurts like hell! Okay. I don’t care whether they put the lidocaine, or just put the IV thing in first. It doesn’t matter! Either way, it’s going to be painful. They put it in four times and they failed. By that point, I was so hysterical! Trying so hard to keep it together. My husband could see I was getting ready to bolt, and finally, they give up and call in the phlebotomist who gets it in on the first try. They could’ve avoided all of that, but no.
Okay. So, I go in for the cerclage. I woke up, and basically, I think that time I was in the hospital for about a week. They were making sure that everything was good, and my doctor did tell me, “Listen, if you feel if you’re too afraid to go home with such a high-risk pregnancy, you can stay in the hospital starting now.” I was like, “No, it’s okay. I think I’ll go home.”
I must have been home for three days when we’re rushing to the hospital because I’m in so much pain that I think for sure I’m in labor. And we live about twenty minutes away, and my husband’s rushing, speeding through San Diego (luckily this happened at night). And I’m crying and crying. And I get there. And they’re giving me all kinds of medication which of course, the medication makes you feel positively terrible.
But at the same time, I’m thinking, okay, at least they’re saving my pregnancy. And about three days into this hospital stay, I say to the nurse, “God, I just really want to go home.” And she says to me, “Well, you never know, you might be going home tomorrow.”
And at the time, I was so stressed out I thought she meant things were going to get better, and then the next day maybe I would be able to go home. But no! She meant I could be losing the pregnancy and be going home tomorrow. And to this day all I could think is, “What a bitch!”. That wasn’t necessary, and her explanation wasn’t necessary, and she was the only nurse that I did not like in that hospital.
So, a few days later. My doctor says, “Okay, I think you’re safe to go home if you want to go home. If you don’t want to, you can stay in the hospital.” And this was just the big scare. So, I go home, everything seems to be fine for a few days, and then the pain returns! But this time, I noticed it was a different kind of pain. It wasn’t this thing that made me feel like pushing. It was this thing that radiated up my shoulder, up to my back.
Turns out that when you get pregnant you’re likely to develop gallbladder issues. Guess what? Not only was my cervix incompetent, turns out my bladder wasn’t competent either. I developed dust in my gallbladder. Not stones, dust, or sand they called it, which turns out to be quite miserable, and as a result, after the babies were born, I had to have my gallbladder removed. But during my pregnancy, I couldn’t have meds. Oh, and by the way around this time, I developed gestational diabetes too. Now I couldn’t have too many carbs!
So, just before my pregnancy, I had been on a drug called Lupron, because of my endometriosis and I had gone from a hundred and forty pounds to a hundred and seventy pounds. By the time that I was done with my pregnancy, I was down to a hundred and nine pounds the day I gave birth. None of the other mothers of twins were as thin as I was when it’s all over said and done. But that’s another story.
So, back to the pregnancy from hell. So, now I have gestational diabetes, gallbladder problems, and things have gotten so complicated that the doctor didn’t even know what to put on my dietary requirements. Because on the one hand, she needed to tell me to eat more but then, on the other hand, I couldn’t eat anything. So at that point, it was just time to stay in the hospital. Okay. I was done. I was mentally and physically exhausted.
And the worst part was I felt completely disconnected from my babies. I didn’t want to talk to them. I didn’t want to sing to them. I didn’t want to do anything. Because I kept thinking, any day I was going to lose them, and somehow I was trying to protect myself, to protect my sanity.
I remember looking at my husband during that time, and I hated him more than I ever hated anybody at any time. He had been the one that insisted that we try the IVF at least once. But what he didn’t realize was that while we were living through this nightmare together, everything was happening to my body. Not to his!
He wasn’t the one to spend day after day in the hospital. He wasn’t the one that went to premature labor over and over again. He wasn’t the one getting the shots of terbutaline to stop the labor. He wasn’t the one on magnesium sulfate IVs. And by the way, they have to change those suckers every three days, and when you’re a hard stick, they go for your hands. Finally, I told the doctor, “Is there another solution?” And she said, “A midline, those last longer.” Well, I said, “Okay. Well, is that better?”. She’s like, “Yeah, that’s better for you. It’s just better all around.” She said, “You’re in here for the long haul. So, it’s probably a good idea.”
Well, per usual, the doctor didn’t explain what this meant. It means somebody comes in with an ultrasound machine, this huge needle thing and they stretched out your arm. They cover everything surgically. They clean it surgically, and of course, there’s no anesthesia, there’s no nothing. And the whole time the guy’s chatting with me. He’s very nice. Very, very nice. But I didn’t have anybody to hold my hand. My husband was at work. My mother avoided the hospital at all costs because she’s terrified of hospitals, and he has to stick this huge thing inside of me to put the midline in!
My husband wasn’t the one that got five minutes to take a quick shower. I couldn’t even shave my legs! You know how prickly those suckers got?! And I remember him complaining cause he had to do it for me. He was like, “Oh, my God!.” Seriously dude?! Yes, I give him props. He was there every single morning and every single day immediately after work until he couldn’t take it anymore because he was gonna come in early in the morning. He did his best to be supportive.
But I was still the one alone in the hospital. I was still the one hearing when my neighbor went into labor despite their efforts to stop her from going into labor. But she was one of the lucky ones, she made it to thirty-one weeks. And he wasn’t there when I heard a fifteen-year-old who weighed over three hundred pounds, and I saw her wheeled by my room. And the whole time she was screaming, “I want my mom, I want my mom.” And I kept thinking, “Sweetheart, the jig is up! It was like three in the morning!” There’s no way her mom’s gonna be there on time. And it wasn’t relevant anymore. She was about to become a mother herself!
And I kept thinking of all the things she gave up. Knowing the statistics on teenagers, she probably only had sex once, and now she was a mom. And I don’t think she realized at that moment that, pretty soon there was somebody going to be coming out of inside her, screaming for their mom and she was gonna be it! And she’s still needing her mom!
Hell! I was thirty-nine and I needed my mom. Except my mom wasn’t much help. I remember being in the hospital. Here I was in the hospital and my mom came in. It’s the day that I made it to the sixth month. That day, she comes in dressed in black (oh my God, my mother absolutely had no common sense). And she tells me, she’s going to the funeral of one of her closest friends. Her daughter lost her twins on the very day that she was six months pregnant.
I lost it. I lost it! I started crying. I told her to get out. She said I was ungrateful. I wanted to leap out of the bed and choke the living daylights out of her. I cried for hours until my husband got there, and could hold me, and tell me for the fifth million times that things were going to be alright. I don’t know how the man believed that things were going to be alright, but he just had that absolute certainty that things were going to be alright.
He wanted those babies so much. You know, I need to remember this story when he drives me crazy (as husbands do). Cause I remember that day, he was just there supporting me through this just… nightmare. I remember thinking, “I can’t deal with this. I have three more months to go. I have three more months to go. How am I supposed to make it through to three more months?”
But hey! Baby B, she didn’t feel that I was being tested enough, okay? So, she decides she’s going to move. Now, when you have one baby inside of you and it moves, it’s uncomfortable. But when you have two babies inside of you and one decides, “You know what, despite the fact that my sister’s still hanging out with her head up, I think it’s time for me to move!” So, what does she do? She goes like this and then goes head down. Well, she went like this, she dislocated my rib. Yeah, that was excruciating. And of course, the nurses were there holding my hands and rubbing my side, and “I’m so sorry honey, twins sometimes do this!” I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. It was so painful!”. And I just didn’t even want to think about it.
Maybe it was a cry for attention because I didn’t rub my belly, talked to my belly, and didn’t do anything. I remember almost twelve years earlier, an acquaintance of mine, her baby died the day she was supposed to give birth. And she still had to give birth, knowing that her baby was dead. She had to give birth to his baby. Birth by definition means life, and she was giving birth to a dead baby. And it completely shattered her!
She was in her mid-twenties. She was a healthy young woman. Everything had been going perfectly, and she had a stillborn. And I was not a young woman, nothing had gone right. The likelihood of me giving birth, making it to the point where my kids would be okay, was not high.
So, I started this thing where I was not going to worry about the next three months. Just gonna deal with this week. If I could just make it through this week, I’ll be okay. If I could just do this one week, I’ll be okay. And I make it through that week, and then I would say, “Okay, forget that week. Now it’s this week. If I can just make it through this week”. And then Baby B decided, nope! It was too early. False alarm. “I don’t wanna hang out with my head down. I don’t wanna do that”. So guess what she did? She flipped over again and dislocated my rib again. Oh my God, I love that child, but she’s been challenging ever since she’s been in my belly.
And so here I was again. I remember I was so weak. I could still make it to the bathroom. I could still take my five-minute showers. But I was getting wobblier, and wobblier, and wobblier. And I remember saying to the doctors, “I’m concerned that the babies are not getting enough nutrition.” And she said to me, “Don’t worry about it. They’re gonna get from your body what they need. I’m concerned about you. You’re the one that’s not getting enough. They’re gonna get what they need.”
And by that point, it was week twenty-eight, which meant they were no longer going to be micro-preemies. They could make it if they were born. I was like, okay. Then suddenly, I could start thinking, “Okay babies, we’re gonna be okay. Everything from here and out is frosting on the cake. We just need to keep going, just as long as I can keep you with. You have to cooperate, babies”. That became my conversation. “You have to cooperate. Please stop moving around. Please don’t dislocate my rib again.”
So, that’s when I started having conversations with them again, week twenty-eight. And then by week twenty-nine, I keep telling the babies, “Okay babies, okay. We got this!” The magical number is week thirty-two. Less, a lot less complications, if we can make it to week thirty-two. We got this!” Week thirty rolled around, and I began to feel safe, completely safe.
I had picked out their names, literally the day that I found out that I was having two girls. And I never changed my mind. It was always the only set of names that they had. I named them each for my grandmothers, and I gave them each name that I really liked, and I loved the combination. So, I began to use their names.
Week thirty-one, I started to think that I was not going to make it to week thirty-two. Not because of the babies, but just because I was so emotionally drained, so physically exhausted. Couldn’t eat anything, my hair started falling off in clumps, and I finally made it to magical week thirty-two. Finally got there! And the doctor said to me, “Okay, this is what I think. Things are so tough on you that, if they haven’t been born by week thirty-four, I think that we should consider doing the C-section then.”
And I really like having that in my pocket. It was like my escape hatch. It was what I used to keep myself sane. I knew that I was gonna use the card (cause I’m insane that way). I knew that I was going to push as far as I could. But it was so nice to have that escape card. So, I just told myself, “Okay, we’ll see how it goes.”
But, Baby B, my little trouble maker, who you know is Andy, decided it was time. She was done. She needed to save her own life, and she pushed, and she pushed, and she pushed. And no matter what medication they gave me, this girl knew it was her time. She needed to come out. It was absolutely essential for her to come out. And she was right, the doctor said that had she not been born then, she would have died in the womb. That girl, she’s so amazing and such a troublemaker.
So, what do I wanna say to that mom that was struggling outside on Facebook? That is simply struggling with her pregnancy. Today. Tomorrow. Any day. I was absolutely terrified the whole time I was pregnant. I didn’t enjoy my pregnancy. But it was absolutely worth it. Every miserable moment was worth it.
I’m glad I didn’t give up. I’m glad that my husband talked me into IVF. I’m glad that he held my hand whenever he could. I’m grateful for his support through the darkest moments, through the not so dark moments, thru the stupid moments when I wanted to choke him. I’m just grateful I have my wonderful twins. Who are not perfect. Who are in fact perfectly imperfect. And still, make me proud every day, whom I love every day, whom I kiss and hug every day.
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