by Coach Debbie
I was sitting on the couch at my in-laws’ house and suddenly had the urge to vomit. Confused, I bolted to the bathroom and wondered what in the world I had eaten. It was this fleeting moment that I dismissed and went about my week. Until I felt like barfing yet again. I didn’t go to Yale or Harvard, but I had a feeling that I was about to pass a certain kind of test with flying colors.
Staring at those 2 pink lines, I was freaking out. I had a 9 MONTH old baby. NINE month old baby. And I was pregnant. Apparently, carrying a written prescription for birth control in my purse was not an actual form of contraception. I had just been able to start wearing normal pants a few months before and was now noticing how snug they were already becoming.
I told my husband, “Guess what?” And he smiled big. “Yep. Oh my gosh, I’m pregnant.” My plan never included having children 16 months apart. I realize plenty of awesome women want this and plan this. I am not that girl. I can barely handle talking on the phone while stirring spaghetti sauce.
Still in shock, my now late husband Aaron and I went to the doctor’s office for an ultrasound. I felt a little like a teenager when the doctor joked, “You guys know how this happens, right?” My 9 month old firstborn was just learning to crawl at this point. As the doctor scanned and we grinned sheepishly, he looked at us and said, “So, things are okay. I do need to tell you something though.” I freaked out. Was something wrong? Is the baby dead? What’s happening?
“There are two. There are two babies.” I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t feel my face, I couldn’t move. I did Harvard and Yale math really quickly and calculated that I would have not 2 but 3 babies under the age of 16 months. “What?!” I yelled, as if accused of stealing in a store. Aaron just smiled and laughed. The doctor continued, “Don’t go around telling people you’re having twins. Sometimes things happen and it doesn’t stay as a twin situation.” That caught me off-guard too. “Oh, okay.” I knew I was very early into the pregnancy so we only shared with those close to us (including my sisters who are twins).
Fast-forward 2 weeks of every emotion and very-real nausea, and our next ultrasound revealed that it was true, sometimes things happen. I studied the abstract blobs on the ultrasound screen and I studied my doctor’s face the way a wife who suspects infidelity would. I asked, “It’s just one, isn’t it?” Funny how quickly we go from shock and fear to joy and love, isn’t it? “It is just one. It’s called the vanishing twin. A lot of women actually start with a twin pregnancy but one doesn’t make it and eventually vanishes and gets absorbed. Most women never even know it.” Confirming that one baby was still okay, I felt mixed emotions of sadness and elation. We were having a baby! God had blessed us with a life to love and raise! But how hard to know that what started as our other baby was not to be.
Being in public with a baby and baby bump is a spectator’s free-for-all. “Honey, are you pregnant?! But your baby in the cart is so little!” “Don’t you know what causes this?!” “Ever heard of Irish twins?”
The baby that lived, our little glorious wonderful blessing, is named Bradley Aaron. I smile that he is named after his father who now lives in Heaven. Brad joined our family (on the outside) 16 months TO THE DAY after his older brother Paul. Paul will never remember being an only child. And how different those two are in every possible way (those of you with more than one child know what I mean). And my heart melted to watch those two brothers interact and play and love each other and lose their ever loving minds with each other.
He is now almost 11 years old. I cannot even fathom what life would be like if he had a twin brother or sister. And he doesn’t have a clue. Don’t judge me; I get to parent that kid, not you. I will tell him. I’m waiting for him to be old enough and mature enough to both understand and appreciate this sensitive information. Knowing Brad, I think he’ll say how “cool” that was as he wonders what life would’ve been like if things were different.
God gets to design our families, right? He is the Author of our story. Though it was not easy news, I surrender all to Him and His plan. His ways and thoughts are much loftier than mine.
Have you, or someone you know, experienced the “vanishing twin” syndrome?
After having 2 kids in 16 months, I was off my rocker for quite some time. I was homebound a lot with naps, diapers, breast pumping, cooking, cleaning, feeding and playing. Motherhood is quite the full-time job.
Apparently we thrived on crazy because as soon as Brad (kid #2) had his first birthday I told Aaron we could try for baby #3 like he wanted. Aaron was so excited that God had given me peace about reproducing one final time. We would officially be outnumbered, so this was a major decision.
We quickly conceived and did our happy dance! Party of five! I was relieved to have minimal sickness since I had two little boys to chase all day every day. As we went to our 8-week check-up to see our sweet peanut, the doctor looked at us without smiling. Oh gosh, oh no. No no no. We could see our little one, but (s)he had no heartbeat. We were devastated. But we wanted you so badly! We prayed about you! Many women miscarry, which brought no consolation. There was nothing we could do. I cried a lot over losing a baby I wouldn’t get to hold, yet I trusted my God to bring us through the pain. One day I will meet him or her in heaven.
The only thing that could fill that void, in my opinion, was to get pregnant again. I wanted a baby so badly. I learned that we were quite fertile and we conceived soon after our miscarriage. I was cautious but elated. And I felt sick this go round; a good sign. I felt peace that I would carry a healthy baby to term. Would it be a girl? Would it be a boy? Aaron came with me to the 8-week ultrasound, anxious to watch our microscopic baby. I alternated studying the screen and the doctor’s face, ready for good news and an official due date. He looked at us and sighed. I froze. I stared at the screen, searching for a flickering heart. There was none. Tears welled up. “Is everything okay?” my voice trembled. “Guys, I’m sorry to tell you that there is no heartbeat.” WHAT?! No one has two miscarriages in a row, I thought. Impossible. Start beating, heart! We cried again, shocked that a second baby would fill heaven instead of our arms. I pressed into God so fiercely as we dealt with another loss.
I must have been crazy because I was willing yet again to attempt pregnancy. I told Aaron this was it, the final time, whether it “worked” or did not. I could not handle any more loss, I said. I told the doctor to do everything possible to prevent a miscarriage. We took a chance. All I felt was fear. Weeks later, an early pregnancy test showed negative. We’ll try again next month I decided. Days passed and I just had to take one more test (because women who want to be pregnant get obsessive). POSITIVE! 2 lines! I had a feeling of joy and panic simultaneously. I thought, we did it, yay; but will I have yet another D&C soon?
We prayed constantly and went to the doctor for the infamous check-up. I was shaking uncontrollably, ready for hopes to be dashed. God, please help us. As we did the all-too-familiar scan with the doctor, I started crying instantly, unable to cope. The doctor looked at us, and I held my breath. “Can you see that flickering? That’s a heartbeat, guys!” I nearly screamed, “The baby is ALIVE?! Are you sure? Are we going to lose it?” I was sobbing. He calmed down my fears and Aaron and I hugged. As he kept scanning, which still made me freak out, he said, “Umm, I should tell you something.” My stomach dropped as I feared bad news. “There are two babies. You have twins. See? See the two sacs, the two babies, the two heartbeats?” ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FREAKING MIND?! Our jaws dropped, and Aaron laughed of course. Trying to stay composed, as I stared at the screen, I said, “Yeah, I’ve been pregnant with twins before and I know one will vanish.” I was apparently an amateur physician in my mind. The doctor looked at me and said, “Uh nope. There are two heartbeats. You are having twins. Congratulations.”
Let me be very clear that there is no karma. God was not replacing the two babies lost with two new babies. He just works in mysterious ways. I was just stunned, baffled, bewildered and excited. I was never prepared for twins. Legend says that twins skip a generation; my sisters are twins so I assumed I would never have twins.
What I learned is the difference between fraternal twins and identical twins. Fraternal twins are hereditary (it’s when more than one egg is released at the same time and each egg is fertilized). Identical twins are simply an act of God (it’s when one egg is released and splits). We were expecting identical twins. My mind was blown.
The “morning” sickness (aka “all day sickness”) started with a vengeance and lasted for months. My toddlers would see Mommy’s face in a toilet more than once. I would fall asleep as they watched Elmo and played with toy cars. I was thrilled to meet the 2nd trimester, exhaling that my risk of miscarriage had dropped significantly. How will I mother 4 children under age 4? Is it even possible? Can we handle what’s coming?
Stay tuned for part 2, which gets even crazier.