Tuesdays are normally the days I put up a Loss Mom Interview Series post. During the 31 Days Of Blogging Your Truth, I am continuing to do so… why? Because this is their truth… these women who have lost children… and they are sharing it with you.
Today’s interview is with Kasey. I don’t know her personally, but she found out about the interview through a moms of multiples group we’re both a part of, and of course, I was honored to share her story with you. It’s amazing – you’ll be blessed by reading it.
Here’s her story…
- Many women have had more than one loss. Tell us about the loss that impacted you the most.
Thankfully, I have only had one loss, which occurred at the very end of my first (and so far only) pregnancy.My husband and I did IVF in order to conceive, and were thrilled to be successful on our first attempt. About 5 weeks into the pregnancy, we discovered that we were expecting three babies – a set of identical twins and a fraternal baby. I hate to admit it, but when I found out, I was not exactly overjoyed. My husband and I are both professionals with stressful careers, and we knew that even having one baby would require a lot of reprioritization and adjustment. When I thought about having triplets, I was overwhelmed and simply did not want to deal with the massive changes I knew three babies would bring to my professional life, my relationship with my husband, and our lifestyle. I was also very worried that we would not be able to provide enough attention and love to three babies at once.It didn’t help that my fertility doctor emphasized the risks associated with a triplet pregnancy. She told me it was very possible that we would lose one or more baby in the first trimester, and even recommended that we consider selective reduction in order to mitigate the risk of losing the entire pregnancy. However, I simply couldn’t imagine doing that; regardless of how one thinks of unborn lives at that stage (I think of them as sort of quasi-babies), and regardless of my concerns about having three babies at once, those babies existed because of our choices, and I could not abdicate that responsibility by taking away their chance to live.By the time we reached 12 weeks and still had three babies with strong heartbeats, I finally accepted that I would be the mother of triplets. I began imagining my life with three babies, and my feelings shifted dramatically. At 15 weeks we discovered that we were having twin boys and a girl. I was completely thrilled. Although I still would have preferred to have them one at a time, I loved each of my babies and wanted them all very much.I started having complications with my pregnancy around 23 weeks, when I was hospitalized for preterm labor. While there, a neonatologist visited to explain the chances that my babies would survive, and the likelihood of health problems they faced, if they were born at 23-24 weeks. The information devastated me, and I realized how fiercely I loved my babies (as I definitely thought of them at that point). Luckily, the doctors were able to stop my preterm labor, although I was on bed rest and extensive monitoring for the rest of my pregnancy. Throughout all of this, however, my babies were still growing well and showing no signs of problems. I felt confident that as long as I could stay pregnant for a reasonable length of time, they would all be fine.At 31 weeks, one of my twin boys began showing some mild signs of twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). My doctor was reassuring, because he felt that my babies now were large and strong enough to do well even if we were forced to deliver. However, I was hospitalized to allow the babies to be closely monitored. The plan was to wait as long as possible, but deliver the babies as soon as the TTTS began to get more serious. However, I distinctly remember that the day I was admitted, my doctor made a comment about just delivering today. It was ostensibly a joke, but I could tell that he was also asking a question; specifically, would I feel better having the babies now? I thought he made the comment because he was aware of the extreme physical discomfort I was in, so I said no. I wanted to do everything I could to ensure my babies’ health. It never occurred to me that they might be safer outside my body. I still don’t know whether my doctor asked that question out of concern for my own health or my babies’ health.On the third day of my hospitalization, at the 7:30 a.m. rounds, the doctor (who was not my regular doctor) did not order an ultrasound to check my babies’ fluid levels. Although I had been checked the day before and told everything was fine, I asked to be checked again because it was a Friday and I did not want to go three days without monitoring. Although I definitely got the “I’m-just-going-to-humor-the-crazy-pregnant-lady” look from him, the doctor ordered an ultrasound.
Looking back, that morning seems surreal both in its ordinariness and its unlikeliness. I worked for about four hours and then called my husband, who had had a surgery to remove a kidney stone that morning. The ultrasound technician came in around 10:45 a.m. and began checking the babies. She was quiet, but I didn’t really notice because that was typical for her. (By the time I was admitted, I had been having two ultrasounds a week for 8 weeks and knew each technician very well.) She then told me that she had to go ask the doctor about something. It still hadn’t occurred to me that something could be wrong.
The doctor came in and began using the ultrasound wand to check the babies. This should have been a clue that something was wrong – everyone joked that the doctors didn’t know how to use the machines. Finally, he told me to turn off the TV. I said, “uh-oh, I’m not going to like what you are about to say, am I?” I thought he was going to tell me that the fluid levels were a problem and that we would need to deliver. I did not want to deliver yet, mainly because I wanted my babies to have less time in the NICU. The doctor, typically very jovial, did not smile. He said, “No. We have a problem. I can’t find a heartbeat for Baby A.”
I could not understand what he meant at first. I expected him to tell me that they needed to keep looking or do a different test to make sure Baby A (one of my twin boys) was okay. But eventually, the look on his face made it clear to me that he was trying to tell me my baby had died. I remember that my heart was pounding and I felt such dread. I think I was in shock, and I was dreading the pain I knew was going to come once this sunk in.
The doctor told me that we would need to deliver right away – certainly by noon – and that nurses would be coming to get me ready. I told him that my husband had just gotten out of surgery, was recovering in a hospital across town, and was not even supposed to be released until 1:00 p.m. My family was six hours away. I am not sure I have ever felt as alone and scared as I did in that moment.
As we were talking, several nurses came in, including one who had spent a lot of time with me during my previous hospital stays. I thank God she was there, because at least I felt like someone who knew and cared about me was with me. She called my husband and my mom, and told me that someone would bring my husband to the hospital as soon as possible. Shortly thereafter, I was taken to the operating room where, thank heavens, my own doctor was preparing to deliver my babies. At this point I still wasn’t feeling much except shock and fear, although I was shaking and tears were running down my face.
About ten minutes before the surgery began, my husband was brought into the operating room in a wheelchair. He smiled and kissed me and told me that I just had to pick the day he had his own procedure to have the babies. I realized no one had told him the reason we were delivering – no one had told him that one of our babies died. So I told him. We were both crying but he kept telling me it would be okay and they would get the other babies out. My doctor started the procedure. At one point they told me that Baby A had been delivered and I realized that I had been somehow hoping to hear that they were wrong, and he was okay. But he wasn’t. They delivered Baby B, our daughter, and Baby C, our son. Neither of them cried. I was told that they were doing okay, but got only a quick glimpse of them before they were taken away by teams of NICU nurses.
Later, my husband admitted that he had been terrified during the delivery. (I had no idea – he seemed like such a rock at the time.) He told me that blood and fluid gushed everywhere and that all three babies looked the same when they were delivered – in other words, they each looked too small, too pale, and were not crying. He wasn’t sure that our surviving son and daughter were okay until the nurses told him that they had been stabilized.
Eventually, after throwing up everything in my stomach and being taken to a recovery room, I held my son, Baby A, for a few minutes. He was so small, but he looked perfect – I hadn’t seen my other son, his twin, yet, but when I did I was astonished that they looked so much alike. My doctor later told me that based on Baby A’s lack of physical decay and the relative good health of his twin, my baby had likely died Friday morning, maybe only a few minutes before the ultrasound. In some ways I find this comforting, because I had never noticed Baby A ceasing to move or kick, and I would hate to think that I somehow missed that for several days. I wish I had been in a state of mind to really focus on the time I had with my baby after delivery, but I had a difficult time staying present. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with the tiny bundle the nurses had given me. I was scared to look too closely (I’m still not sure what I was afraid of – the worst had already happened) and I didn’t realize how much I would regret that. I am extremely grateful that the nurses urged me to spend time holding him, looking at him and talking to him; even so, I still have no clear picture in my head of my baby’s face.
A few days later, my doctor told me that my baby had likely died because of a blood clot in the placenta he shared with his twin. He told me that it was unrelated to TTTS, could have happened at any time, and could not have been prevented. He said it was simply a risk all identical twins share, but that usually you lose both babies when blood flow is blocked, because it is rarely caught in time to save the other baby. So although I don’t feel “lucky,” people have always said that we are lucky to have saved our other babies.
We hadn’t picked out names for our babies before they were born. This wasn’t really intentional, but my husband and I simply could not agree on three names we liked. In the 24 hours after delivery, we picked out names for our surviving son and daughter, and finally talked about what to name Baby A. My husband told me that I could choose the name. I eventually decided on Gabriel. It seemed appropriate for a baby that I had never seen until after he was already an angel. I also hoped that he would protect my other children, his siblings. However, even now I have a hard time thinking of Gabriel as a fully-formed soul, capable of interceding on behalf of his brother and sister (as Catholics believe). I still see him as the same age and size as his twin, and I visualize him being taken care of by an angel foster-mama. It hurts to think of someone else taking care of him, but I can’t see him as anything but a baby, even if he is in heaven.
- What did others do or say that helped and/or hurt you during or after your loss?
As I mentioned, people who know or hear our story often tell us that we are “lucky” we didn’t lose all of the babies. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know that I hate hearing it. Losing a child is never lucky, even if things could have been worse. I also hate it when people tell me “at least you still have two babies, you should be happy about that.” Of course I’m happy about my survivors – I am thrilled with my surviving babies and caring for them has helped to keep me sane. But when someone loses a teenager, no one tells them that they should be happy they still have a 12 year old and a 9 year old. For some reason, some people don’t see multiples as individual children, each loved, wanted and ultimately grieved for. The other thing people do that hurts is to simply ignore the loss. I know they know, and I want them to acknowledge that my baby existed and I lost him.It always helps to hear someone tell me that they are thinking of or praying for Gabriel. Really, any kind of acknowledgment is enough. Another thing that helped me is when a counselor and I discussed the idea that Gabriel’s soul might come back to my family in a future child. I don’t know if I believe that completely, and I don’t think I would treat any additional kids differently. But I love the idea that we will all get a second chance to be together, and the separation is just temporary.
- How does God, religion, or faith play into your loss and how you cope?
I’m still finding the answer to this question. I believe in God and an afterlife, which is comforting. I don’t think I blame God for what happened – in general, I believe bad things just happen sometimes, and I don’t think this was “done to me” for any reason. But sometimes I am angry and I don’t really know who I am angry with. Maybe it’s God, or maybe it’s just myself.
- Have you done anything special to remember your loss or to help you move forward after your loss?
We had a ceremony and burial for Gabriel about five days after I delivered the babies. The ceremony was extremely painful but beautiful. I’ve told people that the only thing worse than having a funeral for a baby who died would be not having a funeral for a baby who died. I could not stop crying during the ceremony, but I did find it cathartic, and it feels like the right thing to have done.I don’t know that we could have waited any longer to do the ceremony, but I wish we had. I was still in such shock and pain that my husband did most of the planning by himself – he tried to involve me in many ways, but I was limited in what I could handle at the time. (In fact, I just found out a few days ago that my husband had some meaningful things buried with Gabriel. I was very happy to hear it but also sad that I didn’t include anything.) I deeply regret that I did not or was not able to be more involved in the planning – there is so little I can do for Gabriel and I feel I missed that opportunity. I have been trying to design a marker for his grave for several months now. It is very difficult because I can’t think about it without a lot of pain; but I feel I owe it to Gabriel as his mother to create the most beautiful and appropriate marker I can. I think it will ultimately give me some peace; I already feel better now that I have finally found the image I want used.I read as many accounts of other women’s miscarriages or stillbirths as I can find. (That’s part of the reason I wanted to write this – maybe it will help some other woman in a similar circumstance.) I also read books that deal with loss. It usually doesn’t matter if the specific kind of loss is not the death of a child – there is usually something in these books that I find helpful. For instance, right now I am reading Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. Although she has many essays about loss, she also has one specific to the loss of a child that really helped me called “How You Get Unstuck.” I also like her essay about dealing with the death of a mother, called “The Black Arc of It.”I am grateful to be part of an online community of women who have experienced loss of a child. It really helps me to realize that other women have the same (or even worse) pain, have similar struggles in their daily lives, and that we can support each other.I think one of the most important things I’ve done to remember Gabriel is to talk about him. I see a counselor to work through my grief, but I also talk about him to my family, friends and husband. It is always hard to bring up at first, but once I tell people that I do want to discuss it, even if it hurts or makes me cry, they are generally very supportive.Although I have yet to do this, I’d like to do something every year to remember Gabriel, probably on the anniversary of his funeral (so as not to take away from my survivors’ birthday, which is the same day Gabriel died [and was born]). I think having some kind of outward ceremony or special act in which other people can participate will help me to feel as though I am ensuring my baby is not forgotten. I am not sure yet what I want to do. I think I will wait until the anniversary gets closer to see what feels the most meaningful.
- If you could go back and not have had the loss you mentioned in number 1, would you? Why or why not?
I would do almost anything to go back and prevent the loss of my son Gabriel. I frequently wish I had asked my doctor to deliver my babies the day I was admitted to the hospital, when they were all doing well. I have strong feelings of anger, grief and guilt about that week, even though I realize logically that I had no way to know what was going to happen, and also that all three babies could have had more complications if we had delivered right away.The reality is that I have not accepted what happened. It is not okay and I don’t know how I will ever find a way to really be at peace with it. I will never again be the person I was before my loss. I no longer have an unconscious belief that bad things won’t happen to me. Sometimes that realization is devastating.The day before he died, Gabriel was perfect – growing well and kicking me in exactly the same way as his twin. The next day, his twin was born, alive and doing well for his gestational age, while Gabriel was dead. I sometimes wonder if I would feel differently if Gabriel had been sick all along, but I doubt it. I just know that every day I love my surviving babies more, and am more amazed at everything they do. It is especially difficult for me sometimes as I look at Gabriel’s twin and wish that Gabriel was there beside him – and I hurt because he isn’t.I know that there are good things that have come out of my loss. I am a more compassionate person because of what happened, and that I am almost certainly more patient, appreciative and loving toward my surviving babies because of it. As an extremely simplified version of my personal belief system, I believe tragedies like this happen because God wants us to have free choice in our lives. But although I believe that God is trying to make good things come of my loss, I don’t believe it was “meant to be,” or that he took Gabriel on purpose, or for some reason. I believe I experienced something horrible and I would gladly undo it if I could.
- What advice would you give to women that are dealing with the loss of a child?
It’s hard to give specific advice because everyone deals with such a personal loss so differently. In addition, I don’t really know what to say because I am right in the middle of figuring out how to deal with my own loss – it’s been about four and a half months.So I guess, at this moment, the best advice I know to give is that no one grieves “wrong.” For a while after losing a child, I think you can and must do whatever you need to do to keep your head above the water. For me, that included allowing myself to ignore my grief when I needed to take care of my survivors, and indulging my grief when I simply couldn’t ignore it any longer. I should also note that my husband is dealing with this very differently – he grieves for Gabriel by trying to do things for him (like the funeral) because that is how he shows his love. Unfortunately, it is difficult for him to talk about Gabriel. Because of that, we have both had to work hard to respect each other’s method of grieving.I personally found it helpful to see a counselor, and I would recommend that anyone who even thinks it might be helpful do the same. My counselor has helped me to unpack feelings of guilt and anger that I didn’t even know I had. I have begun the process of letting those feelings go, although I expect it will take a very long time. I don’t really expect that I (or any other mother who has lost a child) ever completely lets of go of her grief, though I believe we can move forward with our lives. I suppose that is the final piece of advice I would give: don’t expect that you will necessarily “get over it” or be done grieving within a certain time period.
- What are your plans for the future?
Although we both have some trepidation, my husband and I plan to have more kids in the next few years. Other than that, I hope to advance in my career, which I love, and which has taken a back seat to the other, currently more important, things in my life. I plan to be a better wife to my husband as we work through our grief together. And I plan to continue to love and care for all my babies, in heaven and on earth, in the best way I know how, so that they each know that there is nothing in this life that matters more to me.
Readers, be supportive by leaving your comments below. After each interview, the mom who was interviewed will be available for questions, and we welcome you to connect with these moms further. Remember, if you would like to be interviewed, just contact me.
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