Ben and Eli’s Story

This is Ben and Eli’s story. We miss them so much. Every day is so painful, though a few have been easier than others. Sometimes I feel like it’s a nightmare that I will wake up from, and still be pregnant with my little angels. I know that it will never be easy and the hurt will never go away. I just pray for days when it isn’t as hard.

It’s hard to believe that it has already been two months. Two months since our world got turned upside down. In so many ways it still feels like yesterday. Every day I wish we could just rewind to when things were fine. Maybe things would end differently. As part of a way to remember them, I decided to write their story.

We started trying for baby number two in February 2012. Our daughter, Caroline had just turned two and I was 5 months away from finishing my MBA. We got pregnant with Caroline on our first try, so I expected the same trend to continue. It took 6 months to conceive. It wasn’t until 3 weeks after graduation while we were on vacation in Minnesota that we finally conceived.

I found out I was pregnant on my 26th birthday. It really was the best birthday gift I got that year. I hadn’t been having any symptoms, but it was time, I was feeling positive and it was my lucky day. There had been lots of pregnancy tests during the last 6 months and I always just told myself that I would not be disappointed when the tests were negative. So when it was positive immediately, I did a double take. I actually had to pull the instructions out of the trash to make sure that it really was positive.

On August 9th I went to the Dr and had an ultrasound. I tell you what, we weren’t 2 seconds in when he said, “And this is why I like to do the early ultrasound. How many heartbeats do you see there?” I saw four little blobs, so I said, “Please don’t say there’s more than two.” There were two. TWO. TWO babies. That’s crazy. I didn’t know what to think. So I took my ultrasound pictures home and told my husband, who, like me, was in complete disbelief. He thought I was joking. We sat over dinner that night just looking at each other like we were giddy. What are we going to do with two babies?!

Our odds of getting pregnant with twins were about 3 %.

I have 1 risk factor for twins: I’m tall. Twins don’t run in my family, so essentially there was no reason for me to ever consider twins a possibility. Fraternal twins are genetic, while identical twins just happen! Twins run on the mother’s side. So it’s my fault we we’re having twins, not my husband’s. For me to have the gene for twins (which is essentially just a gene that causes you two release two eggs) you have to get it from your mother or your father. (Duh!) My mother didn’t have twins, and her mother (who had 8 children) didn’t have twins. My father’s mother had 4 children and no twins. I do have fraternal twin cousins, but I am related to their father, not their mother, so technically that doesn’t count.

On September 20th we found out we were having 2 boys. My husband was so excited about this. I was so certain that we were having a boy and a girl that I was in shock. We started collecting all things boys and preparing for the monumental way that our life was about to change. Later we came to find out that that my bicornuate uterus and a marginal insertion on one of the umbilical cords would likely lead to an early delivery. The twins were due the last week of March, but we were planning on something around Valentine’s Day. The boys were very active. I sit at a computer all day long so I felt them moving around all the time.

Between December 10th and 12th was the first time I thought that something might be wrong. I was 25 weeks along. I was feeling what I believed to be less movement by the twins. I am a pretty paranoid person, so I tried not to worry about it too much. I figured it was probably nothing and likely all in my head. Nothing else notable happened until Monday the 17th. I just felt really weird that day. I didn’t feel sick or have any symptoms of anything, I just felt different, and I told my husband that I thought I was losing my mind. I came home from work and took a nap. It didn’t help me feel much better, but I was rested. When I woke up I had some contractions for about half an hour while I was preparing dinner. My husband suggested I call the doctor, but there was nothing to tell them. I just felt different.

The next morning I could not deal with it any longer and I called the MFM specialist I had been seeing. This was because a) I had an appointment there on Thursday and wanted to see if I could just bump it to that day and b) she is much closer than my OB while I am at work that is. They couldn’t get me in, but said I should call my OB. So I did. They were able to get me in at the end of the day, which is perfect for my work schedule, so I went ahead and made the appointment.

The twins were generally very active in the morning. I used to take my laptop with me and sit in the Starbucks parking lot for 20 minutes in the morning to get my Facebook fix. They are normally bouncing all over the place. On Tuesday morning there was nothing. And it continued like this the whole day. The only thing I did feel was pressure — like the pushing of a head or butt against me. (Turns out those were contractions). I tried not to let this get the better of me. A quick Google search showed that it was normal for many other people to go 24-48 hours without feeling anything when their kiddos got tired and decided to take a break.

But by the end of work on Tuesday I had not felt a single kick. I had advised my husband that I made the appointment and he was off work that day, so he met me at the office. He has only been to one other appointment with me — when we found out they were boys at 13 weeks, but I was so glad he was there. We sat in the waiting room for what seemed like forever. It was probably 30 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. When it was finally our turn, we went in for an ultrasound. This was meant to be a quick one, just to make sure that the babies were okay, after all, I was meeting with my MFM for a full ultrasound on Thursday.

No amount of paranoia prepared me for what she said after less than 20 seconds. “I don’t see a heartbeat for either one of them.


My husband and I didn’t even look at each other. We couldn’t. I didn’t even understand what that meant. They were still in there, couldn’t they just fix it? What does this mean? She immediately left to get the doctor. When she came in our eyes were glazed over and we were in total shock. She said that she was sorry, but that we would need to deliver them as soon as possible to prevent any complications for me. She advised us to go over to the hospital to be admitted. I walked out of the office looking at the floor to ensure that I would not have to make eye contact with anyone. As soon as we exited the office our “fight our flight” instincts took effect and we made the necessary ‘business phone calls’.

I called work to say, “I’m going to need the rest of the week off,” while fighting back the tears. I called my boss because there was no way I could call my mom yet. My husband called his mom to see if she could pick up Caroline from daycare. She knew I had an appointment that afternoon, so naturally she asked what was going on. My husband was fighting back the tears too, so he said he didn’t want to talk about it now.

Neither of us lost it until we got in the elevator. I don’t think we even said anything to each other until we got to the hospital room. We had another meltdown there until the nurse came in with a gown and things started to happen. I finally called my mom and told her what happened. I have no idea what I even said to her, and I can assure you I put no thought into it ahead of time. All I remember is my mom wailing. They had plans for two parties that evening, so I felt bad to ruin their night, but she said she was on her way. I didn’t know who she was going to be coming with, but she was so upset about the whole thing I did not want her on the roads. My mom and dad did arrive safely with my father behind the wheel. I can only imagine how long of a drive that was.

I changed into my gown. Someone came in and took 7 vials of my blood to test and see if anything was abnormal that could have caused this to happen. They took all my vitals. The doctor showed up a few minutes later to check me and said only that my cervix was already soft (generally this isn’t great news at 26 weeks). She said they would give me a drug called Cytotec to help soften my cervix and start contractions. It could take 18-24 hours to work. I think my jaw probably dropped. I just wanted this nightmare to be over as soon as possible. I ordered dinner since I was already starving and knew that I would not be allowed to eat anything once labor started. My sister arrived and so did a lot of other people. I’m not sure how some of the people who showed up at the hospital knew I was there, but they did, and they came. I was glad to not be alone. I didn’t know what to say, and all I could do was sit there. Laughter is the best medicine, and it’s the only thing I know to do when things get awkward and uncomfortable, so I just made jokes. I am sure there were many eye rolls about this, but it’s just how I deal.

I can also assure you that I did not fully understand the impact of this event on my life until after the twins were delivered. I probably still don’t.

They gave me the Cytotec at about 7:30 pm. I tried to get some rest while I could. The nurses had informed me that they would be checking my vitals every 4 hours. I figured I would probably be up most of the night. I didn’t start having contractions until about 11:30 pm. They were pretty light and I was able to rest through them anyway. They gave me the second dose of Cytotec at 1 am. Then things really started moving. At 1:30 am my contractions increased in intensity and were about a minute and a half apart.

When my body labors, it labors. It’s no joke. I will probably have my next baby in my car on the way to the hospital. At about 3:30 am it got painful enough that I got some morphine. No, this not normally what you would give someone in labor, but in this case there was no risk to the babies, so I could have whatever I wanted. I think they only gave me 5 mg. That was just enough to take the edge off. The next couple hours are a big blur. They were checking me every half hour, but I didn’t start making any progress until 4 am. I was 2 cm. I was thinking this was going to take forever. At 4:30 I was 5 cm. Then things got really painful. I got more morphine at 4:30 and the nurse called the doctor to come get ready for the delivery. She didn’t check me again, but said I was probably complete. Based on my last delivery once I started to dilate, things happen quickly. The trend generally continues. The doctor got there shortly after 5:00 am. The nurse woke my husband up and told him it was time. There was a lot more pushing involved this time it seemed. Both babies were breech and that was uncomfortable coming out, not to mention painful. Did I mention I had no medication at this time? I could feel everything. Even though they were small, I could still feel it — a lot.

Baby Ben was born at 5:36 AM. He weighed 2 lbs.

Baby Eli was born at 5:45 AM. He weighed 1 lb 11oz.

The good part was that I felt physically perfect after the twins were born. The first thing I wanted to do was take a shower. They wouldn’t let me for an hour, but even after I did, I felt fine. I had so much pain after Caroline was born, that this seemed like a breeze.

I didn’t look at the twins for most of the morning. I knew we would start crying again, and I wanted to at least get breakfast down first. We both thought we would get some time alone with them in the morning, and try to take a nap, but time went by so fast and people started to arrive. Both sets of our parents were there, my sister, and our minister all came back in the morning. It wasn’t until our grief counselor came in with the photographer that my husband and I took time looking at them. And then the tears came out of all of us.

We had spent so much time preparing for the craziness that was to be our life with twins. How were we going to afford childcare for three kids? How were we going to fit them into our car?! Sure, the chance of miscarriage was significantly higher in the first trimester. But the next two trimesters were supposed to be easy once the morning sickness faded and the preparations for the babies began. And then, near the very end, when the babies were so close I could picture them in their crib and holding them in my arms the unthinkable happens.

The babies died before they were even born, and all our hopes and dreams came crashing to the ground.

Nothing could have prepared me for the moment I learned my babies were dead before they even had a chance to live. No one told me how it would feel following the death of my babies. No one told me what it would feel like to write an obituary or pick out a headstone. No one told me what it would feel like to say goodbye when we hadn’t even said hello. No one told me how it would feel the next time someone I knew had twin boys. No one told me how exhausting it is to cry. No one told me how hard it is to move on.

{originally written in February 2013}

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