Monday, September 26, 2011

One Week.

Time is such a funny thing, isn't it? It just comes and goes, without permission or hesitation. And it just keeps going, no matter how hard you want to slam on the brakes.

The last week has been a big one for our family. Consider yourself warned: this particular blog entry will be long. And it will be emotional. And it will probably be more information than most of you need to know. But this is my outlet. It's my therapy. Because here, I can talk through my fingers and be happy or sad, angry or hysterical, joyful or sorrowful...and just be. So here goes nothing.

Sometime in late August, I peed on a stick (which is where this little blogeroo began 3 or so years ago...) and saw those incredible, amazing two pink lines. I took the test earlier than I probably should have, but there they were - in all their striped glory.

We kept it our own little secret for a little over a month, then got around to telling family. We went round and round about fun ways to let the cat out of the bag, but ultimately decided that Alex would be the best possible little deliverer of the news:

On Friday, Sept. 16, we had our first ultrasound. Gosh, I love that visit. The first time you hear that little tumpthumpthump. There's nothing like it.

Joey came with me, and we saw a beautiful, healthy baby on the monitor. One strong, thumper of a heartbeat. When the ultrasound tech was nearly done, Joey laughed and said, "You're sure there's only one in there, right?" He was half joking, half serious, since he had a strong conviction from the very beginning that I was having twins.

The tech looked at him and said, "Well, you know, I did see two heartbeats when I first turned on my monitor, but I couldn't find a second when I went in. But now that you are saying that, I want to go back in and make sure."

And she did. And she found that second, incredible heartbeat. At this point, I started laughing and crying. I didn't know what to do with myself. TWO babies! Twice the blessing...but also twice the diapers. Twice the formula. Twice the love. Twice the everything.

As we were waiting to meet with the doctor, Joe and I were both laughing and crying - frantically trying to plan the next few years of our lives. We would have to move. We would have to get a bigger car (my own worst nightmare - a mini-van!). We would need one more of everything. We had a 6-month "to-do" checklist in our head longer than Santa's naughty list. We were overwhelmed with joy. And fear...just to keep it real!

When our doctor came in, she shared our joy. But she also let us know that what they thought they were seeing on the monitor were mono-chorionic twins, meaning that we had two babies, but they shared a sac and a placenta. This is a very rare form of twin (the egg separates too late for the babies to each have their own placenta) and is a very high-risk pregnancy due to the likelihood of the umbilical cords getting tangled and the babies losing their blood supply. She scheduled an appointment for us to have a super high tech ultrasound at the hospital the following Tuesday to learn more.

What a weekend that was...waiting for Tuesday. We knew since the babies were in the same sac that they were identical. So we either had 2 boys or 2 girls. Eeeeee!!! We started looking at houses. At mini-vans (gag me). At double strollers. And I won't lie, I totally started looking at matchy-matchy outfits for their newborn pics. Etsy is a very dangerous place for me.

I even started thinking about how I would tell you guys. I came up with a million ideas, but in the end I thought I would do this:

I know, right? So fun and so clever. I patted myself on the back for that little bit of brilliance. I really am an artist when it comes to Microsoft Paint. And I dubbed them our little tWIPs. You know, like WIP, but twins!

Tuesday took about a year to arrive, but it finally did. The ultrasound tech at the hospital did her thing...and didn't say a word the entire time. After about ten minutes, she switched off the monitor and said she needed to go talk to the doctor to see if what she found was enough or if he wanted to run further tests.

I knew the second she left the room that something was wrong. Call it mother's instinct, call it reading between the lines...I just knew.

The doctor, a jolly man with a kind face, entered the room and washed his hands. "You're here for twins?" he asked.

I just sort of looked stupidly at him and said, "Yes."

"Well, we're only finding one heartbeat, so let's run some more tests, ok?"

And he did. He did a belly ultrasound and poked around on my painfully full bladder for what felt like an eternity. He pointed everything out to us as he saw it - the pregnancy sac, the yolk sac, the placenta, the heartbeat. All single. Not plural.

He asked to do a vaginal ultrasound, since he could see more with that. We obviously agreed, and in he went.

After what felt like another eternity, he said the words I never thought I would hear. He actually had to say them twice because I thought I went deaf for a split second and misunderstood him.

"You have conjoined twins."

No. Not possible. This is not how things work. Babies are healthy. Babies grow separately. Girls who grew up in the cornfields of Michigan in a normal, healthy family and went to a normal college and got a normal job and married a normal man (well, that's relative I suppose) do not have conjoined twins. This just doesn't happen. Not to me, at least. This happens on TV. And in the movies. And in books. But not in real life. Not in my real life.

It is virtually impossible for me to explain to you what I felt and thought in those moments that followed. Looking back, it's a dark, cold, paralyzing blur. I remember the doctor was so kind and gentle with his words. I remember falling as a weeping, hysterical mess into Joe's strong, solid arms. I remember my hands trembling as I dailed my Mom - the only other person I wanted at that moment other than Joe - and somehow getting out the words, "The babies are conjoined. I need you here now."

The phone in the room rang, and in what seemed like magic, our OB was on the other end. She, too, was kind and gentle, and said we could come straight to her office to talk and learn more.

We walked out of the hospital holding each other up and stopping every 50 feet to cry and hold each other. My head was spinning in a daze of thoughts - but the one that kept surfacing was that this wasn't real. I would wake up soon in my own comfy, stylish bed and hit reset on this day.

Reset never came, and the next thing I knew, we were sitting in a tiny, bland room at the OB office. We saw a different doctor in the practice - actually my regular OB's husband, Dr. Long - and looking back, he was on call that afternoon for a reason. For us.

He walked in the room silently and just sat on his short, swively stool and placed his hand firmly on my leg. That gesture said more than any words ever could. He looked at both Joe and me and I will never, ever for as long as I live, forget the words he said to us next.

"I don't have a lot of answers for you today. I'm just here to be sad with you. And to listen."

Honestly, I didn't have the brain function at that moment to ask any logical or thoughtful questions. All I wanted to know was why. And there really is no good answer for that. Identical twins (of any kind) are not hereditary. They're not genetic. Only fraternal twins are. And the first type of twins they thought we had (mono-chorionic) are super rare. But conjoined are even more so. And there is no medical explanation for it. It just happens.

We also learned that it is very rare for conjoined twins to make it full term. Our babies had 2 heads and 2 heartbeats, which was very reassuring, but it was too soon to tell where exactly they were conjoined, or what the future would hold as far as the possibility of being surgically separated or even making it to full term.

Wednesday and Thursday were a blur. I didn't go to work. I did a lot of research. I did a lot of praying. I did a lot of cleaning (idle hands and all that - ha).

Alex, bless his little heart, had the biggest burden to bear in all of this and didn't even know it. He was our medicine - our healing. When I would hit that valley of despair (which came around about once an hour), I would just look at his little face and listen to his sweet, sing-songy voice and my heart would heal just a little more.

Fast forward to very early Friday morning. Exactly one week from our very first ultrasound. I woke up about 4:30 am with painful cramping and bleeding. We called Jane and left Alex with her (good thing her husband is a super early riser!) and headed to the hospital.

Our babies are in heaven now. They were blessed by a Chaplain before I was put under anesthesia, in what was one of the most beautiful, from the soul, direct-from-God prayers that has ever been prayed over my body.

So Friday to Friday. That's one week. We went from one baby to two babies to one baby to two babies to two connected babies. And somehow, I'm still standing.

The healing has started, and probably won't ever end. I find peace in knowing that they will never be alone. They will always be together, connected in an eternal hug.

I know for many of you, your first instinct will be to comment here or to send me a text or an email telling me you're sorry. And while I appreciate and am so thankful to have such a strong and sweet network of friends, family, and perfect strangers of the Internet, forgive me for being so bold as to say I don't want your sorry. So don't give it to me.

Instead, I want (and need) your joy, your happiness, your smiles, your hugs and your prayers. I will never forget my sweet tWIPs, and they will live on in this blog and through Alex, Joey and whatever baby or babies our family is blessed with in the future.

Their lives were short and sweet. They will know no sorrow, no pain and nothing of this Earth. In a way, they're the lucky ones. They got to have 8 sweet weeks in my belly full of naps, nachos, Cheez-its, Crystal Light, and double chocolate chip cookies from Panera. And then they got a ticket straight to Heaven.

I think that's two incredibly awesome lives worth living and worth celebrating. Enjoy the party in Heaven my sweet tWIPs. Save me a seat - Daddy and I will hold you soon.


littlebrownie said...

Oh Kristi. I am so, so sorry for your loss. I can't even begin to imagine what you're going through. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Sending hugs from the windy city,


Funny Guy and His Wife said...

Kristi, you are so right. They are so lucky to have had you as a mom to protect them for those 8 weeks. And now they are blessed beyond measure to spend eternity with each other and experience no pain.

Will be praying for you and your sweet family.

Dawn said...

I felt the same way when we lost our baby in the 1st trimester, without the emotional rollercoaster of twins and conjoined twins, and all in the span of one week, nonetheless. Those babies were so lucky to have you host them for 8 weeks, lucky they have eachother for the rest of your life, and most importantly, you and your family are so lucky to have them watching over you for the rest of your lives.

Aliya said...

I've been reading your blog for three years... since you were first pregnant with WIP. I read through this post with the same emotions you described that you felt -- elation, joy, and then sadness and tears. Thank you for sharing your story with us... it was so touching and I know your tWIPs were SO lucky to have such an amazing, incredible (and hilarious, I might add...) Mom... even if only for a few short weeks. Praying for you, Joey, and Alex during this time.

Keliann and Michael said...

Love and hugs to you and ALL of yours!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm wiping away a million tears as I'm sobbing in my cubicle and can only come to three words to honor your wish and not send the sorry card ...

You. Are. Amazing.

You always have been and always will be. And this, my dear, shows what an amazing spirit you have. Those 8 weeks of life with you were such a blessing for all of you and they will always be a part of your family. Much love to you <3

Twin Engines said...

I pray Psalm 30:11 for you today: "You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy"

Abby said...

Sending hugs, smiles and sunshine your way!

Emily said...

hug coming up from indiana... and a kiss too -muah!

Our really empty nest said...

Somehow i missed this, Be strong, and couragous, and when you cant, know that they're are people out there who you have never met, who are thinking about you. Hang in there

Jeremy & Megan said...

I came across this post today. I am wiping tears away from my face while reading this at work. You are SO strong! Thank you for sharing this story. Praying for you and your family!