** pregnancy, birth and especially triggers for threatened late term pregnancy loss. Please consider skipping this post if you are sensitive to those.
My twin sister is one of those people that literally everyone likes. As in, she is everyone’s favorite person. She is kind, smart, selfless, loving, warm and always in a happy mood. But content and calm happy, not bubbly in your face happy, so even the grumpy ones like her. Despite many accomplishments and accolades, she is also very humble and unassuming. She is simply lovely and just about perfect.
When I found out I had severe DOR and would have to try IVF and most likely donor eggs it felt cruel and unfair. But I thought maybe I was being tested and challenged because I am overly competitive, have been pretty callous in some early relationships and have made my share of mistakes. I think most people would tell you I am kind and loving and fun but not anywhere near a literal saint like my twin sis. So when we found out she also had severe DOR and would have to go the same route, the world really really felt unfair. She is someone who is the epitome of the word ‘Mom’ and now she potentially would never be one. How is that fair universe???
To make a very long and painful part of this story short- we both attempted IVF rounds together and had failure after failure. It was the cruelest of times because that cycle of hope and despair was doubled as we felt every emotion for ourselves and one another. Then I finally got my BFP (after putting 4 embryos in as a last ditch effort). The period of time when I was pregnant and my twin sister wasn’t was hard. Like really hard. Every happy emotion or excited thought was marred by an immediate pang of despair and guilt that my twin sister was not experiencing any of this.
But then, she finally got her good news. IVF finally worked and she was expecting twins a few months before I was due. Finally I felt like the world was right- we were both pregnant (her with double the fortune as it should be) and we were finally going to be Moms. Little did I know the story was about to take a terrible turn.
For a few months we reveled in our joy and news. She drove to the hospital when I gave birth, throwing up from morning sickness along the way. Yay for pregnancy symptoms of any kind. As I welcomed my miracle son, she was growing two lives when my baby was born. What a special time it was.
The joy ended with a screeching halt. When my sister was 23 weeks pregnant and my little son was not yet two months old she was admitted into the hospital for pre-eclampsia. In a whirlwind of admittance, tests and paperwork, the neonatologist came into their room and sadly told my twin sister and her husband they would most likely have to ‘deliver’ in the morning. A week before ‘viability’. What that meant was pretty clear and beyond utterly devastating.
My husband, son and I immediately headed to see them. The trip there, with my precious boy cooing and sleeping safely in his car seat while I faced the realization of my sister’s situation was one of the worst moments of my life. This incredible gift that was given her was going to be ripped away in the cruelest of ways. I imagined her horror and desperation and despair as she clung to her growing belly and tried to say goodbye to the boy and girl wriggling inside her. I realize now that the only thing that kept me sane was my Dad calling to tell me she will be fine, the babies will be fine and all will be well. It was such a preposterous thing to say given the circumstances but I held onto that hope. At the time I was kind of angry at him for saying something so outlandish but I am forever grateful now that he did.
We arrived in the middle of the night and I rushed into her hospital room first thing in the morning. We clung to each other crying and the first thing she said to me was ‘ we still need to celebrate and enjoy your son all the time no matter what’. That’s the kind of person she is. That’s what she was thinking about.
I was there when the doctor came in and explained her blood levels showed sky rocketing pre-eclampsia which is life threatening and the only cure is to deliver so they should prepare for that. The next few hours/ days were a blur of pain, despair, bargaining and sadness. Words cannot describe those hours. I have read stories from other women who have faced this and had to deliver a stillborn, or pre- viability and I am in utter awe of how they survive it and keep fighting. It gives me hope and faith in the resilience of the human race and humbles me to no end.
But something miraculous happened. The next morning her levels were a tad better ( they had never seen this) so she was given one more day. The next morning the same thing happened. Her life became this cruel yet miraculous gift of 24 hours. They would draw her blood at 5am and tell her at about 8 or 9 whether she was given another 24 hours or they would wheel her back for a C section. Meanwhile she was on strict hospital bedrest and told to relax. Such a tall order considering the mind game she was under.
The miracle kept happening. Days turned into weeks turned into months and the entire medical staff was amazed. They had never ever seen anyone with her severe condition last more than a week. Months in a hospital is challenging enough but given the ‘fate’ of the precious lives growing inside you every day is even harder. My sister would lie there with a smile, calmly repeating to herself ‘my body is healing, the babies are growing’. People ask what she did all that time in a hospital bed and the answer is not much. Not a lot of reading or tv watching just lived in the moment, grateful for every extra 24 hours she was given. Every day became a gift, a miracle, unsure if tomorrow would be the end. My son and I were in the room with her most days. Him wiggling on her bed or sleeping in my arms and she and I talking and laughing and distracting. It was one of those beautiful times in life where the hope, poignancy, and rawness of the moment made you feel alive in the most special way. Then the morning would come and we would fight back tears and just hope with everything we would get another day. And each day we did.
At 36 weeks her body was ready and she delivered healthy twins. It is truly the happiest day of my life. While I treasured and adored my son since the second he came to this world, it was in that moment I felt free to be a Mom. To embrace it, to shout it and most importantly share it with the person closest to me.
We marvel every single day at our luck, our fortune, our miracle. We know how differently this could have, this ‘should have’ turned out. I marvel hourly at the strength and grace she showed during the hardest time imaginable.
My sister’s story reminds me that with every hurdle, setback and utter devastation there are miracles that happen. There are miracles that will happen to so many of you reading this. I hope that miracle comes to you soon. Xo