Hi, my name is Shawn and this is my three year journey on trying to have a child which so far involves miscarriage, fertility issues, severe preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, death and surrogacy.
I keep telling myself there has to be a reason that Iâ€™ve gone through everything I have.Â Am I supposed to learn a lesson or am I supposed to share my journey and struggles with others that have had similar situations.Â Iâ€™m not sure that Iâ€™ll ever know, but I do know that for me this is what I need to do to keep the memory of my beautiful twins Ava and Noah alive.Â I have to think I have not gone through all this pain in vain, so I write.
Ava and Noah were born December 28, 2010.Â I was admitted into the hospital at 24 weeks and 5 days for severe preeclampsia along with HELLP syndrome.Â I fought to keep the twins in for 10 days, giving the babies a possible 75% survival rate according to the statistics and my doctors.
Noah was born first and was the smallest.Â They say the strongest twin pushes out the weaker; he was 1lb 7oz and just over 12 inches long.Â Ava was born weighing 1lb 9 oz and she was also just over 12 inches long.Â Ava came out screaming which was music to my ears, a sound I will never forget and it worried me when Noah didnâ€™t make a sound.Â As a mother I worried more for Noah because I knew, based on statistics, that boys do not fare as well as girls at 26 weeks.
I have very little recollection of those 10 days that I spent in the hospital before my babies were born, even though I was awake most of the time; they call it ICU psychosis.Â I do know that my husband sat by my side and slept in a chair by my bed for two weeks; he on the other hand can recall everything and is haunted by the memory of possibly losing not only his babies but his wife too.Â My only focus was to keep my babies in my belly at any cost, including my own health.Â The part I do remember is my eyesight or lack thereof.Â One of the drugs they give you for preeclampsia is an anti-seizure medication called magnesium sulphate. This drug typically is used to prevent severe preeclampsia from becoming eclampsia (life-threatening convulsions).Â One of the side-effects is visual disturbance or as I like to call it blindness - so much for watching TV or catching up on books during that time...Â In hindsight it was probably a blessing because I spent those 10 days listening to my babies heartbeats. They were strong and loud and very much alive.Â The monitors stayed on my belly 24 hours a day so they could monitor the health of the babies.
I was not able to see my babies until December 30, two days after they were born because I was not able to come off the magnesium sulphate until 24 hours after the babies were born.Â The first thing on my agenda after getting off the medication was to see my babies.Â I remember my husband Rod rolling me down the corridor in my wheelchair and all I could think of was I wonder if Iâ€™ll recognize my babies which leads me to how I conceived these two precious babies.
Iâ€™ve learned a lot on this journey but this one breaks my heart on a deeper level; I call it shame, embarrassment and inadequacy because I was not able to do what I thought was the most natural and normal thing for a woman to do and that is to bear your own child.Â When I say that I mean my egg and my husbandâ€™s sperm.Â What I call our own flesh and blood baby, a baby that looks like the two of us.Â I was told early on, after my first miscarriage which I conceived via IUI, that my best chance of having a healthy baby was by using a donor egg.Â Youâ€™ve got to be kidding me!Â That was against everything I believed in and wanted.Â You mean to tell me I canâ€™t have my own child, the child wonâ€™t look like me!Â I was only 38 years old; women have babies at this age all the time why not me?Â I was devastated and in shock.Â After the miscarriage which I thought was the end of the world because that was my baby with my egg and my husbandâ€™s sperm - it was our genetic baby and I lost it.Â I had never known what depression was until I had my miscarriage.Â We continued to try IUI three more times and had no success.Â I was told we could do IVF with my own eggs but at the age of 38 they said I could likely have more miscarriages before I had success and there was no guarantee.
I spent the next year considering my options and realized that I wanted to be a mom with or without my eggs.Â So I turned to a fertility clinic on the west coast and we chose our donor, someone who I thought resembled me but wasnâ€™t me.Â My husband didnâ€™t want to see her picture and left it up to me to pick because after all it was me that we were replacing - we were still using his genes.Â Everything was anonymous.
There is not a day that goes by that I donâ€™t think of this woman and the gift she gave to a total stranger for the chance to become a mom.Â I marvel at this generous gift; I wonder if I could have done something as selfless as her at the age of twenty three.Â I still donâ€™t know the answer.Â I guess until you are given the â€˜giftâ€™ of infertility issues you donâ€™t consider those options.Â Yes, I said gift, because another lesson learned is that I would never have been blessed to be Ava and Noahâ€™s mom had I not had fertility issues and I would not change being their mother for anything in this world.Â I hope that one day I will have the chance to thank her for what she did for me.
So I take back what I said about shame, embarrassment and inadequacy because there is nothing embarrassing or shameful or inadequate about my beautiful perfect babies and the joy they brought to my husband and me.
We conceived Ava and Noah on July 18, 2010.Â Finding out I was pregnant was one of the happiest days of my life I was going to be a mom.Â The doctors had implanted two embryos and they both took, giving me my beautiful Ava and Noah.Â My pregnancy was so easy until I developed preeclampsia; I was never sick and felt great until the end.
So as we approached the NICU my husband told me that the babies were in two different wards which immediately brought me to tears.Â How could my babies be separated they are meant to be together Ava always takes care of Noah?Â Noah was my good boy: he laid on my right side as far down as he could go in my stomach and kicking my cervix was his pastime; Ava, the busy one, always moved around and when it came time to sleep she would go lay by Noah.Â Â So the thought of them not being together was painful for me, knowing how close they had been in my stomach.
Nothing could have prepared me for what my 1lb 9oz daughter would look like; she was perfect in every way. She had all her fingers and toes, red hair like her father when he was young and a beautiful button nose and the smallest most delicate body I had ever seen - so perfect.Â She was my daughter and I was so proud to be her mom.Â They opened the incubator door so I could touch her; she had the softest skin it felt like silk and her fuzzy red hair.Â She even held onto Rodâ€™s finger which looked so tiny next to his.Â I worried that opening the little door would make her cold so I wanted to close it to protect her and keep her warm, all I wanted to do was shelter her and make her big and healthy.
The doctor arrived shortly after we did to give us the news that neither one of us was prepared to hear; Avaâ€™s not doing well.Â She was supposed to be my strong one.Â Sheâ€™s the one I didnâ€™t worry about because she was a girl and girls survive better at that gestational age.Â My whole world was starting to crumble and I knew I needed to have my babies baptized.
Although I knew Ava was not doing well, I needed to go see my son because he needed to know his mommy loved him and was praying for him to be strong and healthy.Â Noah looked so much like his sister, just a little smaller and his skin was more delicate and thin, but he had the same button nose and perfect fingers and toes with that same reddish hair.Â They were their fatherâ€™s children over and over.Â So did I recognize my babies, yes, I knew the minute I saw them that they were mine and I could not have been prouder to call them my children.
Ava passed away at 2:40 pm on December 30th with her mommy and daddy holding her.Â We were able to hold her for several hours before she went to heaven.Â I remember holding her to my chest, her little body next to mine while she listened to my heartbeat like she did when she was in my stomach.Â I remember her getting cold and I tried so hard to keep her warm but I couldnâ€™t and then she turned this shade of blue and then the doctors pronounced her death.Â Everything was moving in slow motion people were talking to me but I couldnâ€™t hear them at that moment when they pronounced my daughter dead they also pronounced my death because part of me died at that time.
We wanted Noah to touch his sister one last time so I held Ava as Rod pushed me in the wheelchair to the other wing of the NICU.Â The nurses opened Noahâ€™s incubator and they placed his twin sister next to him and they rested her hand on his.Â Everything was so surreal how could this be happening it was like one of those Life Time movies on TV.Â You never think something like this is going to happen to you, it only happens in the movies but this was not a Life Time movie, it was my life.
After Ava passed they brought her back to our room so we could spend more time with her.Â She looked like a little doll all dressed up in a white cotton dress with a little pink bow in her hair.Â She looked so peaceful, like a porcelain doll.Â The visions are still so vivid and real and the pain I feel is still so raw.Â The image of my daughter is etched in my brain as it should be because after all she is my daughter and I couldnâ€™t be prouder to call her mine.
Later that night on the 30th, I woke up around 10:45 pm Iâ€™m not sure why but something made me sit straight up in bed.Â I got up and went into the bathroom and splashed water on my face and as I was coming out of the bathroom a nurse was standing in our room it was that same NICU nurse who was with us when Ava passed away and this horrible sinking feeling was in my stomach once again.Â She didnâ€™t even need to say anything.Â I woke Rod up, and he and I took that long walk back down to the NICU to watch our second child die.Â Before they placed Noah in my arms I remember my husband whispering to the nurse to please cover Noahâ€™s stomach because his fragile skin had burned from the lights that were used to keep him warm in the incubator, I remember thinking that even in my husbandâ€™s darkest moments he was still taking care of me and protecting me.Â My sonâ€™s burned and bubbled skin on his stomach broke my heart - he shouldnâ€™t have had to endure pain at such a young age.Â As I held Noah in my arms I was in shock and numb.Â I didnâ€™t feel present for my own sonâ€™s death and that still haunts me to this day.Â I should have been stronger but I wasnâ€™t.Â I remember asking the nurse if Noah was in pain and she said â€œNo, I gave him some medication so he doesnâ€™t feel anything.â€Â It broke my heart that I didnâ€™t get to hold Noah close to me like I did Ava, when we got to the NICU they were bagging Noah to keep him alive so we could hold him.Â It was 11:45 pm on the 30th and I lost my beautiful son Noah.
I always thought that having a child was supposed to be the most natural thing in life because after all everyone I knew had happy healthy children.Â What happened to the happily ever after ending, I was living a nightmare, no one should ever have to see their children die, parents are supposed to outlive their children.Â Where is my happily ever after?
After Noah went to heaven, they unplugged him from all the machines and we went into this cold room with a queen-size bed and my husband and I lay down with our son and cried.Â I remember someone telling me that when you lose your parents you lose your past, when you lose your spouse you lose your present but when you lose your children you lose your future and that is exactly how I felt.
After the babies died I was in a permanent state of shock.Â I never knew that level of grief before, I felt like I was losing my mind.Â You know it is bad when you could care less if you live or die.Â When I told my therapist that she said I have to ask, are you suicidal?Â My response to her was NO because I want to see my babies someday.Â I was raised to believe that taking your life did not give you that front row pass to heaven.Â Â You look at death a lot differently once youâ€™ve lost a child/children, Iâ€™m not afraid to die because I have four beautiful babies waiting for me on the other side.
Four babies in heaven and none on this earth, yet.Â When the doctors transferred two embryos one of those embryos split which gave us identical twins and fraternal twins.Â Noah had the identical twin which we have since named Jack.Â Our first baby we lost we named Shawn.
One of my doctors told me I was a walking medical journal.Â All I ever wanted was to be a mom and I am a mom; itâ€™s just that my babies are living in heaven.Â So where do we go from here?
A couple months after the twins passed away I made an appointment with the maternal fetal specialist.Â I had a lot of questions and I thought I was ready to hear the answers.Â I still had seven very healthy blastocysts in California.Â Â To me those are not just cells but each one of them is a baby.Â I didnâ€™t want to keep them frozen forever and I could not destroy them or give them up to science.Â The MFS told me we could try again but only transferring one blastocyst.Â My husband, although he has been my rock, said he could not go through or rather see me go through all of this again and of course there was a chance it would happen again but with one I could probably make it further than 26 weeks.
Even though I had no sisters I was blessed with an amazing sister-in-law who offered to be our gestational surrogate.Â She is healthy and young and already had two children of her own.Â My sister-in-law tried three different times transferring only one blastocyst at a time because she did not want to become pregnant with twins.Â She also wanted to do natural cycles which means no medication.Â She ended up trying three different times and out of the three tries she had two chemical pregnancies.Â Â It was devastating to all of us that things did not work out.Â
I still have four healthy blastocyst in California.Â On December 16, 2011 we signed contracts with a surrogacy agency out of North Carolina.Â We should be matched with a gestational surrogate by March 2012.Â Rod and I need some good news in 2012 so everyone please say your prayers tonight.