Welcome to the Blue Butterfly Blog

Thousands of families suffer in silence from the loss of a pregnancy or an infant. My struggle is just beginning. I carried twins to term knowing that only one would survive. This is the story of my journey through shock, devastation, grief, anger, and hopefully someday acceptance. I know that other families are desperate to know that they are not suffering alone. This is for them.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

World Prematurity Day

Wow, it's been so long since I've written, I almost forgot how to login! That's because our little Poppy never sits still. And, if she sees the computer out, forget it, she's ready to type. But, she's taking a bottle and watching the Buckeye with Brad, so I grabbed the opportunity!

Why did I  choose to write today? Today is World Prematurity Day. From the March of Dimes website: Honor the more than 1 million babies worldwide who died this year because they were born too soon, and the 14 million more who struggle to survive. November 17 is World Prematurity Day and when we focus everyone’s attention on the serious problem of premature birth. Unfortunately, Ohio scores a "C" in the 2012 Premature Birth Report Card, which actually lines up with the national average. I suppose Poppy and Spyder count as statistics in that assessment.

Poppy will be 10 months old next week. She crawls around the house chasing the dogs, climbs stairs, and even balances when she lets go of the couch she's clinging to. It won't be long before she's walking. She eats all sorts of fun foods like squash, papaya, and her favorite new treat, spaghetti, all of which are best enjoyed by hand, not spoon! She has a one-word answer to everything - "ggguh!" We have whole conversations with this one, expressive syllable.

She is so healthy. At her last check-up, the doctor couldn't believe she was the same fragile girl that she'd gently examined months before. "I'd never pick her out of a group as being a preemie with a low birth weight."

It is so hard to believe that 9 months ago she was hooked to monitors, feeding tubes, and blood pressure cuffs. Brad and I traveled every day to spend as much time as we could learning how to be parents in the most anxious of settings. We watched other babies come in, some with very long stays ahead of them, and others celebrate NICU graduation day by rolling out through those magic security  doors.

Then we finally had our day. We brought Poppy home on February 18th in her brown and pink winter coat, snuggled what appeared to be a giant car seat. It wasn't long after that homecoming that I came to realize the absolute life-saving gifts that the doctors and nurses at Grant have. They got my little girl healthy and strong and prepared her to take on the world.

And, oh, how she has...

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the caregivers, nurses, doctors, social workers, volunteers, researchers and so many more extraordinary people who devote themselves to these fragile babies.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Slide

When you’re clinically depressed, no amount of medication can totally prevent “the slide.” After it happens countless times, you can sense yourself falling into a dark corner of your consciousness like a slow decent into an underground cave, but you can’t turn around. You might grab at the cold, wet walls, but you eventually find yourself at the bottom, alone.
During that time, you don’t laugh, you don’t cry, you barely feel. You’re eating changes, your sleep changes, and you can’t focus on your daily tasks. You also don’t write blog posts.

I haven’t yet figured out how to prevent the slide, but I know that there is always an end to it. Mine ended on Sunday night.

I’ve lamented Sunday night before. Sunday night is when all the freedom of the weekend ceases and my mind compiles all the tasks ahead. It’s a quiet time when Brad is otherwise engaged and I am alone with my thoughts. But this past Sunday was different. This past Sunday, instead of mourning my losses and wondering why the world is so cruel, I was singing my sweet baby to sleep. I was holding onto the one thing that saved me through the past eight months – true love.

I will miss Spyder every day. My heart will ache when I see happy twins growing up together. I’ll probably always be jealous of those who don’t know pain, and I’ll continue to wonder what things would be like if I could hold both of my babies. But, I’m going to be okay. Me and Brad and Poppy – together, we’re going to be okay.

The Sweetest Sight

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Please excuse my extended absence from writing. This mommy stuff is hard!
Speaking of mommies, this weekend is Mother's Day. So I want to share with you what I wrote about my mom in a nomination for a contest.

I always knew I had the best mom, Michelle Benjamin, but it wasn’t until I was about to be a mother myself that I realized how amazing she truly is. I was pregnant with twins; one of my babies had a fatal genetic condition that would take him at birth. I needed my mom more during that time than at any other time in my life, and she was there for me every step of the way. In January, I went into labor at 28 weeks pregnant and ended up on bed rest in the hospital for the next three weeks. My mother drove from Cleveland to Columbus, two and a half hours, and stayed with me nearly every day. She was in the delivery room keeping me focused and calm when my twins were born and as I lost my son. My surviving daughter spent four weeks in the NICU and “Grammi Bear” visited regularly, learning to care for my preemie right along with me. But, the ultimate act of maternal self-sacrifice came when my mom quit her job, moved to Columbus, and became my daughter’s “super nanny.” She has left everything behind to help me and my baby.

Brad and I couldn't have made it through this past six months without our moms. They both were so supportive, loving, and strong for us. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Poppy with her grandparents

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Value of Care

I can't put a value on saving my daughter's life, but the hospital sure can - $117,372. That is the grand total for "room and board" at the NICU for 26 days. Spyder's care and autopsy was probably about half of that. Thankfully, our insurance covers most of the costs, but truly I would pay that amount and more for the love and attention that the doctors and nurses gave to both of the babies.

I am not condoning the astronomical health care costs in this country. I cannot even imagine how an uninsured mother would ever recover from a financial setback like this. I am simply saying that everything I have today, I owe to the staff of Grant Medical Center.

So how do I properly thank them all? Obvisouly, I'll start by paying my bill. I also tell as many people as will listen about the positive experience we had at Grant. But neither of those things tell the doctors and nurses how much they meant to us.

When I first went into labor, Michelle and Susan spent many unsure hours with me, helping me fulfill my "daily plan" of staying pregnant. Dr. Halpern waited and reassured me as I finally lost my nerve and broke down.

In the long-term wing, Jane brought me nail polish and Gina found me books at the library. Jen scheduled my blood draws for late morning so I could sleep in, Kelly helped throw my baby shower, and Holly kept me company at night. Drs. Alderman and Corley checked on me every day.

On labor day, Christa and Michelle waited after their shift to see the babies born. They cried in the hallway for Spyder. They hugged my mom. There were 12 nurses and two doctors making sure that Poppy pulled through and that Spyder had the best life possible. Michelle took my camera and snapped dozens of photos of Spyder with our families. Nicole, Holly, and Roberta helped me through the night and took special care of Spyder as he laid in my room with Brad and me. Holly took me to see Poppy.

Drs. Mingione and Moraille came with Kamil to see Spyder before he was taken to Nationwide Children's Hospital for his autopsy. Dr. Mingione hugged us. Chaplin Diane took Spyder from my room while we visited Poppy.

Poppy's bff's in the NICU were Danielle, Becky, Ashley,  and Sam. Dr. Naik and Char took special care of her. Dr. Moraille kept us laughing with his optimism and humor. Everyone was sad for us when we didn't go home the first time we were scheduled to, but they said they were secretly glad to see Poppy a little longer.

Poppy's bulletin board in the NICU

I think of these people and many more every single day. To them, we were patients at their place of work, though they never let us feel that way. To us, they were angels to whom we owe so much.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Sunday

On Easter we visited Spyder’s grave. It was the first time we’ve been back since the funeral because it is in Sandusky at Brad’s family’s church.

I was immediately overtaken with sadness when I got out of the car at the church. We had come from family and fun and suddenly we were standing in the cold cemetery. Brad said it was good that Spyder was out of the bitter wind.

The site had been well cared for. Grass is starting to grow back so you can only faintly see the outline of the hole that was dug nine long weeks ago.  The decorative stone that says “those we hold in our arms for a short time are held in our hearts forever” still sits where a gravestone soon will. Brad’s parents put a decorative butterfly alongside it. I tucked a tiny, blue stuffed Peep under the stone. Poppy has the purple one.

Then we said goodbye again. We picked up Poppy and headed back to Columbus. That was our first Easter as a family.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

You'll Be Happy Again Someday

When Dr. Amburgey gave us Spyder's diagnosis at our first ultrasound with her, she said, "this is the lowest you will ever feel. You will be happy again someday." When I told my friend, Jen, who had lost her own son as a newborn, she said "the way you feel right now will not last forever. You'll feel happy again someday." Chaplin Diane, Kamil, the other doctors at the hospital in the days surrounding Spyder's birth and death all assured us that we would be okay. Someday, we would feel happy again. I am only now beginning to think maybe it could be true.
I am still sad; I am still unprepared to face the reality of our loss. But, today the sun came out. It shined through the car windows as I drove Poppy to her 2 month checkup. I could feel its rays warming my cheeks. For a few seconds, I delighted in this simple joy. For those seconds, I felt happy.

I want to be happy and I can put on that happy face when I need to. Usually, when someone politely asks me how I am doing, I say that I'm just fine and that I'm healing. It is only an unlucky few that get the truth. I have a pain in my heart that I don't think can be healed and a guilt in my mind from being unable to do anything to save my son. For hours each day, I remember those few moments when I held him on my chest in the delivery room, staring into his listless eyes. I see Spyder every time I look at Poppy. I hold her all day long to make up for the fact that she no longer has her wombmate to snuggle close to. They should have been best friends. My interactions with Brad are timid and full of self-doubt. I'm waiting for something to crumble though I'm sure my anxiety is unwarranted. If I am not occupied with work, tv, a book, or Miss Poppy, I am crying. It's not postpartum depression that does this to me; I am just sad.

But, for some reason, today I am starting to believe that things will get better. The sun will continue to rise upon more beautiful days that I can share with Brad and Poppy. I look at my baby and I see that there is light in the darkness that shrouds my life. For the first time, I think that maybe I will be truly happy again . . .someday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

40 Weeks

Today is the day that Brad and I anticipated for months. Forty weeks, full-term, due date. I should have been delivering the twins today. But, instead I have a beautiful eight week old daughter and my son lives only in my memories.

Poppy Jean showing off her milk tongue at 8 weeks old

All day as I was planning what to write tonight, I was feeling sad and sorry for myself. I was thinking about how I would have still had those two extra months to prepare. I would have felt the babies kicking each other and flipping and hiccuping for eight additional weeks.

But then, I got a beautiful reminder of the miracles of life that surround us every day.

Today, my inspiration came from my Facebook news feed of all places. A friend of mine posted this morning that her little cousin, Ashton, was in the hospital, having blood tests, and waiting to have a tumor removed from his brain. I didn't know anything about him before I read her post, but my heart hurt for him and his family. Then, later in the day, my friend announced that once the doctors began surgery, they found NO tumor. What had showed in the MRI was a portion of his brain that was leaking spinal fluid. I don't know what will happen to Ashton now, but this is a very important victory for the little guy and his family.

So today I am reminded to be thankful. And I am. Had my babies been born today, they each would have weighed around eight pounds. Because he was breach and so much larger than expected, Spyder would likely have been stuck to the point where he would not have been able to be delivered, and I may have had an emergency C-section. In that case, the doctors would have knocked me out - I would have slept through the delivery and never met Mr. Spyder while he was alive.

Brad and I cherish the hour we got with Spyder

This really did work out the best way it could have. And the results are amazing. I miss my son more than I can explain, but my baby girl is healthy and at home and has reached her "developmental birthday." I am so glad for the reminder of life's miracles that little Ashton provided today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Breast Conundrum

"You're not healing correctly." This is not what I wanted to hear from my OB at my postpartum appointment, though I was not surprised. Spyder definitely left his mark on my delivery. I will spare you the details, but I am not recovering as well as I should and it's been seven weeks. In fact, if things don't improve, I may need a procedure to make some repairs.
Here is part of the issue. Breastfeeding lowers the amount of estrogen in your body. Estrogen is needed to heal what I need healed. Adding an estrogen pill would decrease my already scant milk supply. Using a medicine to help the milk supply would do nothing to help fix me. So what do I do?

I wanted so badly to nurse Poppy to give her the best possible start. But, with her being a NICU baby, and with the almost unbearable stress of losing Spyder, neither she nor I ever caught on to true breastfeeding. I have been trying to supply her with expressed milk, but she gets maybe one bottle a day from me, and even that gets fortified with formula.

Also, I really want to feel better. I want to be able to carry her around the house without wincing. I need to be able to stand in place for more than two minutes or sit on my office chair for more than five.

I feel terribly torn between what is best for Poppy and what is good for me.

On a lighter note, today, March 14th, is National Save a Spider Day - the arachnid kind of course! I hope you did your part to thank nature's insect control specialists!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Back to the Grind, Eventually

Even though I haven't been to work since January 4th, every Sunday I get the same sinking feeling in my stomach. Tomorrow is Monday - a workday. One day soon, this feeling will be warranted. I have to go back to work eventually.
For Brad, that day is tomorrow; for me, it's supposed to be Thursday. Though we have the same benefits, his HR lady is not on the same page as mine. Brad should still get three days of bereavement leave for Spyder's death, but she doesn't seem to understand that. So, tomorrow he starts back, having to leave our baby girl for the longest period of time yet.

I think his going back to work is harder on me than my imminent return.

It's not that he dislikes his job; he enjoys it. But, I have never seen him as happy as he is when he holds Poppy. And she looks so peaceful in his arms. It is a sight that I needed to see after we both suffered so much from losing Spyder. I can't stand the idea that he now has to be away from Poppy, even for a short period of time. I know it has to happen, and I know everything will be fine, but it still makes me sad.

Poppy and Daddy

Poppy is so comfy with Brad.

As for me, I will go back to the grind soon, too. My job is good, despite the drama and petty personnel games to which no office is immune, but I am not ready to be away from the little one either. I think my problem is two-fold. First, I feel an impenetrable guilt for not being a stay-at-home mom like my sisters-in-law and own mother and second, returning to work is a concrete "next chapter in life" point.

As far as being a working mom, it comes down to not having much of a choice. We have a house to pay for and a finished basement to pay off, not to mention we now have someone to put through college in 18 years! Brad and I both had moms who stayed home with us, and we have good relationships with them and the rest of our families. Will Poppy feel as connected to me as I did to my mom? Will she develop and learn as well as Brad and I did? Will we be able to teach her to love the things we love? My mind can be put partially to rest because in my Baby 411 book I found an article cited from Huston and Aronson in a 2005 edition of Child Development finding that the quality of time a parent spends with his or her child is more influential on the child's development than the quantity of time spent. Phew! Now that I've found the answer I wanted, I will stop researching the subject . . .

The bigger, more selfish issue is that I am not ready to turn the page in our crazy story. I am still learning how to be a mom, only having had Poppy home for two weeks now. I am also still deeply mourning the loss of our son. Going to work is acknowledging that I have to get my life back to normal, to start a new routine by which we'll live for the next 18 years. I don't want to do that yet. I don't want a new normal. I want to be alone with Brad and our baby. I want to sit and mourn and learn and heal.

One thing I do know for sure. When I go back to the office, the things that used to get under my skin won't bother me as much anymore. I won't sweat the drama or the inequity. I have been to Hell and back. Nothing my bosses or coworkers say or do to me will ever compare to the past two months of my life.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bad Days

Today is another bad day. Usually, I wake up fine, jumping out of bed to get a bottle ready for Poppy. But, once I make it to the shower, the emotions show themselves. I think it's because I am finally alone and not worrying about another task. I just start crying for Spyder.

For some reason, today I can't cheer back up. I try to comfort myself by cuddling Poppy, but on days like this I feel like she doesn't want me. She seems so much happier with Brad. Maybe that is because he isn't depressed.

I'm not worried that I have post-partum depression. I am functional and can recognize my bad days. I just have a lot of bad days.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Best Birthday Ever

Today is my birthday. I got the greatest gift of all this year- my baby girl is home with me.

We brought Poppy home from the NICU last Saturday. I admit that I was truly terrified as the patient service assistant wheeled her out of the secured area, down the elevator, and to the front door of the hospital. It felt like four weeks of nurses and doctors, anxiety and smiles, setbacks and progress had passed in the blink of an eye.  All that waiting was worth it.

Brad and I loaded our tiny baby into the car and headed away from the hospital for the last time.

Poppy cuddles with her Grammi at our house!

At the NICU, Poppy was on a pretty strict schedule, and we are supposed to try to maintain that. So, on Saturday night, we got to give her a bath all on our own. For the first time, I felt like I was taking care of my own baby.

Yes, it's Rubbermaid - but it's straight from the hospital . . .

Of course, Poppy's homecoming was bittersweet. We should have brought home two babies. Everything we had prepared should have been doubled, and we should be twice as tired. But, Spyder is never coming home. It is very, very clear to me now. It is the "three of us" from here on out. But we will always find ways to celebrate him!

My first Pandora charm. Thank you, Brad!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yes, I Would

A few weeks ago, before my babies' births, I wrote about wondering if I would do this all again if I knew how it would turn out. I wasn't sure that I would.

I have loved more than I knew possible. I have endured the physical pains that inaugurate you into motherhood. And I have suffered the greatest sadness.

Now that I have lived through pain, joy, and uncertainty, I know my answer really is Yes.

Yes, Spyder is gone from this world. Our families suffered from his death. Poppy has spent more than three weeks now in the NICU; we don't know when she'll actually come home. I am still physically recovering from a tough delivery and waiting on the medical bills to start rolling in. But, I would never trade that hour I had with my son for anything, and every time I look in Poppy's eyes, I know this was all worth it.

Poppy Jean brings joy when I need it most.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Moving Forward

There comes a day when you finally begin to move forward from a great loss. I haven't yet reached that day.

It was three weeks yesterday since the twins were born. For three weeks, Poppy has been a pampered Grant Medical Center NICU resident. For three weeks, I have missed the feeling of holding my little son. For three weeks, I've wondered when things will get better.

Yesterday a representative from my doctor's office called to do a postpartum survey. She asked about the babies' names, whether I'm breastfeeding, and if I've suffered from any depression. I answered, "Well, my son died and my daughter's in the NICU, so I can't really tell. But, I still get out of bed in the morning, so I guess I'm doing as well as I can." I got the response I'm becoming accustomed to: silence followed by "Oh, I'm so sorry."

I still cry everyday. I think about Poppy growing up without her brother, and I can't help but wonder how she will feel about being the "surviving twin." For now, I can vividly remember the warmth of Spyder's body as I held him close to my heart, but I am terrified that someday I will forget how that felt. I stare at his picture and wish I would know what he would look like when he grew up. There are so many ways in which I am sad.

But, sometimes, my tears are happy ones. Poppy is healthy and happy and developing beautifully and safely even if she isn't at home. Her nurses and doctors take excellent care of her. I can hold her close to me whenever I want (or whenever Brad will surrender her!). And I will know what Spyder would have looked like - there is so much of him in his sister. He will live through her and her story.

Often, we can see Spyder's face in Poppy's.

Maybe there isn't a day when you suddenly decide you can move forward with your life. Maybe it is a process - a long, dichotomous process filled with peaks and valleys on which you someday look back and see how far you've come.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Prepping for Poppy

While I was in the hospital, one of the things that bothered me most was that I could not get the house ready for little Poppy. We had her room painted - a happy shade of green - and we bought her crib and dresser, but that was it. Everything was still in boxes.

Thankfully, Brad and I have great families. Brad's parents came down to clean and prepare our house while my parents came and kept me company. His brother and sister-in-law, Kris and Melanie, came down for a weekend and worked wonders on our home. They assembled the crib and dresser, washed all of Poppy's clothes, and helped put the finishing touches on her room. The only thing missing is her!

Poppy's room awaits her arrival!

Now we are likely days from Poppy's homecoming, and we've realized we still aren't ready! We've been spending so much time at the hospital, that we haven't bought all the essentials for her. We still need a baby monitor, mirrors for the car, and most importantly bottles and nipples. Our plan is for one of us to make the dreaded trek to Babies 'R' Us tomorrow while the other hangs with the 'Popster.' We'll finish out our shopping at Target for her Neosure supplement and preemie diapers.

Of course, we thought we had more time to prepare... but Poppy had different plans.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Letter to Spyder

Spyder's funeral was the most awful thing I've ever endured. No matter the child's age, no parent should ever have to mourn the loss of a son or daughter. The Reverend read this letter that I wrote to Spyder:

My Dear Son,
I will never be happier than the day you were born. For one short hour, our family was complete. You and your sister are the most precious things that your daddy and I have ever had.
I will never be sadder than I am now, saying goodbye to you.
But, you have an important job to do, Mr. Spyder. We need you to watch over your sister. You did such a good job of taking care of her before you were born that I know you’re up for the task. She will be lonely without you. She’ll know that she’s missing you. When she gets scared or feels alone, please stay close to her.  Be her hero.
As for your daddy and me, we miss you so much already. If it were possible, I would have kept you safe inside of me forever, but I couldn’t.  I had to let you go. I wish I had a lifetime to show you my love, but I had only an hour. I hope you felt it. I will live my life to honor you.
Be listening for me – I will never stop talking to you. I will never stop thinking of you, and I will never stop loving you.  You are my hero, little Spyder.
Until I can hold you in my arms again, be strong and be at peace.
Love always and forever,

Friday, February 3, 2012

How Will I Survive Tomorrow?

Tomorrow is Spyder's funeral. He will be laid to rest next to her Great-grandpa and Great-grandma Deering. I truly don't know how I will survive the day. I have thought about it for four months now, played it over and over in my head. But now it is here - his obituary is in black and white.

Everything is in place. We even had Spyder's casket painted by a local artist to personalize it. James Sewell, who owns OriginalWildlifePaintings.com, decorated the casket with a blue spider, a red poppy, and, of course, a blue butterfly. It even says Spyder's name in the top web and Mommy and Daddy in the bottom web. The image symbolizes that Spyder will always keep us together as a family. It is the least that we can do for a baby so special to us.

Our gift to Spyder is a beautifully painted casket.

I feel like I need to put something special in Spyder's casket, but I still haven't thought of the perfect thing. Everyone else knows what they are putting in. Why can't I decide? I suppose I am just trying too hard - I want it to be the exact right thing. I am just confused as to why that "thing" isn't apparent to me.

Regardless of what I put or don't put with him, he will be gone. I know he is already lost, but there is such permanence to a funeral. I'll never again see his little hands or his little feet or that adorably big head of his. I miss him so much already. How much worse will I feel tomorrow?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Happy Birthday!

When they wheeled me into Labor & Delivery almost exactly one week ago, I knew this was the real thing. The doctors and nurses tried everything they could to stop the labor again, but by Monday at 5pm, my water broke. Thankfully, my parents were still at the hospital and Brad's parents were very close by.

I was devastated when the doctor said that this was it. They hooked me back up to fluids and magnesium and brought in the anesthesiologist. I wasn't ready. Brad wasn't ready. We still thought we had more time, but time was up. Now I had a job to do - deliver my babies.

Time to get started!

At 7:12 pm, Dr. Alderman placed our little Poppy Jean on my chest. I heard her cry and right then I knew she'd survive. The NICU nurses gently whisked her away for her special care and she was gone. I had to focus on my next task - deliver Spyder.

Brad and Poppy

At 7:43 pm, after quite the difficult delivery, a nurse placed Spyder Blayne Conlin Deering on my chest as she listened for a heartbeat - 60 beats per minute - he was alive!

Holding Spyder for the first time

Spyder and his daddy

In the reading I had done, mothers were known to feel happiness, anxiety, fear, or elation during delivery. I wondered how I would feel and was convinced that I would be in despair. But the moment the nurse laid Spyder on me, I was overcome with a beautiful joy. I finally met my son. Brad met his son and would get to hold him while he was living. I felt an instant connection to Spyder and I felt like I finally had my family.

In the hours to come I went on an unexplainable emotional journey. I felt things I never felt before. Everything peaked when I was holding Poppy and Spyder together with Brad next to me and we watched as Poppy leaned her her head toward her brother. He was her comfort both in the womb and out. He always will be.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Last night was another sleepless hospital night, when I lay thinking about my poor Spyder. Every day and night is getting worse as his imminent birth and death gets closer and more real in my mind. Each contraction is a reminder that I don't have much more time with him.

I also worry about Poppy. The doctors and nurses say that her survival chances are very good, over 90 percent now, and it's not really a matter of whether she'll make it. But, I can no longer believe in the power of statistics and chance. This pregnancy has defied all the odds and shown me that truly anything can happen to anyone no matter how healthy or dedicated you try to be. 

So I wait here in anxious anguish, worrying and wondering what will come next.

For the first time overnight, this question came to my mind: If I knew before I got pregnant what would happen with Spyder, early labor, weeks of contractions, and the potential for Poppy to spend months in the NICU, would I still proceed?

The right answer is yes, and I wish that was the unrivaled answer that I could give. But the truth is, I don't know. All a potential mother wants is a healthy, happy child. I can deal with the labor and the contractions, but I cannot cope with putting my babies through any sort of pain. No one knows exactly what Spyder will feel when he's born, but it won't be good. Poppy will be hooked to a feeding tube and monitors for weeks, if not months. Even if she grows to be a strong girl, research points to the idea that surviving twins feel the absence of their lost sibling. Will she always feel incomplete?

I love my babies more than I knew possible. Having grown with them for the past (almost) 8 months, I wouldn't trade them for the world. Poppy is playing kickball with Spyder's head as I type! But, I wish they didn't have to suffer any pain or trauma. I wish our families were spared the sadness and worry that we're all feeling. Still, this is what makes us all stronger, and this is what writes our story. As scary and tragic as it is, this is real life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's a Girl! But It's also a Boy!

While there were many uncomfortable topics and decisions that I've had to make in my situation, one of the most visible to others was the baby shower. A baby shower is a rite of passage for a new mom, a time to get gobs advise from seasoned moms and place adorable onsies on your belly, exclaiming, "it fits!" I wanted some semblance of a normal pregnancy, which would include a fun little shower, but, how was I supposed to handle only needing supplies and gifts for one baby while I am pregnant with two?

A few months ago, I helped my mother-in-law get decorations for my sister-in-law's shower. She's due to have a little boy in one month. It was fun to look at all of the themes and colors and special memory tokens, but I was staring at "It's a Girl!" and "It's a Boy!" all day. When we returned home, I sobbed privately, knowing that I would not be able to celebrate my boy and my girl in the normal way.

After weeks of mulling over what to do, my mom came up with a very good solution. We would have a shower for Poppy and include a Celebrating Spyder element. It still made me sad, and I was a little unsure and worried that people would think I was neglecting Spyder. But it was the best compromise.

Actually, my sister, Izzy, did all of the planning for the shower. It was going to be at a cute coffee shop in Grove City last Saturday. Well, plans changed and the hospital was wonderful enough to let us hold the shower here. I wasn't sure who would still come since the situation was so strange.

But, people did come. And we played games and had cake and it was so much fun to get together. We even played "Pin the Sperm on the Egg!"

Pin the Sperm on the Egg

And we did celebrate Spyder. Everyone brought messages for him that I can put in a scrapbook, and we had a little spider on the cake. The last game we played, that Izzy came up with so sweetly, was to make a spider web out of yarn that we all got to hold.

Everyone got Celebrating Spyder cards. The printer even did them for half price in honor of him.

The shower was happy and sad for me. I was so happy that my friends came to see me and that we got to laugh together and look at adorable clothes and supplies for Poppy. I was sad because I couldn't do the same thing for Spyder. But both babies were an important part of the celebration.

Yummy cake with tiny, pink spider on bottom right.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Something So Beautiful

I know I'll never be ready for what is going to happen to Spyder. I don't understand how something so beautiful can have something so fatally wrong going on inside.

My Little Spyder's Face

He looks so much like a healthy baby. In this picture, you can see his eyes, nose, and mouth. Nothing looks wrong; it all looks perfect.

But, all of the doctors know he won't survive. They have told me that they will deliver him regardless of his position, which at this time is oblique - pretty much laying across the top of my belly. Their priority is my health, not his. As a mother, how can I allow that? I would sacrifice everything for him. But they won't let me.

I cannot express how much I want him to be born alive.

I want him to feel our touch and I want to feel his. But, really, I want Brad to get to hold him. I have had the past 30 weeks with the little guy, and Brad has only gotten to see images of him. Brad needs to get to connect to his son and hold him and know that he's real. I hope he gets that chance.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Meds Alone Can't Stop Labor

Last Thursday was the most scared that I have ever been in my life. I started the day going to my regular prenatal doctor's appointment and ended it in a delivery room at Grant Medical Center. The middle is a bit of a blur.

Here's what I remember.

I was 29 weeks and 2 days along in my pregnancy. Without being too TMI, I went to my regular appointment and mentioned the possibility that my maternal fetal medicine doctor had introduced about getting steroid shots to help the babies' lungs develop in case they were delivered early. Shortly thereafter I was on the road to Grant, having measured 3 cm dilated.

After about an hour monitoring contractions, which I did not feel at all, I was admitted to the labor and delivery ward and had my own dark room complete with IV magnesium and a Barry Bondsesque steroid shot in the tookus. I felt absolutely fine (at least until the "mag" kicked in.)

At that point, I didn't know how scared I needed to be. I had Brad en route from a workday in Ironton, and my parents were already on the road from Cleveland. No one could tell me how much my family needed to hurry. Everything was unknown.

Upon everyone's arrival, sometime between noon and two, I was still not feeling any contractions, though the monitor was showing them rolling along. Brad's parents arrived a short time later, only to learn of the same uncertainty we all faced.

Time went on and the contractions got more frequent, and yes, I did start to feel them by late afternoon. They were painful enough by evening that I got a dose of pain killers and the nurses made plans for me to meet with the anesthesiologist. At their closest, my contractions were two minutes apart. Everyone braced for an eminent delivery.

The most amazing and wonderful team of doctors and nurses filed in, each with their own specialty. One of our main goals was to quickly develop a birth plan for Spyder with the labor and delivery team and our counselor and guide from Nationwide Children's Hospital, Kamil. A meeting had been on the schedule for the following week, but we didn't have time to wait. When the neonatologist, Dr. Haplin, came to discuss not only what would happen with Spyder but also with Poppy, it finally hit me that I could lose both of my babies.

I remember crying that I wasn't ready yet. I wasn't ready for my son to die. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep was on call to take photos of him after he passed. The chaplain was ready to calm me. But I thought I had more time.

I also wasn't prepared for Poppy to be taken from me and whisked to the NICU. Dr. Haplin, who I liked very much, said that she would need IV nutrition and perhaps a ventilation tube and pressure on her chest to help her breath. I wouldn't get to hold her when she was born.

At some point in the night, I got another type of medicine called Indocin, a muscle relaxer, as the doctors were "throwing everything they had" at me. But, they told me to get rest because I'd need energy to push.

The next couple hours are a complete blur, other than remembering looking into Brad's eyes as he sat close to me in an uncomfortable armchair and telling him we'd make it through this because we had to. I know he was as terrified as I was. That was until 7 am when Dr. Corley, one of my OBs, came in and told him that my contractions were slowing, they were taking me off the magnesium, and we'd be able to get that second steroid shot which Poppy needed so desperately.

To this day, no one understands why my labor stopped. There is no denying the power of so many people out there thinking of us, praying for us, and sending us their best wishes. One nurse explained that the medicine cannot truly stop preterm labor. She said something bigger was in play.

We aren't out of the woods yet. Today I am 30 weeks and 1 day along. I'm still at the hospital on bedrest and will be here until the babies come. The doctors can't say when that will be - it could be later today, it could be four weeks. The odds lean toward sooner than later, but so far, my contractions are irregular and not indicative of labor again. The important factor, according to the people here, is that I got two steroid shots to help boost Poppy's lungs.

Now, everyday is a gift with Spyder and a bit more development for Poppy. I am still terrified day and night. I don't know how strong I really am alone, but with Brad, our families, and all of you out there, I know that we will survive this. Please keep praying for us and thinking of us and remember that every life out there is such a miracle.

Monday, January 2, 2012

My Baby is Next

Looking back at Christmas and Hannukah, I tried to figure out how I coped. What was my defense mechanism? Partly, I remembered what Brad told me - don't let Spyder hear you say really sad things. Yes, I know the little guy doesn't know what I'm saying, but this does help. Also, I somehow numbed myself to what was going on around me. I numbed myself so much that when my uncle called and told my mother that on Christmas Eve their mother had died, I felt nothing.

Maybe I did feel ... maybe I felt anger. My grandmother was 79 years old and she had been very, very ill. For her, death was the next step in life. My son won't get 79 years, not even 79 days or 79 hours. He might get 79 minutes, but more likely 79 seconds.

Of course, I was sad for my family that mourns her. I knew this would come, and I suppose I was prepared. But, it was an awakening to see my grandfather and my little cousin crying over our Nana.

We went last Thursday in snowy Cleveland for her funeral. I had been thinking, but hadn't vocalized until the car ride over, that the next funeral we'd be attending would be Spyder's.  I had thought I'd be fine...

While greeting and catching up with family I hadn't seen in a decade at the funeral home, I heard the priest speaking to my grandfather about the loss of their infant daughter, Susan. The priest simply said, "now she has someone to hold her." That's when I lost control.

My dad got me to the car before I broke down. We sat together, me sobbing and trying not to vomit, and him listening helplessly. I just kept saying "my baby, my baby's next, this isn't fair," over and over again. We missed the whole service. I missed the graveside service, too, sitting in the car while everyone else said their final goodbyes.

According to my mom, everyone understood why I disappeared. She told me that they said I was brave for trying to attend the funeral. Really, I was embarrassed, but there was no way I could have gone back into that funeral home.

I haven't felt right since. I just keep thinking about how Spyder's funeral is likely the next one I'll be at. What will it be like? Who will be there? How will I cope? When will it be? I am so scared of so many things right now and losing him tops the list.