Friday, August 20, 2010

Mom to Tabitha Faith
Passed away May 21st, 2009, and was born with her surviving twin sister, Heidi Faith, August 7th, 2009
Bossier City, LA

In December 2008 going into the new year, I found myself abnormally exhausted. All I wanted to do was sleep! I am a nurse and worked nights, so I figured it was just the rigorous work schedule taking a toll. I hadn't had my period in about a month and a half, but I have always been irregular, so didn't think much of it...even with the fact I had been off my birth control a month, I still didn't think pregnancy was a real option. I took a test the beginning of January 2009 and it was negative. 
Towards the end of January, I still hadn't gotten my period so I took the last test in the box thinking what the heck. It was about 6 am in the morning. My husband, then boyfriend at the time, had stayed over. We had planned to go out the night before but ended up falling asleep in the bed (remember I was constantly tired!). He was asleep when I got up that morning to go to the bathroom. I took the test and set it down on the edge of the tub while I washed my hands. I just figured on seeing a negative test like all the times before (we had a lot of "scares" in the past...I had never been very good at remembering to take my BC! haha). To my astonishment, I looked at the test and there is was...POSITIVE! Two little pink lines confirming "yes, you are pregnant." My first thought was "oh s**t!" because my parents...they are conservative, old fashioned church goers...didn't really like my boyfriend (now my husband) and we weren't married. So I was pretty scared at thinking about their reaction more than anything at the time. But we pressed on, got through all the trivial stuff with them and were excited....little did we know those two pink lines for us meant "twins"...
They came as a quite unexpected surprise in early February at our first ultrasound. I was 8 weeks then. I was lying there looking at the screen and saw a little tadpole figure wiggling around and I thought to myself "there it is!" And then the ultrasound tech said, "well, looks like there's two!" My now fiance and I looked at each other with our jaws dropped...both nervous, excited, and in disbelief! They were identical twins...mono-di. My first pregnancy and I was going to "do it big" as my dad said. Everything was looking great!

Now, marriage had been on the table for a while, but we were still waiting for the right time. Becoming pregnant moved us to take our long term relationship that started as college sweethearts to the next step. Contrary to most situations, becoming pregnant wasn't the reason we got married, but the reason we got married when we did. We both wanted to be married when the babies got here, and I wanted to get married before I started to show, lol. We kept it a secret best we could. We wanted the wedding to be about us and our love for each other, not "omg, she's pregnant so that must be why they are getting married." I was 16 weeks pregnant at our wedding...ironically, my belly really didn't start poking out until the next week AFTER the wedding, lol! We honeymooned at Disney World in Orlando, FL. Terry's first time to go there. It was...magical, of course! Lots of fun and PLENTY of grrrreat food! Although not consistent with the traditional, conservative made me happy to think that our girls were there when we got married. And that we got to take them to Disney World, even though still in my belly :)

We returned home the weekend of Easter. Things were in full swing with getting settled in our new apartment, getting back into work, and doctor appointments for me. Despite the much to do list, everything was going great. The babies were growing healthy and strong, and we were enjoying thinking of all the ideas for decorating the apartment and future baby room. We also started to make it public about our little ones we were expecting :)

I remember it was a Monday, we had an appointment with my high risk OB. Everything with the babies looked good, except there was a 3 oz. weight difference between them. Which isn't uncommon, but something to keep an eye on. Identical twins can be monochorionic diamniotic (mono di), meaning they share one placenta (the blood/nutrient source for the babies). A condition known as Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome can occur in some mono di pregnancies. It is where there is an uneven sharing of blood vessels on the placenta, causing one baby to get too much blood and the other to get to little...this can cause problems for both of them. We were told about this at the beginning of the pregnancy when it was found out we were having identical mono di twins. They said it only happened in about 15-20% of these pregnancies, so of course, it went to the back of my very thought was that it was impossible for me to fall into such a small percentage.

One week after that appointment, I had another check up. My belly had grown so much in one week and was feeling kind of tight. I figured I had hit some kind of a growth spurt...I was having twins ya know! At 21 weeks, it was discovered then that we had developed Stage 3 twin to twin transfusion (there are only 5 stages...stage 5 being the death of the babies). We were in shock. A feeling of numbness and panic fell over me.

We took the option of having a laser surgery done. It is where they go in through a tiny opening, much like a laproscopic procedure, into the uterus and laser the vessels on the placenta that are causing the uneven blood flow between the twins. The chance of keeping both babies was about 65%. We were connected with a team in Houston at Texas Children's Hospital that specializes in this procedure. We rushed down there the day I was diagnosed. A day later I had the surgery.

The first hurdle was to have both babies' heartbeats 24 hours after surgery. Chances for their survival went up some if that was present. Baby A, Tabitha Faith, was the baby getting too much blood. Her heart was already showing mild signs of failure, but it was hopeful that the surgery would help correct that. Baby B, Heidi Faith, was hanging in there as well.

The day after surgery, the doctor came in for the ultrasound. I was so nervous I was shaking! I was praying so hard for our girls. Praise be to God, both their little heart beats were present! They had done very well during the surgery, and this only increased our hopes that everything was going to be ok. But as they examined closer, they noticed Tabitha's heart was still showing signs of failure. The doctors gave us as much hope as they could, but said we'd have to watch and wait. The hope was that her heart would improve over the next week. For that next week, I was on strict bedrest, only getting up to go to the bathroom. I prayed for our girls all the time. Trying to feel their movements when I could, wondering which one I was feeling, if I was feeling both..

A week after surgery, we went for our appointment with my doctor here. Heidi was doing well. But Tabitha had passed away, her heart was no longer beating. At 22 weeks along, past the half way point to their birthday. I cannot describe the pain and hurt that overcame me and is still with me today. Losing a child is something that words cannot describe and the mind cannot comprehend. I went into deep sadness, grief, and numbness. I've never in my life experienced such devestation. I had lost one of my daughters, of whom I hadn't even physically seen or held. The only image I had was her tiny body on the screen and her kicks I had felt in my belly.
I spent the rest of my pregnancy pretty depressed. I cannot put into words how it was continuing on with the pregnancy knowing one of my babies was gone, not feeling her move, not seeing her grow. I still told random strangers in public who asked what I was having that it was twins...I couldn't bring myself to deny Tabitha's existence and I didn't usually feel like getting into the whole story with a perfect stranger who was just trying to make brief conversation. Some ladies at my church asked if they could give me a shower. Reluctantly I said yes, but I was so depressed. I told the hostess that I wanted both my girls included. I wanted Tabitha's memory to be a part of it too. She did an amazing job. Some people even brought small gifts in her memory. Despite the overwhelming grief I was experiencing, it was a beautiful shower.
Our survivor, Heidi, continued to do well, and I delivered my twins at 33 weeks, 10 weeks after losing Tabitha. Of course I was happy that Heidi was well, but the heartache of losing Tabitha was all too consuming. I was able to hold Tabitha the night they were born (Heidi was rushed to the NICU). The hospital I had them at did such a wonderful job in making my time with her memorable. They were even able to make molds and prints of her tiny hands and feet. We had a small graveside service for her and had her buried next to my grandparents under a big crate myrtel tree. I was a beautiful day with a clear blue sky. We released balloons at the end and they literally flew as high as heaven. 
Not a day goes by that I don't think about Tabitha. I hate it so much for Heidi that she doesn't have her twin sister here with her, growing with her and playing. It's still very hard for me to see twins or meet someone who is pregnant with them. My first pregnancy and it was such a bittersweet tragedy. So many people take smooth, uneventful pregnancies for granted.
Heidi just turned a year old and is doing great! It has gotten easier, but there will always be that empty space next to Heidi, that part of my heart that is in heaven. Love and miss you Tabitha!

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