Thursday, March 13, 2014

MOM Brea Part 2: Angel Babies

Soon after the barrage of infertility tests and procedures were under way, Brea and her husband Cy were ecstatic to find out she was pregnant.   They began dreaming of family life with their little one and Brea remembers how she "fell hard and fast, recognizing how lucky I was".  But then, just about 2 weeks after she found out she was pregnant, Brea was rushed into emergency surgery to remove a 6 week ectopic pregnancy.  "I was devastated and angry with my body for failing me.  This was my miracle and I lost it", explains Brea.
Brea gave her body some time to heal and her and Cy began trying for another baby a few months later.  That December, Brea decided to try her first round of Clomid, a drug designed to help with ovulation (simply put) and she explains how this would be her one and only round of Clomid.
"On Christmas day I found out I was pregnant.  This big fat positive lacked the fanfare of the last test that showed 2 lines.  This wasn't good.  This wasn't bad.  This just was.  We knew I was more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy (than a woman who had not experienced one) and my chances were even slightly more increased because I had taken Clomid."
Brea explains how she struggled with her emotions after discovering she was pregnant. 
"I struggled to keep from dreaming of the baby I was carrying and imagining her life, and ours with her in it.  In order to protect my heart, I had to ignore the early pregnancy symptoms - many of them mirroring those of my only other experience with being pregnant - and keep at the routines of my day to day life."
Brea and Cy arrived to their first ultrasound appointment "filled with anticipation" on January 4, 2011.  It was too early to determine if this pregnancy was also ectopic.  Another ultrasound on January 10th still didn't give them any answers.  Finally, at their ultrasound appointment on February 4, at 9 weeks 3 days gestation, they received some unexpected news. 
"At 9 weeks 3 days, the technician ruled out an ectopic pregnancy, and then invited the radiologist into the exam room.  He turned the screen towards me and pointed out the 2 large black spots with slight grey areas in my uterus.  'Twins', I whispered.  'Not quite', he replied, 'triplets: identical twins and a singleton.' We were shocked, speechless, and terrified.  There was so much to wrap our minds around!  3 babies!"
A few days later, Brea returned to her doctor so he could discuss the risks of her triplet pregnancy.  She was carrying Monochorionic-Monoamniotic identical twins, and a singleton.  "Mono twins" occur when the embryo does not split until after the amniotic sac is formed.  Because they share an amniotic sac (monoamniotic), share a placenta (monochorionic), and have their own umbilical cords, a Mono twin pregnancy is rare and very high risk.  Mono twins occur in 1 in 35,000 to 1 in 60,000 pregnancies, and in about 1% of twin pregnancies. Due to the close proximity of the two umbilical cords in the single amniotic sac, it is easy for the twins to become entangled among the cords, compressing the cords, and limiting their life-giving oxygen and food supply.  The survival rate of Mono twins is about 50%.  Consider in the factor of also carrying a singleton baby, and the risk and rarity of Brea's highly anticipated pregnancy now became an "extremely high-risk" pregnancy.  She was given news of bed rest and the need to stay at the Easter Seals house in Vancouver, B.C. at just 20 weeks to complete the remainder of her pregnancy, because where she lives in Nanaimo isn't equipped to handle such a unique pregnancy. 
"There have been many Mono twin success stories, but not so for Mono twins AND a singleton.  Sadly, the chances of all of our babies surviving were very slim", says Brea.  It was explained to Brea and Cy that if all of her babies did survive, they would be faced with severe life-long disabilities. 
"I sat silently as he stared me directly in the eyes and said 'If you were my daughter or wife, there would be no choice in my mind; the risk for you and them is too great'."  Brea tried to wrap her brain around what the doctor was telling her. 
Brea and Cy's 13-week gestation triplets were already experiencing TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome) and experiencing distress and they were aware they could lose all three of their babies at any time.  They were facing two options:
1) Carry on with the pregnancy the way it is and hope all of their babies survive.
2) Terminate the twins to give their sibling a chance at not only surviving, but a thriving life.
"The decision we were left with challenged our beliefs, and required us to examine our moral philosophies as individuals and as a couple. As much as we wanted to believe in miracles, we had to think logically of the risks and be realistic...nearly 3 years of struggling with infertility and loss...could we handle more heartache and to what degree?"
The expectant parents were left heartbroken, inconsolable, and for a time, isolated.  It's a terribly sensitive topic that evokes strong emotions in many, Brea and Cy included. 
"After many, many discussions, lots of tears, and the guidance of doctors and counselors, we decided that we would give our singleton a chance at life.  We can assume not everyone agreed with our decision, but never once did we receive anything but love and prayers.  In fact, we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support!"
Brea and Cy said goodbye to their twins, Taylor and Cameron, on March 7, 2011.  Brea explains that the selective reduction "was easily the most horrendous experience" of her life, and "unfortunately the procedure was anything but textbook." 
Their singleton did exactly what they had hoped for - thrived and survived!  On September 2, 2011 their little Ally made her entrance into the world to greet them face-to-face and Brea recalls that day, "It's so difficult to put into words what it was like to hold her for the first time; she was the sum of perseverance and pain, loss and love.  I think my first words to her were 'I've been waiting for you for a long time.'"

There isn't a day that goes by that Brea doesn't think of her angel babies, and the decisions she made,  "I wear three angels on a chain around my neck - one for each baby I lost - so they will always be close to my heart."  A friend carved a special memory box for Brea and Cy to keep sonogram pictures, heartbeat printouts, and letters and cards from friends.  On Ally's first birthday, Brea and Cy each wrote letters to their twins, Taylor and Cameron.  "We attached [the letters] to balloons and sent them skywards.  Mine was full of 'thank yous', 'I'm sorries', and 'forgive mes'; it was the closure that I needed."
I cannot even begin to imagine being faced with this situation, and it's impossible to know exactly what choices one would make until it is your reality to live and your decision to make.  My heart will always ache for Brea and Cy and this particular season of their lives and they will always remain in my prayers, especially this time of year as they remember their little ones they never had the chance to meet. 
I know this topic raises the opportunity to spark passionate debate amongst those who hold strong opinions, but this is not the time nor the place for debate and judgment.  This blog is a place for mothers to lift each other up, so let's do just that!
Please stay tuned for Part 3, as Brea offers some encouragement to those who may have been through a similar situation.  Brea will also offer some words of advice for those who have not been there themselves, but may need some guidance in regard to offering support to someone else.
Part 3: Support and Encouragement Through Loss

1 comment:

  1. I'm so thankful Brea had decided to share her story. No one can say what they would do if faced with the same situation and I can only imagine the heartbreak she and Cy have experienced. I am amassed by bet strength in facing the situation and so happy they were finally blessed with their beautiful children.

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