John and I met in early 2000 in Pocatello, Idaho when his friend was dating my sister. We went to a Valentine’s Day dance together and have been together since. We married in 2002 and had our first child in 2007, a daughter named Samantha. My pregnancy with Samantha wasn’t an easy one. I was overweight, had high blood pressure, and had recently moved to Bosnia for John’s PCS. At 36 weeks pregnant I was sent to live at the Air Force base in Aviano Italy. I was admitted into the hospital on Valentine’s Day due to preeclampsia. I was thinking, “This is such crap. What kind of cliché’ is happening right now?” They put me on Pitocin for 3 days, which I found out later was 3 days too long. Finally, she was born on the 17th. Four weeks later we finally got to head home to Sarajevo Bosnia.
After our tour in Bosnia and before our next duty station, I flew back to Oregon for my sister’s wedding and to spend time with family. I stayed in Oregon with my parents for 4 months while John went to the U.K. without me. Shortly after arriving in London, I found out I was pregnant again. This time we were having twins. This pregnancy was also high risk because I was having twins, I was overweight, and I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). While pregnant I did things that I probably shouldn’t have. I moved furniture around, walked everywhere, lifted my daughter, and went on a girls’ trip to Amsterdam over a long weekend. While in Amsterdam I got really sick, from what I assumed was food poisoning. Within 24 hours I was fine and headed back to London.
While back in London, around 2 weeks later we made a trip North to the Air Force base for American groceries. We decided to stay the night due to the 4-hour drive. Once we made it to our room, I went in to use the bathroom. When I wiped there was blood. I’m thinking, “Okay something isn’t right. This has never happened before.” I was about 19ish weeks along. We decided to head to the hospital. Once I was checked in, doctors discovered one of the babies’ sacs was protruding outside my cervix and I was going into preterm labor. They sent me by ambulance back to London and I was admitted into an NHS hospital. When I arrived and settled in, I emailed my family back in Oregon to let them know what was happening. My mom immediately left Oregon and flew out. My sister and my dad came shortly after. I sat in the hospital for 2 weeks strapped to the bed unable to do anything. I was literally told to just lay down and see what happens.
I got up one morning and waddled my way into the bathroom. When I went to the bathroom, there was blood. I completely lost it. I was freaking out, screaming, and the nurse came in and tried to calm me down. I was around 21 weeks and 6 days pregnant. I called everyone immediately and told them to get to the hospital now. Within just a couple hours the twins were born. Benjamin, a boy came first and Charlie, a girl came about 12 minutes later. They were under 22 weeks old, so the doctors wouldn’t do anything to prevent death because the youngest preemie that had survived was 22 weeks gestation. Benjamin and Charlie were physically fully developed – they were breathing and made a noise. Internally though, they were underdeveloped – their eyes, lungs, and brain just didn’t have enough time. John, my parents, and sister were at the hospital with me and we got to hold them the best we could.
After Charlie was born, I was unable to deliver the placenta. I pushed and pushed for 15-20 minutes with no result. It was decided that I would need a dilation and curettage (D&C). Unfortunately, the only drug I received was Nitrous Oxide. The D&C was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. It was literally like hollowing out a pumpkin, scraping and scraping. It was the worst physical pain I have ever endured. Pure torture. By the time I got back from recovery, Benjamin and Charlie had passed.
It’s not rare to go into early labor, and we wanted to understand what had gone so terribly wrong. John and I decided to allow doctors to perform autopsies. The exams found the twins had pneumonia and an infection in their amniotic sacs. The amniotic fluid was filled with bacteria that should not have been there. They don’t know what caused the infection, but I think it happened during my trip Amsterdam. The food had names I couldn’t pronounce and I’m sure it was food poisoning. When you get food poisoning you poop, you barf, and then usually get better. Although I had gone home feeling better, I should have immediately gone to see my doctor.
A week or so after the twins were born, John and I decided to take a previously planned trip to Cornwall with our daughter and my parents to bring us some laughter and happiness. This trip is when I believe I became pregnant again, less than 3 short weeks after our loss. After my parents had returned to Oregon, John’s dad and brother came to visit. We decided to fly to Scotland for the weekend. We had a great time in Edenborough. Little did we know things were going to go sideways with my third pregnancy. While waiting for our flight back to London I went to use the bathroom. Standing in the stall in disbelief at the blood in my underwear, I lose my shit. I was around 17 weeks pregnant. Nervously we boarded our flight home.
Back in London, I immediately went to my OB. She found my cervix was again opening and giving way. I had dilated 1 1/2 centimeters. It was decided to admit me to hospital and undergo a Cerclage, also known as a cervical stitch, to fix cervical incompetence, when the cervix starts to shorten and open too early during a pregnancy causing either a late miscarriage or preterm birth. I spent a few days in the hospital and then released to go home on bedrest. I was not supposed to lift anything or do any of my daily activities. I had to go home relax and do nothing. My dad flew out again to help with Samantha and things I wasn’t allowed to. He did awesome with her. They would go on adventures and just hang out together for hours.
At 26 weeks and a few days pregnant, grandpa and Samantha came home from an adventure and we decided it was time for a nap. I was exhausted. After waking I stood up and started gushing blood. Like buckets of blood. I yelled for my dad and he called an ambulance. They told me, “No matter what you do, don’t sit on the toilet. Just don’t sit down”. Paramedics arrived and took me back to the hospital. Ultrasound and tests come back normal and no clues as to where the blood had come from. The Cerclage was holding. Everything was fine, except I had just lost a lot of blood. A few days later the bleeding had stopped, and I was sent home again with strict instructions to rest. I didn’t even make it home before I went into labor. It was weird. The contractions were low and didn’t start at the top moving down like normal. Back into the hospital I went. They checked me and said, “There’s really no reason why this should be happening.” I was now to stay in the hospital until I gave birth.
My dad had come to visit at the hospital. During his visit the contractions started again. Unbeknownst to me, my dad had started timing them. They were literally a minute apart and he went to get a nurse. She came in saying, “No, no you’re not in labor. It’s up here, not down low.” They put a monitor on me and not 10 minutes later she came back in, “Oh my God you’re in labor!” The doctor came in to check and the baby’s foot was sticking out of my cervix and I was rushed to the OR. They open me up, and there’s my baby boy, Harrison doing the splits. He was born screaming and unhappy. That was the best sound I could’ve ever heard. They gave him surfactant to help his lungs and he spent the next 5 weeks in the NICU hooked up to machines, heart monitors, and being tube fed. He was very lucky and came home just in time for his big sister’s birthday!
The loss of the twins was a very traumatic experience. It literally consumed me and is something I still struggle with today. I have since been diagnosed with PTSD and suffer from an anxiety disorder. Anything that feels off or out of the normal has sent me to the emergency room. I’ve never been much of a worrier and used to fly by the seat of my pants, but after the loss I wasn’t much fun anymore. My advice to anyone dealing with the loss of a child, no matter what, talk about it. Anybody, especially a close friend or your husband or your grandma, anybody who will listen. It’s really important that you do, it makes it out here instead of internalized. Because when you’re in your own head, the worst-case scenario plays on a loop. Also, if anybody has gone through this or is going through it or is afraid during a pregnancy that they might have this situation happen, I’m open to talk. A good friend in London with a similar experience is one of the reasons I survived. Her daughter was born too early and didn’t make it home. She helped me just by listening. Everything you’re feeling is normal. There is guilt and what ifs. There is all this stuff just bombarding you all the time. Definitely talk about it and immediately find a counselor you connect with.