Today is a day of CELEBRATION!! One month after the birth of our precious twins, I am grateful to celebrate their lives. They are living, moving, breathing miracles and testimonies to the GREAT God we serve!! Every time I look at them, I am reminded of how much God loves my husband and me and how undeserving we are of that love! I cannot help but think of how it could have been another way and how so many obstacles leading up to their birth, and now their first month of life, could have made this a different story.
The Start of the Journey
You’ve heard people say, “there is no such thing as a perfect pregnancy”, right? Well, when my husband, Maurice, and I found out we were expecting in December 2016, we just knew we’d have the “perfect” pregnancy. I began taking prenatal vitamins, continued my exercise regimen and modified it in order to cater to my prenatal limitations, eliminated anything in my diet that could hinder the baby, and added those things that could make for a more nutritious start for the little one. Soon after, we learned that our one baby was actually two precious angels that God had entrusted to us to parent. We were thrilled!
The journey began beautifully – no sickness, no mood changes, no stress, and very few unpleasant physical changes. People who saw me, even as the second and third trimesters began would always comment on how I did not look like I was carrying twins. Every ultrasound was perfect, every doctor’s appointment showed a positive trend of acceptable weight gain, blood pressure, and overall health. Being my checklist-oriented self, I created monthly to-dos for us to complete during each month leading up to the delivery – all was perfect in our world.
Then, the unthinkable happened. Maurice attended every doctor’s appointment with me, so on May 19th, we prepared for our routine ultrasound for the twins. At this point, we were 25 weeks, 2 days of our pregnancy. The sonographer performed the ultrasound, which we were used to by this point, having had two other ultrasounds previously. As usual, we made small talk about life, family, the weather, and our weekend plans. As the sonographer continued the exam of Baby A and Baby B, we continued chatting. When she was finished, she indicated that she would have to get another sonographer to confirm what she had found, as she was not confident in her reading. The second sonographer, whom we had previously met, came in and said that she would help her colleague to confirm the reading. She got image, said she would show the doctor and left the room. When she returned, she brought the doctor, who scanned for the third time. She seemed somewhat uneasy (and now, in hindsight, I know it was 1) because she hoped that she could see something the sonographers couldn’t and 2) because she did not want to deliver the news she knew was inevitable). She told me to get dressed and for Maurice and me to join her in her office. Up until this point, we had never been asked to come to the doctor’s office after an ultrasound – they had always confirmed that everything was well and sent us home. This time was different, and we knew that something about the doctor’s request was unusual.
When we got into the doctor’s office, we sat down, and the doctor brought up the images we had just seen on the computer in her office. She began to explain what she saw. “Your daughter looks great. She’s growing normally and is looking good for what we would expect at her gestational age.” She stopped. The fact that she had identified our daughter separately immediately sent a red flag up in my mind. Something was wrong with our son – before she told us, I knew it. “Your baby boy is small, and before now it just looked like he was smaller than his sister, which is fine since twins are their own individual people. Now, your daughter is measuring at 25 weeks, while your son is measuring at least 3 weeks behind.” My mind was racing, and I needed to make sure I understood what she was saying and what it meant. She asked me if I lived a healthy lifestyle (no smoking, no drinking, no heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.), to which I responded, yes. She responded, “Your son is not growing normally, which could be a good indication that he will be stillborn.” She paused, and with tears almost filling her eyes, continued, “If he is not stillborn, it could be an indication that he could survive but with severe birth defects, such as Down syndrome.”
My heart dropped, and for a moment in time, everything stood still on those two possibilities.
She continued, “Usually we see this type of abnormality in women who have preexisting conditions or those who do not lead a healthy lifestyle. In your case, I don’t know what to say – there’s nothing you can start or stop to change the situation.” In that moment, the power and strength that I had felt throughout the pregnancy up until that point was stripped from me in an instant. It was like the ground I’d been standing on for 25 weeks was yanked from under my feet and I had fallen flat on my face. I felt powerless – afraid – ashamed – weak – there was nothing I could do. At that time, our baby boy was 14 ounces, about 397 grams, and in the 4th percentile for growth. We learned in her office that day that viability or survivability of infants usually begins at 500 grams and that the smallest surviving baby in recorded history was born at 300 grams (just under our son’s size – but, even still, that had only been ONE baby).
The situation became more complex because I was carrying twins. Had Winston been a singleton, the decision would have been easy – deliver the baby at the sign of trouble and risk his chances of survival. Our case was unique, however, because Gordyn was 100% healthy and had no issues. The doctor said, “Delivering early automatically jeopardizes your baby girl. Any premature baby is at risk for health complications and possibly infant mortality. Trying to save your baby boy by delivering early could compromise your daughter, and we are still not sure what will happen to him. Essentially, you could put both babies at risk to try to save him. We need to balance whether potentially saving him is worth risking both of their lives.”
To date, this has been the most overwhelming information I have ever received and the most difficult decision I have had to be involved in making.
Maurice and I were both visibly very emotional, so the doctor excused herself to give us a few moments (she was also very emotional and, in looking back, I think she needed to regain her composure as well). She left. We checked on each other (in another post, I will talk about the importance of “checking on” your spouse… it’s SO important). We described a few emotions. Sad. Scared. Afraid. Powerless. Hopeful. We agreed that this was a challenge to our faith but that we had ALL we needed in order to make it through victoriously. We were scared, but we knew our own fear and inadequacy were not too hard for GOD!
When the doctor returned, she looked more relieved than she had moments earlier. She said she had thought of some new research and a medicine that I could take to help boost blood flow to Winston’s umbilical cord. She said she needed to think about it over the weekend and to converse with colleagues to discuss the benefits and risks. In the meantime, she suggested that I begin taking a baby aspirin daily. Before we left, she asked me how I felt, and with tears almost falling, I said, “I know this is a bad situation, but we believe in Jesus’ blood and that it is greater than the inadequacy of my blood and the flow that is going to my baby right now.” I asked her if she believe in HIS blood – she said she did.
We left the office with a plan of action to revisit for a repeat ultrasound in 2 weeks – June 2nd – and to take baby aspirin. She said she would contact us if anything panned out from her additional research, but this was a start. At our return visit, which would be 27 weeks and 2 days, she prepared us for a few possibilities: 1) I could be scheduled to deliver right away, 2) I could be hospitalized for monitoring, or 3) the situation could have reversed itself and only require further follow-up. But, most importantly, we left still trusting in the Blood of Jesus!!
We called our TEAM – our parents, my sister, and Maurice’s best friend – the ones who hold us down and help us to pray. (Everybody needs a TEAM… but, I’ll write about that another day.) We fasted. We prayed. We cried. We laughed. We researched. We put our heads and our faith together.
The two weeks that followed were two of the LONGEST weeks of my life. Every day was a rollercoaster. I cried with my whole body some days (like the wailing, sloppy type of cry). Other days, I smiled and laughed and kept it moving. I even went on a planned trip for a close girlfriend’s bridal shower during that time. I was a rock for my husband, and he was a rock for me. We held each other close and guarded each other’s hearts like we never had. IT. WAS. HARD!!!
A few days before the appointment, we asked our TEAM to fast and pray with us. We sent messages back and forth all day with prayers and encouragement. We fasted from 6 am – 6 pm each day, knowing that God would hear us!! On the morning of the appointment, we had a prayer conference call at 7 am – we cried out to God and asked Him to have His way.
We walked into the doctor’s office with the confidence that God had heard us and that He would grant us favor that day!! The sonographer did her work and brought in the doctor (a different doctor than the first day, but we are SO GLAD our paths crossed with the second doctor). The news she gave us was not what we wanted or expected. She told us that the once absent diastolic flow was now reverse and that her best recommendation was to hospitalize me indefinitely for monitoring. She did not force me to go into the hospital, but she said, “Our goal is to have two live babies. If you do not go into the hospital now, we will not know when the baby’s heart rate drops or when this reverse flow becomes more drastic. If you are in the hospital, we can monitor you and know when to intervene. If I don’t hospitalize you, at your next appointment, we could be looking at a stillborn baby.”
We discovered that our baby boy suffered from a rare condition called Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), which inhibited him from reaching normal growth weight in the womb. The condition is particularly unusual in fraternal twins who do not share a placenta and sac. Winston’s IUGR was caused by absent and reverse in diastolic flow through the umbilical cord. The doctor indicated that if we were not monitored, there could also be a reverse in the ductus venosus, a condition, which if not caught within 24 hours, would lead to mortality.
With this information, we agreed to go into the hospital that afternoon. We told the doctor that we had planned to head to the beach to celebrate my birthday, and she said that we should make plans for the beach another time. I was admitted into the hospital that Friday and received magnesium and a two-dose steroid course. I remained in the hospital until the following Monday, when we had a repeat ultrasound that showed positive flow to the umbilical cord. The doctor indicated that we were still unsure of how long I would be able to carry the twins or how long I would be out of the hospital. But, for now, we had bought more time in the womb and a field trip home! Our plan of action was that I would have repeat ultrasounds twice weekly in order to monitor the flow. Appointments would be on Monday and Thursday.
When Maurice and I went to the appointment on Thursday, the doctor indicated that the flow was still positive, but lower than it had been when tested on Monday. We had been told previously that steroid injections would probably cause a sudden boost in flow, which would then taper off over time, so we were not surprised by this news. When we returned on the following Monday for the ultrasound, we were hoping that we heard similar results. As I looked at the images the sonographer took, I knew that the reversal had returned. She went to get the doctor, who came to the room with her head hanging down. I said, “The reversal is back, isn’t it?” With the saddest face, she said, “Yes.” I said, “I know how to read these images now! So, what are we going to do?” She explained that we were in a critical situation, weighing the lives of both Winston and Gordyn and that the goal was to get me to 32 weeks. “We will do all we can to get you to 32 weeks, but you have to be in the hospital for monitoring in order to get there. If something happens to your baby boy, we need to know about it, and the only way to do that is if you are in the hospital.”
The next two weeks (June 12th – 27th) we full of highs and lows. For the first week, I was monitored 3 times daily. I had a flexible schedule and was monitored on the schedule I chose. I was able to work remotely. I received another two-dose steroid course, which was supposed to help the babies’ undeveloped lungs, in the event that I had them early. On June 20th, while I was being monitored during a regular time, Winston’s heart rate dropped suddenly and would not come up. The nurse monitored for an extended period, and his heart rate suddenly dropped again. They rushed me to labor and delivery and began another magnesium treatment, which was designed to help neurological development in case I was to deliver within 24 hours. It was determined by the medical team that I needed to be under constant monitoring, and that “any time now” was the point at which the twins would be delivered.
Every day mattered. Each day in the womb meant more nourishment that Gordyn was able to receive, but it also meant more risk and potential detriment for Winston. The doctors walked a thin line and sought to find the delicate balance and perfect point at which to minimize the risk and maximize the benefit for both babies.
There were times we thought we were going to deliver THAT day. We would watch that monitor so closely looking for every little dip in heart rate, just knowing that that day would be the day. Doctors and nurses rooted for us, and we all celebrated each milestone. Every. Single. Day.
Grace in Action
I went through many thoughts and periods of questioning during the waiting period:
“Maurice and waited until marriage; we did everything the right way – how could this happen to us?” (God reminded me that NO WORKS guarantee us anything – ever!! It was HIS grace that allowed us to wait until marriage. It was HIS grace that allowed us to conceive and become pregnant. It was HIS grace that produced a testimony in our pregnancy. And, it was HIS grace that would allow us to overcome!)
“What could I have done – more or better – to avoid this situation?” (God reminded me that I could not have done anything to avoid the situation and that this was an opportunity for HIM to get glory.)
“What if our child is stillborn?” (God reminded me that His plans toward us were good and not evil to give us an expected end.)
“What if he has Down syndrome and we are not able to properly care for him?” (God reminded me that He would never put more on us than we could bear.)
It was during these moments of thinking and questioning that God reminded me constantly that His grace was sufficient – that no matter what Maurice and I faced, His strength would be made perfect on our behalf (II Cor. 12:9). He reminded me that He would not put more on us than we were able to handle (I Corinthians 10:13). In those still moments of prayer, seeking, and asking – even when I did not know what to say or even what to pray – I found reassurance that the Holy Spirit was right there interceding on my behalf (Romans 8:26). And, trust me, when you are in a vulnerable and seemingly helpless place, there is nothing more powerful than knowing that God is there – praying for you when you cannot find the words to say.
God taught me to truly live His Word and to focus on those things that were pure, lovely, true, honest, just, and of a good report (Phil. 4:8). He wrapped His arms around me and my husband in the time of our deepest fear and let us know that He cared, as we cast our cares upon Him (I Peter 5:7). He carried us through fear like champions, and let us know that He had already won the victory on our behalf (Isa. 53:4).
Two Healthy Babies
On June 27th, at about 4:30 am, Winston began experiencing a series of heart rate declines. He went through bradycardia and tachycardia episodes throughout the night the caused the doctors much concern. His heart rate would drop to around 50, then shoot up to beyond 180. This was a sign that he was overworked in the womb and that he had almost reached his breaking point. The doctor came in and told us that we could continue treading the line, but that Winston was telling us something and that we needed to listen. She indicated that we had gotten to the point where the benefit of keeping the twins in the womb no longer greatly outweighed the risk of taking them. I refused to deliver the babies without the “ok” from our primary maternal fetal medicine doctor. So we waited. At about 7:30 am, our primary doctor came in and said, “Today is the day!” Then, these words stuck with me, “Remember what we said – that we wanted two live babies? This is the point we were looking for. We didn’t know the exact moment where it was safe for both babies, but they are telling us it’s now.”
Maurice got dressed, I was prepared for the spinal I would need for the cesarean section, and I was moved to the operating room while he waited. While I received the spinal, our family arrived. Maurice came back, and the surgery began. Our daughter, Gordyn Margo, was born at 8:57 am weighing 2 pounds, 15 ounces, and our son, Winston Fitzgerald, was born at 9:00 am weighing 1 pound, 8 ounces.
They are our MIRACLE babies!!! Winston fought for Gordyn in the womb and was strengthened to maintain his levels until they both could survive on the outside. Gordyn is fighting for Winston now, as she leads the way along their growth and development path. Our babies are destined and ordained for greatness, and we are blessed that they are ours!!
Celebrate your TEAM
I am beyond grateful for the best TEAM…
My husband is my personal champion! Through the ups and downs, the challenges and difficulties, he was right by my side. He prayed with me, laughed with me, made me rest, made me think, and slept with me in the hospital bed for almost three weeks!! After only 7 months of marriage, he taught me that he honored our vows and that nothing could separate us or weaken the foundation of our marriage. In our greatest struggle, he stood as firmly as he did on November 5th, and I will forever be grateful for the man that he is.
My parents (all three of them) are rocks in my life! Through the years, but especially through this situation, they have provided the best advice – rooted in the Word of God! They challenged us to keep pushing and to remain encouraged. They practically lived at the hospital with us for those weeks and sacrificed time, energy, and money to make sure that we were comfortable.
My siblings are such a huge and important part of this puzzle! They love hard and help to keep me grounded! When I was first admitted into the hospital and on delivery day, my sister and brother jumped on the road from Charlotte to be here for us. They laid down everything in their world to help make things happen in ours! My little brother got to the hospital as much as he could and brought love and laughter with him each time!
I will forever be grateful for every single part of this journey. As I sit in the NICU day in and day out, I think about how I should have had a stillborn son. I think about how God gave us five extra weeks for our daughter to grow without hindrance in the womb. I think about the almost 300 additional grams God allowed our son to gain while in the womb to increase his survivability in the world. I think about how many people our little story will touch and how blessed we are to be able to carry out the glory of God in the earth.
I am one grateful Momma!