Postpartum Thoughts: Vanishing Twin Syndrome

It has now been over seven weeks since Rainer’s beautiful birth, and after a recent new knowledge regarding my pregnancy with him, I find myself needing to reflect over the past 10 months. You read the title correctly – Vanishing Twin Syndrome. It turns out that Rainer does indeed have a twin. It only took me 6 weeks to finally come to terms with that reality.

——

Back when I was just 7 weeks pregnant, I had my first ultrasound with an OB that I was seeing for the first time. I was by myself, and I brought Lúthien along with me. The doctor was a quirky man but easygoing. Instead of going for a vaginal ultrasound, we decided to skip the trouble and just see if he could pick anything up from my stomach. (In an early pregnancy, vaginal ultrasounds provide a much clearer picture). I laid down with Lu on my chest as we took a look. What came up on the screen certainly was different than Luthien’s first ultrasound image. There was one dark spot alongside one smaller, dark spot about half the size of the other. Doc picked up Rainer’s heartbeat, and we talked about that smaller shape. He mentioned that it was possible that it was a twin that could have passed away, but he quickly assured me that it could also be a shadow of the water sac or something, and that he didn’t want me to worry. I barely gave it a second thought afterwards, not wanting to be paranoid; and when I went back in at 10 weeks, there was no sign of the other dark spot.

Eight months later, and several minutes after Rainer was born, while my new doctor (I switched OB’s at 25 weeks) was examining my placenta, she pointed out to us that there were two water sacs, confirming that therereally had been another child. At that moment, I was all caught up in the bustle of afterbirth. Nurses were all around the room, some pushing on my uterus every now and then, I was about to be stitched up from a tear, my baby was just born. I could barely think about it, but Ross remembers that we said a quick prayer for the child. I was a little confused by the news, and I remember someone trying to explain to me, but I eventually forgot about it in the exhaustion and excitement.

Then, a few days after birth I remembered, and then I remembered that 7 week ultrasound, pulling out the old image. But again, I was still in the post-partum haze, and not wanting to believe it, I put it aside in my mind.

Finally, just last week I was able to face the news. I emailed my OB about the 7 week ultrasound image, and she confirmed that there had indeed been a twin.

Rainer is a twin.

There is something astonishing and lonely about learning you have lost a child ten months after that fact. When we lost our first child,  I had gone through the traumatizing experience of miscarrying. This time though, I lost a child at about the same week gestation, but I never passed the baby’s remains and I wasn’t aware of what was happening. Instead, strangely enough, the baby’s remains were absorbed by my body and Rainer’s. Yet, this child is just as important, just as real. He or she may have had a tiny, tiny body, but their soul lives on with our Creator.

When Ross and I began talking about this loss together, I tried to convey that somehow, knowing that we have two children in heaven makes heaven seem more of a reality for me. There’s a mystery to miscarriage in that you lose a child before having met them, before seeing the fully developed face, before talking to them and looking into their eyes. But somehow, with faith, you know that their soul is just as alive and real. And you know, by through faith, that if their soul is just as a live and real, so is Heaven.

My heart aches for the loss of this mysterious child’s life, and of what could have been. And I wonder what it will be like for Rainer when he is older to eventually learn that he is a twin and that he has a special intercessor in heaven. At the same time, I am grateful for our sweet Rainer’s life, for his health, and for the joy that he brings to us each day. I am thankful for a healthy pregnancy with him, for the gift that it was to carry him, for the little sufferings that come with childbearing, and I could not have asked for a more beautiful birth. Looking back on this pregnancy now, it feels incredibly strange to have both a heavy heart and one full of gratitude for the sweet memories…of when Ross and I shared the news of the pregnancy with his family for drinks and hors d’oeuvres at the Southern Hotel, of watching my stomach quickly grow, bringing Lúthien with me to my appointments, telling my students about the baby, feeling Rainer kick furiously, awaiting his birth with fierce anticipation. I pray that I never take our children’s lives for granted, nor our own lives. And I pray to God, for the grace to reach heaven, to sit at the feet of the Father, and to meet our children for the first time.

 

Advertisements

Our Two Gifts – Pain and Joy

I write this first blog post during my 39th week of pregnancy. Our due date approaches, and my husband and I eagerly await the moments for labor to really kick in. From the time that we found out that we were pregnant in early January, this pregnancy has been a beautifully blessed experience. Yet, from the very beginning, I must say that I was nervous and afraid – but filled with hope. Why? Because two months before, we had just lost our first baby in the womb.

———-
We were married in October of last year. My God, it was such an incredible and beautiful weekend. Not only were we ecstatic that we were finally going to be joined in marriage, but we were absolutely touched by the love and generosity all of our family and friends.
About two weeks or so after our wedding, I found out that I was pregnant. I remember the moment with such clarity. Oh my Lord. Is this real? I fell to my knees – not in dread or in fear – but in awe. How incredibly humbled I was to be carrying a new life inside of me. I was amazed. At the time, Ross was across the lake in New Orleans for the afternoon, as he was a part time grad student. I called him, put him on Facetime, and gushed with the news. He was absolutely enthused, as well. We were so happy, thrilled, and delighted. Was this pregnancy a surprise? Well…actually it was half-expected.
Before we were married, we made the decision that we would practice Natural Family Planning (NFP).  (I say we made the decision, but we had known for a while that this was something that we wanted to do.) Months before the wedding I had begun to track my cycle; and as the time grew closer, I began to realize that I would probably be fertile during the entirety of our honeymoon. Technically you are only fertile for one day, but the window of when you can conceive is much larger. Thus, we had a decision to make. To spare you the details…we took the plunge. 🙂 What I could not shake was the knowledge that I was actually conceived shortly after my parents’ wedding. We put our trust in God.
So, newlywed for just two weeks, we found that our lives had been changed forever. Of course, our lives were already powerfully altered after we got married, but now we had created another life. Wow. We called our parents that night, and over the course of the next few days we called some other family members. Ross was so excited that he even went ahead and told his co-workers. I remember personally sharing the news with some friends of ours. I found an OBGYN and set up at appointment, which would not occur until I was at least 8 weeks.

On the morning of a Saturday, November 2, 2014 (All Soul’s Day), I woke up to some mild cramping. The night before, I fell asleep with an ache in my abdomen, but it wasn’t anything strong enough to catch my attention. Upon waking, I soon found out that I was bleeding. I was completely shaken, and I knew that something was wrong. Why is this happening? This isn’t real. As the morning passed, everything progressively got worse. We called two family friends for some direction and insight. There was not much that we could do but wait it out. I was 6 weeks pregnant. What followed was something that I can recall only with great pain. We lost our baby. We were absolutely devastated.

In the days and weeks following, we were again shown such generous love from our family and friends. Upon the encouragement of some friends and my mother-in-law, we decided to name our baby. We had a very strong feeling, without a doubt, that he was a boy. Somehow the name “Charles Dominic” came together. Coincidentally, the day after we named our baby was the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, patron saint of learning and the arts. We did not know much about him before then, but we took this as a sign. Several days later, a priest from our church offered a Mass for Baby Charles in the home of Ross’s parents, followed by a little burial.

Within the first month of our marriage, though speckled in the beginning with moments of joy, newness, and excitement, we were overcome with heartbreak in the end.

Fast forward to January. Shortly after New Year’s Day, we made the move from the New Orleans area to Houston, TX. We were beginning the year in a completely new place. Just a couple days after moving, while we were staying at my sister-in-law’s home as we were looking for a our own place, we decided to pick up another pregnancy test. After losing Baby Charles, there was no question of whether or not we would wait to conceive again. We had already been so prepared to welcome a little one, that we knew we  should try again. And by God’s grace, we found out that we were blessed with another life! This time my reaction was slightly different from the first time. I was nervous, happy, but nervous. Though I had scarcely been pregnant for a few weeks before, I had already felt such a strong attachment to our first baby. Now, I was afraid of opening my heart again; I was afraid of losing this one. We waited a little while to tell our immediate family this time. I wanted to be ready.

Now I am at 39 weeks and 5 days. We have a boy, and we have named him Louis Rainer. [EDIT: We actually had a GIRL!] I thank God for the gift of this pregnancy and this baby. My OB is wonderful, and I have received such wonderful care since I first saw her at 6 weeks. I have had zero complications, and compared to most women, this pregnancy has been relatively easy. Our little boy amazes us every day. As I type, he kicks with unbelievably strong force. I’ve never had to sit down and count his kicks, because he moves all the time. We love him so much and are so anxious to meet him.

We will never forget our first baby. As my sister-in-law put it once, “Babies get first dibs in heaven.” Though we lost him so soon in the womb, I know that he has and will have such an important role in our family. I believe that these two little boys will have such an inextricable connection in life. We love our Charles, and we are utterly grateful for our second baby, Louis.

———–

Here you will find a beautiful reflection my husband wrote for our first baby, “A Eulogy for My Son.”