Friday, September 20, 2013

After Shock

It took a few days, but I think the initial shock of finding out THREE of our babies are growing inside Lyndsay has started to wear off. But I won't lie; it has definitely been a stressful and trying few days of researching and discussing and thinking and wondering and hoping and begging for someone to give us the right answers.

Let me retrace my steps for you so you'll understand the workings of my mind since learning about the triplets.

After the immediate panic died down the questions started forming all at once. What if Lyndsay really won't carry three babies? What risks will there be to her and the babies if she does? What if the babies don't make it? How would I be able to handle reducing from three babies to one, as suggested? Would they let me reduce the singleton and keep the identical twins even though they're higher risk? How do they perform a selective reduction?

I needed answers and I needed them quickly.

Off to Google I surfed. "Complications of triplet pregnancies." Click! "Risks of carrying multiples." Click! "Statistics of triplet births." Click! They all spit back similar replies about low birth weight due to extreme prematurity and immediate or long-term health issues such as lung and neurological problems. Some mentioned infant mortality rates while others wrote about long stays in the NICU after birth. Everything I read scared the shit out of me. I sure as Hell didn't want to put Lyndsay and my babies at risk of serious health problems. Maybe we should consider selective reduction.

Back to Google.

"Selective reduction." Click! Hmmmm...I don't need a definition. I know what it is. Why can't I find anything that tells me how it's done? How exactly do they abort one or two babies in utero while allowing the remaining one(s) to continue growing to term? Then I clicked on the first article that made me so sick to my stomach I had to stop reading halfway through it. The article, from The Washington Post, was called, "Too Much to Carry?" and the journalist wrote about the two days she spent in the office of a doctor who performs selective reductions. I'd gotten about a page into reading when I finally learned the method of aborting the fetus(es). Apparently, a syringe of potassium chloride is injected through the pregnant woman's uterus into the baby's chest to stop its heart. As if that sentence alone wasn't bad enough, a description of exactly what went on during the procedure followed:

"Destroying a fetus requires three hands: one to hold the ultrasound transducer on the patient's belly; one to inject the needle and maneuver it into a position near the fetal heart; another to draw out the metal rod at the core of the needle and replace it with the vial of potassium chloride. (The doctor)...did all these things at various times, tools close together as he worked over the patient's belly. At points, (the sonographer) assisted by holding the vial until he needed it; holding the transducer; and coaching him into position, watching on the screen and issuing directions. (The doctor) worked for a while trying to get the needle into the right spot."I'm not in," he said at one point, tensely. Then he pinned (Fetus C) with the needle, and pushed the plunger to release the chemical. The fetus, which had been undulating and waving, went still. It would remain in the womb, while the other fetuses grew and developed."

Oh. My. GOD!

No way.


I'm not doing that!

The tears fell freely from my eyes as I closed the window on my computer. My face dropped into my hands and I sobbed as I thought about having to PAY someone to do this to my child, or CHILDREN, for no medical reason at all! I took a few deep breaths and e-mailed Lyndsay, "Do you know the process of selective reduction?" I asked her. "It's horrifying!" I hoped once I explained it to her she'd agree to carry all three babies as long as the doctors confirm that everyone is healthy enough, including Lyndsay. Her response of, "I don't think I could do that" made me believe she and I were starting to get on the same page and I began to relax a little bit. But then my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to read one more article about selective reduction, just in case the first one was overly dramatic. "The New Scar on My Soul" was written anonymously by an expectant father whose wife refused to carry the triplets she'd found out were growing inside her, so she decided to reduce the bundle from three to one. The husband was not on board with his wife's decision but couldn't stop her from making the appointment and, because of the guilt he felt for what was about to happen to his children, forced himself to watch the procedure:

"Before the procedure, my wife's eyes teared up; she asked the doctor over and over if they would feel pain, and was assured they would not.  I asked again if my wife was sure about this because once done, it could not be undone.  She said she was sure, but her tears and her looking away from the screen, deliberately, and her wanting me to not look either, told me the truth: she knew as well that this was wrong.  I wanted to insist that she look, but I think that her mind -- already fractured by the news of triplets -- would have snapped permanently had she seen the images onscreen.  And to save the one, and for the sake of the one we already had, I needed my wife sane.
My wife didn't look, but I had to.  I had to know what would happen to my children.  I had to know how they would die.
Each retreated, pushing away, as the needle entered the amniotic sac.  They did not inject into the placenta, but directly into each child's torso.  Each one crumpled as the needle pierced the body.  I saw the heart stop in the first, and mine almost did, too.  The other's heart fought, but ten minutes later they looked again, and it too had ceased.
The doctors had the gall to call the potassium chloride, the chemical that stopped children's hearts, "medicine."  I wanted to ask what they were trying cure -- life?  But bitter words would not undo what had happened.  I swallowed anything I might have said.
I know they felt pain.  I know they felt panic.  And I know this was murder.  I take cold comfort in knowing that as far as we can tell, the survivor is still fine, and in knowing that this decision did not come from me; I would have taken the chance on triplets, even with all the work and effort it would have required.  I pray that this one child will come to term, will be born into this world alive and healthy, and I know he or she will have all our love.
But that emotional scar will ache my whole life.  I see my child's smile every night and anticipate a new one in some months...but I think of the two smiles I will never see.  Every day, returning from work, I hear "Hi Daddy!" and know there are two voices and two giggles that I will never hear.  I play with and cuddle my child, looking forward to the same with the second...but I know there are two sets of hands that will never touch mine, two sets of toes that will never be counted, two hugs that will forever be absent from my arms."
That was it. There's no way in HELL I would let this happen to my children without medical necessity. If Lyndsay's or the babies' lives were in danger or one of them had a severe defect that would make her little life painful and constantly in and out of hospitals, it would be a sacrifice in their best interest. But just because there are too many babies? No way. NO FUCKING WAY.
When Jimmi came home and saw the redness in my eyes he was concerned, "What's wrong?" he asked. "Do you know how they reduce the pregnancy?" I cried at him. "They take a needle and stick it directly into the baby's chest and shoot it it with potassium chloride to stop its heart! And they can't even do it until she's twelve weeks pregnant!" He cringed as the words spewed from my mouth and all he could ask was, "Are you sure there isn't another way?" I knew that pure fear of raising three babies fueled his question but I could see in his face that he wouldn't make it through a procedure like I'd just described. 
How would I bring it up to Lyndsay? What would I say? I continued Googling, trying to find some positive information about carrying triplets. That's when I hit the jackpot. It was a large case study from Georgetown University Children's Medical Center with the objective of trying to determine if there is a true medical need for doctors to suggest reducing triplet pregnancies. I read through the objective and study design and results until I finally reached the conclusion:
"This large contemporary case series of triplet pregnancies demonstrates excellent survival with low associated morbidity. These data suggest that there may no longer be medical justification for offering selective fetal reduction to parents with triplet pregnancies."
That's it! That's what I needed to read! I took a screenshot and texted it right to Lyndsay. Her response was quick, "That make you feel better?" Hmmm. I was trying to make HER feel better, "Yes! You?" I replied. And the next text from her changed everything, "I'm not worried. I feel I'm healthy and have had all good pregnancies. I feel ok about it. If you can't tell, I'm against reduction. I knew that would be hard for me. I didn't like it, but they gave us such slim chances of this happening I figured I was safe!" I was floored. I told her that when Jimmi and I were with the social worker at our clinic, she asked how we felt about reduction. I immediately balked at the idea and the social worker informed me that Lyndsay had told her she was adamantly against carrying more than two babies so we should really consider her feelings since she'll be the pregnant one. She then went on to tell us how difficult it'll be if the babies end up in the NICU for weeks and how hard it would be to raise three babies and anything else she could say to convince us to agree to reduction. In the end I figured we had no choice since Lyndsay wouldn't carry them anyway. But Lyndsay never said that! As we texted back and forth I found out that, while the social worker was alone with Lyndsay and Josh, she told them Jimmi and I were against having more than two babies so they really needed to agree to the possibility of fetal reduction, in the off chance one of the embryos splits. She and Josh felt pressured, as Jimmi and I did, so they agreed.
Shut up!
So this whole time I was thinking Lyndsay didn't want to carry more than two babies and she was thinking we wouldn't accept more than two babies, when actually, none of us wants to reduce and we're all on board with triplets as long as no one's health is in danger? Are you KIDDING me? We were stressing over this for three days because the damn social worker at the clinic coerced each couple into doing what SHE thought was best? There will definitely be a phone call made to the clinic once I calm down a bit.
Now that everything was out in the open, Lyndsay and I felt the same weight being lifted from our shoulders. Sadness and worry turned to excitement and I finally allowed myself to think about how life will be with THREE BABIES! But I also need to be cautious in my thoughts and remember that we still haven't actually seen any heartbeats yet. While everyone seemed to be growing at the right pace on last week's ultrasound, that can change at any moment. The plan going forward is to take each appointment as it comes and make decisions as needed. The next step starts on Monday, when Jimmi and I will fly to Minnesota so we can be present for Lyndsay's next ultrasound where, hopefully, we'll be able to see and count our babies' heartbeats. If all goes well, we have an appointment set up for the same day with a multiple pregnancy specialist to ask any questions we might have about the risks associated with carrying triplets. If he gives us all the hope we need to continue this journey as it is, that's what we're planning to do! 
Grow, little babies! Grow! Get those hearts beating! Mommy and Daddy will see you in a few days!


  1. I am a co-worker of Lyndsay's. We are all supporting you, Lyndsay and your families in this journey. You are blessed to have Lyndsay--she is so calm and even. Thank you for this post. Unbelievable! Jacci
    P.S. Thank you for the treats you sent to our work--they were delightful! :)

    1. Thank you and you're welcome! I'll see you on Tuesday! :)

  2. Thank you for sharing this Jacci. And thank YOU for sharing Suzanne. I will be praying for you, Lyndsay and the wee ones.
    ~ God bless, LaDonna