My journey into motherhood began the day I saw that first set of two, little pink lines. From that morning on, I was completely engulfed in excitement, love, and hopefulness for the future. So ready to be a mother, I wanted that future more than anything. I had all these big dreams and laid out plans ready to unfold. I already loved that little bean more than myself.
I had the college degree, the dream wedding with the perfect husband, a house we were making a home, two fur babies and a handful of chickens, the obvious next step was bringing a child into this fairytale of a life I thought I had. They say ignorance is bliss… and while I knew of the possibilities, I never dreamt it could happen to us.
FIRST PREGNANCY, FINLEY ANNA
My pregnancy with Finley was for the most part, normal. The first 16 weeks, everything had been perfect, not even any morning sickness. We had only just found out a couple of days before that we were expecting a daughter. But then on the exact 16th week mark, I started bleeding while at work which led to a few nights in the hospital. I had rushed to the closest ER which meant I couldn’t see my own doctor. At first the ER doctors told me I must have had a placental abruption and her life expectancy at this point was a toss-up. They sent me to labor and delivery where a nurse tried to mentally prepare me to lose the baby. We were absolutely terrified. After a couple of days, Finley still looking healthy on the ultrasounds and the bleeding slowing, they sent me home on bedrest and ordered a follow up with my own doctor a few days later. At the follow up, it was determined I had placenta previa which caused a hematoma, both of which are common. I was told to just take it easy the next few weeks, as it would resolve on its own and everything would be fine. By 28 weeks, there were no signs of any previous issue and everything was back to normal. We could finally breathe. I assumed I had my brief and rare dance with the grim possibilities of pregnancy loss and now it was all behind us, smooth sailing from here on out. Unfortunately, I was very wrong.
Our daughter, Finley, was stillborn after 40 weeks and 6 days of a relatively healthy pregnancy. I went into labor naturally 5 days past my due date. When we got to the hospital everything seemed normal at first, but once I was hooked up to monitors the nurses started expressing that the baby was in distress. They monitored us both continuously while I labored all day. In the end, the doctor’s inaction over an additional 8-hour period, after a full day of the baby showing clear signs of distress, my extreme reaction to an infection and misdiagnosed preeclampsia during labor, all led to the loss of our daughter. She simply ignored all the signs that it was time to get Finley out until it was too late.
After her heart literally stopped, I was rushed into the OR and put under general anesthesia almost immediately. The last thing I remember, was telling my husband I loved him, thinking these would be my last words to him. I then quickly and privately came to terms with what I believed to be fact. I wouldn’t survive this, but Finley would, and I was perfectly ok with that. Those were my final thoughts, then lights out.
Instead, I woke up to the nightmare of my husband on his knees next to me telling me she was gone and we were being forced to live in a world where she would no longer exist.
On the last day of our 40th week, loved ones came and went while my husband and I mourned the completely preventable loss of our healthy daughter, Finley. Her autopsy described a perfectly developed little girl. Based on the findings in her report, it was determined that she died from asphyxiation. The health professionals we had put our trust in had failed us.
Finley Anna Duffy was born sleeping on November 26, 2018.
SECOND PREGNANCY, DOUBLE RAINBOW
Fast forward through a hell of a year later while trying to wade through this new life, childless, full of grief, and anxiously waiting to be able to safely try again for a sibling to our first born. We felt like parents. We spoke about her daily. Our love for our daughter was unchanged. She was forever our little girl. But our identity as parents was difficult to fathom. Who were we now, really?
11 months after Finley was born, we decided to try again, expecting it to take some time. But to our surprise, we got pregnant right away. Those same feelings erupted from me, I was completely engulfed in excitement, love, and hopefulness for the future, but this time there was a grim filter of grief and fear that diluted those feelings some. I was absolutely terrified.
At our first ultrasound, I went in expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. I will never forget the silence that filled the room or the feeling of involuntary tears that streamed down my face when I first saw two heartbeats on the screen. The ultrasound tech was silent, my husband was so nervous he was holding his breath, bracing himself in case of bad news. In total silence he wouldn’t even look at the screen, just sat waiting for the tech to confirm that there is indeed a heartbeat in there. Meanwhile, my heart is exploding out of my chest, I can’t take my eyes off of the screen, I see it. I see THEM. There are TWO!! TWO little hearts pumping. The tech slowly says, “So, are you seeing what I’m seeing?” and before my husband could even look up, I was blurting out through nervous laughter, “TWO!! THERE ARE F***ING TWO!!!”. The world started to spin in that moment. My happiness was impossible to contain. So, through tears and laughter, we finished the ultrasound and anxiously waited for the doctor to come in and give us the rundown on what they called the “Twin Protocol.” With twins, you are immediately labeled “High Risk”, which is scary in itself. The silver lining of that is you get to see those little babies at every, single appointment! So, for a pregnancy after loss mama, being reassured everything is alright in there much more frequently really helped ease some of my anxiety.
As you can imagine, pregnancy after loss is an extremely exciting, yet terrifying time. Finding out there are two lives you are expecting now instead of just one amplifies those feelings. Throw a pandemic in the mix and the anxiety almost overflows. Luckily for us this time around, our pregnancy was perfect. No bad symptoms, everything progressed perfectly. I even carried them full term to my scheduled C-Section at 38 weeks and 2 days.
Walking into an empty hospital lobby after being screened for Covid-19 by security guards at the door was pretty eerie. I had a negative Covid test just a couple of days prior. Considering my first and last experience in labor and delivery was so chaotic, it was a stark contrast the morning the twins were born as it was very quiet and calculated. I walked in the hospital expecting that in just a few short hours, I would have two babies earth side. I was so incredibly happy for their arrival, but my emotions were running high as I couldn’t help but have flashbacks of my birth experience with Finley. The hospital staff was absolutely amazing and walked me through every step of the coming surgery to ease my anxiety. They were extra gentle with me knowing my past experience.
I had requested a clear curtain for the C-section so that I could see the babies as soon as they emerged. The moment I saw their faces and heard their cries, all of my anxiety disappeared. I finally did it. I had TWO living, breathing babies. When the operation was all over and my husband and I were in post-op recovery with the twins both happily nursing, I looked at him, and whispered “THIS is heaven”. Both my heart and arms were so full in that short and massive moment.
Patrick Stephen and Teagan Joyanna were born the morning of July 7, 2020, one minute apart, via scheduled cesarean section. They are our miracles after the darkest time in our lives, the lights that brought us back and all three of my children have a piece of my heart to call their own. They make my heart whole.
Photos taken by Ashley Anna Artistries.
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