Carolina’s Story

Before I start my story about love, grief, perseverance, and most of all ambiguity I would like to tell you a little bit of who I am and where this journey started. By 2023 I had been to more than 300 births as a doula, student midwife, assistant midwife and was now starting my primary births and serving my own clients while seeing an end point of my journey as a student and a promising start to my journey as a midwife. I had grown to cultivate immense trust in pregnancy, birth and life and had been by so many women’s side during such intimate moments of joy, faith and life. 

I too, had my successful full term pregnancy and beautiful home birth 7 years prior to the story I am about to tell you. I had started in the very first week of the year a Gestational Circles where pregnant women meet weekly to discuss important themes and participate in multiple practices straightening sisterhood and creating support. Not only my whole world was created in synchronicity with fertility, pregnancy and childbirth, I was then in the 5th year of an amazing relationship with the man of my dreams and we had finally said yes to making humans together a few months before the end of 2022. 

I was surprised when our conscious conception date did not generate a baby. And then again, and again many times when my moon would come and I would tearly run free bleeding in the woods by my house and bathe myself in the river asking the universe to prepare myself to be a sanctuary for life. In the first week of February and exactly four weeks after I had begun leading my pregnancy circle, my positive test brought us what I had longed for so long. The type of joy that we only experience when we dip into the unknown, the immense life change and that feeling of accomplishment only us, who have had two heartbeats beating at once have once felt. I, as many women do, did not question the “rule of thumb” of waiting for the first trimester to be over before sharing the news and aside from some close friends, my partner and I laid alone in the happiness of a promising possibility of creating a new human. 

It was on a Saturday night, leading up to Valentine’s day and after a workout in our living room that I met the drips of blood that suggested the end of the life I was gestating. Not only facing what was then a scary possibility I sank into what I admittedly knew. I was completely unequipped as a midwife and as a woman to face loss, I had not known experience of grief, I was the wrong person to support anyone on any journey that did not end up in life, and I knew it would come, someday, for someone. My inner child who once felt scared to walk this path with a client and had gratitude for that moment that never arrived was now screaming in the pain of knowing it had come, to me, first. Before I could support anyone going through loss, I learned through living it myself. 

I went to bed in disbelief and woke up to a lot of blood. I circled with women that morning, mothers. I bled alone, quietly trying to make anysense of my experience. A day after I passed  what I thought was my daughter, in the form of a strawberry. We buried her in the backyard among so many tears, I was brought to my knees. I prayed, sang, and cried for days. Not only had we lost our very, very wanted daughter, I had also realized that I was alone. I had failed my one intention of a support group of women when I had chosen to not share my joy with the ones who openly shared their joys and struggles with me. The following Thursday I led a circle on Birth and Spirituality and was led to a beautiful water ceremony, the hardest circle I have led to this day, I shared my pain and was so lovely embraced. I learned through my experience how I, as a grieving mother, would want to be held by others. I learned that there was no comparison that could be measured in the number of weeks, number of children or in fact any other amount. There is simply no measurement. I learned to sit with grief, mine and other’s and for that lesson I am so grateful for my angel soul baby. I would have given the world to have her with me, and yet I felt at some point more complete than ever, by knowing that my capacity to hold others had immensely grown. 

The following months of my healing were filled with beautiful births, sleepless nights, and social gatherings. We had stopped trying, but were also not prevententing. We knew we both wanted a baby but the thought of going through all of that again was heartbreaking for us both. We were scared, shut down, numb. In early May, an opportunity of a lifetime was presented to me and I met and hosted my “Midwifery Guru”, a woman who I have been eager to learn from for years, at my house. I was over the moon. Having her here was so much joy and wisdom. We hiked to my favorite part of the river, explored the island together, celebrated the international day of the midwife, and planned a workshop together. On the day of the workshop as I prepared my house and myself to share her beautiful soul with my community, while 30 people sat in my living room, I learned I was pregnant. 

This time I had learned to share my joy with others, as for me there is no shame in loss and no reason to hide my heart when I most need to be held with tenderness. As she, my midwife celebrity, now friend has later told me, I was to love this baby with all my strength regardless of whether they would stay or leave, as love doesn’t show up with conditions.  We sang together when we learned about him, my whole being had changed, I was now to navigate the joy and fear of pregnancy after loss. 

The first trimester was easy. Of course, I thought. I love being pregnant, this would be a walk in the park. I had my perfect birth team, my home and heart were ready, my pregnancy was going well. What could possibly go wrong. I had no sad days aside from the day I learned the baby was a boy. We were both very settled on wanting a girl and I thought that this would be the saddest thing about the whole experience. I know now, how naive I was and how perception has completely changed after this experience. I desired my pregnancy to be as intervention free as possible, I knew what to do after all, what exams mattered to me, how to check in with my body and baby. I had all the equipment I could possibly need to reassure myself about my baby’s well being and so I took it all into my hands. I was the first to check and hear his heartbeat, then with my older son and partner. Baby sounded perfect, I was growing perfectly, I was shining healthily. I opted out of cold doctors offices and ultrasounds. 

At 16 weeks came the first surprise, the sample of MFSP I had sent to the lab returned elevated and although my mentor midwife kept reassuring me that it must have been a mistake from the lab, I knew they don’t usually mess up this one. MFSP measures for a fetal protein in the mother’s bloodstream, high MFSP would suggest that there is an issue with the baby’s spinal cord, or that my dates were wrong or that I had twins, two possibilities I could not consider. I spent 2 weeks waiting on an ultrasound availability while believing that now, again, after all I was carrying a baby who could very much be incompatible with life. Meanwhile I attended births and served many women, over working and trying to distract myself from this scary thought. 

The day my ultrasound appointment came and we flew off island I could no longer hide the scary feelings that were eating my insides. I sat on the very place I desired not to be, a cold doctor’s office chair and cried my eyes out. I prepared myself for the worst, to hear my baby had spina bifida and would not make it. There was so much fear and sadness in that room when the overly confident doctor walked it. A huge TV was about to show the life I was carrying, I would have done anything to change that channel. 

Two heads popped up on the screen. Two. Side by side. Two babies. My brain could not comprehend. Identical twins. 

My rainbow baby not only was healthy and well, there were also two of them. Two healthy spinal chords. Two beautiful tiny beings holding each other. We were overjoyed, and in disbelief. Mutually confused. 

Between spending my time trying to reiterate my birth plan and hope to make this pregnancy term so I could indeed continue my plans on homebirth, studying about twin physiological births, attending births, doing now many unwanted ultrasounds, swimming to feel weightless, taking care of my son and spending a fair amount of time on youtube learning how to breastfeed twins, handle twins alone, the psychological aspects of being a twin, and any twin material I could get my hands on, I had missed the most important thing that has carried me into where I was. I had forgotten to check in with my intuition, the very main tool I was using to leverage my pregnancy. I had forgotten to believe myself over the ones who told me my discomfort was normal, when I could no longer walk pain free. I had forgotten to question the measurements of the ones “above” me on the “birth provider hierarchy”. Had I been the same girl who manifested my midwife guru in my home, I would have way sooner realized that my once physiological twin pregnancy was turning into a pathology, very, very fast. 

So the day I walked into my now OB’s office measuring 43cm at 22 weeks pregnant, I had a fed up midwife’s attitude. “How can I help you?” He asked, confused on why I had speeded up my upcoming appointment. I had already diagnosed myself and my twins with TTTS, I had no time to waste and was there for a referral. He didn’t argue my well rehearsed speech on polyhydramnios, monochorionic pregnancy with palpable evidence of a “stuck” baby. Instead to my surprise he fastly admitted his inexperience with his ultrasound machine, told my partner “I think she is right” and sent me off the door to a neighbor island for a proper diagnosis. A week later I arrived in LA for the most traumatic experience I had encountered in this lifetime, at the hands of one of the most renowned fetal surgeons in the United States. 

The night before my surgery, in a cold hospital room while listening to an aggressive coached birth next door and questioning myself on how we had gotten there as a society, I named my twins. Neo, the recipient, then swimming in so much extra fluid and Liam, my stuck baby. The results of that surgery were somewhat positive. You are free from TTTS said the doctor with a playful smile while I still collected my pieces from experiencing the most barbarous situation I had been in, strapped to an upside down surgery table. A day later and we had two heartbeats. Experiencing such emotional trauma and yet to understand what I had gone through in that room I celebrated the life of my twins. Now free of TTTS. I also celebrated the almost 3 liters of amniotic fluid they were able to get off my belly.

My once monochorionic diamniotic twin pregnancy was now dichorionic, due to surgery, monoamniotic due to human error.  A detail casually mentioned, a probability of 6% that had not been mentioned or accounted for before it happened. The septum between their water bags had ruptured and my babies were now sharing one bag. Opening a new whelm of expected complications.

My body trembled in a plane returning home as I read the studies of gathered information regarding this issue, studies signed by the same doctor I was with a few hours prior. At best I would have two premature babies who could then suffer many issues due to prematurity. At worst amniotic rings now floating freely could lead to my babies being born without arms or legs, or to their intrauterine death. No one could tell me what the statistics were around cord entanglement or amniotic rings. No one could tell me how big the hole that the laser had created was and whether or not I was going to lose one or both of my babies. And therefore I turned to faith. I talked to my twins daily and as I got a bit smaller and more mobile I would walk in the woods. I could no longer swim due to a cerclage I was talked into placing during the surgery. I held healing prayer circles and was showered in love by my community. I lived each day with gratitude for their lives inside of me and with positivity regarding what was possible. I, within my privilege, was able to talk to the ones I consider the best in the world in the area and was surrounded by so many birth workers I trusted. I truly believed we were going to make it and I was going to behold my two babies, alive and well.

In one day I laughed on my couch feeling both twins move as if communicating with each other in play. In the next I woke up at dawn to jump on a plane for one more routine ultrasound, feeling a sense of sadness I did not dare to interpret. My Neo was gone. A truth that was confirmed in that same cold ultrasound room I had learned I had two heartbeats inside of me. 

My grief was a long and ambiguous journey if I may say, the letting go of a child I already loved, the twin baby stroller and oversized crib being returned, the overall sense of failure. The unknown regarding the baby that was still alive and growing, but yet too small to survive. The tears that shedded then and still shed now paired up with the what ifs. The constant process of letting go of everything that once existed.

As my heart shredded and in my chest grew a tightening once never experienced I collected my pieces for the one inside of me and for the one begging for my attention on the outside. With the painful letting go of the child I once grew whose body was now motionless still inside of me, I also had to let go of the part of me that enjoyed being pregnant, the plans I had made for this auspicious moment of my life and the clients I had gathered to support during the following months. I had to let go of the idea of not only having twins but also of being a midwife by the time they would be born. I had grieved not only the life that was lost but also the connection I had once felt with both beings altogether. I could feel the grief in my body coming not only from myself but also from the one that now played alone. The pain ripping myself apart would be best used if accepted all at once and suddenly my psychic had killed both babies. I was a ticking bomb waiting to explode both physically and emotionally. 

After twenty days of carrying both life and death in my womb and at 28+5 weeks, Liam wisely decided to join us. He was born naturally and unassisted by choice in a hospital bathroom. He showed us he was well and present from the moment he arrived, despite being a tiny human. He has one of the most powerful birth stories I have come across and I am so proud of sharing such an empowering experience with both him and my beloved, Joni. We all did good during our two month NICU stay and were so relieved and grateful to be able to bring home such a healthy and happy baby. 

Liam is turning 8 months old today, he is a tall baby with shiny blue eyes. He is curious, funny, calm and so present. He enlightens our home each day. 

As I fall deeper and deeper in love with Liam, I can’t help but to imagine how it would have been to have Neo here with us. I think about it every day. I see twins very often and it usually fills me up with a happy feeling. I wonder the wheelms of the connection between twins and the part of Liam that will always be missing. I am too, an angel mother, sometimes guilty of bringing a healthy baby home. I am too a twin mother with one empty arm. I am still writing and rewriting the details of such a complex and emotional experience. Hoping to give a virtual hug, the other women, sisters who have felt the feeling of empty hands and full hearts. 

Carolina wears the rainbow skirt. She stands in front of a large tree.

Carolina wears a lacy top and the rainbow skirt. She sits on a large rock in front of a large tree.

Carolina wears a lacy top and the rainbow skirt. She holds an ultrasound photo of her twins.

Carolina wears a lacy top and the rainbow skirt. She stands on a large rock overlooking the water.

Carolina wears a lacy top and the rainbow skirt. She holds her surviving twin in her arms.

Carolina wears a lacy top and the rainbow skirt. She holds her surviving twin and gazes down at him.

Carolina wears a lacy top and the rainbow skirt. She sits on top of a large tree and holds both arms in the air in front of her face.

Photos taken by Violet Visions Media.

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