Paisley, Caleb, Rowan & baby #4
Our story starts back in 2020. My now husband and I had been together for 4 years at this point and I was pushing closer and closer to 30. I wanted kids before I was 30 but wanted to be married first and knew my periods were not super regular and we might need help. We had a talk in July of that year and quickly started our wedding planning for the following year. I stopped my birth control in January trying to get everything regulated for after the wedding as I would be turning 29 just under 2 months before we got married and the goal was to get pregnant immediately after if we could. March rolled around and I finally got my first cycle followed by another one in April and then May, nothing showed up after then. I knew I wasn’t pregnant but chalked it up to maybe stress from planning. The wedding passed in August and still, nothing. In October I saw my PCP who suspected PCOS and sent me in for a referral to a local RE and we started our IVF journey.
November 2021 – January 2022 was filled with tests for myself and my husband. We had a confirmed diagnosis of PCOS that was going to make it hard for us to conceive naturally. We weighed our options between medicated cycles and going straight to IVF and knew our odds would be best with the second option. February of 2022 we were cleared to start our first round of stims and I triggered on 2/28/2022, exactly 2 years after my husband and I closed on our house. My egg numbers were great but our fertilization results and quality, not so much. We were told that on day 5 we were expecting to transfer just one blastocyst but also signed off that worst case scenario, if the doctors felt it was in our best interest, we would transfer 2 based on quality. Well, on 3/7/2022 we walked in to 2 embabies being moved over. I got home and panicked and cried thinking it was the worst case scenario but knew in my heart it was both would stick or none. I tested my trigger shot out which was a full 10,000 HCG and come 6 days after my transfer I took a home digital test that said “pregnant”. My husband and I were thrilled! We did our blood test on 3/17 (St. Patrick’s Day) and our numbers were perfect, 193. 4 days after that draw they were 795 and we were scheduled for our first early ultrasound on 4/7.
Early April rolls around and we walk into our ultrasound and see two beautiful little beans on the screen with heartbeats. Our Baby A with a heartbeat of 141 and Baby B 130. Their heart rates would always consistently be different like this, but Baby B tended to grow more between scans. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were. We went home and made an Easter themed announcement that our household was growing by 2 sets of toes.
My first trimester was so anticlimactic. I handle pregnancy pretty well. Outside of being tired and having food aversions, I was a little nauseous but never violently sick. Both babies continued to grow, A was usually a few days behind their projected due date of 11/23 and B usually a few days ahead. We were always told this is normal and a few days were no big deal. Heart rates were always perfect. We hit our first speedbump on May 13th where I woke up to fluid in my underwear that wasn’t normal. We chose to go to the local ER and get checked. While waiting for ultrasound I started to bleed and we found out I had a subchorionic hematoma (SCH) and we heard the words threatened miscarriage for the first time. I continued to bleed through the night and was extremely panicked, we went back to the ER to get another ultrasound 2 days later as I couldn’t get to my OBs office for another 2 days. We were monitored super close for the next few weeks and things seemed to get better. Babies continued to grow and the bleeding slowed to a halt.
Week 15 we did a private scan to find out baby genders. We had everything ready to go home and announce for if we were having 2 boys, 2 girls or one of each. We were so happy to find out that we were having both a girl and a boy. Baby A was our daughter, Paisley and B our son, Caleb. We announced their genders, but not yet their names. By my 16 week appointment my OB was comfortable with where everything was and sent us home having scheduled our level 2 anatomy scan for 20 weeks and an echocardiogram for them at 24. We went home with some hope and waited for our next big scan.
June 25th we had my 30th birthday party. My birthday is July 3rd and we had all of our friends and family over to our house. I hung our family scrabble letters on the wall with Paisley’s name in pink and Caleb’s in blue and waited for people to notice. This was the last normal day I remember. We had a great time and everyone was talking about how different next year would look with the 2 babies around. June 27th was a Monday and I sent out their baby shower invitations for early September.
June 28th I was working from home, as I usually do, and felt a gush of fluid like I peed myself. It was around 10:15AM and I was getting close to my next zoom meeting. I went downstairs, changed my underwear and pants, put on a pad and called my husband. We called my OB and they asked if I was sure it wasn’t pee. I explained I was 100% sure and it was happening again. It filled about half a pad each time. They asked me to come in ASAP. My husband drove home from work and rushed us in. By the time the ultrasound finished I had my 3rd and 4th gush of fluid and we were whisked straight to our doctor’s room which never happens. I know at this point nothing good is going to come from this conversation. Our doctor comes in within seconds of us entering the room and explains that Paisley’s water is ruptured, Caleb’s is fine, but under normal circumstances he would be taking us to the hospital to start delivery. Where this wasn’t a normal circumstance, we had 2 babies in there and I was just shy of 19 weeks (18+6), he wanted us to go to the closest higher level NICU which was about 20 minutes away. So, that’s what we did.
We got to this hospital and were met with a 45 minute wait before we even got into triage. When we were finally put in a room, the doctors did not even do another ultrasound to check on the twins’ heart rates or if Paisley was regaining any of her fluid. I hadn’t had a gush in a while. They did 1 pelvic exam and the litmus test and walked out of the room. We waited for over an hour, no information on the results of our exam. We were calling our family, my sister who is a nurse and trying to figure out what our options are on our own. A supervising OB comes in and tells me I’m being discharged for an emergency cerclage. I don’t know what any of this means and explained I have no idea what she’s talking about that we think my water broke. She realized she was in the wrong room and told us we would have to wait for the team to come in with more information. When our team finally comes in we are told that my water has definitely broken and our only options are to terminate one or both babies. I refuse to have that be our only options. I ask about an amnioinfusion, IV fluids, bed rest to get us to term and are told no. I ask for an ambulance transfer as we have been here for going on hours to a different hospital and they tell me I am not stable enough to transfer. I am not bleeding, I am not cramping, to this day I don’t understand how I was not stable. We get told that they’ll give us some time to decide what we want to do and leave the room.
We hit the nurse call button after about 5 minutes because we decide we want to discharge me and drive ourselves the hour to the next hospital. No one comes. We wait 25 minutes and my husband goes to flag someone down in a hallway, we get told they’ll be there soon, no one comes. We wait another 15 minutes and my husband flags them down again. Finally, someone comes in and we tell them we want to be discharged to go to the next hospital and see what they say. At this point I feel like my babies were just a number to them. We get told that’s fine and they would give us a list of hospitals on the way “in case anything happened while we were driving”. The drive an hour north was dead quiet through my tears and my husband trying to get us there as quickly, but safely as possible. The only conversation we had was that if the results were the same and as grim there, we would opt to let both babies go. We couldn’t risk losing them and me.
We got to our destination and more or less threw the keys to the valet, I was ushered to labor and delivery and they did a large amount of tests once we got a room. They did 3 pelvic exams, an ultrasound, and another litmus test. They went over the results with us and brought me up to the dead quiet ultrasound wing at 1AM to see the babies on screen. They asked us to wait to make our final decision until we could talk to MFM first thing the following morning on the 29th. Ultimately, we were being given the same 2 options with an added 3rd of trying to keep both babies inside and what the potential risks of that looked like. At this point by the time we got to talk to MFM my water had been broken for almost 24 hours. I have now been exposed to the amniotic fluid for a very long time and Caleb has too. We’re told the chances of this not progressing further without myself getting a potentially deadly infection, Caleb and Paisley getting it and making it to some sort of viable term were slim to none. The chances us being able to start labor, birth Paisley, stop labor and keep Caleb growing inside to viability were also very small. Impossible, no, but a tiny fraction of a percent. We were 19 weeks and needed months of keeping him inside. We chose to stick to the decision we made in the car, start labor and let it happen. So we signed the paper and started labor around 10AM on the 29th.
Labor was slow to progress. After about 9 hours I had finally dilated to 6CM. I didn’t feel any of it. I was surprised by that. They suggested I get an epidural and thankfully I took them up on that. I finally slept that night being interrupted only to turn from one side to the next. At 11:22AM on the 30th I was trying to sleep some more and then all of a sudden felt pressure coming through my vaginal canal. The only way I can describe it is like a water balloon being pushed. At that moment with just family in the room, Paisley was born. I was hysterical because I didn’t expect it. We called the nurses who showed up within 30 seconds. My husband cut her cord and she was handed to us in a little knit bassinet. She was perfect with my eyes, nose and ears. She was 9 inches long and weighed only 6 tiny ounces. Not even minutes after she was born, Caleb’s water broke and we knew we made the right call to not try and stop labor. We would have had to make the same call all over again. The nurse checked on me and figured I had about an hour before Caleb would be born. I must have passed a blood clot or something, I couldn’t see what was going on but I had that feeling again 10 minutes later. The nurse checked and said Caleb was still not ready yet. So we took in our time with our little girl while we waited for her brother to arrive. 12:24PM I knew it was happening. This time I did feel an urge to push and without any nursing staff, again, birthed Caleb. We paged them and they were in our room. My husband cut Caleb’s cord, he was put in his bassinet and handed to us. We did notice his chest rising and falling in the light so his heart was beating. We held him until it stopped and at that point we allowed the nurses to clean him up, take his footprints and bring him back to us. He was 9.5 inches long, 9 ounces and all his dad. I’m not even sure if he had a single one of my features.
The staff brought in a cuddle cot for us and I passed Paisley’s placenta some time after the two of them were born. My cervix was starting to close and Caleb’s placenta was not budging. In the span of about 30 minutes we went from trying to get it out in my delivery room to me being in an OR for an emergency D&C for his placenta. I was offered medication to sort of knock me out so I wouldn’t remember it but I would lose my memory for 4 hours. That wasn’t acceptable to me, we had a photographer coming from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and I needed to remember every second with my children. Our mothers met their grandchildren. I did have an infection they were treating so we stayed overnight. We were moved from our delivery room to a quiet room on another floor. I don’t think it was meant to be an antenatal room but they wanted us to be allowed our privacy. Even on the labor floor we only heard 2 other babies cry. They did their absolute best to make sure we had our space. Our nursing team all was fantastic at this hospital and treated us with so much care and respect. They cried and held us, they used our children’s names.
July 1st we woke up early to watch the sunrise. I still have the alarm in my phone. 4:45AM. I say woke up as though we got much sleep. I was in so much pain, physically and emotionally. We watched Inside Out with Caleb and Paisley, read them a Winnie the Pooh story from online because that was their nursery theme. To this day I have 2 cribs, 2 car seats, a double stroller, and more clothes than you can imagine. I can’t get rid of any of it. We listened to music, “I get to love you” by Ruelle took on a whole different meaning. We told them stories about their family and dogs they weren’t going to get to meet. And around 10AM we knew we were facing a holiday weekend and we had to say goodbye so we could go home and get their arrangements set up with the funeral home. I wanted to get them home as soon as possible. That meant leaving them with the kind nurse who promised me they wouldn’t be left alone. So we held them, kissed their cold heads one last time and I left the hospital with 2 boxes instead of babies.
I don’t remember much of the next days or weeks. We got them home in time to do a memorial on 7/17. I have a curio cabinet in our kitchen/living room area that I decorate for the holidays. Their ashes remain in some angel teddy bears. My friend’s mom makes bows for us out of ribbon to help us interact with them. I wish I could say the trauma ended here and we went on to have a healthy and happy pregnancy next time, but that would be a lie. We do more tests, bloodwork and have no idea why Paisley’s water broke. All my tests come back normal; my hysteroscopy comes back clear with only 10% scar tissue from my D&C. That gets opened up. The running theory is I may have had a 2nd SCH. They think the 1st one weakened Paisley’s membranes and the 2nd one ruptured them. We’ll never know for sure.
October 2022 we were cleared to do our next IVF round. We only got 1 embryo from the twin’s round on ice. I don’t like those odds. We start our stims and do our retrieval, only 11 eggs this time versus the 24 I got round 1. I already felt defeated. Because of the low numbers and then low fertilization rates (only 3 fertilized with ICSI), our RE was doing a 3 day transfer of ONE 12 cell embryo this time. We were not going to be allowed to put in more than one embryo moving forward. Our beta blood test for this round was Halloween. Clearly we like holidays for this. Well, I got a home positive test around 9 days post transfer which was much later than the last round. So the embryo implanted late. I went to my beta and our result was 46. So we were pregnant but the number wasn’t overly optimistic. I was scheduled to come in 2 days later for a repeat draw hoping it doubles. 11/1 I start to bleed. I still go for my blood draw 11/2 but expect the worst. My numbers go up 130%. They repeat labs again 2 days later and again, increase as expected. My bleeding slows and ends up subsiding. The doctors don’t know what is going on and they fear ectopic pregnancy. They bring me in at 5 weeks and 3 days for an early ultrasound for placement. We know not to expect much with a heart beat or anything, we just want to know that baby is in the uterus and sure enough, it is! Measurements are exactly where they should be and we cry. At this point we have named the baby Rowan, the only embryo we got from that cycle. The other 2 seized by day 5 and were no longer viable.
The next day, 11/10 , after my husband went to work and around 10:30AM again I start getting that gushing feeling. Right away I know something isn’t right. I am passing clots the size of half dollars. My neighbor takes me to my IVF clinic almost an hour away and my husband meets us there. We confirm that at this point, we have lost Rowan. I pass everything on my own with no intervention. We do another hysteroscopy to confirm and they see the spot that was scarred has healed and is healthy. We take the next few months off, go to Disney for Christmas because I couldn’t bear to be home without my babies. We agree to start again in 2023 with the plan to do another full cycle in February.
Well, February comes around and my gallbladder decides it has other plans. I’ll save you that whole story but the tl;dr was I had an emergency cholecystectomy, 2 weeks later a surprise gallstone was found and needed to come out which then resulted in pancreatitis. It was going to be a bit before we could try again. I felt defeated and smacked in the face.
April comes and I’m cleared by my doctors to do another IVF round. We plan it for the end of the month, my retrieval falls on May 4th and we get 20 eggs! We opt to do PICSI and we get better but still not great results for fertilization. The difference this time though, come day 5 for our transfer, all 8 embryos were still trying and none had seized. We moved a perfect hatching blastocyst over and waited. All my home tests were negative this time and I started bleeding on 5/17. My blood test was 2 days later on the 19th. The same day I was seeing the Eras Tour. I was waiting in line when I got the call and saw on my portal that my HCG wasn’t 0 though, it was 3. So turned out that I did get pregnant, I just lost this baby immediately. We still haven’t named them but call them Baby #4. We got 4 more embryos from this round to freeze! The next appointment we could get with our RE to look at a frozen transfer was for July so we had to sit through the month of June, Caleb and Paisley’s first birthday, with no additional steps towards becoming earthside parents.
Well, we decided not to wait around and to our surprise conceived our miracle bean that month. We figured it wasn’t impossible for my body to ovulate, just knew it was unlikely. As of writing this, I am currently 18 weeks and 4 days with their sweet baby brother we plan to name Elias Caleb. His first name accidentally derived from Paisley’s name being made up of the 5 middle letters and his middle name being his big brother’s. This has been an easy pregnancy so far, outside of the anxiety and fear. I found out I was pregnant the day after Father’s Day. We shared with close family and friends on my birthday during a butterfly release for Caleb and Paisley we were pregnant. The day I turn 19 weeks we go to Disney and we plan to do Elias’ gender reveal at 20 weeks. I have been monitored very closely between my local OB and MFM. We will deliver in the same hospital the twins were born and, if all goes to plan, leave with our quadruple rainbow baby.
Our story is very long, and I talk about our babies to anyone who will listen. I have their pictures up in our home and we sign gifts from them. Elias will grow up to know exactly who his siblings were and how they played a part in him getting here. I truly believe that they picked him and sent him to us when we would need him most.
Photos taken by Emily Stamp Photography.