written by Kim Jackson
In the beginning of 2013, I decided that I wanted kids and I was done waiting for "Mr Right". I am a pediatrician and was so ready to have a baby. I went through IUI with donor sperm and amazingly got pregnant on the first cycle. I could not believe it. The pregnancy hormone numbers were not doubling as they should and the doctors were concerned that I would lose the pregnancy. Somehow even at that point I knew it was twins. I had an ultrasound at 4 weeks, and they said everything looked great with my 1 baby, and I should come back in 3 weeks for another us to make sure everything was good given the hormone levels. I believed them that there was one baby for about 2 days, then the feeling crept back in that there really were 2 babies in there.
At 7 weeks the tech said "Oh my gosh, there are two heartbeats!" I responded, "I knew it." She was so taken aback! I was ecstatic, wanted to run right out and buy 2 of everything. I was a little scared of how I was gonna manage being a single mom to two babies, but the excitement far outweighed the fear. I had 5 blissful weeks to plan for and dream about being a mom to twins before the rug got pulled out from under me.
I will say that like knowing there were two, I had a feeling that something was wrong as well. Every week between 7 and 12 weeks when I saw my OB my heart was in my throat until they said they were both doing well. 7/31/13 I went to a dating/nuchal fold ultrasound. The tech seemed really annoyed that my bladder wasn't full enough. She said she couldn't get a good look at one of the babies because of that. She left and the Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor came in. He took a brief look at both the babies and then told me that baby b was perfect, but baby a had anencephaly and would not survive. He said it with so little compassion that I thought he was joking at first. He suggested selective reduction, and continuing the pregnancy as a singleton pregnancy.
My world shattered. I was broken, I puked in the parking lot. Somehow I got myself home and into bed. I spent the next 2-3 days curled in a ball in my bed sobbing. I am ashamed to say that I felt like I was carrying a dead baby. Luckily I have the best OB in the world and at my next appointment she made me look at the ultrasound screen, saying, "They are both still your babies". One look at them play together and I fell in love all over again. My baby was perfect, even if she wasn't.
I spent the rest of my pregnancy treasuring every movement, and two babies can make a lot of movement! I eventually found out A was a girl who I named Theresa Mackenzie ( though have always called her Tessie) and my healthy B was a boy who I named Noah Matthew. Noah was up top and Tess was on the bottom. Every ultrasound I saw them kicking and punching each other. I had many many ultrasounds, and unfortunately because Tess had anencephaly, the techs tended to do a quick check of her heartbeat and then ignore her. That broke my heart every time. It took me a while to speak up and tell them that that was not ok. This was the only time I would have with her. I needed to see her. I needed pictures of her. I knew the pictures wouldn't look "normal", I didn't care.
I met some wonderful people through perinatal bereavement and hospice who helped me make memories I could keep forever. I recorded both of their heartbeats from an ultrasound (I was terrified I might lose Noah too). I bought her outfits I wanted to put her in. I had a shower with gifts for Noah and books to donate to the clinic I work at for Tessie. I made plans for a friend of mine who is a photographer to come take pictures of her, and for her to be baptized by a priest who is a family friend as soon as she was born. My cousin made both of them beautiful preemie sized christening outfits.
At my 35 week ultrasound they noticed that Noah's growth had slowed a little and plans were made for elective cesarean section for the next week. The day finally came to meet my babies! On 1/13/13 at 1044 and 1045 they were born. Tessie was delivered first, and cried immediately. When they brought her to me she was an awful shade of gray and I didn't think she would last long so I asked them to get her ready and get her baptized right away. Noah was delivered and was perfect, though slightly cold.
I got to the recovery room and they had waited for me to baptize him. Tessie looked so much better.
She was pink and crying and hungry!! The little baby who the specialist had told me would do nothing nursed immediately and knew just what to do (better than her healthy brother). I had friends and family there and after she ate we passed her around. I wanted as many people to hold her as possible. I wanted people to know her.
That night when it was quiet my sister stayed with me. We took turns holding her through the night. At 1130 my sister woke me terrified because Tess was blue. I held my baby and kissed her and begged her to fight a little longer. I didn't want their birthday to be the day I said goodbye. My little fighter was awesome. Within a few minutes she was breathing comfortably again and back to pink. The next day more people came to meet her. I held her and Noah together as much as I could. She was never put down. She had three more of the apneic spells. At about 530 pm my little girl peacefully took her last breath. I held her and Noah and cried. I thanked her over and over for fighting as hard as she could. It killed me for them to take her away 4 hrs later.
I had 2 more days in the hospital, and spent them holding on to Noah. Struggling to breastfeed him and crying. I brought him home and it felt so wrong to only have one baby. Two days later Noah ended up back in in the NICU for jaundice and r/o sepsis. I was a mess. I felt like I might lose him too (though in my rational brain I knew he was not that sick). He was in for a week, in the middle of which I had to go pick up Tessie's ashes. People kept asking when I was going to do Tessie's memorial. I could not handle it at that time. 6 months later I finally did and it was perfect. It was a celebration. It was not sad. There were still so many people who cared about her.
After the memorial life settled into a new normal. I miss my girl everyday, but I am able to function most days. Some days the absence of her nearly knocks me over. Noah lights up my world, he learns something new nearly everyday. Sometimes those milestones are a giant reminder that he should have his sister here to do it with him. I hate that he won't have his playmate to grow, learn, fight and get in trouble with.
Noah and Tessie turned one in January. Tess was included in his birthday celebration. It was a happy day, though my heart broke a little when we were singing happy birthday and I whispered her name to myself. I am working to balance grieving Tess and loving Noah. Noah will always know his sister existed and was loved. His third clear word was "Tess" and his snugly is the monkey with Tessie's heart beat in it. His face erupts into the best smile every time he hears her heart beat! I don't ever want him to believe that he is not enough though. He is amazing and smart and at 15 months so sweet and caring. I still believe that part of Tessie's reason for existence was to make sure Noah got here safe and sound, and she continues to watch over him even now.
(Noah at his birthday my wonderful photographer friend added in the butterfly to represent Tess).
Tess has changed me. I have done things I never thought possible. I collected more than 300 books to donate in her name. I have given another loss mama the gift of beautiful pictures of her sweet angel. I have become a poet. My biggest accomplishment is that I have written a children's book about Tess and Noah, and a good friend of mine did the illustrations. It's called Two Little Monkeys.
She will never be forgotten. Not if I can help it!