My mother always told me God will never take away anything from you unless He is planning on replacing it with a double portion – of something greater than you had before. So here is the good stuff, the kind of stuff that gives you goose bumps and lets you know you are part of a plan – you are part of something bigger than yourself – that someone is watching over you. This part of our lives is undeniably some of the best and some of the worst but in the end it is grounded our faith like nothing else.
Brian and I had always planned on trying to have 2 or 3 children. We thought a couple of years apart but we didn’t have a big window, I mean I wasn’t getting any younger. After Brady passed we were just so heartbroken. We moved on and went back to work and about our lives but every morning I had to decide to not cry, to push the tears back down. That Christmas we went away with my parents to Estes Park, it was just too hard to celebrate the holidays. Getting away from our house was a blessing. Our yard had died while we were gone at the hospital; we had closed up the nursery but the door was still there; my parents had planted a tree in our yard when Brady was born; even our bedroom was still holding his memory. I didn’t even like driving my car because I would cry when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw where his car seat was no more. We traded my car in right before we left and far away from it all for the first time in months we were not surrounded by Brady. It was during this trip Brian and I decided to start trying to get pregnant again.
We tried for several months with no luck, we had sought assistance from a fertility doctor with Brady and got pregnant on the first round so decided as time was not in our favor, to go that route again. Our first round was unsuccessful, as was the second. When the nurse called and I said I had no estrogen I almost fainted – I am an estrogen making machine – it was part of our problem. I was devastated and broken hearted. Luckily my best friend Kristine and her husband Steve were visiting and they themselves had gone through their own share of fertility struggles. Kristine suggested one more round, she encouraged me by telling me some times one ovary just isn’t cooperative. So we agreed – one more time.
THE BEST OF TIMES
Now this is where it gets really good - on October 10th, one year to the date that we laid Brady to rest, I went in for my daily bloodwork. An hour later my doctor called to tell me that Brian and I had to get down there immediately as I was ovulating – on my own. I don’t ovulate so you can imagine it was a pretty big shocker for us. We were well aware of the day and we both knew then that this was going to be something special.
Ten days later – we are positive – it’s a baby. As the blood work continued my numbers were through the roof. The doctor was sure we had twins. Around 6 weeks in – it wasn’t twins – it was triplets or maybe quadruplets. We took it all in – God had a plan and we would ride it out. We knew this could happen, we were aware of the risks and we were prepared – we were scared but we were excited.
THE WORST OF TIMES
By 8 weeks they told us quintuplets – there were 5 babies. Then came the words that would again change or lives, “selective reduction”. No, out of the question. How could we reduce our pregnancy – how could we choose to lose one of our babies, not again! Then came the second wave; “you will never carry them more than 20 weeks, your C-section scar will rupture and you will lose them all”. I didn’t hear anything after that – I don’t remember how we got home. I remember lying in bed that night with my hands on my already swollen tummy wondering how could this happen. It was not long before I had succumbed to what I felt was inevitable, we had no choice. We could not lose all these babies, I would not make it, I could not go on if that happened.
The next 4 works are a blur, we had to wait until the babies were 12 weeks old so that they could try and identify who would be the healthiest and who would be the most “sustainable” as they called it. It was the last week of December – once again a rough holiday season. We had to travel to Iowa City for the reduction as no one in Nebraska actually does the procedure. My parents came with us, we would spend the night, then spend the entire next day being explained all of our options and how the procedure would go and of course the reminder once again ofwhat would likely happen if we choose not to go through with it. Of course our minds had already reluctantly been made up. We would return in the morning for the procedure.
My parents were left in the waiting room. My Dad is a gruff man and is slow to be gentle but looking in his eyes, I could feel the devastation in his heart. I was taken back to a treatment room, not completely surgical, but still intimidating. Monitors everywhere, ultrasound machines, oxygen for me. I was sedated lightly and set into the stir ups. Brian stood behind me with his hands on my shoulders. The doctor took time to “evaluate” the health of each baby. In the end he told us they all looked to be developing normally and it would really be a matter of which ones would be easiest to reach. This was almost worse than hearing that one or more was struggling. We were about to allow another human being to terminate the lives of 3 of our children.
The process seemed to take a very long time – though I am sure it was quicker than I recall. I honestly don’t remember a lot, my head was back and I was unable to see the monitor. After I told him to proceed the next thing I remember was them saying that the first two were done but they were having a hard time getting to the third. I felt like I screamed but I don’t think I did – I asked him to just leave him. We would carry 3 instead of just the 2, but he said it was too late they had already gotten him partially, they had to move forward. I felt my heart break in a million pieces and I knew Brian was watching everything happen on the monitor.
The ride home was a blur; it was over but I was full of regret and shame. I couldn’t believe I had not been stronger; why did we say twins; why didn’t we try to keep three? We had to move on once again but it was not easy. They call it a reduction until you get the bill – then it is called an Abortion. I continued to be plagued by guilt. I dreamed about the other babies. We told only those closest to us; those we felt would understand. We kept this from Brian’s entire family.
The rest of my pregnancy was tough, I had to be on insulin, my blood pressure was high and ultimately I ended up in bed for almost 4 months. I was so enormous and in the last few weeks I gained almost 40 pounds of fluid. I looked like a swollen beached whale. I felt like I would split open. I could only wear flip flops and t-shirt dresses. Brian would never let the valet at the hospital open the door of the car for fear I would fall out. My mother would cry when she looked at me and eventually got so stressed suffered an episode of Bell’s Palsy. Our last visit to the doctor was at just over 34 weeks (day number 240 to be exact – not that I was counting) and that was all I could do; my blood pressure was so high they wouldn’t even let me go home for a bag for fear I may have a stroke. The boys were coming today.
THE VERY BEST OF TIMES
We had not done an amnio so had no idea if there would be any surprises. We could only let the day unfold and see what happens. At 5:05 and 5:07 the boys were born. We had already agreed that whoever came out first would be Aidan Michael and the second Conner Gabriel. We had picked their names out after much deliberation; it was important for Brian especially that our children’s names had meaning and were special. Given that he was named after the actor Brian Keith and I was named after the Beatle’s song “Michelle” it seemed reasonable.
Irish names again - as we did with Brady. Aidan means fiery and Conner means wise. The middle names were chosen for the archangels. Michael: who is like God, the counterpart of faith; his duty is to be the champion of god's people; the the captain of the heavenly armies. Gabriel: devoted to God - the counter part of hope-- is thought of as God's messenger.
God knew these names were chosen and each of them are in life just as their names would describe. Aidan is fiery and fierce and champion of justice. Conner is as old of a soul as I have seen in my life; he has true empathy and his intuition is remarkable. He knows the holy spirit is within him and he communes with Him.
These boys are our miracle. They are happy, they are healthy and strong, they are kind and so brilliant. The odds were so utterly against us, the chances for one of them having Downs or some other chromosomal concerns were great. They are truly our double portion. While we can never replace our beloved Brady Patrick God has truly given back to us in a way that we could have never expected.