December 31, 2016. Another year officially in the books in only a matter of hours. And this year has, by far, been the most emotionally taxing year of my life thus far. And quite possibly ever. I want to wrap it up by remembering the good, the bad, and the downright devastating.
The beginning of year was filled with anticipation. We were headed to Europe to finally, hopefully, realize our dream of starting a family. At the end of the month, we packed up, hopped on a plane, and flew to Italy, the place at the top of my travel bucket list.
We started February in Florence, Italy. Then went on to Zlin in the Czech Republic where our little girls were conceived early that month. While we waited for them to grow big and strong enough for transfer, we spent four nights in Vienna, Austria. (When people asked about our trip, I would always tell them that Florence I could visit again and again, but I could live in Vienna.) On February 9, 2016, our two little embryos were transferred into my womb, where they began to grow. We ended our trip with visits to Prague, Czech Republic and Bayreuth, Germany. We flew home on Valentine’s Day, and two days later, I got a positive pregnancy test. And that’s just in the first two weeks of the month! The rest of the month was a haze of disbelief and anxiety over waiting for our first ultrasound.
On March 4, we had our pregnancy confirmation ultrasound. And saw two beautiful little sacs. Twins. Holy crap! We knew it was a possibility, but didn’t really think it would happen. Until it did. We were over the moon and terrified at the same time. As any new parents-to-be are, I’m sure. We spent the month brainstorming names and telling each other that we could handle this.
A month later, on April 6, we got the call that our two little embryos had developed into our two little girls. Two perfect, beautiful little girls. I had been so convinced that we were going to have boys, so to find out they were both girls was a shock to me. Peter was ecstatic. He was in love with his little princesses already!
The month I turned 30! Wow! Not sure when that happened, but sure enough, a new decade was upon me. We celebrated my and my sister-in-law’s birthday with a family trip to Disney World. I took my girls to meet all the princesses. We rode some fun rides (and I missed out on some even better rides!), and we just basked in the glory of being just about halfway through to meeting our girls.
This month started off fun. We had my family reunion, and I enjoyed talking to my family members about next year’s reunion and our two little girls being the stars of the show then.
But then June 10 came. I distinctly remember telling a co-worker that day that I was anxious for our 20-week appointment because 20 weeks is a huge milestone for twin pregnancies. Then you’re about as out of the woods as you can get with multiples. Our ultrasound was uneventful, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Until our doctor took over an hour to come into the room afterwards. He told me to take a seat next to Peter. And delivered the news that no parent should ever have to hear. Our baby girl, baby B, Catherine Sophia, had multiple severe developmental issues. She was likely not going to survive the pregnancy, and if she did, she would be so ill at birth that she wouldn’t be with us long. We saw multiple specialists, praying for a different outcome – maybe our OB had just read the scans wrong. But he hadn’t. And on June 22, 2016, Catherine passed away.
I spent the weeks after her passing crying off and on. And feeling guilty for crying because I still had a very healthy Olivia thriving in my womb. But I couldn’t help but miss Cate already, and I’d never even met her. I missed what we were going to be as a family. I spent a lot of time holed up in our bedroom, steering clear of the world. Thankfully, during the time immediately following Cate’s passing, my in-laws had come to town, and my father-in-law painted the nursery. I was so glad because I couldn’t bring myself to set foot in there. Not yet.
Nesting craze set in! I washed clothes, organized toys and binkies and blankets, got the crib looking perfect, and put the finishing touches on the décor. One of my best friends, the woman who was due with her own Zlin baby on the same day I was due, came to visit and helped me with organization. The grief wasn’t as immediate as the impending delivery, though it was hard to leave it behind because I still carried Cate’s very intact body right next to Olivia’s healthy one. I missed the flailing of limbs I had just started feeling when she passed, but Olivia was getting more active by the day.
I went to Michigan to visit my friend and help her organize her nursery. We spent a long weekend getting her ready and talking about what it was going to be like in less than two months to be mommies. Peter and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary on September 7. On September 8, I felt crummy, so I went to my OB. My blood pressure was insanely high, so they admitted me to the hospital for monitoring, and then sent me home with bedrest orders until the next week when I went back in. And on September 9, I went back to the OB with a headache and even higher blood pressure, and I was admitted to the hospital to stay. Two and a half weeks I spent in the hospital on bedrest. I watched Gilmore Girls. I worked. I colored. It was a very trying time. My in-laws came down just in case, and mother-in-law was so wonderful to come stay at the house and help Peter keep things together.
On Sunday, September 25 at 7:30am, my water broke. I was 35 weeks and 3 days along. It was early but it was time. They moved me to Labor & Delivery, and we waited. I winced through contractions until they got to be too rough (Pitocin is no joke!), and the next morning, right around 11am, the nurses said I was ready. I wasn’t. But physically, I was ready. I started pushing at 11:30, and at 12:04pm, our girls were born side by side. The most beautiful things I had ever seen in my life. I never knew you could love someone so much.
We said goodbye to Cate that evening. We were having her cremated, so after spending time with them together, letting our parents meet her, and having the chaplain say a blessing, we let her go.
We brought Olivia home a few days after she was born, so the entire month of October is a blur of sleepless nights, endless feedings, and so many doctor appointments, I couldn’t begin to count them. She came home a little jaundiced, so we had to keep an eye on her levels for a while and make sure they were coming down. They did, eventually, and she started gaining weight great. We were so, so smitten with our little girl. Peter went back to work halfway through the month, and days alone with her were hard but so worth it. Baby snuggles truly are the best. Even when she’s spitting up all over me.
Peter’s parents came to visit, and we celebrated his and my grandpa’s birthdays. We celebrated Olivia’s first Thanksgiving. We settled into a rhythm with sleeping and feeding. She even started sleeping through the night! I went back to work at the end of the month, which was hard, but I also enjoyed the adult interaction. This month was also a difficult one post-election. I hate talking politics, but that was a blow. I still don’t know how to feel about it. But my worries and my fears led me to (re)connect with some wonderful people, and together, we processed.
How is the year already nearly over?! Olivia’s first Christmas was spent with most our immediate families – Peter’s parents and brother came to visit, as well as his aunt and uncle, and my family came over on Christmas Day. It was a bittersweet, but mostly sweet, day. I grieved for our vision of a Christmas morning with our two girls. And members of our families made sure to include Cate, which was the most beautiful gift they could have given us.
All in all, this year was a rollercoaster. I saw so many friends, spent time with family, and learned a lot about myself, my husband, and our marriage. I lost a child and gave birth to another. Truly the worst and best days of my life. Here’s hoping 2017 brings more of those “best days” as Olivia grows and learns.
To those of you who were with me during my darkest days, words cannot express my thanks for you and your love and support. To my husband, who held me while I cried, who cried with me (happy and sad tears), who held my hand through it all – the entire universe doesn’t seem big enough to contain my love for you.
May you all experience much love and light in 2017.