by Amanda Williamson, HRH Mom
My husband and I initially thought that we wouldn’t be able to conceive, so when we found out I was pregnant, we were shocked and excited all at once. At my first doctor’s appointment, when they told us we were having identical twins, we were feeling twice as shocked. Little did we know, our journey to bring our twin girls into this world was going to bring us many of moments of shock and surprise.
At 11 weeks, I experienced two subchorionic hematoma hemorrhages while traveling out of state. At 16 weeks, our high-risk OBGYN doctor said it looked like we were heading for a diagnosis of Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) due to our babies having two different levels of fluid (7 [Audrey] and 2 [Riley] ). TTTS is when twins share unequal amounts of the placenta’s blood supply due to shared blood vessels, resulting in the twins growing at different rates. We didn’t yet qualify for a TTTS diagnosis because to qualify for a Stage 1 TTTS diagnosis, there has to be an imbalance of amniotic fluid, with a small amount (<2cm) around the donor twin and a large amount around the recipient twin (>8cm). At this point, one of the twins qualified and the other did not. The only thing we could do was wait.
On July 21st, at 17 weeks gestation, we were diagnosed with Stage 2 TTTS. We now qualified for fetal laser ablation surgery. Due to previously having bleeding with the subchorionic hematomas, as well as having an anterior placenta, and not yet being past 18 weeks gestation, my case was difficult. Our high-risk OBGYN recommended a fetal surgeon in Pasadena, CA. He was the only surgeon who agreed to do a consult for our surgery, the only way we could save the lives of our girls. On July 25th, 2016, we met with him for our consultation. Baby A (Audrey) had 8.4 cm of fluid and Baby B (Riley) had 0 cm of fluid. He wanted to see if we could hold out a few more days until they were 18 weeks gestation because the outcome would be much better. We would wait as long as possible, while continuously being monitored by the Los Angeles Fetal Surgery center, so the girls could grow and become stronger. On July 27th, our doctor informed us that Audrey and Riley’s TTTS had progressed to Stage 3. At this point, the bladder in Baby B (Riley) and the imbalance of blood flow had started to affect the heart function in Baby A (Audrey). The TTTS laser ablation surgery was scheduled for the following day. During this surgery, the doctor used a tiny laser fiber and the laser energy was used to stop the blood flow between the twins shared blood vessels thus separating the twins blood flow, separating the placenta, and allowing each twin to develop independently. The surgery was a success! On August 2nd, 2016, during a follow-up visit, we were told both babies had fluid in normal ranges and Riley also had a visible bladder.
Over the next few weeks, I was placed on modified home bedrest. On Sept. 30th, 2016, I woke up to leaking and some mild back pain. I called my OBGYN and they sent me directly to labor and delivery to be assessed. I took my time waking up my husband and getting ready to leave the house because I had no idea that I was in pre-term labor. Once I was assessed, the OBGYN on call told me I was in pre-term labor and had Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes (PPROM). PPROM means that prior to 37 weeks, the membrane sacs holding the twins ruptured and the amniotic fluid was leaking. I was only 27 +3 weeks. I was in preterm labor. They were going to try to stop the labor, but I would need to stay in the hospital until I delivered my twins. I was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
There were so many feelings when I heard all this news. First, I was scared for my daughters’ lives. Next, I was sad. I would miss my home, my husband and sweet cockapoo, Teddy, who would snuggle next to my pregnant belly every night. And lastly, I felt pure embarrassment. I had no idea that I was in pre-term labor and was mortified that I missed “the signs”.
For the next 6 weeks, I was on hospital bed rest. Falling asleep in an unfamiliar bed, alone, in an unfamiliar place was hard. Getting needles stuck in me multiple times a day was hard, but every time I felt something was hard, I reminded myself that it was all a small sacrifice to be able to hold my beautiful, healthy girls one day.
During my time on hospital bedrest, God placed people in my life that left a permanent memory on my heart. I was blessed with the most incredible nurses, social workers and nutritional staff that I could have ever imagined. On a daily basis, these women made me laugh and smile. On the days when I felt like I was doing nothing but laying in a bed, they reminded me that I was nurturing, growing and loving my daughters. And then there was one evening when I told my nurse that I felt bad for using so many Styrofoam cups and wish I had a huge cup I could just keep refilling and reusing. She told me that they just received a delivery of High Risk Hope Bedrest Baskets. She asked if I had ever heard of High Risk Hope. When I said I had not, she told me that HRH was a non-profit organization, founded by a mom who was on hospital bedrest during her pregnancy. She created the organization to support other mothers on hospital bedrest. She proceeded to bring me an HRH Bed Rest Basket, which included a large insulated cup!
I had an incredible amount of support from friends, family, and co-workers, while on hospital bedrest. People would always ask me, “What do you need? What do you want?” and I never knew how to answer. “What did I need?” I had no idea at the moment. However, HRH knew what I needed. The HRH Bedrest Basket gave me everything I needed without being able to verbalize what I needed. And the piece of that bag that I needed the most? The 2016 HRH Baby Calendar. Daily, I would read the stories of the calendar babies and look at those pictures. The pictures of the calendar babies paired with the stories gave me so much hope.
I spent 42 days on hospital bedrest. I went into premature labor at 33 weeks and had an emergency C-section due to the girls’ heart rates dropping rapidly during preparation for delivery. Both girls were born unresponsive, struggling to breathe, requiring ventilation. Audrey was taken off the ventilator within a few hours, but Riley stayed on for a few days. The girls spent 36 days in the NICU where Audrey (Baby A) was jaundiced, required light therapy and we learned that she was born with a small hole in her heart. Riley (Baby B) had a harder time breathing on her own and experienced bradycardia.
The hardest part of my entire pregnancy was not being able to hold them immediately. I fought so hard for them and waited so long to meet them, all I wanted was to hold them. I remember this feeling crushed my heart and at the same time, I found so much peace knowing I was not alone in this stinging pain I was experiencing. I knew every mother of the HRH Calendar babies had experienced the same stinging pain that I was experiencing.
It was not the pregnancy I always wanted. It was not the delivery I always imagined. And it certainly was not the first few moments and weeks together that I had always envisioned. But, oh my gosh, these little girls are way more incredible that I could have ever dreamed!