I began writing this blog late one night a few weeks after Ethan was born, and just brought myself to finish it. I was not in a good place and thought getting all of this out might help me to have some closure. It has been one year since the day we said “Goodbye.”
Houston is a place I never want to return to, yet I think about often. Often, as in every single day, and some days every waking hour of the day. Some days are better, some are worse.
In early August of 2014, we got the joyous news we’d been hoping for- a positive pregnancy test. It was our first attempt, and we couldn’t have been happier. That is, until we got our second big suprise. We went to the doctor for our first ultrasound at eight weeks, on August 28, 2014. Right away on the monitor above our heads, we saw our babies for the first time. Yep, you read that correctly. Babies with an ‘s.’ Two little peanuts floating in the mommy-sphere that was my womb. First shock, then awe, then “oh, it all makes sense now.” I had been enduring terrible, God-awful morning sickness from the moment I hit the six-week mark in the pregnancy. Hurling every morning, afternoon, and night. Feeling like I was on a sideways, backwards, upside-down, 24-7 tilt-a-whirl. Two babies totally made sense. All the hormones…all the puke. We were, of course, still ecstatic.
We broke the news to both of our families that same day, because news like this couldn’t wait any longer. They were, of course, ecstatic. We all couldn’t be any happier- we thought.
Everything was going fine in the pregnancy, until we reached the 11-week mark. I had been having some minor spotting, which everyone seemed to think was completely normal with twins. A few days before we were scheduled to have our second (12-week) ultrasound, the bleeding got a lot worse. Marcelo and I both rushed to the doctor, panicked, worried, and thinking the worst. We were devastated before we even got the news. Scared, shaky and emotional, I waited to hear what I already knew. The ultrasound tech sort of laughed. I thought, how can she laugh at a time like this. How can she show any semblance of happiness right now? Then, we heard the most shocking news. It wasn’t what we thought after all. All three of our babies, hearts beating perfectly, heart rates just where they should be for their gestational age. Yes, you read that correctly. Our three babies. Again, shock, awe, and happiness that we somehow evaded the news we were SURE we would hear at that appointment. The bleeding was caused by a small subchorionic bleed, likely due to the rapid rate at which my uterus was expanding. Sigh. It was time to call the family again. Surely no one would believe us.
It took a while for us to get over the initial shock that we would be parents to three babies. We would be literally outnumbered, constantly covered in spit up and poo, and we would most certainly never sleep again. Then we hit the comfort stage, where we began to settle in to the idea of being parents of higher order multiples. Not one baby, not two babies, but three! We were like members of some exclusive club that not many get to belong to. We wondered why God had chosen us to receive such a blessing. And on the first try. We were really starting to get used to the idea that we’d soon jump from a couple to a family of five.
My OB/GYN referred us to USF Health for the remainder of our prenatal care, so that the babies and I could be closely monitored. We saw maternal fetal medicine specialists, and had way more ultrasounds than you’d get with an average pregnancy. I was at the doctor often. I was rapidly expanding, my belly measuring about 3-4 weeks bigger than it would be with an average singleton pregnancy. Everything was moving right along.
A week after finding out that all three of our sweet peas were little boys, at one of our ultrasounds, the nurse said she was going to step out and talk to the doctor. The doctor (Dr. Jerome Yankowitz) asked to speak to us in his office. We had no idea what was about to hit us.
Our first maternal-fetal specialist, Dr. Odibo, mentioned early on that because two of our triplets were identical twins who shared a placenta, we were at risk for a condition called twin to twin transfusion syndrome, or TTTS. When Dr. Yankowitz called us into his office, he asked us what we knew about our babies. I said, Dr. Odibo had told us about the possibility of TTTS. He told us that based on this most recent ultrasound, he had some suspicion that our twins may be affected by TTTS.
Being given this sort of news was like nothing I had ever experienced. The unborn babies inside me, who had yet to see the world, had something wrong with them. Dr. Yankowitz told us about a doctor in Houston who may be able to help. He wanted to see us a few days later to see if things were getting better or worse, or staying the same.
At the end of the week, we saw our specialists again, and the decision was made to fly to Houston that Monday, November 17, to see a specialist who may be able to save our babies.
We booked two very expensive last-minute flights to Houston to fly out Sunday afternoon. Whatever it took…I would have spent the million dollars I didn’t have it meant giving our sons a chance. This was my first dose of feeling and understanding what it means when you’d do anything for your children. Our appointment was set for bright and early at 7:30 a.m. Monday.
We arrived in Houston that Sunday evening, and had dinner at Olive Garden, because it was either that or Mexican. Mexican or Tex-Mex food was the ONE thing I wanted absolutely nothing to do with from the very start of my pregnancy. Marcelo even said something about Chipotle one day after work and it practically made me hurl. I remember not eating much, because I was just too anxious about the appointment the next day.
We checked into our hotel room and spent some time talking, crying, and praying aloud. For some reason I thought that praying aloud together would work better, so we had been doing that every day. I just wanted all of my babies to be alright, and I’d try anything, say anything, give anything.
Monday morning came and we had the longest ultrasound to date. The ultrasound checked the anatomy, blood flow, heartbeat and cord placement of babies A, B, and C. We went to a small meeting room to talk with Dr. Moise about the results and our options.
I remember feeling the blood draw away from my face as he gave us the news. Baby C was 50 percent smaller than his brothers. Baby C has reverse blood flow through his umbilical cord. It was called Selective Intrauterine Growth Restriction. The chance of Baby C making it to even 23 weeks (viability) was slim. I’ve never felt a bigger knot in my stomach. I never gripped my husband’s hand tighter.
Dr. Moise drew some sketches on the dry erase board behind him. When the egg split, creating identical babies B and C, C’s umbilical cord wasn’t attached well to their shared placenta. It was off to the side, on the edge, and therefore he had an unfair share of the placenta and the important nutrients his little body so desperately needed.
The options? I wouldn’t consider them options. We didn’t want to have to choose either option. I didn’t want to be the one going through this. I wanted to have good news. Were my prayers not heard? This wasn’t supposed to happen. Why do I have to choose?
Dr. Moise provided us with a couple of scenarios, along with statistics to back them up. Option 1: we let nature take its course and see what happens. If baby C survived, all three babies might have to be born as early as 23-24 weeks, and their chances of surviving after that, and not having long term health problems? Not good. If baby C did not survive, it was highly possible baby B would pass as well, because of the shared connections they had through the placenta. Option 2: I undergo a radio frequency ablation procedure to essentially “cut off” baby C’s connection to the placenta, thus giving baby B (and Baby A) the greatest chance of survival. The statistics for fetal survival after this procedure were good, although there was a small chance that it could result in the death of both babies. Yes, essentially we would be sacrificing one of our babies in order to save two. Of all the options we were presented, this gave us the greatest chance of saving the most babies. Did that make it an easy choice? Did we decide on a whim? Nope. Did we feel good about the option we chose? No.
NEVER. Never in a million years would I have thought this type of procedure was OK or acceptable if it wasn’t happening to me, if it wasn’t our babies. Do I really think it’s OK now? No. Was I really OK with it then? No. But did I have a lot of options? No. Do I live every single day of my life wondering “What if?” Yes. Do I feel guilty? Yes. Do I blame myself and my body? Sometimes, yes. We were dealt some pretty shitty options, and we had to make a decision. We chose what we thought was the best one.
That night was full of prayers, and lot of crying, and very little sleep. I’ve never cried so hard in my entire life. I told baby C I was so so sorry. I must have told him a hundred times. I told them all how much I loved them. I prayed to God that we were making the right choice. I hugged my belly and tried my best to make sure those babies knew how loved they were.
We checked in to the hospital the following day for the procedure. Every person that comes into the pre-op room asks you to tell them what procedure you’re having done. “Radio frequency ablation.” Although inside I was telling myself, “I’m sacrificing a baby to save the others.” There was no sugar coating it, no pretty way to put it. But Marcleo and I agreed, we were dealt a terrible hand, and used all the information we had to make the best decision possible that was supposed to lead to the best outcome.
The procedure was over, and after a few hours in recovery we were sent home. We wouldn’t know how baby B fared until the following day at our follow up ultrasound. We went to dinner, then checked in to our new hotel. I felt awful and I couldn’t sleep the entire night. We were huddled together on a tiny full size bed and I kept tossing and turning all night, I just remember having a bad feeling all night.
It was Wednesday morning, November 19, 2014, and we were in the ultrasound room. We saw baby A, heartbeat going strong. As the technician moved the wand we saw Baby C. No heartbeat. I knew I would have to face this, but I wasn’t really prepared for it, and it didn’t hit me until then. The technician moved the wand again, and we saw it, but she didn’t say anything. She stepped out of the room. We knew what it was. Baby B’s heart looked just like Baby C’s. Still. Marcelo and I squeezed each other’s hands and didn’t say much.
Afterward, we met with Dr. Moise in the same room. He couldn’t give us a reason, he didn’t really know. He said, sometimes these things are beyond us. He told us how truly sorry he was as he held our hands. I never thought things would end up this way, that this would happen, even though we knew there was a tiny percent chance it could happen. The worst had already happened, we never thought it could get worse.
Dr. Moise said Baby A would most likely be fine, but I needed to be closely monitored to make sure my body didn’t go into labor due to the passing of the other babies, who I would carry until the day I delivered Ethan.
We called our parents to update them. I wanted to get the hell out of Houston. I went on Southwest and swapped our flights for direct flights out that same day. We came home.
I was on pins and needles the rest of my pregnancy, but particularly on the days I had sonograms. I couldn’t take any more heartbreak. We had a couple of scares, and ended up going to the hospital once around 33 weeks because I was having some contractions. But mostly because I wasn’t sure I had felt Baby A (Ethan) move that day. I HAD to make sure he was OK. Hearing his heartbeat that night was the best sound we had ever heard.
The days and weeks following Houston and leading up to Ethan’s birth were full of ups and downs. We were grieving the loss of our two babies while still trying to be excited for our little Ethan’s arrival. There were, and still are plenty of tears. I think about my two babies every day and I will always wonder. I will wonder what if we hadn’t had the procedure. I will wonder what they would have looked like. I wonder if Ethan ever recognized they were gone. I wonder if I should have seen them when I delivered Ethan, although my doctor told me there wasn’t really anything to see. I will wonder who they would have been and what they would have grown up to be. I will never stop loving them or wondering.
To my sweet beautiful Babies, “B and C,” Nathan Thomas and Zachary Daniel. I so wish I didn’t have to make any of those choices. I so wish you could be here with us and Ethan. I wish I could have seen your faces, held you tight, and kissed your sweet heads. I wish I got to hear you cry, and rock you to sleep and read you Goodnight Moon like I do Ethan. I wish you weren’t taken so soon, but I pray that I will see you one day. Mommy and Daddy will always love you and we will always think of you.
I have finally come to understand those obnoxious moms who are constantly sharing photos of their kids and saying how cute they are.
See…..can’t resist taking and posting all the cute photos, like this one:
About two months ago we adopted Sweetie, an 8-month-old Mackerel Tabby kitten, from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. We brought her home and named her Sybil (yes, after Lady Sybil of Downton Abbey). We never realized how quickly she would steal our hearts, especially that of my husband, who has never considered himself a “cat person.” Also underestimated was the cost of vet bills and the overall impact this little kitty could have on our lives.
It’s amazing how quickly Marcelo went from not being a cat person to being something seemingly darn close to a cat lover. He never had one before, so how could he know, anyways? The first night we had her home, he woke up in the middle of the night to go check on her. That morning, he had gotten up really early and laid down on the couch next to her. I’m pretty sure he was converted right then and there.
Then my baby got sick. A cold. Coughs, sneezes and constant spraying of kitty snot all over our apartment. Then she got sick again. A UTI. Yes, I know, I didn’t know cats got those either. It was so painful to see her struggling and not feeling well. Vet bills, emergency vet bills. Wow, they add up quickly. Then her eye. Our sneaky little kitty found a special hiding place where our cabinets meet in the corner of the kitchen. She somehow got her eye really irritated to the point that it was covered in a cloud of hazy white. Emergency vet again. $$$. We have since learned how to administer pills, liquid antibiotics and eye ointment to a cat. You think giving a child medicine is difficult? Children don’t have retractable claws or sharp, pointy fangs. I think we could give any child ANY medicine after that adventure.
There is also the litter box, which needs to be scooped daily to avoid stinkage, and she has to be fed wet food twice a day and dry food once per day. She needs her exercise when we get home, so we usually play for 30 minutes or so.
But her soft, sweet little meows make it all worthwhile. She mews and trills and dances in adorable little circles when we get her food ready. She greets you at the door when you get home from work. And I swear 30 minutes of petting her fuzzy little chin and tummy provides more stress relief than 30 minutes of yoga could ever offer. I know what it means to have a fur-baby now and I am so very happy we could adopt this sweet girl and give her a “fur-ever home.” Yep, I am totally in love.
Sarah, Marcelo & Sybil
When Marcelo has a day off from work I don’t have usually have a big “Honey-Do” list for him. But I do gently “encourage” him to make dinner on these nights. I mean, it’s only fair! I can’t say he’s the most seasoned home chef, but give him a recipe and he can usually manage (Although he might require some help navigating the grocery aisles).
This past week I gave him a honey-do dinner assignment, and he picked this recipe, from Eatingwell.com. Pork chops are one of those dishes that always sound good, but we’re never sure how to prepare them just right. This recipe was simple and surprisingly delicious! We served it with a side of No Yolks egg noodles and steamed fresh veggies.
Here’s the scoop on how my honey got dinner done!
Creamy Pork Chops with Marsala Wine (not to be mistaken for Marsala cooking wine)
Stuff You Need:
- 1/2 cup Marsala
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch (fun stuff we can talk about more at a later date)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 thin boneless pork loin chops* (see my note below)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 4 thin slices chopped prosciutto (you can also use bacon or thin-sliced ham)
- 1 onion, halved and sliced thin
- 3 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried (we like dried, more budget-friendly)
- 3 teaspoons chopped fresh chives, divided (wouldn’t go dried with these)
- 1 cup low-fat milk (we used skim, worked perfectly)
Putting Together Dinner
1. Combine the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the marsala wine in a bowl and set aside.
2. Put the flour in a flat dish. Season pork chops with salt and pepper and then dredge in the flour.
3. Heat olive oil in a nonstick skilled on medium-high heat. Reduce to medium and add the pork chops. Cook pork chops until browned on both sides (approx. 2 min each side), then transfer to plate.
4. Add the prosciutto to the pan and cook until browned. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Now add in the rest of the Marsala, the oregano and 1 1/2 teaspoons chives. Bring to boil and be sure to scrape all the yummy bits off the bottom and sides of pan.
5. Now add the milk and the cornstarch mixture that you set aside. Bring the heat down to simmering and cook until the sauce is thicker and reduced (about 5 minutes). Add the pork chops back in and coat both sides in sauce. Continue cooking 1-2 minutes.
Serve it Up
Serve the pork chops on egg noodles topped with extra sauce and a sprinkling of chopped chives (we forgot that part). Add a side of steamed veggies and enjoy!
There’s just something about slow-cooked, saucy, sloppy BBQ that comforts like nothing else.
I was in the mood for some BBQ this morning, so I decided to finally make use of the massive, 10-pound contraption that has been consuming the entire bottom shelf of our pantry. It’s like the mac daddy of Crock-Pots, given to me by my mother-in-law this past Christmas. We have only used it once so far. Despite the implied convenience of a slow-cooker, its size almost makes it an inconvenience for me. (YOU try lifting that sucker off the bottom shelf). Let’s just say I was feeling all muscly this morning!
I picked up a small bottom-round roast at the big P this morning, and had all the other ingredients on hand. I checked out this recipe from Southern Living, but of course added a few tweaks of my own. Here’s the deal:
Sarah’s Sloppy Slow-Cooked BBQ Beef Sandwiches
- Small bottom-round or eye of round roast (I used a 2-pounder, but you can use up to 3 lb. roast)
- 1 cup ketchup; catsup for you country-folk (the hubby and I only use Heinz)
- Dash of Worcestershire sauce, you know, Lea & Perrins®
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar—dark or light
- 1 cup beef broth (I used chicken—whatever you have on hand works)
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic—smashed, minced or chopped
- Tablespoon of Dijon mustard…”Pardon me, do you happen to have any Grey Poupon®?”
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste, plus salt for seasoning the roast
- 1/4 of a sweet onion, cut in large chunks
‘Greds for Serving
- Hearty hamburger buns, rolls, white bread— whatever you want!
- Bread & butter pickle rounds
1. Put everything but the beef in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together.
2. Trim beef roast of excess fat and “uglies,” and cut in half so you have two shorter pieces of roast.
3. Add half of the sauce mixture to a large slow-cooker and layer on half of the onion chunks.
4. Place the two chunks of beef right on top of the sauce and onions.
5. Place the remainder of the onion around the beef and top it all off with the reserved sauce mixture.
6. Pop the lid on that baby and set to cook on high setting for 7 hours.
8. Using two forks, shred the beef in the slow-cooker, and let it soak in the saucy goodness until ready to serve.
Serve on top of toasted buns with as much or as little juice as you want and bread & butter pickle rounds.
Completely random strangers graciously handed me cups of water, Gatorade, GU energy gels, baggies filled with ice and even Girl Scout Cookies today.
I got the best high-five of my life around mile 7 from a little girl who was probably 4 or 5 years old. She helped me make my way over that first bridge.
I ran next to a woman who must have been 70 or older, skin hanging everywhere, running away like a machine, like it was nothing. This was the one point in the race when I almost cried. She was absolutely inspirational. I couldn’t help but look at her and smile the biggest smile of my life.
I passed a woman who was fighting cancer but living life—head shaved, pink shirt, running like mad—proving to the world that nothing could slow her down.
There was so much to smile about today. I never felt the pain in my knees or the blisters on my feet. Every strike of my shoes on the pavement brought me one step closer to doing something for me. Something I set as a goal for myself many months ago. Something that I really never dreamed I could do. But something I had to prove to myself.
13.1. Take THAT, Dr. Adler.
I had a pretty tough pediatrician as a kid, who didn’t exactly provide the most encouraging motivation for us to lose weight. My brother and I both had a tough time with it around the same age. We both eventually turned to running.
I don’t think I have seen Dr. Adler since ninth grade, since I lost all the weight. I don’t even want to see him. I just want to write him a note. “Remember me? Guess the happy meals didn’t really hurt me after all.” I’d of course include a 13.1 sticker for his car.
But I didn’t do it to prove anything to anyone. I didn’t do it just so I could put a cool sticker on my car. I didn’t do it for the shirt or the shiny medal. Today was all about me.
Jaime asked me if I wanted to sign up for the 2012 Iron Girl half marathon in November of last year, and I did it right away on the first day registration opened. At first, I questioned her and I questioned myself. 13.1 miles? I had never really run more than 5 or 6. I would have to run more than double that. I talked to Marcelo about it. A few other people looked at me with eyebrows raised. It just reinforced the fact that this was for ME. My body, my goal— I can push myself to do anything I want. And I really believe in that. You really can do anything you set your sights on.
As I started up the second bridge, the storm that was brewing let loose. Sideways wind and cool rain pushed hard at all of us as we left mile 11 and headed towards mile 12. These mile markers mean so much more than just a distance. Especially these last few. They mean you’re almost there, there’s no turning back— you are really doing this! At mile 12 the fun started. I think I smiled the whole way in.
Strangers lined the street and I could see the finish line. I got so many high fives. Cowbells rang out. People cheered. I pushed it as hard as I could and I crossed that finish line with a smile still on my face.
As I stopped running I felt a rush come over me. A tingly happy feeling I don’t think I can describe. I just can’t wait to see my finishing photo. I know I couldn’t possibly have smiled harder or bigger.