After the Miscarriage: My Experience with a D&E

(You can read about our miscarriage here.)

While it's still fresh in my mind, I want to write about the day I had a D&E (dilation and evacuation) to remove our little girls whose hearts had stopped beating around 15 weeks of pregnancy.  Not that it's an experience I want to re-live but because if I can help one person, then it's worth it.  Writing also helps me process experiences and is very therapeutic to me, so here I am.

My procedure was scheduled for 1pm on Thursday, April 29 with an 11am check-in.  I couldn't eat in the 8-12 hours leading up to check-in, and couldn't drink for two hours prior.  Truth be told, I didn't have one sip of water all morning.  I took a shower and threw up while brushing my teeth.  A reminder that I was still, in fact, pregnant, but with babies who were no longer alive.

We checked in at 11.  I got a wristband, paid the $50 deposit towards our final bill, and we were sent to the surgery waiting room.  I was doing fairly well emotionally (albeit hungry and needing coffee) until a waiting room attendant checked in with us.  Her job was basically to move around the waiting room, prep the patient and family (one support person per patient due to Covid) with information about his or her procedure (she told us mine would last about 30 minutes) and give updates on whether things were running on time, etc.  We asked if Craig was supposed to go back to pre-op with me once my name was called.  She said they would allow it, given my procedure, even though Covid prevented most others from having support with them.  This, of course, opened the flood gates.  I cried then and there, not knowing or caring who was watching.

Going into the procedure, I was equal parts sad and hopeful.  Hopeful because I knew it would give me some closure and allow us to move forward.  It was hard being "pregnant" with dead babies.  At the same time, I felt extreme sadness because although the babies were not alive, they were still with me physically, and that was, in a way, comforting.  The procedure would physically eliminate the babies forever, leaving us with only memories, which was a hard truth to accept.

I honestly have no idea what time we were called back.  But I do remember crying as the employee called my name, crying some more as the nurse introduced herself and told us how sorry she was, and crying even more as I was prepped for surgery.  As we were leaving the waiting room, I also remember someone telling Craig he couldn't go with me, and someone else telling that lady it had been approved for our situation.

Craig stayed with me for about an hour.  I put on a hospital gown, met a ton of medical staff (KU is a teaching hospital so lots of med students...they were all amazing), talked with both the anesthesiologist and OB, and got hooked up to an IV.  I hadn't had anything to drink (or eat) for over 17 hours so it took awhile, several pokes, a vein light, and a second nurse to get the IV in place.  Did I mention I hate needles?  The IV was always my least favorite part of giving birth.

The first medication I took was a pill that went under my tongue to soften my cervix.  It did not taste great and left a grainy, gritty taste in my mouth (with nothing to drink to wash it down).  It also gave me period-like cramps.  Then they started me on antibiotics (standard during surgery to prevent infection) and pain meds.  I had a stress + lack of caffeine headache (plus the cramps) so I welcomed the pain meds with open arms.  Similar to some women in labor, I got the severe shakes.  The nurse assured me it was normal; thought I can't remember which medication caused it.  They piled on the blankets to give me some comfort.

Craig eventually headed back to the waiting room and I sat watching doctors and nurses come and go.  People-watching in a hospital is kind of like people-watching in an airport.  So many stories and experiences inside those walls.  Happy moments.  Sad moments.  Scary moments.  At one point, the nurse asked if I wanted my curtain closed and I declined.

I have no idea what time they finally took me into the OR, as I had given Craig both my phone and watch, but I do know it was a lot later than the 1:00 time it was supposed to happen.  The last thing I remember is moving from the bed on wheels to the operating table and a new nurse introducing herself and telling me they were starting some meds to relax me.

Angel Babies: A Miscarriage Story

It is with a sad heart we share that our twin baby girls' hearts have stopped beating and they have become our little angel babies in heaven.


The Story

I went to the doctor on Monday (at 15 weeks + 1 day) for what I expected to be a very low-key OB visit.  I hadn't seen my doctor for five weeks, as my prior appointment had been with one of her colleagues.  We talked about all of the recent findings (the discovery of the urachal cysts at Children's Mercy two weeks prior, and a possible diagnosis of gastrochisis at Advent Health two weeks before that) and did all of the normal OB things.  She then attempted to find the heartbeats on the portable sono machine.  For whatever reason, the doppler heartbeat monitor was never used.  In the early weeks, I assumed it was because an itty bitty heartbeat can be hard to hear at such an early stage.  At 15 weeks, however, I am left to assume a quick peek via sono is more standard in twins....perhaps it's hard to distinguish one twin heartbeat from another via doppler?  Anyway, she couldn't see the heartbeats.  I had grown pretty good at identifying them myself, and I couldn't see them either.  She took me across the hall to the higher-tech sonogram machine/room.  The sonographer came to the same, sad conclusion.

I Facetimed Craig, who had already checked in once, and had oddly enough asked, "Are their hearts still beating?"  He said he had a bad feeling about that appointment. 

The babies were measuring right at 15 weeks (15 + 3 to be exact) so it had likely just happened in the day or few prior.  There is no explanation or reason.  It could be the higher-risk mono-di twin pregnancy, could be the cysts, could be the IUD, could be a genetic issue, or could be a random coincidence.

Of course I googled "miscarriage at 15 weeks."  I shouldn't be surprised after all we've been through.

A miscarriage in the second trimester is a pregnancy loss that happens specifically between 13 weeks 0 days and 20 weeks 0 days of gestation. The incidence of second trimester loss up to 20 weeks is less than 1%. (source)


What happens next?

Today, we met with a specialist at KU Med.  On Thursday, I am going back for a procedure called dilation and evacuation (D&E).  They will put me under (anesthesia) and vaginally remove the pregnancy.  It is similar to a D&C, but used more commonly during the second trimester when the babies have bones.

The other option was to induce labor and have me deliver the babies, but this option comes with more risk because of the twin pregnancy and the IUD.  Quite honestly, I would rather be put under than have to endure labor knowing the end result.

We opted to do genetic testing on the remains of the babies.  I don't know that we'll ever know 100% the cause of this, but the specialist recommended it, mostly because of the presence of the cysts.  It may or may not give us a bit of closer.


How are we doing?

We are doing surprisingly well.  Of course, we are heartbroken and sad to have to grieve the loss of two little lives.  We had not only warmed up to the idea of identical twin girls, but had made some initial plans and were even getting excited, so it's a hard pill to swallow.  

At the same time, we are feeling at peace as we move forward.  It's a very strange thing to mourn something we never planned for.  In so many ways, these babies were going to change our lives drastically.  Certainly, they would have brought a lot of joy, but a lot of unexpected changes, too...none of which we had planned for.

We've kept the mindset throughout this pregnancy that whatever happens happens.  We have tried to focus on the positives and not dwell on the things we cannot change.  It's hard to understand the reasons behind such a rollercoaster...like, why did God give us these babies and put us through so much in just seven short weeks to inevitably take them away?  But then again, there is a lot about life we can't nor won't ever understand. 

I don't regret anything.  I don't regret making our announcement to the world, or telling our kids (yes, we have also shared with them that their baby sisters are in heaven...Rhett asked how they got to heaven when babies can't fly...Holden is sad he no longer gets bunk beds).  I don't regret finding out the sex or taking baby bump photos.  I don't regret feeling nervous or anxious or scared or excited.  I will treasure the photos and the experience.  I am thankful for these last seven (but really, 15) weeks and for all the support we have received.  I am also beyond grateful to know they were girls.  I consider these girls a gift I never expected to have.

Though we hadn't officially decided on names, Hollyn and Hadley were at the top of our list.  I don't know that I will ever refer to them by name, but I will always know my little girls are watching over us as angels in heaven.  I look forward to meeting them someday. 💕👼🏼👼🏼

Ups and Downs: the Latest in the Surprise Saga

I'm seeing a pattern here.  Every two(ish) weeks we get new, surprising, and sometimes difficult news.  Here's how it's all gone down:

5 weeks ago on Monday, March 8 (8 weeks along)

Found out I was pregnant.  With an IUD.  After experiencing what I thought was a miscarriage.  Oh yeah, twins.  Double shock of a lifetime.  Doctor didn't want to overwhelm me so she didn't give me much information.  She wanted to give me time to process the pregnancy before talking specifics.  Craig was not with me.

4 weeks ago on Monday, March 15 (9 weeks along)

Back to my OB...this time with Craig.  We were slowly but surely accepting the pregnancy.  At this appointment, we talked a lot about the risks of pregnancy at 38, pregnancy with an IUD, pregnancy wiht a subchorionic hematoma, and pregnancy with twins.  My doctor joined us for the ultrasound and Craig got the chance to ask several questions...something we didn't know would be possible with all the Covid restrictions.  We left that appointment still overwhelmed and nervous for this new life, but also (mostly) positive and hopeful.

3 weeks ago on Monday, March 22 (10 weeks along)

Another OB appointment.  This one was low key.  Babies hearts were still beating via a quick check on ultrasound.  Bleeding returned a day later.  We were a little nervous to head to our Broken Bow, OK vacation but decided some time away would be good for the whole family.  (The vacation is also when we told our kids about the babies.)

2 weeks ago on Monday, March 29 (11 weeks along)

My first appointment at Advent Health (formerly known as Shawnee Mission Hospital) to get to know the team of maternal fetal specialists and start looking more in depth at the babies.  The main concern moving forward is Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, which is basically when two babies who share a placenta get unequal distribution of nutrients...bad for both babies, but especially bad for the "donor" baby.  At this appointment, babies looked great, except for a possible concern of gastroschisis for Baby A.  Gastroschisis happens when the intestines don't migrate back into the stomach like they should around 10-11 weeks and would require post-birth surgery to put the intestines in place.  The doctor wasn't 100% confident and asked me to come back in two weeks for confirmation of the diagnosis.  Not the news we wanted and certainly nothing on our radar.  (But also, after a little bit of research, not a huge, lifelong concern.)

1 week ago on Tuesday, April 6 (12 weeks along)

Another OB appointment.  My doc was on vacation, so I met with another OB at my clinic.  She was so sweet and caring.  When I mentioned the possible diagnosis of gastrochisis, she basically replied, "Oh gosh, Baby will be fine!"  In her own, more professional words, of course, but that was my take-away.  She gave me every reason to believe that if something is "wrong," then perhaps this was one of the better care scenarios.  She also reminded me that technology detects way more than it did 20 years ago, and oftentimes causes way more concern than it ever should.  I left that appointment feeling very optimistic about Baby A's future.

Yesterday on Monday, April 12 (13 weeks along)

Two-week follow up at Advent Health to look once again at the possible gastroschisis in Baby A.  The doctor said she wasn't seeing what she saw two weeks prior (even though looking at the prior images would once again lead her to the same conclusion).  She said something didn't look right to her; although she couldn't pinpoint what it was and wanted another specialist to look more in depth.  Keep in mind, she is already a maternal fetal specialist...but wanted us to go higher.  (She mentioned a possible conjoined umbilical cord.)  

We were referred to Children's Mercy for follow-up the same day (talk about scary).  Two hours later, we were walking the halls of the children's hospital...the same walk we had taken nine years to the month prior.  It really is the cutest hospital with the nicest employees, but it's hard seeing so many sick kids in the halls, in the pictures on the wall, etc.  

We started with some questions about my prior pregnancies and deliveries (standard questions, I'm sure, but it always puts Craig on edge).  Then we moved into the ultrasound.  The sonographer was wonderful and talked us through most of it.  Of course, she can't say much as she is not a doctor, but she did confirm that based on the positions of the babies (they were almost cuddling) it was hard to get some of the measurements.  After the 1+ hour sonogram, we were left to wait.  And wait and wait and wait.  We waited over an hour for the doctor, which was pure misery.  

We were finally greeted (around 4:45? we had been there since 2pm) by the sweetest doctor, Dr. Vlastos, an older man who kind of reminded me of the doctor on This is Us.  Softer spoken, full of life advice, and very smart but great at explaining things in layman's terms.  He was funny when appropriate, loved that I was a high school math teacher (told me one of his math teachers was the one to set him straight and busted his butt in gear), and even laughed when I told him I had calculated the mathematical probability of getting pregnant with identical twins while on an IUD.  

Anyway, Dr. Vlastos said the conjoined umbilical cord was a non-issue; it was not, in fact, conjoined.  He also confirmed that the membrane between the babies spanned the entire way across the placenta (something else they couldn't determine at Advent).  But then he gave us the other news: both babies have what are called urachal cysts between the bladder and umbilical cord.  If the cysts grow, they could interfere with the fluid (urine) excretion in the babies (and maybe fluid intake, too? we aren't sure).  Worst case scenario: it could lead to death in one or both babies.  Best case scenario: the babies are born, in which case, it will likely no longer be an issue because the cysts are in the umbilical cords, which get cut at birth.  (I think I explained that correctly...this was my interpretation of what we learned. I can't promise it's 100% medically accurate.)

Moving forward, I will be continue to be monitored via level 2 ultrasounds every two weeks (back at Advent Health).  They will watch to see if the cysts are growing.  Another scenario: the cysts could remain the same size, which probably wouldn't be much of an issue, and/or the problem could resolve itself.  We are definitely witness to that third scenario, as Brantley was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at 27 weeks that resolved on its own by 35 weeks. 

There is no way to predict the outcome or know what will happen with the cysts or the babies.  There is currently no way of removing the cysts.  There are a few doctors in Europe who have tried unsuccessfully (ended up harming the baby).  

The doctor we saw said he has seen this 12 times in his 25 years of practice.  Needless to say, another rarity.  IUD pregnancy + identical twins + urachal cysts in both babies (likely because they are formed from identical DNA). 

I don't know that the gastroschisis was ruled out completely...he might have seen a small part of intestines in the umbilical cord, but it wasn't his focus and definitely not the main concern.

We left Children's Mercy (after 3.5 hours!) feeling more relieved than when we went in and more relieved than I was upon leaving Advent.  Ideal?  No.  But I think it was helpful to know that, assuming the babies make it to birth, we're not looking at any longterm issues.  It would be devastating to lose one or both babies, but at the same time I've said all along, if something happens, we're back where we started with our three healthy boys.

So there's the latest in this surprise sage.  Of course, life is never easy.  Five hours in hospitals was not how I thought my Monday would go, and we could certainly use some prayers, good news, and "normal" appointments moving forward.  These babies apparently want to make a larger than life appearance into this world and are already checking the box for dramatic.  Heaven help us.

Pregnancy Q&As

I know there are so, so many questions surrounding our recent announcement, so I've tried to compile all the answers here!



How far along are you?

As of today, I am 11 weeks and 4 days.  I know that can be a bit early to share with the world, but after what we've been through the last three weeks, I needed to get it out there.

Are you going to find out the sex of the babies?

We already know. 😉  The babies were enough of a surprise...I don't need any further surprises!  We did genetic testing at 10 weeks, which also determines the sex.  The babies are identical so either boy/boy or girl/girl.  I promise to share soon!  

Are these babies destined to be boys?  Do you have a preference?

One would think, huh?  I put my money on boys!  

I can honestly see benefits of both.  I have loved every second of being a boy mom (x3) and concluded that I'm actually pretty good at it!  (Except I don't like injuries.)  I think there is something special about having all the same....even if it means five boys!  

At the same time, I grew up assuming I'd have girls.  I never really entertained the thought of having boys because, "I'm way too girly for boys."  I had given up on that dream and had accepted that it would never become my reality...and was/am perfectly content with that.  Obviously girls would be something special, but boys will be a-okay, too!  

Do twins run in your family?

Through my research over the past three weeks, I've learned that identical twins are not hereditary!  Fraternal twins can be (the mother's releasing of two eggs at a time), but identical twins are random and spontaneous!  My great-grandmother was an identical twin (I think) but again, that has no impact on these babies!

How do you know they're identical?

The ultrasound showed that these babies share a placenta, which confirms they are identical.  Identical twins could also have their own placenta, depending on when the embryo split.  The earlier the split, the more likely the babies are to have their own placenta.  But shared placenta always means identical, as fraternal twins will always each have their own.

Side note: Our babies are mo-di (monochorionic/diamniotic) twins.  Shared placenta but they each have their own amniotic sac.  This type of twin pregnancy is more risky than separate placentas (di-di twins), but less risky than twins who have a shared placenta and shared sac (mo-mo).  (Mo-mo twins result when the embryo splits later in pregnancy...conjoined twins happen when the split is even later.)



How are you coping?  How are you feeling?

I'm coping as well as you might expect...maybe even a little better?!  I still have an overwhelming amount of fear and anxiousness that an unplanned pregnancy brings, but I have decided to focus on the positives and try to be excited.  I'm feeling mostly good.  I have moments of nausea, but it could be worse and I've never thrown up at school!


Is this pregnancy similar or different from your others?

It's close to the same as my first two!  I was sick(ish) with both Brantley and Holden (nausea on occasion but able to cope with crackers and ginger ale, only a few instances of throwing up) but not one lick of morning sickness with Rhett.  It's so weird how pregnancies (especially those that are the same sex) can be so different!


Are you going to continue working after babies are born?

This has been the most asked question!  I plan to!  I love my job and enjoy having a purpose outside of being a mom.  I enjoy summers off with my kids ("seasonal SAHM" as I like to call it), but I have never wanted to stay home full time/year-round.  I also enjoy bringing in an income, albeit not much, but it makes me feel less guilty about shopping.  And I just love math way too much to quit!  That being said, who the heck knows what the future will bring.  Five kids is a lot and we will do what we have to do!


What are your biggest fears?  What are you most nervous about?

Oh gosh, everything from the weight gain (and weight loss) to the health of the babies to childbirth (my first three were born in 6, 4, and 2 hours, respectively...I've always been terrified of a fourth baby for fear that he/she might be born on the side of the road...I also neeeeeeeeed an epidural and I'm terrified of giving birth without) to the potential of getting put on bed rest to a possible c-section after three vaginal births to a baby being born with the Mirena stuck to its head (I don't even know if that's possible?) to breastfeeding x2 and sleepless nights x2 to life with five kids.  I'm sad about missing out on life experiences that simply won't happen with a family of seven.  (Big vacations, airfare, going to dinner, etc.)


How does it feel knowing there are two babies inside of you?

Very surreal....like a dream!  Ask me again in 20 weeks when I can actually feel two babies inside of me!  I'm so curious to compare a twin pregnancy with my previous single pregnancies.  I'm terrified of what it could mean for my body!


How long were you in shock?

I think I'm still in shock!  (It may span the entire pregnancy🤣)  I cried every day for just over a week.  And then I decided there is nothing I can do so I might as well embrace it!  Don't get me wrong--I'm sure there will still be overwhelmingly emotional moments days, week, months, and years, but I am trying to be optimistic and grateful for these extra blessings.


What is the right thing to say to a friend having unexpected pregnancy/unplanned twins?

That is a great question!!!  It feels weird when people say "Congratulations!"  I usually respond with "Thanks?"  I don't dislike it (and absolutely don't blame anyone for that reaction, it's natural and babies are, in fact, blessings that should be congratulated), but it also doesn't feel justified.  If that makes any sense?  I actually appreciate when people say they are sorry, that they know this wasn't our plan, and that they will pray for peace and understanding.  By all means, say "Congrats" but make sure you let them know you are there for them if they need a shoulder to cry on because it's inevitable and very reasonable with such a life change.


Will you take weekly photos or do blog "bumpdates" like you did with your other three pregnancies?

I love a good baby bump, so I will absolutely document this pregnancy with photos!  Probably not weekly, as I've done before.  I don't know about the "bumpdates."  I quit blogging because I couldn't find the time, so I probably won't commit to anything.  Maybe just some updates via Instagram!


Will you have to move, or is your house big enough for a family of seven?

We live in a five bedroom house (fifth bedroom is currently a workout room in the basement).  Although I anticipate a kid moving down there someday, it won't be anytime soon.  The babies will share a room, as will two of our older boys.  They are already fighting over who gets bunk beds! 🤣  Our house, specifically the main level with a very open floor plan, isn't huge, but we are blessed to live where we do and have no plans to move!  (My neighbors are also my besties...I can't possibly leave such a solid support system!)


Will you do any genetic testing?

We have already done the non-invasive screening via blood work at 10 weeks.  It detects, with a 99% accuracy rate, some of the more common genetic abnormalities (Down Syndrome, Trisomy, etc.).  The results came back normal.  That is also how we already know the sex of the babies.


How does this happen with Mirena in place correctly?

There is zero explanation--other than no method of birth control is 100% effective!  My Mirena was in perfect position to prevent pregnancy.  Apparently God really wanted us to have these babies!  My doctor has seen a few few IUD pregnancies through her years of practice, but never twins.  She was quite shocked herself.


Did your doctor remove the IUD?

My doctor tried at my second appointment (9 weeks) but as my uterus has grown, it shifted upwards and she couldn't safely reach it.  

If it can be safely removed, that is ideal (mainly to give the baby/babies more room to grow).  However, if not, it isn't a huge deal, as the hormones released are the same hormones your body produces naturally while pregnant.  The biggest concern with an IUD pregnancy is that the pregnancy will be ectopic.  Once an ultrasound determines the pregnancy is safely implanted in the uterus, I don't think the IUD is a major concern.  In fact, it can be more risky to remove it (lead to miscarriage) than to just leave it in there.


Will you have a baby shower?

I wouldn't argue!  We have sold or donated everything so a shower would be a welcomed idea.  We are essentially starting over. 


Have you gone back and read what you wrote about being done having babies?

Yes!  I've said for four years now that I wouldn't mind a fourth baby, but it's also not something we would have ever planned for!  Two-thirds of our previous pregnancies were high risk (Brantley had hydrocephalus, Rhett was high risk for DS).  We were content with three healthy babies and the thought of trying for a fourth seemed similar to playing a game of Russian Roulette.  However, I've also said I would secretly love for God to make it happen.

In February, I did one of those question box things on Instagram.  Someone (a former student, also a mom x3) asked about any more potential Sides babies.  My response reflected what I just stated above.  Ironically, I would have been pregnant at the time, I just didn't know it yet!  I truly think God used that question as a way to mentally prepare me for what He knew was coming.



Has Craig booked his vasectomy?

Booked and done! ☑️✂️🤣  How often does the husband get a vasectomy the same day as the gender reveal?! 


What kind of mom-mobile will you get?

I already drive a Toyota Sienna that technically fits 6 kids.  It's a little harder with bulky carseats but I'm determined to keep that thing!  Craig has mentioned trading in his Highlander for a Tahoe or something similar.


What are you concerned about regarding your boys?  Space, time, feelings, etc.?

I wouldn't say I'm too concerned about our boys.  Kids are resilient and they will adapt quickly!  It will be a new normal for all of us, but I think they are going to be great big brothers and helpers to these babies!  When I was pregnant with my second, I remember seeing a quote that has always stuck with me.  "You love is not divided when adding more kids...it's multiplied."


How did you tell your kids?  Are they excited?

We bought some of those gold OH BABY BABY balloons and took them to Oklahoma, wrapped and deflated.  We gave the boys the gift on our first morning there and had them unwrap it.  It took us over 20 minutes to inflate the balloons and then we had to put the message together.  It didn't go super well. 🤣  The letters wouldn't stay upright and I was thinking each word was one piece instead of single letters.  So needless to say, it didn't go quite as planned......but neither will life with five kids!  Our oldest figured it out!  If you go to this IG post and scroll, there are some videos.

As expected, none of the boys showed a ton of emotion.  However, I think they are excited, despite what they might say.  Brantley sent his friends the sweetest message on Messenger Kids.



Do you have names?  Will you share when you decide?

We do not yet have names and haven't discussed it much, but I still have lists in my phone from 2012!  For whatever reason, I never deleted them!  

I don't know if we'll announce once we decide, or keep it secret until birth.  We kept it super top-secret the first time, mostly-secret the second time, and semi-secret (off social media but shared with a lot of friends) the third time.  I do enjoy keeping an element of surprise, but this is also our 4th and 5th go-around so all rules just kind of fly out the window!


What is the combined probability of all of this happening?

0.5% (0.005) of getting pregnant on Mirena x 0.4% (0.004) of that embryo splitting to result in identical twins = 0.002% (0.00002) combined probability or 1/50,000. ‼️‼️‼️


Will you get the Covid vaccine?

Already done with both doses!  I got the first before I knew I was pregnant.  My doctor told me to absolutely get the second.  Studies are showing that the antibodies can be passed onto baby/babies when a pregnant mom gets it!  Thank you, science!


How can people best support you through this time?

Prayers more than anything!  Prayers for a smooth pregnancy, for healthy babies, and for the sanity to raise five kids.

Sides SURPRISE Twins Coming this Fall

(Written on Saturday, March 13)



It's been eight days since I learned I was pregnant, seven since I thought I was miscarrying, and five since I found out I hadn't miscarried and I was, in fact, still pregnant.  With twins.  

T w i n s.

Did I mention I have a IUD?

T w i n s.

Unplanned and unexpected.

T w i n s.  

Also known as kids four and five.  Let that sink in.

T w i n s.

The Mirena (IUD) is over 99% effective.

Yet...

t w i n s.

Identical, too.  So not only am I the less than 1 in 100 women who got pregnant on the Mirena, but that embryo split and resulted in two identical twin babies.  The chances of that, I've read, are 1 in 250.

😳

Alas, let's start at the beginning.

Around February 18, I started bleeding.  More like spotting.  Which was weird, because in 4+ years on the Mirena, I had never once had a period.  A few days later the spotting had turned into a full blown period (or so I thought).  A good reminder that I was due for my annual obgyn checkup (a couple months late), so I called and scheduled an appointment for the following Friday.

The appointment came and went, as did my "period."  The nurse practitioner I saw (I always schedule my annual check ups with a NP....save the doctors for the women who really need them......ahem, me in about a week and a half) said my Mirena was in position and the bleeding could be a normal thing; she said to call if it continued.

That same day I had my first bout of morning sickness.  I just didn't know it at the time.  Craig and I were supposed to meet for a day date at a local brewery; we still made it work, but I almost cancelled because I felt so sick.  

The nausea continued the following week.  I wasn't sick enough to stay home from school and had only moments of nausea versus full days, but it was definitely enough to notice and wonder what was going on.  I even told Craig (and a few friends) that "the closest I could equate it to was morning sickness"  The bleeding also returned.  I chalked it up (both issues) to an imbalance of hormones and went on with my day.  I also called my doctor's office to further discuss the bleeding, but of course it was a Friday afternoon (March 5) and by the time they returned my call, the office was closed for the weekend.  The nurse told me to call on Monday to schedule an "IUD check."

Later that evening (at Brantley's basketball game), I mentioned my issues to a nurse practitioner friend/neighbor, mainly because I wanted to know if she had any NP friends who specialized in OBGYN.  She didn't, but asked if I'd taken a pregnancy test.  I'm pretty sure I laughed.  One, I had the Mirena which is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, and two, I'd been bleeding for two weeks, a sure sign that one is not pregnant.

Nonetheless, I had Craig stop on the way home so I could get a test.  I got the cheapest one.  We went straight to a friend's house and I didn't think twice about taking it in their bathroom, 1000% expecting it to be negative.  Thank goodness my friend Ali was in there with me because the blue "pregnant" line appeared faster than the control line, something I had never experienced, and I was floored...I needed the support.  (Our other babies were all planned, so I basically peed on a stick the moment I could, and had to squint to determine whether there really was a pregnant line.) 

My first thought was confusion.  Followed by panic, nervousness, sadness, and an overwhelming amount of emotion.  I had always said I wouldn't mind a fourth baby, but in that moment, I was terrified and decided it wasn't at all what I wanted.  

My thoughts went straight to the IUD.  As much as I didn't want that positive pregnancy test, I was immediately worried for that baby and what the IUD might mean.  

Ali got Craig and another friend, Katie (the NP)...I honestly can't remember who was there first.  Craig, of course, was a bit freaked out, but to my surprise, he seemed very grounded, and even a bit...excited?

By that point several of the basketball dads were there, so of course there was no hiding of our news.  One minute I was living my normal life, even drinking a beer; the next I was pregnant, and several of our neighbor friends already knew.

I didn't sleep that night.  I just couldn't shake the feelings of anxiety brought on by an unplanned pregnancy.

The weight gain.  Missing out on social gatherings.  Three upcoming vacations.  Constant worry about a healthy baby.  Potential labor without an epidural (track records of 6, 4, and 2 hours of labor, respectively...surely this baby will be born on the highway).  Sleepless nights.  The stress of breastfeeding.  Maternity leave with no plans of doing so.  Losing the weight.  So many months of pregnancy.  All at 38 years old.  Which is considered "old" when having a baby.

The next morning, I woke up nauseous and threw up a total of six times that day.  At first I thought it was morning sickness.  Looking back, I think it was morning sickness on top of anxiety, but add in a hangover.  I didn't have more than three drinks the night before (before the positive test, of course), but had experienced the same thing the weekend prior (feeling way too hungover given the few drinks I'd had).  My theory is that your body reacts more violently to alcohol while pregnant.  

A few hours later, the bleeding returned, only it was worse than it had ever been.  It was so bad that I could only assume I was experiencing a miscarriage.  Honestly, the blood brought feelings of relief, as I hadn't had time to process the pregnancy, let alone become emotionally attached.  At one point, it was so bad that I told Craig I needed to go to the ER; instead I got ahold of the on-call doctor at my OBGYN office.  He said there was nothing the ER could do for me, and to avoid it (because of Covid) unless I was experiencing severe pain, as that could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, which can result from an IUD pregnancy.  I never felt pain beyond mild period cramps.

I was feeling mostly better on Sunday but decided to take the next day off so that I could call my OB's office and go as soon as they could get me in.

On Monday, March 8, I went in at 10:45.  Craig offered to go with me, but I was feeling very much at peace about the situation and wasn't sure of the Covid restrictions anyway, so I told him it wasn't necessary.  

The sonographer started with a urine test.  It showed an instant "pregnant" result...no surprise, I'd just experienced the same thing less than 72 hours prior.  In the sonogram room, I explained to her what I had experienced over the weekend and she began the sonogram.

It wasn't but a few minutes later when she said, "There are actually two in there."

I immediately starting shaking.  Two?!  How??  What?!  Why?!  What on earth was Craig going to say?!  How would he react?  How is this even possible?!  The only thing I could mutter was, "And they're alive?"  She proceeded to show me both heartbeats, beating away.  I sat there quietly (except for lots of heavy breathing, which in a mask, is not easy) while she continued taking measurements.  She did mention that I was taking it better than most people.  I think I was in such shock that it was hard to react!

Both twins were measuring at eight weeks.  She also determined that they shared a placenta, which meant they were identical.

When she left me alone (with some crackers and juice) to calm my shakes, I Facetimed Craig.  He could barely hear me due to a poor connection, but heard enough to know that I was still pregnant...with twins.  I'm not sure if he hung up on me due to pure shock, or because the sonographer came back into the room, and honestly I didn't blame him either way.

The songrapher transferred me to an exam room, where I first met with the nurse practitioner.  I cried, and in some way, I think she felt at fault.  It wasn't her fault at all but I think she felt guilty for not recognizing the potential signs of pregnancy the week prior at my annual checkup.  

Because the doctor's office had squeezed me in on a whim, I was not supposed to meet with my OB; however, given the circumstances, they found a way.  (See? Save those doctors for the ones who really need them!)  My doctor gave me the longest, sweetest hug ever.  (So much for Covid rules.)  She said there was no explanation for what had happened.  She briefly explained the situation (mono di twins) but didn't want to overwhelm me with information.  She suggested I take some time to process and said we'd chat more in a week.  Of course, she also explained that I had options, but terminating this pregnancy, when it seemed they were gifts from God, was never an option for me.

Upon leaving the office, I sat in the parking lot and cried.  I called Craig, and together we called my mom, who was shocked but so supportive.  It felt like such a dream...or nightmare?

That afternoon, I went and got a pedicure.  It was a Monday and I had taken the day off work.  My kids were in school and I just needed to do something for myself.  Something normal.  So I got a pedicure, while Craig went for a run.  We both needed to cope in our own way.

We shared the news with several neighbors that evening.  Since I took the pregnancy test in the presence of so many of them, they knew about the pregnancy and potential miscarriage.  We couldn't leave them hanging.  I also don't think I could have gotten through those first few days without the love and support of our friends.  Of course, they were all so excited.  It's easy to be excited when it's not your own body/family/finances.  But I don't also fault them one bit; I'd be excited if it was someone else, too!

We have not yet shared with our own kids.  I'm not sure what we're waiting for, other than a special way to share the news.  I have no idea how they're going to react.

It's important to note that I don't fault or blame anyone.  Not my doctor, not Craig, and certainly not God.  Craig and I have joked that it is each of our faults - me because I never wanted him to get that vasectomy (Mirena is over 99% effective, they say...), him because - duh - he wanted to do it on that one particular night when all the stars were aligned!  But truly, I am not mad at anyone.  

It is interesting to be pregnant when it is not planned.  When planned, you worry constantly, mostly about a potential miscarriage at this point.  But when it's not planned, there are few expectations.  I'm certainly not hoping for a miscarriage, but open and at peace with whatever may happen.  

At the same time, I don't want to appear ungrateful for these blessings, as there are so many women who would kill to be in my shoes and I want to be empathic of that.  I could have received news much worse than what I did (cancer, etc.) and so I'm trying to focus on the positives.  Don't get me wrong...I cried every day for over a week, but concluded that we've been gifted these babies; therefore, I am trying to be grateful for the opportunity.  (The crying has since turned to laughs because let's be honest, this story is just crazy and one can't help but laugh at the absurdness!  It's something that happens to a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend...certainly not to you!)

Oh, did I mention we've sold everything?!  Of course we have!  The last of our baby things as recently as January, the same month we would have conceived.  Life can be so ironic.  

As for the bleeding, it's due to something called a subchorionic hematoma, which happens in some pregnancies.  It could be a result of the Mirena, but could also be unrelated.  It's not something to be super concerned about, but it does put me (the babies) at a slightly higher risk for complications.  

IUD pregnancy + twins + subchoionic hematoma + advanced maternal age = high risk city.  Prayers are welcomed.

Speaking of the Mirena, at this point, it's less risky to leave it in there than try to remove it.  So it shall stay put for the time being.  Apparently there are stories of babies born with an IUD in hand.

So there's the story.  Our story.  Of our soon-to-be family of seven.