A guest post by Michelle (@a_tale_of_three_duckies)
We have been on the so-called ‘baby train’ for almost three years now. I’m inching ever closer to being 36 whole years old. I’m married to a slightly ginger ex-Marine called Jon. We live in Nottingham and we have a slobbery but beautiful Boxer dog called Lola.
We are also parents, but sadly never got to bring any of our babies home.
I have been pregnant three times and we have said goodbye to five babies. We have experienced two first trimester miscarriages – one complete and one missed. We have heard the words: ‘I am sorry but there is no heartbeat’. I have had dates with Wanda (if you know, you know) more times than I care to admit. We have scrutinised our lifestyle, our bodies, our relationship, our careers and everything in between. We have ‘tried’ and we have said that we aren’t ‘trying’…whilst continuing to try. We have envied our friends and family as more beautiful babies are brought home and we have continued to hope.
And then everything changed in June last year; I fell pregnant for the third time. It felt scary from the very beginning, I guess because we were so much more aware of the fragility of a pregnancy. And we wanted it so much. My anxiety was intense and so-called motivational comments from others such as ‘third time lucky’ weren’t really helping. I then had one of those awful moments, having gone to the loo and discovered that I was spotting. I instantly felt that it was game over again.
Both of my previous pregnancies had ended this way and going to the Early Pregnancy Unit for a scan seemed like it would just confirm the inevitable.
But this time it was different – amazingly we were told that the spotting was likely because my uterus was making room for not one, but two babies. Twins! We were elated and excited for probably the first time during that pregnancy. This felt like a game changer and I loved the thought of carrying two babies. The time couldn’t pass quick enough until our next scan just two weeks later; we were so excited to see them again. And then life threw us another curveball.
‘Well I’m glad you’re lying down because I can see another one’.
What?! Yes that’s right – triplets. It seemed one of our babies had been hiding during the last scan and, of course, no one was looking for three.
For the briefest of moments we were thrilled. It felt like someone knew we had had a rough time getting to this point and was trying to give us something back. But we were naïve because with every multiple pregnancy comes multiple risks and there wasn’t a single appointment from that moment on where we didn’t come away feeling battered and bruised. Triplet pregnancies are very rare and those resulting from no medical assistance are rarer still. What this means is that there are still a lot of unknowns. There aren’t measurements and statistics to fall back on in the same way as singleton pregnancies and even the specialists haven’t seen that many successes.
Most scans were spent with multiple members of medical staff gazing confusedly at the screen trying to work out the arrangement of our babies. After being referred to a specialist at Birmingham it was confirmed that we were rarer still – a monochorionic triamniotic triplet pregnancy. Essentially all three babies were separated by a thin membrane but were being supported by only one placenta. This was not good news and we were quickly asked to consider selective reduction, which is a so-called ‘nice’ way of referring to the termination of part or all of the pregnancy. We were devastated.
Asking any parent to consider terminating a much wanted and already loved baby is truly awful, but when those parents have already suffered the loss of other pregnancies it seems all the more cruel. We were given all the facts and it seemed there was no right answer.
Triplet pregnancies can often end in premature labour, which can lead to physical disabilities in the resulting child or, worst-case scenario, they don’t survive. A pregnancy like this was particularly risky due to the babies sharing a support system and that meant a greater likelihood of one or more babies not getting the nutrients they required to grow and develop. However, this also meant that the procedure to selectively terminate could not be guaranteed a success as there was a real risk of not being able to select just one or two babies due to the shared placenta. I also have pesky fibroids which were in the way and preventing anyone from getting a clear look.
In the end we decided to carry on – there was a risk both ways and currently the babies were healthy, they were developing as they should and were all about the same size so it felt like the right thing to do. I don’t regret that decision as I feel it was the most informed choice we could make at the time and my heart goes out to any parent asked to make the same heartbreaking decision.
In the meantime, my pregnancy continued. And it was hard. My body expanded at an alarming rate, I struggled to sleep and working full-time meant that I was persistently shattered. I spent most waking moments feeling terrified that I would lose one or more of the babies and that is probably my only true regret. I wish I had embraced my pregnancy with the excitement and anticipation it deserved. I truly understand now that how you feel during your pregnancy does not change the outcome so you should enjoy it while you can.
Sadly, I went into premature labour late in the second trimester after my waters broke at home. I delivered one beautiful little boy on our bathroom floor and the other two in hospital. They were probably the worst and also best moments of my life.
Our three little boys lived for a short period of time, but they have made such an impact on our lives. It’s been a year since they were born. I’d never imagined loving children who weren’t here for me to cuddle or comfort, but I’m learning to accept this new normal. By now, I’d pictured a chaotic first birthday full of tiny hands and feet, wriggling around everywhere, crying and laughing over sandwiches and cake. Instead it’s just me and Jon (and Lola). And that will never be enough. They will always be missing – and missed.
Still, I feel very lucky to have experienced a multiple pregnancy and nothing could have prepared me for the wonder of seeing three little babies tucked up together in a Moses basket. I’m not sure that you ever really believe that you are carrying more than one baby until you meet them.
And so here we are again. Not so patiently waiting and hoping for the day we bring home a live baby. And, of course, we will tell them all about their big brothers – our three little duckies.