Twenty six and three quarter weeks” said my doctor to the nurses at the hospital the night that Sara was born. That is how pregnant I was.
It had been a very quick and exciting pregnancy. I had just had my IUD taken out after three years and was trying to decide on what form of contraception to use next. The pill made me depressed and the IUD made me bleed all the time and condoms broke. I get pregnant easily so it wasn’t a surprise when I was pregnant again. I had three children at the time; ages 10, 8 and 4. But I was surprised to be growing so quickly and feeling movement at 10 weeks.
Before I went to the doctor I hit the library to see if I could figure out why this was so different. Polyhydramnios? Uterine tumor?
The doctor sent me immediately to get an ultrasound. Back in 1979, things were not as sophisticated as they are now and techs were not as well trained. But it was only a day later the Doc rang me to say,
“You better play the lottery, you are having twins!”
We were thrilled! Our families were thrilled and we started planning how to make our tiny three bedroom house bigger. I looked at twin strollers and picked out names. In those days the sex of the baby wasn’t easily determined so I had to pick 2 girl names, 2 boy names and one each that I liked over the others. I had Colin and Christopher, Sian Marie and Cesara, with Colin and Cesara as the top boy-girl combo.
I wasn’t told to take any special care, as twins are pretty common-place. I didn’t bleed or even feel more tired just got bigger and bigger. One day my mother in law said to me,
“You look like you are having a litter. Are you sure it’s just twins?”
I bought more maternity clothes when I was five months and went to a Halloween party as a pumpkin- the GREAT Pumpkin!
The babies never stopped moving. I had constant bumping and poking. In the middle of the night I could feel tiny elbows? knees? One night I woke up in tremendous pain and I struggled to get out of bed. The right side of my tummy felt paralyzed. I rang the doctor and he told me that it was just my muscles and bones stretching. It never came back and I asked him about it next checkup. His wife, who was his nurse, treated me quite rudely when I asked her.
“You’re having twins! Do you know how many women have twins?”
The kids were pretty excited especially the girls, Jenny and Lissa. Alex, being four was more interested in his Transformers.
On December 9th, 1979, the pain came back. It was excruciating. I called the doctor. He thought it might be muscle strain. Then I went to bathroom where my water broke, it was very bloody. We were at my in-laws having a birthday dinner for me.
We left for the hospital and were immediately whisked to the labor room. By this time I was contracting every ten minutes. The nurse put two heart monitors on me. One nurse, Donna was trying to find the heartbeats and noted,
“There are heartbeats all over you!”
By now it was pretty obvious that I was going to have babies that night. They called the neonatal hospital; Cornell Medical Center at New York Hospital. I was scared, for me, for the babies and my children at home if anything happened to me. It was weird, like slow motion inside of me but all around me things were happening very quickly.
Nurse: “Dona, when did you last eat?”
Me: “About an hour ago. I had roast pork, potatoes and birthday cake.”
Nurse: “Oh, great. Tell me you have a cold.”
Me: “I do.”
My husband stayed by my side, clutching my hand as we listened to the noisy “boom ba boom” heartbeats of our babies.
It was decided that a c-section would be less stressful for the babies and I asked Donna to baptize them for me. She was Jewish but she understood. My husband was Roman Catholic and I am a Methodist so it was for his family I asked.
“Baby A and Baby B okay?” she asked. I was wheeled into the operating room where they told me they would put me under and wake me quickly.
When I woke I was still on the table and a nurse took my head and turned it.
“You had triplets,” she said, “See?”
I didn’t have my glasses on. I saw a blur of nurses and doctors hunched over a table.
Triplets? How did that happen? I was taken back to another hospital room where my pediatrician and obstetrician were waiting with my husband. I can’t remember any pain, I was alert. The doctor said the Team from NY hospital was there and they wouldn’t take the babies if there wasn’t any hope. I would be able to see them before they left. DR. P said that 2 of the babies were in good shape but one was not. Baby A, now Erinn, was lousy. It is a medical term. We named Baby B, Sian Marie and Baby C was Cesara. They put three baby wristbands on my arm. Each one matched the ones on the babies. They were identical girls having been in one amniotic sac.
They were born at 10:04 pm, 10:05 pm and 10:06 pm. It was now 10:45 pm. Dr P came and went and then stood close to my bed to tell us little Erinn (2lbs. 7 oz.) had died.
My thoughts went immediately to Sian Marie and Cesara and I closed my eyes. I saw two tiny girls in pink bonnets walking away from me. My daughters walking in front of me? Away from me?
I couldn’t dwell on it because the next thing that happened was I met my babies as they prepared to take them away. I heard the beeping noise on monitors. First, Sian Marie, tiny girl, black hair and the softest skin I have ever felt. I put my hand into her tiny one.
Her tiny mouth was open and gasping under all the tubes and wires. She was very warm and very pink. Cesara’s hands were waving all around so I touched her little cheek which was also warm and pink. They both weighed 990 grams (2lbs. 3 oz.). Then it was good bye.
The doctors from NY hospital gave us a booklet, phone numbers, they said to call us anytime to talk to the nurses and try to come down ASAP. We lived 60 miles away.
What a night. I was still very alert and I can’t remember if I slept. I talked to my kids the next day. Gramma C had told them they had triplet sisters but they now knew it was twins. I remember thinking, “Well, we have 2. Now what do we say? Are they twins? Are they triplets? How do we explain that?”
I don’t remember how I got through the next day. My husband came to visit and then went down to NY. He came back in the evening to report the girls were in very professional hands. The nurses treated him very kindly and told him to call night or day. I was jealous.
Each day my pediatrician would come in for a report and explain to me what was happening. Cesara and Sian were born on a Sunday and in addition to visiting me and being Mr. Mom, my husband was also ringing the hospital three times each day.
I seemed to recover very quickly. This was my second c-section and I realized the pain was so much less, maybe because my heart was in so much pain. We had 2 daughters to hope for and one to mourn. My three other children were home without me and as a mom; we always come last in caring for ourselves. But I was well cared for. The staff at St Luke’s was awesome.
Tuesday afternoon the NY hospital called my husband and urged him to come down. Sian was having some major issues with breathing and bleeding. He left immediately. Then an hour later they rang me to ask if he was on his way. He arrived there just after their call. This was before cell phones so I had to wait for a call or his return. My mom and best friend came to sit with me. When he got back, he had three pictures for me.
Polaroids of Sian Marie looking very red, blurry, covered with wires and white tape. Here was my daughter. He said he held her hand and talked with her, she looked at him, and he told her we loved her. She was alive when he left her. Then the Hospital called us and told us she had died just afterward. That was my two girls walking away from me.
But as I did with loss of Erinn I transferred all my hopes to Cesara, now Sara because she was too tiny for such an imposing name. She is named after my grandmother Sarah Jane Brooks and my husband’s grandmother Cesera who was called Sara.
Sara was progressing and her father had learned that her Apgar scores when she was born were 3 and then 8. She was a fighter!
We had a funeral to plan and thank goodness our family had some strong ties to the local funeral home. They went to NY to pick up Sian and we buried them in the same vault as their grandmother Cesera. The funeral home dressed them and my pastor and my husbands’ cousin, who was a deacon in the Catholic Church, along with my husband and our fathers buried them on the morning I was released. No charge.
I was so happy to get home and see my children. They helped heal me more than they will ever know. Isn’t it always that way? I knew telling this story would bring me to tears and it has. I will pause here to think about this some more and will continue in part 2 – “Sara Smile”.