This is a tough one to write. Tough enough that I thought I’d perhaps let the blog die a final and unofficial death with that most recent post and just disappear into the recesses of the internet forever.
We found out on the feast of St. Nicholas at our 20 week anatomy scan that we lost one of our twins. We’d seen them both apparently healthy and happy on an ultrasound at 16 weeks, and I’d been in the ER with dehydration after a wicked stomach virus ripped through our house during week 19 (and allegedly heard 2 heartbeats via doppler), but based on measurements and the best any of the doctors we’ve consulted with can tell, we had already lost baby B sometime during the 15-20 week widow.
Which means that we were perhaps seeing one baby from two angles on that ultrasound, and that very likely the ER nurse was picking up the same baby’s heartbeat from 2 different angles. The ultrasound piece is especially difficult to accept. Because how do you miss an entire, separate baby? How is it possible that modern technology could fail on such a spectacular level? Apparently, with multiples, there is a level of training and expertise that providers need to posses that, if lacking, can lead to bizarre and inexplicable timeline lapses like the one we’re stuck with.
The last 4 weeks have been breathtakingly hard. Coming home after that scan and telling our other kids was a uniquely agonizing and sacred moment, to have an experience of such acute and shared grief as a family.
We have a lot of questions that will likely never be answered this side of eternity, which have come with their own set of challenges: to my faith, to my capacity for acceptance, to my mental health.
Everything has been hard. Christmas was unlike any other I’ve ever experienced or hoped to experience in the future. And yet, I am grateful to my tiny son, our little one whose face we will never know, who we named Nicholas Victor, in honor of St. Nicholas and Our Lady of Victory, Our Lady of the Rosary. His brief life and shocking death initiated me into a school of suffering which heretofore was almost entirely an abstract intellectual concept. The grief is still so acute at times that it quite literally takes my breath away.
It is, I think, uniquely “sticky” because I am literally now, for the next 3 months, both cradle and grave. In order to keep the surviving baby healthy, my body is carrying on with the pregnancy while simultaneously dealing with the miscarriage or stillbirth or vanishing of the other twin. No applicable term seems exactly apt to capture the strange reality of carrying a living child alongside a dead one. Miscarriages end, and this one will, eventually, but not for months yet. A stillbirth conjures, in my mind, a more acute and terrible timeline, a modern pieta of a mother cradling her dead child, and so seems inexact when applied to our circumstances. My uterus will continue to cradle him as nature does her worst on his mortal remains. My arms will never hold him. “Vanishing” twin seems least accurate of all since he has not vanished, his tiny body accompanies hers in every image, small and crumpled and relatively unchanging from week to week as hers grows, vibrant and alive alongside his stillness.
Most difficult for me to accept has been, apart from his death itself, the loss of the potential for anyone else ever truly, physically encountering this sweet child of ours here on earth. Nobody else – no one but his sister and I – will ever touch him. Will ever physically encounter his body. It is a mystery which the Cross alone can make sense of. But not yet.
For now we wait with expectation mingled with no small amount of anxiety. I have found that each doctor’s visit is a little easier than the last, overall, but ultrasounds are, quite simply, just awful now. A reality which I will need to become more and more resigned to as my visits become more and more frequent.
From week 28 onward, I’ll be going in twice a week for NSTs and growth ultrasounds to monitor her progress and to asses her living conditions. We have no medical answers for what happened to Nicholas, and likely we won’t have any even once I deliver, as so much time will have elapsed (hopefully) from his demise. So while we are cautiously optimistic that our sweet baby girl will make it, we need to keep “asking her how she’s doing in there” as my wonderful new doctor put it.
We ask for your continued prayers for our family as we walk this new path. And to all my readers over the years who have shared their own experiences of miscarriage, of stillbirth, of infertility, of child loss… I am in awe of your courage. I am humbled and brought to my knees by the staggering weight of what you’ve been asked to carry. I am lucky in a sense, now newly 40, that this kind of pain won’t be factoring into future NFP decisions and discernment. Likely, our years of fertility are all in the rearview mirror. I cannot fathom the courage it would require to “try again.” And I doubt very much that it is within me.
St. Nicholas, patron of children, pray for us.
Our Lady of Victory, ora pro nobis.
Little Nicholas Uebbing, we miss you terribly. Please look after your sister in a special way. We hope to see you one day.