Tristen and Theodore’s Story
Ever since I was a little girl I imagined what I would be like as a Mumma, Mommy, Mother and Mom. Each one of those terms comes with a different set of standards and expectations.
On July 26, 2004, Erik and I met our daughter, Teagan Patia Roberts, and our journey of parenthood began. She was a healthy 8 lbs and 15 oz, and was 21 inches long. My pregnancy with Teagan was great until the very end. I was on bed-rest for the last six weeks because of high blood pressure.
We had been trying to get pregnant with our second child and nine months in, January of 2008, we were pleasantly surprised to find out we were pregnant. We were very excited about the pregnancy and the possibilities of a newborn with a four year old. We flew to Florida to surprise my Mom for her 80th birthday and told her that we were pregnant again.
The excitement grew as we began the pregnancy. At our first appointment, at eight and 1/2 weeks, we were able to hear the heartbeat and see our little peanut on the screen of the ultrasound machine. Twins run in my family and I made it a point to ask the doctor if there were two babies in there. He assured me there was only one.
Our second appointment went smoothly. We only heard the heartbeat, asked some questions, and we left. We scheduled our first “real” ultrasound for week 14 with the technician. We were excited to see the baby as it would look so much different than it did at week eight. As I was lying on the table, Erik standing next to me and Teagan rocking in the chair, we looked up at the screen on the wall. Since our first ultrasound, our doctor had upgraded to a new machine and things were really easy to see. We saw two round things. Erik looked at me and I looked at him, and he said, “Please tell me that is its head and its butt?” Amy, our ultrasound tech said, “Oh, you guys didn’t know you were having twins?” “What?” we said in unison. “Holy shit! We are having two!” I said as tears were running down my face. Erik was in shock. Teagan handed me a tissue and said, “Please don’t say that word Mumma, it’s a bad word and don’t cry, it’s a happy time!” Our Tech did some more measuring and told us that she was almost certain we were having boys. I kept saying, “But the doctor assured me we were only having one! What happened?”
Becoming the parents of twins was an exhausting job. As soon as we left the doctor’s office we began making phone calls and looking at our picture of their heads. When we called friends and family and told them we were having “boys”, most responded with, “Did you say boys… as in two?”
Scared was not even a word to describe how we felt about twins. We lived in a 700 square foot, two-bedroom house with a three-year-old and a 100-pound dog. After the shock of twins subsided a bit (not much) we formulated a plan and started to figure out how we were going to adjust from a family of three to a family of five. Life was great, we were moving along and I felt good. I was looking huge for being five months pregnant and the boys were moving.
When we were pregnant with Teagan we lived in North Carolina, away from our family, so we were very happy to be really close with our family during this pregnancy. We scheduled our “big” ultrasound for the hospital (this is the ultrasound to confirm that the twins were boys and to get their measurements.) It is a very common ultrasound that many doctors recommend. It was not supposed to be a big deal.
We invited Erik’s mom to the ultrasound because when I was pregnant with Teagan she was not around to attend any of the doctor’s appointment. The ultrasound was scheduled for Friday, May 9th, 2008; Erik and I were really excited to see our Boys again as it had been about a month since we found out how much our lives were changing.
When I got to work in the morning I could feel them moving around and I was eagerly telling my co-workers that I would have updated ultrasound pictures on Monday. Erik’s mom picked me up from school and we drove together to the hospital. Erik and Teagan met us there. The day was beautiful, an early May afternoon, the Friday before Mother’s Day. While we were waiting to be called into a room, the news was on the TV and a mother and child had been struck by a car while they were crossing an intersection. Both were okay except for minor injuries, but I remember thinking how awful that must be as a parent to have to go through something like that. We were then sent to our room. As soon as the ultrasound technician started we saw our Boys on the screen. She looked at them and looked at me and said, “Your bladder is really full, why don’t you use the bathroom and come on back in.” As she showed me the bathroom she walked into another room. I was so happy to see those boys on the screen; I couldn’t get out of the bathroom quickly enough!
When I returned to the room there was a doctor in the room and he took over the exam. He placed the wand on my stomach and looked at his screen as we all looked at the TV on the wall. THERE THEY WERE!!! Tangled up together and lovely… little legs and little arms…. I was so glad to see them, yet so blind at the same time. The doctor looked at us and said, “I’m sorry, but your babies don’t have heartbeats.”
“I’m sorry but your babies are no longer alive.”
“No, they’re just sleeping!” I said back to the doctor.
At this point we are both confused and Erik said to the doctor, “Only one, or both of them?”
“I’m sorry, but both.”
I didn’t know what to do and I felt as though I was going into shock at that point. Teagan was crying and asking what was going on?
I didn’t know what was going on… This wasn’t supposed to happen to me!?! I made it past three months and everything was supposed to be fine. They never told me that my babies could die.
My mother-in-law is the most fabulous woman in the world and, although she was in shock, she was able to pick up the pieces that Erik and I could not. She gathered Teagan, who was crying, and was able to get her to leave the room by offering her ice cream. Looking back on that moment I am able to understand what it truly means to be a Mother.
We were led into a room with a phone on the wall and our doctor called us. We were given a few different options about their delivery. I didn’t want options; I wanted my Boys’ alive. I wanted the last four + months of my pregnancy. Instead we were given three options. The first was to be admitted immediately and start the process of induction. This was too much for us as a family. We needed to make plans for Teagan, for each other (we both work in schools) and our dog, Loki. Option two was to visit a doctor in Detroit and have the Boys vacuumed extracted. Option three was to return home and come back on Monday for an induction.
All I remember about that moment was being completely numb and angry. I was angry because my body failed and there was nothing that I could do about it. All I wanted was for the Boys to be out of me, and this nightmare to be over. I didn’t know what to do or how to think; everything was so surreal. We drove home, and as we pulled into the driveway I noticed a long white box sticking out of the doorway. Inside the box was a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my best friend, Sarah. The card read, “Happy Mother’s Day Chicken! Keep those feet up and relax, because once those Boys get here you won’t have the time!” How badly I didn’t want to go through to the next phase.
Later that evening, I remember thinking… I don’t want to see them, I don’t want to hold them, I don’t want to name them and I don’t even want to go through this process. Why do I have to deliver them? Is this some sick joke that someone is playing on me? I just kept thinking that I was going to wake up and everything was going to be fine. After taking many deep breathes and talking to my best friend’s mom Marlene, who is a labor and delivery nurse, I found out that this DOES happen frequently. Through the tears she explained to me what those three options really meant. Erik and I choose option three. We were told that the pitocin may take up to three days to soften the cervix, and it could be a really lengthy process. Marlene also suggested that we hold the Boys—to see them and say our good-byes.
We hunkered down at Erik’s parents’ house for the weekend to think and try to figure out why this happened. I kept thinking that the ultrasound machine was broken and on Monday we would see their heartbeats. I don’t think that I have ever cried so hard for so long. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, didn’t shower and couldn’t talk to anyone. I was in complete denial. I couldn’t lie down to sleep because every time I rolled over, I felt them rolling around inside of me. What little sleep I did get those days was done sitting up.
Monday May 12th, we drove to the hospital in silence; it was still dark when we arrived. We decided as a family that Erik, myself, and my best friend, Sarah, were going to be the only ones there for the delivery and after. At some point, Meemo, Erik’s mom was going to come up and see the Boys. As we approached the labor and delivery desk, the nurse behind the counter cheerfully said, “Are you here for delivery?” I lost it at that point as we were escorted to our delivery room. From speaking with Marlene, we knew that social work services were going to be coming to see us at some point. We asked them to come before I started taking any sort of medicine. I just wanted that part taken care of. I wanted to know what was going to happen with the Boys’ after they were delivered.
When the social worker arrived, we were given a folder full of information that neither of us really read at that time. We were also told of the Child Remembered Program, through Roseland Park Cemetery. We chose to have the Boys taken there after their delivery. We also were visited by Beaumont’s “God Squad” and asked if we would like to see someone when the Boys arrived. I don’t really remember too much after that meeting because I requested as much pain medicine as I could. Erik has since filled me in on the rest of our hospital experience.
The Boys were born still on May 13th, at 4:00 am. They arrived one right after the other. The staff was very considerate and accommodating with our loss. They gave us our privacy; they wrapped the Boys in blankets and put knitted caps on their tiny heads. I had some complications during the delivery and had to have an emergency D and C. It wasn’t until after the surgery that I held them. They were so tiny, and they each had ten little fingers and ten little toes. I kissed their faces, and caressed their arms. At this point we still had not named them.
We left the hospital the following day and reality set in… We arrived as four and left as two with some pictures and boxes. What was I to do at this point? I had been taking all sorts of pain medicine but now, just two days later, I am supposed to leave as if nothing had happened? Who would I talk to? What would I say? Could I really tell someone how I was feeling if they asked, “How are you?” I didn’t understand life at this point. We had just suffered a huge tragedy and the world was moving on. I wanted so badly to be a part of the moving on. However, I was still deeply in my grief.
I stayed home for two weeks after the Boys were born and spent the majority of that time crying and sleeping. I rarely answered the phone; if it wasn’t for Sarah I don’t think that I would have had any outside interaction with people.
I needed to talk to people who understood, who knew, who had suffered and were farther along in their grief than I was at this point. I needed to know that life got more tolerable, and that it was okay to be in the state that I was in. Erik and I started attending the grief group, Looking Ahead, at Beaumont. Our first session happened to be June 10th. I have met so many people with similar stories and similar grief through the group. Then in August, the man who raised me, Uncle Keith, died suddenly of a heart attack. So not only was I grieving the loss of my children, I was also grieving the loss of my father figure.
In September we found out that we were pregnant again and I was filled with every emotion possible. The group was/is my sanctuary. I felt safe to have those feelings and it gave me the strength I needed. I have been attending the group regularly ever since.
In January of 2009, Anna LaFountain attended our group for the first time and spoke of a way to honor our babies. I immediately jumped on board and in four short weeks we put together our 1st annual Angel Kisses fundraiser in February of 2009. I think about my Boys regularly and, through my pregnancy with my now five-month-old son, Aiken, I have come to accept my grief as a part of life. We named our Boys Theodore Holden and Tristen Jeffrey.
It doesn’t get easier… just more tolerable. Some days it is easier than others.
If you have questions or comments, you can contact Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org.