Vanishing Twin

In March of 1995, I began having cramping and experiencing pain in my lower abdomen beyond the norm.  I was 24 years old and turned 25 in June and did not know that I was pregnant.  I went to the doctor to try and determine what was going on.  I was seen by a Nurse Practitioner.  She was very kind and attentive.  I also had a low grade fever, and just did not feel “right”.  She determined that I had a “vaginal bacterial infection.” In addition, she did a pregnancy test which came back negative.  She prescribed an antibiotic and sent me home.

A couple of weeks later, I was still experiencing the same symptoms and continued to feel like “something just  wasn’t right”.  I returned to the Nurse Practitioner and she ran another pregnancy test (among other tests) and this time it was positive…I was pregnant!  WOW!!!  Because I was experiencing pain and cramping, she felt that there was an urgent need for me to have an ultrasound.   There was a Radiology department on site so she called down for me to be seen immediately.  I was in shock…I was happy, excited, and terrified all at once.  I was not married at the time, however, I was engaged and knew that my fiancé was going to be very happy.

Before the day was over, I was to be in even more shock, even more happy and excited, and even more terrified.  I was seen by the ultrasound tech as soon as I arrived.  I was eager to see what “my baby looked like”…knowing that it was early on and I would not be able to see much…the anticipation was tremendous.  As is usual, the tech had the screen turned away from me during the first part of the ultrasound.  So, I was just lying there waiting, watching her, being lost in my thoughts, and then I saw a change in expression on her face.

Her rather emotionless face turned very serious.  At first, I wandered what was wrong. When I asked what was happening, she said she wanted to “take some more measurements and get some additional pictures.  She said she had not been doing this for very long and that she wanted to let the Radiologist take a look at things.  She could see that I was worried and assured me all was okay.  She stood up and said that she needed to go get the Radiologist.  I knew it was common practice for the Radiologist to look over “the films” later.

The Radiologist came into the room, introduced herself, and told me that she wanted to do an ultrasound herself.  She said that she wanted to take a look at a few things and then would fill me in on what was going on.  I was nervous.  Listening to them, talking and pointing things out, I was beginning to figure out what going on.  The Radiologist had only been looking at the pictures for about 30 seconds, but it felt like minutes, when she turned the screen toward me and asked if “I would like to see my babies”.  Wow!  “Do you have a history of twins in your family?”  I immediately got tears in my eyes.  It was amazing!  There they were…”my two babies”! You could see two very little hearts beating…it was totally amazing!!!  The Radiologist and the tech were so excited themselves.

The Radiologist continued the exam just to make sure all was okay.  Everything seemed perfect.  I was about 8 to 10 weeks pregnant.  The babies, she said, had a due date of December 10th.  As the news spread through the department, I was congratulated over and over. It was wonderful…so exciting.  I was assured that everything was great…both babies looked really well…and right were they should be.  However, since I had been having some cramping and pain, they wanted me to come back for another ultrasound in two weeks to just follow-up.  They also wanted for me to “take it as easy as possible”.  I was not “on bed rest”…but was just advised to stay off of my feet as much as I could.  I made my appointment and headed for home.

My mind raced and was in a thousand different places on my 45 minute drive home.  I arrived at home and laid down on the bed.  I was exhausted, overwhelmed, so, so excited.  My fiancé arrived home about 15 minutes after I did.  He looked at me and immediately knew something was going on.  I told him…”We’re pregnant”.  The look on his face was that of both shock and incredible excitement.  Then, I told him:  “oh, and by the way, we’re having twins”.  He was shocked and beaming.  I was beginning to really absorb it all.  Yes, I was really excited; however, at the same time, reality was setting in and I was overwhelmed by it all.  He was so happy.  He actually started jumping up and down on the bed.  We were in tears together.  They were, at this time, tears of joy!  We agreed that we would not tell anyone yet.  Though, I knew that it was going to be very difficult for both of us. The excitement of the moment was something we really wanted to share. However, we decided that we would wait until we were a little “further along” and knew that all was truly okay.

I returned for the second ultrasound two weeks later.  I was greeted by the receptionist with “Hi Mommy…how does it feel to be carrying twins?…has it set in yet?…I know you guys are so excited”.  Of course everyone in the waiting area overheard her and it began a big topic of conversation…many questions, etc.  It was so fun to listen to everyone to tell me how wonderful it was that I was having twins…strangers…so happy for me.  I came out of the ultrasound with additional reassurance that all was okay.  The pain and cramping had gotten much better.  With the exception of the morning sickness, EVERYTHING was wonderful.  I was beginning to allow myself to really be excited.  The feeling of being overwhelmed was “vanishing” with each day.  I was having twins…wow…it was wonderful!

My fiancé and I had decided that we would not tell anyone else until I was 3 months along.  Things seeming to be going wonderful.  My fiancé had not had a chance to “see the babies” yet.  He had not been able to make it to the two previous ultrasounds because of work.  My third ultrasound was scheduled on his birthday in mid-May.  He was definitely not going to miss this one. What an awesome birthday present to see his babies for the first time!  We really thought that we had passed the time were we should have any reason for concern.  Since my last visit, I had changed to a facility that was closer to where we lived and I would be able to deliver at a hospital that was a little closer to our home.  So when we walked into the reception area that day, there was not the same excitement and greetings that I had experienced at the previous facility.  I found out at the end of my appointment, they not even have my medical records yet. I had no idea that the tech did not have any idea that I was expecting twins.  I was just another expecting mom-to-be in for a routine ultrasound.  I laid there while she performed the ultrasound, my husband and I eagerly waiting to see the babies.  The exam seemed uneventful.  The tech just went about her “business” very quietly…moving the probe around, taking the measurement and clicking on the keyboard.  My fiancé had asked during the exam how everything looked and she said “great…I’ll be able to give you a look as soon as I get a few more measurements”.  When she was done, she turned to screen towards us and pointed saying  “you can see your baby right here”.  She began to point out the head, arms, etc.  We looked in amazement!  She clicked a button and printed some pictures for us.  We just sort of sat there still and silent as she told us that was all she needed for today and everything looked great.  I couldn’t make words come out of my mouth.  My fiancé said “well what about the other baby???”…”aren’t you going to show us pictures of it as well???”.  The tech looked at us with complete bewilderment.  A terrible knot sunk into my chest.  She asked him what was he talking about.  He said “we’re having twins!”  In a seemingly cold tone, she blurted out:  “I don’t know where you got that idea…you just have one baby in there.”  My fiancé, became very upset and insisted that she sit back down and look for the other baby.  In her still seemingly cold tone, she said that she had done a thorough exam and there was no need to do a further exam.  She told me to get my clothes back on and make another appointment at the front desk for 20 weeks.  That was that…she walked out of the room.

We sat there motionless and in shock…it felt like a bad dream…literally.  I sat up on the table, tears were beginning to roll down my cheeks.  I was shaking.  I looked at him for an answer…”what is happening?”  He told me not to move and he would be right back.  I could hear the discussion from the hallway.  He was insistent that a radiologist was going to come into the room immediately and do another ultrasound.  The discussion went on for several minutes.  He returned to the room and said the doctor would be in soon.  We sat there together for what seemed an eternity…it was probably only minutes.  The door opened and a very nice, but perplexed, Radiologist introduced herself to us and said that she “understood that we had some sort of confusion going on and that she was going to take a look at things”.  She asked me what I had been told previously and explained that they had not yet received my records from the other facility.  She performed the ultrasound and spent about 5 to 8 minutes “taking a look at things.”  When she finished, she stated that she “did not know what we had seen previously…but that I was only pregnant with one baby.”  She made me feel like I was crazy…there was no explanation…no anything…just “you have one healthy baby…everything looks great…see you back at 20 weeks”.

My fiancé and I sat there angry, confused, numbed…we did not know what to think.  There was no mention of a vanishing twin and we had never heard of it before…we really didn’t know what to think.  We tried to go upstairs to the OB/GYN Department but it was late in the day and none of the doctors were there.  We left a note with the receptionist attempting to explain what was happening and we were assured that we would receive a call the next day.  I did not go to work the next day.  I did not know what to do.  I was feeling devastated.  I did not know what was happening…was I in the process of loosing both of the babies?…should I be at the hospital?…I did not know what to think or do. I attempted to call several times and kept getting the main call center.  They said that they would call both of the facilities that I had used and someone would call me back as soon as possible.  I wanted to get in touch with the Nurse Practitioner I had originally seen.  I was told that they would contact her and have her or someone else from there contact me.  I was insistent that I needed to talk to someone immediately.  Finally, I was put me through to a nurse.  She was virtually no help.  She listened to what I had to say and advised me that as long as I was not in severe pain, cramping, or bleeding significantly that I was “okay”.  She said that she would contact someone at both of their facilities and have someone call me back.

The following afternoon, a Midwife from the second facility called me.  She said that she did not have my records yet and that the Nurse Practitioner that I had seen at the other facility was no longer with them.  Basically, she could not tell me anything until she received my records which she felt that she would have by the next day. She, too, reassured me that if I was “not in severe pain, cramping, or bleeding significantly that everything was okay”.  She made an appointment for me for two days later to make sure that would have my records and to call if anything changed.  I know now that I and my remaining baby were in no danger…however at the time,  I was terrified and confused.  Two days later, when we went in for my appointment, we were assured that everything was fine.  There was a brief, sympathetic explanation of what had “happened”.  We were devastated. And regardless of the “reassurance that everything was alright”, we were still scared that we might loose the other baby.  The internet did not exist [11 years ago] as it does today and there was no way to go home and “Google” it.  When we asked: “Where was our other baby?”, we were told that it was more than likely absorbed into my body.  We really were not given much information.  It was just confusing and sad.

We continued our 1 month visits and were seen around 21 weeks for our “regular 20 week ultrasound”.  Everything was great – they said.  We were able to find out that we were expecting a baby boy.  Based on the ultrasound, he now had a due date of December 20th.  We were excited. Things felt good.  We tried to let “the missing baby” drift into some secluded…forgotten  place in our minds.  We were focusing on having a healthy baby boy and fairly confident that we were safe.  We happily began to spread the news of Baby Boy due on December 20th to friends and family.  Other than morning sickness, the pregnancy was going great.

At 33 weeks, I informed by doctor that I was having some contractions that would come and go.  They didn’t feel too strong…just noticeable.  It made me nervous.  However, since “each contraction” would come and go, I was not terribly worried.  After telling my doctor what was happening, she decided to do an internal exam.  To both of our surprise, I was 3 cms. dilated.  I was prescribed Brethine.  I was allowed to continue working…I had a desk job. I was told to stay off my feet and on bed rest as much as possible.  The contractions continued off and on.  However, I did not dilate further than 3 cm.  Then at my 36 week check-up, my doctor noticed that my cervix had “thinned” significantly and the baby had dropped.  She felt like it would not be long.  Two days later, the contractions came back and this time they were different.  They were painful!  We went to the hospital around 10:00 pm on November 17th.  They were able to stop the contractions and sent me home the next morning…again take it easy stay off your feet.  The following Sunday, we drove about an hour and a half away to my Baby Shower.  The contractions returned.  I just couldn’t sit down.  I would sit down or lie down and then get back up and walk around.  I was not in terrible pain…I just couldn’t get comfortable. The “uncomfortableness” continued through the Baby Shower.  We drove home that evening.  I was really exhausted.  We went to bed around 10:30 pm.  I was awakened around 12:30am (Monday) with terrible pain like I had never felt before.  Somehow, over the next 5 hours, I walked around, would lie back down, showered in repetition…feeling like I was in some kind of dream.  It was really strange.  I finally woke my husband up around 5:30 am telling him that something is really wrong or maybe this is it.  I hung on for about another hour or so before calling the nurse.  Then, the contractions just stopped…it was bizarre!  The nurse said that since they had stopped, I should just come in to see the doctor when they opened at 08:30 am.   We left for the facility which was about 45 minutes from where we lived.  On the way, it all started again.  It was pretty painful.  We got to the facility, signed in, were told to wait and they would call us back in a few minutes.  While waiting, it all stopped again. I felt a significant amount of pressure but no contractions.  Strange.  The nurse said that they were going to do “A Non-Stress Test”.  She hooked me up and sat there waiting to see the contractions I had described.  There was nothing…nothing for over 15 minutes.  She looked at me like I was nuts.  I felt nuts!  She said that she was going to get the doctor to do an exam just to check things out and then they would probably let me go home.  In the 10 or so minutes that she was gone, I had 5 contractions…big ones!  When the nurse and doctor came back into the room, they looked at the strip and looked at me with astonishment.  When she checked me, I was 8 cm.  No one could believe it.  The hospital was about 25 minutes away and with the morning rush hour traffic, it could take an hour or more!  I had a ride to the hospital in an ambulance for fear that I could possibly give birth on the way as the labor started and stopped, again and again.  Our beautiful baby boy was born at 12:22pm after pushing for about 45 minutes.

There were some issues…as he was a month early.  Surprisingly, he weighed 6 pounds 12 ounces.  However, he did not have the eating thing down pat and we would find out in the next few weeks that his lungs were not quite developed. We had a few medical ups and downs early on.  However, today, he is a thriving almost 11-year old.  We have not yet told him of his “Lost Twin”.  It will happen soon.  We wanted to wait until we thought that he was mature enough to understand and handle it.  I think about his “Lost Twin” what feels like every day.  I wonder whether or not it was a boy or a girl.  I try to imagine two of him.  It is sad to think about at times.  However, we are so very blessed to have him.  We have been blessed again two times.  When he was 9 months old, we got pregnant again…this time with only one.  He has a gorgeous 9 year old sister.  Then, when they were almost 5 and 3 1/2, we were blessed with another beautiful baby boy.  They are now almost 11 (in 3 weeks), 9, and almost 6 (next week).  My husband and I have a truly beautiful family!


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