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From The Greatest Heights (Part VI)

It was only after we celebrated the great news that we were expecting twins that we saw the first sign of problems. First of all, my wife was losing, not gaining weight, even as the babies continued to grow normally. Soon after, routine blood work revealed that my wife was suffering from gestational diabetes.

We had an initial consultation with a high-risk OB specialist who outlined what gestational diabetes meant in a practical sense. I understand that high-risk pregnancy doctors need to be assertive so that families really understand the severity of their situations. It can be hard to understand the gravity of a high-risk first pregnancy, as most people’s normal understanding is that after the first trimester, the vast majority of pregnancies end in a healthy live birth. Our doctor was as strict as they come, clearly expressing the fact that the babies need to be paramount, and not taking her medical advice seriously was, in essence, killing our children.

My wife would have to prick her fingers and test her blood sugar on a regular basis. She would have to go on a strict diet, limit sugar and carbohydrates, and Insulin was likely. We were also told that there was a significant chance that my wife would have bigger babies as a result of her diabetes.

In our minds, this was a small setback. The first trimester was over, and we finally announced the great news that my wife was expecting. I was in a Ph.D. program at the University of California, Riverside at the time, and I was ecstatic to share the good news that “I was going to be a daddy” with my colleagues.

People were genuinely happy for us, as they all knew that we had been married for several years without any luck. My wife bought some maternity clothes, although she really didn’t need all that much as she was losing, not gaining weight.

Our next ultrasound was monumental. We were at the point where we could clearly see the two babies taking shape and growing. I clearly remember watching and laughing as the two babies on the screen flipped and turned in utero. Looking at the screen, I remember following their every move and gushing at each turn and flip.

That ultrasound also revealed that we were expecting a boy and a girl. We decided that this was information that we preferred to keep to ourselves. The platitudes about how all we really want are healthy babies aside, we couldn’t help think about how this would potentially fulfill the mitzvah of Pru U’rvu, and we were really expecting our “instant family.”

My sister-in-law got engaged on Purim of that year and they were in the process of planning their wedding, which was going to be held in New York. Recognizing the difficulty my wife would have in flying in her third trimester, we respectfully requested that they postpone the wedding until the end of November so we could attend with our newborn twins.

Pesach was around the corner, and we were a bit concerned about the four cups of grape juice my wife was supposed to drink at the Sedarim. Gestational diabetes prohibited any fruit juices as it contained too much sugar. We asked our local rabbi who advised (in consultation with our doctor) that she use a diet, decaffeinated national brand soda in the smallest required quantity to fulfill her obligation. No such brand was available at the local stores, however, and we asked my sister-in-law to bring some in with her when she came from New York for Yom Tov.

These were exceptionally exciting times. We were to be parents, and there was soon to be a wedding. My wife informed me of the protocol. The expectation would be for me to walk down the aisle holding our female baby and for her to hold the male.

My wife and I were also in the process of moving to a two-bedroom apartment. While we weren’t “planning” for the twins before they were born, we felt that we had outgrown our one-bedroom.

And then our dream started to unravel. My wife came up to me hysterical that she was bleeding. Bleeding in the second trimester is much more serious than bleeding in the first. That news shocked me to the absolute core. We hurried to the car and to the HMO hospital for evaluation.

I could not believe this was happening. Everything had been going so well. How could things end like this? I wheeled my wife into the Emergency Room and tried to explain the gravity of the situation. The hospital told us that they only had one emergency gynecological room and that it was taken. We would just have to wait.

I was livid. We have to wait? They can’t be serious! This can’t wait. I walked up to the nurse and asked her if she realized that the prognosis was worse every minute we waited. She asked me if I was a doctor. When I said no, she told me there was nothing I could do.

Fortunately, my older brother is a doctor. I asked the nurse if I could call him to see if he could light a fire under them. Their attitude did change after they spoke with him, but they still told us there really isn’t anything they could do until the room is open.

As we were sitting and waiting, my wife made the rather prophetic observation that if we had similar difficulties three weeks hence, we would go to labor and delivery, not the ER where we couldn’t be seen immediately.

It felt like an eternity, but we were finally ushered into the room. They took the blood work, but what we were really waiting for was the ultrasound.

Once again, neither of us had any idea what the pictures on the screen actually showed. After a short while, and upon the return of the blood results, the doctor told us some great news. The babies seemed fine, and her cervix appeared to be closed. This is what they call a threatened miscarriage. It wasn’t good news, to be sure, but we were still expecting. The next step was a much more in-depth follow up with the high-risk OB specialist.

The specialist confirmed the health of the babies the next day. These things just happen sometimes but, from that point on, my wife needed to be under much stricter supervision by the high-risk team. She would also need to stay on bed rest for a few weeks just to make sure things continued to progress nicely.

That made our moving day more complicated (packing and moving is not part of my skill set), but we did have the full support of my in-laws who helped us through the process. We even joked to my wife about how she got to take it easy while the rest of us were doing all the heavy shlepping.

We settled into the apartment which we assumed would be our family home for the foreseeable future. Cooking and cleaning are also not in my skill set, and there was some difficulty in my attempts to fill that role while my wife rested, but we had a great support system of family and friends, and we managed quite well.

We were anxiously looking forward to the major (albeit routine) ultrasound at around 17 weeks. The plan was to take full measurements of both babies and to make sure that their fetal development was proceeding on pace. My wife hadn’t been out much in the previous few weeks, and we decided that we were going to stop off for some pizza right after the ultrasound because we were out anyway. Unfortunately, we never got that chance. Instead of a pizza party, we got news that changed our lives forever.

About the Author: Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed is a freelance writer, public speaker and social media consultant. He is currently working on a book about his collegiate experience. He welcomes comments and feedback at chaimshapiro@aol.com or on his website: http://chaimshapiro.com/


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Just a few months ago, I was having a difficult time getting a refund for a missing product processed via the customer service call center at a major retailer. After spending hours on hold and having my request denied, I sent a Tweet to the company’s Twitter account.

I have a background in counseling, and I can say that the biggest mistake that I ever made was refusing psychological help after we lost the twins. I was trying to keep my tough-guy facade going, and convinced myself that I could deal with the pain.

We had suffered through an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. My wife had to go through labor and deliver our children to their deaths, and I was unable to save them or even give them a little warmth while they died.

Special Note: It is an unusual phenomenon that many bereaved parents share. We can almost see our age-adjusted children in our sukkah or running up to us during a family simcha. As quickly as they come, those visions seem to disappear as we go through the life cycle. They are hard moments made harder by the thoughts of not only what could have been, but what should have been.

I had to believe that things were going to be ok. They just had to be ok. We had gone through so much, had sacrificed so much and were doing everything the doctors told us to do. I remember speaking to a hesitant professor in my Ph.D. program about getting an incomplete in her class. The conversation stands out in my mind because, looking back, I can see how odd it must have seemed as I matter-of-factly told her I was too busy for coursework because my twins’ amniotic sack was bulging through my wife’s cervix.

On our first day in the antepartum unit, one of the nurses mentioned how critical every moment of pregnancy really was. “One minute in is worth two minutes out (in an incubator).” We weren’t really expecting a premature birth, but her comment put a fine point on the importance of the care my wife was receiving.

The best way to describe our emotions the morning of our major ultrasound was nervous excitement. We had survived a serious scare with a threatened miscarriage a few weeks prior. My wife was on bed rest at home, but we had no real reason to assume there would be any new problems.

It was only after we celebrated the great news that we were expecting twins that we saw the first sign of problems. First of all, my wife was losing, not gaining weight, even as the babies continued to grow normally. Soon after, routine blood work revealed that my wife was suffering from gestational diabetes.

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