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Two in Heaven and Two on Earth

family-photoOur story entails so much – from infertility, to loss, to, ultimately… happiness. No couple wants to face infertility, but that was where we found ourselves in 2013 after trying to get pregnant for several months with no success. We had multiple tests and procedures performed, before ultimately trying in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in May 2014. It was through this process that we were given our four children: two in Heaven and two here with us.

In June 2014, we learned that we were having twins and were absolutely thrilled. We had always joked about how twins would be so much fun, and secretly hoped for that result from our fertility treatments. So, when that was the result, we could not have been happier. Everything in the pregnancy seemed to be going well. We had a few scares, but nothing significant until a routine doctor appointment when I was 22 weeks pregnant showed that I was essentially in labor. I was dilated to a four and was having steady contractions, but I didn’t realize that that was what was happening at the time. I was quickly admitted to the hospital  and administered medicine to try to stop the contractions. Ultimately, those measures were futile, as I delivered our precious twins a few hours later. Chandler Charles was born first, at 3:06 p.m. He weighed 1 pound 5 ounces, and was 11 1/2 inches long. He was tough and even scored a seven on his APGAR test. Four minutes later, his sister, Paisley Joan arrived. She weighed 14 ounces and was 10 ½ inches long. Just like her brother, she also was a fighter and scored a six on her APGAR test.

chandler-and-paisleyI’m not sure if the doctors believed they would survive birth, but they did. They were intubated, and began their short fight. Both babies were strong, and tried hard, but babies born at 22 weeks have less than a 10 percent chance of survival. It was just too early. Paisley passed away on October 21, with her brother following a few hours later on October 22.

Those were the worst three days of our lives. We had faced the loss of grandparents and our own fathers, but nothing compares to the loss of your child, or children in our case. We lived in a fog. It felt like an accomplishment to leave our house to go the mailbox and pick up our mail. Our entire world crashed when our babies passed away. We struggled with our faith, and didn’t know how we would move forward.

We decided we wanted to do something to help prevent this from happening to other parents, and so began our involvement with the March of Dimes by participating in the March for Babies in April 2015. As parents of infant loss, one of our biggest fears is that our babies will not be remembered, so we wanted to do something in memory of our children. It seemed a natural fit that we would become involved with an organization that researches ways to help prevent premature birth. We wanted to find a way to help keep Chandler and Paisley’s memory alive and help make sure their little lives mean as much as possible.

Eventually, we were ready to try again for more children and moved forward with fertility treatments once again. From our first IVF cycle, we had three frozen embryos. In May 2015, we transferred our first frozen embryo, but sadly, that transfer ended in an early miscarriage, also referred to as a chemical pregnancy. After that, we were left with a very tough decision. Our two remaining embryos were frozen together, and either had to be transferred together, or one discarded, which, for us, was not even a consideration. We were scared to death of transferring two embryos again. What if both took and my body did the same thing? The guilt I carry from going into labor with Chandler and Paisley still haunts me to this day, and I will always blame myself for their passing away. How could I do that again?

We consulted with our OB, Dr. Hix at Parkhill, as well as our fertility doctor, and both gave the advice that they would move forward with transferring the two remaining embryos rather than starting all over and coming back for those embryos later. We spent a lot of time praying about the decision and weighed all options before ultimately deciding we would transfer our two remaining embryos. It was one of the scariest things we have ever done, but we felt that it was the right decision for us. A few weeks later, we learned that we were expecting twins.

To be honest, when we learned we were expecting twins again, I broke down and cried. I still remember it so vividly. Our doctor played a heartbeat for us. I breathed a sigh of relief, and Dusty said, “Praise God… I assume only one?”  To which the doctor replied, “Well… no.” I cried and cried and remember nothing of the appointment from that point on. I was scared to death and knew we couldn’t lose more babies.

After the shock wore off, we began to research prevention of premature birth and treatment for incompetent cervix in twin pregnancies, though we did not know definitively what caused the loss of Chandler and Paisley. Sadly, we had a very hard time finding much information. We called multiple maternal fetal medicine (MFM) doctors (high risk OBs) and time after time, were told that for twins, there was not much to be done but to wait and see because a cerclage (a stitch to close the cervix) was not recommended in twin pregnancies. After further research and gaining information from women that we met through social media who had been in our situation, we made the decision to seek care from an MFM at St. Luke’s in Kansas City.

The MFM whose care we sought was very experienced with a relatively new procedure.They used an Arabin pessary, which is a ring around the cervix, to help shift weight off the cervix in order to help prevent it from shortening. This procedure has been done in Europe for several years, but is still new to the U.S. My local OB was very supportive of me seeking treatment in Kansas City, and so, beginning at 15 weeks, we made bi-weekly trips to Kansas City for care. I was seen on the off weeks by my local OB, and things went very smoothly throughout most of my pregnancy. Both doctors were very pleased and felt the pessary was doing what it was meant to do.

At 30 weeks, after leaving work early, I felt pain and increased pressure, which led to an ER visit. I was given antenatal corticosteroids, or steroids, for the development of the babies’ lungs, which is a treatment that is a direct result of research and awareness by the March of Dimes. I was having contractions, which could be stopped by medicine, but these signs of pre-term labor forced me to go on bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy.

It was only the day before that my OB and I discussed reducing my work hours from over 50 each week to a lesser load. It was very challenging going from working 50+ hour weeks as a CPA to being at home every single day, but an adjustment that was well worth it if it meant keeping the babies in longer!

At 34 ½ weeks, we made one last trip to Kansas City to have the pessary removed, and then, just a few days later, Kanon Rockford and Remington Ann made their appearance at 34 weeks and six days.

Though they still came earlier than we had hoped, they were doing great, and benefited from the steroid injections they had received a few weeks earlier. Kanon and Remi spent 14 days in the NICU. Being NICU parents is tough, and, though this time was entirely different than our previous NICU experience, it was not without its emotional challenges.

It was very hard to be back in the exact place where Chandler and Paisley had passed away. We thank God for the amazing nurses that we had during our time at the Willow Creek NICU, both with Chandler and Paisley, and with Kanon and Remington. It was so surreal to be back there, and be cared for by some of the very same nurses that had cared for us during the worst days of our life, while this time experiencing the greatest joy we ever had. NICU nurses can truly make or break your NICU stay, and we cannot thank our NICU team more. They understood the feelings and emotions we were experiencing, and were so very empathetic towards us. They allowed us to hold and care for our babies, and, for the first time, experience the joys of parenthood, instead of the sorrows of losing our children.

We learned how to care for our babies from our amazing NICU nurses. It wasn’t without its challenges, as learning to change a diaper with several leads on your baby isn’t something parents typically deal with–but, at the same time, it was absolutely incredible to be there and know our babies were going to be just fine.  We spent every minute we could in the NICU for those 14 days, and the day we got to bring our babies home was one of the most joyful and amazing days we could ever imagine.

While having Kanon and Remington at home with us is beyond anything we ever imagined and has helped us heal and brought so much joy to our lives, it is still bittersweet. We miss our Chandler and Paisley every single day, and often times comment about how we should have four babies running around. Our friends still help keep Chandler and Paisley’s memory alive by posting pictures of pink and blue #ChandlerandPaisleyskies to social media whenever they see skies we like to say the babies have painted.

We have been chosen to be the Mission Family for the 2016 March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction, and this opportunity means so much to us. As I said above, becoming involved in the March of Dimes became a passion for us after having Chandler and Paisley and, even more so, with the NICU stay that Kanon and Remington had. This has provided us an avenue to tell our story, and if it helps just one couple going through something similar, then we are so very thankful.

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health.For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines and breakthroughs.

For the latest resources and health information, visit our websites: marchofdimes.org and nacersano.org. 

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