GUEST POST: By Liz Nyholm, Mom & Artist
My name is Liz and I am 37 years young. I am happily married to my husband, Pete, for over 5 years and we are proud parents to a very energetic 15-month-old son, Jacob. I’m a SAHM. We also have a lively five-year-old dog named Lucy. She has helped us through some difficulties during the past 4 years or so, which I would like to tell you all about.
First, you should know that I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) in my mid-twenties. After college, I started gaining weight for no reason and having strange symptoms. I knew something was wrong. I saw several doctors, one of which was an endocrinologist. I was glad to get a diagnosis because that meant that when I did get married and try start a family I would be aware of some of the obstacles I might have to face. Little did I know, I didn’t have any idea what was in store for me. I was not prepared at all for what was going to happen in my life.
Pete and I married in September of 2005. When we were ready to start our family we tried on our own for 6 months, which is what my Gynecologist suggested. After many negative pregnancy tests, I saw the Gynecologist again. She said that with PCOS it would be difficult for me to get pregnant and might want to see a specialist because of my advanced age of 32. Ahem… 32 is not old by any stretch, and I really felt like I had plenty of good child bearing years ahead of me. Needless to say, I switched doctors. I found wonderful, caring new doctors, an OB/GYN and a fertility specialist/Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) who eventually helped me to get pregnant.
I went through a battery of tests and several surgeries to get my body ready for a potential pregnancy. We decided with the RE to try IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) 2 times. In late June of 2007 I found out I was pregnant about 10 days after the 2nd IUI procedure. My ovaries overstimulated almost immediately and swelled to the size of grapefruits. The doctor had a sneaking suspicion I might have a multiple pregnancy. Six weeks in, we discovered I was carrying twins. We were beyond scared and thrilled, all at once. I was so sick and could hardly function, but I still managed to work a full time job.
About 10 weeks into my pregnancy, in late August, my world came to a screeching halt. The past year had been spent in and out of doctors offices. My goal to get pregnant had been all I had thought of. I had postponed trips and other things in my life because I was so focused on getting pregnant. And once I was pregnant, I wanted to make sure I did everything correctly, stay healthy and stress free.
That day in late August, my sister-in-law walked into my office and told me to sit down. I knew immediately something was not right and when she spoke I couldn’t quite understand what she was saying. All I remember her saying to this day was, “Liz, it’s your Dad, he had a stroke and it’s bad”. Somehow, I managed to compose myself and get a ride to my doctor’s office to make sure the babies were doing okay for me to travel 6 hours in the car to Louisville to see my Dad in ICU. By the time we made it, he was gone. He suffered a massive stroke and there was nothing that could be done. My world was forever changed.
I thought to myself, “what a horrible compromise”. I finally get pregnant and I lose my Dad. I know the two are not related, but that is how I felt for a while. For a few months I thought I was somehow “protected” from all bad things. So not true! A few days after Thanksgiving my life changed yet again. I was at work and having severe pain in my abdomen. I went into the restroom and my water broke. I was so confused. I was only 21.5 weeks pregnant. How could this be? I had done everything the doctors told me to do. I’d been taking it easy. With no time to spare, I drove my soaked self to the emergency room and was admitted for premature labor. I spent several weeks in the hospital in the hope of delaying the birth of my twins boys. We had found that out a few weeks earlier.
These weeks in the hospital were truly horrible. I am here to tell you if you have a friend in the hospital, please go visit them. It means everything to them. I was so lonely and scared. Thank God for my supportive husband who stayed with me every night in the hospital and hardly left my side.
I started feeling really sick on the evening of December 8th and came down with a fever and was fighting a dangerous infection. I was back in labor and there was nothing that could be done to prolong the birth of the twins any longer. We could all die from this infection if we waited… and little did I know at the time, I would be the only one to make it through.
On December 9, 2007, I gave birth to 2 tiny baby boys, each a little over a pound. At 23.5 weeks gestation they had no lung capacity. We hadn’t even had time to name them. We had discussed middle names, Thomas (for my Dad) and Gerald (for Pete’s Grandfather). Baby boy “A” ,who I now call “Thomas”, was born stillborn. The trauma from labor had been too much for him. Baby boy “B”, “Gerald” was born next and took one breath before his very brief life came to an end. I was paralyzed with grief. My husband, the only one in the world who understood what I was feeling, was beside me overwhelmed with his own grief. What were we going to do? How were we going to get through this?
In a daze, the clergy came and baptized our sons. I don’t remember much from that night in the hospital, just that I wanted to go home and be alone. Unfortunately, many people took me up on that and didn’t really come by or stay, even though I needed them to. There are a handful of people, including my husband of course, who stayed with me and helped me through those dark days. I will never forget them and what they did for me.
The year that followed was full of pain and anger. I didn’t have a job to go back to after I had the babies. My old company tried to offer me another job, about 40 miles away, but that was too much for me to handle with all of the emotional issues I was dealing with. It certainly made me realize my priorities, as well as others. So, with the support of my husband, I spent a year at home healing and learning to live in this world again. I got to know myself and what was important to me and strengthened the relationships and friendships that were meaningful to me. I started to paint again and I have sold some of my work through Etsy. I haven’t painted much lately. You’ll see why after you finish reading.
As time went on Pete and I stood by each other and we became a strong team, stronger than ever before. It was a long year of grieving for my Dad and for our babies. We mustered up the strength to talk about trying again. The hardest phone call I had to make was making an appointment with the RE. I had to explain what happened with our twins and it re-opened a deep wound.
The RE suggested we try IVF this time. She wanted to avoid another multiple pregnancy. We still didn’t know why I had a premature delivery and did not want to re-live that experience.
In December 2008, we went through our first IVF procedure, only to have it fail. It was beyond devastating to get the news, another negative pregnancy test. I thought for sure the IVF would work because that is what everyone thinks.. it’s a done deal. Its just not true, not by a long shot. We waited until I was ready to do the treatment again and this time it was successful. In February 2009 I found out I was pregnant, again!
You would think that this would be a time of pure joy and bliss, but it was nothing of the sort. Pete and I held our breaths for 9 months of pregnancy. I went to see various doctors on a weekly basis. During this pregnancy they found out I had blood clotting disorder. WOW! How do I wish they had found that out the first time! That may have contributed to my early labor and the premature birth of our twins.
I was so scared I would lose this pregnancy as well. I stayed on blood thinners throughout, and limited activity/moderate bedrest. I was not able to travel or do much, but Lucy, our faithful dog, was by my side during the days while Pete was at work. And by this time, my mom had moved to Atlanta to be close to me and my brothers. My mom was my rock during my pregnancy. We helped each other adjust to our new lives without my Dad and without my babies.
In November 2009, a healthy 8 lb 6 oz baby boy was born a week early. Jacob arrived via emergency c-section after 14 hours of labor and a few failed epidurals. I hemorrhaged during the c-section and almost had to have a blood transfusion. I had lost so much blood. I was hospitalized with Jacob for 6 days while my hemoglobin levels got to where it was safe for me to go home. Pete was a champ throughout the delivery and for the first 6 weeks of Jacob’s life, was his primary caregiver. I could hardly get around due to my weakened state. That time was a blur when it should have been happy.
Fast forward to now, we still talk about our twins and we miss them on a daily basis. We plan to tell Jacob all about his “angel” brothers when he is old enough. I get asked ALL OF THE TIME if Jacob is the only child or when we’re going to have another baby. I want to scream and say he is NOT an only child. He has two brothers in heaven. And its none of your business if we have another baby or not! Pete and I would love to have more children, but we are beyond blessed having Jacob on this earth and in our daily presence.
I don’t want another family to go through what we did, but unfortunately, I know that we are not alone in our experience. We are reminded of this every March of Dimes walk and through all of the support groups at our hospital. Everyone’s coping and healing is different. We are still healing and it is a very long process. Having Jacob helps, but by no means does it take away or replace our twins. There are still a lot of people who think we are healed now that we have a healthy son. I like to think we appreciate everything he does just a little more than the average parent… but the journey to get here was a tough one.
I appreciate the opportunity to share my experience with you and am always open to talk about my journey to motherhood. It is a miracle to me that I am a mom. That I made it through some truly difficult times. I still do not believe things happen for a reason, but I do believe that when things happen to you, you have a choice in how you handle them. Use your resources and support systems, even when you don’t feel up to it. Sometimes you might surprise yourself by how strong you really are!
I credit the love of my husband, taking walks, eating a healthy diet (Weight Watchers) and yoga to keeping me happy and sane. Now it’s time for me to get back into my painting too. I also realize I have a few extra angels looking over me, wishing me well in this life!