Diagnosis: Conjoined Twins
I was finally out of the first trimester. I could take a deep breath and blow away my worries right? We had seen a beautiful little blob on the ultrasound at 7 weeks 5 days and there it was; a perfect beating heart. My husband and I couldn’t have been more excited. So when I went to my 12 week appointment at the midwives office I was expecting to hear my “jellybean’s” heartbeat for the very first time on doppler. I really rushed through the appointment knowing that the midwife wouldn’t check for the heartbeat until the end. When she finally did I held my breath. She checked and checked and still found nothing. I was measuring at 12 weeks and she assured me that all was well.
I went home and stressed out for another 4 weeks. When I went back for my 16 week appointment the midwife sensed my worry and immediately tried the doppler again. She searched high and low. And even began talking to my baby saying “Where are you little one?” When she couldn’t find the heartbeat after 8 terrifying minutes she suggested that I go to the hospital to get an ultrasound done just to ease my mind. I gladly agreed. I immediately called my husband at work and asked him to meet me at the hospital. He could sense the fear in my voice and met me there within minutes.
The wait for the ultrasound seemed like years. We couldn’t hear my baby’s heartbeat on the doppler but I could hear my own heart beating so loud it seemed to hurt my ears. When we finally got in the room I hopped up on the table and briefed the ultrasound tech. He said “Alright then. Let’s find a heartbeat.” As soon as he put the transducer to my belly we saw a side view of our baby. And sure enough there was a heartbeat. The tech stopped us though and said, “Well, there’s a problem.” My heart dropped as I waited for his words. Then he said, “Were you expecting one heartbeat or two?” In that split instant my body became overwhelmed with happiness. I had always wanted twins and here they were. And even as I type this my heart skips a beat just telling this part of our story.
My mind began racing. I was thinking about double strollers and two cribs and twice the smiles. But soon my happiness turned into worry. Did Baby B have a heartbeat too? The tech spent a minute or so checking for the second baby’s heartbeat. I just waited. When he couldn’t find the heartbeat he just swiftly moved back to take measurements on Baby A, the baby whom we had seen a heartbeat on. It was then that I noticed both babies seemed to be in the same sac. I questioned that and he only said that it could be indicative of identical twins. When I asked why the babies seemed to be so close together he said, “I don’t know.”
He soon left the room and only said that he would be right back. As soon as he left my husband turned to me and said, “I think they’re conjoined.” I swatted at him and asked him why he’d say something like that only for me to worry? When the tech came back he had company. It was one of the midwives from the office I go to. She put her hand on my knee and said, “I hate to have to tell you this, but it looks like the babies are conjoined at the chest sharing one heart.” I felt my hopes and dreams wash down my face as the tears started flowing. I couldn’t say anything. She told us that she was going to make an appointment with a great perinatologist that had dealt with this before. I could only hope the appointment would be that same afternoon.
My mind had begun to fill with questions and I couldn’t wait for answers. The only thing I knew was I had to get out of that room before I suffocated. On our way out the tech stopped us with the appointment date and time. We had to wait an entire week to know the future of our babies. That week gave us a lot of time to think. We agonized over what would be best for our twins and our two young children. We both just wanted answers. When D day finally came we made the long trek to the city hospital. And there we met with a team of perinatologists that studied our babies with four hours worth of ultrasounds and finally an echocardiogram.
It was then that we learned that out twins were girls, conjoined girls sharing a liver and a heart with a number of defects. Our girls were given a slim chance at life. And even if they made it through birth the doctors informed us that with their heart defects, they could not be separated. Sadly the more bad news we received about our daughters, the more our decision became clear to us. We couldn’t bring these babies into a life of tubes, needles, and surgeries. We couldn’t bring them into life only to suffer. We made our decision, we had to terminate. I asked the doctor to print us out an ultrasound picture of the both of them. He brought us back a wonderful photo. There they were, conjoined at the chest and facing each other and you could clearly see one arm from each girl wrapped around her twin. That image will stick with me forever. My girls would always have each other and will be forever hugging.
There were several days before the D&E could be scheduled and many short procedures to endure before that time. I tried to enjoy every last minutes with my daughters. I’d often lie very still just waiting to feel their kicks. Unfortunately it seems that their heart condition had slowed their movement so that I didn’t get to feel too many more kicks. I felt like I was being punished. I felt like they didn’t love me anymore because of the choice we had made. I felt like they were punishing me by not letting me feel them anymore.
But over and over again I had to tell myself that I was being a good mommy. After one more week with my twin girls we made that lonely drive to the hospital again, only to leave with a gaping hole in my womb and my heart. And still the tears flow. I remind myself on a daily basis that I’d rather cry a million tears then let them shed just one. I love you Heavenly and Destiny. Mommy can’t wait to hold you close again someday. xoxo- one for each of you!