Life continued on as usual after that, and I soon put the visit with Tessa to the back burner for now. I had too much going on to worry about what could or couldn’t happen at the moment. We had finally finished registering for baby items, and we had even gone out and bought the babies’ cribs and bedding. We decided on a teddy bear theme in pastel colors. Bryce and his dad, Neil, painted the walls beige to match the bedding, and the ceiling was blue with white clouds. I found myself spending a lot of time in that room. Mostly, I just sat in the rocking chair my grandmother gave us, daydreaming about the day I would finally have my babies home and safe in my arms.
The doctor visits were going great. Both babies looked healthy and right on track. By 30 weeks, they were already estimated to be over 3lbs each! We even got to see a few 3D/4D pictures of them, which was amazing! Bryce and I argued over which one of us they looked more like. Another thing we couldn’t seem to agree on was what their names would be. We had looked through every name in our 10,000 Baby Names book and neither of us could find a boy and girl name that we both loved. Bryce like either Audrey & Adrian or Mason & Madison. My top two favorites were Lexah & Lucian or Hadley & Hayden. After many dead-end discussions on the subject, we just agreed that we’d have to wait until they were born to see what names best suited them.
One Saturday afternoon in my seventh month, my mom, along with Bryce’s mom, Merris, and sister, Lucy, surprised me by throwing us a HUGE baby shower at their church. All of our friends and family were there. And I could tell from the elaborate pink and blue decorations everywhere, the giant diaper cakes, the “Welcome Babies” banner, and tables overflowing with food and gifts; that they had put a lot of time and thought into doing this for us. It was incredible and I don’t think there was a single thing from our registry that wasn’t bought. We got our double stroller from my parents. And my best gal friends got together and made a basket of baby essentials and things for the hospital. Bryce’s grandma, Claudia, gave the babies the most adorable blue and pink teddy bears. They were holding white, plush hearts that she hand-stitched with the words ‘Granny’s Angel’ on them in gold. But my favorite gift, by far, had to be the last gift I opened. Bryce’s parents and younger sister bought us our video monitor for the nursery. I had wanted it so badly, but I didn’t think anyone would actually buy it for us. I couldn’t wait to get home and set it up in the nursery!
Later that night, we unloaded all the gifts and were trying to figure out where to put everything. I sorted the clothes to be washed and Bryce installed the camera in the corner of the nursery, aimed down at the cribs. After we charged the monitor for about an hour, we turned it on to see how it worked. I had never seen anything like it! There was a night-vision mode that was just as clear even with all the lights off. There was a camera/camcorder mode that allowed you to take still pictures or video for up to 10 hours and upload it through your computer. There was also a talk-back function where you held down a button and spoke into it and your voice could be heard in the nursery. And it was noise-activated, so it would come on anytime the babies fussed or moved. It could even pan the room and zoom in on a certain spot. We must have been playing with it for well over an hour, when I suddenly realized just how exhausted I was…more-so than I had been in a long time. I was also having some mild cramping, which tended to happen when I overdid it or if I hadn’t had enough fluids. I decided to have some tea and then go to the bathroom before heading to bed. When I got to the bathroom, however, I noticed that I was had started to bleed fairly heavily. And my cramps had started getting progressively worse. I screamed for Bryce, and when he came running and saw what was happening, his panic look matched the one on my own face. “What do I do?” he yelled. “Call Dr. Helmann and see if he can meet us at the hospital!” I cried. “I CANNOT have these babies yet!”
In what seemed like a matter of minutes (and an eternity all at once) we were in the ER lobby and being rushed to a room. Bryce filled out paperwork, while nurses examined me and asked me about a million questions. Dr. Helmann arrived about twenty minutes later, still in his street clothes. He spoke briefly to the nurse outside my room before coming in to do an ultrasound. This time, he did not say much and he didn’t let us look at the screen. I stared at Bryce and squeezed his hand hard as the tears flowed down my face. “Please God,” I begged silently, “Please let these babies be ok!”
Finally, Dr. Helmann spoke. “Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is, the babies seem to be doing fine and you aren’t in labor yet.” I felt myself breathe a huge sigh of relief. “Well thank goodness!” I said. “But what’s the bad news?” He turned the monitor towards us and pointing to a dark section on the screen, he said, “The bad news is that you have what is called a ‘placental abruption’ here, where you see this dark spot. This means that a small section of the fetal sac is pulling away from the uterine wall. That’s what caused the bleeding.” Without missing a beat, Bryce said, “Ok. So now what do we do?” I’d never seen him look so worried.
Basically, we were told that these things could repair themselves. But it would mean me being on strict bed-rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. I wasn’t too happy about it, but it sure beat the alternative of possibly losing our babies!
Now some may look at bed-rest as an excuse to let everyone else do things for you, but for me, it was even worse than I had anticipated. I was only allowed up to get food or go to the bathroom. I couldn’t even think about leaving the house unless it was to go to my (now weekly) doctor appointments. Obviously, I couldn’t do any heavy lifting or exercise of any kind. I did, however, teach myself to crochet and started on blankets for the twins. Other than that, I spent most days on the couch watching daytime talk shows and reality shows like Ellen and Dancing With the Stars. I especially enjoyed the baby shows on TLC like Bringing Home Baby and A Baby Story (no matter what the episode, I always ended up crying). I read and re-read my ‘What to Expect’ book over and over until I could have probably recited the third trimester chapter from memory. Luckily, I had visitors to help pass much of my time. My mom came over almost nightly, and our immediate family and friends came on weekends to help us finish the nursery. Without them, we probably would never have gotten it done in time.
The bleeding had stopped the day after our ER visit, thankfully. So now my appointments were just to check my progress and to be sure no new problems arose. On the morning of October 30th (one month into my bed rest and 36 weeks into the pregnancy), I went in for what I expected to be just another routine checkup. The nurse did the usual check on vitals with my pulse and blood pressure. “160 over 100…your BP seems a bit high today. Are you feeling ok?” “I think so,” I replied. “Tired as usual, but otherwise fine.” I’d been having Braxton Hicks (or “practice”) contractions pretty frequently the last few days. Nothing unbearable; so I figured it was just ‘par for the course’ at this point and didn’t mention it.
When Dr. Helmann came in, the first thing he did was examine my feet. “How long have your feet been this swollen?” he asked. I shrugged. I didn’t even know they were. (It’s not like I could even see them anymore anyway!)
“Why? Is something wrong?” I asked.
“Well, your elevated blood pressure and swelling in your feet could be indicators that something is going on. But I’d like to finish your exam before deciding what to do next.” I sighed heavily and kept telling myself to remain calm as I lay back onto the exam table. Less than a minute into the exam, I heard Dr. Helmann say, “Well…what do you know? You’re already 3 centimeters dilated! How would you feel about having two new bundles of joy within the next day or so?”
I just looked at him in shock; not even sure how to respond. Looking over at Bryce, it was obvious he was feeling the exact same way. A million thoughts went through my mind at once. Was it too early for the babies to be born? Would they be ready? And healthy? We hadn’t even thought to bring the bag we’d packed for the hospital! Dr. Helmann explained that he wanted to medically induce me to get the labor process going quickly. And he assured me that most sets of multiples are born weeks before they’re due because of the lack of room in the womb. And barring any unforeseen complications during the labor/delivery, they should be perfectly fine.
When Bryce and I finally wrapped our heads around what was happening, we called our families to let them know. Within the hour, I was registered and in a labor/delivery room. I was hooked up to several monitors, which kept track of both babies’ heartbeats and my contractions. They had started my IV fluids and the labor-inducing meds. By that time, Bryce’s parents and my mom had arrived. My mom was immediately at my side asking if she could do anything. She said my dad was headed straight there from work, which was about 20 minutes away, so it shouldn’t be too long. My brothers were both working late at the auto repair shop they ran together. They told my mom they’d be there as soon as they closed the shop. And Bryce’s sister, Lucy, was in the middle of rehearsal for the high school competitive dance team she was on, so I knew she’d be there as soon as she got the voicemail.
About an hour and a half later, around 6:30pm, my contractions were in full swing. The nurse said I had only progressed to 4 centimeters, and they wouldn’t do the epidural until I was at least 5 centimeters. Bryce’s parents were pacing the room anxiously, while Bryce and my mom sat on either side of me; letting me squeeze their hands whenever the contractions were really strong.
By 8pm, the pain had become completely unbearable with each contraction. I buzzed the nurse, who came in and checked me once more. I was finally to 5 centimeters and they called the anesthesiologist in for my epidural. Now, many women I know have warned me about the horrible sting from the large needle in your spine during an epidural. But let me tell you, it was a God-send! Within a half hour, I could barely feel anything from the waist down. It was a strange sensation, though, like my lower half was asleep. I could still feel the pressure of the contractions, but it was nowhere near the pain I was feeling before. Actually, I was able to close my eyes and relax for a bit.
I hadn’t even realized I’d fallen asleep, but when I opened my eyes again, it was already past 10pm! Korbin, Lane, and Lucy had arrived and were quietly talking to one another. They looked over at me when they saw that I was awake. I was just starting to ask them how long they had been here…when I felt my water breaking. I started to panic as I buzzed the nurse to tell her. Everyone except Bryce and my mom left the room while the nursing staff cleaned me up and examined me again. “Wow!” the nurse said, “You are almost fully dilated, my dear! In just a few minutes, I’ll call the doctor and let him know it’s time to push!”
All I could do was look at her and then at Bryce. This was IT. The moment I’d been waiting my whole life for was finally almost here. We were in the home-stretch and in just a short while, we would be looking into the faces of our new son and daughter!
Our families came in one last time to give me a quick hug and kiss and wish me luck. I think I even saw tears in my dad’s eyes as he hugged me and whispered, “Good luck, baby girl! I’ll be waiting just outside the door if you need anything. See you and those beautiful babies soon!” My dad is not an emotional guy, so to hear him say that immediately got me choked up. (Like I didn’t already have enough emotions to deal with!)
Dr. H came in as my dad was leaving the room. “So, I hear we are ready to push?!” he said. “I guess so,” I replied shakily with tears streaming down my face. My mom and Bryce were still standing on either side of the bed while they got me situated, and then Dr. H said, “Okay…let’s see what you’ve got!” With each contraction that followed, I gave it everything I had. It felt like it was taking forever! But finally, after almost an hour of pushing, my beautiful baby girl was born at 12:01am Halloween morning! She didn’t look quite as small as I worried she might, and shortly after Bryce cut the umbilical cord, she started wailing at the top of her lungs. It was such a relief to hear her and know she was alright. Bryce, my mom, and I couldn’t help crying tears of joy. Bryce leaned down, kissed me and whispered, “You did it…she’s perfect! I love you!”
“Ok, now…one down, one to go!” Dr. H said as the nurses took our daughter out of the room to get her cleaned up and checked out. For the next half hour, I continued to push, with very little progress. The doctor was starting to become concerned because the baby’s heart rate was dipping low with each push. He kept encouraging me and trying different positions in hopes of better progress. After another half hour, and still no progress, I was completely exhausted. I heard the doctor sigh and say, “Well, I really didn’t want to have to do this. But I can see that you’re exhausted. And I’m worried that the lack of progress may be due to the cord being wrapped around the baby’s neck. At this point, I don’t think we have a choice but to perform an emergency C-Section.”
NO! This was one of my biggest fears going into this pregnancy. I definitely did not feel prepared for this! But I was so worn out, and knew I couldn’t go on pushing. So I broke down into sobs and simply said, “Ok. Let’s just get this over with.” They wheeled my bed quickly through the hallway, past our waiting family, who were clearly as shaken up as I was about the emergency surgery. My mom and dad gave me one more hug and kiss on my way to the operating room, while Bryce put on his scrub gown so he could be with me during the surgery.
The whole process was absolutely terrifying. I couldn’t see or feel a thing that they were doing. I could hear them talking and barking orders to the surgery staff. I could feel tugging and occasionally the doctor would inform me about what they were doing. The good thing is, once they were in, it didn’t take long before they got to the baby. I heard the assisting doctor confirm that the cord was, in fact, wrapped around his neck. “And we have a baby boy…born at 1:23am!” I heard the doctor say as he held him up for me to see. He looked really pale, and I realized I was holding my breath, listening intently for his first cry. I heard nothing. “What’s wrong?” I asked Bryce. “Why isn’t he crying?” I yelled to the doctors. I heard them suctioning something as Dr. H replied, “He’s got some fluid in his lungs that’s preventing him from breathing. Give it just another minute.” I squeezed Bryce’s hand even tighter and closed my eyes; praying harder than I’d ever prayed before. Every second that went by felt like a lifetime. I was just about to break down again when I heard a little cough, followed by a high pitched squeal as my baby boy let out his first cry! The relief I felt in that moment was indescribable!
Bryce followed the baby and nurses out of the room while I stayed behind to be stitched up. I spent about two hours in recovery before I was taken back to my room with my awaiting family and new babies. I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were. They were absolutely perfect. All the struggles, the heartache, the worry, and the pain had been completely worth every second to finally see these two amazing little miracles. And we proudly introduced them to our family as Hadley Emmerson and Hayden Gage!
The recovery process was rough and extremely painful. I was in the hospital a total of five days, just to make sure that the babies and I were healthy enough and ready for the trip home. I barely slept the entire time I was there (and not just because the babies kept me up). We constantly had family and friends coming and going; bringing even more gifts for the babies. Everyone remarked how cute Hadley and Hayden were and how much they resembled both Bryce and I; from his red hair to my blue eyes. The nursing staff took wonderful care of the three of us, and even gave Bryce and me a crash-course on caring for twins; from bathing and diapering, to feeding and swaddling. When we were finally released from the hospital, I was still pretty nervous about being a first-time mom caring for two babies at once, but I felt much more prepared than I had five days ago!
Now if only we’d been as prepared for what awaited us when we arrived home…
It was so nice to finally be heading home with our new additions. Even though it was November, the weather couldn’t have been nicer, and I watched the twins sleep in their car seats the whole drive home. I was still extremely sore, but I couldn’t have been happier in that moment.
As soon as we turned onto our street, however, my happiness was overshadowed by confusion. What greeted us were two police cars, an ambulance, and even a local news crew van…parked across the street in front of Kent’s house. We had no idea what was going on, but we knew we probably weren’t going to get close enough to find out anytime soon. We saw Savannah in her driveway, talking to one of the police officers. She looked pretty shaken up, so we knew it had to be something bad.
We pulled into our driveway and got out of the car, still watching all the commotion. We couldn’t make out what anyone was saying. Once we were all inside the house, Bryce said, “Stay in here with the kids while I go across the street to talk to Savannah and see what the heck’s going on.”
I watched from our picture window as he hurried over to Savannah’s house. I looked again over to Kent’s house. I hadn’t seen Kent anywhere yet, but noticed that there was police tape around his front door that read “Caution: DO NOT ENTER” on it. What could have possibly happened? Bryce was talking to Savannah and I noticed his gaze was fixed in the direction of Kent’s house with his hands on top of his head; shaking it in disbelief. He glanced back in my direction. His face had become ashen. My stomach turned as I watched him walk slowly back to our house; hands shoved into his jeans pockets; never taking his eyes off the pavement until he reached our front door. What he was about to tell me would change our lives forever.
As I said before, I never knew much about Kent’s back-story. But as Bryce relayed the news to me that day, I learned more than I ever wanted to know. It turns out the “polite and quiet neighbor” who had smiled and waved to us for the last 3 years had been hiding a terribly dark secret.