I feel honoured to share with you the story of Emerson and Harper, twin daughters to Haley and Steph, from Cornwall, Ontario. Here, Haley tells their story, and what ‘creating a dash’ for them means with such gentle love. You can read a post from Steph later in the blog series.
You now have the responsibility of creating a dash for Emerson and Harper.
Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a Mom – I would stick pillows into my overalls, be a Mommy to my baby doll and I would imagine what I would end up naming my child. I always knew there was something different about me. I preferred being around women so when I got older and was able to put a label on what was happening (because we are a society who loves labels), I realized I wanted to get married and have a family with the woman I loved.
Let’s fast forward. Steph and I got married in 2014 in my parents backyard. A BIG backyard wedding with all of our friends and family. Steph had a daughter with her ex wife and the moment we were married, people started asking when we would be having a baby so G would have a sibling. G even started asking when she would have a brother or sister. Being that Steph was older than me, we did decide to try sooner than later.
Getting pregnant had it’s challenges. Not only were we a same sex couple, but I was having fertility problems. After figuring out what was going on, we started trying again with a low does of a fertility medication called Clomid. Clomid and I didn’t get along very well. The hot flashes and mood swings would make Steph and G stay out of my way at all costs. We were on our fifth try with Clomid when my doctor told me we should look into IVF. I told him I wanted to try one more time like this and then move on if needed. Our final try with this method and low and behold I got pregnant.
Six weeks into our pregnancy, my doctor sent us for an ultra sound as my beta numbers were through the roof. We found out that day that we not only having one bundle of joy, but two! We immediately told our families as we couldn’t contain the excitement further. At twelve weeks three days, we announced to the world that we were expecting and everyone was over the moon for us. At eighteen weeks I had visit with my OBGYN to check in and to make sure everything was going smoothly. At the end of the appointment he proceeded to tell me that I was having a normal twin pregnancy, but the weeks that followed that appointment were anything but normal.
On October 1st was my wife’s birthday. I wrote her a birthday card and signed it from: Peanut Butter and Jelly – That’s what our nicknames were for the twins. October 2nd, I felt a funny cramp getting into bed, but figured it was nothing. October 3rd, I noticed a little penny sized amount of blood – it really wasn’t anything to write home about however my OB said if anything changed or was different I should go to the hospital. Luckily, I had my sister and she came with me while Steph and her Dad stayed to put the cribs together. My Mom was in town so she met us there as well. Once I got into a room, they did an ultra sound and the babies looked good. The OB on call wanted to make sure everything was okay so she did an internal exam. She quickly finished and said we had to talk – I had bulging membranes. There was a moment of silence before I broke down and cried. My Mom and Sister were sent back in and I was told I had an incompetent cervix. I stayed the night as the OB wanted to send me to the Ottawa General the next day to see if I could get emergency surgery. The “Guru” of the cerclage worked there. A cerclage: where they push membranes back up (That’s if membranes are bulging out) and sew the cervix shut. An incompetent cervix: 1 out of 100 women. The reason for 25% of miscarriages in the second trimester.
It was the next day and I was air lifted and brought to the General. Nurse Dawn met me; If I could say anything to her right now, I’d tell her she was a nightmare of a nurse. Being that I was nervous and scared I asked her if the babies were okay. Her reply: “I have seen this enough times to know that you’re not walking away with your babies-they’re going to die.” My parents hadn’t arrived nor had Steph; I was by myself being told the worst news possible.
After waiting three hours I finally had an ultra sound. The babies looked good and heart beats were fantastic. Once the ultra sound was done and I was back in my room and the Guru came in with his residents. They told me they wouldn’t do the surgery however, had I been a forty year old women with pervious miscarriages, they would have done it, but because I was young and got pregnant “fairly easily” they wouldn’t do it (Let me point out it wasn’t “fairly easily.” It was a year and a half.. yes we started before we got married…of trying to figure out why I was constantly spotting, it was a D&C to remove a polyp, it was being told that I wasn’t ovulating and I needed to be put on fertility medication to try and have a baby and it was being told the month before we found out we were pregnant that if the medication didn’t work we would have had to look into IVF…It wasn’t “fairly easily”). From there they told me I could do a D&C and I wouldn’t see my babies or I could induce labour. They didn’t want me to try and keep going on bed rest because they were 90% sure I had an infection.
They left us alone. Alone to decide the fate of our babies. Which, while laying there trying to decide the fate of our babies, was the hardest thing to do. The what ifs were all of the place. Finally, Steph and I decided that we would wait then two days to see if the swab came back with an infection before we made any decisions. That we were their parents and we wanted to do everything we could to save them. When we told the Doctors what we wanted to do they called my OB to see if he would take me at his hospital and he did. After my OB agreed to take us back at his hospital, I was asked to leave the General right away. I travelled in the back seat of my parents car laying down with my feet up. We finally got to the hospital and as I entered the Emerge there was a newborn, a toddler and a pregnant woman. My family huddled around me as I wept at their sight and they hid me from them. From there I was placed in postpartum. They were nice enough to put a hold on my room so no one with a baby could use the second bed.
On Tuesday October 6th (Which was a scheduled ultrasound for the sex of the twins) I had another ultra sound to see if anything had changed and they did. I had dilated another centimeter (I was 1cm before) BUT part of Twin A’s membrane went back in AND I didn’t have an infection! We were so happy to hear that. Still nervous, but happy and the game plan was for me to go home the next day and stay on bed rest until 24 weeks to be sent back to the General. We also found out during that ultra sound that we were having two girls – Emerson and Harper.
That same day I started having what I thought was gas pains. It started around 3pm. My mom left around 9:30pm that night and around 10:30pm I told Steph that I didn’t think it was gas anymore. At 11:30pm I was sent to labour and delivery and as I moved from my bed to the wheelchair, my water broke for Emerson. I didn’t tell any one because I didn’t want to believe it. They then gave me morphine to try and calm me and at that point I asked for my Mom to come back. My Mom got back to the hospital around 1am and that’s when I started laboring hard and told them the truth about my water. My dad showed up around 3:30am and my Sister around 4:30am. Both my Dad and Sister waited outside of the room.
At 5:04am on October 7th my beautiful Emerson Clara Jean was brought into the world (I will always regret not holding her right away). Steph held her until her heart stopped beating. At this point my body thought it had done it’s job and I stopped having contractions. I had a brief moment of thinking that we could save Harper, but then my water broke for her. I still hadn’t delivered Emerson’s placenta and I still hadn’t delivered Harper or her placenta and my contractions were done. I started losing a lot of blood – My OB was called and he came in. He started yanking on what was left of Emerson’s cord in hopes to bring on contractions-Nothing was working. I had to be induced as they were getting worried. They took blood to see what blood type I was just in case I needed a blood transfusion. Luckily my contractions started again and I delivered Emerson’s placenta. At 7:20am my beautiful Harper Patricia Mae entered into the world. She was placed on top of me and was still moving. The nurse was about to cut the cord and I made her stop and asked if Steph could cut it. I held Harper until her heart stopped beating. From there I delivered Harper’s placenta. It came out in chunks though and my OB told me I had to be sent down for an ultra sound to see if I had any left.
From the moment both girls were born we got to hold them. Everyone got their turn. Steph’s parents, mine and my sister. We got to hold then until my ultra sound. At 1pm we said our goodbyes in person. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I wasn’t taking my beautiful babies home – My beautiful little Angels. I went to my ultra sound and came back up to find out I did in fact have placenta left. After everything, I had to have a D&C. It was during my D&C that I dreamt about my girls. In my dream they were old enough to walk, but small enough to still be wearing diapers. One had blonde hair and one had brown. It was a beautiful, warm breezy day and they were dancing and running around in the grass. I was wearing all white and remember laughing with them. It was in the moment that I knew they were okay.
As I mentioned above, I have a step daughter. Going home (We stayed at my parents house for three days so family could go and dismantle the nursery for us) that day to tell my kind hearted, sweet step-daughter that her sister’s passed away was very hard. See, Georgia was not a very emotional kid. She didn’t cry or get angry very much – she preferred comforting those around her. However, when we explained to her that her sister’s were no longer in my belly and that they were no longer with us she wept. I will never forget what she said while crying, “But I don’t want to be alone – I wanted sisters and I wanted to teach them things.” She made us promise her that we would still talk to them (Which we still do every night before she goes to bed) and that we would try and have a sibling here on Earth for her too.
On October 13th we had a closed and private funeral for the twins. It started out as a gloomy day, but by the end of the funeral and burial, the sun was shining. I like to believe that it was Emerson and Harper telling me they were alright. While we were at the cemetery, the minister (who was very welcoming of our same-sex family) said something I will always remember: “Every tomb stone you see here has a start date and an end date with a dash in the middle. The dash between the two dates represents that person’s life. You now have the responsibility of creating a dash for Emerson and Harper.”
A couple of days after the funeral, Steph and I decided to take a drive to a near city to do our groceries. We didn’t want to run into anyone we knew in town. On our way up, I decided I wanted to do a photo shoot in memory of the twins seeing as before everything started happening we were in talks of when our maternity photos would be. I contacted our photographer, Ang at momentusstudio.com and asked if she was willing to do such a shoot. She was honored to be asked and we met the following week. When we got together I brought everything I had of the twins. Their hand and footprints, the pregnancy tests, their little cards that had their names on them from the hospital, the shirt I was wearing when I gave birth to them, ultrasound photos and so on. Ang was really amazing at capturing pictures that I didn’t realize were even possible and because of her, our grieving and healing process was a little easier and I will be forever grateful for the amazing keep sakes she gave us.
The week leading up to October 7th will always be a hard one for me. October 7th will always be a bitter sweet day our family, but it’s Emerson and Harper’s birthday. It’s apart of our story now and I have two beautiful Angels waiting for me on the other side. The twins taught me how strong I really am as a Mumma, woman and person. They also made it possible for me to have my son Harrison who is here with us now. I wouldn’t have known that I had an incompetent cervix if it wasn’t for them and I wouldn’t have known I needed a cerclage to keep my son in and growing. I truly believe that they are now his guardian Angels and I truly believe that they are always surrounding us with their love and light.
My name is Haley and I’m a Mumma to two beautiful twin Angels and a son and step-daughter here on Earth and I couldn’t be prouder.
This post is shared as part of the #LGBTBabyLoss Blog Series. To read more, or to submit your own experiences, visit the LGBT Baby Loss Blog Series homepage here.