In Memoriam . . . Aubrey Faith Bench & Finley Grace Bench

Originally posted on my Tumblr Blog on Apr 1st, 2011 8:58pm

On Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm and 1:43 p.m., our baby girls, 

Aubrey Faith Bench and Finley Grace Bench

were born silently. They were 20 weeks and one day old, 9 1/2 inches and 9 3/4 inches long respectively. Mommy and Daddy were able to hold both girls, kiss them, and say quiet and heartbroken goodbyes.
There is very little to no viability for babies born that early. Babies who do survive have had a plethora of health problems including vision and hearing problems (if they can do either) and since lungs do not develop until weeks 32-37 of gestation, had they survived, they would not have been able to breathe on their own. My babies were born after induced preterm labor due to cervical incompetency (my cervix was effaced to 100% and already 2 1/2 cm dilated by the time we were sent to the hospital on Monday, the 21st).  There was nothing that could have indicated this situation as it just happens in about 1% to 2% of pregnancies. While unfortunate, this situation will allow us to be monitored more closely in any future pregnancy/ies and certain precautions (such as a cervical cerclage, a set of sutures on the cervix placed for reinforcement) can be taken to hopefully deter it from happening. Yes, I went into full labor (though I didn't have to go all the way to 10 cm of dilation) and delivered my babies. At first we did not want to do it (I wanted them to cut me open and just take the girls out), but after some counseling by our phenomenal doctors and deep discussion between me and John, we decided that it was best to deliver them vaginally and that they deserved the respect and love to be held by their parents so we could say proper goodbyes.
I have been putting off writing this post, taking the time not only to process this situation, but to also sort out the words to write and the way in which to organize them. Initially I thought it may be too early to write something, but in these situations, what really is too early and who is to say what the right time is to do anything? Is there even a "right" time or a "right" thing to say? Further, I didn't know if I wanted to save the writing of this post for a time when I was more or less emotional or at least when my immensely-feared moment of "nothing to do" came. Then I realized that writing this is part of my own grieving process: sharing with friends and family and other readers and in the process of doing so, being able to face my own fears and allowing myself to cry some more.

I started to write a detailed account of our hospital experience, thinking that it would be therapeutic, but about halfway through writing it, I realized that it was not in recounting that part of the experience would I find closure or healing. In fact, I may never find it. Grief-stricken parents in situations like this may just find ways to cope with the day-to-day, but always be damaged.
Needless to say, both John and I are broken by this. Our world, which was already wrapped around preparations for our sweet peas' arrival, was turned upside down. In the five short months I carried them, we had already developed this relationship with them. And suddenly, with little to no warning, they were gone. And here we are left, empty shells of what used to be the happiest couple, getting ready to start a family together.
I cannot and will not fully speak on my husband's behalf because while he is mourning for our children as well, I am not him. I can only speak for myself in this sense . . . and I am telling you that I feel I am the definition of broken right now. We wanted these babies so bad, worked so hard at getting pregnant, and our lives were such a celebration once I got pregnant and especially when we confirmed that we were, in fact, having twins. This feeling of loss and being lost is beyond all words. I have been asking everyday, how do people recover from something like this?
One of the brochures that Kaiser gave us during discharge had this written in it: 

I don't want to be happy
 . . . not just now. 
 I have reason to be sad. 
 I earned it. 
 You see,
 My life as I knew it 
 has ended.
Upon reading that, I shared it with John and told him that that quote is me, in a nutshell. 
I feel broken and empty and lost and lonely. I hurt in places so deep that I didn't know I had.  Most of all, I miss my babies.
I miss never feeling alone not only because they were in my belly, but also because even in my moments of solitude, I could accompany myself with the hopes I had for when they were born. I imagined us taking long walks in the morning after their Daddy left for work and more walks together as a family once their Daddy came home from work. I imagined holding and rocking them to sleep at night, smelling their sweet baby scents, even getting in arguments with John for letting them sleep in our bed with us sometimes. I dreamt of Saturday mornings, taking two little preschoolers to get pedicures with me, then schooling them on the art of shopping and the Nordstrom Half-Yearly sale. I looked forward to the everyday of watching them run and tackle their Daddy when he came home from work, smothering him with hugs and kisses. 

I miss having John leave for work every morning, kissing me goodbye as I stayed in bed, then rubbing the belly and whispering to it, "Bye Babies. Be good for Mommy today." I miss the evenings, when we laid in bed and I'd shimmy my bare belly over next to him, and he would tell them about his day ("My day was boring. Lots of paperwork. I bet your day was better") and ask about theirs ("What did you do today, Babies? Did you fight? You slept all day, huh?"). John kissed the belly every night before we went to bed and would tell the girls good night ("Good night, Babies. Don't fight. Don't keep Mommy awake. Go to bed. It's bedtime."). Sometimes he read to them or we would put on some classical music for them. Now, I catch myself waiting for John to say goodnight to them after he says goodnight to me, and I come to the realization that there are no longer babies in there for him to say goodnight to, and I cry myself to sleep every single night.
I have caught myself going to the bathroom now in the middle of the night, holding my belly just like I did during the pregnancy, to protect the girls from any corners I may encounter in the darkness, except now, I quickly remove my hand, regretfully reminding myself of the harsh reality that my little babies are gone. Whereas I used to love to stare at my rapidly ballooning belly in the mirror during the pregnancy, I turn my head away or close my eyes now, seeing that once so unattractive line down the middle and the two small stretch marks that started to surface, as they are reminders of what was once the happiest and most exciting time of our lives. In the morning, in those first moments of grogginess and trying to fight the moment of waking, I sometimes think that maybe I was waking up from a bad dream, and I reach down and try to rub my belly, and now it is flat and empty. The other night, I felt gas bubbles in my tummy and instinctively placed my hand on the top portion, initially thinking that it may be Finley Grace doing her now famous somersaults or Aubrey Faith kicking her sister, but I realized that my babies are not there anymore, and I began to sob.
I would venture to say that I feel fortunate in that there has not been a bone in my body that has asked God why. For some reason, I am neither interested nor feel like I am privy to God's reasons for this. I know He has a plan and somehow, this experience has, thus far, reinforced that knowledge inside me and reaffirmed my faith in Him. In return, God has been gracious and has been constantly revealing His plans and reasons to me, without my asking.
First, as tragic and devastating as it is to have lost my girls, this experience has saved my life. We were told at the hospital that with my cervix so dilated, I could have gone into labor at any other time or place and not only had the babies in some uncontrolled environment, but it could very well have killed me. Our ultrasound appointment (a "regular" appointment, but it was when they saw what was going on with the cervix) was originally scheduled for the Friday before, and had I kept that appointment, John would not have been able to come, and would not have been there with me as he had at the hospital.
Another thing I'm thankful for is that my labor and delivery was quick. In fact, one of our specialists, Dr. O'Connelly, said that it was record time. When they were giving me the medicine to induce the labor, they warned me that since I had not only two babies but also two placentas to deliver, it could take hours, and could very well take us into the next day. We had already stayed overnight at the hospital and the whole experience was excruciating enough, both physically and emotionally, so I wanted to badly to just get it over with and go home. As they were giving me the medicine, I closed my eyes in prayer and asked God to just make it quick. Sure enough, two hours after induction, I went into labor and delivered both girls and placentas in 45 minutes. With that, the doctors approved my going home several hours later, which I was absolutely beyond thankful for.
There are SoOoOoOOooOo many more things that God has revealed to me and that we have been thankful for during this experience, but the most poignant of all was being able to hold our girls. As I mentioned earlier, my knee-jerk reaction when the doctor suggested it was NO. I did not want to see my dead babies for so many reasons; however, after heart-wrenching consideration and discussion with John, we decided that we wanted to see our little ones and say goodbye to them. They were not "embryos" or "fetuses" to us -- they are our babies. They are our daughters. So, not long after they were delivered, the nurses cleaned them up and wrapped them together in a blanket and let us each hold them, kiss them, and say goodbye. I have a dear friend who lost her daughter (different scenario) and she always tells me, "What I would give to hold her for another minute." John and I are so grateful for the minute we each got to hold our daughters. At first, I was afraid that since they were so little, that they would look scary or alien-ish but was surprised to see that they looked like little mini babies. They looked like little dolls and they were SO beautiful and perfect. Of course, being so vain and self conscious about my own nose and having prayed that they get their Daddy's, that was the first thing I looked at. Aubrey, though we pegged her at first to have Daddy's personality -- calmer, initially more reserved, but when she wants recognition, she demands it -- had my nose and face shape: round and flat. Finley, the little firecracker who we thought was more like her Mommy (more high strung, seemingly always restless, and a total ham), looked just like Daddy -- sharper nose and the same face shape.  They were wrapped together loosely, so tiny and fragile. I remember running my finger through their perfect little hands and arms and running my finger down their faces. I spoke to them quietly and told them how much Daddy and Mommy love them and how much we will miss them. I told them that it would only be a short while until we can be together again. Then I carefully passed them along to John who was standing next to my bed. He took them into his arms and turned away to have his moment with them. I will never forget the sight of him putting his face next to theirs and hearing the muffled sound of him talking softly to them.
The minute I had with my girls was the best and worst moment of my life, all rolled into one. I feel like I never knew love until that moment, when my precious babies were in my arms. Those baby girls are the loves of my life and I ache so badly for them.
What must be mentioned is a collective THANK YOU to everyone who sent messages, flowers, text messages, cards, food, and phone calls. While we may generally laugh at ourselves and our use of social networking, it has really proven itself to me as it was the avenue in which many of our friends and family have sent their love. I've been telling people that I once hated how trite the "Thank you's" and "we appreciate it" and the "it goes a long way" replies seem to sound, please know that they come sincerely from the bottom of our hearts because we DO really appreciate them and they absolutely DO go a long way. We are overwhelmed with the messages we have received from everyone, people sharing their own experiences of loss with us, and the amazing power of everyone's prayers and love sent, even from hundreds or thousands of miles away. Even friends who I have not spoken to in years have stepped up and offered condolences, prayers, and even to be "on call" with me during those dreaded moments of weakness and tears. Please know that everyone's kindness is recognized and we are so absolutely grateful for everything you all have shared.
What's next for us? We have decided to take some time to let ourselves heal, both physically (for me) and emotionally. We will be taking some time to spend together (as we never really took a break. About 3 weeks after the wedding, we had already started to meet with our IVF doctor, so we decidedly did not take a honeymoon) and God-willing, by next year, we will try again. Next time, we will probably have to make sure it is just a singleton pregnancy, but we will be under the watchful eye of the top perinatal specialists (the team we had during this ordeal) of Kaiser as well as PRC (our IVF doctors). We are having the girls cremated and this summer, we will be taking their ashes up to Bridgeport, CA, in the Eastern Sierras, near where I used to go fishing and camping all the time as well as where John's dad's ashes are scattered. We will also be scattering their ashes at a beach that is special to both John and me here in Orange County, because we know this is where they were "made", this was their home. We have discussed taking a small trip somewhere just so we can be together and take time for ourselves. Right now, we have both completely submitted ourselves to God -- HE is in charge of everything. It's hard for a control freak like me to give up the reins, but that is one of the lessons I have learned throughout all this.
Our story is far from over. As a friend shared with me once

"By the GRACE of God
and the FAITH we hold in our hearts,
we are blessed with our baby girls." 

I know that our Aubrey FAITH and Finley GRACE are our angels and I am thankful that in the short time they lived here on earth, all they knew was LOVE.


DeLacy said...

I found your blog by searching for "faint" line pregnancy test results.... I got into reading your experiences and found you to be a really GREAT writer. I searched for this particular post and found myself very heartbroken for you and J. I am SO happy that you are now 10 weeks along. I know that your attitude with faith and letting God take the reigns will work in your favor....He never lets us down. I too have been praying every day that if I am pregnant to let it work out in a healthy way, if I am not, then to just understand His plan for me and move on. Thank you again for your posts. I look forward to reading more! I can't wait to learn more about your pregnancy!!!!!!!

Gquad said...

Your blog is so encouraging and uplifting! I am so sorry to hear of your losses, and pray for this new baby to be a blessing to you and J! Thank you for touching lives that you don't even know about, and for helping us to keep strong in our faith and look forward to the day that we can see our loved little ones again!! :-)

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