I don't talk about this much. It's hard to. Just a little over a year ago I got the best news of my life. I'm gonna be a dad. And just a couple weeks later I got the biggest surprise of my life. Twins. I mean, on my mom's side I have never known of twins being born. None of them knew. On my dad's? My grandmother. And I didn't know until a couple months ago.
Life changed, heavily. Our landlords didn't want babies in the rooms and we wanted to save as much money as possible, so we moved back into my mom's to prepare. Twina meant two of everything. No normal walker, it had to be able to hold two babies. Cribs? Two. Clothing? Enouth for two. Diapers? I thought one baby had a crazy amount. And for the next couple of months thinking about my sons Wren Alan and Garrick Ralph were the happiest and most nerve wracking of times.
It's crazy though, how quickly that can all change. One moment the wife and I are going to a routine ultrasound to get the measurements of my boys. Then we're pulled into a side room and set up on skype with a doctor who tells us there's a big complication. Identical twins can habe a lot of problems depending on how much they separated as cells. I don't know the medical terms but there's the same sack twins, which has huge risks of the twins getting caught in each other's umbilical cords. There's the two sack two placenta twins, which aren't as bad off.
Then there's the two sack same placenta. That was my boys. The largest concern for them was SIGR, or Selective Intrauterine Growth Restriction, where one twin doesn't have as much of the placenta. Turns out while they become perfect copies, if the placenta doesn't split to you get unequal proportions.
The doctor told us to reseach this while he looked over the results and he'd get back to us later that day. What had been a time of nervous joy and excitement turned to dread. To bitter sadness and worry. I remember holding my wife after we got home and researched SIGR and just crying. Hoping that this wasn't the case and we didn't have to make an impossible choice.
When we got that call our fears were realized. We were scheduled for an appointment in CHOP (children's hospital of Philadelphia) on the following monday that we needed to be at if we wanted to save our babies. It was Friday. We had to organize a trip out of state from our small town to a big city with most of the money we had been saving for the twins. If it wasn't for our families and the Ronald McDonald House, we wouldn't have had enough money to get there and stay there.
Working for large companies like Home Depot as I was at the time showed how little the corporate side cared. When I called to request the time off the woman was horrible. Expected me to plan this a week in advance. Thankfully my home branch caught wind and got it figured out cause i told that woman off and expected to be fired. I wasn't, and my bosses bent over backwards to try and help me.
Once we finally got to big city Philly (Which, I hate cities with a passion. People are at their worst in traffic jams.) we continued to hope that it wasn't the worst case and that something could be done to save my sons. We went to the appointment and were brought again into a side room to talk with the doctor in charge of SIGR cases face to face.
They had tissues in all these rooms. I remember walking in and just knowing these were the rooms where bad news was given.
There are 3 types of SIGR. Type 1 is the least threatening, if still dangerous. The restricted baby is noticibly smaller, but their.. heartbeats or something with the placenta, are still going strong if a bit slow. Type 2 is the most dangerous. There's a 10% survival rate for either twin to survive and a 1% chance that the child will be born healthy (no deformities, mental illnesses, etc.) Its when the flow rate into the smaller twin has backflow, telling the doctors the placenta is tapping out and the baby will either die (killing their twin with them in this case as it will poison the placenta) or force an early labor. 24 weeks usually. And type 3 is the unknowns. They have better chances than type 2 but only because it's some crazy stuff that the doctors can't put a time stamp on when things might go down hill.
We had type 2. The worst case of type 2 they had ever seen. Garrick was almost half the size of his brother at this point. Before the reality even hit me on what was going on I immediately thought back to the original hospital we were at. How did they not notice this sooner? How were they not worried? I even asked them and they said it wasn't something to be concerned about.
Our options were listed for us.
-Do nothing. Hope that we get a miracle and we're the lucky 1% despite having the worst case they, the folks who treat SIGR twins from around the world, have ever seen.
-Abort the pregnancy completely.
-Burn Garricks cord shut to stop him from poisoning the placenta if he died (which would kill him) so Wren could survive.
My wife is the strongest person I know. I couldn't keep it together at all. This was the choice we didn't ever want to have to make. This was the choice no parent should ever have to make. Her and I had talked about this long before any of this happened. It's so simple, yet it felt so disgusting to even admit it.
If the choice is between one or none, we pick one.
She calmly took my hands and nodded after the doctors left to let us make our decision in privacy. "It's okay." None of it was okay. We're new parents given such a special gift only to have it torn away. But we had to make it okay. Not for us, but for our sons.
At 24 weeks babies don't feel pain. It was the small bit of comfort the doctor tried to give us when we went in for the procedure to cauterize Garrick's cord. It would be like he was just falling alseep. They did one last ultra sound. The last time I'd ever see Garrick alive.
Then they took Rachel, my wife, to the operating room. I had no sleep in me. Rachel and i stayed up all night to be our family of four one last time. And so I fell alseep.
When I came to they were bringing her back into the room. She was still alseep from whatever they use to knock patients out. The doctor told me it was the easiest operation he ever had.
Garrick and Wren had been notorious wiggleworms. Always dancing during the ultrasounds making it near impossible for nurses to get what they needed. Yet for this they both didn't move. It was as if they knew.
We had to stay a week close by Chop afterwards so they could do a follow up and make sure Wren was okay. It was the longest week of our lives. Mourning my son. Fearing for the other. These are emotions no parent should ever have to go through. At the Ronald McDonald house it was full of parents going through those same emotions, yet always trying to be bappy for their kids.
The end of the week came and we were cleared. Wren was okay. And Garrick's remains were in no danger of puncturing his or Wren's sac. We were able to go home. Home to all the twin strollers, clothing, cribs. Home to just the week before was our future but now was a broken dream.
Every week afterwars was ultrasound after ultrasound. We had one scare shortly after getting home during one of these appointments, but it was thankfully nothing serious. We changed hospitals, unwilling to remain with the one that told us not to worry.
I couldn't keep my job. Everyone there knew I was having twins, and having to keep telling folks that wasn't the case anymore broke me. So I stopped showing up. My bosses understood.
Ultrasounds became the most bittersweet moments I could imagine. On one hand we got to see Wren thriving and dancing still, growing bigger and healthier. On the other, we got to watch Garrick decompose. More things a parent should never have to see. But it was important. He needed to be reabsorbed correctly or it could cause a complication.
Amazingly, on August 9th, we made it full term. Well, for twins. A normal baby is about 40 weeks. Twins? 36. Rachel had her c-section and Wren was born. I've never felt so much relief. The fear of loosing him too subsided upon hearing his cries. 4 lbs. 15 oz. He was tiny.
Then they rempved Garrick. At the time I was so unsure on if I wanted to see him or not, and I can tell you now without a doubt I'm so happy I didn't. I've seen and felt so much no parent should, and that was something I could avoid and did.
Garrick was sent to a crematorium, which was all free. Having spent all of our savings for CHOP, it was welcome. From then on it was new parent worries, starting with Wren loosing weight after getting home to realizing he has a super sensitive stomach to the point we now have prescription grade formula that we have to go to a pharmacy to get.
Wren is the happiest baby I've ever seen. Not long after he was born he had his eyes open to see the world, looking at everything he could. The nurses were surprised by how much he lookes around. Now he's smiling and semi laughing (he hasn't figured it out) at 5 months old, still ever looking around and wanting nothing more than to be able to sit up and move on his own. He gets so mad if he's not propped up.
And Garrick ashes have been put into an urn which we keep close, and necklaces. I wear mine every day, only taking it off to shower. Wren has one too, but that's another worry. How do I tell him he had a brother he doesn't remember? How do I keep him from ever feeling guilty about it? I've no answers to these questions.
This was a long one, truly. I've had a lot built up that I haven't been able to say, and i needed a place to type it out. If you've read this, thank you. I can't express how much it means for you to have read this. I'm still not over this. I never will be. Every day will have its moments of me hating myself for my choice, and nothing will ever change that. But knowing I'm not alone means the world. Knowing that someone knows my pain is it's own weight removed. And if someone knows this pain, maybe they wont feel as alone anymore either. So thank you again.
-Kyle Alan Huffman, father of Wren Alan Huffman and Garrick Ralph Huffman.