I have to get this down, and as I’m as honest here as I am for real, it will not make the most pleasant reading. However it is what happened.
My MIL looked after our dd whilst I faffed around most of the morning before deciding to go for a swim. I managed about 3 lengths before becoming breathless – that’ll be the triplets then, sapping my energy and oxygen!! I took time to float in the blue and talk inwardly to my three babies. Nothing really specific but as much love as any mother feels for her children and sincere apologies about what was to happen. As I was swimming, the blue of the pool became out of focus so I couldn’t distinguish the bottom and it’s something which remained with me all day – ‘into the blue’ – that’s where my babies were going, into the blue, swimming and floating endlessly, happy and safe.
After a tearful phone conversation with my mum I got home to wash the chlorine out of my hair and put on some smarter clothes. Why the need to look smart I don’t know but it felt right. I realised when I got home that I had subconciously dressed all in black. I packed my bag with some fruit, my notes and a book then ordered a cab to get to the station. On the train, I wrote up our list of questions – one page for decision making, lots of ‘if this, then ???’ and a page for afterwards.
My husband met me at Victoria and we travelled the final stretch to Denmark Hill together. A grim, grey windy day – I couldn’t decide if it was apt or if I’d have felt more miserable if the sun had been shining.
We arrive at King’s College Hospital and find our way to Suite 9 of the Jubilee Wing. We wait. It’s hot and busy – lots of excited looking mums – some probably at the same stage as me, here for their nuchal scans, others much further down the line. We get called through for them to take my bloods, although because I’m expecting triplets, blood results are no use for diagnostic testing for Down’s etc. I told the guy this but he insisted that he had to take it. I’m phobic about needles and blood so blood taking is like pure torture for me and already stressed by the day ahead of me, I didn’t cope very well. It hurt like hell and I could feel him prodding the needle around – probably not helped by me wailing like a baby. He managed to get a tiny amount of blood but the lab needed more. So he began butchering my other arm instead. Thankfully not quite so painful but unpleasant nonetheless.
We then were called straight over to have the scan done. Before I even got to lie down on the couch, it became apparent that they thought I was having twins and when we explained, no it’s triplets (we’ve had 2 scans already) they told us that we’d have to go to another waiting area to wait for the better scanning equipment. He also said (as I thought) they needn’t have taken bloods. I burst into tears again- already the day was filled with small mistakes, how could it get any worse?
We headed down to the other waiting area where there were 2 other couples. They were called and seen and we were joined by others. They were called and seen. We waited. We were near the offices of the consultants and midwives so there was much to-ing and fro-ing from them. At one point a woman (doctor?) came out of one room and spoke to a man in scrubs “do you want to watch a baby being killed later?” she said to him. There was much joshing around about this, but we were appalled. How insensitive can you get? Not least for us who were considering the reduction but for any pregnant woman. I was furious and resolved to complain later.
After 2hrs waiting, we finally got called in. The sonographer was pleasant enough but kept asking “what do you want to do?” all we could say was we can’t keep three. The scan took time as they had to measure each one and use all the diagnostic tests available because they couldn’t combine with blood tests. Each of my babies was perfect. Everything in order, low nuchal fold measurements, heart beats, all limbs, stomach, brain, spine etc etc. Perfect. How can such good news be so crucifying? We were sort of hoping that the results would show a problem which might make deciding easier. But no.
We then wait for the Professor to come in. He arrives with an entourage of about 7-8 doctors (who we presume are research fellows). He puts things bluntly and tells us to put our questions away. Why can’t we keep 3? I feel like I’m being questioned for a crime, my mind goes blank and yet I know we’ve been over and over the how’s and how nots in the last week and a half. I feel scrutinised. He writes on a bit of paper the chances of miscarriage for keeping one, two or 3 of the babies – 15% for all between now and 23wks. Then a second set of percentages for risk of premature birth/disability/death for each ‘option’. 20-30% for 3, 10% for 2, 5% for 1. That’s it he says, that’s all you need to know.
We go and sit in a quiet room for 10 mins (we could leave our decision until next Tues but I don’t think you’d have got me back there – it’s now or never). I desperately want to keep the twins – it seems natural to want to keep as many as possible, but my husband ever the practical minded says the best outcome is to keep one and isn’t that what we decided? I guess it is but I’m blinded by my heart again. Despite this, we have to decide now. Against my every fibre we tell the doctor we ‘want’ (never has a word been so inadequate) to keep the singleton. I swear I get given a look that says ‘what? you’re getting rid of 2 out of 3 babies? do you know how rare it is for you to have even conceived them naturally?!’ My husband tells me that isn’t how it is, but already I’m judging myself and assume everyone else is too.
We go to another room and are told, the Professor is finishing another procedure so we’ll have to wait for him. They scan me again, give us the calculated risks of Down’s etc for each ‘fetus’. Typically, the twins have the lowest risk scores but the singleton is not anywhere near high risk. We try to ask about what is to be expected afterwards but keep getting dismissed with “if you get lots of heavy bleeding and pain, you are miscarrying, go to your local hospital” no mention of any ‘normal’ symptoms in the coming days. We wait some more. I ask about antibiotics to minimise the risk of infection. And yes, they will be doing that shortly. It takes me a moment to realise these aren’t goint to be oral, oh no, they want to stick it in my arm. Once again they attempt to use my left arm as it’s the one which at the time hurts the least, however there is pain and immense discomfort (more wailing and crying from me) – they decide that the veins in that arm are no use for injecting and so go for the right arm again. It hurts less but I am in a panic now and can’t stop sobbing. It takes an age for the stuff to be pushed in but finally it’s over. We continue to wait for the Prof.
He arrives and after a terse question about if we are certain, I’m told to lie down and stop crying, grip his arm and look away from the monitor. I’m vaguely aware that the entourage are surrounding the couch, silently filing in. My darling husband grips my other hand tightly and wipes tears from his eyes. It’s 7.45pm The needle? is pushed into my abdomen and through my uterus. It’s an unusual sensation, not painful but strange. My only analogy is threading raw chicken onto skewers. There is one moment where the feeling is really unpleasant and a moan out loud a little. I hear the Prof asking his assistant to put 2ml into the end – I guess this is the potassium chloride. Another couple of jabs and that’s it. About 10 mins in all. The Prof tells us, you have one baby. The entourage have silently filed out again, leaving me and my husband with one or two others. I sob uncontrollably and feel like the worst mother in the world and immediately filled with regret and remorse, that we have made the wrong decision. The doctor assisting gives me a big hug and tells me “you have made the best decision for you and your family”. By the time we come to a little (3mins?) the room is almost empty, the Prof has long gone. Again, we try to ask about the coming days and what to expect – any bleeding or fluid loss etc? but are again told about the miscarriage scenario. We go and sit in the quiet room again. The sofa in there is so old and saggy that to sit in it is really uncomfortable so I sit in the hard chair instead. There is an empty box of tissues on the side which just about sums up the place. We cry some more then try and get a grip, it’s done after all and there’s no going back.
After 30mins or so, we go back into the scan room where the check that our remaining baby is doing ok. We see it briefly and it is moving and it’s heart is beating. Already I miss seeing all three of them and I become aware that I can’t feel them move any more. They’d been going like crazy up until the reduction, and quite obviously they weren’t now. 12 wks is ususally far to early to feel movements so it’s going to be a few weeks yet before I can feel our little bean moving on it’s own. I’m overwhelmed with sadness once again. Once the 2 min scan has confirmed all is ok, we’re off. That’s it. Over.
It’s 8.30pm – we have been there 6hrs, mostly waiting. Physically it’s my arms which are hurting the most (not something I expected from the day!), mentally we are both drained. We get home at 10.30pm exhausted, all cried out. My tummy aches but I can’t bear to touch it. I just want to get through the coming days.
Now, nearly 4 days on, I’ve had 5 fluid leaks and continue to feel achey. Some days are ok, some I want to curl up and stay there. MIL took our daughter back with her for the weekend to give us some time together alone which was good, we missed her like crazy but we needed to take time for both of us. I’m desperately hoping that the remaining bean is a sticky one. We have been unable to find about what is normal after a reduction – the fluid loss bothers me although I know I’m not miscarrying. I’m surprised and disgusted that King’s didn’t give us any information about what to expect – my local hospital were lovely but didn’t have any ideas about what is normal as they don’t see reductions. Even if you have a tooth extracted at the dentist you usually come out with a checklist of what to expect and when to be concerned. But no, we’re left to our own devices, feeling as if what we’ve done is a dirty little secret.
Thank god for our fantastically supportive families and friends, and also the Yahoo support group Selective Reduction Loss Support group (invitation only). The staff at the Royal Sussex hospital have been amazing too, unlike their counterparts at King’s college hospital, who were at best capable of performing the reduction quickly, at worst, ineffecient, uncaring, crass.
To my darling twins, I hope you are safe in the blue. I love you so much and will never forget you. To my little bean, stay with us little one, you are very much loved. At least you’ll have a little more space to stretch your legs now.