Some mothers say they became mothers the day their first baby was born, or the first time they held their child. Other mothers say they became mothers the day their baby was conceived, or the day they got their first positive pregnancy test. Some mothers who became parents through adoption say they became mothers the day they were matched. I'm due with a sweet baby girl in about a week and a half, and to most people, I'll become a mother the day she emerges from my womb. To parents who have experienced loss, the answer may be more complicated. My personal truth is that I became a mother one year ago today.
One year ago, I was laying on a table at a perinatologist's office in Pasadena, CA. My husband and I had been referred to this specialist because I was carrying identical triplet boys. We were thrilled, as we had suffered two early miscarriages in the year before. The chances of conceiving identical triplets are somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 in 1 million, but it's so rare there aren't actually good statistics on the matter. We had frequent appointments thanks to the high risk of things like Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, and a host of other complications that can happen during pregnancy with multiples (all multiple pregnancies are considered high risk, but pregnancy with identicals is even more so). We had reached 15 weeks and 6 days, it was time for a growth scan. We knew from previous ultrasounds that one of the babies was smaller than the others, but it hadn't been a concern...yet.
After a few minutes of scanning, our doctor asked if we could come back later in the afternoon to speak with him. He had concerns and didn't want to rush through the information with us. His last patient for the day was scheduled for noon, so we returned a few hours later to discuss our ultrasound results with him.
One of our sons was not growing. His umbilical cord did not have a normal attachment to the shared placenta, and had absent end diastolic flow (which basically means he wasn't getting proper blood flow and nutrition). It was also likely that he did not have an adequate share of the placenta. His gestational sac was low on fluids, but the discrepancy between his fluid levels and that of his brothers was not large enough to diagnose TTTS at that time. Instead, we were told our smallest baby had a severe growth restriction. He was extremely tiny, I don't remember exactly what percentile for growth he was in at this point, but it was less than the 10th. We were told his case was extreme, that he was going to die, and die soon. If he died before interventions were made to save his brothers, his death would likely trigger their demise or severe and profound disabilities. We were asked to consider termination by cord occlusion, basically severing his cord from the placenta, as the only option to help his brothers.
I sat next to my husband on a couch in the doctor's office, letting the information sink in. My son was dying and I was being asked to end his life in order to save his brothers. The moment I was asked to consider that decision, was the moment I first truly realized I was a mother (though it took me a few months and the encouragement of other loss moms to say it out loud). I couldn't imagine making that decision as anything other than his mom.
The doctor had spent a good amount of time between our appointments on the phone with Dr. Chmait, one of the top fetal surgeons in the country who was only about 30 minutes away. We would be referred to him for treatment. Five days later we were officially diagnosed with TTTS, and were told that thanks to some other complications (a blood clot in my uterus), the typical treatment options for TTTS were not available to us, as they would put my life in danger. Cord occlusion on our "donor" son was the only option we had aside from terminating the entire pregnancy, or "letting nature take its course." A week later, the day of our pre-op appointment, we found out our son had already passed on his own a few days prior, shortly after 17 weeks gestation, and the damage to his brothers had already begun. We lost them a few weeks latter, at just shy of 20 weeks. I was wheeled out of the hospital empty handed, with a milk supply ready for three baby boys and a shattered spirit.
I'm not yet a mother by most people's definition word.
I'm not yet a mother in the way I want to be; A mother who gets to hold, laugh, and play with her children.
I am the mother to an amazing baby girl, due in a few short days, who has brought light back into my world.
But before that...
But before that...
I became the mother to three identical sons, who I carried inside my womb for the entirety of their short lives, and I will carry in my heart for the rest of mine.