Part 2 of 8:
Doctor appointments offer pregnancy information — but sometimes the news can be devastating. As a strong, independent woman, Jessica did not foresee the support she might need during her twin pregnancy.
To read Jessica’s story from the beginning, see Part 1.
A Note to Our Readers: Carrying To Term had the privilege of speaking with and learning from a mother who chose early pregnancy termination following prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition for one of her babies during twin pregnancy. The following conversation addresses difficult subjects that may be triggering.
Jessica speaks with raw honesty and emotion about coping with a prenatal Dandy-Walker malformation diagnosis during twin pregnancy, arriving at the choice to terminate one twin, and being pregnant with the living twin while continuing to carry the body of the twin who died. Her story sheds light on the importance of informed consent, and the tragic experiences that can occur in the absence of informed consent and the shared decision making process between doctor and patient.
From the beginning, my second pregnancy was so different. It took quite some time for us to conceive our first child, our son Maverick, because I have endometriosis. So, when we decided to get pregnant again, we thought it would take a while, too. We had only been trying to conceive for a month when we found out that we were expecting again in November of 2017.
I have always been a very self-sufficient person. I value my independence and take pride in that as a military wife. With my first pregnancy, we had only known I was pregnant for a week before my husband had to leave for six weeks for work.
When he was home, his work schedule didn’t allow him to make any of my doctors’ appointments, but that was not an issue for me. I thought to myself, “all women do this; this isn’t that difficult. I just have to do whatever I have to do.” It felt like an extension of my independent personality.
I was hospitalized very early on with hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe nausea and vomiting. It was during that hospital visit that we learned we were expecting not only one but two babies. I had felt in my heart that I would have twins long before we even became pregnant with our girls, so twin pregnancy felt right when we found out.
While we were in the hospital, an ultrasound showed that Twin B, who we later named Maeva, was measuring about a week behind Twin A, who we named Memphis. I felt some worry, but my doctor was not able to give me a solid reason why Maeva was measuring behind. The fact that my doctor did not really seem too concerned put my husband and I at ease.
So, when I was sent to a larger hospital system two hours away from our home for my anatomy scan with Memphis and Maeva, I didn’t think twice about handling it alone. My husband was able to take some time off that day, but we had never left our son with anyone before. We knew we would be nervous leaving our son for the first time.
It seemed like too much to try to keep a toddler busy for so many hours on the road and then at the hospital. We thought this appointment would be just another appointment to get through — that it wouldn’t be any different — so we decided that it would be better if my husband spent the day at home playing with our son while I went to the appointment alone.
Immediately following the scan, a doctor came into the room to discuss what they had found. The doctor told me that Memphis was perfectly fine, but Maeva was missing a part of her brain. I learned that they found some abnormalities with her spinal cord, too. She was also measuring three weeks behind what she should have for her gestational age. At that time, we were not given a diagnosis, but would later learn Maeva had Dandy-Walker malformation.
It was very difficult to be given this news alone. I wanted to cry, but I knew I was responsible for hearing and understanding what the doctor was telling me. I had to stay present and process the details so that I could relay that information to my husband. But, as I sat there, listening to the devastating news, it felt like I went on autopilot. I was just going through the motions. I was alone and devastated, and I still had to face the long drive home.
The need to be strong
I called my husband as I left the hospital, but the most I could really manage to say was that something was wrong with one of our babies. He was worried about me driving home in the snowy conditions, so he didn’t want to go into details until I got home.
After I spoke with my husband, I called my mom. She, too, was worried about my long drive home, so she didn’t want to ask too many questions. I just felt at a loss. I was all alone, and my family was worried for me and wanted me to focus on the drive. We were just all in shock.
Once I got home, I was able to tell my husband all the details. I knew he was in shock. I was in shock. I knew he was struggling to come to terms with it. I think we were both in denial, especially him. But, through all the confusion, heartache, and difficulty, he was extremely supportive as we tried to process and prepare for the next steps.
The importance of support
Looking back, I really wish that day didn’t happen to just me. It is one of the loneliest memories, and it was very traumatic. When something so major happens, it is hard to be the only one who has gone through it. I wish I had someone with me to take care of me in those moments.
Pregnancy, whether it is a twin pregnancy or not, and whether it is filled with complications or not, is important. We should all be supported in whatever ways possible. Knowing what I know now, I wish I had taken a friend with me to the appointment, regardless of the results.
Since I did learn the devastating news that our daughter had a health issue, having a friend there would have been so helpful. That person would have been there to share in the difficulties of the day. That person could have helped me listen and take notes and relay that information to my husband. I could have cried and taken the time to process what I had just heard instead of trying to be strong enough to make it home safely.
Jessica’s story helps raise awareness about the importance of presenting pregnancy continuation as an option to ensure women and families are fully informed about their choices, and able to knowingly consent to the right choice for them.
Check back soon for Part 3 of Jessica’s story. To start from the beginning, see Part 1.
Jessica and her husband Peter are high school sweethearts who have been together for 11 years. Together, they are parents to son Maverick and daughter, Memphis. They are also parents to Maeva, Memphis’ twin sister who was diagnosed with Dandy-Walker malformation, tethered cord, and intrauterine growth restriction during Jessica’s twin pregnancy. Jessica is a stay-at-home mother to her two living children, who understands how important remembering a lost baby can be. In memory of Maeva, Jessica is an advocate for raising awareness about the need for reliable resources to enable informed consent following a prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition. Jessica and her family live in northern Ontario, Canada where Peter is stationed in the Canadian Armed Forces.