‘Twin one is okay, twin two has passed.’ I felt my heart ripped from my chest. I didn’t want to let go.’: Mom grieves loss of twin, ‘She’s our guardian angel’

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Disclaimer: This contains details of miscarriage that may be triggering to some. 

“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to be a mum. I was never career-minded. Having a family of my own was my main goal, and so when my husband, Lewis, and I got married in 2016, we didn’t want to wait any longer. After several months, I started to get concerned I wasn’t falling pregnant. We visited the doctors in June of 2017 and after a series of tests and blood work, found out it was unlikely we would fall pregnant without IVF.

I was completely heartbroken and so angry too. I cried to multiple doctors. We paid extra for private tests. They all kept saying the same thing: ‘You will be parents.’ But to me, it felt like a lifetime away. Meanwhile, friends and family were falling pregnant all around us. I always felt happy for them, but so sad for us. It felt so unfair. I wondered, ‘What had we done to deserve this?’ It felt like some sort of punishment. Unless you’ve been through infertility yourself, it’s something you could never understand. I was apprehensive about starting IVF to begin with. I was so scared it wouldn’t work, but decided we had to take the plunge. Lucky for us, we were entitled to two free rounds of IVF on the NHS. All based on our postcode, which is completely ridiculous.

Courtesy of Monique Southey

We were accepted for treatment in October 2017, just after our one-year wedding anniversary. We visited our fertility clinic, Bourn Hall in Wickford, not long after. After our initial consultation, I started to feel excited. Things were finally happening and we were doing everything we could to get our dream. I was put on medication immediately to control my cycle and then all our fertility meds were delivered. On December 31, 2018, Lewis administered the first-ever injection in my stomach, of what was to be a whole lot more. These were the stimming injections and used to produce multiple eggs within a cycle (rather than just one). IVF was hard, the drugs made me extremely bloated, gave me headaches, and made me really emotional. I had internal scans every other day to check my follicles were growing well. There were a lot growing, and they became concerned as I was at risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which causes excess fluid and can become incredibly dangerous.

By day 11, I was ready for egg collection. This was to be done under sedation whilst awake. A large needle is passed through the vagina into each ovary under ultrasound guidance. Unfortunately for me, the procedure was extremely painful. I was asking for more sedation and given gas and air. It took around 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Lewis was producing his sample. I was taken to recovery and we were told they had collected 26 eggs. I was over the moon they managed to get so many, but unfortunately, all the eggs had to be frozen. This was due to me being so high risk of OHSS. They needed my ovaries to fully settle back down again before implanting an embryo inside. The embryologist explained to us we would be having ICSI treatment, which gives higher success rates. This is where instead of putting eggs and sperm together in a petri dish and naturally going together, a single sperm is injected into each egg. Although, this still doesn’t guarantee fertilization.

The following day, we waited on our first phone call to be told how many eggs had fertilized. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my life. I got Lewis to answer the phone. 14 had fertilized and made it through the night. We got daily phone calls and each day the number declines. The embryos had to make it to day five to be strong enough to be frozen. By day five, we were left with three embryos. Less than I hoped for, but at least we had a chance. I prayed one of them would become our baby. We had to wait a few months before going through a frozen embryo transfer. We started in May 2019. I was on long protocol this time, which meant injecting daily for around 6 weeks. Lewis administered every single one in my stomach. We would alternate sides, but the more we were injecting, the more painful it was becoming. My stomach started to become bruised. I kept telling myself it would all be worth it. Finally, I was ready for our first transfer in June.

Courtesy of Monique Southey

Transfer day was magical. To see the embryologist carrying a tiny tube containing our little embryo was just crazy, and I cried. You see the embryo go back into your womb on the ultrasound and then go home and have to wait 12 days before you can do a pregnancy test. The wait is incredibly hard and days feel like weeks. I stupidly tested early on day six and of course, it was negative. But it’s possible to get a positive that early on so I was convinced it had failed and spent the next six days in tears. Unfortunately, my gut was right. Our test day was Father’s Day, which made it ten times harder. We said we wouldn’t give up; I’ve always been strong-willed and this failure only made me even more determined. After our cycle failed, we booked a holiday to Ibiza. The break was what we needed and did us both good. Not long after returning, we had a follow-up consultation. We had two frozen embryos left in the freezer and discussed putting them both back. The doctor said it would increase our chances from 40 to 45 percent so we agreed to go ahead with a double embryo transfer.

Courtesy of Monique Southey

We started injecting daily in September 2020 and transferred in November. I wasn’t as excited or hopeful this time, but the transfer was still magical all the same. I felt more relaxed this time though as I knew what to expect. I decided I wasn’t going to test early, but on day eight I began bleeding and was convinced it had failed again. I rang Lewis in tears and called the clinic too. They said it was really unlikely to bleed on the meds I was on, but I could up my progesterone if I wanted to for peace of mind, so that’s what I did. I continued spotting on and off for the next few days. I knew you could get implantation bleeding, but this seemed too heavy to me and I was convinced it was all over with.

By day 11, I had enough and just wanted to test, to be put out of my misery. I’ll never forget saying I just need to get it over with. I was physically shaking. Lewis was holding on to me so tight. All of a sudden, a second line appeared and was getting stronger by the second. I literally could not believe my eyes. I just cried. I’d never seen a positive pregnancy test in my life. It was very surreal and took a long time to sink in, even after multiple pregnancy tests.

Courtesy of Monique Southey

Fast forward to December 12, it was our first scan. In IVF you have an early scan around seven weeks. It’s called a viability scan to check for any viable heartbeats. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous. We were sitting in the waiting room and I just felt like I needed to be sick. We were called through and our nurse began scanning me. I was shaking. She was concentrating on the screen and I was really concerned there wouldn’t be a heartbeat, when all of a sudden this smile just spread across her face. I knew everything was okay. She turned the screen to us and said, ‘Mother of twins.’ I could not believe it. Lewis and I were gobsmacked. Two little flickering heartbeats measuring right on track. Both embryos had stuck!

I felt really ill during my pregnancy. I was sick multiple times daily until around 21 weeks, but I’ve never been so grateful for being sick. I was also told it was a good sign, as it meant hormone levels were high. I was so anxious, to begin with, especially carrying twins. I was immediately classed as high risk. We had a private scan at 10 weeks, then our NHS scan at 12 weeks, and then at 16 weeks, we had another private scan to determine the gender. We found out we were having two girls. I was so over the moon. I’ve always wanted a daughter, so to be able to have two, felt too good to be true. I started buying matching girls outfits and we got two car seats and a double pram too. Our 20-week scan went well and I finally started enjoying the pregnancy a bit more. We were at the halfway point and it would be rare for anything to go wrong after that.

Courtesy of Monique Southey

On March 23, 2020, COVID had hit the UK and England went into lockdown. I couldn’t believe after all we had been through to get pregnant, we would now be having to go through pregnancy and birth during a national pandemic. Our 24-week scan on April 9 was a growth scan. It was the first scan Lewis couldn’t attend with me due to Covid. I was nervous but was positive everything would be okay at this point. He waited in the car while I went in. The sonographer began scanning me but seemed super quiet. I felt worried straight away. She asked me if I knew what I was having and I said, ‘Two girls.’ She carried on scanning and taking measurements. I could feel what I thought was both my babies kicking away. Then she said, ‘I just need to get a doctor.’ I panicked and said, ‘Is everything okay?’ She said, ‘I just have a little concern, I won’t be a minute.’

That minute felt like forever as I laid on the scanning bed on my own with tears in my eyes. I was concentrating on trying to breathe. The doctor came back in and asked if I was okay and I said, ‘Not really.’ He started scanning me and said matter of fact, ‘Twin one is okay, twin two has passed away. I’m so sorry.’ I sat bolt upright and felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest. I said, ‘I just want my husband.’ They asked if he had any covid symptoms and allowed me to call Lewis and for him to come in. I waited in a side room for him. He knew something was wrong. I was sobbing. I just said, ‘One of the babies has passed away.’ We just cried in each other’s arms. It was the worst day of our lives. It didn’t feel real.

Courtesy of Monique Southey

We were given some time alone and then spoke with the doctor. He explained I would carry the baby until I gave birth. I was glad she got to stay with me and her sister. I didn’t want to let her go. He also said I could go into premature labor, which was a big concern. I was only 24 weeks pregnant at this point. They didn’t know what had caused the loss and I was terrified I would lose our other baby too. The rest of the pregnancy was hard. I was grieving for one baby while trying to stay strong for the other. Every time I didn’t feel kicked for 10 minutes, I would panic. We were assigned a bereavement midwife and given weekly scans, which they allowed Lewis to attend.

Courtesy of Monique Southey

Every scan after we lost our baby was terrifying. I started to worry less as I got to a better gestation. I had made it to 36 weeks when I started bleeding. I was taken into the hospital for the night and given a steroid injection in case I went into labor. They didn’t know where the bleed had come from and the baby was okay, so they let me come home. I had already decided on a c-section birth. I couldn’t face giving birth to our angel baby and I just wanted our other baby out as quickly and safely as possible. They told me if I had another bleed, they would bring my section forward from what was scheduled at 39 weeks.

At 37 weeks, I woke at 2 a.m. heavily bleeding. I couldn’t feel any kicking and I was terrified. We went straight to the hospital. Lewis couldn’t come through with me while they checked everything was okay. I was put on a monitor and luckily everything was fine, but again they didn’t know what had caused the bleed. It was decided I would be having my c-section that day. Finally that evening, our little girl was born weighing 5 pounds and 7 ounces.

Courtesy of Monique Southey

I’ve never been so relieved as when I heard that first cry. They placed her straight in my arms and I just looked at her and she stared into my eyes as if to say, ‘Don’t worry I’m here now, Mummy.’ Our little angel baby was born two minutes later weighing 425 grams. We named our baby Payten Belle Autumn, after her twin Autumn Pearl Payten. We already had their names picked before we lost Autumn and it made sense to incorporate their middle names.

Courtesy of Monique Southey

Our midwife stayed after her shift to see Autumn. She explained to us she was in better condition than they thought she would be, after being inside me for such a long time since she passed. She was explaining all this to us while I was breastfeeding Payten for the first time. I was sobbing. I felt heartbroken all over again. Now I really had to let her go. We were given a bereavement suite where we could spend time together with the four of us. Autumn was dressed in a little pink knitted hat, a smaller version of Payten’s to match. They also had lots of the same teddies to match too. The staff was all amazing and incredibly supportive and I will never forget their kindness. Autumn was beautiful. A perfect tiny baby. I wished I could bring her to life there and then. How could life be so unfair? We had professional photographs taken of Autumn and a memory box filled with hand and footprints and other special momentos.

Courtesy of Monique Southey

We spent two nights in hospital before heading home. I’ve never felt such a mixture of emotions. Elation and a complete heartbreak all in one. And I don’t think that will ever change. It’s especially hard on special occasions. We had planned a life for our twins. We’d spoken about them always having one another, always having a best friend, and going to school together. We’d even spoken about their prom day. These dreams were cruelly snatched away. We didn’t want a postmortem. I didn’t want my little baby’s body being tampered with, but we did have the placenta investigated. It turned out there was an issue with my placenta, which is ultimately what led to Autumn’s death. We still don’t know exactly what caused it though. Payten’s placenta wasn’t in the best condition either, which is probably why I had the bleeding. I’m so grateful and lucky she is here. I’m thankful for her every day.

Courtesy of Monique Southey

On August 25, 2020, we finally laid Autumn to rest. She’s buried with Lewis’s nan and grandad. She had a tiny pink coffin and the most beautiful flowers. It was extremely hard to say goodbye. We visit her often and I feel she will always be watching over us and protecting her sister. She’s our little guardian angel.

Courtesy of Monique Southey

Anyone who has been through baby loss will know how difficult it is. Payten has kept me strong. It does get a little easier with time. To anyone going through infertility struggles, hang on in there. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Courtesy of Monique Southey

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Monique Southey of Essex, England. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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