When One Is Not Like the Other

As most of you know, one of my twin boys has Down Syndrome and the other does not. One thing I have found is that we have not come across many other families like ours, so I thought it might be helpful to share our experience thus far. 

First, to answer a question I get most often…

No, we did not know Dominic’s diagnosis before birth. 

I think this is a good jumping off point. We did not know that Dominic would have DS but we were aware of the possibility. Because I was pregnant with twins and had undergone IVF, I was immediately referred to a specialist because I was considered high risk. There, it was suggested that I take a chromosomal blood test to check for any abnormalities. Although the test could not tell us a definitive yes or no, it could tell us if there was a greater chance of one or both babies having a chromosomal abnormality. My test revealed that there was a greater chance for one or both of the babies to have DS. At that point, they asked if we wanted to do further testing for a definite answer, and we chose not to put our babies at risk because we knew it didn’t matter to us.

I had a relatively easy pregnancy and neither babies showed any “soft markers” for DS. Many babies show signs of having DS while in utero, but both babies looked perfect until the last month of my pregnancy. Dominic’s growth had slowed down and there was a definite placental issue, so instead of letting me go to full term, my doctor decided to induce me at 37 weeks. In that last month, as a final attempt for Dominic to gain some weight, I increased my protein and caloric intake. It worked and my boys were born at 37 weeks at 5 lbs 5 oz and 5 lbs 12 oz. 

From birth, we could see that Dominic could have DS but he lacked a lot of the physical traits, so the only way for an accurate diagnosis was to get his umbilical cord blood tested. Shortly after birth we received the confirmed diagnosis. A lot of people share that they felt grief upon learning their new baby has DS. I think that the early on chromosomal test is when I grieved. I took that news very hard because we had worked so hard to get pregnant and I felt like once we actually got pregnant, everything would be perfect. I was worried that we would have anything less. Little did I know, my boys are beyond perfection. I know how that sounds, but it’s true. 

While we were still in the hospital, there was a moment with Dominic that I will always cherish. I took him in my arms and held him close, smelling his head and kissing his face, telling him how I felt about this life we would share together. I told him that people may not see how special and wonderful he is right away. They may make judgements before they get to know him. That things may be harder for him. That we will need to support one another every step of the way. But first and foremost, he is loved and wanted. We could never possibly understand what this love would feel like. To be a new mom and have these two gorgeous babies was nearly too much for my heart–I thought it could burst. 

Twins are a very special and unique thing. My boys have known each other since the very beginning, and to see them smile at each other, you know that their bond is unbreakable. I know that there will be fights and jealousy, but I believe in my heart that they will always support one another. I feel like they were born to be together, to be best friends. To know that Dominic will teach Giovanni to love without bounds and to be inclusive, while Giovanni will teach those around him by his example, is such a gift. I think that they will be each other’s biggest fan and protector.

So, yes, one is not like the other and that’s how we like it in our home. True individuals but cut from the same cloth. 


Why I’ve Been MIA

It’s been a long while since I’ve written, and it’s about time I get back to it, as I will have more to share and a slightly different feel here on the blog. Why the change, you ask? My husband and I are so happy to share that we have welcomed two healthy baby boys into the world. Our journey to becoming parents has been a long and difficult one. Since most of you readers are friends and family, you may know a bit about our story but for those of you who don’t, I feel ready to share it.

My husband and I will celebrate 9 years of marriage and 13 years of being together this coming fall. I have always known he was the one I would spend my life with, and we have always known that we wanted children. We decided to “pull the goalie” when we got married, hoping to get pregnant spontaneously, just like on TV and in the movies. I wanted to be able to surprise him with a home pregnancy test and overwhelm him with joy and fear all at once. For women who do want children, who doesn’t want that? Well, that’s not exactly how it went for us.

We married in 2007 and although we both wondered if something was wrong because it hadn’t happened for us quickly, we had hope and just figured it was taking a little longer for us. There is no shame in that. In the spring of 2010, my husband actually noticed that I was late and suggested that I take a pregnancy test–leave it to him to notice something like that. So much for the big surprise.

I took the test and it was positive. Suddenly, I felt the wave of joy and fear all at once. I scheduled a blood test with my doctor so we could know for sure, and that came back positive. We were SO EXCITED. And then, within a matter of days, the dream was all gone. We lost our first, sweet, precious baby. I have tears in my eyes as I write this because even though I have just delivered my beautiful boys, a woman never really gets over a loss like that. It was so short lived, but so real.

The sadness and depression that comes along with a loss like this differs from woman to woman but it’s all real and it’s all okay. I had a very hard time for a very long time. I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone and I felt ashamed. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for us because I kept reading that miscarriage is very common, so I felt like I just needed to get over it. Seeing that a friend was pregnant made me happy but also so very sad, and that made me feel horrible. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t move on from this, but I couldn’t. Watching TV or movies was hard because if a character lost a baby or became pregnant, I’d cry. Sometimes I’d ask my husband to go to functions without me and just tell friends that I was sick because I just couldn’t pull myself together.

For as hard as it was on me, my husband struggled too. He struggled with trying to help me pick up the pieces, with being strong for me even though he was sad too. He didn’t know how to help me because I didn’t know how to help myself. He did everything he could. He was my rock, he held me when I cried and consoled me when I needed it. Truthfully though, he was worried. Worried that I wouldn’t bounce back from it.

Eventually, it got better. 

After the miscarriage, we began learning about tracking my cycles and getting the timing right. After a year, nothing. We sought treatment at an infertility clinic and they told me I needed to do IVF, and they showed little to no compassion for the pain I felt. My experience at the larger clinic was too much for me to handle at that point. The doctor didn’t know my name without looking at my chart, and I cried after every appointment. I completely withdrew from a Western medicine approach, and I turned to acupuncture. I gave that a full year as well, and although I noticed benefits, there was no pregnancy. Everyone says that stress is your biggest enemy when trying to conceive, so we took a complete break from additional treatments. 

Within a few months, things began moving in the right direction on their own. October of 2014 my husband found our forever home. We quickly got our first home ready to sell and prepared for the real estate roller coaster of buying and selling. Luckily, our home sold quickly and for a great price, and our forever home didn’t cost a small fortune. We were left with a profit and knew it was time to face the infertility issues. I had heard of a great doctor that had a smaller practice, and in my heart, I knew this was a part of the answer. 

We moved into our new home in January, and by February I had made appointments with a naturopath, the new infertility clinic and with a new acupuncturist. I began doing Pure Barre three times a week and was determined to give my body the best possible chance of conceiving. I felt like I had my dream team assembled, and for the first time in five years, I felt positive about our chances. It took months to get there but we did it. 

I have two clear as day memories of how we achieved (what I felt was) the impossible. The first was hearing our doctor tell us firmly but with compassion that we needed to undergo an aggressive round of IVF. He showed emotion but hope for us, and he didn’t sugar coat it at all. I felt ready to hear it and ready to do what was necessary. The second was once treatment had begun. I was a little over halfway through treatment, when my doctor advised that it wasn’t going well and that I needed to prepare myself for the possibility of stopping this treatment and starting up again in a couple months. My favorite nurse held me as I cried and she reassured me that this cycle wasn’t over yet, there was still hope. My doctor increased the dosage of my medications and we continued. I was devastated and for the first time, I reached out to friends and family for support. I welcomed prayer and positive thoughts, and I felt no shame. My cousin, my hero and inspiration, suggested affirmations and visualization, so I did it. We gave it our all. 

My next appointment showed progress. It wasn’t a miraculous turnaround, but it was progress, and it was enough to keep on going. We finished out treatment and I underwent the egg retrieval and egg transfer. I only produced 4 eggs that round, very few for someone my age and in good health, and only 2 of them fertilized. We transferred the 2 and now I sit here writing this with my 2 baby boys in the pack n play next to me. 

We got lucky that it worked in the first round. That we persevered. That we were surrounded by love and support. That we had the best possible team. 

So many women have a longer, more difficult road, and my heart goes out to them. So many women don’t have a happy ending to their story, and my heart aches for them. This is just one story, my story. I found comfort in reading other women’s stories, and so for that reason alone, I’m sharing mine.