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Monday, July 28, 2008

Walking with Sorrow

While I'm still trying to find my own words to express some portion of what I'm feeling, I thought I'd share some of these words, expressed by others much more eloquently than what I could say. We also wanted to thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers for us... we have never felt such a tangible strength from prayers offered for us. They have carried us through the events of the last week and our hearts have been deeply touched by the kindness and love extended to us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Some thoughts on the purposes of sorrow and pain:

Robert Browning Hamilton wrote: 

I walked a mile with Pleasure. 
She chattered all the way, 
But left me none the wiser 
For all she had to say. 
I walked a mile with sorrow, 
And ne'er a word said she; 
But oh, the things I learned from her 
When sorrow walked with me!! 

In the book "Faith Precedes the Miracle", it reads: 

"Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery." 

Quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 99:

Pain stayed so long I said to him today,
"I will not have you with me anymore."
I stamped my foot and said, " Be on your way,"
And paused there startled at the look he wore.
"I, who have been your friend," he said to me,
"I, who have been your teacher -- all you know
Of understanding love, of sympathy,
And patience, I have taught you. Shall I go?" 
He spoke the truth, this strange unwelcome guest;
I watched him leave, and knew that he was wise.
He left a heart grown tender in my breast.
He left a far, clear vision in my eyes.
I dried my tears, and lifted up a song --
Even for one who'd tortured me so long. 


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Angels to Beckon Me...

Thank you doesn't seem adequate to express how grateful we feel for the prayers, the thoughts, and the warm wishes we've benefitted from in the last few days. Please know how much we have been lifted and strengthened by your love and support. We feel strengthened and hopeful because of those thoughts and prayers for us. Thank you so much. 

My parents are on their mission right now in Australia. Even with an expansive ocean dividing us, I am grateful to have felt their closeness and love through all of this. The other day my Dad reminded me of a phrase from one of my favorite Church hymns, which now means even more to me: 

There let the way appear, steps unto heav'n;

All that Thou sendest me, in mercy giv'n;

Angels to beckon me Nearer, my God, to Thee,

Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee.

This, we feel, is a very simple message of the purpose of our daughters' brief moments on earth. They, our angels, are now back with Heavenly Father, beckoning us to make it there to be with them. In all our life we have never felt a stronger yearning for heaven, a more pure desire to be whole and clean, a more dedicated heart to all that's good and right. Their brief moments with us have changed our life more profoundly than any other experience or combination of experiences we've ever had. But, all those past experiences have had their purpose in serving as a foundation of faith, making it easier to accept all that's happened in the last week. They've been our reservoir of faith and testimony.

We love our little girls so dearly. They have taught us so much, and we know we will still have many things to learn from them in the coming years. How grateful we feel for the blessing of having them in our family.

Friday, July 18, 2008

God Be With Our Angels

We never thought we'd be in this position. 

As you know, the last couple of weeks have held many ups and downs for us and our little girls, Elliana and Emmaline. Through it all we have been blessed by the prayers and love we've felt from all of you. We felt very sure that whatever challenges came with this pregnancy that we would make it through to the end with our little girls. 

This week's challenge was discovering that the surgery to fix the Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome that appeared to go well last week actually had some complications in the form of a serious uterine infection. On Tuesday that infection caused one of the membrane sacs to break, sending us in a panic back to UCSF that night. As we waited all morning Wednesday, praying and hoping for a positive outcome, Megan developed a fever accompanied by other signs, indicating the seriousness of the infection, making immediate delivery our only option.

Elliana was born at 8pm on Wednesday, July 16th. Her sister, Emmaline, was born at 8:10pm. They were 20 weeks 1 day. Elliana lived for about an hour, and Emmaline was considered stillborn. They both measured exactly the same - 9.5 inches long and 9.25 ounces. We had some very tender and precious moments with both our beautiful little girls immediately after birth and throughout the night. There are no words to describe the deep love and bond we felt with those brave little spirits in our presence. We felt a sweet assurance that they are ours forever and that our chance to raise them has not been taken away, but only delayed for a little while. We look forward with great anticipation to the day when we will meet them again and fulfill all our dreams of raising them and loving them the way we hoped to in the coming weeks and years.

While we are definitely aching and mourning our loss, we have also experienced sweet comfort and peace. Thank you for your continued prayers for our family. They bring us strength and hope in quiet moments of need.

We are planning a memorial service for Thursday, July 24th at 9:00am at our local LDS Church.

All our love and gratitude,
Marc, Megan, Elliana & Emmaline

Friday, July 11, 2008

More good news...

Well, we wanted to share the latest news with you all... Megan was discharged from the hospital this afternoon. We knew it was a possibility, but it still came as quite a surprise. We had an ultrasound this morning, which confirmed that the babies were responding well to the surgery. Dr. Lee even changed his initial feeling of "95%" and said, after seeing the results from the ultrasound, he felt much better about the outcome. The fluid levels looked much better, both babies' bladders were visible, their heartbeats were strong and healthy, and they were both moving around quite a bit. Megan is doing well, too. She is still a little sore from the surgery, but after being hooked up to about 10 different machines and monitored for the last 24 hours, the doctors and nurses were really happy with how stable all her vitals were. 

While we are very grateful for this initial good news, we have been warned that there are still some hurdles to overcome and only time will tell how successful it really was. We will continue to come down to UCSF for follow-up appointments for a few weeks. Our hope is that at those visits the girls will continue to show signs of improvement and health, which will confirm these intial feelings of success. But, we definitely have reason to be happy and hopeful!

We can't thank you all enough for the warm thoughts and prayers that we've felt carrying us through this. We know all those prayers have been heard and answered, and we are more grateful than words can express.

All our love and gratitude,

Marc & Megan, and Elliana & Emmaline

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Surgery Update

Just to update you all, Megan got out of surgery a few hours ago. The surgery went well; the surgeon called it a "95%" because of some very minor bleeding that obscured the view. But it sounds like he got most, if not all, of the transfusion vessels. In addition, they removed about 1 liter of fluid from Emmaline's sac (the recipient twin). Megan is in good spirits. She should even get to eat food soon, which is a nice alternative to ice chips. We should have a follow-up ultrasound tonight and tomorrow, which will help us know where we're at. One of the radiologists performing the ultrasound during the surgery observed that near the end of the surgery the donor twin (Elliana) already seemed to be more active, which is a very good sign. We still have a long road ahead; Megan has been having some contractions, and we don't know what sort of follow-up treatment might be necessary. We're feeling optimistic, though.

We are extremely grateful for all the prayers and kind emails and phone calls we've received.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Request for prayers

Yesterday was one of the longest days of our life. We had our appointments down at UCSF starting at 8am and leaving our last one after 4pm. We met with a number of different doctors, specialists, and surgeons. We went down there hoping they would send us away with a confusion of why we were even referred there in the first place. But, it turns out our situation is much more serious than we thought.

It was confirmed through an ultrasound and an echocardiogram that the Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome had progressed to a Stage 3, which probably doesn't hold a lot of meaning for most of you. But, basically it's the most serious the syndrome can get while still having good chances of the babies surviving it with laser surgery. Had we waited any longer, it probably would have been too late to do anything.

To give a few more specifics, our donor baby (the one with less fluid) is starting to show signs of stress in her kidneys, and her bladder isn't visible at all (meaning she isn't getting the nourishment she needs). Our recipient baby (the one with more fluid) is having to work over-time to process all the additional fluid, causing additional stress on her heart. She is the one that the doctors are more concerned about right now.

Fortunately there is a laser surgery that is now available to try to correct the problem in the babies' placenta. The surgery has only been in existence for about 20 years and is only performed at a handful of hospitals, UCSF being one of them. The surgery is pretty straight-forward, though with obvious risks involved, just like any surgery. They will go into my abdomen with a small laser instrument about the size of a drinking straw and with the help of an ultrasound they will identify the blood vessels in the shared placenta that are causing the discordance in blood flow between the two babies. Using the laser, they will cut off those blood vessels, leaving the babies with vessels that flow equally between them.

So, we will drive back down to UCSF tonight. They will check me in around 8pm and get me all prepped so that they can perform the surgery first thing Thursday morning. My actual time slot isn't until 1pm, but they are hoping to get to me much earlier than that. The surgery itself will be performed by Dr. Lee and should last an hour or so, after which they will monitor me and the babies really closely in the hospital. Friday morning they will do another ultrasound to see how things are going. Depending on what they learn from that, I'll either be discharged Friday afternoon or Saturday sometime.

While we have our concerns about going through with the surgery, we feel like the risks are much less scary than just sitting back and waiting to see what happens. Plus, the fact that our babies both continue to grow at the same rate, even with the present problem, is a really good sign. My placenta is also in a posterior position, which makes the surgery a little easier to perform. So, yes, we have our fears... BUT, we are also still very hopeful.

And, we are so grateful. We have been overwhelmed with so much love and support. We have felt strength in the midst of this storm that is not coming from our own reserve. We are being blessed with the strength and the courage that we lack, and know that comes as a result of the Savior's atonement. We are grateful to have each other, to have the perspective of the gospel, to have the most incredible family and friends who have stayed by our sides through all that we've faced.

Oh, and for the last few weeks we have been doing lots of talking about names for our little girls. We had initially planned on keeping that information to ourselves until they were born, but have decided now is a good time to share. Besides liking the names, we also found the meanings behind their names to be very fitting.

Baby A (our donor twin) is Elliana. It's a hebrew name, meaning "God has answered." She is one part of a double blessing in answer to years of pleading and prayer to start our family.

Baby B (our recipient twin) is Emmaline. I don't remember the origin, but it means "work." She is our little worker, doing double-time to keep them both alive.

We love our little girls so much! They are already teaching us so much about love, about courage, about the will to survive. They are our little fighters... and we are ready to fight with them. In the meantime, please know how deeply grateful we feel for the prayers being offered for us and our little girls. 

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Three Pluses and a Wish

In one of my classes last semester we had to give oral presentations to the class. When not presenting we had to critique the presentations of our classmates. Rather than having us list the positives and negatives of the presentation, our teacher had us fill out a form where we wrote out 3 things we really liked and 1 thing we wished for the presentation. I liked that she made us focus on the positive.

We had a big ultrasound today, where they measured all the anatomy of both babies. Rather than giving you the "good news" and the "bad news"... I thought I'd use this same format and share with you 3 pluses and a wish. 

Three Pluses:

#1: We have received the official news that our babies are most definitely little GIRLS!!

#2: Both little girls are measuring exactly the same AND right on track with my due date. (One is estimated to weigh 8 oz. and the other 9 oz.)

#3: We have the most incredible team of doctors to work with, who are very on top of giving us and our baby girls THE BEST care possible.

And, a WISH:

* That the early sign of Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome that was discovered today will have a happy, healthy ending for us and our little girls.

Fortunately we are under such good, watchful care that the TTTS is still at a very early stage that hasn't affected the growth in either baby yet. There is a chance that nothing serious will come of this, but there is also a chance that we'll have to go in for invasive surgery to try to correct the problem, if it doesn't correct itself. Our perinatologist felt it was best to err on the side of being overly cautious at this early stage and has referred us to see the lead specialists at UCSF early next week (probably Tuesday). At that appointment we'll get a better idea of how serious our situation is and what treatment, if any, we feel would be best for our little girls.

We hoped to go the full 36 weeks without having to face this possibility, but are determined to do everything in our power to beat the odds and come out of this with two healthy baby girls. Through this entire journey we have felt the Lord's hand guiding us and we feel comforted knowing we aren't facing this alone. We continue to appreciate the many prayers being offered for us and for our babies. Thanks to all of you for your love and support.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

18 weeks

Yesterday I had my appointment with my new doctor, who will be delivering our babies. She was so wonderful! Leading up to the appointment I was a little nervous, and afraid that I wouldn't feel good about Dr. N and then have to go out and find someone else. But, the appointment went better than I ever could have hoped. I felt completely at ease and comfortable from the moment she walked into the room. I just know that our babies are going to be in the best hands with her as our doctor! 

During the appointment she mentioned that she rarely lets twin pregnancies go past 36 weeks, mainly because that's when one or both twins will stop growing and other problems start to arise. So, with that new information in mind, and with yesterday being our official 18-week mark, I am already half way through this pregnancy! 

It's probably no secret, but when we first found out we were expecting we were probably more scared than excited. I hate to even admit that, but after all that we've been through it was hard to believe it was something that would actually last. With every passing day and every doctor appointment, our fears have been increasingly replaced by the most incredible joy and gratitude. Our babies continue to amaze us with their growth, their strength, and their incredible sharing of the placenta. I love to think that they're already getting their first lessons in sharing with each other.

We have an ultrasound tomorrow at a different office, but yesterday Dr. N decided she wanted to take a look at the babies herself rather than just listening to their heartbeats. I never get tired of seeing our babies. I'm still in awe that what I'm seeing on the monitor is actually going on inside my body. The creation of life is such a miracle!

We've had some requests to get a glimpse of my growing belly, so here's an 18-week photo:

I was so happy to find out at my appointment yesterday that I gained 7 pounds in the last two weeks. After losing so much weight at the beginning, putting on pounds has been slower than I expected, until now.

According to this awesome book I've been reading (and have totally LOVED!), with twins I should be eating 3500 calories/day and by week 20 I should have gained 25 pounds. At this current rate, I think I actually might make it! Apparently after the second trimester it gets much more difficult to gain a lot of weight, so the idea is to put on the bulk of the pounds early so that the babies have a reserve to feed off of when my stomach no longer has the space to fill up with food.

And, since we're on the subject, I guess I should say that I had my first real craving last week:


After watching the Super Size Me documentary a few weeks ago, I swore I would never eat fast food again. But, I just couldn't resist the craving! Well, and I have a slight iron deficiency, so I need to increase my red meat intake, for the babies' sakes. Plus, it would take a lot of celery to get in those daily 3500 calories. For the record, the Big Mac went down just great... loved every bite! But, the after taste wasn't as pleasant... so, I think we'll stick with our homemade burgers.

Overall everything is going so incredibly well! We have been so blessed. We continue to appreciate all the thoughtful prayers and warm wishes for us and our babies! We have the most wonderful family and friends!