We had our two week postpartum visit today at Dr. Chao’s office. It was hard going back there. They put us in a different room than the one we always went to before- the new one doesn’t have an ultrasound machine. I got a little teary and even panicky when we first went back but then calmed myself down before the doctor came in.

Dr. Chao wasted no time once she entered the room. She asked how we were doing to which I replied “it’s been a rough couple of weeks,” and she said she expected as much. Then she asked us if we were ready to talk about the pathology results from the hospital. We both said yes, eager to hear any information she could give us about our boys.

Apparently Rudyard’s amniotic fluid and placenta were infected with e. coli bacteria and bacteroides bacteria. She said that Desmond’s placenta also tested positive for both bacteria. Oscar didn’t have any signs of it in his fluid or tissue but she said it was inevitable that he would have contracted it.

Dr. Chao believes that I somehow became infected with these bacteria shortly before Rudyard’s water broke- maybe a week or more- and that this was the cause of his water breaking. The infection weakened his sac causing it to rupture. The fact that it traveled to Desmond’s placenta shows that he was going to contract it next and she suspected that even though Oscar wasn’t exposed to it long, it could have also been the cause of his sac rupturing inside of me after the births of Rudyard and Desmond.

There’s no way to know how I contracted these pathogens. It could have been something I ate, or something that was already present in my GI tract. Dr. Chao said there was no way to know I had it because I wasn’t presenting with an infection so there was no reason to look. If I had presented symptoms before Rudyard’s water broke- a fever, a green discharge- they would have cultured my urine, found the bacteria, treated me with antibiotics and our boys might still be thriving inside of me. Instead, even after Rudyard’s water broke I showed no signs of infection so they didn’t treat me with antibiotics, fearing a yeast infection that would contaminate the area unnecessarily. I got the antibiotics I needed to cure the infection only after Rudyard was born and they could visibly see and smell that he was infected. By that time it was too late. It’s also why they couldn’t stop my contractions. My body was having an inflammatory response to the infection.

Jer and I are still processing this information. We went to the appointment prepared to hear that we may never know why the sac ruptured; that things just happen sometimes. To actually have an answer is in some ways very helpful and final and in other ways very upsetting. At least this answer is upsetting. It really pisses me off that I have lupus and a high risk triplet pregnancy yet the thing that ends my pregnancy and my babies’ lives is a f%@#ing bacteria. Not the lupus- that stayed in remission just like we needed it to. Not the triplet pregnancy- my body was handling that just fine. The boys were growing on target, everyone was healthy. I contracted e. coli and somehow it made its way to my vagina like it was on some kind of black ops mission and killed my babies.

We were doing everything right and being so careful and Dr. Chao said there’s nothing we could have done differently presented with the same situation because I wasn’t symptomatic. It’s just completely bad luck. An f%@#ing bacteria. E. coli, Dr. Chao described to us, is “very unforgiving.” Yes. Three dead babies unforgiving. Two devastated parents unforgiving.

The only good news to come out of this is that if and when I ever get pregnant again I’m at no higher risk than anyone else of having a membrane rupture again. Dr. Chao said we would do swabs and cultures at every appointment during the pregnancy to catch any signs of bacteria right away. If any were present again antibiotics would take care of it and keep the pregnancy in tact. I am more likely to get pregnant with multiples again, but since this wasn’t an issue with it being a multiples pregnancy (she said that even if I were only pregnant with a singleton the e. coli would have been just as deadly), that’s not really a concern for this particular issue.

Of course multiples pregnancies have their own inherit risks so there are tests we can do to see if my ovaries are producing extra follicles during ovulation or if the triplet thing was just once in a lifetime. Part of me hopes it wasn’t. Part of me still longs to be a triplet mama, which is strange considering how much it used to terrify me. Somewhere along the road I became used to the idea and then farther down the road I looked forward to it. I held three babies in my arms and now my arms are empty. Though I guess you could say I’m not just looking to have three babies again. I’m looking for my babies. I’m looking for my boys. And my boys are in three little urns at a mortuary, waiting for their memorial service next week. At least, that’s where their bodies are.

I know their spirits are free, alive, healed and whole. I know they’re with their Creator. I picture them playing with each other with big smiles and lots of laughter. When I pray I ask the Lord to show them favor. I ask Him to give them extra attention and to allow them into His physical presence.  To love them and hold them close because they never really got to have their parents and that wasn’t fair for them or for us. I also ask Him to use them in the world for good, to help others. From the comments people have left us on our blogs and facebook, it seems as if they’ve already helped a lot of people. Their short lives have touched and blessed so many. I’m thankful for that as their mother, very thankful. But it does seem like such a high price to pay.

I suppose some people fulfill their purpose in death to remind the rest of us to fulfill it in life. I’ve always had a hard time figuring out “my purpose” in life. I do know there are some nonnegotiables: showing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to the relationships in my life and to the world. I’m adding one more thing to the list: making my boys proud that I’m their mom. I think they may be watching and I want them to be proud of what they see. I know I am so very proud of them. xo

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