Alex Remon was a first time mother when she conceived with her husband at the age of 35. After being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), an imbalance in female sex hormones, getting pregnant was proving to be rather challenging even with IVF. The couple never made it to the egg retrieval process in the initial go round, as her body ejected the eggs. After another unsuccessful frozen round, Alex was delighted to learn that she was pregnant with twins.
Thirty-six hours before going into labor, the mother was told that she and her daughters were “remarkably healthy.” After a slew of tests for gestational diabetes, her doctor told her that everyone’s health looked promising. But as the delivery progressed, Alex was informed that her babies had an infection and would not survive 36 hours upon being delivered. The mother was told that if she did not abort the pregnancy, the infection would kill her as well as her daughters. She remembers the experience as “a race to see which three of us would die first.”
“I wanted to do nothing and just die with them,” she tells Mommyish. “After several hours of begging, I finally conceded to the wishes of my husband and agreed to abort the girls before they took me with them. I kept asking them to look for heartbeats again somewhat hoping they wouldn’t find any and the girls would be gone. Decision made for me. But they just hung on and forced me to make the decision to end their lives prematurely by mere hours only.”
Alex recalls her pregnancy as “perfect” up until that moment and longed to go back to her 17-week checkup when all was determined fine.
Three months later, the couple tried their luck with a frozen round of embryos. In the months following, more rounds of IVF ensued. But the fertility clinic determined a problem with Alex’s weight, ultimately asking her to lose 19 lbs with dieting. Following another round of IVF nearly a year to her miscarriage, Alex discovered that she was pregnant.
After receiving a positive beta pregnancy test four days after an embryo transfer, she had an inkling that she was carrying twins again. At five and a half weeks, Alex experienced some bleeding that resulted in an ultrasound confirming two fetuses. Ten weeks later, she and her husband learned that they were girls — again.
“I needed at least one girl,” she remembers. “With the first set, we had thought they were both girls, but the second one was shy so we weren’t absolutely sure until we lost them. But I had already fallen in love with one girl and had grown attached. So when we went in to learn the genders of the second set, I needed one of them to be a girl. I cried so hard when they confirmed the first girl. It was a relief, it was just overwhelming. I had gotten her back! And then they confirmed the second girl and it was just shock. The fact that it was twins a second time was unbelievable enough, but the same gender combination? Absolute shock.”
Alex then recalls experiencing a surge of fear and a sort of deja vu that she would lose her girls a second time. Despite she and her husband’s primary reaction of “we got them back,” her pregnancy was completely anxiety-ridden. The mother endured “bad” and “violent” bleeding for the first half of her pregnancy. Twice she found herself in the emergency room. In one instance, she suffered projectile bleeding. She remained on modified bed rest for the entire pregnancy, sometimes afraid of using the bathroom for fear of miscarrying. Alex and her husband eventually purchased a fetal doppler and checked for two heart beats every night.
“It was a miserable experience,” she says. “From the day we did the transfer, my life basically became relegated to looking at the world via the Internet from my chair. I stopped working and just puttered around the house doing practically nothing for eight months. I was painfully aware every day of where I was in this pregnancy in relation to the last pregnancy.”
“Overwhelmed and crying the whole time,” Alex’s delivery remains a surreal experience for her. The mother kept flashing back to her original miscarriage and emergency delivery. During her c-section, doctors presented Alex with each twin through the curtain flap. Even after both twins were determined healthy, Alex remained convinced that massive intervention was needed for the survival of one of them. A growth check at 35 weeks, which revealed that one of her girls had not grown in two weeks, didn’t help matters.
Even after the girls were sent to the NICU, along with her husband, Alex had to be assuaged by other hospital staff that her babies were fine. Alex and her husband eventually named the girls with the same names that they had planned on for the initial set of twins. Although the couple contemplated using different ones, her husband looked upon the act as a way of “
my girls back.”
When Alex lost her first set of twins, she thought that they were fraternal only to discover that they were actually identical during the miscarriage. Her now six-week old girls are fraternal and the agnostic mother is left when many conflicting feelings about reconciling this birth with her previous pregnancy.
“I look at these fraternal girls and there’s a weird feeling of them being the same as the first set and yet different,” Alex says. ” I sometimes think that we’re supposed to be celebrating their first birthday instead of their birth. They’re supposed to be older. I’m supposed to be teaching them words and chasing after them as they run, and yet I have another year to wait for all that.”
Alex’s mother, who was against the idea of Alex trying to get pregnant again following her miscarriage, refers to the last two and half years of her daughter’s life as “the longest pregnancy ever.” Given the way Alex sometimes envisions these daughters as being reincarnations of her previous ones, she finds the description to be pretty accurate. Although it’s early into her motherhood, Alex worries that she is sometimes punishing her girls with emotional distance. Not just from losing her twins but also from the entire IVF ordeal.
“I still don’t fully believe that I get to keep them,” Alex tells Mommyish. “It feels like I’m babysitting. I’m really trying to push through it, but I just can’t seem to bond like I want to. I think I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. In the past, every time I’ve felt that connection, it was taken away almost immediately. The first round of IVF, I became convinced it would work and got excited and bam! My body ejects. The first pregnancy, I finally became convinced everything was OK, I started to feel like a mom rather than a science experiment and bam again, my body ejects. My body can’t really eject these babies at this point, but I still can’t seem to cross over into excitement and attachment.”
Intellectually, the mother knows that the daughters she now holds in her arms are separate from the ones she lost nearly two years ago. But emotionally, she says, she finds the overlap to be more challenging.
“These are my girls, the same girls,” she concludes. “They just weren’t ready to be here the first time, but they came back when they were. Sometimes I think about the first set and feel that they are gone, and I’m sad. But most of the time it feels like my girls are here. They just took the really scenic route in getting here.”