‘What’s the matter?’ My tattoo artist stepped from behind the counter, apparently shaken and crying. ‘I simply HAD to savior this moment.’ Mom loses twins, and the tattoo artist’s late grandmother’s name is matched by a combination of “uncommon” first names.

“I’m 39 years old, and I’ve had a lengthy journey. I was still unmarried and had not met a life companion as I approached the age of 36. My ambition had always been to become a mother.

Courtesy of Heather Bowman

I discovered I had a poor egg reserve in 2015. ‘If you want to have children, you need to do it soon,’ my reproductive endocrinologist advised. I didn’t get pregnant until January of 2017 due to health issues.

During that time, I researched donors, chose one, and prepared for my first motherhood journey on my own. However, I was not successful. I miscarried in February 2017, at 6 weeks into my first pregnancy. Fortunately, I fell pregnant with twins a few months later!

To say I was surprised, terrified, and overjoyed would be an understatement. At the same time, I was overjoyed at the prospect of having two lovely children. I’ve dealt with everything in my life head on, and this would be no exception.

Both of them were flawlessly made. They each possessed ten fingers and toes, as well as eyes, noses, and mouths. Pain, agony, and desolation were incomprehensible to me. Despite the trauma, I refused to give up on my dream of being a mother. Desperate, I begged my OB if we could try again later that evening. Before my reproductive clock stopped ticking, I had to keep pushing forward.

Grieving for my twins was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, despite my perseverance.

It was difficult to push forward, hoping for a new and rapid pregnancy while grieving. I kept thinking that this would be my last chance to have children and that I wouldn’t be able to do so. Even later in my life, the prospect of being asked, “Do you have kids?” was not appealing.

In a sense, I was a mother. Just not to children who are still alive. I made the decision that whenever I was asked, I would relate a small bit of my story. And, lo and behold, I was often asked if I had children. Talking about my experience was quite beneficial to me.

I was watching Tyler Henry’s Hollywood Medium on TV around two weeks after I delivered Buchanan and Leonor. I couldn’t help but feel like I needed a sign from my babies, something to let me know they were fine. I desperately wanted to apologies to them for my body’s failure. I determined the next day that I required tattoos of their footprints.

My mother and I went to a nearby tattoo shop and waited for the next artist to become available. My name was called after a 20-minute wait and five individuals ahead of me. I handed the tattoo artist the hand and footprint cards. On the back of each card were their names. ‘I need some time to trace the imprints,’ he replied as he accepted the cards. He wanted to make sure he mastered them because they were so little. He was well aware of how significant that was to me.

So it was back to the waiting room for us. After about 20 minutes, I was beginning to wonder what was taking so long. He appeared out of nowhere, apparently shaking and crying. I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to complete my footsteps. ‘I’m really sorry this took so long,’ he remarked instead as he sat down. I don’t want you to believe I’m insane. I just needed to take it all in for a second. I even dialed my wife’s number.’

‘What’s wrong?’ I inquired, perplexed. He saw the names of my babies when he turned over the cards. Buchanan and Leonor. ‘Leonor Buchanan was my grandmother’s name. ‘She was successful.’ I was in complete amazement and disbelief when I glanced at him. Despite the fact that they were two of the most uncommon names, his grandma had them both!

It was a sign from above, a sign that my children were safe and that I was doing the right thing. This event provided me with tremendous calm in terms of moving forward. I knew I had to keep trying for them for their sake.

Courtesy of Heather Bowman

When the pathology tests came back, I discovered that my premature labor was caused by an infection. That answer, though, was insufficient for me. Something more was going on, my instinct told me. As a result, I decided to return to my Reproductive Endocrinologist for more information. ‘There’s no way that’s why you lost your baby,’ he said.

I started my IVF process in May of 2018. Overall, it didn’t turn out to be too bad. The orientation class was the most difficult aspect of the entire procedure. I cried my eyes out as I walked out of class, convinced that there was no way I could do it. It was just too much. I might not have gone through with IVF if I hadn’t had great insurance through my new employer that covered it.

One of the first signals that I was on the correct track was the fact that my new employment covered IVF and maternity leave. I started taking the medications in May, had my eggs extracted after some weeks, having both embryo transferred on 24 June.  Four of 5 eggs which were fertilized, two had been. transplanted, and one of which was frozen. Because of my age, my RE insisted on transferring two embryos.

Chances to stay pregnant/conceiving twins were both fewer than 5%. I got the lovely POSITIVE two weeks later. I was expecting a child, and I had the blood tests to prove it! I was begging for one kid to spend my life. When I heard the word TWINS at my 6-week ultrasound, I was terrified.

They discovered two sacs but just one heartbeat in the first two weeks. The doctors were certain the infant would die. ‘It could just be one,’ they said. At 8 weeks, I went back in for more testing, just as I was starting to understand what was going on. They told me, ‘There are very weak pulses.’ As a result, I came to terms with having twins once more. I was going to do it this time!

When I was later transferred to a new team of doctors, they continued telling me that I needed to “decrease a baby” since there was nothing else they could do to aid me or prevent loss. I was never going to reduce a baby unless it was absolutely necessary. TWO, it was much, many successful women were in my support. It was now in my hands.

I met a lady and knew a wonderful specialist for my issue thanks to such support groups. I called him right away and was really fortunate to be accepted as a patient. Meanwhile, the other doctors required that I undergo genetic testing. I discovered that both of my children were genetically flawless, and that I would be having a boy and a girl once more!

My anxiousness had been through the roof up until this point. Every ache, twinge, or cramp I felt was a sign that there is some issue. I was unable to find comfort because the previous doctors had all been so negative. One of the first things Dr. Paul told me when I came into his office was that I could do this. ‘I began my own practice for all of the same reasons you despised your former doctors.’ He believed in doing things differently and doing everything he could to ensure that babies arrived safely, healthy, and on time.

Courtesy of Heather Bowman

After meeting with him, my nervousness began to fade. After my cerclage operation, a little more. A bit more when he discovered I had a blood clotting condition and had to start taking daily injections. My hopes were at an all-time high when I took ultrasound after 17 weeks & learned that my son had no heartbeat.

From the beginning, my son was the strong one. For weeks, they couldn’t discover my daughter’s heartbeat. I would have had no heartbeats at this stage if I had ‘reduced’ the weaker baby. Every day, I thank God that I trusted my instincts. I had a feeling she was a tough tiny combatant.

It is heartbroken that my boy had passed away but I have to care until my daughter’s birth. My anxiety began to rise again. I was terrified that this might have an impact on 2nd angle. I set little goals for myself and attempted to take things day by day, hour by hour. To keep optimistic for my daughter each day, I had to compartmentalize my grief.

Courtesy of Heather Bowman

I refused to buy anything, set up a nursery, organize daycare, or let anyone give me a shower. When I made plans for the future, I felt as if I was jinxing it, as if I was jinxing something horrible. But, day by day, shower by shower, gently putting the nursery together, I became more at ease with the situation and the reality of her impending birth.

I began to show signs of preeclampsia three weeks before her scheduled C-section and was admitted to the hospital. My C-section date kept getting pushed back due to blood pressures of 191/98. They gave me steroid shots to speed up her lung growth, and after nearly two weeks in the hospital, my doctor decided it was time.

Leti and James were born via C-section on February 12, 2019, at 36 weeks and 11 ounces. Hearing her sob was the most liberating experience I’ve ever had. Me and my mother were in Operation Theater and she was telling me how beautiful she was.

Courtesy of Heather Bowman

On her forehead, she had two small birthmarks that resembled footprints. They have her brother’s stamp on them, in my opinion. His small note assures her that he is keeping an eye on her and will always be beside her.

Courtesy of Jessica Young Photography (@jessicayoungphotog)

The hospital chaplain was in the OR with me, telling me she would do everything she could to collect images of James. Until he was brought to recovered room lately, Leti’s lovely screams made it easier to deal with his loss. A wave of emotion washed over me, and thoughts of Bucky and Nori flashed across my head. The tears just wouldn’t stop.

There was no life in his body, so she was unable to take photographs. I wanted to honor him by tattooing his footprints on my wrist beside his brothers, like I had done with my other twins, but I couldn’t. But I was able to love him. There was a need of refocus on my lovely kid, and I knew my sadness for him was far from ended. I knew I had to pay tribute to James in some way.

I was introduced to Jessica, a photographer, by a mutual friend. I was ecstatic to be able to capture Leti’s birth on film. ‘I have a beautiful suggestion for how to honor James,’ Jessica texted back after I told her my tale.

Courtesy of Jessica Young Photography (@jessicayoungphotog)

This photograph means a great deal to me. It is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. I’m looking forward to telling Leti the story of her birth. I can’t wait for her to grow up so I can tell her that her sister and brothers are always looking out for her.”

Courtesy of Jessica Young Photography (@jessicayoungphotog)

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