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Leave One Child to Save Others

Photo by: iStock

I’m awake moments before my alarm is set to go off. Today is the day I’m scheduled to check in to the hospital for complete bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy. I’m only twenty-five weeks along—it’s still such a long way to go. I’m large and swollen but lay snug under the fluffy down comforter. Maybe if I stay here long enough, if I hide under the covers, no one will find me, and I won’t have to go. Too bad my gigantic baby bump makes me like a hippo in hiding. Now my husband Ed is gently patting me on the arm.

“Just think,” he says. “The next time you’ll be back here, we will have two new babies. If everything goes well.”

I smile and nod in agreement, but I’m terrified that I’ll return home empty handed. Our twin baby girls are in grave danger because they sharing an amniotic sac and a placenta and this puts them at risk for a whole set of potential complications. Our plan was to get me into the hospital as soon as the babies were viable and to monitor me around the clock—until I went into labor or until something went wrong.

From my bedroom, I see someone standing in the doorway out of the corner of my eye. It’s my little Abby, dressed in her pink nightgown and clutching her doggie.

Every morning she wakes up calling out, “Mommy, come get me,” and then asks for milky. She is almost two, we had stopped nursing shortly after her first birthday but she still found comfort in her warm milk. Every day without fail, the same two things: Mom and milk—pretty much her whole world.

I feel sick, just about everything these days is nauseating to me. But leaving my daughter is simultaneously heart wrenching. It would be for several months’ time, and though she will visit with my husband some evenings and weekends, it still feels incredibly painful. I had never been apart from Abby for more than a few days at a time. We have a strong connection, a powerful bond. The idea of leaving her for an extended period of time is like leaving a part of myself behind.

I waddle over and scoop her into my arms. I had been dreading this moment for the past week and a half since my OB had told me I was going inpatient in the hospital. How am I going to get through this? How am I going to say goodbye to my Abby? I had tried in the days leading up to my departure to explain the situation to her in a way she would understand. But all she retained was that I was leaving. She was still just a baby—well a toddler—but my baby, and the reason didn’t matter. She just didn’t want to me go.

“Mama, come play with me,” she pulls my arm.

“I can’t play right now, sweetie. Remember Mommy told you, I have to go bye-bye for a little while.” I begin to cry.

“No go bye-bye,” Abby yells back, her eyes widening with urgency.

I glance down, biting my lip so hard it bleeds a little. “You’re going to stay here with Papa and Gigi,” I say, looking over to my parents who have just arrived.

“Ready to go?” Ed asks.

“Am I ready to go? NO! What do you think?” I snap, and burst into tears again while intermittently screaming at the top of my lungs, “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to leave my daughter. I don’t want to leave home!”

My Mom put her arm around me and reassured me that I was doing what was best for me and my babies. I know she’s right. I know the monitoring in the hospital every few hours will alert us if any serious complications arise. Their umbilical cords were already tangled since they were swimming in such close quarters, now we just needed to make sure that their blood supply was not cut off, which is what the machines would detect. I can’t bear to think about losing my babies. I am so frightened for their health that it made me terrified to say goodbye to Abby too. I take a deep breath. Still I have so much guilt—leaving one child to care for another one, or in my case, another two.

Would Abby feel abandoned? Would she remember I left her? I don’t know. I only know as parents we are faced with extraordinary tough decisions. How do we balance one child’s needs against another? When they are mutually exclusive? In my case it was obvious. Yes, it was going to be difficult, but I needed to be strong and acknowledge that other people—our family, friends, our support network—would be able to help care for our existing child. But I was the only one who could take care of these unborn babies.

Our family is expanding and it’s not just my firstborn I have to worry about anymore. I walk out the door sobbing inconsolably into my husband’s chest. I turn and go back to give Abby another tight hug. I’m waving goodbye from the car, I take a deep breath knowing that I’m doing the only thing I can do as a soon-to-be mother of three.

Crystal is a writer and a mother to three little girls including a set of twins. Her work has appeared in Twins Magazine, You&Me and she’s currently working on a Memoir. She lives in Houston with her husband, three little girls and a yappy little yorkie. Find her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog The Duffy Diary. You can follow Crystal on Facebook

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