When you conceive twins, your pregnancy is automatically considered a high-risk one because the chances of preterm labor is high. Karen Sia, a licensed pharmacist and medical transcription editor, knew this during her first pregnancy with twins.
“I started having contractions at 20 weeks, took medications, was hospitalized and put on bed rest but still delivered my twin boys at 30 weeks,” Karen recalls in an interview withSmartParenting.com.ph.
On January 22, 2015, Karen was scheduled for a checkup early in the day and while having an ultrasound, her ob-gyn discovered that she was already dilated by 2 centimeters. She was brought into the labor room where she spent a few hours and was given medicine to control her contractions and prolong labor. Despite their efforts, her dilation reached 5 centimeters.
Karen was urged by her doctor to transfer to a hospital with better neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) facilities. In the ambulance, she was given two shots of steroids to help the baby’s lungs develop quickly, two shots of magnesium sulphate for fetal neuroprotection, and more tocolytics (labor suppressants) to prevent premature birth. But at 9 p.m., her ob-gyn decided to have an emergency C-section because Karen was already dilated by 8 centimeters.
“The twins were given poor prognosis due to their weight. Keith weighed 2.2 pounds and Kenzo weighed almost 2 pounds,” Karen shares.
The twins also experienced complications. Keith had sepsis and patent ductus arteriosus, a fetal blood vessel that closes soon after birth. In this case, Keith’s blood vessel did not close. Kenzo was suspected to have Hirschsprung’s disease, a condition that affects the colon and prevents a newborn from passing stool. He had to be operated twice for it.
A day shy of his first month, Kenzo passed away. “It was the most devastating moment of our lives. We didn’t get to fully mourn over the loss of one of our sons because we had to stay strong for the other one who was still fighting for his life,” Karen shares.
After staying in the NICU for more than two months, Keith was able to go home.
Karen, who was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thought it would be a while before she got pregnant again. But in 2016, she bore another child.
She thought she could carry her second baby full term since she was no longer carrying twins, but it turned out to be a delicate pregnancy.
“I had contractions as early as the second trimester,” Karen recalled. “I was in and out of the hospital and was put on strict bed rest because my cervical length dropped to 2 centimeters. My OB suspected I might have a small uterus and couldn’t bear the weight of the baby.”
Karen gave birth at 33 weeks to Dustin, who weighed 3.5 pounds. She admitted to Smart Parenting that delivering another premature baby took a toll on her well-being. She became depressed.
“As if the first one wasn’t traumatizing enough, God let me experience it all over again,” Karen says.
The neonatologist informed her and her husband Dennis their baby needed to stay in NICU longer because he contracted pneumonia and had metabolic acidosis, which required multiple blood transfusion times.
“His pneumonia and infection were difficult to treat, and they had to change antibiotics thrice to get the right combination to treat it. Coming from a stressful first pregnancy and depleted bank account, my husband and I scavenged for funds to pay for our son’s hospital bills,” Karen explains.
Karen’s sons still need extra care. Keith, who is 3 years old, is undergoing occupational and speech therapy so he can catch up on his delays, while Dustin at 2 years old, has mild cerebral palsy called spastic diplegia.
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"Recently, we went to a physical therapist for an assessment because [Dustin] experiences tightness in his lower extremities. The therapist said the tightening he is experiencing will be there for life,” Karen shares. “It’s a neurological defect so he might not be able to walk or run normally.”
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Karen is grateful her sons continue to fight, and she is thankful for the people who give her strength to keep moving forward. “I draw strength from my husband. He always says, 'Basta they are alive, we can deal with any disabilities,'” Karen shares. “I’m also glad I have my family and co-preemie mom friends like Joana Caoleng and Jadie Tan. This experience* bonded us talaga.”
Lastly, Karen can’t help but thank God. “I always said, thy will be done. Nung binuhay niya ang mga anak ko, super blessed na ako.”
*Karen, Joana and Jadie were batchmates in college as Pharmacy students at the University of Santo Tomas. All their kids were born prematurely and the experience inspired them to put up Bairns Clothing, a clothing line made to fit the tiny bodies of premature babies.