Julian and his daughter, Saydee
This story actually begins years ago in the summer of 2011 when my wife, Ratana, and I got married. After our wedding, we tried right away to have children. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy. For the next year and a half, we tried every trick in the book to get pregnant and couldn’t. It started off as a fun adventure, but after many months of negative pregnancy tests, it soon became depressing.
Our next step was to visit doctors to get some answers about what was happening. Ratana was first and had all of her usual exams. She passed with flying colors! So, I was next. We found that I had a low sperm count, and my sperm had low motility.
I made an appointment with my urologist to learn if there was anything that could be done to remedy our situation. Surgery was suggested—a left-side varicocelectomy could do the trick. It was the first time in months that my wife and I had some kind of hope. I had the procedure done, and I was re-tested. Once again: low motility and a low sperm count. The surgery did not solve our problem.
Our last hope was in vitro fertilization (IVF), as recommended by my urologist. We knew this was going to be a long and pricey process, but Ratana and I wanted to try. We saved up for months just so we could afford two IVF cycles (in case the first cycle didn’t work).
We found a fantastic doctor to perform our IVF. He and his staff made us feel welcome and reassured us that they would do the best they could. On October 13, 2014, we transferred two embryos. Our doctor advised us not to take a pregnancy test because it could result in a false positive. However, we went against the doctor’s orders, and on October 27, we found out we were pregnant!
After years of struggles, we couldn’t believe that pregnancy test. We were so elated that we bought more tests, and Ratana took them all to confirm the pregnancy. Heck, I even took a pregnancy test as a control measure!
Our IVF doctor confirmed our pregnancy a few days later with a blood test. Soon after, my wife had an ultrasound on November 13—her birthday. We held our breath, hoping that our dream pregnancy was still there. The doctor showed us a heartbeat for the first time. I couldn’t believe it … I was seeing my child’s heartbeat. It was really tiny and hard to see, but it was there!
The doctor then moved around, and we saw something else … a second heartbeat! I couldn’t believe it. I was speechless. I was so excited and couldn’t believe this was real. Finally, after years of trying, we were going to have not one, but two babies.
We came in for a follow-up ultrasound a couple of weeks later, which was the day before Thanksgiving. Once again, I held my breath and hoped that everything was still OK. Our doctor showed us the two heartbeats again. Then he had a puzzled look on his face as he stared at the monitor. He said that there was a third heartbeat! Not only did both embryos take, but one also split. I was so excited that on the drive home, I was shaking. Ratana had to tell me to pull the car over, so she could drive the rest of the way back.
I couldn’t believe our luck. Our IVF worked on the first try, and we were having triplets after only transferring two embryos. We soon started seeing a high-risk OB/GYN doctor—with multiples, my wife was automatically high risk.
Ratana had her first ultrasound with him, and soon our happiness started changing to fear. We found out that our babies were OK; however, the embryo that split turned out to be monoamniotic twins (momo twins for short). This meant that these two shared the same sac and made the risks even higher. (A wall didn’t form between these two, so their cords could eventually tangle and cause complications or death to one—or even both—of the momo twins.)
Our doctor told us that with just monoaminiotic twins, the chances of survival were only 50-50. Having the third baby in its own sac made the odds lower. He gave us the option of decreasing the pregnancy of the momo twins to give our other baby a better chance of survival. Ratana and I looked at each other and didn’t have to say a word to know what we were both thinking. We quickly told our doctor that we were all in, and we’d try our luck at survival.
Ratana and her daughter, Rylee
We had weekly appointments with ultrasounds at every checkup to make sure all three babies were growing appropriately. We eventually found out that we were having two girls and a boy!
Our doctor explained that we needed to reach a minimum of 24 weeks just to have a shot at survival, but 28 weeks would give us a better chance. So, for the next few weeks, there was not a minute that my wife and I did not worry.
I started doubting our decision, as it was possible to lose all three of our children. Should we have tried for one almost sure thing? So many thoughts ran through my head during these weeks. Ratana and I tried our best not to think about it, and we reassured each other that everything would be OK.
Soon, our 28-week appointment came; we were scheduled to have a growth scan to make sure they were all on track. We felt relieved that we made it to week 28 in one piece. (My wife was going to be admitted to the hospital the next day for constant monitoring.) The scan began, but soon the ultrasound tech excused herself. We knew something was wrong.
A doctor—not our usual OB/GYN—came in. She told us it looked like baby A could be dying. My heart dropped. I didn’t know what to say.
The doctor immediately got us across the street to Long Beach Memorial hospital’s labor and delivery unit. Once there, they started Ratana on an IV, and performed another ultrasound for baby A. This time it looked OK; however, a few minutes later, the heartbeat dropped again, and this pattern continued, up and down.
As a precaution, my wife was quickly given steroids to help our babies’ lungs mature. The doctor wanted to wait for the steroids to take effect. However, with the continued drop of baby A’s heart rate, it was up to us to decide whether we wanted to take them out right away. Ratana and I agreed—we wanted all three of them. We made it this far, and we wanted to give all of them a chance to survive.
Off we went to another room. I had to wait outside for a few moments. Our regular OB/GYN showed up a few moments later ready to perform the C-section. As the room was being prepped, I sat outside until I was called in. I was excited and scared at the same time, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I said some quick prayers to God, begging him to get our babies out safely.
Julian and his daughter, Rylee
A nurse guided me in, and I sat next to my wife. There was so much commotion that our doctor had to tell everyone to quiet down, so he could concentrate. I’d guess there were about 13 to 15 doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists in the room, but I didn’t count. My mind was focused on my wife and on the other side of the sheet they had put up between her head and her belly.
Everything happened so fast. Rylee came out first (baby A), then Saydee (baby B) and last but not least, our boy Liam (baby C). Rylee came in at 1 pound, 15 ounces; Saydee at 2 pounds, 4 ounces; and Liam at 2 pounds, 12 ounces.
I didn’t hear a cry from Rylee. The first cry we heard came from Saydee, and the moment I heard it, tears came to my eyes. Liam also let out a cry.
I got up and took a peek at all of them. My wife wasn’t able to see them yet, so I had to be her eyes and take pictures with my phone. Once I saw them all for the first time, I realized that I was already in love with them, and that would never change.
Rylee (left), Saydee (center) and Liam (right)
We later found out that Rylee’s cord was tangled around Saydee’s foot. So, each time Saydee kicked, she caused Rylee’s heart rate to drop. I also noticed there were many knots between the umbilical cords of our girls. It’s a miracle that they got this far.
They were all quickly taken to the NICU, where a nurse led me soon after. I felt guilty that I was able to see the babies when my wife couldn’t, but I made sure to take plenty of pictures. I saw all three of them in separate isolettes, and each of them had machines to help them breathe.
After a quick visit, I was asked to step out of the room for a few minutes, so the nurses could get them all set up. I went back to find Ratana, who had been moved to another room. I showed her the pictures of our little ones, but she seemed pretty much out of it due to the medications. She was tired, and I was tired, too—running on adrenaline. We made it … our family had made it.
We are now in the middle of another journey because being born at 28 weeks hasn’t been easy for our children, who spent about four months in the NICU. After many surgeries for her heart and intestines, Rylee passed away on August 14, 2015.
My wife and I are drained, but it doesn’t matter. Regardless of the challenges and issues to come, Liam and Saydee are here, and their futures look bright. We will be there for them every step of the way.
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