The Gilmore Girls

by Anna Slaton Gilmore

The Gilmore Family

In 2008, at 31 years old, I found myself very content with life. I had been happily married to Justin for three years. Life was fulfilling and more than I could ask for. A few years earlier, I had started a business designing wedding flowers, and it was thriving. Travelling and spending time with friends occupied my hours outside of work.  When the 2009 New Year rolled in, we made a resolution for our home. This was the year we wanted to start a family. Becoming a mother was something I wanted, but honestly it had never been the major goal of life for me. It was a desire among a list of other important goals. Having a baby was a piece of the whole picture I had for myself. I set out, like most women, hoping to become pregnant soon and without much difficulty. After trying without any success, I found myself sitting in front of fertility specialist Beth Malizia.

When I arrived at the appointment, I was nervous and felt so vulnerable. It was my hope that she would say there was nothing to worry about and I had no reason to be in her office. Some minor tests were done that were inconclusive as to why I was having difficulty in conceiving. She gave me some factual information to be hopeful about and some procedures to look at that would increase our odds of success. After taking her advice and a lot of conversation with my husband, we decided to move forward. I took heart knowing that without any big obstacles maybe we would see success with minimal assistance. After six months of pursuing treatment, including three IUI (intra-uterine insemination) procedures, I was still not pregnant. I found my confidence wavering and began to flail emotionally. I lost perspective, and the realities of infertility weighed heavily on me. I wanted to be a mother, and hope was slipping through my hands. Sadness was giving way to despair, and frustration was turning into anger. I hated what I was becoming. It was surprisingly painful to be around babies and especially pregnant people. This was hard to face about myself. Hearing other people’s success stories became infuriating. I was becoming absorbed with infertility.  During this time, I leaned on friends and my faith to cope and move forward with the next option. I wrestled with bigger questions about my purpose in life. My pain was personal but my problem felt so public. I was discovering that life could hurt and disappoint more than I had ever imagined. In retrospect, it was in the midst of this that some valuable lessons began to surface.  Marriage and friendship could bear more weight than I realized. Being a good listener is a gift to someone grieving because there are some problems in life that don’t have good answers, and people that love you cannot fix them. I learned that it takes courage to sit with someone in a difficult place. So listening was a gift, because my heart ached, and I needed to hear that it would stop some day. May I be so blessed to one day return the favor.

In fall of 2009, I signed up for my first round of IVF (in vitro fertilization). I was nervous and numb inside by now. I was encouraged by the odds that we would become pregnant. Dr. Malizia is an advocate for her patients. She was concerned with my success and my emotional health. She gave me two statistics that anchored me: 86 percent of couples that pursue up to six rounds of IVF saw a live birth. I also learned that after one round of failed in vitro, 50 percent of couples drop out of trying. It is just too taxing emotionally and financially to keep going.  I was ready to take my chances.  I followed the protocol for in vitro, and 10 days after completing it we received a phone call that my blood work showed a positive pregnancy. I was elated, but that would prove to be short lived. Unfortunately, a week later my levels dropped, and I was no longer pregnant. It was close to Christmas, and I was consumed with the pain of disappointment. The reality was that I had everything I wanted for a week, then lost it, with no promise of it ever returning. I’ve spoken with many women who have miscarried at various stages of pregnancy. There are some losses in life that our human hearts don’t have a file for. My heart didn’t know what to do with a miscarriage, and it broke into pieces.

The New Year in 2010 came, and very little in me wanted to celebrate. I felt hollowed out by our circumstances, but life moves on with or without you, and I had to make a plan to keep going. I was weary of the fight. I had given it everything I had. I felt so pinned in. At some point in life, we accept some realities that are beyond our control. I couldn’t let this one go.  I couldn’t make a concession about being a mother. I don’t know if it was for lack of Plan B in life, numb determination or my Texas roots, but I went through another two failed rounds of IVF. I struggle to find words for this part of the journey. I remember the medical details, but emotionally I was very detached. For some people, adoption is the answer, conceiving without any medical intervention, or maybe deciding that life is fulfilling without children and this pursuit is not worth the emotional difficulty. Though for me, it was my journey, and I felt compelled to keep fighting.  Sad stories must end at some point, right?

In the fall, we walked into a fourth round of IVF. It was Dec. 15, 2010, and I was standing in the floral department of a grocery store trying to distract myself. A simple phone call would deliver the results of our latest attempt. I was cautiously optimistic. It was freezing cold and pouring rain outside. I tried to ignore that the weather seemed ready to befriend me in sadness. My phone rang and the nurse simply said, “Your hormone levels are very high and healthy. You are pregnant. Congratulations. ” Oh, sweet victory.

I waited for two more weeks before having an ultrasound to look for a heartbeat. The silence in the room bore the weight of our longing to be there. The nurse located the tiny, flickering heartbeat and said, “Baby A looks very good.” Happy tears began to pour down my face as the nurse finished her sentence. “Baby B and C look healthy, too.” Triplets. I was pregnant with triplets. The reality of this is still sinking in, and they are nine months old.

Triplets are considered a high-risk pregnancy, so we received our medical care from the Maternal Fetal Medicine center at UAB Hospital.  While fortunate to be pregnant, I quickly learned that a triplet pregnancy is a high risk for both mother and babies. Triplets are typically born between 32 and 33 weeks gestation. Triplets have an 11 times greater risk for cerebral palsy due to prematurity, and mothers are at high risk for early hypertension, which could lead to losing the pregnancy completely. We were given a 35 percent chance of conceiving one baby, a 17 percent chance of having twins, and a less than 2 percent chance of triplets.  Our triplets were not the result of too many transferred embryos, but instead a splitting of one fertilized embryo, resulting in two of our babies being identical twins.

Justin and I considered ourselves to be blessed with the opportunity to give these babies a chance at life, and we moved forward with a sober gratitude.

I was very blessed to have a relatively healthy pregnancy. I was on bed rest for 17 weeks and consumed an ungodly amount of milk shakes. On July 4, 2011, at 32 weeks and 5 days pregnant, I was admitted to the hospital for hypertension. The following morning, our daughters were born at 6:45 a.m., 6:45 a.m. and 6:47 a.m. July 5 was a heavenly day for our family.

Our babies spent seven weeks in the NICU. Rosemary was born weighing 3 lbs 8 oz, Emma 3 lbs 11 oz and Chloe a slight 2 lbs. 2 oz. The first few days in the NICU were very difficult. I not prepared to watch my babies struggle in an incubator. Chloe was so small that my husband’s wedding band would slip up her arm to her shoulder. The attending neonatologist would round on her morning and evening with residents in tow. I would sit quietly in the corner trying to decipher the medical talk about her. She was doing well, but her weight gain was slow. One evening, her doctor told me that she would someday thrive. Babies that have growth restriction in the womb sense a need for survival that helps them become very efficient at learning to breath and digest food for weight gain. Chloe was born ready for a fight. We nicknamed her Mighty Mouse in the nursery. Rosemary and Emma grew and gained their weight steadily. On a warm August day, we brought our third baby home from the hospital. Home. I had wished for this day for so very long.

Life has moved forward very quickly. I find myself here typing this story, and much of it seems like it happened yesterday. Our household is controlled chaos — most of the time.  To date, we have changed at least 5,400 diapers, given over 5,000 bottles and gone many nights without sleep. My daughters are nine months old and thriving. I went into the nursery tonight, as I often do, to steal a peaceful moment watching them sleep before starting the circus again tomorrow. They are worth every longing tear shed and every desperate prayer uttered. I am profoundly grateful for the gift to be their mother. My cup runneth over.

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One Response to “The Gilmore Girls”

  1. Sheryl Simpson says:

    I feel like I know all of you. I work with Justin and it is such a pleaseure to see such a devoted husband and dedicated father. I occasionally get updates by pictures. It is such a blessing for me to see your devotion to God and your family. May you KNOW you have God’s blessings always when the journey gets cloudy. Rest for your soul ( staying assured God is in control) and your physical bodies. Peace at all times and in the quite time…. which will be futher and futher apart:)
    PS On one of those Milkshake days I was the lucky to be included as Justin had to drop by the hospital for something. I did not need to eat for a few days!!
    God Bless you

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