By Jody Kerzman
The road to motherhood was a long, bumpy one for Sara Murray. She and her husband, Jeff, struggled with infertility for years. After several extensive infertility treatments and procedures, Sara finally got pregnant. They soon learned they were expecting twins, a boy and a girl.
“We were ecstatic. When you try for so long to get pregnant and then get two for the price of one, you feel like you hit the lottery,” says Sara.
While twin pregnancies often come with complications, Sara’s pregnancy was pretty uneventful.
“I had severe morning sickness at the beginning, but I didn’t care. We were pregnant with twins and that was all that mattered.”
The babies were due April 21, 2015. On January 10, Sara had a routine checkup.
“Everything looked wonderful,” Sara recalls. “Five days later, my water broke. I was 26 weeks along. We raced to the hospital and prayed they could stop labor.”
Despite their best efforts, doctors were not able to stop Sara’s labor. She delivered her baby boy, Beckett, first. Two hours later, her daughter, Isla was born.
“I didn’t get to see them when they were born, not even a glimpse. They were taken to the NICU immediately.”
Five hours later, Sara finally got to see her babies. Born 14 weeks early, Beckett weighed just one pound, eight ounces. Isla was two pounds, one ounce.
“Seeing them was emotional and shocking. They had tubes coming out from everywhere but I was immediately in love with them, tubes and all,” says Sara.
Sara spent a few days in the hospital and spent most of that time in the NICU with her babies. When she was discharged, she and Jeff continued to spend much of their time at the hospital.
“Beckett was doing much better than Isla. He was smaller, but his lungs were much more developed,” Sara remembers. “Five days after they were born, the doctor told us he was going to take out Beckett’s breathing tube. He said he had been showing signs he was ready. We decided to leave while they took the tubes out. We didn’t want to see that.”
But that’s when Sara’s road to motherhood suddenly got even bumpier.
“We got a call from the hospital, telling us something wasn’t right with Beckett. They weren’t sure what was wrong, but his blood labs were off.”
Doctors suspected a brain bleed, but a scan of Beckett’s brain was clear. Doctors concluded Beckett had an infection. Then, the phone rang again.
“The nurse said ‘we need you here right now,’” recalls Sara. “It was a terrible call. They said Beckett’s infection had gotten into his blood and he had gone into septic shock. The doctor told me he’s very, very sick and to just keep thinking positive, but he told me Beckett might not make it. A huge team of people was working on him, but he got worse. They cut his chest open and put a chest tube in. We just had to stand there. We were screaming, bawling, yelling at him to stay with us.
“It got to the point where there was nothing else they could do for him. I remember a nurse saying ‘call it.’ They pulled the tubes from him and I held him. He took his last breath in my arms. It was absolutely terrible. It was the worst day of our lives.”
But the couple knew they had to persevere. They spent their time at the same hospital where they had lost one baby, caring for their other baby.
“The first week I cried all day every day. I cried at the hospital. I cried at home. I’d wake up crying and go to bed crying. We were so scared. We thought we’d lose Isla too. Beckett had been doing better than her, and he was gone.”
But Isla beat the odds. On May 1, 2015, after 106 days in the hospital, she went home.
“She’s a miracle baby.”
Still, Sara says it feels like something is missing.
“We talk about Beckett every day. It’s very complicated having a twinless twin. Every milestone Isla meets is bittersweet. We know there should be two babies doing what she’s doing. As much as we love her and need her, it’s difficult having a surviving twin. She is a constant reminder of the baby we lost.”
Sara struggled with guilt, especially at the beginning.
“I just could not wrap my head around how badly my body had failed the babies.”
Needing answers, Sara saw several specialists. None could give her a reason for what had happened. They simply said it could have happened to anyone. While not an answer, it has given Sara a purpose. She wants others to hear her story, and to talk about infant loss and stillbirths.
“I connected with some great people on Facebook who have also lost a baby. Talking and connecting with other people who have been there helps. When you lose a baby, you feel isolated. No one gets it, no one understands. I hope my story can help someone in a similar situation to know they’re not alone.”
And while Sara is helping others, Isla is helping her.
“She’s a miracle. She saved our lives. When Beckett died, Jeff and I had a feeling that we didn’t want to be here. But we had to keep going for her.”
A miracle and a blessing, whose smile and joy for life has helped Sara find joy again, despite the bumps in the road.