They Told Me Not to Look

Megan Broutian essays

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“Can you see if it’s twins? Twins run in my family.”

My Ob-GYN obliged. Sure enough, two heartbeats! My husband and I looked at each other with the same expression on our faces…the unmistakable oh-boy-how-the-fuck-are-we-going-to-do-this? look.

“MoMo twins? They can’t get any more identical than that. Besides sharing their mother’s uterus, they come from the same egg (monozygotic), plus they share the same amniotic sac (monoamniotic) and the same placenta (monochorionic). It’s a tough pregnancy, the prognosis is a little tricky and the survival rate of MoMo twins is around 50%, but with advances in medical care, it’s better than ever before”.

She referred me to a specialist–no biggy, it was just protocol. His prognosis didn’t change-MoMo twins equals the worst pregnancy one could get. Best case scenario? Being admitted to the hospital at 18-20 weeks of gestation, horizontal position till childbirth, round the clock monitoring, and if all went well, deliver around the 32nd week, can try to stretch it as much as possible, but nothing over 34 weeks, can’t chance it. But, no problem at all, lots of cases at this hospital, sophisticated care, I’d be in good hands.

At 13 weeks-the stage where one would be out of the woods to start announcing the big news, my specialist and I were on the pursuit of an elusive membrane. A membrane that would change my MoMo twins to MoDi (monoamniotic but dichorionic, where they each have their own amniotic sac). This meant decreasing my uber-dangerous pregnancy status to just a run-of-the-mill high-risk, dangerous one. That’s it, once we see the membrane, everything will be okay.

At 17 weeks, I saw a new specialist with the most state of the art sonogram machine in town. He moved the probe expertly over my protruding stomach, cleared his throat, but waited a bit before speaking. Those extra seconds seemed to last a lifetime.

“I’m sorry, I don’t see any movement…and I don’t hear any heartbeats.”

“Maybe they’re just sleeping?” My voice was barely audible.

“I’m sorry, there is nothing I can do.”

“But, but, the membrane, if it’s there, everything will be okay?” Logic had left me, it seems for good.

“There is no heartbeat, I’m sorry.”

The slow, loud howling reverberated inside me. My mouth was wide open, but no sound was coming out.

My babies were dead.

Inside me.


My heart stopped with theirs.

There was this unfamiliar, dreamlike state with which I went through the motion of dressing myself and getting the hell out of that office. The nurses smiled at me apologetically, their faces a blur in the bright, cold light.

My husband drove me to my parents. All it took was my mom to smile and start asking questions for me to break down in her arms. I just kept shaking my head no. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. I cried and the tears kept coming. They would not stop.

I could still feel the babies move. The funny thing is that I had had no cramping, pain, bleeding or discomfort of any sort. Absolutely nothing to indicate that something might have gone awry. Later, I was told that the movement I felt was just their little bodies colliding in the amniotic sac they shared. I don’t know if I believe that.

For various reasons, it was decided that I would give birth to the twins. I was induced and given all the pain killing drugs I could possibly ever want.  For a brief, surreal moment, I actually enjoyed being unplugged from reality. I soared high. I could fly. Then the contractions began.

How can I explain the unbelievable cruelty of going through labor to deliver what you know is dead? The horror cannot be put into words. I will always remember every single agonizing second.

They told me not to look. I didn’t want to. But when the moment came, I just had to. They were my babies. I hugged them. My two boys. My two fetuses, tiny and frail. I didn’t want to let go. I held them to my chest. Their white faces looking more transparent in contrast to the white hospital blanket. They were very still. Two peas in a pod.

If I ever had one big wish in my life, the mother of all wishes, the wish to end all wishes, it was that they would suddenly wake up, stop being dead. For the first time in my life, I prayed for a miracle.

Eventually, everybody moved on, but me. I keep a red box, perched high in my closet that contains the pregnancy test and matching socks and onesies that I bought when I found out I was carrying twins. Once in a while, I take them out and lovingly caress the white cotton fabric, the bright yellow outlines of the words and the matching picture of the “cute pear”. I hold them to my heart and automatically move into that age-old rocking slow dance that mothers do, and imagine having my two babies in my arms.

The sting is slightly duller, year after year. I can almost see myself, maybe someday, some day, not thinking about them all the time. But meanwhile, every year on May 3rd, especially at 5:16 and 5:17 in the afternoon, I am inconsolable once again.


About the Author

Megan Broutian

Megan Broutian is a behavior analyst turned blogger. She writes about parenting using the principles of behavioral psychology at Behavioral Child and about life in general, and hers in particular, at .

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