The first time I delivered twins but only one survived

There was no squirming, no cry, no breath. My heart started to race.
Dawn Mandeville
Dr. Dawn Mandeville

Photograph by Ben Rollins

Dr. Dawn Mandeville
Obstetrics & Gynecology, Atlanta Gynecology & Obstetrics

I had been treating
a wonderful couple for their twin pregnancy. Twin B had some mild growth issues, but overall everything was progressing well. Then late in the third trimester, an ultrasound showed Twin B’s growth was still lagging at a time when the baby should have been gaining more weight. We scheduled a C-section for the following day.

On the morning of the surgery, I met the patient and her husband as they came in to the labor and delivery unit, then left to do my rounds while the mom was being prepared for the OR. When the nurse called to say they were ready for me, she mentioned that they’d had trouble finding a heartbeat for Twin B, but that they finally got it.

Once I scrubbed in, I looked around the room just as the pediatrician/neonatology staff was arriving, as they do routinely for the delivery of twins. I announced that I was making the incision, and Twin A came out crying and squirming in my hands.

Then I turned my attention to Twin B. This time there was no squirming, no cry, no breath. My heart started to race, and I quickly cut the cord and handed the limp, motionless baby to the pediatric/neonatology staff.

As I delivered the placentas and began to close the incision, I kept glancing in the direction of Twin B. The staff was huddled around the baby, and I saw they were moving more quickly than they would for a normal newborn. I caught the eye of the attending neonatologist, who shook her head. I felt sick.

The dad accompanied the pediatric staff and the babies to the NICU, and then the mom went to the recovery room. After making sure mom was stable, I rushed over to the NICU. By the time I got there, the dad already knew: The baby didn’t make it. We decided to go to the recovery room together to tell the mom. When we both walked in, she knew something was wrong.

I told her that Twin A was doing very well, but Twin B, the smaller one, did not make it. I tried my best not to cry. At this point, it looked as though they needed time alone together. I walked over to the call room and broke down.

The next day, I went to see the family and once again express my grief and sense of helplessness. The mom looked at Twin A, swaddled in her arms, and I’ll never forget what she said: “Thank you for bringing this baby into the world safely. But our other baby will be coming home with us, too—right here.” She placed her hand over her heart, and repeated, “We will bring this baby home, too.” —As told to Jennifer Rainey Marquez

This article originally appeared in our July 2017 issue.

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