This time last year...

Anyone who has dealt with a life changing event, with grief, knows exactly what I am talking about. Its the sick game that we play as every little thing reminds us of what was going on last year at this time. All of those anniversaries, milestones, holidays.

October 13th I sat in a waiting room with my husband and 3 children. Waiting to see our future child's heartbeat and got the surprise of our life..two beautiful heartbeats. We laughed. Little tears ran down my checks as I watched that screen. Tears of pure joy. The tech didn't quite understand, so we explained God's gift to us- everything fit into place. Everything had a reason now. We immediately called our family in the car on the way to a photoshoot I had set up. I could barely concentrate while I took pictures of a baby boy...excitedly saying, "oh my gosh" over and over. I was in shock.

This time last year, I was sick as could be and doing photoshoots, many of my clients probably wondered why I was so pale. Trying every morning sickness trick in the book..I just prayed I didn't throw up at their house. Many of them I told our exciting news to. It was hard not to share the gift God was blessing us with. This year, those who didn't know what happened looked at me a little sideways when I brought just one baby with me remembering that I had said I was pregnant with twins...others who knew, said nothing.

Last year at Halloween, I thought about Halloween 2010... cute costumes for all 5 kids..what would the twins be?? Would I have enough time to make the costumes? would they all let me pick a theme? would we have boys or girls or one of each??

Right after Thanksgiving last year we found out we would be having a boy and a girl. Nothing could have been more perfect. I was scared to have 2 girls..for all those reasons of our first set. Too similar and I didn't want all of those feelings to come back. I didn't want them to be identical either because I was scared for anything to go wrong with placentas etc. So one of each? a sister for Haley and a brother for the boys. I was going to get my pink one more time. I thought about this time next year and how I would get to dress her in dresses, and have baby dolls and strollers again. Dress up and bows...

This time last year, I got my Christmas decorations out. Remember my stocking story? Ya.. well I am not looking for that moment this year as I pull them all out. It stings. a lot.

This time last year, I was looking at Children's place and matching little girl dresses to big girl dresses, and little boy vests and dress shirts to big boy shirts..all matching each other. Matching jammies, and Picturing how adorable they would all look and hoping I could get the perfect Christmas card photo for 2010. Last year I was thinking about what it would be like to take all 5 kids to see Santa, and wanted to make sure the twins sat separately so they always had an individual picture with Santa too. I couldn't wait to have two crawling around a Christmas tree...finally.

Instead, I think of the woman who was foolishly excited, happy and so full of joy at this time last year. How she thought 2010 had so much in store and couldn't wait for them to be in her arms. She thought about how it would be the next year with sleeping arrangements, who would go where, carseats and highchairs. She thought about what would need to be done if she went on bedrest. She thought about getting to each safety milestone, 24 weeks, 28 weeks, 32...knowing she would do everything it would take to get them as close to term as possible so they would be healthy.

She never thought it would be like this. That wouldn't happen again. Nope. God wouldn't do that. She wouldn't get a 2nd chance to just go through grief again. Maybe have NICU time, but never did her thoughts go there. Little did she know what was going to happen just after the New Year.

May 27th 2002 changed me in more ways ever imaginable especially at the age of 22. I was now a person who understood that life wasn't perfect or goes as planned. I learned the hard way that heartache was real and saying goodbye to your baby was indescribable. I had to be strong, I leaned on God. I learned to live my new normal. I trusted that there was a reason for life to be the way it was and was forever changed.

This time last year, I was a different person then I am this year. I will never be that person again... my outlook on life is different and once again has been forever changed. I again have another new normal. A new NEW normal. A normal that I wish was different. 2010 has made me who I will be now, just as 2002 did.

For now, I just keep playing that game of "This time last year" I hit all of those year milestones...and instead of looking back fondly on those memories, it just reminds me that things should be different.


Chefs Auction:

My comments go to my gmail account, that also gets flooded with facebook. So I am sorry if I don't respond all the time, often I don't see them. I need to change where they go! I did see that it was asked if I could post what I read at the March of Dimes Chef Auction...

So here is what I read- Its called Imagine two babies- (and yes, I will even share my cheesy intro that I actually do a good job saying so it doesn't sound like I am reading it..haha)

Hello! My name is Bree Hughes and this is my daughter Haley. In 2003 we walked in our first March of Dimes sponsored event. I am also the captain of Team Heaven’s Hope. In just the last 4 years combined our team has raised over $10,000. I am here to tell you about why March of Dimes is so important to us. I am going to read what I have written so that way I have a better chance of sharing all of it with you J So please bear with me..

Imagine two babies…
So small your wedding ring can fit up her arm. Who are just a tad longer than a Barbie Doll. Who weigh less than a 2lb bag of beans. Babies born so early the doctors tell you they have a 50% chance to survive. Who are covered in so many wires and tubes, Imagine the only noises you hear are the beeping machines monitoring their every breath. Whose eyes still haven't completely opened yet, and their skin is so bright red and transparent because they have zero body fat. Whose tiny foot prints were only 2 inches long. Babies you could hold in the palms of your hands very easily. Imagine hearing a doctor tell you "they have tried everything, and there is nothing more they could do". A baby you had to lay aside her twin sister for the very last time. A baby you had to say good bye to...

There is a thin line between life and death when it comes to premature babies. That was our reality in May of 2002. I delivered at only 25 weeks, our identical daughters Haley and Ashlyn both weighing 1 pound, 14 ounces. We became the 50% statistic that day. Ashlyn sadly passed away in our arms 20 hours after her birth, suffering from brain bleeds and tiny little lungs that were just too immature.

Now imagine the surviving baby who at only 5 days old, was told that she needed an operation on a valve between her heart and lungs. A baby you couldn't pick up and hold for almost a month and spent 5 weeks on a ventilator. Imagine getting to hold her for the very first time under heavy supervision and needing to tape her wires and tubes onto you. Doctors telling you that even THEY didn’t know what her outcome would be, if she would live or if she would die… A baby you almost lost one night, because she wouldn't take a breath for several minutes, and thoughts of another funeral flooded your mind. A baby who amazingly recovered from moderate brain bleeds. Who fought to breathe on her own. Who had to pass a car seat test before even coming home. Who passed several eye exams with no complications. A baby who still had to come home on oxygen, but came off of it 2 weeks later on her due date. Who spent 6 months on an apnea monitor, without a single alarm. A baby you were told, would most likely be re-admitted for illness in the months and years to come, but never did. A baby that could have multiple delays from such an early arrival and possibly cerebral palsy, but doesn't. Now imagine a child who is 8 years old, and who beat all odds.

Both of our girls were given an artificial surfactant, which is an oily substance that helps their tiny lungs inflate before they could produce their own, which was created with the help of March of Dimes. Without that- Haley would not be here with us today, it was enough to sustain her little lungs until she could make it on her own, and it worked. Once we were home, I was left with the question. Why did I go into labor at 21 weeks? Why were they born almost 4 months too soon? Doctors could not give me a reason other than “twins”. I was told it was just something that happens and they don’t know why. Instantly I knew that I wanted to be part of the mission to find out WHY, so research could be done to help prevent it from happening again. So other parents would never have to experience the heartache from holding their baby for the last time. Being optimistic, we decided to have another child, he arrived 6 weeks early, which was a great accomplishment from the first but again, I was left without a reason for why I went into labor early with him. So I started to do my own research when I was pregnant with our 3rd. I read that March of Dimes had done research with progesterone shots during pregnancy to help prevent premature births. Studies seemed promising for some women…so I asked my doctor about it and she said we had nothing to lose at this point, so we tried it. I was given 15 injections. The shots worked and I walked into the day of my scheduled c-section delivering a full term baby boy weighing in at 8lbs 8oz J Healthy as can be! I finally had my wireless baby, and no NICU stay!

Now Imagine having to go through it all over again…

The fight against prematurity is not over.. it’s a never ending battle - even when you think you have figured out how to prevent it from happening again. This exact time last year, we got shocking and exciting news! An early ultrasound showed us we were pregnant with natural twins for a second time! We could not believe we were being blessed to have this opportunity again, how amazing! What a story to tell! I was immediately referred to a high risk doctor and armed with my past experiences, research and information- my doctor and I made a great team. We knew just what we needed to do this time and instantly put a plan in place. Starting at 9 weeks pregnant, I went to the doctor every 2-3 weeks to check cervical length and check the babies on ultrasound. At 14 weeks, we found out that we would be having fraternal twins this time, a little boy and a little girl. I started progesterone injections at week 16, my wonderful husband gave me my weekly injections. Everything was going as to plan.

Just after the New Year, we headed up to Portland for another checkup. I had felt uneasy this time and I couldn’t figure out why, I was very anxious to see the babies on screen just to make sure everything was ok. Immediately my heart sank. I could tell something was wrong. The tech did a few measurements and got very quiet. She excused herself from the room and I knew instantly. Our little girl had passed away half way through our pregnancy. My doctor explained how extremely rare this was to have happened in the 2nd trimester. We agreed to do amnios to see if a birth defect was the cause for her death. Weeks later, the results showed a healthy baby girl. We will never know why she passed away. Our situation became a greater risk now with nowhere for her to go, she would remain until birth. There was potential this could complicate the pregnancy further for our surviving twin. I was at even more risk to go into premature labor. I continued the progesterone injections and was monitored very closely.

For the next 10 weeks, there was something going wrong at each appointment. I honestly didn’t think I would make it past 30 weeks. The pregnancy finally started to become as normal as it could be under the circumstances for about a month, until a trip to the hospital at 33 weeks showed I was in preterm labor. With the contractions not making much change, I was instructed to go home on bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy. An appointment midweek also showed no change. I was determined to get to 34 weeks. The day after I hit my 34th week, and the same day as the March for Babies walk …my labor had progressed and another late night trip to the hospital proved we could not stop labor. I gave birth to our son Madden Quinn and his sister Quinn Faith just after midnight. We once again had to do what no parent should…we had to say goodbye to our baby girl.

Madden did amazingly well for being 6 weeks early. He was born at 4lbs 13oz. With the wonderful NICU Doctors and Nurses, and his fighting personality, he came home on Mother’s Day, only 2 weeks after he was born. I found out later that once Quinn passed away, my doctor didn’t have much hope I would even carry our little boy much further, each week that went by, I beat more odds. I feel that the progesterone injections once again, helped get me further in a pregnancy that could have ended much earlier. If it hadn’t been for the research done, I wouldn’t have ever tried it. I am grateful for that research.

My family is proof that March of Dimes research is working, it is helping prevent premature birth and it’s saving the lives of babies even if the outcomes aren’t always what we hoped for. Our children are a daily reminder of all the hard work March of Dimes is doing.

Please remember that even though we thought we had a solution that worked for us to prevent premature birth, anything can complicate a pregnancy and the fight is far from over. That is why we can never stop giving to March of Dimes as many families need the help and hope that the foundation provides.

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share our story with you.


So there you have it. My speech for the 2010 Chefs Auction in Eugene, Oregon.


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