Four months before the coronavirus pandemic caused chaos across the country, Melissa* and Joe* found out they were having twins. “It was a very much-wanted pregnancy,” Melissa tells me down the phone from her home just outside of Austin, Texas. “We’d tried for a while.” But the first scan brought some bad news. “Twin A – we called them Twin A and Twin B – had severe abnormalities. The heart was outside of the body, things like that. They said it was ‘not compatible with life’. At the time, though, they said Twin B looked good. And after a while, Twin A did pass in utero.”
It was difficult to deal with emotionally, but Melissa and Joe held themselves together and pinned their hopes on Twin B. It’s not unusual for one twin to die in utero; usually, that foetus is safely absorbed by the body and the other can carry on growing healthily. To put their mind at ease about Twin B, Melissa’s doctor offered an early anatomy scan at 16 weeks – and, despite previous assurances that that twin looked fine, it was bad news.
“It was lethal skeletal dysplasia,” Melissa says. “The ribs were too small and the wrong shape. Twin B would never have lung tissue enough to breathe. They would never be able to draw their first breath.” Instead, if she chose to carry the pregnancy to term, the baby would die as soon as it left the womb, struggling to breathe and then suffocating a few minutes later. The foetus also other foetal abnormalities, according to Joe, including “bowed” and “tiny or unformed bones” elsewhere in the body.
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