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circumstances, the medical team wasn’t sure what issues the infants might face once they were born: possible breathing, vision or hearing problems; or bleeding in the brain, which occurs in the early days of some preterm babies, especially those weighing less than 3½ pounds at birth. That dangerous condition could lead to neurological problems and in- terfere with motor coordination. The smaller the baby, the higher the risk of brain bleeds, he said. The risks were even greater for multiples, because the babies tend to be smaller. The severity of my situation hit me, and I began to sob. Ben stood silently next to my bed and rubbed my shoulder. That night when he left, I lay awake,


wondering what would become of my babies. What if they suffered brain damage? Or, God forbid, did not sur- vive? A calm person by nature, I tried to assure myself: Whatever God gave me, I would happily take. My doctor put me on strict bed rest.


Pages 14-15: Cameron, left, and Matthew Lumpkin now, holding a photo of themselves at about 3 weeks, and in a sonogram at 23 weeks gestation. Above, left: The twins at home and at supreme sports Club in Columbia.


I couldn’t get up even to shower or use the toilet. The anti-contraction medi- cines made me tired and queasy, but I read and watched the Summer Olym- pics on television. After a few days, my doctors allowed me to get out of bed sparingly. But early on the fourth morning, I was walking gingerly to the bathroom in my room when a sudden pain, like monster menstrual cramps, hit me. I tiptoed back to bed and called the nurse. I learned later from my med- ical records that I was already seven centimeters dilated, one of the babies was in a breech position, and his feet were passing through my cervix. To decrease the risk of complications,


ering a news conference in Washington on June 12 when I felt a subtle pop in my lower abdomen and a seep of warm liq- uid. I eased out of the room, made my way home to Bowie and called my obste- trician. Get to the hospital right away, he told me. By the time my husband’s car pulled up to Shady Grove Adventist, I was sitting in a puddle of amniotic fluid. I was whisked up to the labor and deliv- ery floor, where my doctors and nurses were waiting. My mother and sister were on their way. So were the twins, at just 28 weeks of gestation.


M


y doctors immediately began trying to suppress the contractions by giv- ing me intravenous doses of magnesium sulfate and


shots of Terbutaline, an asthma medica- tion also used to stop preterm labor. As I lay there, my obstetrician, Jonathan Elias, stood next to my bed and gave Ben and me The Speech. “We don’t want to alarm you, but this is serious,” Elias began. I trusted him, but I was scared. He said he was fairly certain the twins could survive. But even under the best


my doctor ordered an emergency Cae- sarean section, and I called my husband, who was sleeping at home. The commo- tion around me seemed surreal. Hospital workers wheeled me into the operating room, and the anesthesiologist began administering numbing medicine. All I could think of was The Speech. Ben had yet to arrive, but the babies


had to come out, the doctors said. My entire body trembled. Sensing my fear, the anesthesiologist wrapped his arms around my shoulders from behind. “It’s going to be okay,” he said. “Please stay with me,” I whispered.


august 15, 2010 | The WashingTon PosT Magazine 17


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