I Gave Birth to Triplets for My Friend
The Ups and Downs
With these difficult questions hanging in the air, both couples gathered in Texas the night before the follow-up visit and talked about their worst fears. "That was key," says Susan. "This would have been impossible if we hadn't been able to be totally honest with one another." Everyone, including Mike, agreed that if the amniotic-sac issue cleared up, they wanted to go ahead with triplets.
Fortunately, the perinatologist they saw the next day found that each twin clearly had her own sac. The doctor reviewed all the possible complications with Frana but told her firmly, "You can do this." The goal was 28 weeks gestation as a minimum, 30 weeks if at all possible. Any time beyond 32 was a bonus. "After that, we never looked back," says Frana.
For the first several months of the pregnancy, Frana carried on with life as usual in Laguna Beach with her children, Enzo, 8, Amelie, 6, and Dempsey, 4. Susan flew in from Texas for doctor's appointments and tried to deal with the feelings of powerlessness that accompany a vicarious pregnancy. After Frana lost weight at one checkup, Susan grew alarmed. "I would've brought her a 1,000-calorie cinnamon roll every morning if she'd let me," she says, "but since the doctor wasn't concerned about her weight, I tried to let it go."
In mid-February, when Frana was 23 weeks along, Susan, who'd quit her job in children's ministry at her church, moved to Laguna Beach to help Frana as she grew too tired to manage many of her daily tasks. As it happened, the condo next to Frana's was available for short-term rental.
At 25 weeks Frana's doctor, Marvin Posner, MD, a specialist in high-risk pregnancies , put her on strict bed rest -- a common restriction during a multiple pregnancy. This meant that Susan's help was even more crucial to keeping the Sadler family on track. As Frana basically ran the household from the sofa, like a general instructing troops from her horse, Susan cooked meals, did the laundry, cleaned house, chauffeured the kids to and from their activities, and helped get them dressed in the morning and into bed at night. Initially the Sadler kids had trouble adjusting to a mom who couldn't take them to the bus stop or the beach. But before long the kids grew accustomed to their fill-in mom and the ordinarily super-charged Frana made her peace with immobility. The view of the Pacific from her living room and manicures from visiting friends helped. Meanwhile, sonograms showed all three babies to be nicely formed and growing steadily.
The two women were feeling almost cocky when, at a routine checkup during Frana's 31st week, Dr. Posner found that one umbilical cord was too close to the cervix, which could cause dangerous complications if her water broke. He ordered Frana into the hospital immediately; once there, she started having contractions every two minutes, and later her cervix dilated to 1 centimeter. It seemed that the "Cervix of Steel," as Dr. Posner jokingly referred to her, was giving out. To stop labor, he prescribed heavy-duty drug intervention.
Frana's being sent to the hospital rocked the two families to the core. Mike worried about his wife's health, but relaxed a little when Dr. Posner reassured him that he was not about to put Frana at risk. Susan had no trouble keeping the home front in order, but her emotional state swung wildly as she watched her old friend being buffeted by such powerful drugs. "It was painful," says Susan, who developed mouth sores from the stress. "I was so conflicted. I wanted to encourage her but didn't want to sound as if my motive was purely the babies. Thankfully, Frana was just as committed to making sure they stayed in."