Love and Loss: Cora and Carly’s Story

Good Morning Iowa City Moms!

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Melissa Mabon and I am honored to share my story with all of you…a story that has taken me 4 years, to date, to write.

Before I share our story, here’s a little background:  My husband, Dave, and I live in North Liberty with our 2 amazing boys, Jake and Brady, and our twin girls, Cora & Carly, who my oldest likes to call “our butterflies,” our Angels. They are my whole world. I couldn’t ask for a more amazing family to share this life with.  I’m a Neonatal ICU nurse at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital and I’m proud to say that I see miracles happen every day. Although September 2nd, 2011 was a different type of miracle, it was OUR miracle. “Some people only dream of miracles…on that day, we held 2 of them in our arms.”

This is their story.

Our first pregnancy with Jake was what I call the “run of the mill” type pregnancy. We had some difficulty getting pregnant, but other than that the pregnancy was fairly normal. I was tired, puked a lot, and in love with it all.  Jake was born a few weeks early, but was healthy. In April of 2011, just as Jake was turning 1, we found out we were pregnant again.  We’d again had trouble getting pregnant but we ready to go through the “normal” pregnancy process.

In early May, while at work, I wasn’t feeling right. I called my UIHC OB immediately and scheduled a quick ultrasound over my break. Being just 5 to 6 weeks pregnant, she reminded me that an ultrasound could only reassure us of very few things. I understood. As I laid down on the ultrasound table I prayed I wasn’t miscarrying.  During the scan, I saw a big smile on the tech’s face. Certainly that meant there couldn’t be something HORRIBLY wrong!  I asked her why she was smiling. Her response will shock you.  She said, “There are 5 babies, Melissa.”


“What do you mean 5 babies? I don’t even know the medical term for that because it doesn’t happen naturally, right?”

Well, it does…and the word is Quintuplets.

Before I went back down to the NICU to work (yes, I somehow managed to go back to work and finish my shift), she told me I needed to talk to one of the High Risk OB’s. By myself, having just found out that I was pregnant with 5 babies, I sat down in the waiting room and called my twin sister.

Through the tears I muttered, “Megan, there are 5 of them.”

“Five what?” she said.

“Five babies, Megan. What am I supposed to do?”  Both crying, we assured ourselves it would be ok.

When I called my husband, he naturally laughed (because I’m a humorous person by nature), until he heard the utter pain, confusion, and tears in my quiet voice.  The doctors encouraged me to come back in 2 weeks as the chances of them surviving past the “natural selection” process would be extremely low.  I suppose that’s good news, right?   I wasn’t sure.  So, I went back to work in disbelief and shock.  After all, this wasn’t the pregnancy I was supposed to have.

Cora and Carly SextupletsBetween 7 and 8 weeks, my husband and I had another ultrasound.  I lay on the table and watched as the UIHC team scanned me. Again they smiled and laughed.  Looking back, I know they were seeing a true miracle!   As the tech scanned me, she surprised me again. ”Well, there aren’t 5 babies anymore. There are SIX.” Yes, you heard that right, sextuplets.  One of the eggs had split and an identical set of twins had formed.  And there they were, 6 healthy babies.  Dave & I just stared at each other with no words to be spoken.

We met with the doctors again that day. Again they said that the chances of all of them surviving past this time was very low. They talked to us about some options but wanted us to come back in another 2 weeks to have another scan. I wondered, “How am I supposed to just keep waiting?” But somehow I did, and again at my 10 week ultrasound there they were. Six tiny, yet healthy, babies.

It was then that we were told we needed to make a decision. We could carry sextuplets, but the risk to me and the babies would be extremely high. I’d be on bedrest, would risk numerous health problems, and the babies would be born prematurely.  Being a NICU nurse, I knew that birthing the babies at an extremely early gestation carried many, many concerns.

The other option was to travel to Tampa, Florida and have a selective reduction done. We would be asked to selectively choose the healthiest babies, in the most favorable location for the procedure, and reduce the number of fetuses to twins. This procedure also had risks. Including that for each fetus reduced, the chances of carrying the remaining ones to term went down. Somehow we needed to choose the best option for my health and for our future babies’ health.

There is no way we could ever make a decision we were 100% certain about.  It just isn’t possible, given the 2 options, to be able to choose one and feel like it was the right choice. We had to just make the choice based on what we knew and what we had been told, and then follow through.

So, after what seemed like an eternity of sleepless nights wondering “why us?” we chose what we believed would be best for everyone’s future.  We chose to have a fetal reduction.  The procedure wouldn’t be done until after the babies’ 12 week ultrasound.  The wait was torturous.

Our 12 week ultrasound, to everyone’s surprise, revealed all 6 babies were completely healthy.  So, the medical team would choose the babies that were in the most favorable location for the procedure.

On June 24th, 2011 my husband and I traveled to Tampa, Florida.  At 13 weeks pregnant with six healthy babies, I endured one of the most difficult procedures both physically and mentally.  We walked in pregnant with sextuplets, and left the hospital pregnant with twins.  I chose not to worry about judgement as I trust that we chose the best decision for us…the best of 2 extremely difficult and medically uncertain outcomes. I remember this, “It was through love that my husband and I conceived, and it was WITH love that we reduced. It is the love, not the loss that we choose to hold on to.”

Fast forward nearly 3 months, 12 doctor’s appointments and 10 ultrasounds later (oh, and finding out that our twins were 2 healthy baby girls).

On the morning of September 2nd I was going on a day of feeling unwell.  Unfortunately, I had been through so much that I really didn’t know what “normal” felt like.  Feeling progressively worse, I went to Labor and Delivery at 7 a.m. I was having bleeding and contractions but no one knew reason why.  From there, we went to my High Risk appointment where they did an ultrasound.  Again, no answers.

With orders to go home and rest, I knew that I’d be back later that day. I knew something wasn’t right.  Dave and I came home and we dropped our son off at daycare. After lying down for an hour, I told my husband that we had to go back. I stood on the stairs hugging Dave. I was terrified. I knew something was wrong. I knew that I was only 22 and 5/7 weeks pregnant and that the survival rate for babies born below 23 weeks was less than favorable. He told me it would be okay.

We drove to the hospital around 1:00 that afternoon, and at 4:03 and 4:05 p.m. our twin girls, Cora & Carly, were born. A few short minutes later, in the arms of my husband and me, our two girls began their journey to a place that only we can imagine.

Cora and Carly

They were beautiful baby girls that we went through SO much for. Yet, I’m so grateful for them, and grateful that they chose to be born at a gestation where a decision was finally out of OUR hands. How strong, kind and courageous they were to make a decision themselves so that my husband and I wouldn’t have to. I’m grateful for who they are and for who I am because of them. I’m a better Mom to my 2 boys, a better wife, a better friend, a better NICU nurse, and most of all a person who truly believes in miracles and in Angels. And yes, we call them our butterflies now, just like I shared with you earlier. The beauty is, I know that because of them I will never be the same….and I’m okay with that. Life is meant to be lived in moments, embraced and cherished as if there will be no tomorrow. And I’ve come to accept that there is beauty in brokenness.

“An Angel in the book of life wrote down our baby’s birth and whispered as she closed the book…Too beautiful for Earth.”

Today, Cora and Carly celebrate 4 years.  Thank you for reading their story.  It means the world to me.  Happy Birthday Sweet Girls!

Cora and Carly footprints

**Special thanks to Melissa for sharing her story! If you’d like to join in celebrating Cora + Carly and so many other Corridor babies who have left us too soon, we’d love to have you join us at the No Foot Too Small Benefit.  For more information, check out the No Foot Too Small Facebook page and event information here. If you have an angel you’d like to celebrate, please reach out t0 Robin Boudreau at [email protected].

NFTS Flyer 2015


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