The amazing Alexa Bigwarfe with her son Braedan (8), and daughters Ella (5), and identical twins Charis (3) and Kathryn (photograph). Alexa had a wonderful first pregnancy. She was able to conceive without issue and was healthy throughout but went on to have a difficult delivery. Braedan was face up and had a nuchal cord they didn't know about. He had to be suctioned and pulled out and was born barely alive. He spent his first 8 hours of life in the NICU which interrupted the immediate bonding she'd hoped for. Alexa wasn't producing enough milk for him and the first 2 weeks were very difficult. She started supplementing with formula and pumping but at 4 months her milk dried up completely. Alexa's experience with Ella was exactly the opposite, she had a very difficult pregnancy with a lot of joint pain and swelling but an easy delivery. She was born vaginally after 45 minutes of pushing and Ella latched right away without issue. She did develop a milk soy protein allergy but Alexa was able to nurse and pump for her first year. Alexa was diagnosed with Lupus after Ella was born which shook things up for her quite a bit.
Soon after, she learned she was pregnant with her twins which came as quite a surprise. Just as they'd grown accustomed to the idea of having 4 children aged 4 and under they learned at 20 weeks that her girls had Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) and they were already at Stage IV. Kathryn was baby A at the time and their recipient baby. She already had excess fluid building in her abdomen and around her heart. The doctor told her that both babies were going to die and she was admitted to labor and delivery. She had an amnioreduction and was able to stay pregnant for the next 10 weeks, 5 weeks of which were on full hospital bedrest with continuous monitoring. Alexa's girls were born at 30 weeks 5 days and Kathryn had to be resuscitated at birth but they were able to stabilize her. The fluid levels in her belly due to Hydrops were so built up that her lungs never had a chance to grow down to where they should be and she could not sustain life on her own. Kathryn lived for 48 hours before passing away. Alexa had hoped to have a good breastfeeding relationship this time but with all that had happened she was unable to pump for the first two days and then could barely get anything once she started. Charis was born growth restricted at only 1lb 10oz, however, and the doctors kept telling her that she needed her breastmilk, it was crucial medicine for her. Alexa kept at pumping 2 hours round the clock for weeks and was able to provide her daughter with the milk she needed. Charis spent 84 days in the NICU and has done very well. She had a difficult time coordinating her suck swallow breathe so Alexa was never able to breastfeed directly but was able to pump for a year. Charis needed a G-tube placed until she could learn to eat from a bottle but they were able to remove it at around 6 months. Other than a little speech delay, Charis is totally caught up. Alexa, like many twin loss moms, has struggled with how to grieve and also raise a child. With NICU life and the busyness of everyday, once they were home she didn't feel she got to grieve until almost a year after Kathryn had died. The bittersweet reality of having a surviving identical twin who she knows looks just like her daughter she lost has been both a blessing and a curse.
Alexa has struggled with her body image for some time and has felt that at a such an important time her body failed her. Still, she has been inspired by so many others and wants to send a positive message and spark a positive conversation with her children about their bodies strength and beauty.
Alexa has devoted much of her life to raising awareness of Twin To Twin Transfusion Syndrome, Prematurity and Loss. She has just recently published an amazing book, "Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for Grieving Mothers"