Editors note: This story shares the journey of a mother who experienced a rare pregnancy complication and stillbirth.

I ordered chocolate chip pancakes to my room at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on the morning of December 12, 2018. As soon as they arrived, our nurse came into our room and told my husband and I that it was time for our ultrasound. I was not nervous. I had done everything I possibly could. The news had to be good.

Five days earlier, I had gone to my maternal-fetal medicine specialist for a routine visit. I was 22 weeks pregnant with identical twin girls, and so far, everything was progressing beautifully. At each ultrasound so far, the remarks were promising. "Wow, they are almost the exact same size!" And "Look at baby A grabbing baby B's nose!" This is what we had come to expect from our extremely frequent appointments.


Our ultrasound this time, however, was eerily quiet.

When the technician was done, our maternal-fetal medicine doctor came in suddenly—and I knew that something was wrong.

Twin-twin transfusion syndrome

The tears of worry were already cascading down my cheeks as she explained twin-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), a complication of the placenta that occurs in roughly 8 to 10% of twin pregnancies in which one placenta is shared. In TTTS, the blood is shared unequally between the two babies—one gets too much, one gets too little. There is no known cause and it is often fatal for both babies without medical intervention.

Our Baby A, who we named Paola after the plethora of Paul's in my life, was being overloaded with blood that was diverted from our Baby B. Our Lola girl, being left with very little blood, began shutting down all her nonessential functions. She no longer had a visible bladder, and therefore was not producing amniotic fluid. Paola, on the other hand, was working double time. She was surrounded by amniotic fluid as her bladder filled and emptied almost immediately, and her heart worked tirelessly to move the excess blood through her small body.

Our doctor told us our best chance was to go to Philadelphia, where the world's top TTTS specialists saw cases like ours daily. We were on a plane two days later.

I met with doctors, nurses, surgeons and specialists for nine hours as we talked over every possible option I had. My daughters were measured and re-measured and every vein in my placenta was mapped out meticulously. It was agreed by all that I would undergo a surgical procedure known as laser ablation surgery. Essentially, they would enter into my uterus with a small laser and cauterize all the veins in my placenta that connected my daughters. This would, in effect, stop the unbalanced blood flow between them, and leave each baby their own supply from the placenta.

The night before surgery, my husband and I stayed in a beautiful hotel in downtown Philadelphia. I was swollen, measuring at a full-term pregnancy at 23 weeks because of the excess amniotic fluid around Paola. I threw on my bathing suit and waddled down to the hotel pool. I floated, finally weightless, and tried to block out the possible ramifications of what was to happen the next day. I stroked my pregnant belly and imagined two perfect babies in my arms.

"I will always protect you," I whispered to my daughters. "I will always do whatever I can to keep you safe."

I was awake during surgery and listening to David Bowie. In addition to the laser ablation, they drained a liter of amniotic fluid from around Paola. The relief was immediate and welcomed. I spent the rest of the day in recovery at the hospital, laughing over Bravo shows and playing Uno with my brave husband, who would later tell me that my time in surgery was the most terrifying of his life. The next morning, as they wheeled me out for the ultrasound, I vowed to savor every bite of those chocolate chip pancakes.

But I never ate them. Because that was the morning that an incredibly sweet and kind-hearted nurse told us they could not find Paola's heartbeat.


Our 9-month-old daughter is easily the most incredible child on the planet. She does not yet understand the journey we went through together.

How, after surgery and her sister's passing, they were worried about a possible stroke, and tests showed her heart had the same signs of trauma her sister had.

How we made another trip to Philadelphia for her to undergo an MRI and echocardiogram that amazingly showed she was now completely healthy and progressing normally.

How we developed another complication called intrauterine growth restriction, where the placenta basically decides to stop giving her nutrients.

And finally, how 14 weeks after Paola died, I gave birth to a healthy baby and a stillborn baby within minutes of each other.

She will learn all about everything it took to get her here. But she will also learn that her mother will do anything in the world for her. One day we will talk about this. Maybe over chocolate chip pancakes.

It's official: You have a 1-year-old. Cue all the happy tears! As you think back over the past 12 months, there were undoubtedly highs and lows. Your baby's transformation from sleepy newborn to active toddler is major. But your own transformation shouldn't be underestimated either, mama. Just think of how much you've learned and grown in just one year!

Throughout this past year, you came into your own as a mother, bonded with your baby and made memories you will cherish for a lifetime.

After one year on the job, you probably have your day-to-day routine down pat and feel confident saying "yes" to more opportunities again—whether it's new work opportunities or a skill you want to learn during those rare moments of downtime.

As you look ahead, here are a few of our favorite items for the next stage: Life with a 1-year-old:

For educational play: Fisher-Price Little People farm set

Fisher Price Farm

Little People toys from Fisher-Price are classics for good reason: They feel nostalgic and promote imaginative play. This is one collection that will get use for years and years to come.


For those precious little feet: Surprize sneakers

Stride Rite Sneaker

As your baby starts to take their first steps, you'll want to get them used to wearing shoes. Podiatrists recommend looking for shoes that have a stiff heel, flexible toe box and rigid middle.


For introducing close-ended play: Melissa & Doug jumbo knob puzzles

Melissa and Doug Puzzle

Puzzles are fun, but they also help teach persistence, sorting skills and more. This kind of close-ended play, where your child can get to the satisfying conclusion of a completed picture, can help with building attention.


For open-ended play: Fat Brain toy suction cups

Fat Brain Cups

On the other side of the coin, open-ended play asks for more creativity and social interaction. When there isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to play, your little one will feel encouraged to use their imagination and free-thinking skills.


For bath time splashes: Skip Hop pour and stack bath buckets

Skip Hop

Bath time doesn't have to be all about washing and cleaning. It can also be a great opportunity for sensory play, especially with some fun bath toys in the mix.


For showing your skin some love: Honest Beauty deep hydration face cream

Honest beauty

You've probably streamlined your beauty routine in the past year due to time limitations, but one thing you shouldn't skimp on? A moment of self-care. A good face cream can improve the quality of your skin and help enhance your natural glow.


For your busy schedule: Ubrands dry erase calendar

Dry erase board

More time in the home means more dishes, dust and dirt to clean up. Rather than nightly debates about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher, get everyone in the family on the same page with a visible chores calendar.


For easy style: A New Day t-shirt dress

A new Day

When you're a mama, getting dressed is all about ease and comfort. This dress is stylish, yet relaxed enough to wear around the house when you are ready to change out of yoga pants. Add a nice jacket or some fun earrings for a virtual-meeting-ready look!


For those birthday pictures: Project 62 matted frame

Project 62

Baby's first birthday is a great occasion to take lots of pictures. These will definitely be frame-worthy, so display them in style with this beautiful piece.


For some well-deserved rest: Threshold weighted blanket

Threshold weighted blanket

There's no way to really catch up on the sleep you lost during the past year, but you can start having sweeter dreams now with help from a weighted blanket. Seriously, people rave about these for good reason!


This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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How often do we see a "misbehaving" child and think to ourselves, that kid needs more discipline? How often do we look at our own misbehaving child and think the same thing?

Our society is conditioned to believe that we have to be strict and stern with our kids, or threaten, shame or punish them into behaving. This authoritarian style of parenting is characterized by high expectations and low responsiveness—a tough love approach.

But while this type of authoritarian parenting may elicit "obedient" kids in the short-term, studies suggest that children who are shamed or punished in the name of discipline face challenges in the long-term. Research suggests that children who are harshly disciplined or shamed tend to be less happy, less independent, less confident, less resilient, more aggressive and hostile, more fearful and at higher risk for substance abuse and mental health issues as adults and adolescents.


The reason? No one ever changes from being shamed.

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