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In love, all things are possible. No one understands that sentiment more than Crystal Sirignano and her daughter Kendra. In her inspiring new memoir, “Labor of Love,” Crystal relays how, at age 52, she carried and delivered her daughter’s twins, Nico and Mia, with the support of her husband DJ and the help of in-vitro fertilization, after her daughter and son-in-law, Aaron, suffered through three devastating years of failed infertility treatments.
The book shares the remarkably close bond between this mother and daughter while bringing awareness to the heartbreak experienced by the many women who struggle with infertility.
Sirignano shares, “I wrote this book because I wanted to preserve the memories of my wonderful experience, to show appreciation to everyone who supported us, and to ensure my grandchildren know how much they were wanted and loved. I also hope to bring awareness to the many women who struggle with infertility, and the pain and heartbreak they go through.”
It was June 18, 2008, Nico and Mia’s birthday! I had done it! I was at 36 weeks and six days: full-term for twins. I woke up nauseous as usual; I had been told that means it’s a strong and healthy pregnancy. This had to be the strongest pregnancy ever!
I had everything packed and ready to go. DJ helped me with my shower; he even shaved my legs. There was no way I could bend over to do that; I hadn’t seen my feet in months. He helped me get dressed. I put my make-up on and did my hair, and I was ready to go.
I had been feeling very emotional. I talked for the last time on my video diary. It was hard to get the words out because I kept choking up.
I would miss the babies kicking, rolling, and growing inside of me, but I would have a close bond with my grandchildren and would be a wonderful grandmother. I had no regrets. This had been the best, most rewarding experience of my life. I believe that sometimes we are put on this earth for a purpose. This was mine! There was nothing I would rather do with one year of my life.
Kendra, Aaron, and my family were going to meet us at the hospital. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. It felt like Christmas! I couldn’t imagine how Kendra and Aaron were feeling. They would finally get to meet their miracle babies. The C-section was scheduled for 11 a.m.
I had been careful and cautious the entire pregnancy, with everything I did and everywhere I went. DJ helped me into the car and put my seatbelt on. I looked at him and said, “Please, DJ, drive carefully. We can’t get into an accident now; I’m almost there.”
It wasn’t until I walked through the doors at Shea Hospital that I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. I knew now, for the first time in 36 weeks and six days, that my grandchildren were safe. Kendra and Aaron met me at the door. Kendra said, “Are you ready, Mom?!”
I said, “I am so ready! I can’t wait!”
My family took a few pictures. Then everyone walked in with me to check-in. The nurses took me to my room, got me in my hospital gown, hooked me up to monitors and started an intravenous drip.
I was feeling great. The one thing that was on my mind was that I had to somehow get Aaron into the operating room. When the anesthesiologist came in to talk to me, I asked him if he could please make an exception to the rule and let Aaron come in. “Please, he has to see his babies being born.” I promised he would be good and would just sit quietly. He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no.
It was getting close to the time for me to go in. Kendra was putting on her scrubs. Just then, the anesthesiologist looked at me and asked where I was from. I said, “Michigan.”
He said, “I’m from Michigan, too! Since you’re from Michigan, I’ll do you a favor and let Aaron come in.” As they were wheeling me down the hall, he looked at Aaron and said, “Get your scrubs on — you can go in.” Now everything was perfect! The nurse took me in by myself, telling Kendra and Aaron that when I was ready; they would come and get them.
I remembered being wheeled in the operating room. The lights were so bright. The first person I saw was Dr. Francois. I felt so safe and confident when I saw her and had no fear at all.
There were eleven people in the room, each with a job to do. I saw two little bassinets in place. Everyone was ready, especially me!
I had to sit up on the edge of the operating table. Dr. Francois stood on a small bench in front of me and pushed my shoulders over my big belly to my knees, so the anesthesiologist could get to my back to give me an epidural. I remember him saying he had a hard time getting the needle in because I had a little arthritis. I said, “That’s because you’re not supposed to have babies at 52.”
They laid me down, and put a drape up so I couldn’t see and prepared me for surgery. When they were ready, they called Kendra and Aaron in. Kendra sat in a chair on the left side of my head. I was glad Kendra couldn’t see over the drape. She doesn’t do well with the sight of blood. Aaron was seated behind my head.
I couldn’t feel a thing. I asked Kendra if she could please tell me when they were going to start. Just then, she stood up to look and sat down quickly and said, “Dr. Francois is starting to cut!”
At that moment, I looked up over my head and there was Aaron with a movie camera taping the whole thing. I couldn’t believe it! I thought that wasn’t allowed. I figured he must have snuck it in. No one said a word; they either let him continue or they just didn’t notice.
I didn’t feel any pain, just a lot of tugging and pulling. Then suddenly I looked up, and saw our first miracle. He was stretching and crying. He looked perfect! I heard Kendra say, “Mom, look!! He is so big and beautiful!!” Dr. Francois handed him to a nurse. Kendra followed him to his little bed.
Then I heard Aaron say, “Hurry Kendra, Mia’s coming out!” When they pulled Nico out, Mia had turned sideways. They had to turn her again before they could get her out. She was born one minute later.
I heard Kendra say, “Mom, she’s tiny and so beautiful!” I looked up and there she was — our second little miracle!!
Kendra was beaming with excitement. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. All I wanted to know was that the babies were okay. I could hear them crying. Kendra and Aaron were running from baby to baby while they were cleaning and weighing them, and Aaron continued to tape everything.
Kendra could hardly contain herself. She couldn’t wait to hold her babies. They were good, healthy weights for twins; Nico weighed in at 6 lbs., 11oz., and 20 inches long. Aaron cut his cord. Mia weighed in at 5 lbs., 4 oz., and 19 inches long. Kendra cut Mia’s cord.
As they stitched me up, I was watching every minute; I didn’t want to miss a thing. This is what I had been dreaming of for years!
They put Kendra’s beautiful, healthy babies in her arms. She brought them over for me to see and touch. I kissed them both and told them I loved them. I kissed Kendra and said, “Are you happy, honey?”
She said, “So happy, mom. Thank you!”
Then she put them in Aaron’s arms. I’ll never forget that moment. He looked at me with tears running down his face and said, “Thank you so much!”
I had such a feeling of relief and happiness, seeing Kendra and Aaron finally with their babies. I didn’t feel like I was anything more than Grandma. I felt that giving my grandchildren life was my biggest accomplishment.
“Labor of Love” by Crystal Sirignano is available at bookstores and through amazon.com.