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To You, Sweet Ones

Today’s post won’t discuss weight loss, my stupid-ass cold or any other mundane piece of shit that threatens to clog my existence. On this day, I remember and honor my twins who were born and died eleven years ago this week. I share part of their birth story, bits and pieces of an excerpt of a memoir that I’m writing. Thanks for reading…

The contractions intensified and so did the pain across my belly, and the damn anesthesiologist was nowhere near. I could feel the tension and angst and despair rising within threatening to take me down – there in that sterile hospital room that only pretended to be a welcoming birthing suite. There was much work at hand, definitely no space for hysteria. I calmed myself with meditation methods that I had read about in a Bradley Childbirth book, the irony not even escaping me in that moment.

Lyle worried as he saw me lay so still. He was saying good-bye to his children before he welcomed them into the world; he certainly didn’t need to agonize over me, too. I assured him, but I needed to prepare. Where was the damn epidural man? The breathing and meditation worked. I managed to calm my body until I heard in the distance, “It’s time.”

Wait, my doctor wasn’t there yet. Residents and nurses shuffled about hoping to stall just long enough. Medical instruments hastily jingled against each other on the tops of metal trays lined with white, sterile cloths. As the resident was bracing to take the lead, my doctor whizzed in with a nurse following close behind tying the back of his green gown.

I never did receive the epidural, but it wouldn’t have removed the pain that I really wanted to be released from. Our son was born within minutes of my doctor’s arrival. A new nurse entered the room, unaware that we had decided that the medical interventions available still failed miserably short.

“Do you want neonatal,” she called out.

My soft-spoken, even-keeled doctor looked up at her and perhaps forgetting he was supposed to be a detached professional growled in the most primeval, guttural way that left no room for misinterpretation.

It’s odd, but that is the one thing that I’m really thankful that he did. As I was laying there hearing her words bounce around in the tense, acrid surroundings, I wondered if we were making the right decision. Was there still time to change course? I knew it wouldn’t alter the outcome and would simply prolong the inevitable, but there was nothing simple about the situation we found ourselves in that moment. Doctors and nurses would all come and go home to their families later that night, but Lyle and I would remain, forced to endure all the consequences of the choices we made in those minutes that stretched for days.

Then I heard my doctor, “I need a consult with Dr. Ruedrich.”

I knew what that meant too. My cervix had closed after Nolan was born. It meant that we might have a chance to save Simone. My mind raced years ahead to a prettier, sunnier place buying frilly dresses and little white leggings and lacey bonnets and…

“Never mind,” he said.

Will those words haunt me forever? I was as comfortable with our decision as one could be, given the crap load we were dealt, but in that one moment, I thought about how my life would be different. I even imagined telling Simone about her little brother that she shared a room with before I even knew either of their names. Would she miss him like I did? Would she tell her friends that she was a twin? Would others tell us how lucky we were that she made it to us safely? Flashes, all sorrowfully unanswered.

Nurses bathed Nolan and Simone and swaddled them in warm blue and pink striped flannel baby blankets that hospitals around the country have lining the nurseries. The hands on the clock threatened to freeze and lock me in this nightmarish hole forever, but from somewhere I realized that time was also fleeting and something bigger than my sorrow demanded my attention.

I propped myself up in bed and opened my arms for the small package that was delivered to rest. They were so tiny, each weighed just under a pound, but they were so perfect. Like any good mother, I counted fingers and toes. They were all there, so why was that still not enough?

I held them. They struggled to breathe and I wondered if they were in pain. Was it wrong to pray for them to die quickly? I told myself that I just didn’t want them to suffer any longer. I didn’t want to be the cause for all this pain. It was after all my fault that my body had betrayed us all.

Cuddling them during their first and last collective breaths was the one and only mothering act I would ever perform for these children. I wanted to capture this moment simultaneously wanting to accelerate through the despair that was pulling me deeper and deeper into a place from where I might not ever return. The incongruity of it all made my mind and heart tumble.

Lyle stood by my side and we held our babies as tight as their fragile little bodies would allow, their tiny heads dwarfed in the little preemie caps that some unnamed volunteer had knitted for just this occasion. Did that mean there someone else out there in the world that knew exactly what we were we were experiencing in that very moment?

Everything around us ceased to exist as Nolan and Simone struggled to pull air into their tiny lungs that weren’t yet ready. It was time. No pomp. No circumstance. Just good-bye.

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7 Responses

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss, so sharply painful still….

  2. Beautifully written. Tender. Painful. Thank you for sharing this. My heart aches for your experience.

  3. Thanks ladies. I learned a lot about myself through that experience. It took a long time, but I can honestly say that I’m a better person today as a result…sigh…

  4. I haave been there. Thanks for putting it into words.

  5. So honest, so raw. Big hugs to you. I now have a better understanding of what my dear friend went through we we were just 21. I thought I understood as I held her hand. I thought I understood when I had my first baby. I really didn’t understand till today.

  6. Maryann – peace to you.

  7. Robin,
    Thanks for your kind words. I think one of the things I gleaned from all of this was that the people who are in our lives who sit with us when all words are inadequate are to be cherished forever. We do not have to understand. To be there sometimes has to just be good enough, and you did that for your friend.

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