There is no end to this story. There is no conclusion. You can’t take all the pieces, put them in a box, close it, put a bow on it and call it finished. No, their story will follow us the rest of our lives, and continue to unfold. Possibly into further generations, we have no way of knowing. As I sit here just days away from giving birth to our 4th daughter, and almost a year after their birth, I feel I need to offer some sort of end to their online story. There are things that happened I haven’t yet written about. The days immediately following their death and the intense emotional experience we went through just a mere month after the twins died. This is the final part of their story.
The twins were born on a Thursday and Friday, respectively, and I was released from the hospital on Friday afternoon. I don’t remember much about the ride home. It was sunny and warm, I remember that much. I also remember wanting desperately to see A, to see her smile, to see LIFE. I slept a lot those first few days home. Lots of flowers were delivered to our house, which I still find odd. The last thing I wanted around my house were the living, beautiful floral arrangements to remind me of my dead babies. I know people were just trying to be kind, but I found it repulsive. We put a sign up outside asking delivery men not to ring the doorbell. My mom told me later about a conversation the Hubs had with one. Hubs was asked if we’d just had a baby as he was accepting a flower delivery. “No,” he responded, “We just lost 2.” How does one respond to that question? It would only be one of many, many awkward conversations we would have.
We had a lot of time in the hospital to discuss what we would do with the twins’ remains. We knew we would hold them, talk to them, keep them with us for some time, and we chose to have their bodies cremated and then we would take possession of the cremains. Because the twins died before 20 weeks gestation, our loss was still medically classified as a late miscarriage. Had they died past 20 weeks, we would have been forced, legally, to either cremate or bury their bodies. This was my first experience with death. I’ve lost grandparents, but I was never that close to them so conversations such as these were never had. I’ve always avoided the casket at wakes and at funerals, but holding the bodies of my dead twins never felt gross or strange to me. It didn’t matter if they were alive or dead, they were my babies and they had souls and I was going to miss them no matter what. It was a no-brainer that we would want them home with us in whatever form we could have them. There is a local funeral home that doesn’t charge a fee to cremate the bodies of stillborn babies. They picked up their bodies from the hospital morgue on Friday. We checked, and checked and double-checked with the hospital and funeral home about our 1 request. We requested the twins’ bodies be kept together. Cremated together, ashes placed in the same bag and then that single bag was to be placed inside the urn. As impossible as it was to lose 2 babies, there was some sense of peace they at least had each other. Because the twins were never alive, they didn’t receive birth or death certificates. The only paperwork we have that bears their full names printed on it are the consent forms we had to sign for the funeral home to take possession of their bodies. Those pieces of paper are very important to me. I’ve read recently about certificates of stillbirth; it’s something I’m going to look in to. We were anxious to get the twins home. I left the hospital with a huge lump in my chest that wouldn’t go away. It’s like I couldn’t breathe. We’d been given a bunch of literature at the hospital and most of the books referenced this feeling and called it a broken heart. The lump wouldn’t go away until we were able to collect their remains.
I don’t remember the exact day we got the call we could pick up the twins. I think it was the following Thursday, a week after Megyn’s birth. I know A was in school. I pass by this funeral home a lot these days…it’s right down the street from the hospital. I remember where we parked and I remember feeling so very sad, lonely and empty as we walked inside. We agreed to pay $50 to have their remains placed inside an urn instead of a plastic box. It’s very small, I remember both the Hubs and I being surprised at how small it is. It’s ivory and gold colored, shaped like a heart and fits in the palm of my hand. We confirmed again their remains were together inside the plastic bag inside the urn. I held them close to my chest as we walked out of the funeral home and got back into the truck. On the way out of the house, I grabbed a blanket given to us at the hospital. I’m forever grateful to the organization Threads of Love for providing a handmade, crocheted blanket for our girls. We had nothing for them, and I’ve felt guilty about it ever since. It never occurred to me to purchase them something, anything. A blanket, a stuffed animal…something that we could have taken with us that was intended for them. The nurses took pictures of the girls on this blanket and it’s the only thing we have they actually touched. As soon as I got into the truck, I wrapped their tiny urn up in this blanket. “All babies go home wrapped in a blanket,” I explained to my husband. I remember sitting in the truck, their remains wrapped in a blanket in my lap and taking a deep breath. For the first time, I could breathe. The lump was gone. It finally felt like the longest day of my life had ended and we could attempt to move forward. The twins’ cremains are in our bedroom. In those first several weeks and months I would touch them daily, talk to them. On Mother’s Day last year I held them near my heart and looked at their pictures. It was important to me to spend time with them on that day. I haven’t looked at their pictures since then. I still touch them a lot and tell them I miss them. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about them in one way or another. While it may seem odd to some, having them home with us was the right choice. We talked about burying them, but neither of us feels rooted here and I would have a really hard time moving away and not being physically close to their gravesite. We may still bury them at some point, but not yet. In the meantime, they’ll stay with us. Their urn is small and in our bedroom. It doesn’t exactly spark a lot of conversation from people visiting our home and the fact we have their remains here at our home is not information we openly share. The weeks after that are a blur. There was a lot of crying. There was a lot of conversation. There were intense conversations about how odd it felt to be straddling life here on Earth and life in Heaven. I’ve never felt like dying, or taking my life, but it’s a strange feeling to suddenly feel like you’re in more of a hurry to get to Heaven. I believe my girls are there and I will meet them one day. There was almost an immediate shift in life goals and priorities and there were relationship changes with our friends and family. Family became really important…still is. Some friends became more important, some friends fell away, and that’s ok. I appreciated text messages and emails from friends, but I didn’t want anyone around me except my family. I felt that way for a very long time and I still prefer family almost a year later, though I’m working on being a little more social. I have a few close girlfriends that I’m constantly in touch with. I took a year long leave of absence from the volunteer organization I’m a member of, stopped posting on facebook and didn’t return phone calls for months. I needed some time to re-evaluate my life. What was important to me and frankly, figure out exactly what I was going to do with this new life I was facing. Things changed, I changed, my husband changed. We were visited by a family friend who has had her own life’s battles after we returned from Sea World last April. Since we’ve been dating, both Hubs and I have looked up to this couple as people we’d like to model our life after. They don’t have children, they couldn’t because of a cancer diagnosis she got at a young age. She talked to me about that stage of her life…how it changed her. How it made her into the person she is today, the one I so respect and admire. How it did things for her marriage no other experience could do. She wakes up everyday and if she faces adversity, well, at least she doesn’t have cancer she says. She wouldn’t trade her experience and I appreciated her visit very much. It gave validation to what I was feeling, validating the feelings of change I had been experiencing. It also gave validation to the fact the Hubs and I had been discussing the changes in our marriage, how it seemed through tragedy, we actually grew closer, deepening our relationship, and it gave me confidence that losing some friendships was ok…that there would be people that would fall out of our lives because they couldn’t deal with the changes that were happening to us. We still see those changes and almost a year later, I find it almost overwhelming to reflect upon all the changes in our life. This tragedy of losing the twins will foster positive growth, and something big and great will come out of it. I know it beyond the shadow of a doubt.
As husband and wife, we were doing the things that husbands and wives do about a month after losing the twins. It was that night I discovered a tiny lump, almost like a grain of rice on the Hubs, in a place you don’t ever really want to find a lump. I brought it to his attention, asking him if he’d felt it before. He said no. He was actually scheduled to head out of town that Monday and I was freaked out. I left it up to him, but thankfully, he squeezed in a doctor’s appointment that morning to see our family practitioner. He was given an exam, and then a prescription for an ultrasound at the hospital as soon as he returned from his business trip. Not the diagnosis I was hoping for. I’m sure he was also hoping to hear it was no big deal, a cyst or maybe some connective tissue. I’ve never felt so panicked and fearful in my whole life. I called my mom in a state of absolute panic who in turn sent my dad to sit with me until she could get here. I was terrified of the Hubs leaving, of me being by myself. It was the first time he’d left town since losing the twins, and he was leaving with the knowledge that we might be facing a diagnosis of testicular cancer upon his return. It was heart-wrenching to think about. Not for one second did I think there was no way he’d be taken away from me. Not for one second did I believe God wouldn’t do that to me, to us. If he’d allowed the twins to die, what’s to stop me from thinking he’d take my husband too? I remember sitting in my den, on my knees, sobbing and begging a God I didn’t really trust anymore not to take my husband away from me, not to take my best friend. It’s a moment that has been seared into my mind. I was helpless, hopeless and broken. I had absolutely no where to turn and I was left to put my trust in a God that, in my mind, had hugely failed me only a month before. I can’t explain the kind of fear and panic I felt. I’ve never experienced it before, and haven’t experienced it since. Between the doctor’s visit and the ultrasound appointment I did as much research I could online. One of the hardest things to read about were the fertility discussions. We had been talking about when to have another baby after losing the twins and when dealing with testicular cancer, based on the diagnosis, future fertility becomes a question. Things like sperm banking and such are real discussions your doctor will have with you. We were both a nervous wreck on the day of the ultrasound. We actually had to check-in at the hospital and hurry up and wait…as is the case with most hospitals. The Hubs chose to have me go with him, for such an awkward appointment, I again, left that decision up to him. I promised him the tech would either be some gnarly dude or a 60+ year old Gerta. I was wrong. The tech that came to get us with 30ish, cute, spunky and had long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. Looking back now, I feel bad for the guy. At the time, I didn’t care. I’d spent the last month with a doctor’s hand halfway up my vagina…who was I to judge? Even though she isn’t supposed to give results, she identified the mass pretty quickly. After she was done she let us know she was fairly certain the mass was simply a fluid filled cyst. There was good circulation and she didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about. We had to wait until the next day to hear back from the radiologist, but he confirmed the mass was a cyst and only needed further attention if it grew in size. We were relieved, to say the least, but I certainly haven’t forgotten about the whole experience. It left its mark on me; reminded me how precious ALL life is, how important my relationship and friendship is with my husband. How very grateful I am to have him in my life.
Part of me wishes there was a way to wrap all this up and call it finished. But I know that’s not realistic and I think, as I approach the end of my life, I’ll look back and be thankful I was never given a conclusion. It’s an ongoing story/experience for a reason. I’m still struggling with the fear. The fear of something happening to A. To Hubs. To Baby C while she’s still inside me and of course, once she’s born. I don’t believe you have one gut-punch in life and you’ve then somehow paid your dues. I believe there are people who go through life unscathed, and people who go through life experiencing tragedy upon tragedy. Then there are those who fall in the middle of the spectrum somewhere. So, I struggle with the fear. I’ve known loss and I’m terribly afraid of it happening again. I’m also struggling with my relationship with God. I’m finding it difficult to trust Him, find it difficult to pray – to ask for things. However, I do believe what happened to me was intentional…was crafted by God and I believe it was intended to be a blessing in my life – I just haven’t been able to see it yet. I do not believe what happened was a random occurrence, an unintentional chain of events. These are the things I’m currently working on and I’m sure as time goes on I will find other things I’m struggling with and working on. Again, I think it’s a life-long experience. On a Saturday, a few months after the twins had died, I was sitting in a nail salon waiting to get a pedicure. I was at a place I don’t normally go, and I was facing an hour long wait. I decided to stay, A was sleeping, I had no where else to be and found myself sitting next to an elderly lady who had walked in to make a later appointment and was simply waiting for her husband to pick her up. I don’t even know how we got on the subject, but I learned she lost her youngest child, at about 7 months, to SIDS. For the first time, I was able to gather the courage and have the emotional stability to tell her that I lost identical twin girls at 19 weeks. I know it’s not the same as losing a 7 month old, but it’s still losing children. It seemed like such an out-of-body experience as she placed her hand on mine and told me how very sorry she was. She was gone shortly after that. I have no idea who she was. I believe that as I go through life, I will have opportunities, both big and small, to share my story. I’m very open about what happened, about the processes I’ve been through both physically and emotionally and I’m not afraid to tell people what I regret. I’m glad to have started blogging, to have a spot to share my story in hopes that it brings comfort or understanding to someone who is going through something similar. So, that’s where I’m at. I have my ups, I have my downs. I’m not sure I’ve handled this whole experience as well as one can, but I’m doing my best. I’m longing to share my story with others, to let them know the despair they feel will eventually subside, but to also let them know it never truly goes away. To let them know it’s ok to feel how you feel, no matter what. It’s ok to embrace your fear, your anger, your guilt and work through it. Don’t bottle it up or repress it. It’s ok to lose friends and relationships and to tell them you WILL change and that it’s ok. I want to encourage parents to not turn towards bitterness about their experience…to embrace the anger, pain and hurt for a time, but then to try to move forward. To start seeking out a purpose, a reason for the loss. To say I had it all figured out, I’d be a liar. I don’t. But I’m trying and hoping that some answers are coming our way soon.
I’ve seen changes in myself that I never expected. I’m much more conservative (not in a political sense) than I’ve ever been. I’m taking a deeper look into how I spend my time. Taking a closer look at what exactly I’m doing with my time, with my life. Focusing on fostering the relationships that are important to me and letting go of the ones that aren’t benefitting me. I think the Hubs and I are putting in a small garden this year, we’d like to start paying much closer attention to what goes into our bodies – trying to make the move to more organic foods, and trying to eliminate processed food. We’re also tossing around schooling options for A and one thing that has come up is a part-time homeschooling option. These are all things that were incredibly foreign to whoever I was before losing the twins. I hope this, in some way, wraps up our story for you. It’s taken me almost a year to write 4 installments and I feel their story deserved that much time. We will continue to recognize them on special Holidays and will recognize their birthdays on 3/24 and 3/25. We will forever consider Megyn and Whitney a part of our family, and will pay tribute the small but HUGE impact they’ve made in our lives. Although their time with us was short, the changes, decisions and goals we’ve made are substantial and never would have happened without them in our lives. We love you Megs and Whits and we WILL see you again; and until we can tell you in person, thank you for being in our lives, thank you for the changes you have brought about and thank you for making the ultimate sacrifice so that we can go on to fulfill our life purpose and destiny.