Sometimes I feel like I’m going about my days reduced. Like the front of me has been carved out, or like my left arm is missing. I’m a mother of two babies that aren’t here, but should be. I long for them to be here. They would have melted many hearts, and the world would be a better place. I’m certain that every mother who has experienced loss feels this way.
My husband & I lost our twin girls late in 2013. Due to the tenuous nature of identicals, all of a sudden we found ourselves in a very dark place. As holiday party season commenced, we spent 3 days in the hospital during a dismal stretch of December rain. After the buzz of hospital care workers tirelessly moving about us subsided, we left the labor & delivery ward in silence. To begin anew. Sometimes I have to ask myself if it all really happened.
We conceived on our honeymoon. It might have been the fresh Scottish air or something in the water, because my egg split some time in the subsequent days. At 15 weeks, I had a scheduled visit with a Midwife to discuss a more ‘natural’ approach to birth. She took one look at my belly, and did an on the spot ultrasound. We saw them for the first time, two little beings the size of mangos, already elbowing each other. That night we went to Quinn’s for dinner and I ate a hearty burger, ample enough to feed the 3 of us. We were still living in our 500 sq ft Capitol Hill apartment, elated & cross-eyed with the responsibility and changes that lay ahead. At the next ultrasound, the start of many to follow, the sonographer kept typing ‘twib’ instead ‘twin b’. And so we affectionately called them Twia & Twib. These are their names.
We spread their ashes at Iceberg point on Lopez island and in Peter Cove at Pender island. A year later, we planted two star magnolia trees at my in-laws in their memory. The young trees put on their first couple of blooms this past spring, a sweet fragrance that only a flower can conjure up. One tree is growing a little faster than the other, just like them. In a cedar box, that Mike’s brother crafted out of a fallen tree from northern Vancouver Island, we keep their mementos. I wear their necklace almost every day. And as often as we can, we get out to the open waters of this region. Somewhere between the border of Washington & Canada, where the wind sweeps around island corners, the sun breaks through shifting clouds & waves dance on shorelines. This is where we find them.
These rituals help us pass the time and the anniversaries. But it is isolating having gone through something so heart wrenching that many of our friends & family have only a faint concept of. The abundance of baby joy around us is very hard. I am perplexed at how random and unfair life is. I bounce back and forth between being utterly humbled by our loss and emboldened to fear less. I can accept uncertainty and that some of my desires may or may not come true. The world is ever changing and I have much to be thankful for. Such simple words to live by, and there is comfort in that. Most importantly, my hope for brighter days is not extinguished. For anyone who knows me well, I have always been a dreamer.
I have worked with some of the most thoughtful care-givers. They have encouraged me to breath through the pain, exercise compassion and to use my vulnerability as a source of strength. I have strived for consistency. But it isn’t easy climbing a mountain. Saying too much, as new mothers cling to their swaddled babies a little tighter, whispering “I couldn’t imagine”. Or not saying enough, as searching eyes look to me for guidance in what to say, and how to act. Do I tell people how I really feel when they ask? I’ve needed to prove to myself and to the greater world that Mike & I could handle this. That (with clenched fists) our new home, my business & our day to day would not crumble. Mike & I can be convincing. And while we survived the first year plus with Grace, I was naive to think that the grief would dissipate.
Our life is different and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish they were here. The Doctors warned us about TTTS, and while I didn’t feel Twia & Twib kick, I did feel their struggle. They were off balance. I thought, as their Mother, if I worked hard enough I could give them all they need. And if Mike & I LOVED them enough, they would be ok and make it to full term. I’ve spoken with other mothers about this. It is by far the hardest part to accept. Instead, we found ourselves out sipping late night cocktails, sleeping in & having sunday morning pancakes all over again. With less vigor. And in time, socializing and feeling happiness. Chatting about house renovations, work, weather, Seattle traffic, even other peoples baby woes. And then to later feel guilt that I’m not marred by constant devastation. People often think that having another baby will fix it. But what if you thought you were having two?
Over night our world came to include PS Group, funeral home arrangements, self help books, Grieve Out Loud pen paling, Molly Bears, medical bills, rainbow babies and regular counseling. Grief requires maintenance, and it has been a part-time job for me. Depending on the day, I devour it all. The myriad of resources can be soothing, uplifting or the very oxygen necessary to simply go on. The loss community is vast, diverse and brave. The burden is far too great to bare alone, and I am amazed at the strength of both the individuals and the group as a whole. In this day and age, we feel comfortable talking about our trauma as therapy, rather than burying it in shame. We discuss the difficulties of navigating the grocery store or logging onto facebook without bursting into tears. There are new members every month, and as they fumble through their story for the first time, I have found myself imparting words of hope with a tender voice I never knew I had.
There is a sensitivity that designing with flowers requires. Perhaps it’s because they are short-lived and have the slightest variation form one to the next. Once we cut their stems and plunge them into cold water, we have a limited amount of time to enjoy them. Combining colors, shapes & lines that lead the eye. I savor the work for it’s creative freedom, and now it’s healing qualities. And the beauty of wedding flowers is unparalleled. It’s an honor to work with brides in their planning process. If anything, I can speak to the power of support that marriage brings, even in it’s early stages. Mike & I chose to quote classic wedding vows for our wedding ceremony “… to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish…” Beautiful! Brings chills. I understand those words now more than ever, and a need for balance in my life. Maybe that is Twia & Twib’s gift to me. And that’s why I’m sharing this experience here, my place of work.
I am looking for ways to honor our twins and to educate people. If you know of an opportunity to volunteer, speak, write or share, please let me know.
Thanks for visiting.
December, 8th 2013