I’ve never tried to put this into words, this story my heart knows and my gut feels and my mind won’t let me smother every time I look at their faces. It will forever be the pin that punctures the yellow balloon of sunshine, slowly releasing the air that fills it.
There are so many entry points for this story. How we tried for a year and a half to get pregnant the second time around. How I took a pregnancy test at six o’clock in the morning because I had been tracking my cycles so I knew the exact day that a positive pregnancy test was a possibility. How Mia was the only one home at the time and the second she woke up I told her I had a baby in my tummy because I couldn’t hold it in. I had to tell someone. I had to speak the words out loud. How we went to a friend’s house that night and my stomach protruded a little more with each passing hour. I called the OB-GYN’s office on Monday to set up an appointment. They were skeptical seeing as how early it was, but I knew. I got sick within a few days — feverish chills and dizzying nausea and insomnia and exhaustion. Maybe it was all of these things combined but all along there was a low hum inside of me, a frequency that my soul felt even as my mind chased it away.
I was having twins.
So I was not shocked during the ultrasound when two little beans showed up inside a space reserved for one. I was shocked, however, that my gut instinct about something so HUGE was spot on. And yet it didn’t feel real to me. Everything I felt when I was pregnant with Mia was intensified. I was more nauseous, more exhausted, more emotional, just more. Literally. I gained exactly double what I had gained with Mia. So logically all signs pointed to twins but I couldn’t absorb it. I knew all along but even in the face of evidence I chased it away.
The day I went in to find out the sex of the babies my mom and Mia came with me. I wanted Mia to see the babies on the screen, to connect with them and feel her big sisterness. I was not expecting what happened next.
The ultrasound tech navigated the wand over my belly until she found what she was looking for.
“Baby A is a boy,” she said. I looked over at Mia to see her reaction. At my baby girl who was not such a baby anymore. At that moment I felt something I hadn’t before.
Please, God, let baby B be a girl. I’m begging you.
For reasons I can’t explain, I felt this shift inside of me. I clung to the hope of another baby girl as though it were a life preserve. I wanted desperately to take back our decision to find out the sex of the babies. I wanted to be able to deny the second instinct I had about this pregnancy.
“Baby B is also a boy.”
I wanted to crumble. This all feels so silly now, two plus years after the fact, after they’re here and woven into our lives so intricately that I can’t imagine the fabric of our family without them. Now that they’re here and they’re THEM.
All that time, if I only knew it was YOU. Not some faceless, nameless boys, but YOU.
But it wasn’t silly then. Far from it.
My mom and Mia went back out into the waiting room while I went into an examination room and waited for the doctor. I don’t remember what he talked about during the appointment. I don’t remember the drive home. I do remember setting Mia up with a movie and closing myself in the bathroom so I could finally cry. I was grieving for the little girl I suddenly wanted so desperately. At that time, Mia was three (soon to be four) and her babyhood was something oily slipping through my fingers. Keenly aware of the impossibility to hold on tight enough, I thought another baby girl would take away this feeling of “losing” my first baby girl. If only I could do it all over again.
I think I’ve never tried to put this into words because as someone who has had two healthy pregnancies resulting in three healthy babies, I’m aware of how it might come off as trite but here it goes.
The following weeks were filled with desperation and paralysis. I went through the motions of my days, covering the basics as best I could, but I wasn’t really there. I felt as though I were walking through a glass tunnel. I could see everything, hear everyone, but I couldn’t touch anything. I could never get close enough to life outside to feel it. I hid what I could during the day but cried at night. I cried so much that blood clots formed in my nose and I watched the blood and tears mix as I bent over the toilet at midnight, 2am, 4am, 6am. I started resenting the babies that invaded my body and seemed to grow at warp speed. I may or may not have fantasized about falling down the stairs. I prayed that I would go on bed rest to just rest. I just needed to rest. Physically, emotionally, mentally. I wanted to sleep for a long, long time.
And then something happened. I went for an ultrasound and as the tech switched to 3D this appeared:
“But they have their own placentas. How are they touching?”
“The membrane that separates them is thinner than a string.”
Those are my babies looking peaceful and serene despite the torment I was going through. Despite the torment I was putting them through.
This is when I started saying that though I couldn’t give them all of me, I was able to give them each other. And in the weeks when I felt that I didn’t want them, when I prayed that God would take them from me and give them to someone who did want them, who could love them better than I could, I know they drew strength from each other.
Where I failed in nurturing them through projections of warm and cozy thoughts or the sound of my voice humming soft lullabies, they had each other.
And so this is what I began to tell myself to eradicate the guilt that consumed me:
Though my laughter was scarce, my heartbeat was strong and steady. Though I was wracked with nausea and exhaustion and depression, my womb was hushed and still. Though I stood at the top of my stairs and thought, What if…, my body endured and protected them from my mind.
During the ultrasound above it was discovered that Baby B had too much amniotic fluid and preterm labor became a possibility, but there was nothing I could do to prevent it. So we just kept on keeping on and they held on.
They held on because they knew what I didn’t — that I needed them in a way I couldn’t understand until I saw them for the first time. Until I held them in my arms and looked into their faces and thought, So all along it’s been you. Of course it’s been you.
For more information on depression during pregnancy: