It was a fun weekend--we went out to dinner, went to the farmers' market, pushed strollers around the park while the boys golfed, watched far too many old episodes of Dawson's Creek while the boys golfed and the little girls napped, went out to breakfast at Uncle Bill's, and visited Grant's Farm. We laughed a lot and I was really glad they were able to come to town and meet Caroline. Except for Little Mac terrorizing Mia, we all had a good time.
But there's a little more to this story.
Back in 2010, Lindsey and I were pregnant at the same time. That summer, Dennis and Lindsey came in for the 4th of July and we all talked babies. Lindsey and I even did a little maternity and baby clothes shopping (while the boys were golfing... kind of a pattern). Lindsey was due just two weeks before me--right around the first of the year--and we loved the idea that our kids were going to be so close in age.
The thing is, Lindsey and Dennis were expecting twins. A boy and a girl.
And then it was October. We were still months away from our due dates.
David got a phone call from Dennis.
It was about the twins. Specifically, their little boy. He didn't have a heartbeat. Max was dead.
I'll never forget the moment David told me.
I was standing in our kitchen, my back to the refrigerator, facing David, who was sitting on one of our bar stools.
I stared at him in disbelief. I felt Eliza kicking, and I instantly sent up a silent prayer, for Dennis and Lindsey, and for their little girl, Mia, who was still hanging on. And for my Baby Duck. The thought of losing her, at seven months pregnant... It was unfathomable. It seemed like a terrible nightmare, but one I couldn't really imagine.
I started to cry, standing in the kitchen, rubbing my belly. I just couldn't believe it, you know? I didn't understand how this could happen, in this day and age, with so much medical technology available, in a first world country. I didn't think babies just died. I mean, I knew logically that stillbirth was possible, but not for someone like Lindsey, who was so athletic and healthy. And I couldn't believe it in a larger sense, too--how on earth could this happen to two great people who would make such great parents? Why would they lose the baby boy they had wanted and loved so much?
I remember saying to David--and I seriously said this, almost verbatim--"I don't know what I'd do if we lost Baby Duck. I'd never make it. I'd just collapse into a puddle of nothing."
(Part of the reason I haven't written about Max before was because it's not my story to tell, and I wasn't sure if Dennis and Lindsey would want me to, but the other reason is because it is so painful for me to look back on that time and remember how naive I was.)
Knowing that Max had died, Lindsey was admitted to the hospital so they could monitor Mia and try to keep her in there as long as possible. Which turned out to be two more days.
Mia was born at just 27 weeks. Her tiny little eye lids were still fused shut. And she weighed around 2 pounds.
She was in the NICU for months.
But she was alive!
And three months later (a month before Mia got to go home), David was calling Dennis to tell him the unthinkable, impossible news.
We'd lost our baby, too.
Our baby was dead.
Their baby was dead. And now our baby was dead.
This was impossible. What kind of alternative universe, what other dimension had we stepped into? How does this happen--this thing that should NEVER happen--how does this happen to our dear friends and THEN to us?
And, to be honest, I went from feeling desperately sorry for Dennis and Lindsey to envying them their one living child--a teensy little girl, still in the NICU trying to breathe on her own.
At the same time, Mia was also the baby we were rooting for. I knew their loss, so I could easily imagine the hope and fear they felt for Mia. And, from blogs and websites and other bereaved parents I'd met online, I'd recently learned the uncomfortable truth that not every baby in the NICU makes it home.
But Mia did. After more than 80 days in the hospital, her parent took her home in January of 2011, just a few weeks past Lindsey's original due date. She was still a high-maintenance baby, with monitors constantly attached to her to make sure she was breathing okay and that her heart rate stayed in the normal range.
But she was alive, dammit. And we were so, so glad.
Even though David and I were still mired in our own pain and still coping with the shock of losing Eliza, Mia going home was a bright spot in those dark days. We were happy and relieved for Dennis and Lindsey.
When we brought Caroline home from the hospital, it was a year and a half after we'd lost Eliza. We're still heartbroken, but the grief doesn't feel like it's eating me up from the inside out anymore. My grief for Eliza didn't diminish my joy over Caroline, and the day she came home was one of those heart-filling, perma-grin, cup-runneth-over kind of days. But those first few days were also stressful and exhausting! Was she eating enough? Was her poop the right color? Was she still breathing? I was still sore (omg seriously) from delivery. My boobs were uncomfortable and breastfeeding freaking hurt. If we hadn't been high on the joy of her just being alive, it would have been even more challenging.
I think about what Dennis and Lindsey went through, experiencing their grief and joy back to back without a year and a half of recovery. What it must have felt like for Lindsey to go back to work part-time just two weeks after having twins via c-section so that she could save some maternity leave for after Mia was released from the hospital. To have to explain thing to co-workers who asked about the twins. To have to pump breastmilk since she couldn't nurse such a tiny baby. To desperately grieve their son while wildly hoping their daughter would make it, knowing that nothing was a sure thing anymore. To bring their baby home with a mixture of joy and sorrow and fear for her health.
I'd say I don't know how they did it, but I also know that it's just what you do. You hold on to each other and you survive the best you can and if you're really, really lucky, you might get to take a breath some day and realize that it doesn't hurt as much as it did, and you just continue to hold one baby in your heart and the other baby in your arms without ever understanding why things had to happen the way they did.
As I said before, except for Little Mac's shenanigans, we had a really nice weekend. Walking through Grant's Farm on Sunday, the air was cool, the sun was shining. Caroline was sleeping peacefully in the Bjorn and Mia was laughing and (literally) running circles around us all. It was a picture-perfect day in so many ways.
Except the picture will always feel a little bit incomplete. Because two people were missing.
I couldn't help but think that we should have had Mia and Max and Eliza all running circles around us. It should have been two couples chasing three toddlers. But somehow we were two couples who had four children but only two of them are here, and the math will never add up the way I want it to.
On that beautiful day with the sun shining and my girl sleeping and Mia laughing and little old ladies taking paparazzi photos of me breastfeeding, I missed Eliza and Max with all my heart.
|A butterfly -- in memory of our first little girl|
|Mia ran circles around Dennis and through his legs--which she thought was hilarious!|
And then I told myself that in spite of our losses, we all got lucky. Because there we were, on a beautiful day, two couples with two perfect little girls.
But I look at these girls with their dads, and my throat catches again because I know that when you look at the flip side of things, we're so freaking lucky.
|Mia and Dennis|
|Caroline and David|
Oh, Max and Eliza. We will always wish for you.