Happy Birthday, Felix and Oliver!
You both would be one year old today! Except you both were never supposed to be born on the day you were. Few babies live when they’re born at 23 weeks and 5 days. For as incompetent as your doctor was, she was right about one thing. When she told me that my due date was in July, she quickly followed up with the fact that you both would certainly come much sooner. Little did we all know how soon. And March 16th, 2018 was far too soon.
But hey. You both came into the world a year ago on this day. And though your time here was brief (you both lived cumulatively for about an hour) I still want to celebrate how your lives have changed my life and your father’s. Because even though you both were so tiny and weighed less than 2 pounds put together, you made an impact on us.
After that day of birthing you into the world and watching you both die, you have changed our perspective on what is important. We don’t sweat the small stuff. We even say when we encounter something troublesome: “but hey, no one’s dead.” We usually always say it tongue-in-cheek, because we know what it’s like to watch people you want, love, and care for die. And frankly, everything else that causes trouble, pain, or inconvenience pales in comparison to the experience we had of losing you both.
We both live more for the now. We used to think we had guarantees for the future, but we both know better now. Nothing is promised. No matter how much you think it is or how prepared you are. I thought by setting up your nursery and making sure your clothes were washed and ready, we were, for certain, ready for you and going to keep you boys. I cringe when I think of that woman from before. How naive she was. But your lives and death have taught me better. I know nothing, no matter how hard I work for it, or how prepared I am, or if a medical professional tells me so, is guaranteed.
That’s another thing. We’ve learned that we’re not in control. People think that they are or that they have a lot of control over things; I’m ashamed to admit I was one of them. When I think back on the amount of veggies and fruits I ate and with how religiously I took my prenatals and how prepared I tried to be, I really thought I could exhibit some sort of control. I thought I would have the healthiest boys on a summer day in July because of how healthy I ate and how prepared I was. I laugh at the person I was before you both. How silly to think I had control over that. We do not have as much control as we would like to think. And we know that now, because of you both.
We give ourselves a lot more grace, or as I like to think of it, we cut ourselves a whole lot more slack. When your father makes a mistake he says to himself “dead kids pass.” Something I find humorous, despite other peoples shock at that when I tell them. It’s something that really happened. And it’s really hard to deal with and carry, so it’s better to acknowledge that life can be difficult and to not kill yourself striving for perfection, cut yourself some slack, give yourself some grace.
We’re both more honest now. Well, your father always was; I struggled at being a people pleaser and would tell those little white lies. I don’t do that so much now. And I don’t care to be a people pleaser. I’m honest about how I feel. My thoughts and approach mean more to me now…maybe because they’re still raw from the aftermath of carrying you, seeing you and holding you, and then losing you both. I don’t think I can handle much more discomfort, so I’m honest in all things and sometimes I think it hurts people. I think they expect me to be like I was before, but that’s hard to do. So I don’t. And being honest is one of the few things that feels good to do, so I always try to be honest, and when I’m not sure, I check in with myself to see how I really feel.
That being said, I’ve gotten better about just accepting how I feel about things. Before you both I would set my emotions aside and deal with them later, but now when I’m sad I cry, and when I’m ok with the moment I smile. I don’t know that I can say I’ve experienced any sort of happiness after losing you both, but I have felt ok about being where I’m at, but I don’t know if I will ever feel happy. But I’m giving myself time. Accepting how I feel when I feel it has helped me be better at handling my grief. Today I vacuumed while I cried. I can be productive while I grieve. I think that’s a sign of improvement. Though sometimes I still break things, so maybe not. But I think this will take time. After all, it’s only been a year since you both lived and died.
I’m also not as social anymore. Your father was never really social to begin with, but I think, by proxy to me, he has also become less social. I just don’t have the stomach to sometimes fake it, to pretend that everything is ok, and to ignore the fact that no one ever ever ever talks about you both. Your names are never mentioned, even though people who know act differently around me; we all would just pretend like it didn’t happen. Like an earthquake had never occured, like a plane never fell from the sky, like the earth didn’t open up and swallow up everything including my desire to live. It was much easier to politely decline those invites and stay at home with Netflix. Being less social has made me focus more on the things I want to do and about the person I want to be, which sometimes is a person who just wants to drink wine and binge watch shows.
We’ve also learned, because of you both, to take what anyone says with a grain of salt. People are human after all and even with a doctorate in medicine, they can still make mistakes. They can still mess up. Anyone can. And I think we, with much regret and remorse, realized that after you both. So when people tell us something in a sure way, in the back of my head, and in your father’s head I’m sure, we think to ourselves “we’ll see.” Because no one also knows the future, even though they pretend like they do.
Your lives and death have made us search out a new community. A community of people who have lost those near and dear to them, a community of lifelong grievers. They understand better than those who haven’t walked that path. They’re better at just listening to the sound of heartbreak and existing within that space, not attempting to console or fill the deafening silence of falling tears with platitudes. I never thought I’d find myself within the company of the world’s finest people, but here we are, and it’s because of you both.
I wince every time I see twins now. I think your father does the same. The sight of twins never bothered us before you both. But now, it’s like a knee jerk reaction when we see twins. It feels like my soul’s funny bone has been hit hard when we see those twin strollers. We often talk between ourselves about it. We whisper about you two after we’ve recovered from being jarred by seeing those other people with their identical siblings walking around, acting like it’s not a death-defying feat to be identical twins and alive.
A few months after losing you both we got a dog. I can earnestly say that getting a dog was not something I was planning on doing within the next 5 years. They seemed like a lot of work. But when we came home from the hospital empty handed, and when the nursery sat there so quietly, and when I had to return all those items that would never be used by you both…we needed something. So because of you both we got a dog. Pretty sure you boys would have loved her. She’s a bit older, a little slower, but she’s still mischievous and loves to sleep on your lap or very close to you. She also loves clean-up duty when food is dropped on the floor. I sometimes imagine you both here sitting in your high chairs giggling as you drop your food on the floor and watch her clean it up. I think you would have been keen on her. And I think she would have begrudgingly felt the same.
Physically we’re both different. Me probably more so than your father. I have diastasis-recti, my stomach grew so big that my stomach muscles didn’t settle back properly into place. There will be no six-pack in my future. I have scars from the surgery of trying to save you both and also that blessed “twin skin” as they call it. My stomach will never again see the light of day. I also have a quarter of a square inch on my forehead that grows out nothing but grey hairs. I think you both would appreciate it; I think I resemble Rogue on X-Men. I also have patches of bald spots on my head from pulling out my hair from grief. I strategically hide it, but every time I brush my hair, I think of you both. Todd, your father….his eyes, how they have changed. Sometimes when I look at him and I remember him from before, it’s like looking at a different person. And I wonder if he thinks the same when he looks at me. We also both hunch over more now. My hunching is due to having developed twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome so quickly, your father’s I think is due to the weight of grief, though he’s always had back issues since that time he did a deadlift in college. But we’re managing. It’s tough some days. Especially today. On your one year birthday and death. But we’re making it. It’s messy. It’s rough. It’s harder than anything I’ve ever done, but we are doing it. Sometimes angrily, and bitterly, and with a lot of resentment, but we’re still at it. I think you both would be proud.
It’s been a long and hard year. And it turned out very differently than we thought it would. And while some people would say or think that it’s not such a big deal because you both didn’t live “so very long” and we didn’t “really get to know you.” You both mattered to us. So very desperately. So much so that our lives, thoughts, approaches, perspectives, and physical beings are forever changed. That’s how much your lives have had an impact.
Hope you both are having a good birthday, wherever you both are.
Love and miss you both always.
Love, your mama and papa