They stole a piece of my heart.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 9 Comments A+ a-

“Wait. What?” I made her repeat the words again.  My heart was caught in my throat and my skin grew clammy.  Shock was an understatement, but there was no other way to describe the emotion.  I hung up the phone with Mom.  It wasn’t the call I was expecting, and my head refused to accept the news she’d shared.  It couldn’t end like this…

For three years they tried to have a baby.  Three years.  Sure, there were short two or three month breaks sprinkled throughout those three years, but it was a long time.  A time where I watched my youngest sister battle the emotions that come with infertility.  And when she and her husband finally announced their pregnancy, just a few days into the new year, it was met with excitement and cheers and celebration.  Even knowing that a move was in their imminent future, even knowing that it would likely be a move across the country, even knowing the idea that this child would be born away from our family, we celebrated this new life.

When they called me after the first ultrasound to announce that it was identical twins, I laughed, both in joy and in irony.  Because of all the sisters to have a multiples birth, the last sister I’d pick would be Courtney.  She’s a planner, through and through; Type A to a fault.  And in having two infants at once, two toddlers at the same time, she was going to have to let go of a lot of that control.  "It was perfect," I crowed to Jon, "exactly what she needs."

We fell in love with those twins from the moment they announced it.  We talked about plans and ways we could help while living across the country.  We talked about schedules and visits, all of us would take turns to fly out and help her with the babies.  We envisioned matching outfits and brainstormed names.  We held this little secret close to our hearts, respecting their wishes to wait.  It took everything in us to not shout it from the rooftops: not only had God answered their prayers for a baby, He’d doubled the blessing.

Though it was a while before we found out that it was boys, we eventually learned that it was Campbell James and Hastings Christopher growing in her womb.  We anxiously awaited their ultrasounds, anxious to hear how they were growing and what they were doing.  We laughed when we heard Hastings had kicked Campbell throughout the ultrasound.  We smiled when we heard Campbell kept sucking his thumb.  We chuckled as we heard how active and feisty Hastings was, and how calm and collected Campbell was in comparison.  Personalities shone through each ultrasound and we relished these stories, loving them already.

Throughout the ultrasounds, it became apparent that something was wrong.  Hastings was falling further and further behind Campbell.  First it was just a few days, then it was six days, and then a week.  The doctors started talking about TTTS, also known as Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome.  Christine and I dreaded that acronym, because as soon as we’d heard the words "identical twins", she and I Googled.  And identical twins seemed to be synonymous with TTTS.  The syndrome is scary, the outlook bleak, but we knew science and medicine had made great strides in recent years.  And even though it was daunting, we hoped for the best.

This last week has been a blur.  I’m not even sure what day it is, or how many days have passed since the nightmare started.  I suppose high emotions and lack of sleep will do that to a person.  But when I look back to where we were a week ago, it exhausts me.  I’d give anything to turn back the clock and have a different outcome.

It started with their weekly ultrasound.  There was nothing unusual about it, she’d had so many.  But unlike the week before, the news wasn’t good and it looked as though the TTTS was starting to take over. Still the doctor didn’t sound that worried, just concerned.  However, the call from Children’s Hospital two hours later had a different tone and it sounded like things were more serious than any of us had cared to admit.  A few days later, Courtney and Jeremy had a five hour consultation that involved ultrasounds and tests and it was decided that it was time to have a surgery that would divide the placenta and close off the blood vessels that the twins were sharing.  It was the only way to give both twins a chance to survive.

It was a nerve-racking hour and a half.  We gathered, all of us, sisters, brothers-in-law, moms, and dads.  We paced the waiting room, stared off into space, stared at our phones, refusing to voice the deepest doubts and fears that pervaded our thoughts.  We fought to be strong for Jeremy, for Courtney.  We willed those twins through that surgery, praying with every heartbeat that they would make it through.  And when the surgeon came to give us a report, he sounded optimistic.  We all breathed a sigh of relief, I remember telling the surgeon I wanted to hug his neck.  The news still wasn’t great.  Hastings was small, way too small and he’d only received 30% of the placenta, but there was hope.

We spent the rest of the afternoon, talking and laughing.  We alternated between distracting Courtney and Jeremy from the what-ifs, and then talking through the doubts.  There was laughter and tears, companionship and the sharing of fears.  There was unity throughout the day, the only goal was to support, encourage, lift up, and stand in the gap for the couple we loved so dearly.  And when we left that night, it was with the promise that we’d know more in the morning.

I’ll never understand the timing or the whys.  And I’ll never forget the utter despair I felt when I’d heard our worst fears were realized… Hastings had passed and Campbell was in danger of going into preterm labor.  It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  This wasn’t the ending we envisioned.  And I couldn’t bear to think that the heartache I was feeling in that moment was exponentially worse for my little sister.  I cried for the loss of the little boy we wanted so bad, I cried for loss of the dreams we had for these two boys, going through life side-by-side.  I mourned for my sister and brother-in-law, wondering if they’ll get to have even one child to raise.  “You are faithful, you are faithful, you are faithful,” I whispered to God.  “But I still don’t understand.”

And I’m not sure I ever will…

To the boys who stole a piece of my heart.

Hastings - I can’t begin to express how much we wanted you.  I dreamed of my sister’s smile on the day she would hold you in her arms.  I dreamed of two little boys, identical in looks, opposite in personality, tugging on a parent’s arm to get to the playground a little faster.  I dreamed of milky, coma-like smiles, of burping one little boy while your mama nursed the other.  I dreamed of watching your fierce personality make up for your tinier body and watching you annoy your calmer, older brother.  But child, it appears that God had other plans for you.  I pray you knew how much you were loved, how much you were wanted. You will not soon be forgotten, little one, and am so thankful that we had time with you.  No matter how short that time was, you became a part of us.

Campbell - You’ve been the calm, reserved child. Growing as you should, content to suck on your thumb and finding comfort in keeping your hands near your face.  I see you as the older, protective brother who has indulgently allowed the smaller one to rest his head on your belly or play kickball with your home.  And now, little one, I ask you to hold on.  Hold on for your mama, who has already lost so much and wants nothing more than to bring you home.  Hold on for your daddy, so that he can breathe in your newborn scent and find some healing and closure in that maybe, just maybe, it was all worth it.  You have cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents who are anxious to meet you.  Hold on with everything you have.  Grow strong, child, and I pray we get to meet you on this side of heaven.

We love your mommy and daddy, so much.  You’d be proud of them.  They have always loved each other, always been each other’s best friend, but you two have made them stronger than ever.  Their love for you and their fears for your health have brought them together in a way that has cemented their relationship.  They are more firmly connected in a way that only trials can do.  Their concern is always for the other, always wanting to make sure that the other is ok.  The way they watch each other move across the room brings me to tears. And some day, they will be ok.  It might take months or years, but some day, they will be ok.  I hope that in time, we can look back at this and see the bigger picture that is currently evading us.  But in the meantime, we will take care of them, they will take care of each other, and some day it WILL be ok.