So-I did some reading this morning. Yes,I know...this is nothing extraordinary. Except this morning it sort of was. This reading was nearly five years in the making. This reading was different.
Almost six years ago I gave birth to two tiny, beautifully perfect baby girls. They were breathtaking. Chloe came first.....destined to forever be the "big sister" of the two. Zoe followed exactly one minute later.......the youngest of eight siblings......truly the baby of the family. The day should have been filled with tears of joy, squeals of happiness and endless talk of which one would walk first or who would be most like which sibling and even some bickering over which older sibling would take which twin under their wing and teach them the ropes. But there was none of that.
There were constant tears but they held no joy. They were the tears of a shattered and broken mother saying good-bye to her babies. The squeals were not happy-they were the sounds that can only come from the kind of pain felt deep within a person's soul. And there was no talk....there were no words spoken as none could have conveyed the myriad of emotions contained in that moment. My daughters died. They were silent. They were and would forever be.......still.
It took me a year to heal enough to summon the courage to request the medical records of my pregnancy. I wanted them. I wanted---no, I NEEDED them, to hold on to ANYTHING that contained even a piece of my daughters. I took the big yellow envelope out of the mailbox and held it tightly to my chest as if they would somehow hug me back. And then I put it inside "their" box and closed the lid. I never opened it, never removed its contents. Until today.
It has been nearly six years since they died. In that six years there has been a plethora of emotions, thoughts and even questions. I have endured the grief and each of its mind-numbing steps. I have suffered through the excruciating physical aspects that come along with the loss of one's children. I am still enduring. I am still suffering. And I always will. But there are two facets to this process that I have never really delved into. Being angry with God for seemingly "allowing" this to happen to me and asking "what if?".
Anger toward God for His perceived role in their death would be understandable. It actually is one of those cursed steps in the process of grief. But it never presented itself as a viable option for me. I wasn't angry at Him. I'm still not. I was and am thankful. Thankful for His presence at all times, especially in my loneliest moments. Thankful for His choice to bless me with these tiny lives-even if only temporarily. Thankful He hand picked me to personally deliver two perfect angels, pure and untainted by the sins of this life into His loving arms. Thankful for the knowledge, belief and faith that He did NOT do this TO ME......that He endures my pain with me. Thankful that He carried me until I was able to walk on my own and that He still and always will continue to walk alongside me and hold my hand to guide my steps.
And I just never allowed myself to ask "what if"? What if I had subjected myself and my children to the endless barrage of genetic and biophysical testing the doctors and geneticists were trying to cram down my throat due to my "advanced maternal age"? What if I had spent hours thoroughly researching each and every possible thing that could go wrong in an identical twin pregnancy? What if..........
Would the tests have revealed some malformation or dysfunction that would have led to some sort of life saving treatment? Would it.....could it have saved my daughters? Would my research have yielded some information triggering an "aha" moment which would have caused me to ask the right question of the right doctor at the right time? Could the hours of pouring over medical websites somehow have made it possible for my daughters to be here with me now? What if.........
The truth is-as I have always known...... no. No testing would have saved them. Research would not have prevented their death. Both would only have succeeded in robbing me of the precious moments I was able to spend with my daughters while they were still alive....inside of me...kicking, breathing, moving and LIVING. Instead of being poked and prodded with needles I watched the movements inside of my growing belly-discovering the developing and unique personalities of these two precious lives. Instead of sitting at a computer I took walks, read and listened to all kinds of music. And I shared it all with them. I told my daughters how incredibly beautiful the sunset was over the mountains and that I couldn't wait to show it to them. I described the flowers along the park path and told them which ones we would plant together (and pick) when they got older. I taught them nursery rhymes, read them bedtime stories and recited funny anecdotes. I shared my love of music....all kinds..... and learned they were acquiring their own taste in it. We listened together as Chloe seemed to calm to the sounds of Classical while Zoe leaned more towards the beats in Adult Alternative and Folk.
And I "introduced" them to their siblings. I told them every amazing aspect of their three sisters and three brothers and how they were already hopelessly in love with them and anxious for their arrival in our daily chaotic lives. No moment was wasted. Every moment was treasured.
But something changed recently. Time passed. I now found myself wondering, just a little.....what if? What if I were actually nervously awaiting their first day of kindergarten instead of marking the sixth year since they've been gone? What if? That voice became louder until I could no longer ignore it. And so....I reached into "their box" and pulled out that yellow envelope. I opened it and removed its stack of papers from inside. Terrified of what I might find- it took me an hour to bring myself to read its contents. What if? What if they told me there WAS something I could have done? What if I did something WRONG? What if?
The papers didn't say that at all. They didn't say anything. I was pregnant. My daughters died. Period. There were no answers, no reasons, no explanations. The papers offered no revelation into the death of my daughters at all. But they offered something better......something unexpected. They offered a look back...a reflection of every moment of the time they were alive. A glimpse into every precious and brief moment of their short lives.
There were weekly ultrasounds. The first one at five weeks to simply confirm a pregnancy-before we knew anything beyond the news that we were in fact pregnant. Another at eight weeks when the confirmation of pregnancy became a confirmation of "them"! There was the scan at about fifteen weeks when "they" became (officially) Chloe Danielle and Zoe Grace. And there was the final scan....the one a week before they died. The last scan that showed my daughters still moving with strong heartbeats playing hide and seek with each other as well as with the scope. With every scan there were notes....lots of notes. Notes that dictated every aspect of their lives.......heart rate, measurements, weight, growth, health and expected dates of delivery. And so....this morning....I read.
I read every detail of every moment of the time my daughters were still alive. I poured over each scan as if drinking in , once again-every curve of their tiny bodies and every wrinkle in their faces so that I might never forget what they looked like. And it wasn't painful. I wasn't sad or tearful. It was peaceful and joyful and I felt.....blessed. Blessed to have carried those two tiny lives inside of my body. Blessed to have been given six glorious months of their lives...fully reliant on me for their every need just as I am fully reliant on God for mine. And I was.....am......and always will be-thankful. For them.