St. Patrick's Day for me and for Rob will be forever remembered. Not for green beer. Not for 'shamrock shakes' from McDonald's, but for the daughters we fondly and wistfully think of every March 17 - from 1985 onwards -- the day of their stillbirth and the day of our first encounter with grief.
Today they would have been 21 and its only now that i've ceased working, running around, visiting with my daughters and grandkids, working out and walking the dog that its sunk in. This was the day they were 'born'. They were actually supposed to be born in July of that horrible year, but instead of things going smoothly like everyone hopes for, things went horribly wrong and no-one was the wiser until it was too late. We didn't even know we had twins until i got a phone call from the doctor, after being investigated for being large for dates and having 'knockout fights' within my innards every day, it was discovered and told to me like this: "Kathy, you are pregnant with twins and one of the babies is already dead." WHOMP -- first blow. I could heardly breathe. I kept asking him: "Are you serious? What??!!! Is this true?" It just caught me off balance. I asked him: "What am I going to do? what about the other baby?" He matter of factly informed me that I would have to carry the dead baby to term with the live one.. . which made me really uncomfortable thinking about that. .ugh. . . Second blow. . .had a hard time with this reality. I felt like it was all some ghastly nightmare and i would wake up at some point. I remember looking at my stomach and feeling so strange. They booked me for a specialized ultrasound, one long week later. I don't know if there was a longer week in my life prior to or since? I cried all the time. . my 3 year-old daughter didn't know why I had become like this. She would put her hand on my shoulder and say : "Don't cry, Mommy, its all right." It was hard to go to work, cook suppers, be there for my daughter. Rob felt helpless.
Ultrasound time. . .i'm on the table -- silent technician -- I knew. . . I waited for the doctor to review it with me, which he did. He asked me if i'd felt any movement. . . i didn't know. . . i guess? kinda rolling movement, maybe? I didn't like the look in his eyes. His mouth was tight. . .like my throat. "Mrs. Allan, I'm sorry to tell you that the viable twin has died." Third blow. I had to get out of that place, back to a place where there was still life, this was a bad place to be. . i wanted to go home. I don't remember the ride home. However I remember not wanting to go out in public the following week - for some reason they would not induce me for another week. I wasn't retaining much, they would tell me stuff, but it was just like I was hearing them underwater. . . I didn't want to see pregnant women, I didn't want to see babies. I didn't want people coming up to me and asking: "So, when are you due?"
Its hard to induce labour when its not time . After 8 hours of unproductive agony, i received a day off and then the date was set again. . St. Patrick's Day. . I got some green jello in the labour room. . i don't remember if i ate it? i don't think so. . . The labour started and i went through the whole thing. . . just like my first baby. . . only this was so pointless. A mother can go through all kinds of pain if she's going to be able to hear that first cry and hold that little squirmy darling. . but this? this was just indescribable. I wished that they would knock me out so that I could just wake up when it was over. They said they couldn't do that without performing surgery and i didn't want that Time came to go to the delivery room and Rob was beside me, thank God for him! They had me on laughing gas to help take the edge off. . . i was laughing my head off!!! which sort of put the tense medical staff at ease. . . we all laughed. . it was insane. . we knew it. The gas stopped, it was time and things grew quiet. The doctor delivered one, then the other. . in silence . . aside from my weeping and the nurses with their tears falling. All at once the mystery was solved -- our daughters were casualties of a double umbilical cord 'accident'. . . they were lying in the 'wrong' positions and this caused their lifelines to become tangled and knotted. Rob looked at their tiny forms. . .i couldn't do it. I was too afraid of how they would look, too afraid to bond -- the final blow. . . going back to a maternity ward with empty arms -- hearing the cries of newborns and the excited conversations of happy, joyous families. . . I had my own room - i was exhausted but sleepless -- my eyes would look at things but not see. The next day they sent me home. I was never so glad to see St. Patrick's Day end. Rob had to handle the final arrangements -- I couldn't deal with anything. He chose a pretty, white casket - my grandparents paid for the plot, we chose the stone and our twin daughters were laid to rest in the 'children's garden' of the cemetery.
I recovered physically, but i was just so hollow. We received so many cards of sympathy, flowers. It was overwhelming. However, some people told me stuff like "God doesn't make mistakes, you know, its His will." I can't describe the fury those comments stirred in me. I'm sure they meant well, but those words felt like they branded my soul. . they stung and burned.
Sometimes I would have these nightmares in which I'd hear babies crying and I'd be frantically running and running, trying to find them and i never could. I had such a scary jealousy when I saw pregnant women, babies. . . and if i saw twins, or heard the word 'twins'. . . .oh i can't even say.
I was a zombie. . i felt so bad for my little girl. . . who wanted her Mom back. Thank God for her though, i was forced to eventually snap out of it. Rob had his own way of coping with all of this. . he became quiet. . and i could just not stop going over and over it all. . .countless time upon time. . I didn't understand him and he wasn't like me. . . Yes, thank God for our daughter! She helped us through the tunnel. We remember a touchingly bittersweet moment at the shopping mall a few months later. She had received 2 helium balloons from the cashier at Sears. When we got out to the car, Lindsay let go of her balloons and we all put our heads back to see them zoom up and up and up, until they were just little dots. She said: "These are for my baby sisters, to make them happy." Children are awesome.
You know, writing this took me right back . . . I didn't go to their grave today. It sounds callous, I suppose. But I know that they're not there. . and life has gone on. Now i imagine how they would have looked, what their voices would have sounded like, what kind of food would they have enjoyed? would they be musical? athletic? I wish that we could have had the privilege of knowing them. . and them knowing us. We loved them so much, the promise of them, the twinness of them, which blew us away! I got pregnant again a short while later. . but that baby never took a breath - i miscarried at the start of my 4th month, which just about finished me off. . Rob too. . I felt like i was losing my sanity by that point and I kept thinking that I was being punished by God. . i don't think that now. I don't know why any of that happened, but it did and its okay now. In July, 1986 we had our 5th and final child: another beautiful daughter!!! I can't even tell you what that joy felt like. . . it was like a beautiful tidal wave of emotion. . . it just rolled right over top of us and cleansed away all the cloying grief and made us feel new again. As we held our baby and looked closely at her, we saw a perfect red heart-shaped birthmark beside her right ear. A sign. . . . . of love, our love, God's love , everything was going to be all right.