July 26th, 2012. There are few moments of days and times that stick out in people’s minds. You might remember what you were wearing on a certain day, or what song was on the radio. You might remember what you ate, or didn’t eat, who you talked to, what you were planning on doing that day. The day could have started out like any other day, or perhaps it was a day that started out bad to begin with. Either way, these are the moments that your heart and mind hold onto in the midst of tragedy.
It was a very hot summer day, and to me, it seemed even more hot than normal for July. Any pregnant woman can tell you that being pregnant over the summer is not very fun, and to add twins and a house without air conditioning seemed to make things worse. I was on day four of bed rest. Maybe five, details are somewhat blurry at this point. The week prior had been extremely stressful when complications with my pregnancy ensued, and I was told that bed rest would be required until the babies arrive. At that point they were trying to get me at least to 28 weeks.
I was 22 weeks pregnant.
I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast, or how I did my hair. I am not sure what song was popular on the radio. I was so scared about the events that had just taken place, I am not sure if I could have told you at the time who the President was. But I do remember I was wearing a black shirt and blue capris. We had a doctor’s appointment that morning (one of thousands to come), to see how everything had turned out post-surgery.
I had felt the babies kick earlier that morning. We had just had a “gender reveal” party and found out that we were having a boy AND a girl. The perfect family. One of each. Everything I had ever wanted in one beautiful moment. We proudly named them Idan and Coraline “Cora” for short (The names that my husband and I picked out six months into dating).
I carefully hopped onto the table and the ultrasound tech began the usual drill. Gel on belly, rolling it around to see different shaded shapes and body parts. She scanned onto Cora, paused and then quickly went to Idan. His beautiful profile emerged. There he was kicking, rolling, and even yawning. He was a dream. She then went back to Cora.
It was that moment, when you feel fear in your heart and your mind quickly starts rationalizing what you are feeling in order to protect itself. I could feel sweat start to accumulate on my lip and under my arms. I grabbed my husband’s hand and looked at him, he looked at me with deep concern – not the usual playfulness I typically see from him – squeezed my hand and looked back at the tech. We waited as we watched her narrow her eyes onto the screen. She kept clicking buttons and moving the wand around to different places. I could hear the white noise of the air-conditioner and my heart pound in my chest.
“I don’t see a heartbeat.”
The words ripped through my ears and I shook my head. I didn’t believe what she had just said. I asked her again to check, show me, prove to me that the little girl whom I just felt kick that morning is really gone. I could see Cora’s little body, curled up, feet crossed, arms tucked in around her, and no heart-beat.
“It looks like she just passed this morning” the ultra sound tech said. “I will go get the doctor.”
And out she went, and down came all the walls around me.
The next moments after that I don’t really remember. They were filled with deep sobs, my body shaking with each guttural wail. The doctor came in with his tensed, pursed lips explaining to us that there is no way of knowing what happened to her, and unless she is delivered today, we will most likely never know the cause, and because her twin is alive, I will have to carry her until he is delivered.
And that was it. She was gone. Just like that. Months of planning, dreaming, and envisioning a life with twins was gone, and I was left to carry both life and death within me. Both joy and sorrow. Hello and Goodbye. And I did. With each day there was joy that Idan was bigger, stronger, and still alive another day, and there was also sadness that Cora was gone, curled up peacefully inside me, safely sleeping.
Through the next 16 weeks, until they were both delivered, I had heard it all, and all with good intention from people. “Well if there were problems better it happen now than later”; “These things happen”; “it wasn’t meant to be”; “at least you have him.”
But I lost her.
I know how extremely blessed I am to have Idan. I am reminded everyday how close I came to losing it all, and what a miracle it is that he made it to 37 weeks. I look at him and my breath catches in my chest, and I thank God that he trusted me with such a precious gift, and despite all the suffering, I still deserved to have him. I am satisfied with the thought that he may be my only child that I ever have.
But it still doesn’t take the pain away that I feel for the loss of her.
Grief is an interesting thing. There really are different stages. Sadness, denial, negotiations, anger, then, at some point, healing. And everyone mourns at their own pace. To me, with the one year anniversary of her passing, I am finally able to go there, grieve and celebrate the life that she did have.
I am honored that she chose me to be her mom, Idan to be her brother and my husband to be her father. I will be sad that I never will have the moments of seeing her grow, or play with her brother. I mourn that I will never get to dress her up in super girly clothes (even if she would have hated it), or have that Mother-Daughter relationship that I cherish with my mom. I am sad that my niece and nephew will never get to play with her and have the girls gang up on the boys. I am sad that I will never know what she would have grown to look like, or who she would have become. Would she have brown eyes like me? Would she have her brother’s dimples, too? All of these things I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
She gave me 22 weeks of a dream I always wanted. She gave my husband and I joy that we have never known, and with her passing she gave me humility and the gift of knowing that life is frail and precious and to fully live each moment. She gave Idan the gift of life, because with her passing, I was able to carry him to 37 weeks. Full term, which was not what the doctors thought could be a possibility early on.
I want to conclude this blog post to Cora, to honor her memory and to tell my story for any others out there who have grieved the loss of a child. It doesn’t matter the age or stage, when it’s a life that is connected to yours it is meaningful.
I wrote this poem back in 2003 when I was in college. Ironically it is dated 12-1-2003, their due date, and that was the day we picked up her ashes. Funny how things have weird ties to others. Maybe she was whispering in my ear when I wrote this poem 10 years ago.
Child of Mine
Her delicate hands
Match her slender arms
Sloped and refined with dainty edginess.
Years of passed down faces
Embody this girl, this woman, this
Child of mine
In her youth she is small,
Yet with age elongates her growth
She is not known
Only a tender creature
Who in my thoughts is born
This girl, this woman, this
Child of mine.