Nope. You get to listen to me talk today. Lucky you!!
Or more like lucky me. Lucky all of us. I think sometimes we start to forget just how lucky we are in life. Or maybe it’s just that we’re naiive and sheltered from the negative sides of life.
You see, before I became a Mom of Multiples (MoM), I was a happy mom of one happy little boy. The pregnancy was textbook perfect. I didn’t even have morning sickness. The delivery was easy-peasy. The months after were pretty good too – he was an easy baby who slept regularly in his own crib and wasn’t overly fussy. He’s had his moments in the last few years, but nothing that time out, love, and redirection didn’t fix.
Then I became one of the Secondary Infertility statistics. We learned more about genetics, reproduction, egg quality, hormone balance, and interventions than I ever thought possible. We met others who struggled, many worse than I. Every day I’d think that as bad as I had it, at least I wasn’t suffering from miscarriage after miscarriage, often in silence. You see, much like IF, infant loss has a certain stigma. No one talks about it. People who experience it suffer in silence. People who know of it try to avoid the subject because they just flat out don’t know what to say or how to help. I’ve even had friends with multiples tell me that they’ve been told by strangers their twins/triplets/etc made up for the earlier losses. No. No birth or child makes up for a loss. Yes, it may finally bring you that long-deserved family. And yes you finally are a “mom” in the eyes of those around you, but you will also forever be a mom to that angel baby.
Then I became a Mom of Multiples (MoM). I was slowly inducted into the world of high-risk pregnancy, preterm delivery, NICU life, and worse. We had an easy go of it. The only reason I had hospital bedrest was because we lived so far from the NICU and since it was military and free the doctors didn’t see any reason to send me home. Speaking of free, we never even had to make a decision in the entire pregnancy based on what our bank account could manage. We just went to appointment after appointment, any tests they thought necessary, lived in the hospital, ate the food, didn’t think twice about it. Anyways, back to the bed rest, if I had gone home I wouldn’t have even been on it. Maybe a modified, “don’t run a marathon tomorrow” type of restriction, but no real bedrest. Heck, even while on hospital bedrest I had weekly passes where we went out to dinner, walked around the mall, and I went downstairs to the cafeteria and outside daily! I had it easy.
Then my water broke and at 33 weeks we delivered. I was introduced to the world of preemies. Nasal cannulas, IV fluids and feedings, incubators for heat regulation, monitors for heart rate and oxygen, and so many other medical necessities that most people have never heard of. Once again, we had it easy. My babies were taking breastmilk from day one. They were able to be held so much sooner than many. We were prepared. I think it’s easier when you’re a mom of triplets going into an early delivery – we expected NICU time from the very beginning. We toured it, talked to nurses, talked to friends – we knew what to expect and weren’t thrown off by any of it. They asked if we would allow formula should I not make enough milk, as if it were something we’d decline. Silly things like that. Never once did we think much about it.
Then they came home. We were a family (albeit a much larger one than before). We were up at night, but not as much as some would think. We became part of this magical multiples community. I joined an amazing group of women and even with over 200 of us, the drama is minimal because we all get it – life is too short for drama and high school antics. We are all in the throws of raising multiple children, and between diapers, bottles, clothing, feeding, cleaning, and everything else, we support each other through everything, good and bad.
And that’s where the naiivity comes in. Before this journey, sure, I knew that preemies existed. I knew that children sometimes suffered disabilities due to their delivery or their prematurity. Sure, I knew that some even didn’t make it. But it never affected me because I was sheltered from it. It was the elephant in the room. If you knew someone who had lost, you didn’t mention it unless they did for fear of speaking wrong. You didn’t ask anyone with one child, “Have you had others before this that you lost?” You didn’t ask someone with a singleton, “Was he/she a twin and the twin didn’t make it?” I never thought of that. I never realized that behind the smiles of a mother watching her child take their first steps were the tears of a mother realizing that his/her twin never would because they went to heaven far too early.
In the last few weeks, I have known more amazing, wonderful, deserving women, who have lost children, than I can count. One mother who lost a baby in-utero and had to deliver both the living child and the other. One mother who had to deliver at 24 weeks due to HELLP (a liver issue) at 24 weeks, and whos first twin passed less than a few days later, while the other struggled for three weeks to pass away the other night. Several women who suffered miscarriages. And it’s not the elephant in the room. It’s the opposite – it is all I can think about. All I can talk about. I look at my children and cannot imagine if I only had one or two or three of them. How do you go on celebrating a twin’s birthday while you are also remembering the other twin’s death? How do you move on and consider yet another IVF cycle, knowing that your chances of developing a severe and life-threatening disease have now gone from 8% to 50%? How you do get past that sheer stark grief and cope?
I guess the whole point of this entire rambling story is this: Value every minute. When you see a pregnant person, and they don’t have kids, try to remember that they might have already lost one or more. If you see a mom of multiples, try not to make a negative comment about how hard it’s going to be – maybe they’ve been through worse and even the hardest day will be a joy because it’s theirs to have. If you see someone who has been pregnant a few years, try not to make a comment about when they will have children, you never know how long they’ve been trying. Behind every smile there may be grief, and if the subject comes up, let them guide how far they want to discuss it. Depending on their point in the journey they may not be ready to, or they may want to scream it out to the world. Either way – try to be supportive and loving to those you know and strangers alike, we all have a story to share, and whether through naiivity, living a sheltered life, or just through sheer ignorance, we may not understand all that is out there until we’ve been too close to it ourselves. Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss, but I’d prefer knowledge and an arsenal of love and prayer for those suffering to ignorance of their suffering any day.