Thirteen years ago this past Tuesday, we celebrated the birthdays of our identical twin boys, Robert William and Jack River.
Robby, as we have always called him, was the recipient twin in Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). The boys had a very rare form of TTTS which develops rapidly during labor and delivery itself. A week prior to their birth, the boys were not significantly different in size. By the time they were born by emergency C-section, Robby was double Jack's size.
Though the neonatologists tried everything to help Robby survive, and our son struggled to improve, he did not live past three days. I will never forget the words I heard that day, when his chief doctor came in to my hospital room to get us quickly: His stats were "no longer compatible with human life." We told our son many things that day, had him baptized, and held him while he breathed his last breath.
Normally, the hospitals wouldn't allow hand prints to be taken - only the feet - lest the babies put their inky fingers in their mouths. This was no longer a concern for Robby, so I was able to get all four prints made.
Making the arrangements proved to be far too difficult for Rob and me to handle, other than selecting his little angel urn. My amazing friend Shana flew in from New York to handle all the other difficult parts, like making some phone calls and helping me rent an electric breast pump so I could continue producing milk for Jack, who spent only a month in NICU. (The boys had been 31-week preemies.)
We had a small memorial service for Robby at the hospital, playing songs meaningful to us and reading the above poem. It still makes me cry.
Jack thrived, meanwhile, despite getting down to a postnatal weight of 2 lb., 10 oz. This little angry guy was a "feed-and-grow baby" in NICU; despite his diminutive size, he was a strong one!
The day we brought him home, we went to church for Easter service. Two parents there, sitting a row in front of us, had identical twin infant girls in carseats. It was almost impossible for me to bear, and I cried through the whole message.
Chloë, our curly girly, was only a year and a half older than her brothers, but they allowed her into the NICU to say good-bye to our "Twin A." Twin B, on the other hand, was her new favorite plaything, and she loved to help me take care of him during the day.
Jack put on a little chub with the help of 22-kcal formula supplementation of my milk. I hated doing it, since I was adamant about nursing my children, but in this case it was definitely necessary!
Our little peanut had a nurse come to the house every fortnight to check his weight, diet, and other stats. He was doing well!
For two years, Jack grew rather steadily. And then he stopped. He was slower to progress in other areas, but he blossomed tremendously with the help of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other assists.
This young man, Jack River, is thrilled to join his older sister in the land of teenagerdom.
While, even after 13 years, I tend to be a little bit overprotective of Jack and jump at every cough and sniffle, the wound left by Robby's absence has gotten somewhat easier to bear. I don't know if I will cry tomorrow, the anniversary, but I know I'll feel it in my heart. Our surviving children - Chloë, Jack, and younger sister Sophia - bring us so much joy. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if we had been able to raise our identical twins, or if we had all four children running around... but that is a thought I quickly shelve for another day, another time.
If you are a parent who has lost a child or children from a multiple birth, please reach out to CLIMB. They were a huge help in getting me through the early years, along with a great deal of bereavement therapy.
Thanks for reading. Happy 13th birthday, boys!