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Child loss is a topic that too many parents have been forced to experience, whether it be through miscarriage, birthing complications, or a terrible childhood tragedy. However, one aspect of this that is rarely discussed is the loss of a twin. I am a mother of identical twin girls. One just so happens to be an angel. My pregnancy was far from the ordinary that occurred through unplanned circumstances. I was labeled high risk right off the bat simply for being pregnant with twins. Then hypertension was added on around my tenth week. Regardless of my health situation, I was still so excited to welcome two new lives into the world... only to have one of them taken from me days later.
I was 23 weeks along. That’s barely six months pregnant; my babies were far from being “fully cooked.” Due to a tragic accident that occurred due to dramatic circumstances, I went into labor way too soon. The doctors did their best to keep my babies in longer, but they came three days later after my placenta erupted and I began to bleed out internally. I was literally dying. I’ll never forget that traumatic experience: the surgeon on staff screaming, “Prep the O.R.! Emergency C-Section!” As they wheeled me through hallways and through elevators, I remember catching a glimpse of a blood trail I was leaving behind. It was truly something out of a horror film. I remember being pushed through the O.R. doors and having to put myself on my own narrow, metal operating table panic and being fear stricken. There were so many nurses and doctors making so much noise and commotion, the only thing I was able to actually hear and focus on was a soft quiet voice behind my head: the anesthesiologist.
“Shh, it’s okay. I know you’re scared. It’s coming soon. Just breathe for me. I’m hurrying.”
At first, I didn’t know what he was talking about, until one of the doctors looked at me holding a slim purple pen, telling me, “I’m about to draw on you. I don’t want you to think I’m cutting you.”
And then, from the back of my head, the soft voice was back saying, “It’s okay. It’s here now. Breathe for me. Tell me, what are you going to name your babies?”
And before I could get the answer out, everything went black. What felt like moments, which was really six hours, later I woke up in my room. The amount of pain I was in was unimaginable for someone who has never experienced something like that. Thankfully, a nurse was right there hooking up my pain medication. All I could say was “Where are my babies?”
I didn’t get to see them until twelve hours later. Before they let me leave my room, a pair of neonatologists came to my bedside. They came to basically tell me that my children, my little girls, had a slim to no chance of survival. I wrote them off. I just wanted to SEE them. I didn’t want to hear about how they could possibly die. Due to the severe damage my placenta had caused from exploding, it took my surgeon six hours to put me back together again after delivering my girls. I thank him so much for doing such a fantastic job. I had to perform three tasks before they would take me to the NICU to see my babies: I had to eat and drink something, stand up, and urinate. I drank the tiniest box of apple juice, woofed down a packet of graham crackers, and waddled, assisted, to the bathroom, where it took me several minutes to finally pee. Then I said very firmly, “Take me to my babies NOW.”
Once I saw how tiny they were, I was so happy and so sad at the same time. One was one pound and six ounces and ten inches long and the other was the exact same except three ounces less in weight. They were perfectly beautiful and also perfectly heartbreaking to look at. I loved them so much. Unfortunately, they had both suffered brain hemorrhaging during delivery. One was more severe than the other. She was bleeding through her brain so badly that they had to CONSTANTLY give her blood and plasma, insulin, and blood pressure medicine. They had to switch her from an intubator to an oscillator. On the second day after their birth, I was sat down with the whole team of doctors informing me of my childrens’ health situation. Faline, my beautiful survivor, had high hopes of improvement. However, her sister Falicia, was declining at a phenomenal rate. They asked what I wanted to do. I said, “Everything you can. You save my baby!”
And so they continued the treatments and blood transfusions in hopes that the hemorrhage in her brain would heal and correct itself. Unfortunately, there is no cure for a brain bleed; it’s one of those things you either overcome or you don’t. There is no magic pill, injection, or surgery that can stop it. By day three, my tiny angel began seizing nonstop, her kidneys were failing, her liver was shutting down, and the doctors sat me down once again. They explained that Falicia has a one in a million chance of over coming the hemorrhaging and even if she did, she would be on life support for the rest of her life due to the damage it would have caused to her brain. I was faced with the world's most difficult decision that a mother would ever have to face: whether or not to take her off of her lifeline. I cried for hours, mulling the decision in my head. I sat with my mother, asking for her advice. How could I kill my own baby? That’s what it felt like I was doing. But as I watched her teeny tiny body shake nonstop, I couldn’t bear to watch this precious tiny baby hurt anymore.
All I wanted to do was hold her and comfort her. And so I told them to let me hold my daughter. They gave me a private room. They disconnected all of her wires and removed her breathing tube. They even put her in the tiniest white dress I have ever seen. She looked like an angel. When they handed her to me, wrapped in the smallest blanket, I broke down crying. She was so little, it felt like I was barely holding anything. I held her, I kissed her, I sang to her, and I read to her. I cried uncontrollably over her. Doctors would come in periodically to check her heartbeat and to make sure her sedation was okay so she felt no pain.
Three hours. It took my sweet and strong little girl three hours to pass. And I cried so hard I ran out of tears to cry. After that day, I was pretty much a zombie. The only thing keeping me together and going was the fact that I still had another baby girl that needed me. When people hear that you lost a child, they usually don’t know how to respond. The usual responses are “I’m so sorry for your loss,” “heaven gained another angel” and the generic “My condolences to you.” But what do people say when someone loses a twin? I have heard far too often “Well, at least you still have the one.”
That is probably the most enraging sentence I had ever heard in my life. It sounded so insensitive and I hated hearing it to the point where I had snapped at someone, until one day I was able to find the beauty in what they were saying although they had a poor choice of words for it. I was given a blessing that most parents who lose a child never receive. I have a window to Falicia. I may never get to actually watch her grow up, but I’m able to see and get a glimpse of what she would have looked like through my surviving daughter, Faline. When I hug her or kiss her, I can hug and kiss Falicia, too. Birthdays are still hard three years later, but I never let my grief get in the way of my daughters’ day. There’s nothing you can really say to someone who lost a twin, but from someone with experience, you can say this: "Remember to look at your blessing. She/he is your collateral beauty.” I’ll never stop missing her and I’ll never stop loving her.
To those reading this that have experienced what I experienced, know that you are not alone. Know that the pain will never go away. However, it does become manageable over time. Kiss your baby. Hug your baby. Because when you do, you’re kissing and hugging your other baby, too. They are your window, the greatest gift you could ever receive from such a tragic loss.