Claire, Isabelle & Colette
Our precious daughters, Claire Elizabeth, Isabelle Ruth, and Colette Marion, died shortly after their births in October, 2000. Claire was born on October 2nd at 21-1/2 weeks gestation and her sisters were born on October 12th at 23 weeks. They were the children my husband and I had dreamed of. They were conceived by IVF after years of infertility and an early miscarriage. At last, we thought we would have a family.
Complications began at 20 weeks when my cervix shortened and pre-term labor began. Bed rest, hospitalization, medications, and specialists tried to prolong my pregnancy and save our girls. The medical interventions were very hard on me physically. However, I prefer not to think about that much anymore. Occasionally the little scar on my hand from the IV needles reminds me. Not that I could really forget anyway. My husband sat vigil by my bedside for the two-week hospital stay. My mother came from the East Coast after Claire had already been born and died. I don’t know how I would have gotten through without having them there.
I remember holding Claire. She was so tiny and her skin so delicate. I was afraid I’d hurt her. I knew she was alive because she moved her finger when I touched it. I don’t remember Isabelle and Colette as well after their births because of the magnesium sulfate and morphine I was on. I remember that after Claire was born, Isabelle was down so low that she got her foot down into my cervix and kept kicking me! We were beginning to think she’d make a good soccer player. I remember crying “NO” when the doctor told me Colette, our last triplet, had to be delivered because I had an infection. I remember hating that doctor.
In the months after losing Claire, Isabelle, and Colette I really didn’t know how I would survive. My life seemed to have no meaning. The trivial questions and nitpicking assignments at work seemed ridiculous. I quit a couple months later and took a job that was less stressful and more rewarding. I felt hopeless and alone. Not only did I lose my babies, but also the hope of ever having another baby. I felt like such a failure as a woman and as a mother. Meanwhile, all around me friends and relatives easily got pregnant and gave birth, some even by mistake. I still don’t understand why our triplets died. I have come to accept that this is my reality, but I don’t think I will ever understand. A local support group and the internet support from LAMBS helped. I realized I wasn’t alone. It still amazes me that so many babies die every year. I thought that infant mortality was low in first-world countries like the United States. Statistically, I imagine it is low, but it seems immense once you get know these babies and their families.
At times it feels like my loss happened so long ago. I almost wonder if it was real. I suppose this is normal as time passes and my life changes. At the same time, when I allow myself the quiet time to reflect and remember, those memories are so strong that it feels like yesterday that I was at the hospital saying goodbye. I am so grateful for the pictures, footprints, little knit hats and other mementos of our girls’ lives. After two years, the intensity of my grieving is much less. This is a good thing. Yet, at times I wish I had some outward sign to show the world that I have three daughters in Heaven. Most of our friends have forgotten, or at least it seems as if they have.
Losing Claire, Isabelle, and Colette was definitely the most difficult and painful experience of my life. Even so, I am glad we had our daughters. Most people can’t comprehend loving someone so intensely who lived such a short life. I’m glad I had a chance to know their love and hope that somehow they know they are still loved.
For me, an important part of healing has been to find ways to memorialize and remember my girls in the context of my new life. The first year after my loss I spent a lot of time reading and writing, talking to bereaved mothers, making a memorial scrapbook and website, and of course crying. On one of her visits, my Mom bought me a beautiful angel garden statue. We placed the little angel among some lilies in the backyard. And there she sits, ever present, gracing the garden, directly out the kitchen window. Just like my angel babies.
Sharon…She and her husband have adopted two children since their loss, their daughter domestically and recently their son in an international adoption.