CLIMB

Natasha & Vanessa


In August, 1991, I became pregnant. My husband and I were overjoyed but on October 18, I miscarried in my 9th week. I was devastated and my husband and I decided to wait a year before we tried again. I remember thinking at that time, it was the worst thing that could happen to us and it would be easier to accept if I had a face to remember, not just dreams and plans for what might have been.

Today, I do have a little face to remember and it feels even harder to deal with our loss. I became pregnant again in December, 1992. Because I’d had a miscarriage I didn’t want to tell my friends and co-workers until I passed the 3rd month. However, soon I was vomiting day and night and couldn’t keep my secret much longer.

In my 20th week, my husband and I learned we were expecting twins. We were shocked and surprised but soon began dreaming of our new family. We didn’t want to know the babies’ gender, but we hoped one of them was a girl.

I ended up being nauseous and vomiting for the first six months. In my 25th week, my obstetrician put me on bed rest at home. At the beginning of my 34th week, I had to go for a biophysical profile every week. I also had to count each baby’s movements from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. every day. If I couldn’t count at least 10 movements per baby, I was expected to go to the hospital for tests. Luckily, this never happened.

On July 30, I went for my 4th ultrasound. Baby A weighed 4 lbs., 15 oz. and Baby B 4 lbs., 2 oz. I was worried and disappointed with Baby B’s weight gain since it had only gained 1/2 pound from the last month while Baby A had gained 1-1/2 lbs. Baby A was breech and I was scheduled for a c-section on August 18, two weeks before my due date.

On August 15 at 4:45 a.m. my water broke. I had a c-section and at 11:33 a.m. Natasha (Baby A) was born and weighed 5 lbs., 14 oz.; and at 11:34 a.m. Vanessa (Baby B) at 5 lbs., 10 oz. I only remember the doctor’s words in the operating room when the first baby came out and he said, “It’s a girl”. My husband and I were so happy.

After having brought into this world two beautiful and healthy babies, I felt elated. They were also good-size babies and they were born to term for twins. All my efforts and care had paid off. As soon as I held them in my arms, I finally felt safe and never imagined we were about to lose one of them. We brought the girls home a week later. Unfortunately, both babies were colicky and the crying would start early in the evening and sometimes last until 1 or 2 a.m.

On September 15 at about 10:30 p.m. my husband and I had just gone to bed after quieting down the girls when they both started crying again. He picked up Natasha, and I Vanessa. He went into the other room as each girl kept the other awake when they were crying. I held Vanessa against me until she fell asleep, then I laid her beside me. I was too exhausted to bring her back to her crib. At 4 a.m., Vanessa woke up crying because she was hungry and I fed her. I noticed my husband was still in the other room.

At 4:20 a.m. my husband woke up and sensed something was wrong with Natasha. She had awakened at 12:45 colicky and he had gotten her to fall back asleep in his arms at about 1:30 a.m. Although the room was dark, she was now too quiet and he could see her mouth was open. He shook her to try and wake her up but couldn’t. That’s when he came running in our bedroom with Natasha still in his arms, towards our bathroom where the light was on. I asked him, “What’s wrong?” He said, “Something’s wrong with Natasha. I can’t wake her up.” I knew as soon as I saw her, she was dead and we had lost our little girl. She was only one month old. There was no pulse. Her skin was white and her face seemed so peaceful. I grabbed her and dialed 911 and told them, “I think my baby’s dead.” I kept repeating, “Oh no Natasha, my baby.” The police arrived first. There was nothing to do and no one had to confirm our worst fear.

I asked my friend, Denise to take care of Vanessa while we went to the hospital. I don’t know what I expected, but I thought we were going to find out why she had died so suddenly. This wasn’t the case. It was simply to say goodbye to her but I felt I had done that at home while waiting for the coroner to arrive. This wasn’t our little girl any more lying in that big bed. She was so cold and it seemed that there was already a smell of death. I didn’t want to stay long although I held her and so did my husband. He didn’t want to leave her there. He felt he was deserting her and that she would be all alone. He also felt extremely guilty because she had died while sleeping in his arms and he hadn’t noticed since he had also fallen asleep. But Natasha died in the warm and loving arms of her father who was trying to comfort her. This gives me some peace of mind.

The police came and interviewed us separately to take our statements. We took Vanessa to the doctor that same day to have her examined. She seemed fine but so had Natasha a week earlier when we went for a checkup. The doctor told us she probably died of SIDS. I had heard of it, but never thought it would take away our precious baby. The funeral was held the next day because we felt it would be best for us not to prolong the agony. It was a very long and difficult day.

We spent most of the next week at the hospital as Vanessa’s heart and respiration rates were monitored. We were loaned an apnea monitor which we should use until she is at least 4 months old. All our efforts and energy were spent on Vanessa but now Natasha’s death is starting to sink in. We feel two losses, one for our daughter, the other for our twin.

Although I have one regret, I know in my heart I couldn’t have spent more time with my daughter than I did. Since they were both colicky, it seemed we always had one or the other in our arms and I don’t have a clear memory of whom I held, what I did with Natasha at a certain time. However, I am grateful for the pictures that were taken of Natasha, even those of her in her casket. It is such a terrible thing for a parent to be making burial arrangements when we should have been looking forward to her first smile.

Three weeks after her death, the pathologist confirmed she died of SIDS. It doesn’t help much because we are still in the dark. I have a lot of questions but no answers. This week we went to our first meeting for parents who have lost a child. I hope, in time, the pain won’t be so intense and I’ll be able to treasure the time we had with her and the memories she left behind.
I miss you dearly, Natasha and you’re always in my heart.

Sophie

Interview…a Father

As the first anniversary of your baby daughter’s death approaches, what are your thoughts?

On one hand, it feels like she died yesterday. I keep reliving her death. On the other hand, as I look at my other twin daughter grow and change, it is difficult to believe we did have two daughters at one point in time.

As you reflect on the past year, what strikes you the most?
A year ago, I had her. Now she’s gone. When they were born, I never expected to be so excited and happy. I had never anticipated the joy they would bring me. I obviously never anticipated she would only live for a month, and that I would be in so much pain. Soon, we will be celebrating our other daughter’s first birthday which is exciting, yet shortly after, we will be going through the anniversary of our baby’s death which is sad. After my baby died, I realized I had so much to give to my children. I never thought it would be so fulfilling to be a father, but it is.

What do you remember the most about your baby?
I felt she had a lot of patience. It seemed like she was thinking, OK, Daddy has to change my diapers, then warm my bottle and it all takes time. I won’t cry and I’ll wait until I can be fed. I also thought, like any parent, that she was very beautiful.

What feelings did you go through this past year?
I felt shock it happened and at how it happened. I was very angry at everybody. I felt extreme fear at losing my other baby to the point of being overprotective. I’ve also had to deal with guilt, grief and sorrow.

What feelings are you still living with?

I’m not frustrated as much at everybody. I still have difficulty handling comments from others. I’m still dealing with the grief and the sorrow. I’m still in a lot of pain.

Andrew was interviewed by his wife, Sophie. Their twin daughters Vanessa and Natasha were born August 15, 1993, and Natasha died of SIDS while sleeping in her father’s arms.

Natasha

It’s been almost three months
Since SIDS took you away from us.
Why you left,
We might never know.

Christmas is fast approaching;
Your gifts were already bought.
It was to be your first Christmas with us,
Where I’m sure you would have squealed in delight
At the sight of all the colorful lights,
And the beautiful Christmas tree.

I often imagined saying:
Natasha come give mommy a kiss,
Natasha come give mommy a hug or
Teaching you how to say your beautiful name,
And hearing you say it.
I still call out your name,
But no one answers.
All I hear
Are my own tears.

All our dreams and plans
Were suddenly shattered.
Our hearts are broken and we will never be the
same.
Your twin sister, Vanessa, is now alone
And I’m sure, she feels your loss too.

I often listen to the song, “Without you”,
Which says, “I can’t live if living is
Without you.”
And it’s true,
It’s so hard to get through each day
Without you,
But I do.

I never knew
How much love I had to offer,
Until I saw and held you both
For the very first time.
And oh what joy
You brought into all our lives.
But we were robbed of the opportunity of raising you.

And growing with you,
Since you were only with us
For one short month.

I now have to try to treasure
The memories you left us.

I would much rather
Be able to hold you in my arms,
Even if only for one more time.
But since it can’t be,
I want you to know, my darling Natasha,
We love you very much
And we miss you every day.
Please help us find the strength
To get through Christmas,
Without you.

My Tears

My tears flow
Sometimes gently, sometimes profusely.
My tears
Are a part of me.

My tears of joy
When I was finally able
To hold you both in my arms,
And appreciate you both.

My tears of joy
When I held you both against my warm body,
Ready to protect you
In this new world.My tears of tiredness
When I was trying my best
To be a mother you would be proud of,
But I worried for I wasn’t sure
I was up to such a big challenge.

My tears of anxiety
Since both my babies were colicky,
And nothing seemed to ease your pain
Even if I held you in my arms.

My tears of total shock
To realize my baby was dead,
And nothing or no one
Could ever bring you back to us.

My tears of sorrow and pain
To realize how much I love you,
And want you by my side
So that my heart won’t be torn
By the emptiness I feel without you.

My tears of anger
Because this happened to us and
others can’t comprehend
Our grief and sorrow.My tears of anger
Because our family is forever shattered
Since you died, without any warning and
for unknown reasons.

My tears of despair
Because it is difficult to continue
Our journey down the road without you,
And we seem to continually get lost
in the fog.

My tears of a future
Which will never be,

Because all the dreams I had for you
Will never come true.

My tears of a harsh reality since
I cannot bring you back to us.
I must accept it’s up to all of us
To keep you alive in our hearts.

My tears of regret
To not see you grow
And share your life
With your twin sister.

My tears
Continue to flow,
For my baby,
My little girl.

Sophie

Two years down the road – Sophie
It took two years since Natasha’s death to be able to admit to myself that I am grateful she was born even if she only lived for a month. I do appreciate the short time we had together. I am glad I got to know a glimpse of her, of what might have been and I will always love her. She’s close to my heart every day.

I used to feel we’d have been better off had she never been born. We hadn’t asked for twins but when we found out we were expecting twins, I felt I have suffered (through my pregnancy) for two babies not just one. I also feel that for her to be finally born safe and apparently healthy and to die shortly after, what was the point except for more pain and suffering.

I don’t ask why us any more. It’s not important to me but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to know the cause of her death. It wouldn’t change to outcome but I might have a logical explanation –I still feel that need. I’m more compassionate towards others and I’m trying to help others who have suffered a loss.

I don’t think of Natasha every minute if the day like I used to in the beginning but when I do think of her, the pain does seem as intense, only it’s less often. I still have a hard time looking at Natasha’s picture. I go to pieces and my tears flow. I also have difficulty with other twin children and I’d rather not hear about them or see any. I don’t wish them harm but it’s still very painful.

Vanessa is now two years old and we go to the cemetery quite often. She asks to go visit Natasha and for me to read out loud what’s written on her tombstone. She recognizes the cemetery and will often say, “Mommy’s crying, Mommy’s sad.” But for her it’s a happy place to be with her sister. On her birthday, Vanessa brought a helium balloon for Natasha and let it go in the sky. It was beautiful and touching. That’s about all she understands and she knows who Natasha is by looking at her pictures. She is very much loved.

Our youngest and last child, Katia, is now 8-1/2 months old. She has enriched our lives immensely. She gives us so much love and joy. It warms my heart to see and watch Vanessa and Katia play together. How lucky we are that Vanessa and Katia play together. How lucky we are that Vanessa has another sister to play with an create the bond of sisterhood. Katia can never replace Natasha and I could never choose between having Natasha and not having Katia. I’m selfish, I would want my three daughters with me. They are all unique and special and that’s the beauty of it.

Sophie

At two years of age,
I would have enjoyed
Your smiles, your hugs
And your soft and gentle voice.

At two years of age,
I would have enjoyed
Walking with you,
Playing hide and seek
Singing with you,
And drawing beside you.

At one month of age,
I loved you.
I held you tightly in my arms.
I hugged you, I kissed you and
I rocked you to sleep.
But I never had enough time
With you.

On this second anniversary
Since your death,
Having Vanessa and Katia by my side,
I realize fully and clearly
Everything we are missing
Without our little treasure,
Our Natasha.

Three years down the road…

It’s been three years since my twin baby daughter, Natasha, died. As time passes, I’ve come to a point in my life where I don’t think things will get worse regarding my feelings and emotions towards Natasha’s death. I also don’t feel things will get better, either. I am as comfortable as I think I can be. Let me explain. There are moments in my life where I know I will be sad such as her death date, Mothers Day, Christmas, etc. …and there are also unexpected times where the grief will engross me without any warning. For example, one evening my husband and I rented “Father of the Bride II”. Everything was okay until close to the end of the movie, where the father was holding his newborn baby in one arm and his newborn grandbaby in the other. All I could see was myself holding my two babies. I cried until the end and was depressed afterwards. (So much for a lighthearted comedy!)

Most of the time I am happy although I will always miss Natasha very much. This year, there were circumstances in our lives which were stressful and the anniversary of her death basically hit me on that day and not before. It was almost like I had this grief bottled up that exploded compared to last year, when it slowly came out two weeks prior to her death date. I did pretty well on that morning but by noon time, I felt drained and I wanted to be alone. My husband, Andy, was kind enough and took the girls to the zoo. I then cried, put on some sad music and went through her memory box. I was exhausted by 7 p.m. and went to bed. I had previously told Andy we would go through her box together but somehow, having gone through it, I didn’t feel like doing it again and I didn’t want to share my pain with my husband. The funny thing is Andy wanted us to be together. Go figure, it’s sometimes hard to get him to share his feelings and this year he wanted to and I didn’t. You certainly can’t plan how you are going to grieve.

I’ve done things that have helped me this year. I don’t write in Natasha’s journal as often as in the first two years following her death, but I’ve done an acrylic painting of her as well as a watercolor painting of Natasha and Vanessa when they were about a week old. I really enjoy that painting. I probably will never be satisfied with Natasha’s painting but I always wanted to have one and now I do.

We’ve moved to a different city and have paid to have Natasha’s tombstone transferred. It will still be in Babyland although her remains will be at the first cemetery. It’s still important to me that the children and I go to the cemetery although it remains a symbol. Natasha, I carry in my heart every day and that’s where she really is.

On Natasha’s third anniversary, a friend of mine bought a new book in French about two little girls and then donated the book to our local library in Natasha’s memory. It was a beautiful gift and I in turn have done the same for another friend. My older sister, as always, having never met Natasha but she was to be her godmother, makes a donation every year to the SIDS Foundation and calls me. Those are probably the things that touch me the most. People who never met her and yet show me they remember her and also help in keeping her memory alive.

Even though I live with Natasha’s death every day and I continue living, it doesn’t mean I don’t wish she’d be with us right now.

Sophie

I Said Nothing

It’s been 4 years since your death.
The greatest physical change
was moving to a new city.
The following is what I heard.

I went to a new dentist,
A distant cousin of mine.
When she saw me,
She knew I was the one
Who had lost one of her twins.
She also has twins and she said:
“I sympathize with you.”
Sympathy is nice but then she added:
“It was for the best.”
I SAID NOTHING.

On that same day,
I went to see a new doctor,
Who had received my old medical records.
She noticed that I had lost
One of my twins.
She commented:
“Thank God you had another.”
I SAID NOTHING.

We were invited to supper
At a friend’s house
And the subject of loss came up.
I was told:
“It was her time. God needed an angel.”
I SAID NOTHING.

I don’t believe any of these comments.
And after all these years,
You’d think I could speak out.
I open my mouth but nothing comes out.

It’s never for the best
To have a child who,
In a moment dies.
I love my twin daughter Vanessa
And my youngest daughter Katia,
But even if they tried their best,
They could never replace their sister,
Natasha.
It just doesn’t happen that way.
No child is replaceable.
Maybe I’m selfish
But I feel I need my angel
More than God needs her.

How can it be
My daughter’s time to die
When she was only a month old

And just beginning her life
When it all ended.
Why couldn’t I have played
The role of your mother
Without feeling like
I only had the title?

I can write what I feel
Why can’t I just say it?
Maybe I am still afraid of conflict.
Maybe I know people won’t truly understand.
Maybe I lack courage.
I don’t know why
I don’t always speak out.
I have regrets every time
I don’t defend these myths.
Forgive me, Natasha, and to all the other children
Who have died.
I should have, I could have
But I didn’t.
Maybe someday, I will be able to say:
I did.

Sophie

Four Years Down the Road

I’ve learned grief is still unpredictable. You can never be protected from it. This year what has been most painful was Mother’s Day, not the anniversary of Natasha’s death.

On this Mother’s Day there were many cars at the cemetery. Children probably visiting their deceased mothers’ graves but perhaps there were a few like myself who were visiting their deceased children. It seemed ironic to be at the cemetery, visiting my daughter, one who enabled me to become a mother, yet I wasn’t truly her mother, not in the way it mattered most to me. I would have loved the opportunity, my lifetime to work at being her mother, a better mother with time. Everything had to be lumped in her short life, one month, without knowing she would die. I loved her so, gave her all I had and my love for her grows as the years go by.

Today, I know I’m not alone in my grief, my sadness. I also feel some people have had rougher times even than us and each time I read CLIMB’s newsletter, it reminds me to be grateful for what I do have. Even if Natasha lived for only a month, I’m filled with so much love. I’m fortunate to be a mother to my surviving children, Katia and Vanessa. I cherish my life with my family.

Sophie

5 years down the road…

This year, all the special celebrations went smoothly. I was simply grateful to have my surviving children with me. Every year, on Natasha’s death date, we spend the day together as a family. In the past 5 years, it was the most beautiful day. It started out with lovely sun shining on us and even if I felt sad at the cemetery, I was still happy. We went on a picnic, fed animals at a nursery and went to the park. I didn’t want the day to end.

As for Natasha and Vanessa’s birthday, I feel comfortable concentrating fully on Vanessa although we do acknowledge Natasha’s birthday. I like that I have September 16 especially for Natasha.

Not too long ago, a friend of a friend’s son committed suicide at thetender age of 14. This boy was doing well at school, popular but the family unit was in trouble. Early one morning, he took his father’s car and drove to his old school and hung himself with a basketball net in the school yard. I never met this boy yet I was so depressed for days and I literally could not stop crying. I felt so much pain in so many ways. I felt pain because it brought back the day Natasha died and the events surrounding her death. Shock is good because I was able to get through those first few days and make decisions that mattered to us. I also thought that besides my mother and younger sister, most of the people who came to her funeral had never met her. This boy’s funeral was full of people who had known and loved him. It comforted me. I couldn’t help but feel pain for his parents, his brother and his sister. I don’t think before you actually love a child, you can fully understand the hell you go through, that wrenching pain and what you have to do to survive and live again.

It made me look at my children who were simply dancing in front of me and to know I can’t predict their future, their self-worth though I can invest in it. They could also die tomorrow and I love them so. Maybe some of the pain I hadn’t felt this year came but when this tragedy happened. I felt sad for everyone involved. I felt I had lost someone close in my family. That’s the best way I can describe it.

Natasha, through her love, made me not be afraid to reach out to this family. I cooked all I could and brought it over to them along with a single white rose in his memory. I remember receiving such a rose from a neighbor. It had touched my heart and is a part of Natasha’s memory as I buried the flower with her.

It made me realize, I have to have more fun and enjoy myself. We have received an inheritance but had put most of it towards our mortgage. My husband and I have started going out on real dates. I have also booked a Caribbean vacation for next March with my mother although she doesn’t know it yet (birthday gift). I had always promised her a trip, just the two of us. Although I had already decided this before the tragedy happened, it only reaffirmed my beliefs. My mother is well today, maybe not in 5 or 10 years when it would have been more convenient for me. I’m taking the time now.

I also saw a beautiful memory box for Natasha which I fell in love with. I didn’t buy it because I justified I didn’t really need it. I have a big container and I still couldn’t fit everything in that box. But I’ve thought about it and I will go and buy it today.

It has been a difficult year physically for me because I’ve been injured at work and in constant pain for all of 1998 but I know 1999 can’t help but be better. I’m looking forward to a new year.

Sophie

Our special time together

It’s been a little over two years
Since you died.
At this point and time in my life,
I want to be able to share
The glimpses of our time together.

I remember feeling sad
When I hadn’t succeeded in breastfeeding you.
I felt I had let you down.
I was so stressed, tired and very insecure.
Since then, I’ve forgiven myself,
And I was able to successfully
Breastfeed your baby sister, Katia,
Although we had some problems.

I smile, as I remember
Picking up either you or your twin sister
For your nighttime feedings.
Since you both looked alike,
I would bring you close to the nightlight,
To see which baby I had.
Natasha, you had a little red birthmark
Above your right eye
And Vanessa, had a small bump
On her left ear.

Having twins,
There wasn’t much time
To think of myselfor eating.
One day, I was munching
On a cookie, while feeding you
Your bottle.
I told myself, what harm
Could it do?
Wouldn’t you know it,
A crumb went right in your eye.
Where was my First Aid book?
The crumb came out on its own,
In its own time.

Every time we went driving
In our car,
All we could hear
From the back seat,
Were little grunts.
Who knew our two sweethearts
Could make so much noise
Together?

The highlight of my days
Was giving you your bath.

It was our special time,
Just the two of us.
You never cried and
You seemed to love the feel of the water
On your skin,
And basking in the warmth
Of the water.
I enjoyed talking and singing to you
While bathing you.

What I remember most,
Was your quiet and patient nature.
You seemed like a responsible individual
Even at the tender age.
And you seemed content,
Demanding less attention than your sister.
Finally, I will always treasure
The love you’ve shown me.
And I remember every day
Your gift of love.

For my twin daughter, Natasha, who died of SIDS at one month, on September 16, 1993.

We waited impatiently for your arrival in this world. We felt such joy the first time we saw and held you in our arms. You were our miracle and you represented the love your father and I share.

You were only starting to show us your lovely personality. You were our small, quiet daughter and you were so beautiful. You hadn’t had the time yet to smile at us, but we hoped you recognized us and felt our love. Natasha, you left too soon. You died in your father’s arms, who was simply trying to comfort you and give you his love.

Our dearest Natasha, we hope you are resting in peace and we are convinced God is taking care of you in heaven. Your twin sister, Vanessa, didn’t have the pleasure of knowing you but she will through our eyes.

Natasha, you will always be alive in our hearts. We will never forget you and we will love you eternally. No one can replace you or fill the void we feel in our broken hearts. You were a very special girl and we will always remember your peaceful face and all the love you’ve given us.

Love, Mom and Dad

(letter, originally in French, read at her funeral)

Sophie

Mother’s Day

Everyone tried their best
To make this a special day.
First, by letting Mommy sleep in,
5 minutes longer seemed plenty.
I also received a touching handmade car
And lovely gifts.

Through all the love that surrounds me,
Today of all days,
The sadness can’t escape me.
The pain resurfaces with a vengeance,
Leaving me hurting
Just as if you had died yesterday.
What an awful feeling,
It’s devastating.

I’m celebrating motherhood
And I feel the need to let you know
I haven’t forgotten you,
My baby daughter,
And I will always love you.
But what I really fear
Is that you don’t remember me
Anymore,
But I’ll always be your mommy.

Your twin sister, Vanessa,
Tries to comfort me,
Through my tears
She offers me, in all of her
Innocence and kindness,
Her favorite stuffed animal to cuddle.
When that doesn’t stop the tears,
She suggests Daddy and her buy me a treat
To make me feel better.
There isn’t a magical cure for this pain
But I do love her for trying.

On this mother’s day
I feel blessed, yet also cheated…
I love my 3 beautiful daughters.
They brought sunshine
Into my life
And continue to warm my heart
In many special ways.

Sophie