Down the Road…Alexandra and Evan

It will be six years this March 11. Sometimes it seems like another lifetime. Ever since Alexandra and Evan were born, and died, I have wanted to write about them. But the words never came. These last couple of days these words that I am about to write have been replaying in my mind. It is time to sit down and put it on paper.

The biggest reason for still not writing about our twins is that it still does hurt so much. Oh, I speak joyfully of the twins to my two living children, and I can talk to my friends about the babies without crying. But reliving the circumstances surrounding their loss is still painful. How at 23+ weeks I started spotting. How the bed rest, just started a week prior, was not soon enough for a cervix the doctor described as “mushy”. (The medical reason later given for my premature labor was an incompetent cervix.) How the usual jovial doctor became so serious as he examined me and discovered I was dilated. The lonely ambulance ride to Denver to the hospital that specializes in premature deliveries. (Even at this point the thought of losing our babies never crossed our minds.) The perinatologist who tried to stop labor, but then had to deliver Alexandra. How he then tried, unsuccessfully, to stop labor again to keep Evan in and give him a chance at life. How Alexandra gasped as I held her, but was told it was not a real breath. How perfect my two babies were. The grief-stricken look on my husband’s face. My breakdown in the middle of the night when no one was watching. The tiny white casket. The funeral that was held on the same weekend we were supposed to have their baby shower. These thoughts bring tears to my eyes now. We had no idea that something like this could happen. And it hurt even more that we lost not one, but two chances at life. (It really helped us to tap into the CLIMB network and learn that we were not the only ones who suffered such a loss.) My husband and I never blamed each other for what happened. We would not allow ourselves to second guess our decisions. We did end up burying ourselves in our work to try to forget. We found a support group that helped us express our feelings and work through our grief. We were fortunate that this horrible experience brought us closer together rather than driving us apart.

The daily preoccupation with Alexandra and Evan diminished, as we focused on subsequent pregnancies, births and all the joys that come with raising children. We are always reminded of our twins by our two living children. It is such an unimaginable concept to grasp that only through the sacrifice of our beautiful twins are we blessed with “John-John” and “Mika”. We remember the twins every day in our prayers, and song:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
Yes, we know who you are!
Playing together up in heaven
Alexandra and Evan, we will love you forever.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
Yes we know who you are!

There are still moments when I am taken aback by my strong emotional reaction to a question, or an event relating to twins, that I realize how deep the wound still is. Four years after we lost our twins, I was taking baptismal classes in preparation for the birth of our daughter Mika. The question was asked: “What event has brought you closer to God?” As I started to speak about the loss of Alexandra and Evan, I totally broke down and couldn’t speak the words. Last March, I received news that my younger sister was pregnant. She called me from the doctor’s office, incredulous that she was expecting twins. I felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach, such was my physical reaction. I am happy to say that her twin girls were born healthy. I am selfishly relieved that she did not have a boy and a girl, like the twins that we lost. And I have to honestly say that I am still dealing with mixed emotions watching a family member raise twins, as we would have.

We talk to our children about their big sister and brother. And our oldest child, John-John, is starting to understand. When he asked who has the next birthday in the family, I replied Alexandra and Evan. He thought about it and said, “Oh, yeah, because they are part of the family.” Whenever one of the children loses a balloon, we comfort ourselves with the thought that it is on its way to heaven where Alexandra and Evan can play with it. My son once told me about a “dream” where he was up in heaven with his great-grandmother, and playing with his sister and brother. And every time we see a beautiful sunrise or sunset, we credit it to Alexandra and Evan playing with their watercolor paints in the heavenly skies!

After six years I must confess that I still don’t know how to celebrate Alexandra and Evan’s birthday. I try to put on a brave front and make it a cheerful occasion with cake and a birthday song. The truth is that is a difficult day during which I inevitably focus on my loss and what could have been. Christmas is another time of the year that I am vividly reminded of our loss. We hang Alexandra’s and Evan’s stockings alongside the rest of the family’s. And every year I write them a special holiday letter to express my love and longing for them.

When we first lost the twins, I remembered how anxious I was to complete various projects that would help commemorate their short time here on earth. I felt if I finished all these projects, this would help me with closure and then all my hurt feelings would go away. Now, six years later, their treasure chest is still not complete. Their baby books are not done. All the cards we received are still in a brown box. I have just found the right ornamentation I want to put on their gravesite (a boy and girl angel statue sitting side by side holding a birdfeeder.) I want to document my journal I kept during the months after their loss. I suppose what I am trying to say is that it is a lifelong journey. There is no longer a sense of urgency. I am not rushing to reach some finishing line where I think everything will be okay once again. There is no such finishing line. This loss has happened and nothing will ever change that. It has changed me, but I have learned to deal with it. I will complete these projects out of love for my twin babies and my need to keep their memories alive.

And now I know that even after I get all these things done, the hurt will still be there. I am blessed with two beautiful living children, but the pain of the loss of my first two children still remains. The pain is not as intense as it once was. Time does help with that. But it stays. Time will not eliminate it. And I don’t want it to. I don’t want to forget that ache – that longing for my children, because it would be as if I had forgotten about Alexandra and Evan. It is my last connection, my only physical reminder, of my two beautiful babies.