June 23, 2013: It’s a day that is etched into my memory. How could it be that one single day could serve as both the best and the worst day of my life? It’s the day my triplets were born, but also the day my first child passed away.
As first-time parents, my husband and I were over the moon with news that we were expecting triplets after years of infertility. But the weeks leading up to my delivery were touch and go as I spent nearly two months on bed rest. My body hung on, but ultimately failed me as I went into labor more than 17 weeks premature.
The sadness of that day is enough to cause my body to tremble and my heart to physically ache. I remember lying in my hospital bed waiting for hours, wondering if my babies stood a chance at survival. At 22 weeks, most hospitals don’t even consider a baby viable. Would my children even take a single breath outside of the womb? It’s an out-of-body experience knowing that the child you longed for and prayed for will mostly likely die. As emotional and hazy as that fateful day was, the memory of my babies being born is crystal clear.
After more than 12 hours of labor, my contractions sped up. At 4:48 on a Sunday morning, Abigail arrived. She gave a squeak and a kick as the doctor handed her to the neonatologist. Before I could figure out what was happening, I received the news I feared: My child’s lungs were not strong enough to survive. My husband and I held our first daughter and stared in both awe and sadness. Despite being only 1 pound, her features were absolutely perfect — her nose, a tiny button; her hands and feet, perfect with 10 fingers and 10 toes. Her eyes were fused shut, but we know they were beautiful just like the rest of her. We held our daughter as we held each other, crying as doctors called her time of death nearly two hours later.
By what we can only explain as a miracle, my two remaining triplets sat tight for 17 hours, critical time in the womb that proved to be life-saving. While doctors expected the same fate as Abby, the entire room was shocked as both Parker and Peyton arrived with strong enough lungs to survive that first night.
For weeks after my children arrived, I would press rewind in my mind and replay every minute of that day. Each Sunday, I lay awake reminiscing over the moments I went into labor and the minutes when each child was born. And as the sobs grew stronger, I would stare at the clock, awaiting the exact moment when doctors called Abby’s time of death. Those memories were temporarily pushed aside nearly two months later, on August 16, 2013, when we were once again faced with death — this time our son, Parker.
Doctors removed his tubes and wires and gently handed him to me. As our family gathered around us in a hospital chair, I began to read him books and comfort him like any mother would do. We talked about his siblings and the world outside the hospital. We even talked about college football, and we watched our little blondie look at us with a slight smile. Nearly four hours later, at 6:12 in the evening, doctors called Parker’s time of death.
It’s been nearly three years since my triplets were born, and even now, my memory hasn’t faded. So why would I torture myself with difficult memories that are guaranteed to crush my heart? It’s easy — those are the only memories I have. For those of us who have faced the unbearable experience of child loss, those heart-wrenching moments are the few things we can embrace. We are given tangible keepsakes: the footprints, the tiny hats, and the hospital bracelets. But it’s those few memories and pictures of our children that will have to last a lifetime.
As the years go by, I fear my memory will fade, and I pray to God those crystal clear moments will stay etched in my mind forever. While the early days were overpowered by emotional anguish and grief, these days, my memories are filled with happiness. Through my tears, a smile appears as I think of my two beautiful angels. As I watch my lone survivor, so full of life and energy, I can’t help but think that a little part of them lives within her. I think back to the day my triplets were born, and I’m reminded of the miracle of birth. All three of my babies existed, and that makes my heart swell with pride.