10 Years After Losing Twins, A Mother Reflects

I was almost six months pregnant with twin boys after undergoing IVF when, at a routine anatomy ultrasound, we discovered one twin had died, and shortly after we got the rest of the bad news. I was suffering from preeclampsia, a severe case, and I had to be admitted to the hospital immediately. Twelve hours after I was admitted, the doctors surrounded my bed and told me that I was going to die unless the pregnancy was terminated. Either my son and I could both die, or I would just lose my son.

It was the worst day of my life.

After I came home from the hospital I disappeared into grief. For three weeks I lay on my couch, watching reruns of the vampire show Angel, and listlessly eating junk food. I spent most of my time in the gray of loneliness, a hand on my empty belly, feeling terribly lost. I remember handing out Halloween candy to the neighbor’s kids while silent tears ran down my face. I remember occasionally swimming out of the sadness long enough to be terribly fucking angry, full of a rage so violent I was afraid I’d hurt myself.

But, as it does, time passed. I lost my sons – posthumously named Nicholas and Zachary – 10 years ago last month. I was blessed in 2006 to give birth to my daughter Tori, a whirling dervish of energy and cleverness and creativity. The pain of the loss of my sons dimmed with time, although it’s still there, a dark river running at the bottom of my heart.

When I meet other women who have lost children… we always find ourselves leaning into each other, just slightly, so we can all help shoulder the burden of our losses.

Losing unborn children is a tricky thing; people often don’t understand that particular agony. I know, now that I have my daughter, that losing a living child would be a million times worse (not that I believe in the pain olympics, but you get what I mean, right?). But that doesn’t erase my grief over my sons, over the potential of their lives.

A couple of years ago I was at the zoo with my daughter when I saw two boys, obviously twins, casually walking together with their arms thrown over each others shoulders, their faces shining with love for each other. As they walked past me, I bent over like I’d been dealt a physical blow, pain searing through me once again, as fresh as the day it happened. Grief, I’ve found, is like that. Most of the time it’s that dark river, but sometimes that river floods, and I drown in it.

I was told many “helpful” things after I lost my sons, such as “At least they are with God now” and “They are in a better place”. Both of those statements, for the record, are bullshit. However, one person told me the Buddhist belief about miscarried and stillborn children: that they only need to touch on this earth long enough to be loved once more before they move on to Nirvana. I cannot tell you how much this comforted me.

A decade after losing Nicholas and Zachary, I can now see the gifts they’ve given me. I love my daughter far more fiercely because of losing the boys. I have a well of newfound empathy, allowing me to be far more tolerant of those around me. My story has touched many lives, even bringing shades of gray into discussions of reproductive rights with many that only see that issue in black and white. I learned about the power of my writing as I coped with the aftermath of my grief. My husband and I found we could survive a loss and still find joy in our relationship. My sons, in the brief time they were here, gave me much.

That said, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt. The end of October is always painful, as is the end of February/beginning of March (when the boys were due). The tears always come those days. I’ve learned to let them come.

While many will discuss the five stages of grief, no one talks about how the grief is eternal. Sure, eventually you arrive at acceptance, but that doesn’t make the situation or sadness disappear. For me, that acceptance element includes accepting the fact that I am still sad, 10 years later. When that river floods, I no longer fight it. I know that I need to let that grief sweep me away, for as long as it lasts, until I arrive back on dry land, hollowed out and exhausted.

My mother in law lost a child before my husband was born. Her name was Victoria (yes, my daughter is named after her), and she was a thalidomide baby, with birth defects so severe she could not survive. It was 1959, and she coped with the loss in only way she knew how. She refused to hold the baby (or perhaps the doctors recommended it), she went home after and removed every photo of her pregnant from the photo albums, and she never, ever spoke of it. Not once.

The loss of my sons has shaped me, molded me into who I am now, and the sadness will always be there, and this is completely fucking normal.

Today we process the loss of children differently, and we talk about it. When I meet other women who have lost children – whether from early miscarriages or SIDS or cancer – we always find ourselves leaning into each other, just slightly, so we can all help shoulder the burden of our losses. We recognize each other. We all swim in that river.

But there is still an expectation that, with time, that grief will disappear. At the first moment of loss, the grieving are offered soothing condolences, sent casseroles, but then abandoned. I’ve been told, more than once, that I need to “move on” from my grief. But 10 years in, I know this: I will never move on. The loss of my sons has shaped me, molded me into who I am now, and the sadness will always be there, and this is completely fucking normal.

Loss and grief are the backside of love. While the saying, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” is often said about romance, it is far more true when you discuss the loss of a child. It was better to have known, and loved, my sons for their brief time on this planet, than to have never loved them at all. Their grace, and their loss, is my blessing.

Once again, I say goodnight to my sons, Nicholas and Zachary, loved and lost a decade ago. I hold you in my heart, even when it hurts.

(Photo: Jrperes/Pixabay.com)

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13 Responses

  1. Editor’s Note: What We Leave Behind | Tue Night

    […] Cecily Kellogg reflects on the loss of her twins. […]

  2. Adrianna Dufay
    Adrianna Dufay

    I would like to hug you through the internet. I had preeclampsia in both of my pregnancies and my biggest fear was having to choose between my health and the health of my babies. I narrowly avoided having to make that choice, but I know how finely those hairs split.

    Lucky Victoria, to have such a thoughtful and loving mom. And though she never was able to meet Zachary and Nicholas, her life is shaped by them. Peace to you and thank you.

  3. Tart of Darkness

    I find it interesting that only 2 days ago you shared this of Facebook

    I am not watching that video of the father singing to his dying child. I’m triggered just seeing it in my stream and wish people would stop sharing it. Call me callus, but having nearly died in pregnancy twice, it’s just too fucking much.

    Why is his story of lost not worthy of being shared and yours is? I can understand someone who may not want to watch it and may not share it personally, but to call an all out ban to it is puzzling. Is his story not valid? Why should his grief be kept private and yours not? As far as I can tell it was not manufactured or part of building a brand or part of a social media plan. It was posted on someone he knew social media and it grew its audience from there.

    It seems you writing this piece so soon after his has hit “social media gold” in the way a lot of people are being touched by it and passing it along is almost like you are in competition

  4. Just a Reader

    Aren’t there more articulate words to use besides “fuck” and “fucking?” I get the residual anger and hurt, but it’s hard to take a serious article…well seriously…when “fuck” is scattered throughout it.

    • s

      Maybe you should’ve written it. Oh wait, you’re not the one telling the story about losing two babies.

  5. Nancy

    In response to other comments – I see why the Blackbird video was a trigger for Cecily and she’s allowed to express that on her personal FB page without your judgement Tart of Darkness. re: the use of Fuck – some of us just fucking curse in our daily fucking speaking and writing – don’t judge us for fucks sake

    • Janelle

      How is it judgemental to ask why someone feels that another person’s story should be censored, while their own should not be? I’m genuinely curious why you think that.

      To be frank, I see many things that I don’t necessarily want to see shared on Facebook; I hide the story and move on with my day; I don’t ask people to stop sharing whatever it is because I personally do not like it or find that it triggers negative emotions. The beauty and curse of the internet is that it gives everyone a voice.

  6. Tart of Darkness

    Nancy – if you actually read and comprehended my comment I did say I could understand some people not watching the video and sharing it. My issue with her FB comment, posted just 2 days ago was the plea that other people should stop sharing it and my question was how is ok for Cecily to write about her loss, but not the father who not only lost a child but a wife in just a few days.
    He has a right to share his story, and I don’t think he expected the attention he is getting, it was probably intended just for friends and family, but ended up showing to the world, “this is/was my son and he was very much wanted and loved.”
    Cecily makes a point in the piece how her story and her “writing” has power. Well, that father/son video might have power or touch another dad who has found himself in a similar situation. Cecily does not have the monopoly on child loss and grief and there are things she says in this piece that makes it seem like only her and her story deserves attention, and sadly, alas it is not.

  7. Just a reader

    I’m not judging, per se, but when you’re a “writer” by profession, there are more articulate and professional ways to get your point across without saying “fucking.”

    I also get why the Blackbird video was a trigger, but to state that you wish people wouldn’t share it is selfish and unprofessional. Click the “hide this story” option and move on.

    I have a close friend who went through this same horrific situation, and I would never wish it on anyone. However she dealt with the aftermath professionally, and I have to wonder if Cecily’s reaction after all this time is “normal.” Based on her opinion-its not. She has seen the blackbird video, and yes, she cried. But she also shared it and mentioned that “no soul, no matter how small, should be recognized, just like my (name here.)” Different strokes for different “folks,” I get it, but…

  8. Anna

    Cecily made it very to say that “My story has touched many lives” and “today we process the loss of children differently and we talk about it”

    While I can understand that Cecily might not have wanted to watch the video. To outright declare a ban on sharing it with others? Disturbing and wrong on so many levels. What about acceptance? And “processing…loss differently?”

    Seems to me that all cecily cares about is herself. And her loss. And getting attention for it. Because if she truly cared about loss of children as she states she would never be so callus and uncaring about the video. She’d simply delete the video from her face-book, block it from being shared and kindly ask that people not send it to her since she found it upsetting.

    I also wonder how much of it was because it was a man, a father that experienced such loss. Whatever it is? Cecily obviously doesn’t practice what she writes about. If she did, she’d have compassion for that father.

    This whole article just made my teeth itch because she kept mentioning how much SHE touched people’s lives. And I think that might be a big reason why she hates the video…people are touched, moved and inspired by this poor father and his immense loss. He’s been quiet. Cecily however needs to inform everyone here how much she had touched peoples lives…and so she writes this. Hoping for more attention? seems it since she demands people ban a moving video about loss.

  9. AussieRather

    The author does not explain why exactly she finds the well-intentioned saying “They are in a better place” — typically, “better place” is implied to be Heaven — to be “bullshit,” but finds what someone told her about her sons being in Nirvana deeply comforting.

    In Buddhism, Nirvana is not the same as “Heaven.” Children who have died are “re-born.” (i.e., reincarnated.)

  10. K

    Thank you for this article, certainly we are scarred-for-life group who lost children on the cusp of viability outside the womb.

    Another layer of agony is when the demise was due solely to a botched test on an otherwise healthy baby by a careless physician. In my case amniocentesis, The doctor said he was sorry, but I signed a consent form, so not his fault.

    Stiff laws passed in this country protect HMOs, doctors and hospitals, so patients have no recourse.
    They can, in essence, get away with murder. But something I’ll live with forever.

  11. s

    How sad that the comments on this page became all about some drama


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