I’m departing from companion animals for this post. That’s because today would be the 31st birthday of our twin sons, Joshua Cade and Cole Stuart, had they lived.
Today, my husband, Harry, and I will ride our motorcycles up to Silver Star Mountain, and we will toast all of our children: our 2 surviving sons, Jordan and Ben, the 4 children we miscarried, and our twin sons especially, on their birth and death day.
Many years ago, I wrote about them for Chicken Soup for the Parent’s Soul.
Here is that story:
Held in our Hearts Forever
by Diane C. Nicholson
“C’mon, Jordie,” I offered. “Let’s read a story.”
I sank heavily against the wall, lowering my pregnant torso gently to the floor. My young son picked a favorite book, fully memorized from many bedtime readings. His blond head cocked with suspicion as he sat next to me. “Are you okay, Mommy?” he asked.
I placed his hand on my belly, which, as if on cue, grew tight with a contraction. Jordie’s eyes widened. “Oh, you are in labor,” he whispered. Our precocious son had celebrated his third birthday just five weeks previously. And now, as he snuggled up against me, I thought back to the peaceful days we spent awaiting his birth. My husband, Harry, and I had experienced the miscarriages of three planned and wanted babies, so that by the time Jordie arrived, he did so into very welcoming arms. And we held fast this new life, determined that nothing would part us. When insistent nurses wanted to take the baby to the nursery I held him tighter and told them that they would need a crowbar.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off our son. The word “precious” kept springing to my lips, for now there was justification for this addition to my vocabulary. Yet somehow we felt that we really didn’t have a newborn. This child was born with the look of an already experienced adult. Even friends with babes of their own would look into his eyes and say, “This kid is spooky! It’s like he knows…”
Jordie started talking, clearly and distinctly, at the age of nine months. When barely two years old he could carry on an adult conversation. I remember listening to him tell a friend, “You know, there’s this theory of where the moon came from. See there is a hole in the Pacific Ocean…”
And now, this little boy who knew, was silent.
That night was a blur of pain, doctors, nurses, hospital smells, sharing decisions with Harry, and laughing between contractions with my friend and midwife, Linda. Finally I was pushing out tiny feet, and the obstetrician whom I had only met the day before, was asking, “Is there a possibility of twins here?”
Suddenly this joyous event became one of sheer terror: pushing twins that were wedged together, that could not be born; the doctor pushing back, unlocking them, catching two little boys.
Joshua died first. His little heart beat only briefly. Cole stayed with us for almost three hours; long enough to squeeze his daddy’s finger, to let me hold his hand as he struggled to breathe. We waited for the flying squad from Children’s Hospital. They finally appeared as Cole’s heart beat its last. Later we were to discover that both boys were born without kidneys. They had no chance of survival.
Shock and grief filled the room. The head nurse bathed Cole at my bedside, her tears splashing into the water. As a physically and emotionally traumatized mother was handed her still babies, doctors and cleaning staff alike dabbed at their eyes. Children are not supposed to die.
Harry and I kept our babies for hours, forcing the coroner to wait. We had them foot printed, saved locks of hair, took photos, and loved their physical beings for as long as we could.
At home, Jordie had not been told anything. My mother bundled him up and brought him to the hospital. The nurses tried to stop her from taking him in. “You want to take a three year old in to see dead babies?” they asked incredulously.
My mother put aside her own grief long enough to gather her courage and insist, “Diane wants him there, and he is going in!”
Jordie walked in quietly, obviously worried about his very pale mother. He crawled up beside me. “Jordie, something very sad has happened. You had two little brothers, but they both died.”
“Oh. That’s too bad.” In reverence, his voice was hushed.
“Would you like to see them?” He nodded.
His grandmother picked Jordie up and took him over to the bassinet where Josh and Cole lay. He looked in and cooed, “Aww. They’re so beautiful. May I touch them?”
“Yes,” I replied. “But you have to remember, they are dead. They are cold, and they won’t move.”
“That’s okay,” he assured me, reaching out and gently stroking their cheeks. “They are so soft…” he sighed.
Jordie taught the hospital staff priceless lessons about grieving, and about not underestimating children. He continued his teaching during the difficult days, weeks and months ahead. Once, during one of my particularly intense crying sessions, I heard him answer, “No, I’m sorry. She can’t come to the phone right now. She’s crying because our babies died.” Death and grief were now subjects worth exploring for our surviving son. And he did so with confidence, and with a new understanding that death is an integral part of this continuum we call life, and is not to be avoided or feared.
Several years later Harry and I felt that it was time to try for another baby. That pregnancy ended in another miscarriage, this time of a little girl. Friends and family expected that we would remain a one-child family, but I had a strong feeling that there was another child waiting for us. I convinced my husband that we should try one last time and that however it concluded, it would be our last attempt.
When the pregnancy developed complications at thirteen weeks, Harry shook his head, “Here we go again.”
“No,” I was emphatic. “This baby is fine.”
“That August, with my husband, my mother, and Linda in attendance, I gave birth to a 9 pound, 5 ounce boy. Harry held his breath until our baby took one of his own. Benjamin was healthy, beautiful, and a custom fit for the void in our arms. Again, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room, but this time the tears were those of joy.
Although Benjie’s birth allowed our hearts to heal, Josh and Cole remain part of our lives. Jordie, now a young man preferring the name of Jordan, remembers little of his time with them. And Benjie knows the twins only from stories and from looking through their scrapbook. But they both understand why I light two candles every year in September. And they have both visited the grave and know the meaning of the headstone that reads: Our Twins. Held In Our Arms For Hours; Held In Our Hearts Forever.