Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Blessed...Doubly Blessed

Wow… 5!  It’s just unbelievable to me that the little boys who have impacted my life more than anything in this world arrived 5 years ago today. 
As I wrote in my last post, there are two strong areas of thoughts and feelings floating in my heart and brain this week as I celebrate my boys’ birthdays.  I covered the first already, the side that deals with the negative impacts of my boys not being raise together as twins on earth both for me and for those in my life.  Today I want to focus on the blessings, the joy and absolute gift that both of my boys have been to me and how awesome it is to celebrate this day, this Birth day.

I still find myself completely blown away by the fact that inside MY body these two little boys were formed.  There is nothing that can take away the memory of that amazing moment.  Things didn’t work out the way we thought they would on September 19, 2008 when we learned that little beans were jumping around inside of me but that doesn’t take away from the wonderment that I have that inside MY body one of the most miracles that can happen in the creation of life happened.  One egg, one sperm and two amazing babies.  Wow!  It feels, at times, even now, that it happened to someone else. And yet I know it did and I know it forever changed me. 

Everyone who reads this who has ever read much of what I’ve written here and everyone who reads this who knows me in ‘real’ life knows how scared and overwhelmed I felt at times.  But I also think that all of those people know how excited, how amazed, how blessed I felt too.  I had such dreams for my babies, such plans for all we’d do, such thoughts of just how truly ‘cool’ it was that I was going to be the mom of identical twins.  I told everyone and I know I glowed when I did it.

It was the most amazing time of my life and when those dreams were shattered it became harder to remember that amazement and easier and easier to remember the overwhelming feelings I had experienced in those first few weeks.  But now it’s 5+ years later, I have 5.5 years of memories to sort through and I can now see things in such a different light.

Loss shakes you to the core and for so long, maybe even forever, there is a part of you that remains ‘shaken’.  For some it seems like you are forever damaged, forever broken.  But for me I know this isn't the case.  I know a part of my heart will always ache for what could have been, what should have been.  But a much bigger part of my heart sees each footprint that my twins left on my heart, footprints that lead me to places I never dreamed my life could go, footprints that trace a route of empathy, compassion, emotional and spiritual growth and of motivation for change.  I can see the times that both my boys held my hand and lead me to a new places where I never dreamed I would go. Places where sadness was prevalent, where the struggles of others to find any sense of hope existed.  I see their little arms waving me towards places where fundraising and awareness happens.  I see the signs of their love on the keys under my fingers.  I hear the sound of their voices in the words that I speak when I share our story and where I found Jesus in it.  

I am so blessed and I am so thankful for each and every minute of the one thousand nine hundred and seventy one (give or take a few) days that I have had with Cameron and Cole in my life, from the moment of conception to now.  I didn’t imagine, in the days and weeks that followed the loss of Cole , that I could ever be thankful for EVERYTHING that has happened.  I have no better way to explain what I am saying here then to repost something I wrote in response to a devotion at the time of American Thanksgiving last fall…on the subject, obviously, of thanksgiving…

Jesus you have walked a difficult path with me and I am so very thankful that you are there each step of the way.  I could sit here today and type about all the many things I am thankful for... a faithful, loving husband, amazing children, our home, our food, our health, a wonderful family of parents, brothers, sister in laws, nieces and nephews, the most amazing church and church family, caring friends, a great job I love etc.  But the thing that catches me on this devotion is the question 'how is gratitude a powerful witness to our faith in you, Jesus? 
I don't even have to pause to think...being grateful for all that losing my son has brought to my life is likely the most powerful witness I can imagine.  And truly Lord, I am thankful that my son is with you.  I am thankful for the experiences that loss has taught me.  I am so very blessed by all the people that have come into my life because I lost him.  I am delighted in the things You have motivated me to do through the healing process after losing him.  I am sad, I get angry, I know that I wish, many times over, that he was here.  But I am grateful and I thank you Lord for taking Cole home and giving him an eternity of pain free existence.  Moreover God, I am so very thankful that you saved my life, changed my life, made me more whole, more sympathetic, and empathetic and more compassionate through this loss. 
God, you are ever powerful but you are also ever loving.  I am so blessed and my life is so rich because you choose it to be that way.  You have given me great gifts and I thank you for each and every one...even the ones that others would never wish on anyone.

Happy 5th Birthday Cole!  From you I have learned that you don't need to be present to be a gift.  You have shown me that you can impact the world without being in the world  and that you can give me moments that take my breath away without ever having taken a breath.  
Thank you for teaching me what true unconditional love really is, for giving me my first motivation to live my life for Jesus, for leading me to be transparent, open and honest about how hard life can be and how much easier it is with Jesus at the wheel. Thank you for letting me be your mommy and for allowing me to share our 'mother son' time with TTTS and loss families all over the world.  We may not spend time together in traditional ways but the time I give to be your mommy, the time I spend not focused on your brothers but on you and what you motivate me to do, has gone far beyond you and I and may very well have impacted many other people.  I love for that you are and forever will be.

Happy 5th Birthday Cameron!  You have shown me that miracles are real, that prayers are answered, that there is hope when all seems lost.  Thank you for being you, the amazing, full of life, full of love, full of awesome kid that you are.  You, my dear son, are a light in the darkness, you shine, you glow, you ignite a flame in those who meet you.  You show me that it is possible to have the energy, the excitement, the mischief and most of all, the love, of two boys inside one very adorable little body.  Your laughter and smiles brighten everyone's day.  Your imagination brings smiles and laughter to others lives.  You are wise beyond your years, 'an old soul' so many have told me.  I know that Cole will forever be a part of you because I can see him in your eyes, I can feel him in the hugs you crave so much, in the hugs you give so freely.  We didn't lose him the day he died, he came to be with you, to guide you, encourage you and live through you.  We didn't lose him, we gained a wonderful little boy whose experience with life has made him wise beyond his years and who would not be who he is today if he wasn't a twin, if he wasn't one half of a whole.
Jeremiah 1:5 
"Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations - that's what I had in mind for you."
God has known forever who both of you would be today, tomorrow and always.  He has had holy plans for you both since before you were even conceived.  He has already used you to impact me, your dad, your brothers and, well, everyone who has met you or heard me speak of your story.  He isn't done with either of you and has great things planned for your life.  I am so very thankful to Him for knitting you, together, in my womb.  I am so very thankful for each and every moment of the last 1 971 days... the ones that made me laugh, the ones that made me smile, the ones that made me cry, the ones that broke my heart, the ones that gave me joy and the ones that gave me hope.  
Happy Birthday Cameron and Cole! <3 font="">

Monday, February 24, 2014

When Two Become One – What Not to Say….

This week marks 5 years since my twin sons made their arrival on this earth…their much anticipated arrival. Unfortunately it wasn’t anticipation filled with only happiness but rather with fear, sadness and even dread. 
I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to share in the days leading up to this much celebrated birthday and decided I have two very distinctive things I need to share in my heart…two things that need two different entries to share. 
Today I want to talk about what it’s like to be a loss parent, an angel momma to a loved one who you see develop in the face and actions of their twin and in the case of identical twins like Cam and Cole,  in the face of their twin.  And what I most want to share is what not to say or even think and why… because when the two babies you were expecting to raise together suddenly become one it really is a place of bittersweet heart tugging feelings. Some of this I have posted before and will pull from that post but some of this is just a strong feeling I have lately that people don’t ‘get it’ and need to be reminded of just how hard this is.

The absolute worst thing anyone could ever say is ‘at least you still have one’ or ‘thank God you didn’t lose them both’.  This is likely the most hurtful thing any twinless twin parent could hear.  Basically we are being told that we should be happy with the life that still beats in our womb or wiggles in our arms and that the life that has left that we had prepared our hearts and minds for is not important.  When this is said it feels like we are being told that we aren't grateful enough or that we should be happy we can still have a child since so many people don't have any children.  And while I respect that and appreciate it, there is no way to compare the two.  At least I still have one... yes and at least my heart is still beating despite the fact that it shattered into a million pieces the day I learned my son was gone.
Oh and by the way there is no at least in childloss.  None.  If you want to support your loved one in the best way possible, keep “at least” out of your conversations with them.
And this ties directly into my second point. 

Please don’t tell me to focus on my survivor, to not forget what a miracle he is, to cherish him and please don’t ever tell me I am lucky to have him. By saying that you are telling me that you think I am so shallow that I can’t see that.  By saying that you make me feel like I don’t have a right to focus on BOTH my miracles…that I should not be truly amazed that my body created two identical little boys.    I know that Cameron is a miracle, that he is amazing. I know we came so very close to this not being the case, I know that we could have lost him too. But that doesn't mean I am 'lucky'. It's not so lucky to bury a child, not so lucky to have been through what we were through.

Please remember that there are days that deserve to be recognized, that I need to be recognized.  Cole has both a ‘death’ day AND a ‘birth’ day.  He didn’t just die, he was also born.  On Cameron and Cole's birthday PLEASE acknowledge that BOTH of my boys have a birthday that day, both of my boys were BORN that day. They might not both have had a heartbeat that day, one was born still but he was STILL BORN... That day is a day of joy for us as we celebrate the miracle that is Cameron but please don't forget that Cameron has a twin brother who was also born that day!
And along with this, please understand that it really, REALLY hurts when you don’t recognize either of these days in our life…especially if you did on that first or even second year and now you don’t.  I know that it might have seemed like the ‘right’ thing to do by sending me a message, calling me or sending a card etc on Cole’s first angel day (and please know that it was and is so very appreciated) but for some reason people think that it’s only hard at the start, the first few years.  December 13th will NEVER be a day I DON’T cry.  This is one of the things that bugs me the most. There are very, very few people in my 'real' life who call me or send me a message on Cole's angel day. Some people who have known me all of my life who all but ignore this day. That very much. He was and is a very important part of my life and that day is the most painful of days for me. If I am an important part of your life, can't you make this day an important part of it too...can't you make me important that day above all other days. I know it's really close to Christmas and we're all busy but please, just call me, send me message, a card, come by for a visit... don't ignore that day. Ok rant, over.  

Do not discredit the bond my twins will forever have.  They were created together, they grew together and they lost their physical bond together, in the same womb, touching each other.  Don’t roll your eyes or look away when I say things about Cameron not liking to be alone or needing the touch of others all the time because he’s never been alone from the moment of conception.  Twins have a forever bond, twins have their own language, twins can communicate without ever speaking or almost read each other’s thoughts.  There are countless stories out there of twins separated at birth who end up marrying spouses with the same name, selecting the same career, living in similar homes etc.  If this is the case then why is it so hard to imagine that a twin on earth and a twin in heaven will also have a forever bond. 

Some days are harder than others, some days just getting out of bed is hard, even 5 years later…and those are the days I need your support most.  Being reminded that my boys lost this connection when Cole died, being faced with the reality that I am raising one half of a whole is hard, it makes me sad.  Even 5 years later it still happens and some days I want to crawl back into bed and hide because I feel that sad but I do keep going, I do put on my fake smile and I do go about my day. I know I do a good job of covering some days...especially days when I watch a set of gorgeous ID twins playing together (which happens almost weekly), when I've caught Cam in his 'twinness' in front of the mirror or playing by 'himself' talking to another boy with another voice or just simply when something has triggered a memory and my heart breaks all over again. But trust me, some days I'd rather just stay in bed or sit at home with my 'TTTS family' and be lost in memories and sadness.
But I don't do that, I keep going, put on my big girl pants and a smile and go about my day. Lots of times people who don't know me as well, or rather haven't known me as long, tell me how amazing I am about it all, how strong I am, how inspiring. But those closest to us always seem to be the ones who miss this or even worse are more critical and judgmental. Some days having one of those people tell me how proud they are of me, how strong they see me etc...well that would just make my day!

Never, EVER say how hard raising twins would have been either physically or emotionally. This comment is both degrading and rude.  I know where you are coming from, I get that life would have been busy and the way my life has been in the last few years, the instability in income etc, has made raising three boys difficult without thinking of the fourth.  But really, REALLY, you think I want to be reminded of that??? By saying this you are basically telling me that I couldn’t have handled it and that, my friend, is an insult! And if you happen to have twins, please don’t complain to me about how much work they are… I don’t want to hear it because I would give my left arm to be that busy!

Please do not expect me to not be sad or affected by milestones.   It is impossible to not be affected by those moments that should have been a celebration of two little matching boys doing this together…like going to school, like graduating, like going off to college. It is reminder of what should have been.  I live with reminders everyday of what I have lost and everyday just might have a bit of sadness to it.  For me, most days I don't wake up sad but I ALWAYS wake up remembering what has happened, always wake up thinking of Cole within minutes.  It doesn't always make me sad but I do still find myself thinking 'I can't believe this happened, I can't believe this is my life'.  I marvel each day how much different my life is but it isn't always a feeling of how negatively different it is...just how different it is.

I am a twin momma, I will always be a twin momma.  I may not always feel like I am one because it's hard to even imagine what it would have been like.  I may not always feel like I am one because people discourage me from talking about my twin boys, from talking about my angel baby.  No twin mommy should ever be made to feel like she isn't a twin mommy and no twinless twin should ever be made to feel like he or she doesn't share something truly amazing, truly a miracle with another child conceived with them, loved with them, forever connected with them. It is a bond that will never end.