My husband and I learned that we were having twins just six weeks into the pregnancy. I will never forget our ultrasound tech as she paused and said in her buttery Cuban accent, “They’s TWO peoples!”
I giggled and squinted at the screen while my husband sat at my feet speechless. The rest of our appointment was a blur and my emotions didn’t really kick in until we were in the car on the way home. My first feeling was one of joy and excitement. But then through tears I said, “I just want them to be okay.” You see, just a few days before our appointment someone we knew had tragically delivered and lost her twins at 20 weeks. Her story weighed heavily on my heart. My pregnancy of fear had begun.
Within a few days, in a flurry of hormones and queasiness, I began thinking about my own birth story. The more I thought about the day I was born, the more angry I became. How could my biological parents have carried me and delivered me and left me behind? What was it about me that made me suitable for the discard pile? I was hot with anger for many weeks. I shed many tears thinking about the day I was born and myself as a little baby, thrown into a scary unknown world all alone. I felt a pain in my stomach when I thought about my little body, swaddled in the nursery window of that hospital with proud families gazing in and around and over and past me … but never looking for me. As I pondered little heartbeats and their blobish white shapes on the ultrasound picture, I realized that I loved them, God wanted them to be, and I would never understand the decision my biological parents made. My pregnancy of healing had begun.
In the coming weeks, I grieved the mystery and sadness of my own birth story. And in a less than graceful manner, I stumbled to cope with my deepest fears about water breaking early and all of the possible problems with identical twins.
As my third trimester began I was hospitalized for preterm labor. Apparently I was having contractions four minutes apart pretty much all the time. It took them a week but eventually the doctors determined that this was just “normal” for me and I was sent home on bed rest. Most people shake their heads in pity at me when they hear about my bed rest but for me it was a blessed and sacred time. I was alone and at the same time I was very much embraced by the love and prayers of so many family and friends. I began to really notice the people in my life who loved us. People that chose us were coming around. Don’t get me wrong, I actually think they were there all the time, but I noticed them. As our parents, my sisters and our friends mobilized around us, my fears softened and I learned how to let go of the need to control this pregnancy. In the same way, my grief and sadness over that mysterious birthday and those mysterious people and their mysterious decision faded away. It became crystal clear to me that my life was all about adoption and the people who have adopted me along the way … my mom and dad, my grandparents, my sisters, my husband and my friends. My birth story only mattered as much as I made it matter. I remember holding my gigantic belly and feeling those baby arms and legs bumping around and realizing that the birth of these babies matters very little in comparison to every moment that will follow it.
And so it became a pregnancy of acceptance … my acceptance of the past and others’ acceptance of me just as I am.
At just under 35 weeks, my body was what my husband called “impressive!” A description of my discomfort would never be adequate, so I will simply say it was uncomfortable. Just after midnight on May 11, I woke up and swung my gigantic body out of bed just in time for my water to break. Within moments I woke my husband, threw on clothes, grabbed my hospital bag, and dialed my doctor while waiting by the car in the driveway. I remember even I was impressed with my own speed despite six weeks of perpetual stillness. The upside of being hospitalized at 26 weeks was that our arrival and check-in at the hospital was a cinch. We were old pros. I went to triage, they hooked me up and within an hour I was wheeled into surgery. I wasn’t particularly nervous or scared. I’m sure it helped that I never experienced active labor at all (other moms please don’t hate me). Actually I was quite chatty with the nurses and techs as they prepped me. Finally they let my husband come in and he sat down right next to my head. We prayed together and then we did our usual anxiety-busting activity … reciting our state capitols.
“Alabama,” my husband said. “Montgomery,” I said. “Alaska,” he said. “Juneau,” I said. And on and on until he said “Kentucky.” I said, “Kentucky…Kentucky…Hmmm…Kentu…”
And then we heard a screech like we’d never heard before! It was Nathan. Moments later we heard another screech, louder this time! It was Daniel.
I turned to my husband and said, “Wow, this is really the weirdest thing I’ve ever been through.” Both of us were in a bit of disbelief I guess. I mean, one moment the babies were inside and then suddenly they were out and I didn’t feel a thing. I couldn’t see anything or feel anything…It was the most exciting moment of my life but only my sense of hearing gave me clues about what was happening.
The boys had good apgar scores but after a short stop so I could kiss their cheeks, they wisked them off to the NICU. We didn’t think anything of it at the time, it just seemed like standard procedure for twins born this early. When we finally got to see them my heart sank. They were hooked up to all kinds of tubes and cords and beeping machines. And they looked miserable and thin and frail. Both boys had respiratory distress because their lungs weren’t yet developed enough to support their bodies. The prognosis was okay according to the doctors but it was hard to believe this in my heart despite what I was seeing with my eyes.
Every couple of hours my husband and I would tiptoe into the NICU and scrub ourselves from finger tips to elbows for 3 minutes just so that we could touch our sons. It seemed like we met a new nurse every time and they were always eager to share their assessment of the boys. My husband and I fearfully stepped onto the preemie rollercoaster and in the course of 12 days we were transported through pain and joy, discomfort and relief, disappointment and hope. The first three days were the worst but then, amid the IVs and tubes and beeping machines, I started to recognize the marks of adoption in my boys’ lives.
You see, they were born and my husband and I had already adopted them, accepted them, taken them as our own. My family and my friends who hadn’t even seen them had already adopted them. Even the strangers in the delivery room adopted them. Then for the next 12 days, every twelve hours, they were adopted again and again by gifted nurses and doctors who gently nudged their lungs into doing their job. And these little guys taught me the most important thing I have learned in my life to date … that I was adopted the moment I was born. I wasn’t all alone in that hospital; there were doctors and nurses and social workers and foster parents who adopted, accepted and took me in all along the way until I found my mom and dad. All of my life people have been adopting me as their own. And all along the way I have been adopting others as my family, my friends. It’s amazing what these two premature babies had to teach me.
Now they are both at home with me and they are chunky wiggly smiley boys! What really mattered about their birth wasn’t that they were born, it was that before, during, and after their birth they were important, loved, and accepted by others. Their birth story is actually pretty boring but their adoption story—now that’s something!