I am a mother. A mother of four. Two of my children can be held in my arms and two can only be felt by the heart. I have faced every parent’s worst nightmare, I have lived it, I have suffered the lowest of lows and somehow I am still standing, still living. I wouldn’t call it strength, I would call it “the only choice I have.”
Infertility can be an ugly thing, bringing doubt, fear, confusion, despair, and physical and emotional pain, but it can also be so so beautiful. It can bring you to your knees, evoking gratefulness and compassion you never thought you had. There can be beauty in the mess and miracles can be made. That is what my four children are. They are made from infinite love and a little bit of science, proof of never giving up on my dream, no matter the heartache, disappointment, and uncertainty.
My husband and I struggled to become parents for some time, but found hope in an amazing team of doctors that helped to make our dream come true with the help of IVF. Our first cycle was successful and much to our surprise, the embryo split, resulting in an identical twin pregnancy, deeming me high risk from the start. I was joyful, glowing, preparing to be a mother of twin boys, starting a registry and clearing space in their new room, when I was stopped in my tracks at almost 19 weeks. My cervix had shortened, dangerously. I was admitted to the hospital on strict bedrest, where I would remain until I delivered my sons at 21 weeks 2 days.
The room was dark, only the sound of sobbing and pleading for it all to be a dream could be heard. I held my Chase and my Gavin, both alive, and embracing their warm bodies, I had never felt such a deep love and connection. Then I had to say goodbye. A hole formed in my heart, the exact shape of my boys propelling me into what would be the darkest time of my life. I placed black curtains over my windows, stopped eating, refused to speak to or see anyone but my husband and therapist. I could not leave my house and felt that I could not carry on. I was completely broken, alone, a mother without her children.
I questioned every day “why me?” Questioning God, wondering how he could allow something like this to happen. I lost all faith and feared I would never emerge from the depths of grief. I became a different person, barely recognizing myself in the mirror. A mother is supposed to have her children in her arms, watch them grow, and in losing Gavin and Chase, I also lost a future and the picture of mothering I always imagined.
After some time spent isolated with raw grief, I began to emerge and found solace each evening under the stars. Wrapping myself in a warm blanket, I’d choose two children’s books, curl up on my porch, and read to my boys by the flickering of a candle so perfectly named “earth mama, angel baby.” It is there that I felt peace. In speaking to them each night, picturing them as the brightest stars in the sky, I began to navigate mothering children in Heaven. I’d see them running, laughing, free and infinitely happy. Ironically, a friend sent a card at that time with the most perfect quote from The Little Prince – "In one of the stars I shall be living, in one of them I shall be laughing, and so it will be as if all the stars are laughing when you look at the sky at night." This became my new routine. Instead of changing diapers and nursing in the middle of the night, I'd gaze up at the sky and I would feel wrapped in Gavin and Chase's warmth and love, consoling my aching heart. These quiet moments, in the stillness of the night, are what pulled me out of the darkness and into the light, where I knew they would want me to be. There was a reason I stayed and I was determined to find it.
White feathers soon began appearing in my path, reminding me of my angels’ presence in my life. Although I could not carry my twins in my arms, I would forever carry them in my heart. Gavin and Chase are ingrained in my soul and are forever entwined in my DNA. It was as if during all of those nights under the vast starry sky, they were urging me more and more to keep living. To live with purpose and compassion, to appreciate the fragility of life, to love deeper and find joy amidst the darkness.
In continuing to live a life dedicated to my boys, I clung to the hope of mothering living children. With four more rounds of IVF, using with the same embryos created with Gavin and Chase, we were blessed with two rainbow babies. Although I still struggle daily with the juxtaposition of feeling both joy and grief, I am comforted in knowing that my family is forever complete in my heart. I am a mother. A mother of four. Two of my children I kiss goodnight, and two brought me back to life under the light of the summer moon.