I remember it vividly.
The doctor became excited, “Three! There are three!”
My husband and I looked at each other, “Three what? Arms?”
The doctor seemed happy enough. She then said, “I will never see this again in my career!” The words were worrisome, but her smile was comforting.
We kept asking, “Three what?” She finally looked at me and said, “Three babies! Identical triplets!!
We were shocked but felt so excited! We were beaming with happiness.
I remember my husband felt at peace with the whole thing. I heard hints of things that could go wrong. But he felt such a peace about it, I was reassured.
I remember worrying how I would take care of all three. I really wanted to breast feed. I wanted to give each one the best—to ensure that all three felt the entirety of our love.
I remember my husband setting up the nursery while I was on bed rest. I remember being bored on bed rest, watching my mom, mother-in-law, hubby, and rest of the family take care of everything. I spent a lot of time trying to visualize my three girls. I pictured them a little older, bouncing into our room in the morning. I always imagined them with curly hair, like mine.
I remember the baby shower. There was so much pink! Three beautiful girls were to be ours.
Then the day after the baby shower, I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. The nurses and doctors all ensured me everything would be okay.
The next day, their little heartbeats were slowing. They decided to do an emergency C-section immediately. I was put under anasthesia. I woke to my husband and doctor crying.
Emiliana Opal had passed away right after birth. But my sweet Alexandria Jewel and Sadie Pearl were still doing well.
Sadly, 12 hours later, their brains began bleeding. We had to decide whether to let them die in their incubators or in my arms. We carefully took Alexandria Jewel out of the incubator and baptized her. She died almost right after. There was no time to process it; Sadie Pearl was dying. We had to get her and baptize her. She too died in my arms.
All the air left my lungs. Each breath was like sandpaper. It hurt to breath. My beating heart felt like a knife wound.
We were supposed to leave the hospital with three baby girls. We left with three memory boxes.
Growing with Grief
While we left the hospital crushed, we also left determined to heal. We allowed ourselves to grieve heavily. We allowed ourselves to wallow in it. We sat in a deep dark pit.
I remember the first time I left the house after their funeral. My husband made me get in the car. We took a drive in the neighborhood. It seemed cruel the rest of the world was just going on, as if nothing had happened. It was hard, but I was glad that he cared enough to drag me out.
I will say this experience taught us who our true friends were. We lost some along the way who did not want to be around our grief, which was sad. But it opened our hearts to new friendships and deeper ones. True friends are those who recognize when it hurts to breath, when it literally feels like you were run over by a truck. True friends are those who do not chastise you for being angry with the world, with God. True friends are those who keep showing up, no matter how freaking depressing or how hard. They are the ones who bring you food, who clean your house, who hold your hand in your deep dark pit, who give you space when you need it.
My husband and I made a promise to each other in the hospital to stick together, to be honest with our feelings. To keep showing up. I am really blessed to have such an amazing man. Everything he did, he did out of love for me and our girls. He did everything he could so I could heal. We allowed each other to grieve. We were quick to forgive each other when anger was misdirected. He went to counseling with me. We were blessed to be able to take a month long trip to Germany; it was a trip to reconnect, almost a second honeymoon. It was also a trip in which we both got remembrance tattoos (something I thought I would never do!).
That first year was tough. The day they would have turned one, the family was amazing and held a party for the girls at a park in Galveston. We took donations to the hospital.
Through our family and friends, we were able to raise enough money so that Baylor All Saints (their only home, other than my belly) could have a separate room in the NICU—one in which people can say good-bye in privacy instead of there with everyone staring. The room is quite nice, with plenty of seating, fancy clothes for babies leaving this earth, and materials to make handprints or footprints. If you are ever at Baylor All Saints, there is a statue of a dress in the lobby with their names on it. I have to say, that is a hospital filled with caring people. We are so grateful.
Seven years later, it is still tough. The grief is still as heavy, still as horrible. HOWEVER, we are stronger now, so the weight is easier to bear. We now have a deeper relationship with God, a deeper understanding of the world. We personally feel it wasn’t anything we caused. God cried with us. He hates it as much as we do. We do not believe that God is up there handing some people miracles and smiting others. For whatever reason, we live in a world where some people die and some live. The key, we learned, is to stay focused on God’s love and that one day, we will be reunited. One day, we will understand all the whys. Until then, I have learned to stop trying to understand it. It is not possible.
And in the meantime, we have two wonderful living children, a girl, age 6 and a boy, age 4. Because of our experience, I think we can find joy even in the difficult parts of parenting. While sometimes we get angry at our living kiddos, we are quick to rebound from it, to find our center. We find ourselves sometimes enjoying even the fights we have with them. It means that they are alive. They are here.
Alexandria Jewel, Emiliana Opal, and Sadie Pearl, Mommy and Daddy still love you.
Rita is the proud momma of five. She has a five year old girl, a four year old boy, and identical triplets who reside now in Heaven. She and her husband live each day to honor the short but sweet lives of their Sadie, Emiliana, and Alexandria. They use that chapter of their lives to power their commitment to be fully present for their living kiddos, to remain committed to each other, and to keep their faith in God.
She also serves on the board for the Back to School Roundup, a volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing underserved schoolchildren and their families with school supplies and other “back to school essentials” necessary to return to school ready, and equipped, for a successful academic year. In addition, she is a freelancer who does all things nerdy for nonprofits (evaluation, grants, surveys, project management, and much more).