I’m not sure the best way to share this, and every few words I type I burst into tears all over again, but here’s the beginning of the story of our sweet matching baby boys Shepard and Deacon.
On January 14th, 2013 at 24 weeks and 5 days pregnant, my fourth pregnancy met some very serious complications, and I delivered two identical twin boys via emergency c-section in the Calgary Foothills Hospital. We knew we were having twins, but had left the sex and the question of whether they were identical or not a complete surprise. Our doctor thought we were awesome, (and we couldn’t help but agree.) What can I say, we lived for the surprise, and I was ready for a girl or boy either way, and didn’t feel the need to make any big preparations for whether we were receiving two boys or two girls. I bought extra unisex swaddling blankets and a bunch of new white onesies, but other than that, I felt ready. I was never going to be one to dress my twins in exact matching clothing sets constantly anyways, it just isn’t for me. And I figured I had the rest of their lives to buy clothing for them, no need to get a few months’ jump on it and get in the way of such a fun, joyous moment of surprise.
We were ecstatic to say the least about two more boys. Five handsome boys in five years, does it get any better than that? And as if our first three boys didn’t look enough alike, we were blessed with two more that looked exactly alike? How could two people on earth ever be more lucky? We quickly named the firstborn Shepard Fred. We’d had the name Shepard picked out for at least two years, and to be honest, I desperately wanted at least one of the twins to be a boy just so we could have a darling little Shep in our family. His middle name is after my dad, Fred, who was a (non-identical) twin himself, so it was perfect. Our twins were not hereditary or assisted through fertility in any way, just completely random, two spontaneous blessings. We had two girl names picked out, a girl/boy name, but not a boy/boy set, so it took us until the end of the first day to name Deacon. I’d loved the name Deacon ever since I was pregnant with Boston, but it needed to grow on Derick, and finally for his fifth boy, he was ready to embrace the adorableness of the name Deacon. He was given the name Bennett as a middle name after my mom’s maiden name. I grew up very close to my Grandpa and Grandma Bennett and loved them to pieces, and I also think their last name is very cute which, if I’m being honest, matters a lot (okay, the most) to me when picking names, middle or first.
To say we knew next to nothing about babies born premature would be an understatement. The doctor who delivered me assured me this was their best chance and that babies delivered at 24 weeks is not that terribly uncommon. All the twins’ doctor said to us in the first two days following was that they were doing great, and not to expect them to to be released from the hospital until their true due date, May 7th, which was obviously just fine with us (and naively put as at ease). We visited the boys in the nicu, they were kicking like crazy and clutching onto our finger just like any newborn does. They didn’t give us any reason to feel concerned. Something I found out later they apparently do because that’s what they felt parents would prefer, to not be given reason to worry until the moment there’s reason to worry. Even when the chances of having a reason to worry is extremely high, which is absurd to us. So needless to say we were shocked and unprepared when things started to take turns for the worse after day two.
After the longest most anguishing 24 hours of my life, Deacon passed away on January 17th, 2013 at 3 days old. We were absolutely torn to shreds, literally beside ourselves with grief. I wish I could say there were at least some moments of peace to be found, but there were none. Shepard, who had been doing surprisingly well, heartbreakingly started to follow in his brothers’ footsteps on day 4. After 48 more hours of what I can only describe as numbness and pain, Shepard passed away on January 20th at 6 days old. When it was time to let our little ones go, respectively, their doctor and their sweet nicu nurse brought us each boy into a quiet, private room with their breathing equipment still attached, and then gently took them off of it while we held our little boys for the first time. These two experiences were each wonderful blessings even though they were also accompanied with agonizing heartbreak. To experience them back to back like that has been beyond comprehension for us. We then had some time to ourselves while Shepard and Deacon each peacefully went to heaven. We were blessed to have my very brave little sister Leah there to take some pictures for us. Something we will never be able to adequately thank her enough for. Here’s a few of them below.
Shepard. I still cannot believe how much hair they had at only 24 weeks. You can see a slight bald spot on Shepard’s head due to one of the pic lines he had in at one point.
Below, Deacon. They had Van man’s exact little nose. Pretty amazing. They both weighed just over a pound, Shepard weighing a few grams more. They were literally little one-pound copies of our first three babies. Their eyes were still fused shut unfortunately and a touch swollen, (but not unlike a full-term newborn really). The nurses said they would have opened in a week or so. And true to form like the rest of our babies, they had some major eyelashes in the working.
Left, Shepard. Right, Deacon. My older sister Jolene and her husband brought us this adorable blanket and a simple diaper shirt just before we held Deacon. I’m so thankful to have held them each in the same darling blanket that will forever be somewhere special in our home to remind us of them.
My head and heart hurts all over again. Actually typing these words and having them belong to my life now is still so unreal to me. I know talking about something this personal in any sort of detail isn’t for everyone, but (I think) it’s for me. I hope it will help me in a lot of ways. I’ve always thought blogging was strangely therapeutic. It’s been over two months, and it feels like two seconds. It’s been more than six years since my brother Boyd passed away and it feels like six days. The phrase “time heals all wounds” completely boggles me, at least in relation to time on earth anyways. The wound will never fully heal until I’m reunited with my babies again. I’m thankful I have that moment to look forward to, at least I know that moment exists in my future, and holding them in that soft gray blanket under the most heartbreaking conditions imaginable wasn’t a true goodbye. Shepard and Deacon, when we’re through with the privilege of raising your adorable, perfect older brothers, mom and dad will pick up with you right where we left off, cradling you in our arms. Only this time we’ll be crying tears of joy, and we simply can’t wait.