19th July 2018
Anyone who knows me (or follows me on Twitter!) knows I’m currently addicted to the Hamilton: An American Musical album. I’ve listened to it daily for about 3 months now. Honestly, if you’ve not heard it, go and listen immediately. Your life will be the richer for it.
Anyway. One of the songs, entitled Dear Theodosia, depicts the two lead characters sitting by their children’s cribs and talking about how fatherhood has impacted their lives. It’s a beautiful song, sung wonderfully by the actors and it’s often a fan favourite because of its sweet nature.
I recently started thinking about a line from the song and I just can’t shake it.
“When you came into the world you cried, and it broke my heart”.
I assume it was written to mean “I instantly felt devastated that I hadn’t protected you from this sadness”. That parental protective instinct that makes you want to shield your child from any and all hurts.
The meaning that it holds for me is quite different and it shakes at me every time I hear the song recently. I’m writing this out to try and rid myself of that particular demon and maybe get back to just enjoying the damn thing.
When my twins were born, I was 23 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I was 5 1/2 months pregnant. The abortion limit is 24 weeks. Chances of survival for a singleton baby are 16%. Twins…well there are very few sets of surviving 23weeker twins. If they survive, babies born this early have a 60% chance of being moderately or severely disabled.
A huge medical team was with me once I started to push. The consultant had told us that if the twins showed some fight, showed that they wanted to breathe, they would help them. They’d ventilate them and work on them and then we’d see if they lived through the first 24 hours. If they didn’t show that fight, they wouldn’t help them. They wouldn’t cause them distress.
When they came into the world, they each let out a single cry…and it broke my heart.
It broke as I was simultaneously: ecstatic they were alive, they survived birth; devastated that they’d arrived so early; terrified that they didn’t have “the fight”; worried about what pain they were in, how scared they might be, whether they could even be scared; apprehensive of what journey lay ahead.
Of course my heart didn’t really break. Actually, I mainly just felt panic. I tried to watch for signs of J’s tiny chest rising, even as I pushed to deliver D. I tried to catch a glimpse of them before they were taken away to NICU without me getting to touch them or figure out which family member they resembled. I was mainly numb.
It’s weeks later, as I watch them fight for their lives, pull through their second, third, fourth surgeries, throw every ounce of their being into just surviving the next minute, that my heart breaks. It breaks when I wonder what we could all have done to deserve this. It breaks today, two and a half years later, as I grapple with the prospect that my son’s developing disabilities may rob him of a normal life. It breaks because i wonder if he might never feel his own heartbreak-because I don’t know if he’ll be able to fall in love.