When two babies are born nearly a year apart, they are said to be Irish twins. This happens when one baby is conceived three months after the other was born.
I already have one set of Irish twins. The older of the two is going to be three years old, and the younger is heading to be a two year old.
At first, they were 5 clothes sizes apart; while one was wearing 0-3 months, the other wore 9-12 month clothes. One was very much a brand new baby, while the other was a toddler. Today, I can manage to get them both to wear the same sized clothes, although one is exactly a head taller than the other. They get jealous and fight with each other. When one cries, the other cries louder. When one laughs, the other comes running to see what all the fun is about. They push each other down, wrestle each other, and they hug and snuggle each other too. They love each other.
My newest baby is also an Irish twin. She was born in April, and is the brand new baby in our home. Yet, she is a totally different kind of Irish twin. She and her Irish twin will never be mistaken for fraternal twins when I go grocery shopping or when I take the children to the park. She will not have the same competition to cry louder than the sibling immediately older than her. The two of them will not squeeze into our little children’s couch, one pulling a blanket over the other ones lap, to snuggle with their sippy cups together and watch a cartoon.
You see, last April, I gave birth to my miscarried baby.
There is a person missing from our family in our family photos. There is a carseat missing in our car. There is a missing stack of folded laundry, there is no leaky sippy cup dribbling on the floor where one should be, there are no memories of scooting, rolling over, lifting his head, tasting his first solid food, wrapping his tight little hand around his grandma’s finger or smiling big for his daddy.
There is an ache in my heart where fondness should be. And yet there is hope also, where presumption would surely have otherwise resided.
My heart, and my life, are forever filled with an ache and a hope that would have never otherwise been.
I should have been pregnant with my miscarried baby until November 2011.
I became pregnant with my daughter in July 2011.
What is it like to share a pregnancy – to share time that belonged to another of my babies?
It was lonely – shortly after my natural miscarriage, I took a home pregnancy test to confirm that it was in fact, negative. It is a terrible feeling to long for him, to miss him, to dread seeing the one, lonely line on that test, and yet knowing that the single line meant that my body had safely completed the birth of my tiny baby; to see so simply and matter 0f factly that to the rest of the world it was all over, and to know that in my heart, life without the presence of this child had only just begun.
It was angering -having to face a perfectly timed menstrual cycle, exactly 28 days following the miscarriage. To see that my body could naturally, instinctively, do what it was supposed to do, and yet it couldn’t protect my sweet child – I felt like my body had cheated me.
It was confusing – when I saw the two pink lines for the first time with this pregnancy, where they should have remained with the former one, was bittersweet. I was not expecting to be nor was I trying to get pregnant. My heart was constantly challenged from the months of July to November, as I wondered what it would be like – how could I possibly prepare myself emotionally – if I not only experienced a second loss, but during the same time that I would have still been pregnant with my first miscarried baby?
It was humbling - these two babies could not have both lived here on earth. While traditional Irish twins are born a year apart, it is because the second is conceived three months after the birth of the first. It would have been virtually impossible for me to give birth to one child in November 2011, and the other in April 2012. God knows when we will be born - each of us. He knew when my miscarried baby would be born. He knew also when my daughter would be born. Neither of these births are an accident or outside of His purposes. They are both important. So while I know of the impossibility of both of these children living here on earth, I am confident in the hope that one day they both will in fact reside in eternity together. As impossible as it is for me to have my 5 children here, it is most certain that all 5 are made in the image of God Himself, have purposes, and have the opportunity to enter Heaven. In fact, one is already safely there.
It was a gift – God picked the timing. In the same month that my miscarried baby would have been born, November 2011, I also learned the gender of this baby, my first daughter. It was a gentle, pleasing buffer from the heartbreak, the agony, the despair that overcame my heart.
It was a challenge – as if I hadn’t grown enough through the experience of losing my child, of first laboring and delivering and then burying my dead baby, I mentally prepared for facing April 2012. April, the month that held the first anniversary – the first “angelversary” – the first stillbirthday of my miscarried baby. April, the month I discovered that my baby was dead. The month I saw him, motionless on the ultrasound monitor. The month I prayed desperately, deeply, for the most important miracle of my entire life – “Please God, please, give a flicker of life. Please let him stir. Please don’t tell me he is gone.” The month I understood that God didn’t ignore me, even though His reply seemed to be only silence – eery, overwhelming, my-life-will-never-be-the-same-again silence. The month that I was told that my dead baby didn’t have value and that I could discard of him as I wished. The month I waited for labor to begin, the month I hated myself, the month I dreaded what the end of labor would bring. The month I knew I would face my dead child. The month I met him – saw his perfectly formed, tiny body. Counted his miraculously beautiful toes. Cried over him. Folded him into his final, miniscule bed, drove to the cemetary, saw the hole in the ground. The hole that would hold my child.
Yes, this very same month, only one year later, is when I planned and prepared for the birth of my miscarried baby’s younger sister. I planned to experience labor again, anticipated what the labor would bring, hoped for who I would meet at the end of it. It is the month that I anticipated counting toes again and marvelling at God’s perfect design. It is the month I hoped for what the end of labor would bring. The month I knew I would face my dear child.
Would God give me this child, to enjoy in this lifetime? Would I be able to hear her crying, bring her to my breast for comfort? Would I clean her tiny little poopies and snuggle her in warm pajamas? Would we need the carseat? Would a grave hold her, or would her mother?
It is the month I knew I would need to be submissive to God’s will, and be ready for whatever outcome He ordained for our family. I would need to let God remain in control. I hoped – oh, how I hoped. I hoped and wished and prayed that this April would bring joy rather than more heartbreak.
I planned as though God would give our daughter to us in this life. And yet I accepted that His plans may be very different than that.
I didn’t have the control. Much like the births of each of my other children, in fact including her Irish twin, I could only participate in the ways that have been permitted for me.
I prayed. I planned. I hoped. I submitted. I labored. And then, I met her…
We give back to you, O God, those whom you gave to us. You did not lose them when you gave them to us and we do not lose them by their return to you.
Your dear Son has taught us that life is eternal and love cannot die. So death is only a horizon and a horizon is only the limit of our sight. Open our eyes to see more clearly and draw us closer to you that we may know that we are nearer to our loved ones, who are with you. You have told us that you are preparing a place for us: prepare us also for that happy place, that where you are we may also be always, O dear Lord of life and death.