About 6 weeks after the girls died, I thought I would die from my grief. The entire experience of pregnancy and loss felt like a bad dream that I’d imagined. It’s because I never met them. I had no concrete evidence they’d existed. I chose to be “put under” for the delivery, because I was scared, and when I woke up they were gone, no longer in my body. It wasn’t until after that I realized how much I yearned to know what they’d looked like. How I ached for the opportunity to hold my two daughters at the same time, looking at their matching little faces. How much it killed me that so few people ever get to be blessed with identical twins and I was ‘scared’ of the opportunity to meet them and tell them, to their sweet faces, that I loved them. That is a regret I will carry always, yet I have come to peace with the fact that I made the best choice I could at a time when there were simply no good choices.
Six weeks after they died I was at my desk at work, pretending to work, drowning in grief. Like a ton of bricks it all just hit me and I called my mother to ask where the girls were buried. I needed to see them. I needed proof that what I’d lived through was real. In judaism, though it is custom to bury a baby lost during pregnancy, it is very unusual to go to the cemetery , the rabbis handle the burial and the parents often aren’t even aware where the baby is buried. Slowly this is starting to change, but it’s how our ‘situation’ was handled. My mother told me the name of the cemetery. Within seconds I found it online. On their homepage they had a search bar. I punched in my last name and in under a second my girls popped up on the screen, “Fetus A and Fetus B.” I lost it. Bawling tremendous tears at my desk. I printed out the page and have it in their memory box.
How sad it was for me that the first “real world” acknowledgement of their existence was on a website. And how grateful I was to have that acknowledgement.
I visited them the next day. That may have been the day I took my first step towards healing.
When I did go, I brought with me two little rocks from my backyard. on them, using sharpie markers I’d written “Sunshine” and “Daisy”. At that point, the only one who knew that was their names was Elie… I was embarrassed that they had such silly nicknames, but it’s how I thought of them. It’s also custom to leave rocks at the graves of those you visit to let them know you’ve been there, I wanted to leave a little hidden symbol for them.
When I got to the cemetery, it was so sad. The area where the babies were was pitiful. Any of the graves that had markers (mine didn’t) were broken and disgusting. I collected all the little rocks from the area I could find and, together with my rocks from home, made a little pile at their plots.
On the way home I realized what I needed to do. The next day I went to my in-laws home and searched their backyard for 3 nice big rocks. I brought them home, washed them, and started painting them. After seeing their little graves I knew that there was no way I was going to be OK pretending they’d never existed. I used bright, vivid color, painting one to look like a shining sun, and the other a field of white daisies. I accented the rocks with glitter so that they’d sparkle in the sunlight. I envisioned the grass growing richly around their rocks and the color and light peeking through the blades when the sun was shining. I imagined a day when someone would walk by that corner of the cemetery, see the color peeking through the grass and come to take a closer look. They would read my babies names and know that whoever these babies are, they are loved.
The third rock I painted was for my own garden, at home. I wanted it to be my own reminder. I also thought it would give me peace of mind to see how the rock withstood the elements, since I didn’t know how frequently I’d be back to check.
It was almost a year before I got to the cemetery again and put the rocks in their forever home. I haven’t been back since.
For a long time I worried that the rocks had been removed, or that they were vandalized.
But then, I got an email from an acquaintance.
“Today is the 1 year anniversary of my due date of my little boy that I lost during my pregnancy. I went to visit the cemetery today, and realized that my son is buried right next to your girls. Your beautifully painted rocks put a smile on my face, and it feels good to know my baby has good company.”
That email literally stole my breath away. I cried from emotions that were so indescribable. I’m reaching for words today and they are escaping me. I think, I can best describe it as a feeling of relief… that this vision I had in my head of someone seeing their graves and knowing they were loved, had materialized in a way that was so much bigger and more meaningful than I’d imagined it could be. That they had brought someone I knew who was suffering some comfort, and for that I felt blessed and grateful. I realized a little while later that had I not made the choice to speak up about my loss, to share my girls and my journey in such a public way, despite my own initial fear and discomfort, she would not have known that those babies were mine. She would not have known that she could contact me and share her own private sorrow. For that I am grateful that I was given the support to always share my voice, my story, and my struggle.
If you are struggling to make sense of your loss or your circumstance, I encourage you to simply open your heart and share your story. You never know who is going to find the strength they need in your voice and honesty.