Cole and Dillen’s Story
Our story begins with the hands down, no comparison, happiest moment of my life. I was 38 and my partner, Theresa was 45. We had been together over 8 years and finally decided to try to start a family and then rode the infertility roller coaster that so many women endure. We had been anxiously awaiting the call; at last the phone rang and it was our nurse confirming that my blood test was positive and I WAS PREGANT! After talking with the nurse, my doctor came on the line and said, “You are SO pregnant!” “There is probably more than one!” My numbers were very high. Never in my life had I sobbed with such raw emotion–tears of pure joy!
We didn’t have to wait long wondering how many there were. Giddy, nervous jokes of “Dawn & T Plus Three” were thrown around continuously. 12 days later, we saw our two little peanuts for the first time. We even saw the pulsing of their hearts beating! We were thrilled beyond belief. We had thought that we would only be able to have one child and now we were going to be blessed with two. The news of twins was an unbelievably amazing gift!
The pregnancy was going relatively easy. I loved nesting, spending lots of time at home talking and dreaming of when our kids would finally arrive. We worried of course. Where in the heck would we put all the baby stuff times two, how would I nurse two babies, how would we afford putting them both through college at the same time? I regret that I spent even a second of that precious time worrying.
We went in for an amniocentesis at 16 weeks. We didn’t want to find out the sexes, believing that finding out at their births is the one true surprise in life. Twin #2 (turns out that was Dillen) was smaller and there was some concern about a small amount of fluid in his brain. It was a very scary wait for the amnio results. When we found out that both babies had perfect chromosomes, we were again thrilled, so relieved and grateful. Because Dillen was small, we would have extra ultrasounds, which we thought was great because we loved getting to see the progress of our active little ones in the womb. At several of our ultrasounds Twin #1 (that was Cole) looked like he was kicking Twin #2 in the head. We joked about having a smart aleck on our hands already and started calling Twin #2 “little scrapper” thinking he would be born ready to get back at his “big” brother.
For over five months, every sentence in our lives began with “when the babies get here…” We were so excited and impatient to have them with us. I was getting pretty big and I was so proud of my growing belly and our two babies thriving inside me.
I didn’t realize how tired I had been during the first trimester until I felt the surge of energy that came in the second trimester. After a particularly busy and energetic weekend, I had a backache Sunday night. At the time it seemed normal for how big I was getting. Now I know that I was probably in early labor. That night, we happily went to bed touching my stomach and talking to our kids. Monday morning, February 23, 2009, I woke up at around 4:30AM with cramps. I didn’t think much of it, went to the bathroom and went back to bed. I woke with cramps again at around 6. This time when I went to the bathroom, there was a little blood. I wasn’t too worried but I checked the book. It mentioned preterm labor. I remember thinking, “wow, how awful, but of course that couldn’t be happening to me.”
I decided to take a shower and then call the doctor. I was cramping again when I got out of the shower. This time when I tried to go to the bathroom, there was quite a bit of blood. That’s when I got scared. I woke up Theresa and called the doctor. She said it was probably nothing to worry about and that I could go to the hospital or I could wait a couple of hours and go to her office. We decided to go to the hospital. I was cramping again and right before we left, I tried to go to the bathroom one more time. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was basically pushing. I felt and heard something pop. It was my water breaking and then I could feel the first baby’s head starting to crown. I still couldn’t grasp what was happening but I was terrified. We got to the hospital as quickly as possible. During the whole ride there, fluid and blood were flowing out of me. An ultrasound in the triage area of labor and delivery confirmed that my water had broken and that baby #1 was obviously in distress. Baby #2’s heartbeat was still strong, but it was likely that they would both be born and die that day. My doctor arrived and explained that I had gone into preterm labor…that it just happens sometimes and that there was nothing that could be done to stop it.
24 weeks is the magic date for a baby’s viability. I was 21 weeks and 5 days along. If it had been 16 days later, there’s a chance that they would be with us today.
Every moment of that day is so surreally etched in my head with a heavy fog of shock and grief blurring it all together. I was so scared when the doctor told me to push. I wanted to keep my babies safely inside me. I didn’t know what to expect for the delivery or for the babies. Once I started pushing, it happened quickly. Cole Robert was born at 8:40AM. He weighed 12.5 ounces and was 10.5 inches long. His eyes were still sealed shut but he was a perfect and beautiful baby boy. He barely moved but his heart was beating. We held him and had him baptized. We loved him more than we had ever known it was possible to love.
After Cole was born, the cramping stopped for a while. Later, I heard Theresa tell someone that she had felt hope during that time that maybe the second baby would be ok. I don’t remember feeling hope. Since the moment that my water broke, it seemed that hope had been sucked out of my life.
The cramping started again and exactly an hour after his brother arrived, Dillen Andrew was born at 9:40AM. Just as perfect and gorgeous and loved as his brother, even tinier though. He weighed 6.8 ounces and was 8.76 inches long. Like his brother, he was mostly still but his heart was beating. We had the most amazing and kind nurse. She dressed our sons and took pictures of them and put them in my arms. I held them, overwhelmed with love and heartbreak and confusion. It was incredible to hold our sons together, alive. It was terrifying and awkward in a way but so sweet and tender. In those moments, I was almost like any other mom, sharing the first moments of her children’s lives.
Cole and Dillen were alive together outside the womb for 5 minutes. We think that Cole purposely lasted long enough to welcome his younger brother into the world and then went ahead to heaven so that he could welcome him there as well. We had Dillen baptized. Just as that was finishing, I started to feel faint. They took my boys and rushed me off to the OR for an emergency D&C. By the time I came back, both of our boys had passed. Not to be outdone by his older brother and living up to his ‘little scrapper” nickname, Dillen lived one hour and 10 minutes, 5 minutes longer than Cole had lived.
We were able to keep our guys with us through the night. The four of us lay together in my hospital bed. We held them and talked to them and kissed their faces and hands. My biggest regret is that I never unwrapped them to see their entire bodies up close; I never kissed their toes. We were in shock, scared and confused and nearly suffocating with sadness. We did the best we could but I will always wish we could go back and relive that time with them. We have eleven pictures of them. Most parents have that many photos of their children at their desk at work or in their phone or on one wall of their home. We have eleven total pictures of our two sons, forever.
We quickly planned a burial. We had no idea what we were doing and we were walking around in a fog of sadness and disbelief, but somehow it worked out beautifully. There are no words to describe what it was like to bury our children. Pulling into the cemetery with all of those cars waiting for us, that excruciating walk to their gravesite, sobbing and clinging to each other just to get through it. Unthinkable and horrific, yet somehow pure and beautiful… much like the day that they were born. The day of the burial, as hard as it was, has now become one of our treasured memories of our sons so it holds a precious place in my heart. Cole and Dillen’s place at the cemetery is the one place where I feel truly at peace. The pastor that spoke at the burial was so amazing. We were connected with him through the funeral home that was recommended by the hospital – a sheer stroke of luck. I now regularly attend his church, and I believe that my personal spiritual growth is a gift from Cole and Dillen.
There were so many dark days, weeks and months that followed. The pain and despair overwhelmed and consumed me for so long. Eventually, hope and joy found their way back into my life. One place where I found relief was the Bereaved Parent Support Group at Beaumont. That is where I met Anna, Tracy and Leah. Anna and Tracy, who were close to the one-year anniversaries of their losses when I met them, gave me hope for survival and new joy. Leah, who lost her daughter just weeks before we lost our boys, opened my heart. Seeing her sadness and grief moved me deeply. For the first time, I was able to see past my own pain and I wanted to reach out to help someone else. Leah and I tentatively became involved with Angel Kisses. Angel Kisses provided a place to do something positive in honor of Cole and Dillen. Meeting Amy, another founder of Angel Kisses, was yet another gift. The more I gave to Angel Kisses and these four amazing women, the more love and healing I received!
The second annual Angel Kisses fundraiser took place four days after Cole & Dillen’s first birthday. What an incredible week of love and celebration. We had a wonderful birthday memorial at the cemetery (with the same pastor of course) and then a gathering at our house. The day held only love and warmth and peace. Leah said to me later that the boys must have been sending us a sliver of what if feels like to be in heaven. I believe that!
The hope that we’ll one day have living children feels less feasible by the day but the desire never fades, nor does the longing to have our boys here with us. Time inevitably passes though and life somehow goes on. I’ll never get over the loss of my sons but I am learning to live with the hurt, even to live well. Feeling hope and joy and happiness again is such a tremendous gift. For this gift and so many others, I say thank you and I love you to Cole and Dillen.
If you have questions or comments, you can contact Dawn at email@example.com.