I haven’t talked about this much, maybe out of grief, maybe because it’s vulnerable for me. But I believe this could help someone... so here goes.
This is Legend and Shalom, our twin boys.
We were given reasons to abort, and asked if we wanted to. Here’s the story of it all, what we feel because of it, and how these two boys changed our hearts forever.
THE REASON FOR THE DINNER
The day my wife graduated hair school I arrived home to a very elaborate, multi-course meal my wife had prepared. While she normally did a great job cooking, this was different. It was Thanksgiving style- well before any holidays. That coupled with her nervous behavior clued me in to something deeper.
She could tell I suspected something and I asked her, “What’s going on? Are you ok?”
After a tense pause she pulled out the pregnancy test.
I have to come clean- I was shocked. I felt ill-prepared to be a father, and on top of that our plans for getting ahead financially on two incomes to get out of school debt and create a nest egg for future kids, as well as me being able to find a way out of my soul-sucking, physically draining, dead-end job vanished at the sight of that little blue cross.
I told her it was ok, that we were going to figure it out, but in truth, all I could see was fear and a path of inevitable failure as a father, but the reasons for those feelings are an entirely different discussion for another day.
Fast forward 13 weeks.
THE COLOR OF CHOICE
While I was at work she called, crying. She didn’t know what was happening, but she was severely “spotting” (pregnancy related bleeding). I did my best to console her, having no framework for anything like this- what did it mean? Will the baby [singular] be ok? WILL HEATHER BE OK?!? I dropped everything at work and sped home (literally) with my hazards on, got her in the car and rushed her to ER.
They admitted her and immediately set to work with a sonogram. Seconds felt like hours, minutes felt like days as they searched for the baby. The tech left and brought in a doctor.
They did it again. WHAT IS GOING ON?!?- I was screaming on the inside.
Finally, the tech drew our attention to the screen and said, “here’s baby “A”... and here’s baby “B”...”
I literally thought that was hospital speak for different parts of the baby when she said that.
“What do you mean, baby ‘A’ and ‘B’?”
“Oh- no one told you you were having twins?”
What followed was Heather and I getting blindsided by euphoria. Something began to shift in my heart.
I regret that it didn’t happen sooner, but “the heart has reasons that Reason knows not of.”
The doctor then explained that the twins had a condition known as “twin-to-twin syndrome,” where one twin is receiving the majority of nutrients and blood while the other is being robbed of development.
In addition, the twin that wasn’t appeared to have “Dandy Walker syndrome,” (Shalom) wherein part of his brain is under-developed, or missing altogether. They said it could result in simply having difficulties with motor skills, or could be as severe as extreme retardation. In so many words, they explained the challenges his condition could present and gave us the option of “taking care” of him.
Before pregnancy we had decided that no matter what the scenario was, we would be stewards of another human’s destiny and life.
As his “life guardians” it simply wasn’t in the job description to stop his destiny, story, and impact short, and we felt we were given the opportunity to champion his story, even the possibility of it- especially at a time when he was not able to.
No matter the cost.
The blood we saw that day gave us an opportunity to choose- an opportunity to love, and we gave them our answer.
RED TURNS TO GOLD...
They then went on to say that sometimes twin-to-twin reverses and everything ends up ok. And sometimes one twin doesn’t make it. Sometimes neither do.
Apparently at a certain point in the pregnancy they may be able to do something about it. I believe it was in the 20-24 week range, but I can’t fully recall.
So the only thing we could do at that point was wait.
The next few weeks the euphoria that started in the sonogram room grew in our hearts. There was a sudden glow about us. Whatever fear I once had was slowly being pushed out by the the thought, the idea that, for reasons that had nothing to do with me, God favored me enough to give us this special gift of twins.
It was strangely similar to falling in love with my wife- my heart opened in ways and capacities that I didn’t know a heart could, much less mine.
I started dreaming of who the twins would be, of how we would raise them. I dreamt of the things I would teach them- the things I NOW needed to learn so that I COULD. I prayed for them and saw them as a powerful duo and force for the Kingdom and Good on the earth.
I was so proud of my wife for bearing, cheerfully (although with many bouts of morning sickness) these lives of our family inside her.
We were aiming for 20-24 weeks. Praying. Worshiping. Mustering every ounce of belief we could to keep our joy intact and the hovering fear of dire outcomes from landing.
And then a little after 18 weeks Heather began to spot again- this time with intense cramping.
FIGHTING TO HOLD ON
We called the doctor. Maybe it’s false contractions, maybe it’s tendons stretching. We were told that even if it was the worst case, nothing could be done at this point.
We were discouraged and we felt strongly that we needed to be in an encouraging environment. There was a worship event at a church we frequented the next day so we went.
We really didn’t know anyone there and no one knew why we were there. As far as they knew we were just there to worship like everyone else.
But our purpose was desperate. We worshiped, poured our hearts out to Jesus, like the lepers crying out for mercy or the woman with the issue of blood in the Gospels who stopped at nothing to just touch Jesus in hopes that she could be healed. We held nothing back. It was all or nothing.
Three days later we went in for the check.
The moment that followed has become the benchmark in my life for all moments suspended between tragedy and hope, since that day.
The sonogram tech searched. And searched.
She tried her best to hide the concern that slowly began to overtake her face.
I clasped Heather’s hand tighter with each pass, suspending, with every part of my will, the moment I knew was coming. Hoping, in some irrational way that if I could grip her hand tight enough- let her know I was HERE enough, that I could assume her pain...
But I couldn’t.
I couldn’t even handle mine...
....The twins were gone.
They said we could wait for up to a week before her body began to become affected by sepsis.
We didn’t have to wait. Two days later she gave birth to them.
Paramedics transported her to the hospital and I tailed them the whole way in our car.
In the hospital room the kind nurses bathed the boys and put them in little hats and blankets. They were perfectly formed, nails, eyes, lips, nostrils. They even favored different parts of us.
We held them. Spoke to them. Worshiped Jesus and thanked him for their lives while we had them. And eventually I realized what I believe King David had to come to grips with when he lost his stillborn, and later with Absalom.
“I will go to [them], but [they] will not return to me.”
TEARS OF HOPE
The week after it happened I was in the shower talking to God about it all. My heart was broken... but I knew his was, too. I still had questions, I was still almost a shell of a man in ways. Shattered. Rattled.
And as I closed my eyes and let the water massage my grief, I began to see an image in my mind. It became clearer the more I focused on it. It was the twins in Heaven as children and I “heard” God speak to my heart:
“You [both] have named them Legend, and Shalom, and that is who they are. What was intended for earth will be fulfilled in Heaven.
“Legend is to be a leader of men, and Shalom [who’s name means “wholeness” or “nothing missing or broken” in Hebrew] is to be a healer of men. Their destinies continue, and someday you will see all they have done.”
I lost it.
I wasn’t sure what was flowing faster- the shower head or the tears from my eyes.
HOW HEARTS SHAPE EYES
There was a time when I may have been against abortion out of principle, and that may be no less true. But I can’t object out of principle anymore.
I have felt the loss of two unborn children and have seen, at least a glimpse, of what could have been and the world is now missing.
Even my own wife’s mother was a result of date-rape and I’m so grateful that her birth-mom decided to give her up for adoption rather than terminate her.
Otherwise, I would not have found the love of my life,
And I would have nothing to tell you about how loving Legend and Shalom shaped us...
...and how their lives are still shaping us to this day.