Just before midnight on Sunday, April 9, 2017, our two sons, Ezra Lee and Leo Allen, died.
Patrick and I went to the hospital late Saturday night, after my bleeding had increased dramatically. We hoped we would simply be admitted, placed under observation, and helped to stop the bleeding. That all changed when my water broke and I began hemorrhaging. The next day, after the doctors were able to stabilize my bleeding and slow my impending labor, I was transferred to another hospital by ambulance to be cared for by specialists. At that point, we still hoped that the babies might be saved. Late Sunday night, after being joined by my family, it was confirmed that I had indeed entered early labor. I was hemorrhaging blood and experiencing painful contractions. The doctors thought that Baby A’s placenta had likely abrupt – a life-threatening scenario. I was rushed into the OR for an emergency surgery.
Six units of blood later, my life was saved, but there was nothing the doctors could do to save our babies. They were simply too little. By choosing to come when they did, our babies in fact saved my life, which was within minutes of being lost to us also. They were born without pain, slipping simply into a sleep, as stillborns.
Patrick and I spent the next two days in the hospital, holding our babies, who had been wrapped in hand-knit blankets and tiny hats. They were a day shy of 21 weeks old. They had beautiful little fingers and toes and lovable faces. We cried more tears than I can recount. We talked to them. We played music for them and prayed. The hospital chaplain performed a service of blessing over them. We said goodbye—the hardest word we’ve ever said.
At first we just sobbed. But later, with those two babies lying, bundled, on our chests, a strange peace washed over us. These were our sons—the ones we had seen kicking each other and wrestling, the ones we had come to know and love—and we were, and are, parents. A mom and a dad.
Ezra and Leo are in God’s arms now, though we wish they were in ours.
We are torn between a grief we cannot describe and a deep gratitude. The grief you know. The gratitude is for my life, which so easily could have been lost also, and for these two babies, Ezra and Leo, whom we got to see, hold, and commend to God. We have been surrounded by prayer, by family, and by the most amazing nurses and doctors. Thankfully, I physically recovered well.
It’s a weird thing. There’s a word for widows, and there’s a word for orphans, but there’s no word for parents without children—just as there is no word for the strange combination of grief and gratitude we now feel.
There are no words. No words to fix the pain. But there is love, and there is prayer, and there is the comfort of homemade food, and there is the solace of human touch, and there is the catharsis of tears, and there is the strength of worship, and there is the peace of ritual.