Fourteen years ago, God gave Nathan and I the great blessing of identical twin baby boys....Nathanael and Hayden. I am humbled at how he chose to trust us with their lives, and use us to be part of their story. These precious boys were born at 7:35 and 7:37 pm on March 19, 1997. Their birth was 10 weeks early and they were both tiny little things. Upon their arrival, Nathanael had already left us...he had gone home to be with Jesus. He weighed just 2 lbs. 2 oz. Hayden arrived shortly after, weighing in at 2 lbs. 10 oz. I remember lying still during the C-section, waiting and willing him to cry...knowing that if he did it was a good sign. He did make a small sound, and I breathed a sigh of relief and said a prayer that God would protect this tiny child.
I don't speak openly of this story often for many reasons. The first being that it's just too painful. It's too hard to verbalize this kind of loss and how it still takes my breath away 14 years later. It's too hard to watch people's unsure reactions, and their own discomfort as they search for how to react. But also, in large part, because it has seemed unfair to Hayden to share this story about his birth. Like somehow it takes from the joy of his day to also speak of the great loss that occurred simultaneously. March 19 is a bittersweet day. One that never leaves me feeling myself. A day of great loss, yes, but also a day of great celebrating. As the years go by, the loss becomes less raw, and maybe that's what is moving me to talk about it. The loss isn't less real, but certainly not as fresh as it once was.
We are beyond grateful that God spared Hayden that day. Because of the circumstances that surrounded his birth, we were told by the neonatologist that we were fortunate he had survived, and there was a good chance he'd been in shock and would suffer with cerebral palsy. It was a scary time, and I continued to watch his development for years to come, waiting to find evidence of his early birth and slow development. I am grateful to report that Hayden is and always has been healthy. Praise God.
As I remember back fourteen years, it's amazing at how it all rushes back if I allow myself to reminisce for long. I remember the emotions, the smells, and the sight of our sweet boys. I remember the days following and not knowing how to feel or even where to be most of the time - with Haley at home, with Hayden at the hospital, or grieving the profound loss we were experiencing. It was confusing and overwhelming. I remember getting up in the night to call the night nurse to see if Hayden had gained even a few grams of weight. I remember the many, many people who came to help - bringing us a meal or sitting at our house while Haley slept so we could be at the hospital. I remember the cards and the prayers, and will never again underestimate what those things can mean to someone else. Years later, I still remember Nathanael by occasionally bringing out the few things we have to remember him by - a blanket, an outfit, pictures, and a book of thoughts and memories. I close my eyes and remember those few moments we had with him.
But most of all I remember this - God shows up. He shows up when you are hurting. He shows up when you are overwhelmed and aren't sure things will ever feel normal again. He meets you where you are and walks you through the valleys. I remember sharing with a friend a few years after the boys' birth that the greatest blessing of this experience was that I knew what it was to be truly carried by God. And years later, I would agree. God used this joy and loss for my good. He used it to teach me to trust him in a deeper way. He used it to grow my faith and prepare me for his plan for my life. And for that I am grateful.
During this experience, I found this verse and it became the verse I clung to:
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.
His love IS unfailing. It was through this experience that God made this real to me. Of course, I would have never chosen this part of the path for my life, and yet I know it was an important one. So, today, we celebrate our boys. We thank God that he allowed us to raise Hayden in our home, and look forward to being in heaven with Nathanael one day. We praise him for the lessons learned and his presence in our lives. And we remember that through it all his love is real and will not fail us, in joy or sorrow.
Happy Birthday, Hayden!
We love you!
We love you!