We all know the fairy tale, we’ve heard it many times; two people meet, fall madly and passionately in love, get married, and have beautiful babies. But what happens then? We never get to go back and see if Snow White and Prince Charming are still together, happily singing songs, or were in fact at each other’s throats over who was dropping Prince Charming, Jr. off at soccer practice that week.
That’s the thing, really; people’s stories are always evolving, and some chapters we just don’t get to see. Finding out we were having twins was a surprise, but then to have high-risk mono mono twins pregnancy placed a huge amount of stress on us, just as we were preparing to get married. In fact, I was 18 weeks pregnant with my twin girls when I married their dad, and our honeymoon was me being sent off to the hospital to live as an inpatient until the girls’ birth. Then, born at 29 weeks, we faced countless challenges, and almost lost one of our baby girls before either of us had even had the chance to hold her.
Through all this, I had to be the strong one and hold it together because he checked out. He couldn’t handle the risks, the early birth, the machines, the uncertainty, the unknown. So every day, for 80 days, I packed my lunch and pumped breastmilk and headed to the NICU to spend my day with my girls. Every day I got the test results, and was there for the head ultrasounds, and every day I would get the bad news. Then every day I had to tell my husband, who imagined the worst happening. When I would go back in to see my girls, the staff would ask me how my husband was doing, how he was handling it all? I wanted to shout at them, “WHAT ABOUT ME? Why doesn’t anyone ever ask how I’m doing? How I’m handling this? Why don’t you want to know that I’m traumatized, that I’m re-traumatized every time I have to tell everyone what’s going on? Why don’t I have anyone to turn to?”
The NICU may have been the beginning of the end; I’m not really sure. My heart became heavy and burdened and, outside of my writing and my blog, I felt unconnected, unpartnered. I didn’t know how to bring him back in when he stepped so far away, and I still don’t. Other couples’ first year of marriage is filled with love and special moments and surprises; ours was filled with doctor’s appointments, therapists, and a dark cloud hanging over our heads, until the other shoe dropped and we heard the words Cerebral Palsy. I didn’t even know I had been holding my breath until I let it all out.
We separated once, amid broken hearts and hurt feelings, then reunited, and now are separated again. I don’t know what will happen in the future. I am navigating an entirely new world; three kids under 4, one with special needs, and no partner to talk through it all, to process, to navigate. It’s incredibly lonely sometimes, and it often feels as if I am on an island, waving a white flag of surrender that no one can see.
Our children are so loved; loved by their parents, their family, their friends, and even loved by those who only know them through my words. They will never grow up without love — ever. I don’t know if I will ever find love again, and I am learning to be OK with that. I’m trying to remember that first and foremost I must love myself. The past is gone and cannot be undone. I have thought many times what would have happened if the girls had made it to 32 weeks in utero, or had been delivered earlier in the day, or if they knew about my daughter’s brain bleed earlier. I’ve also thought about if I had never said goodbye to their dad, but these things cannot be changed and instead, we take a moment, breathe, learn, and move on. Right now, I have to find strength in myself. I have to know that I can do this, that I can be a good mum, that I can handle things, and when life gets extra messy, we’ll get dirty, but we’ll survive. Partnered or not, we will survive, and in that survival, we will all find love.
Alyssa Keel has worked as a social worker in both Canada and the U.S. for several years. Living in Toronto, Alyssa is mum to a rambunctious, curious, and loving three year-old boy and one year old identical twin girls. During her high risk mono mono twin pregnancy, Alyssa began blogging, an extension of her love of writing. Alyssa loves taking photos and impromptu dance parties with her son. Follow Alyssa and her family’s adventures at adventureswithmultiples.com. To read more posts by Alyssa on Twiniversity, click here.