Two boys would be a blessing, and the idea that I would some day be able to boast about my 6’8” boys being drafted first and second into the NBA gave me an epic ego boost.
Then around the 15th week of pregnancy, the obstetrician told us there was an issue that would require a small cervical stitch to prevent the boys from being born prematurely. She got through the procedure like the champ she is and we went back home, but she would need increased bed rest.
November 22, 2011. 11-22-11. I remember the date because it is filled with so many double numbers, like God wanted to make sure I had an easy way to remember it.
A few days before that, my wife and I went in for an anatomy scan and we received dire news. The stitch was not holding. She was already dilating, experiencing extreme labor pains which would cause her water break soon. It was becoming evident that she would give birth in a few days. Her OB scheduled surgery to remove the stitch. Because the boys would be coming into the world at just 19 weeks old, they would not be developed enough to sustain life outside the womb.
My parents were in from New Jersey, and my in-laws were en route from Brooklyn. It was an awful weekend of physical and emotional anguish for me, but even more so for my wife, who I think felt she had let everyone down by having the boys too early.
After surgery, my wife’s water broke while we were at the hospital, and then we waited. Once my first boy was delivered, the OB asked if I wanted to see him. I reluctantly replied yes, and the minute I saw his tightly closed eyes and motionless body, I cried like never before. I didn’t think I had that many tears in me. I remember my wife not crying at all because I think in that moment she wanted me to be able to lean on her immense strength and courage. She gently patted my head to console me, while my parents remained stoic, but their eyes were welling up, too.
Our second son emerged, and while I was still distraught, I kept my bawling to a minimum. The nurses placed the boys in separate bassinets and allowed us to have some time with them before they would be taken away. I remember looking at the twins with my parents, trying to figure out who they resembled. My mom said one relative. My dad played the contrarian and said someone else. In this tragic moment, it was nice to have a bit of levity.
A lot of the rest of the evening is a blur. My parents went back to New Jersey, my mother-in-law stayed at our house overnight, and my wife had to stay overnight for observation.
I remember driving home with my mother-in-law and her asking if I needed anything before going to bed. I told her I was fine, I hopped into bed, where I proceeded to cry even more.
I questioned myself: Why was I not able to make two healthy boys?
I questioned my wife: Why didn’t she put up her feet more and focus on bed rest?
I questioned God: Why is this happening to me even though I am good man, a good husband and a good son?
It wasn’t until I heard from many of my friends who are fathers that I discovered they had had similar experiences. Some at 10 weeks, some closer to 15 or 20.
My wife and I were not outliers on an island of parents, or some exception to the “having kids is easy” rule we had created in our minds. I realized it’s called the miracle of life for a reason. The fact that any of us make it from conception to birth, when there are any number of forces that can keep us from existing, is indeed a miracle. And, as taboo as I thought the word “miscarriage” was (I never even wanted to say the word out loud for fear that I was going to somehow jinx the pregnancy), loss of this kinds happens in many pregnancies.
My wife’s grandmother said in a very sweet but straightforward way: “Maybe those two boys were going to be rascals, and God wanted to spare you the pain of raising them. He knows what you can handle and maybe you were not ready for this burden. He has great things planned for you.” That gave me a chuckle and still does to this day.
Fast forward to April 2013, and my wife and I were blessed with a healthy baby boy. After he was born, I would sometimes wonder what it might have been like to have three boys at one time. Would I be happy with three healthy children, destined to be the first set of three siblings playing in the NBA at one time? Or would I be asking my wife for kid number four in hopes of a little girl I could spoil? Fortunately, God quickly answered in September 2015, when we were blessed with another set of twins, one boy and one girl. I knew when holding them both at the hospital that not everyone has a second chance at having another child, much less twins, and I try to make sure to love all of my children double so they will never have any doubt how much they are treasured.
So, to Lance and Samuel, my twin boys so eager to enter the world that they came out at 19 weeks, know that you are loved, you are not forgotten, and your parents’ short experience with you made us into the parents we are today. Your story will be told to all three children many years from now. And hopefully, many, many, many years from now, when my time on earth is up, we can play of game of catch in the big baseball field in the sky. Or basketball. Or My Little Pony. But can we skip “Caillou”? I’ve become a “Paw Patrol” guy myself. Love, Dad.
Vernon Gibbs II is a stay-at-home dad living in the Bronx with his wife and three kids. He has an architecture degree from Columbia University and has worked for variety of companies. In 2015, he decided to stay home to raise his twins and he is glad he did. In addition to writing his own blog, he is a contributor to Fathers of Multiples.