Two links left on the chain. I found myself in my daughter’s room today, staring at these two pieces of paper. They are intertwined and on display with other hospital keepsakes of my children who were born too soon. The quiet cries turned to sobs as I thought back on that fateful day. I crouched down by my daughter’s bed, my eyes blurry with sadness as I stared at the shadow box with those two links on display.
Today I am 22 weeks and 5 days, the exact same gestation when I went into labor with my triplets. It’s a week I’ve been dreading since I first found out I was pregnant after loss.
Two links left on the chain. Two more days on the calendar. I was 22 weeks gestation, just two days shy of 23 weeks. As I spent endless days in a hospital bed praying for a miracle, a nurse made a paper chain link and taped it up to the white board. We needed a goal, something to look forward to as we counted each day, knowing that if I went into labor too early, our triplets would have no chance of survival.
A viability chain, that’s what we called it. We heard so many statistics and the challenges our children would face if they were born at 23, 24, or 25 weeks gestation. 22 weeks was not in the cards. While doctors didn’t sugarcoat the prognosis, they still gave us a glimmer of hope.
The nurse made enough links to reach 23 weeks, and much like planning a trip to Disneyworld, there was excitement each day when we tore another paper chain from the link. But we never got to celebrate viability. I went into labor at 22 weeks and 5 days. The grim looks from our medical team painted a picture of what we already knew—our children would most likely not survive. Twelve hours after I went into labor, I delivered our first-born child, Abigail. She passed away two hours later.
Seven days later, we packed up our hospital room, a makeshift bedroom I called home for several weeks. As my husband loaded the cart full of flowers and clothing, I gently took the viability chain off the board and packed it in my purse. We left the hospital that day empty handed, a heartbreaking reality for those who experience the tragic loss of a child. Instead of three babies tucked gently in their carriers, we left our two remaining triplets in the hospital NICU, nurses and doctors trying to save their one pound, translucent bodies. Our first-born baby was down the street, her lifeless body being kept at our local funeral home. Two months later, we faced the unbearable heartbreak of losing our second child.
As we settled into a life I never imagined, those two viability links were always on my mind. We made shadow boxes for our three children, filled with special memories, the only tangible items we have for two of our children who passed away. I see those two pieces of paper every day when I walk into my surviving triplet’s room, a memory of what could have been, but also a reminder of our reality.
Today I am the exact gestation when I went into labor with my triplets. My eyes are swollen from crying as I relive the day, and my heart physically aches as I long for my children who left this earth too soon. But as I sit in my daughter’s room, I feel our baby move within me, her little kicks gently nudging me back into present day. It’s a strange feeling that’s hard to explain. While my heart and mind are often in the past, the promise of new life and miracles give me hope.
Two little pieces of paper make of that viability chain. We never made it to 23 weeks, but I am forever grateful that our doctors gave my children a chance at life. I rub my belly and smile through the tears, knowing that what happened in my past doesn’t mean it will happen this time around. And one day as I rock my rainbow baby, I will tell her the story of her brother and sister in Heaven. I’ll show her the remnants of our paper chain and why it’s so special to us years later. It’s that hope we held onto when life was uncertain, helping us get through the unpredictable path of pregnancy after loss.