It was hard to see the computer when I typed those words years ago as my eyes were blurred with tears. When I read it now, it feels almost clinical and devoid of emotion. I berate myself for not adequately describing my feelings. That task gets harder, not easier with time, and what follows is my best attempt to tell the whole story.
Time crept as slowly as possible that day. I remember davening quickly early in the morning and then waiting for the incremental changes in my wife’s dilation. I don’t think most people can understand execution day for a condemned inmate, as a very alive person counts down the hours until their scheduled death, but we certainly do.
We didn’t know how long it would take, but we knew the babies were fine as long as they were in utero and would die as soon as they were born.
It is amazing how strong people can be when they have to, and this was one of those moments. But as I mentioned once before, there is a psychological price to be paid for that strength that you can never really overcome.
I have no memory of my wife being wheeled into the delivery room, and I also have no memory of putting on the scrubs that were required for my wife’s safety. But before I knew it, I was standing next to my wife who was on the delivery table.
Many of us are familiar with an expectant mother’s pushing while in labor. It is painful and exhausting, but it produces the greatest gift on earth. Try to imagine the pain of being told to push, knowing that each push brings your children closer to their deaths.
Sadly, there was no other option. All I could do was try to provide some comfort and support for my wife. There were such mixed emotions. On the one hand, we had to get through this and the longer the experience the greater our pain, and yet on the other, every extra moment was another moment that our children could live.
I also don’t recall how long the process took, but I clearly remember the nurse telling us that she could see our babies. Once again, that is usually the best news that parents can ever hear, yet for us it meant our children’s lives would soon end.
My daughter was born first. I know that my emotions were playing tricks on me, but as she was delivered and I saw her turn her tiny head and kick her foot, I was overwhelmed by the notion that she looked very scared as she quickly gasped for breath.
She was whisked away quickly, weighed and cleaned before being handed to my wife to hold. She didn’t move for long. By the time my wife held and cradled her and the nurse passed her to me, she had already stopped moving.
She was alive, technically, as her heart was still beating, but she never took a real breath. I held her and stared intently into her face, trying to find some way to let her understand how much I loved her and how very sorry I was. I said it over and over. “Abba loves you. Abba loves you and I am so, so sorry.”
There was this terrible moment when I had to pass my daughter to the nurse so I could share a few moments with my son as well. He was born only one minute later. He came out flailing his left arm, but unlike my daughter, he did not stop moving so quickly. There were some slight movements when my wife held him, but he seemed so still when he was finally handed to me.
Once again, I had to try to express my love, a lifetime of emotion to a child that I would only know for a few moments. And then it happened. As still as he was, my son suddenly and unexpectedly opened his mouth and tried to take what looked like a deep breath, but his underdeveloped lungs were not capable of handling it. His entire upper body shook and convulsed for what felt like forever.