Recently I had the opportunity to write up the story of my twins, Patrick and Preston, born 14 years ago. Twin B, Preston, was unexpectedly born with a heart defect and died a few days after birth. Because all of our pictures of Preston either have the ventilator covering his face or he is under the oxygen tent and slightly blurred, we do not have a good picture of Preston’s face. About 18 months ago, an artist named Bethany Kerr created a pencil drawing of the twins together based on pictures I sent her. Using my original pictures, Bethany was able to remove the machinery and bless us with a beautiful pencil drawing. Here is Preston’s story:
Shortly after my husband and I were married, we found out we were pregnant with twins. We were ecstatic! I called both grandmas at work, saying, “We saw the baby! And the other baby!” Their classic response was “WHAT???!!!!” The pregnancy progressed like normal twin pregnancies do. I got to peek in on the boys every other week via ultrasounds to check that they were progressing normally and all was well. After a few premature labor scares, my water broke in the middle of the night when I was 35 weeks along. The boys entered the world after a textbook labor. At first, all seemed to be going well.
I lay there while the doctor stitched up my episiotomy, drinking in the whir of busyness that was the delivery room. I was very excited. My boys were here! In the brief moment that I had seen them at delivery, they seemed to look exactly alike. As I lay on the delivery table in the surgical suite, I could see both bassinets at the opposite end of the room, surrounded by nurses. My husband moved back and forth between them, taking pictures. Occasionally, I caught a glimpse of my boys as the nurses moved about doing their work. Their vitals were checked and footprints were done. While the nurses around Patrick seemed to be relaxed, standing around chatting, I noticed that the nurses around Preston seemed more serious. I didn’t give it any thought until I saw his leg out of the corner of my eye. It was bluish.
Curious, I asked if that was normal. No one answered. A few moments later, two nurses walked past, stopping briefly to show me my swaddled babies. They casually let me know that they were taking them to the nursery as a precaution. I was directed to relax and recover and that taking care of myself was my first responsibility so that I could be a good momma to my babies. My husband gave me a look and I nodded my head, communicating as married people do. He followed the babies to the nursery.
I was wheeled into a recovery room a short time later. Because family had gone to watch the boys through the nursery window, no one came to see me. After an hour and a half, I was getting antsy. Where were my boys and where was my husband? Why wasn’t he coming back and bringing me the camera so that I could see my boys? The nurse avoided my questions, repeating the instructions for me to rest and heal.
My husband finally arrived back at my room. Before he could tell me what was going on several doctors came in. Preston was struggling, they said. He had been placed under an oxygen tent in the nursery. Because the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him, they theorized that his little body was having trouble transitioning to life outside the womb and needed a little help. They assured me he would be fine. I was comforted, sort of.
During the next 24 hours Preston’s condition went from bad to worse. Eight hours after birth, he was transported to a bigger hospital that was better equipped to handle whatever his issues were. By morning he was on a ventilator and fighting for his life. Preston was diagnosed with pulmonary valve atresia, a heart defect. One of Preston’s heart valves was fused closed and was not allowing the blood from his body to flow through his heart and back to his lungs to be oxygenated. The next morning Preston was transported to a third hospital, this time one that was equipped to handle babies with heart problems. Preston underwent corrective heart surgery, but died 12 hours later. Little Patrick was doing great and had been released from the hospital 18 hours earlier.
In the few short days he was alive, I remember thinking that I would do this again and again even if the only life my babies had was inside the womb. Although David and I originally planned for the stereotypical American family of 2-3 kids, our hearts were changed because of Preston. My husband and I realized how much of a blessing each life is, no matter how long or how short. In the ensuing 14 years, I have given birth to 7 more babies and had one miscarriage. It is because of Preston that these babies exist. They are his legacy.