This story is by Maria Carmelina Montesano and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I peed on the stick and a plus sign had begun to form in the plastic window. For months we had tried to have a baby. We were ecstatic about the result. It was my first ultrasound. The technician squirted cold lotion onto my belly. She moved what was shaped like a mouse over me. She stared at the monitor and smiled.
“Mrs. Caldwell, I see two heads. You are carrying twins.”
“I’m having twins?”
“Yes, and they are two girls.”
She kept an intense focus on the monitor. I was elated about the news as I stared at the screen. I glanced over to the technician as she handed me a towel.
“Mrs. Caldwell, please have a seat in the waiting room and the doctor will call you.”
When he arrived he had directed me into his office.
“Mrs. Caldwell, I would like to discuss what was found on the ultrasound. You are carrying twins, however, they are conjoined.”
At that moment my body felt like limp noodles as I digested his words.
“In my professional opinion, I would recommend that the pregnancy be terminated. The chances of these babies surviving are slim. Even if they do, they will face many medical challenges.”
His words were etched into my memory and I broke the news to my husband at dinner.
“I can’t just abort them Lance. They are alive inside of me, but at the same time what kind of horrible life would they have?”
“Babe, I know it’s a difficult decision, but think about our future. If you have the abortion now, we can try to have another baby.”
Out of frustration, I picked up the plate and threw it across the room. It shattered into several pieces. Tears streamed down my face, as the rage engulfed the entirety of my soul.
“Why is this even happening?!”
Lance put his hands around me. He held me tight to console my mental agony.
“Sweetheart, it’s been a hard day. Why don’t you go lie down and get some sleep. We can talk more about this later.”
My head felt weightless on top of the pillow. It was a relief to physically be in bed; but my mind would not be still. Eventually, I fell asleep. When I slumbered, I dreamt about the babies. My mind’s eye manifested an image of perfect winged cherubs. The cherubs in my dream had one body and two heads. The two faces that stared at me were absolutely darling. They voiced out “mommy”, and I awoke with sweat all over my face.
I entered the bathroom and splashed cold water on me. I sobbed once more. How was I able to make such decision? Lance heard me and entered the bathroom.
“Are you okay, Debra? I heard you crying.”
“Lance, I’ll feel guilty killing these babies if I get an abortion. I’ll also feel guilty if I know they won’t make it. What if I decide to keep them and they have a miserable life? What then Lance?”
“Either way, it’ll be okay. I’ll support you in whatever decision you make. I’m here for you.”
His words comforted me in this time of utter confusion. I tried to make a list of the pros and cons. I tried to think of different scenarios in my head. When I reached exhaustion, my intuition kicked in and directed that it was time for divine intervention. I am not the most religious person in the world, but this was too much for me to handle on my own.
I lit a candle and its luminous essence felt as though it was tickling my soul. A sense of serenity washed over my body. I just knew it would be alright. For whatever reason, these two souls chose me to be their mother. I could not kill them. I thought to myself, whatever the future holds we will deal with it.
“Lance, I’m not getting an abortion. I don’t know what will happen and I’m not going to tell you that I’m not terrified.”
He held my hand close.
“I will be there for you every step of the way. I love you and we’ll go through this together.”
As my pregnancy progressed, I grew to love these children even though they were not physically born yet. The doctor had scheduled for me for a cesarean section. They day of the operation arrived and the medical staff wheeled me in to the room. I squeezed Lance’s hand.
“Lance, I’m scared.”
“Don’t be. You have been brave through this entire pregnancy. You are the strongest woman I know. “
Dr. Taylor had made the incision and I felt a lot of pulling sensations. After a few moments, I heard their first cries. The nurse showed me the babies as they were wrapped in a blanket. I became emotional. Yes, they were conjoined but they were the most magnificent beings I had ever seen. The doctors and nurses rushed the babies away for further examination as I was being stitched up.
“Lance, they’re perfect.”
“I am so proud of you.”
He kissed my forehead and Dr. Taylor knocked at the door.
“Mr & Mrs. Caldwell, firstly I would like to congratulate the two of you on becoming new parents. Secondly, I have examined the twins. Both of the girls are healthy and it is very possible that a separation operation would be successful. The babies are fused at the spine, but they both have separate organs. Of course as with any procedure, there is always a chance of complication.”
“That is wonderful news Dr. Taylor. When can this be done?”
“I would like to perform the surgery as soon as possible. This would be an ideal time for the operation as they would recover faster.”
The doctor had scheduled for the twins to be separated in the morning. I was anxious about the surgery, but now my children would have an opportunity to live a normal life. My body felt exhausted. Lance was beside me as I fell asleep. The next morning as the girls went in for surgery, Lance waited for me to wake up. He smiled as I had one eye open.
“Good morning sunshine. They’ve been in surgery for a few hours now. They will be out soon.”
“I want to name them Hope and Faith. It just seems appropriate after everything that they have lived through.”
“Those names are perfect.”
“Lance, can I have some water?”
He came back with a glass of water and helped tilt my head up for me to take a sip.
“Babe, you’re a little hot. Hang on.”
He wet a face cloth underneath the faucet and wrung it out. He had carefully placed it on my forehead and gave me a kiss. The nurse came into the room and announced the surgery was complete.
“Mr. & Mrs. Caldwell, Dr. Taylor will see you in a few minutes. The twins are fine they are both in recovery.”
“Did you hear that babe? They made it. They’re both strong like their mom.”
As I smiled, Dr. Taylor came into the room. He explained what to expect in the next 48 hours. He was confident that they would make a complete recovery. While he continued to speak, my body began to shake uncontrollably. The last sound I heard were the monitors emitting a high frequency sound. Medical staff ran into my room and they told Lance to wait outside.
1 Year Later
“Sweetheart, the girls are doing great. Hope and Faith kissed your picture today. I keep telling them that’s your mommy. I left these red roses by your tombstone. Babe, I miss you so much. I love you, Debra.”