When Joey started school, did you have a conversation with the director/teacher? What other things if any, did you do?
Joey actually went to preschool at an extension of our church and while I (assume) most knew about Andrew, I did not know his teacher well and so I did tell her about their story. I wrote everything down because I wanted to make sure that everything that I felt needed to be said, was. I also wanted to make sure the teacher had that paper to reference if she needed to- and being a teacher myself, I appreciate all information I get from parents that helps me better understand their child.
When Joey went to kindergarten, I again knew his teacher and have been in regular contact with her. She has shared with me when Joey has talked about Andrew (and yes he has) and how it has gone. I will be writing another letter this summer for his first grade teacher and every year he is in elementary school. I have learned that 'Andrew' has meandered his way into Joey's thoughts throughout his six years and I know he always will. I think it is important to make sure that those educating Joey will know about this very unique piece of him.
That being said, I will also let my younger children's teachers know too. Sometimes they include Andrew and Baby E in their pictures (and sometimes they don't) But I want the teachers to know my family's story- to know that these siblings my children sometimes talk about are not imaginary friends or figments of their imagination.
(And as a side-note, Elizabeth I imagine it is hard that the director had (I assume) healthy twins. I have found that most of the parents that I know that have intact twins have been very supportive of us... but I encourage you to write a letter and explain everything you need to.)
Can you remember when you first discussed Andrew with Jonasen?
I can. It was that night in the hospital. Andrew had left us forever, my husband was asleep on a pull out chair, and I held my son, hours old, in my arms as I told him his story. I told him that his brother- who had shared all that time kicking him- had gone to heaven- that we would see him again, but not until we are (God-willing) very old. I remember those quiet moments still. Looking into his little eyes and grieving for something so big.
Throughout Jonasen's baby and toddler years I would say Andrew's name in prayers. I would say, "God bless mommy & daddy... and my brother Andrew in heaven"- I did not want there to ever be a moment where I sat him down and said, "You know how on your birth certificate it says you are a twin... well..." And so Andrew's name has always been in our house- and it always will be. Doing it like we did- every day- so innocently allowed me to be comfortable with it- to talk about Andrew without tears. In doing so, Jonasen (and his siblings) have felt comfortable asking questions and not worrying about upsetting mom or dad.
Talking about Andrew in this way- (always) was one of the best choices we made in this journey and one that I have NEVER had second thoughts about.
Have you always mentioned Andrew to him and how did he grasp and come to terms with his twin's death?
I don't know when Jonasen grasped the idea that he had a twin brother- or if he fully has yet. He has a set of twin boys in his kindergarten class now and he talks about their eyes sometimes and how they look alike. All of my living children had blue eyes, and Jonasen is the only one who has brown eyes. He has asked me about Andrew's eyes and I can't quite answer them- just tell him that one day we'll know. Because our faith as a family is so strong, there has never been any doubt that one day we will see Andrew again. I think that that has been a comfort to him. I also told him that like God can read our thoughts- perhaps Andrew can hear them too and if he ever wants to just talk to him, he can. And he does. He's talked before about his "walks with Andrew" and while they make me sad, they also make me happy. He's finding his way and I'm ever so proud of that.
Has he asked any questions about his brother and the circumstances of his birth that have surprised you?
Not yet. He asks me to tell the story of his birth often. And I do. He knows that he is the only one in the family who had a brother with him in my belly- he knows that his brother was born first and that God felt it was important to call Andrew home before we got to truly know him. Though we don't know why. He knows that God felt it important for Joey to be on this earth with us. I have written his story in his baby book and in journals of notes I kept for him for later when he is better able to understand it.
His questions don't often surprise me- as I expect them to come- but I am always caught a little off guard when they do come- without warning often. That I haven't gotten used to yet...
Did Andrew's death change how you and your husband envisaged your future family?
Yes and No. When we were married we always dreamed of having four children at home. When I first became pregnant and it was with twins, I had assumed three pregnancies to get those four children- not five-and with two losses. Getting pregnant again (each time) was terrifying- and my husband was scared too. At the time I think he was happy just having Jonasen and his sister- I really pushed to have that original dream of four at home. We now have four children at home and my tubes are tied so there will be no more fears of pregnancy for me.
Did you both feel that you wanted subsequent children? Was it something you spent a long time discussing?We knew that we wanted more than one child. We had always dreamed of having a larger family. After I lost Andrew, I wanted nothing more than to be pregnant- and I did become pregnant just seven months after we lost Andrew. While I wanted nothing more than to be able to say that I had 'children' (plural) I was afraid to 'try'. Our daughter was not planned but I knew there was a possibility of her coming if God wanted to give us another child at that time- (She was conceived while out of town and we had no birth control with us...)
What we did spend a long time discussing was the fear of losing another-and that fear was gripping. I wanted nothing more to get pregnant and grow our family time and time again. My husband was more hesitant and he feared we would lose another. Especially after losing Baby E he was petrified. I felt that I had to talk him into trying again... I did go on to have our last child after that. Knowing that was the last time that I would be pregnant was freeing. We decided that either way- baby in heaven or baby on earth- that would be the last. Before, I was worried I would always want to have 'one more baby' trying to fill something that couldn't be filled. After my last son's birth all desires to become pregnant again have suddenly vanished. That has been very peaceful too. In the end I have four children at home- but in an odd sense I feel very blessed to know too that two are waiting for us- watching us- and proud of the family we have become- very strong- very intact- we are survivors and are so much stronger for it.