Our sons are gone, but their spirits remain in our hearts, our home, our heads. Speaking as a father, I’ve never been prouder of anything than I am of these boys and I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to introduce them.
b. 6:28 am, 6/4/11
1 lb., 1 oz. / 10-1/2 in.
Rudyard was “Baby A”, whose sac ruptured Tuesday evening. He fought hard to replenish his fluid over the following few days, but was eventually forced to surrender to the weight of his brothers and the stresses of infection. We saw him, his heart beating weakly on an ultrasound screen, minutes before his delivery. By the time he’d completed his journey through the birth canal, he was considered stillborn.
When I was in high school, my favorite poem was If, by Rudyard Kipling and it’s remained so to this day. It provides what I consider to be perfect instructions for any boy anywhere on the requisites of becoming a man. At 16, I told friends I’d one day have a son named “Rudyard” and, mostly, they laughed. But it’s always been a dream of mine and I petitioned my wife, when we discovered our triplets were boys, to set it aside as the name of our oldest.
Rudyard was very likely going to wind up being his Dad’s boy. I’m an oldest son myself and even though we’d planned to keep the boys’ birth order a secret, I suspected I’d always have a very unique and immediate bond with Rudyard. Shortly after his birth, I held him, told him how proud of him I am, assured him I loved him and later thanked him for selflessly protecting his mother and brothers from the infection that had ravaged him.
Before saying goodbye, I recited the final lines of If to Rudyard.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!
b. 7:03 am, 6/4/11
13.8 oz. / 10-3/4 in.
Desmond was “Baby B”. At various moments throughout the pregnancy, Carey would feel the babies kick and the vast majority of the time, it was Desmond she was feeling. The small handful of times I felt a kick, it was always Desmond.
He was born without any doctor assistance. In fact, when he came, our doctor wasn’t even in the room. He emerged healthy and without a mark, perfectly colored, with a head of dark brown hair. If our boys were Beatles, Desmond would’ve been “The Handsome One”, as he emerged completely free of infection with ideal proportions and features. He was tall and lean, maybe the strongest of the three.
Carey had picked Desmond’s name for a few different reasons. TV is filled with lots of sexy/dark/mysterious leading men, but LOST’s Desmond Hume was the sort of animal you don’t see a lot these days in popular entertainment: a true romantic. We pictured our boy as suave and slick, who ladies would one day fight over. And speaking of The Beatles, it didn’t hurt that he shared his name with another Desmond, the one from The White Album’s Ob-la-di Ob-la-da, the story of another romantic soul.
But in the time I spent with Desmond, I found myself telling him the most about his third namesake, Desmond Tutu. “There’s a very silly idea in this world,” I told him, “that it’s best to judge people a certain way or treat people differently because of what they look like or where they came from or who’s in their family. There are a lot of words for it, but some people call it ‘apartheid’ and Desmond Tutu spent a lot of time telling people that there are better ways to do things, smarter ways to see into a person’s heart. And that’s what we were hoping you could someday show to others.”
Of the three boys, Desmond stayed with us the longest. As he did his best to gasp air into his tiny lungs, we assured him we’d continue holding him, that we wouldn’t leave him alone for the rest of his life. “Be brave, young man,” we said. “Your parents love you. We’re proud of you. Don’t be afraid to let go when you need to. We’ll be right here.”
Desmond stayed with us for nearly an hour and 30 minutes after his birth.
b. 8:40 am, 6/4/11
11 oz. / 9-3/4 in.
Oscar, “Baby C”, was nearly our miracle baby, who seemed to be staying put in his mom’s womb for over an hour and a half after Desmond’s birth. Throughout the pregnancy, Rudyard and Desmond would crowd and kick each other, while Oscar always seemed to float high above the melee, opting to let his brothers work out their differences amongst themselves. He was typically the sleepiest of the three, the “laziest” as Dr. Chao warned us.
Only a few short moments after Desmond’s post-birth passing, the womb around Oscar shrank to the point of breaking his water, inspiring labor. His was a rough entry, a breech birth, and Dr. Chao told us later that she did her best to reposition him for the cleanest, safest arrival. He came left-arm-first, causing said arm to dislocate and purple violently. He was bruised, but clearly whole, the smallest of the group, the runt of litter.
We’d stumbled upon his name only recently. Carey remarked throughout our naming discussions that she thought Baby C’s moniker should be something fun and rascally. She more or less plucked “Oscar” out of the blue and it immediately felt right to both of us. After all, we’d planned on reading the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde to our brood. I’d portrayed “Oscar” in The Odd Couple in high school and again in college. And since it was a theater audition that first introduced me to Carey, we thought it appropriate to name him after what’s popularly recognized as acting’s highest honor.
In our short time with him, we did our best to comfort and swaddle him, which wasn’t easy, as his frame was too tiny and delicate to wrap up properly. We told him who he was; I explained the proud tradition of Bear Men and how our family’s biggest challenge is usually sitting still and staying quiet. I described what an “Oscar” is and how to dream big. “They don’t just give them to actors,” I told him. “Writers, directors, musicians, people who create beautiful things to look at… all sorts of artists can win an Oscar. Old men have gotten them and even a few little children. You just have to be very committed to being the best you can be at what you love doing.”
Oscar did his best to breathe in the short time he was with us. Like his brother before him, we assured him we wouldn’t leave him as long as he was with us. We told him just how much his parents love him, but he would need to take courage. “You’ll be back with your brothers very soon, son. Take care of one another. Let them know we’ll all be back together again one day.”
I kissed his head and told him, finally: “Oscar, my boy, I promise you. Our time was short, but I’ll think of you every single day for the rest of my life.”
Oscar stayed with us nearly 40 minutes before going on to join his brothers.
They fought hard, to a man, and I can think of no better tribute to these boys of mine than to do my best to follow their example.
It’s, after all, what they would have wanted.