When Your Child Is A Survivor

January 21, 2015

Peyton with her Molly BearsWhen a stranger asks me if my daughter is our only child, a thousand thoughts run through my head. While it’s a common question for most people, it’s a loaded question for me. In truth, Peyton is a triplet. Her identical sister died a few hours after birth; her brother passed away nearly two months later. An unfortunate reality of their just shy of 23 week premature birth. So when a stranger asks me if I only have one child, sometimes it is easier to simply say “yes”.

Peyton remembering her siblingsLiving life with one survivor can be tricky. Peyton is now 18 months old, an official toddler who loves to roam the house, putting everything in her mouth. She babbles up a storm and eats like a champ. But the most impressive thing I’ve seen her do is react to her two angel siblings. Every morning we say hello to Abby and Parker. Their pictures are front and center in our living room. The moment I begin to reach for the frames, Peyton’s face absolutely lights up! Some days she likes to touch their face through the frame, other days she gives them a kiss or giggles. She always has a smile when she recognizes her brother and sister. As the tears well up in my eyes, my heart warms at this daily sight.

My husband and I have had plenty of time to discuss how our triplets will play a role in our everyday lives. Some people choose to bury their memories in their mind, while others keep their children active in their lives. There is no right answer. No parent should have to bury a child, so of course there is no manual on how the heart should navigate loss. As for my family, we chose to keep Parker and Abby part of our daily lives. Because of my career in television news, my triplets have been very public since well before they made their June 2013 appearance. In the womb, they acted very much like siblings. Parker would shove his sisters, trying to make more room. Abby and Peyton would do flips, causing my stomach to do the wave. It’s exactly how I pictured them as children: the identical girls ganging up on Parker, while he just sits there laid back and quiet.

Peyton at 17 months oldThere’s a fine line between remembering our angels and making sure that Peyton knows how special she is. We want her to know Parker and Abby, but we don’t want her to have any survivor’s guilt. As she gets older, there will be plenty of conversations about how special all three of them are and how lucky that God chose Peyton to be here on earth with us. There are traditions we’ve already begun: a yearly plan to donate children’s books to the Nicu in memory of P & A, ornaments that hang on our Christmas tree in honor of all three children, and a nursery that’s filled with footprints of our triplets and their tiny little clothing.

But, for the most part, we’ll let Peyton guide us in this uncharted territory. If she wants to sing “Happy Birthday” to her siblings at her party, we will sing it at the top of our lungs. If Peyton wants to write her brother and sister a letter, we’ll buy her a journal and pen. The ideas are endless. But, the important thing for us is to make sure Peyton gets the final say. We’ve been blessed with a precious miracle child and two guardian angels looking down from above. There’s isn’t a day that goes by when Parker and Abby are not in our thoughts. And while my husband and I have our ways of celebrating our triplets, we plan to let Peyton create her own special memories.