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Tiny Influences This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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“Please, can we have a story?”

“Okay, but only one because it’s bedtime.”

The two scramble for a place on my lap as if it’s stadium seating. Their freshly shampooed heads dampen my shirt with a fruity fragrance. As I turn the page, I hear a crisp rustle that comforts me more than any other sound. While Kyle and Marissa are lost in the magic of the story, I am drawn back in time to when their adventure began.

I remember traveling through the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit thinking how polished and organized it was compared to the rest of the hospital. My shoes squeaked across the linoleum. The tang of antibacterial soap lingered. A steady thrum, thrum, thrum of monitors came from every direction. Pushing through the maze of incubators, I saw the crowd of white coats before I heard the alien cries.

When I first laid my eyes upon my brother and sister, they were tiny, red, squealing bodies in a sea of frantic doctors. Fear grasped my heart at the sight: The twins appeared inhuman. Fused eyes greeted me like those of a newborn kitten. I gaped. I boggled. Their size was minute. One pound 13 ounces and one pound 15 ounces are just numbers until they are attached to living, breathing beings. All I got was a glimpse and then the doctors dragged us away since we had not washed our hands. We were oblivious to the immense danger of germs to these premature lives.

Retreating to a hospital room, my family gathered around the bed with tear-streaked faces. I felt like I’d swallowed a boulder. I scrunched the bedspread between my palms. I searched my family’s faces. No one seemed to know where to look. Each had the same question: “How could children so delicate possibly survive?” We said a heart-felt prayer that our new family would make it. I knew at that moment that it was out of our hands.

During the next three months, Kyle and Marissa fought despite the odds. A morphine injection was essential just to touch their bodies. A micro-ventilator kept them alive, providing every bit of oxygen. Each twin underwent thoracic heart surgery during their first week of life. They endured numerous blood transfusions and spinal taps. Pneumonia infected their bodies four times. Sucking wasn’t instinctive. They needed training to do just about everything, but they succeeded and finally came home.

When I supported their fragile heads that first time, I experienced terrifying rapture. It was so strange to hold these infants I had gazed at for months but had never been able to touch. I could not fathom that Kyle and Marissa were real. Peering into the pairs of blue eyes, I thought of what they had endured to be nestled in my arms.

Coming home, however, did not mean they were normal babies. On the contrary, they needed constant attention. Exposure to any bacteria could kill them; consequently, they barely left our house for a year. So, our family became the hermit crabs of the block. Surgical masks were regular attire, and oxygen tanks were necessary appliances. Neither flu shots nor friends with colds were negotiable. In short, Kyle and Marissa took up the majority of my life.

As I finish reading the book, I examine their captivated faces and realize the twins have no memory of these experiences that I will never forget. Their lives are not about what they conquered but what they confront each day. Recently, a woman said to me, “You are so good with those kids.” In contrast, I believe they have been “so good to me.” Caring for them has taught me more than I could ever hope to give in return.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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This article has 5 comments. Post your own!

Awww(: said...
Oct. 10, 2011 at 10:56 pm:
Wow. Truly amazing story :)
 
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JacintaT said...
Jul. 2, 2010 at 8:41 pm:
I love everything about this, it is so sweet. I love how you finish up in the last paragraph. 
 
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Griffinwing said...
Jul. 4, 2009 at 7:46 pm:
this is very well written, it sound professional! i love this essay, good work!
 
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steph said...
Dec. 9, 2008 at 3:09 pm:
This is a great essay. I have four children myself and it inspired me to write about them. I hope I can write one just as good as yours. Great job !!
 
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belladonna said...
Nov. 30, 2008 at 12:42 am:
I have a brother who;s thirteen years younger than I am and I've already put in so much effort in bring him up, once he had a severe allergic reaction and it was the most horrifying moment of my life ~ in short, I just can't believe what you've been through...I'm so glad that your brother and sister are healthy and happy! You are a great sister!
 
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