Yesterday was the due date for my first niece and nephew. These twins were the first of my siblings’ children, a huge milestone and exciting occasion for all of us. But just over 3 months ago the twins arrived.

I was on vacation in Europe when I got a message from my sister telling me the news. My brother and his wife were doing as well as could be expected with the premature delivery of their two babies and my family was rallying around them. A few days after the birth I received a picture of each of these tiny humans….and I mean tiny. Both just above 2 lbs each, it was almost impossible to judge just how small my niece and nephew were in the photos. I was overcome with a variety of emotions: excitement to become an aunt to two babies, fear for what may happen in the coming months, confusion from my lack of knowledge on premature births (although I was a premie myself), and frustration because I was so far from my family during this time.

The following week I returned to the states and planned a visit to see each baby. They were at separate hospitals because boy baby had some complications so I had to visit on two different days. When I saw my niece I was stunned at her size. The width of her whole hand was from the tip of my finger to the first knuckle. I touched her inside the incubator and her skin felt fragile, as if a few layers had yet to grow. My fingers were just slightly thinner than her legs and her head could fit in the palm of my hand. Seeing a premature baby up close like this was fascinating to me. When I visited my nephew I was no less surprised to see an even smaller baby. He had fallen below 2 lbs and had more wires connected to him than his sister. You could clearly see each of their personalities shining through when they interacted with nurses or their parents. It was truly amazing to see the interactions and behaviors of these two tiny babies.

In the next couple of weeks we tried to remain positive. We shied away from asking for too many updates, but we eagerly awaited news about the twins. I was able to see my nephew again and planned to see my niece that same day, but was exhausted and needed to drive back home. I told myself I would see her next time. But next time never came.
On Thursday evening my phone started ringing. When I saw my dad's picture glowing on the screen I knew it wasn't going to be a light-hearted call. I was so worried something happened to my nephew, who had several complications from birth, and was completely shocked to hear about the death of my niece. I will always regret not visiting her that day when I was "too tired" to make the trip.

I visit her at the cemetery each time I go home. I sit by the temporary name plate and the tiny patch of grass that's begun to grow above her. I water the flowers and draw my fingers through the grass trying to make sense of this world. There is no explanation good enough to defend this situation. The death of an innocent human is always difficult to comprehend, but when it's a baby there are no words. Nothing you say will make it better. Nothing you do will bring her back.

I will never see my niece again, but I will never stop thinking about her. I will never stop loving her.

Published by Christie Scheer