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  • Back when my mother shared the womb, there was no camera to expose the dark. No pictures. No proof.

    The way Nana told it, the same way every time I asked, she was slapping down her bridge hand when all the ladies jumped from the sudden flood swallowing their pumps. There were two babies, after all, in case you hadn’t heard. And, to the envy of the passersby on the sidewalks of Toronto’s trendy Forest Hill, they were girls. In bonnets that matched.

    When the first ultrasound spotted two hearts beating beneath mine, I cried.

    We already had a boy and a girl and we’d made a pact to stop at three. Four was a complication. For weeks after, Rob would pass me dazed in the halls of our house and squeak the word up high: "Twins..."

    By the time the technician scanned my mound again, I was dreaming double.

    "They’re girls," he revealed in a hush.

    This time, I didn’t cry. Not even when the radiologist entered the room and closed the door. Not even when she told us one child’s brain was water-filled and we’d have to end her life today.

    The doctors blamed the needle. But hours later, when fever scorched my face, I knew my babes had never stood a chance.

    Gowned, I lay splayed, knees up. The grisly beast inside began to growl and bare its teeth. I braced against the cot. The cuts came sharp. Rob was white. He later reported my nails went blue and a shudder, strong as a gale against glass, shook through me, and blew him out of the room. He could not, would not, witness my death.

    Beside me, my mother sat, trapping the bones in my hand with hers. My mind echoed the cheer in her grip: You can do this. Mommy's here.

    When the first child emerged small and stiff, I thought I heard a gasp. I bore down. Like Nana always said, it wasn’t over yet. My body strained to push the girl who’d never brush her growing hair, never go soft in my hug.

    "No, God, no," I begged in my mind, as if I could dam the tide of blood with prayer and keep her safe.

    Forsaking me, she slipped to the light.

    "She’s perfect," my mother choked, but we both knew her lungs were butterfly wings. All she could do was try, and fail.

    Empty now, the rush and wash of life having left me twice, I held the freckles on the fingers that used to stroke my back in bed after every nightmare scream. Like my mother’s eyes, like mine, I believe my babies’ eyes were blue.
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