Saying Hello, When You Have to Say Goodbye
Susan called the GetBabied hotline around 8:30 pm on Saturday saying she had a high level of protein in her urine (a sign of severe pre-eclampsia). The doctors/midwives at OBGYN North informed her that she needed to come in that night to have her twin babies either then or in the morning so that Zane could be delivered safely. Marek, sadly, had passed away at 29 weeks due to Intra-Uterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). Susan and Zane had, thankfully, made it to 34 weeks at this point… And the journey to make it that far was not an easy one.
Susan and Joey were so happy to find out they were having twins. They had tried so hard to have these little ones. So when they learned at 20 weeks that Marek was suffering from IUGR and, therefore, not thriving, they were understandably upset. When Zane was also diagnosed with IUGR at 25 weeks, they were beside themselves. And, at 29 weeks, when, during an ultrasound, they saw that Marek had passed away, they were grief-stricken.
How does one mourn and remain hopeful with anticipation at the same time? Like finding the beauty in falling autumn leaves, the heart finds a way. Susan and Joey began making plans for a possible vaginal birth with Zane and Marek, as Zane continued to thrive and grow. They changed practices to one that they really felt would give them the best birth possible and began taking a few childbirth classes. It really was hard for Susan to do much more than this, as she was on bedrest by this time. Not only that, but her body had begun to show signs of pre-eclampsia.
When Dr. Schiemenz called to say it was time for Susan to have her babies, the moment was bittersweet. Although, ideally, it would have been nice for Zane to gestate a few more weeks, the time had finally come for Joey and Susan to meet their baby boys face to face, turn the page on a hard pregnancy, and begin a new chapter. Susan had lamented that while she was pregnant, even though Marek had passed, she felt that he was still with her because she was carrying him. Now, a new level of letting go was necessary, as well as a new, more joyous and intense level of parenting. Zane would need a lot of TLC, as he would be in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for a while.
As soon as they knew that they were going to have to head into North Austin Medical Center, Susan called the GetBabied hotline to alert the doulas. Amy Nevland answered. She said she would be more than glad to meet them up at the hospital as soon as they wanted her to be there. Amy was Susan and Joey’s childbirth class instructor and was super excited to be able to support them during the birth of their twins. Susan wanted to get the game plan from the doctor first, since there was still a chance that they could have a vaginal birth if Susan’s blood pressure was stable enough. In the meantime, Amy bought a current newspaper for Susan’s scrapbook, as well as retrieved Joey’s jacket that got left at the last childbirth class. (This was an important jacket.)
Because Susan’s blood pressure was very high and would not come down once they arrived at the hospital around 9:45 pm, it was decided that they would need to deliver the boys via c-section that night. They always knew this might be a possibility at any moment, and they were scared. Amy rubbed Susan’s feet and hands with lavender oil, and sang to her Romans 8:37-39. A few “before” pictures were taken, and Susan was taken back to the Operating Room (OR). There she would get her spinal and catheter, and the area where the incision would be made was cleaned. This was around 10:50 pm. Meanwhile, back in the Labor and Deliver room, Amy reminded Joey to put a peppermint scented paper towel up his sleeve so that Susan could have something nice to smell in the OR, and they discussed the timing of the c-section and how things usually worked. Joey mentioned how he was trying to stay strong for Susan and how he was trying not to cry. Then Terry Ishee, their pastor from Life Church Austin, arrived around 11:10 pm. They all prayed together – prayed for Susan’s blood pressure (which was still very high), prayed for strength, and prayed for God’s peace to be in them and in the OR. Shortly after that at 11:20 pm, the nurse came and got Joey to go back to the OR to be with Susan; they were all prepped and ready for delivery.
Terry and Amy visited for a while until Terry got a text picture from proud Dad Joey of Susan and Zane around 11:58 pm. Zane was born at 11:30 pm. He was such a sweet looking, alert little boy, weighing in at a lovely 4 lbs 2.6 oz. and measuring 14 inches long. His Apgar scores were 7 and 8, losing points only for skin color. Marek was born two minutes after Zane with his amniotic sac in-tact, weighing approximately 1 lb. and measuring 11 ½ inches long.
In recovery, a sleepy Susan lay, eyes closed, in her bed while a very watchful Joey sat at her side. Marek lay all wrapped in a blanket with Susan. Amy took a few pictures while Susan and Joey and Dr. Schiemenz discussed the details of the c-section. She explained how each of the boys’ placentas were divided into two lobes with the veins of their umbilical cords connecting to each lobe. This would possibly explain the IUGR. Also, Zane’s cord seemed to be connected to more of his placenta than was Marek’s. Dr. Schiemenz explained that this was a pretty rare occurrence. When Joey went to the NICU to visit Zane, Amy and Susan processed the birth, discussed the value of grieving Marek’s stillbirth and rejoicing in Zane’s birth, and how it was difficult to do both but would seem utterly impossible without God’s help. Amy then unwrapped Marek’s little hands for Susan to look at and hold – a moment that will forever be one of the most important and profound experiences of Susan’s life. Joey came back a little while later with some great pictures of Zane in the NICU, saying how wonderfully active he was. He described him as “scrappy.”
The photography company, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, was contacted in order to hopefully set up some time to take pictures of Marek later that day (it was 2:00 am on Sunday by this time). This, unfortunately, had to be postponed because Susan’s blood pressure remained very high, even through 10:00 or 11:00 am on Sunday. However, before that, Susan was able to pump a little colostrum for Zane. And Zane continued to amuse the NICU nurses by trying to wiggle around in circles in his little warmer. He was even rooting, signaling that he was ready to eat – an amazing feat for a 34-week-old! Marek was brought into Susan’s room that Sunday morning, all dressed and wrapped up in a blanket. It was then that both Susan and Joey got to really hold him and look at him and have their first tearful moments with him in their arms. A friend brought their older daughter, Amber, by to say hi to her mom and dad and brother around 11:00 am. Then Susan needed to take it easy and rest because her blood pressure kept creeping back up. Later that afternoon, the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer arrived to take pictures. It was very difficult to take family pictures without Zane, but the medical professionals thought it unsafe to reunite the boys following the birth.
In the coming days, Susan continued to pump an amazing amount of colostrum and milk for Zane, who was doing very well for such a little guy. Though Susan’s incision got infected and she had to make final arrangements for Marek, a new season of life had begun.
Susan write’s “What we see, is that God continually provides the love and support and compassion that we need to survive this. Marek is being taken care of better than he could have ever been taken care of by us and, although we don’t understand why he had to go, we know that God’s purpose and love and grace are covering all of us.”
New International Version (NIV)
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a]neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.