The Last Shall Be First

Goldy’s Run-2014  Minneapolis, MN    Apr 12, 2014 8:00AM

ResultsKatrina Witschen

 Bib 1689 KATRINA WITSCHEN  10 Mile
Finished:  01:19:42

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So that’s that then.  As I mentioned on FB, my goal was 1 hour 20 minutes.  I also noted there how Laurencia pushed me to stay just a step ahead of the 8 min/mile pacers because I imagine she’s as feisty as my other girls and equally as sassy.  I’m not going to lie, it was emotionally and physically (the hills!) tough.  Maybe more emotionally than physically.  When I could see the hospital where she was born and died it was of course difficult to hold back the tears, so I didn’t.  But when I realized that crying wasn’t conducive to breathing, I did my best to stop.  I got to the exact place where I would go for walks when both of my girls were still in my tummy.  At that spot was one of the worst hills.  I gotta say, it was tougher running it after already running 7 miles than it was walking it while pregnant!  It was also the spot where some children, who were presumably patients at Amplatz, were there to cheer us on.  As I passed one little boy and gave him a” high five” I started to lose it.  It reminded me so much of being at the hospital, seeing the sick children in the lobby, feeling terrible grief for the parents of the kids who were battling every sort of illness and then realizing in those moments my own daughters were likewise in a battle for their lives.

During the run I closed my eyes and talked to Laurencia.  I prayed that through me she could feel what it was like to walk on this earth.  That she could experience the beauty of life here on earth even if just by listening to me.  Maybe that’s weird.  I often think of her little tootsies and the things she could have done with them.

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I wished that maybe she could somehow, through me, know the simple joys of putting one foot in front of the other or of feeling the wind in her face or the pain of struggling to go farther and harder than your body tells you it can and the reward you get when your mind wins the battle over your body.  As I passed the little boy, I had that familiar “hole in the center of my being” feeling where I absolutely cannot breathe.  It’s such an empty feeling, not having her here in my arms to hold.  I allowed myself to cry and feel it and it only made me stronger to continue.  No, I wasn’t going to gain anything by going faster or pushing myself.  It’s not as if I’m a contender in these things-ha, not even close!  I was, however, trying to honor Laurencia by LIVING, and to me, at that moment, living meant going as fast as I could for no other reason than to see IF I could.  :)

The stats above don’t mean much of anything to anybody, even me.  Hey, great, in some tiny unknown foot race I was 262nd out of 1994 people.  Uh, ok.  But I have a statistic that is amazing.  My friend Tracy has been doing tons and tons of research on how many babies like our Valencia/Laurencia and her Lauren/Elizabeth have survived to birth.  I think she has come up with 18 since 1975.  EIGHTEEN out of all live births (I think she was looking mainly in the US).  I don’t know that we’ll ever know worldwide the miniscule percentage of monoamniotic twins where one has anencephaly and both make it to birth and the healthy baby survives, since it is likely some cases are never reported in depressed areas of the world.  However, I know the number is small.  Like, really, really small.  There is a statistic I can celebrate.  Valencia is alive.  And she is thriving.  She will never replace her sister’s unique gifts, but she will always be the most amazing and special reminder of Laurencia.  My girls are two in a kajillion, or very close to that, according to Tracy’s findings.

You know, it occurs to me, each of us has a unique place in this world.  And it isn’t measured by a number and it doesn’t go according to how fast or slow or big or little we are or how many minutes or years we have lived or our abilities or inabilities.  A friend of mine has just returned home from across the world with her newly adopted children.  One of them was so near death he had maybe hours left to live.  Maybe.  And now I’ve seen videos of him giggling like crazy despite his extreme frailty and serious (previous) lack of nutrition.  God sees baby A as able, as worthy and as loved.  Another of her boys is still fighting for his chance at life with his new family.  Some of the doctors and staff don’t see this tiny little boy’s worth.  They wonder why she would spend her precious time and money to fight for a life which may not look like yours or mine.  He may never walk.  He may never talk.  He may never recognize his family.  And yet, his place is no lesser than ours.  Little baby C, in my mind, has already shown more courage and strength than 10,000 able-bodied men.  No matter what, we each have a place equally as valued and worthwhile as every other person.  Laurencia lived for 15 minutes.  To God, and to me, her lifetime was as beautiful and precious as anyone who might live one year or one hundred years.  In fact, Jesus told us, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”  In other words, we will all cross the finish line at the same time because, according to God, we are all equal–in His eyes and in His Kingdom. I pray that each of you realize the gifts you are given and know that no matter what, your own place in this world is unique and special.

This Holy Week we reflect on the gift of His sacrifice.  We also reflect on the incredible knowledge that should we choose to follow Him, because of the promise of Easter, one day we might all cross that ultimate finish line and receive the greatest reward possible:  eternal life.

The Giggliest Girl in the World (and running with Laurencia)

Happy Spring Everyone!  Been busy planting flowers and whistling with the birds who chirp outside my window.  La la la, happy sunshine and rainbows.  Oh…wait…nevermind…it hasn’t cracked 40.  There are still ugly piles of dirty snow standing as wretched reminders of the WORST WINTER EVER.  The forecast calls for a blizzard some time this week. I don’t even want to know so I don’t check the weather reports.  It’s April for the love of Pete.  It’s getting ridiculous.  Everyone is crabby about it.  We’re about to stage a revolt around these parts but are too freaking cold.  So, until we thaw out, we’ve been making the best of our indoor time.  And that mostly involves getting Valencia to giggle, then giggling back.  It’s not difficult.  Girlfriend was CREATED to giggle.  This video doesn’t even do justice to her belly laughs.  I caught her after her and Daddy had been doing it for a while.

Last weekend I had just the 3 littles since Auntie Laura took the 3 bigs on an adventure (yay for Aunties!).  So naturally, we decided to put on pretty tea party/Easter dresses and pretend it was Spring, inside. Yes, those are bloomers Valencia is wearing.  They used to be Gabby’s!  Gabby, my girl who got braces this week and registered for MIDDLE SCHOOL.  Boo hoo.  Back to my tea party girls.

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Polly had the idea of wearing tiaras and brought me this little doll tiara from her doll clothes stash.  I knew I could get it to stick in Valencia’s “hair” by putting her tiny tuft of bangs into a top piggytail and wedging the comb part of the tiara in.

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It stayed all day!  Ah ha ha!  The ladies at the YMCA got a kick out of these three.  So did I.  The outfit Valencia is wearing is supposed to be a dress (3 month size) but it fits more like a shirt now.  She’s getting SO BIG!  It was from a very good friend who lost her precious babies to miscarriage.  This sweet flowery outfit was for her girly.  She waited so long for a baby girl and never got to meet her.  Ever so graciously, after Valencia and Laurencia were born, she sent this to me with a beautiful note about how she’s finally able to part with the clothing she bought for her babes.  She wanted a little girl to wear it and Valencia did so proudly, thanks CM.

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I went for a run today and, of course, was thinking of Laurencia.  I decided that when I run it’s my time with her.  When I’m doing just about anything else there are so many distractions.  Even being at home in bed, I await Valencia’s cry to feed her, I wrestle with the lists of things I need to do the next day.  But when I run, I’m free.  I clear my head and get to make plans and “talk” to my girl.  She runs with me, I imagine.  Today when I was almost home I had the very distinct thought, “I’M SO LUCKY I HAD YOU”.  So lucky.  It was a big deal to me to think this.  It surprised me because I remember running while I was pregnant and I’d get so upset.  I did not feel lucky.  Not at all.  I wanted her to get to stay here, I wanted things to be different.  I still had so much worry and concern.  But now I realize more every day, it could have been different.  It could have been that I never even knew she existed.  So many babies are miscarried, twins, where the mother doesn’t even know there was another baby!  And so many babies don’t make it to birth.  But we were lucky.  We got to see her moving on ultrasound.  I got to feel her kick me.  I got to hold her and smell her and feel her soft velvety fingers in my hands.

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I got to know her, at least a little.  I wanted more, so much more.  But for what we had and what we have, we are lucky.

I signed up to run Goldy’s 10 mile race (http://goldysrun.com) in two weeks.  It was Laurencia’s godmother’s idea so she’s running it too!  The race benefits the hospital where L and V were born.  Amplatz was so good to my kids while I was in the hospital.  So many special little things they did for the kids to get their minds off of the fact that mommy wasn’t coming home for a few weeks.  I love that I can support them now.  I looked up the race course yesterday for the first time.  Get this, I will be running on EXACTLY the same street where I took walks every day when I was in the hospital.  L and V were with me on those walks.  How fitting that I can re-trace my steps in honor of my girl.  Her life will impact the lives of little ones at the hospital.  This makes me smile.  If you’re not busy, consider joining me!

And speaking of my Laurencia, her life and legacy…and of running…..I have a big announcement in the works.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

1 year ago, 9 years ago

ONE YEAR AGO TODAY:

One year ago today I went to the doctor, on a super, secret special mission.  Only daddy (Matt) and Valencia’s soon to be godmother, Nellie, knew.  I was going in for my first OB appointment.  I was about 7-8 weeks pregnant.  I had gotten ultrasounds with all previous pregnancies so I knew my Dr. (same one for all of my kids) would do one for me again.  Some reasons he would do it would be to confirm my dates but other reasons would be to see if there was more than one in there considering I had twins before!  Coincidentally, exactly-to the day-nine years before.  My first appointment was on Wyatt and Anabella’s 8th birthday.  I thought it was funny and teased Matt that “oh wouldn’t it be funny if we found out about another set of twins ON the twins’ bday?”.  Little did I know….

We went through all of the routine as in other pregnancies.  I was SO EXCITED.  Dr. L was utterly unconcerned with my “advanced maternal age” and was as positive and up-beat as I was.  After all, my pregnancies were ALL a total breeze, I was SO HEALTHY, the picture of health.  I would always heal and recover within days.  I had this.  I was ready to go.  Then, as a last stop before me taking what I knew would be a cute little picture of a “gummy bear baby”–what?  I think they look like little gummy bears with the teensy arm and leg buds–home and figuring out the best way to tell the kids of our great secret, I went in to get the ultrasound done.

The instant we saw “the heartbeat” I knew.  What, I’m not sure, but I knew something was…different.  And Dr. L knew it too.  Rather than make out one little body and teeny parts, the baby looked funny shaped and had more “parts”.  But it was the heartbeat that told me everything and nothing at all.  As soon as he saw it he zoomed in.  As soon as he zoomed in I was sure, it was not one but TWO heartbeats.  But I had no idea why they were like that, so close together.  He said, quizzically, “Hmm, I can’t make it out entirely, but it looks like it could be two.”  They were fluttering at about the same rate though, so he couldn’t be sure.  His equipment did not have the resolution needed to confirm it.  They were SO CLOSE TOGETHER, they basically looked attached.  But something just told me, there were two.  I didn’t want to get too excited and I didn’t want to be too afraid.  Rather than panic, I tried to remain calm and take things one minute at a time.  Dr. L sent me immediately to Maple Grove (thanking God every day that he sent me there, some of my now-favorite people in the world work there) to get the high level ultrasound to confirm what the heck was going on.

I’ve told before what happened at MG.  I have it written down here:

http://thelifeoflaurencia.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/from-the-beginning/

When I was driving from our clinic to MG, I worried that one baby might not live.  I wondered if they were conjoined, I began to worry about Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome.   And then I stopped wondering and worrying because no matter what my thoughts were it was all a big question mark.  As you all know, some of the answers came later, and some could only come the day they were born.  Today though, I’m remembering the joy and bewilderment we were fortunate enough to experience one year ago today.  We stood in awe at God’s gifts to us.  TWO sets of twins?  Two different kinds!  What the?  I could have planned and planned and never have come up with such an agenda for our lives.  But God has plans that we don’t always contemplate.  And sometimes we don’t ever get to understand here on Earth all of the “whys”.  All I knew that day was that I was blessed to be seeing my precious babIES alive in my tummy.  I am so thankful that despite everything, I was able to know both of my girls for as long as possible.  One year ago today I saw my Laurencia and Valencia for the first time.  Here is the picture I have of our first meeting:

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I love you Laurencia, just like I tell Lencie every time I’m holding her and kissing her all up.  I love you so much and miss you even more.  I wish I’d known one year ago what I’d be doing right now so that I could have spent every minute you were alive telling you how much I loved you.

NINE YEARS AGO TODAY:

Nine years ago today I got to meet these two, OUTside of my tummy:

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Wyatt, 6 lbs. 7 oz. and Anabella, 5 lbs. 15 oz.  I often say it was the most amazing day of my life.  Except, I don’t really use the word “amazing”, the word I use is “cool”.  It was SO COOL ok?

We didn’t know if they were boys or girls or one of each.  Oh, how I dreamed of having a sister for Gabby and to get a son…well, that would have just been asking too much.

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And that’s exactly what we got.  Wyatt was born first, at 11:11 and I’ll never forget when they told us, “It’s a BOY!”  We had a son.  Wow.  But before being able to really grasp that fact, I delivered feisty little Miss Anabella, breech, four minutes later.  Everything went so beautifully.  It has been crazy and wonderful and fun and loud and lovely having these two in our family.

They are presently sleeping next to each other pretty much just like in the photo below.  I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same right?

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Happy birthday to my first twins.  I fully expect to have another sweet photo of you, next to each other, wearing goofy hats, nine years from now.  I love that I have gotten to spend the last nine years with you and that you got to spend them with each other.

Just Lencie

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Wanted to quickly share the only recent photos I have handy of our girl and give a quick update.  Valencia is perfectly perfect.  She hasn’t been sick (why did I just say that?  dumb), she is growing and giggling and making us giggle back.  She is changing so much now every day.  Finally starting to flip herself over and has started following me (watching me) whenever I walk by.  Then she looks at me as if to say, “How COULD you?”

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So I usually stop and bury my face in her chin/neck and get a real nice giggle out of her before carrying on.

This Winter, for those of you who don’t live here and haven’t been tortured firsthand, has been HORRID, ROTTEN, MISERABLE and really yucky.  As in, THE WORST EVERRRRRRRRRRRR.

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The kids have had numerous days off of school BECAUSE IT’S TOO COLD.  Did you catch that?  TOO COLD?  For Minnesotans.  Needless to say I’ve been keeping Valencia indoors a lot lately.  She hasn’t been to the dr. since she got home last October so I don’t know how much she weighs.  I would guess maybe 13 lbs?  No clue but she’s got some nice goodle on her legs now (chub).  It’s so different with an early bird, she really does follow in her growth and abilities as if she were born on her due date vs. her actual birthday.

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Because of it we’ve gotten to experience the infant stage for longer.  While the not sleeping part is not fun, I love having my little baby to snuggle and cuddle.  Soon enough she’ll be breezing by me with no time for kisses–ahem, Wyatt–and she’ll be celebrating her 9th birthday just like my other twins will be this weekend.  I can hardly believe tomorrow she is six months old.  I saw that Valencia’s name was still in our church bulletin under “Please pray for…”  She’s doing so well that while we can all always use prayers, I have to take her name off.  It was a reminder of how blessed we are that we got to keep her here.  Looking at her and in our daily lives you’d never know that just a little over 6 months ago we had no idea whether or not she would live. I thank God for her every day.  My little Lencie…

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Father-Daughter Dance

So I haven’t posted an update in a while…a long while.  I think last time it was before Christmas.  I have a big update I keep meaning to post but like everyone, things just get away from me.  In the mean time, I wanted to quickly show photos from the Father/Daughter Dance which was last weekend.  Every year the Knights of Columbus chapter from our church puts on a Father/Daughter Dance right around Valentine’s Day.  The girls really look forward to it!  Matt took all of his lovely ladies.   Here he is with the three middles getting ready to head out the door:

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Loving on daddy:

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His arms are big enough to fit at least two more in that hug.  Well, 3 really, but you know…

I crashed the party and brought Valencia just as things were wrapping up and the last 2 songs were playing.  She’s a daughter too you know!  Matt told me Mae ran around like a crazy the entire time and he was chasing her as usual.  The bigger girls danced their hearts out.  Most of the other kids there were cousins!

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Trina, Analise and Gabby:

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Rockin’ out (Lencia was taking notes):

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This is my favorite photo but dangit, in my haste the focus was on daddy’s head and not her sweet, sweet face.  Just LOOK at that look.  Melt a mama’s heart already.

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Gabby can make Lencie smile any time of day (well, most people can, Lencie loves to giggle!):

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Swirly, twirly gumdrop Gabby, compliments of a NEW, sparkly dress from Auntie Laura:

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Laura took Gabby overnight the night before and shopping the day of the dance in order to celebrate Gabby’s baptism ‘birthday’.  How sweet is that!?  They scored wonderful deals at the Outlet Mall (CLEARANCE TIME!!) and Gabby was over-the-moon about spending special time with her Auntie.  Bonus that it involved shopping ;)

Papa calls this type of dress a “Pufferbelly”, you can clearly see why:

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Some of daddy’s sweethearts (Mae was chasing her balloon):

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Valencia was at my mom’s when Matt first left and Wyatt was at Laura’s so I was home alone cleaning like a madwoman.  I am never home alone.  I stood there paralyzed for about 2 minutes wondering what I should tackle first.  Frantic, almost and trying to decide how to get as much as possible done while I had two free hands to do it.  As I was scurrying about I stopped and picked up Laurencia’s photo and the tears poured out.  She wasn’t at the dance with her daddy.  Dangit.  At least not the way we wish she could be.  I looked at her perfect skin, her perfect hands.  I tried to remember how they felt.  I imagined how it would feel to hold her again.  I don’t usually do that because it hurts too much and then I cry.  But since I was alone I just let it out and then got back to work.  Truth is, she was there with her daddy too, she is always with her daddy.  He wears this every day.

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I never stop thinking about her.  I’m not sad all of the time but I do miss her every second, still.  She is her Father’s Daughter just like the other girls and I just know she’s dancing in heaven.  And probably wearing a pufferbelly dress, too.

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When you have two babies, and one dies

You get things like this in the mail on the same day (yesterday):

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A kind note from the Dragonfly Project whose mission is to comfort families who have lost a child, and an equally thoughtful note from the Elizabeth Ministries group at our church welcoming Valencia into the church after her baptism.

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And that’s just the way it is.

On Sunday Anabella came upstairs with puffy red eyes and said so earnestly and with such great confusion, “I really don’t understand why God made her and gave her to us if he was just going to take her away so soon.”  She repeated it a few times and was genuinely perplexed.  It made no sense to her.  I talked to her for a while.  We talked about how God created Laurencia and how I don’t think it was God who caused her issues but she wasn’t healed perhaps for many reasons, some we may never know until we meet him face to face, some might be very profound and hard to comprehend at this time.  Some, I told her, might involve showing us a path to Heaven or giving us a reason to not be afraid to go there one day.  I talked about how our lives have spectacular value no matter how many minutes or years we live.  I wasn’t feeling particularly clear on the answers myself so I didn’t fake an answer.  Sometimes I just tell the kids, “I don’t know.”  Because I don’t.  I do know where Bella’s question came from though.  Part of it came from her basic understanding that babies are just beginning their lives.  And part of it came from that part of her that is innate, that part that caused her to snuggle and cuddle her baby dolls when she was a toddler.  It came from her instincts.  Babies belong with their mothers.

Today I read a blog post from a friend of mine (http://mycamokids.com/2013/12/the-truth.html) who adopted a child not long ago.  She was brave enough to speak her heart about orphans and adoption.  In essence, she talks of how every baby belongs with his or her mother and calls this the “Plan A”.  Every baby.  That is what God intended when we were created.  My friend, Lora, was talking about how after the terrible tragedy of a child being orphaned, adoption is the Plan B, a BEAUTIFUL, NOBLE, wonderful plan all in itself.  A plan God himself commissioned and sanctioned.  But it can never be Plan A.  While it isn’t exactly the same, a baby dying and a child being orphaned, both are great tragedies.  And when tragedy befalls us, Plan A doesn’t always work out.  I don’t know why Laurencia isn’t sleeping on my chest just as her sister is right now.  I don’t know why she only got to be here for 15 minutes.  We are told, however, that when she was formed she did not have anencephaly, in other words, it wasn’t Plan A.  That happened later and when it did I believe God allowed her come to him for many reasons.  Her Plan B is glorious, amazing, beautiful, she is with Jesus.  It all gets a bit confusing to me, what is God’s will and what things are the result of sin.  I agree with Lora, that God never intended for a mother to abandon her child or for circumstances to be such that a child should be or must be given up.  I also believe that God did not intend for my sweet Laurencia to have anencephaly.

I’m doing the best I can trying to answer the kids’ questions and trying to find peace myself.  Because I’m human and because I’m a momma, I will probably never fully understand or have a perfect answer for Bella.  It’s still true that focusing on Valencia’s good health keeps me going and likewise focusing on the beauty of Laurencia’s eternal life brings me comfort.  But there will always be a part of me that wishes she could have stayed here with me.  I know it’s different than what Lora was talking about and I hope she doesn’t mind my finding parallels.  Laurencia did in a way get to have her Plan A fulfilled.  I just wish it was for longer.  We must all leave this earth, dying is a part of our lives, not a separate plan or path, but it somehow doesn’t ever seem right that a tiny little baby, who just came from its mother, should be anywhere other than in her arms.

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(Laurencia in my arms)

Valencia’s photoshoot

About a month ago I had my niece, Katrina, take photos of Valencia.  I brought along some dollies and one of Lencia’s lambies for her to hold in some of the photos as a little reminder of her sister.  She was being a baby :) so it was tricky to get pics but here are some of them.  Little turkey is always sticking her tongue out, more like letting it hang out as in “blaaaah, I’m so sleepy I can’t even close my mouth”.  And by “sleepy” I mean during the day.  She is still not sleeping at night but is healthy and growing.  She hasn’t been back to the doctor yet so I’m not sure how much she weighs but judging by her new double chin and the almost-chub on her thighs I’d say she’s doing fine.  She’s still pretty little and hasn’t come near her Papa’s “four roll (on the thighs) minimum” but she’ll get there no doubt.  Thanks Trina for ‘capturing the spirit’ of my little lady Valencia.  Trina’s photography website:  http://spirituscapere.blogspot.com

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