Without further ado, our girls: Laurencia Rachel, nickname “CC” and Georgetta Katerina, nickname “GG, Georgie, or Etta—Matt likes Etta”.
Laurencia is named after my two best friends: my sister, Laura and my best friend who might as well be my sister, Rachel. I already named Anabella after my other bestie, my sister Anna. My sister Laura named her FIRST baby after me! My niece, Katrina, is the first of 27 grandchildren of my parents, too. It took me a few babies but as I told Laura, I saved the best name for last. My last and most perfect baby is named after her. Not to discount the loveliness of our other children, but Laurencia will be most perfect since she is headed straight to Heaven. Matthew 18:3 – Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Laura means “crowned with laurel wreath”, which was used to signify the victor. Rachel means “lamb”. As I told Laura and Anna, she is my little lamb who will be victorious in the end. Georgetta’s name comes from my great-grandpa George and I just love the nickname GG, always have. George means “farmer” and it’s quite German, like us. Katerina means “pure”. Maybe, if she makes it, she’ll be another little daddy’s helper on our tiny hobby farm. Oh how I wishwishwish they could be together here so I could call out when they are inevitably in trouble: “GG, CC!!”
We had a very high level advanced ultrasound last Friday at a place called Enlightened Imaging (www.enlightened4Dimages.com). It was a non-medical u/s and the place was recommended to us from a local organization I learned of though my good friend, Lisa. The organization is called “Sustaining Grace” (www.sustaininggrace.org), you may want to check out their beautiful mission. Sustaining Grace offered to pay for it but Enlightened Imaging did it for free considering Laurencia’s issues. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to capture video and images of my girls both alive. So thankful to both of those organizations. They also gifted us with a DVD of the entire ultrasound but I can’t presently get small clips of it to download. Even watching it for 1 minute was almost as tough as seeing it live. It was quite difficult, as usual, seeing them on ultrasound, especially little Laurencia. My sisters Anna, Laura and Nellie were there along with Matt and all of my kids. Laurencia and Georgetta were kicking each other in the head/face mostly and then Laurencia flipped over and they were playing with one another’s hands.
It was precious and sad. I don’t like to sit around and imagine the ‘what-ifs’ or ‘what could have been’s’ or much less waste time asking “WHY?” But seeing her, it’s hard not to. When I see them alive on ultrasound, together, playing and kicking and moving like mad, it’s all I can do to remind myself this will not be reality here on Earth and that has to be ok. It doesn’t feel ok. I know I “should be” enjoying her while she’s alive in my tummy, but I can’t, it’s too painful. Maybe it’s preparing me for what is to come, maybe it’s me protecting myself from something. I don’t really know. Someone watching them on the u/s remarked how perfect Laurencia’s feet were and it really got me because I have a thing for seeing my baby’s feet on u/s. Oh how I love those baby tootsies. All I could think of was, “so what? she’ll never wear shoes…” I know it’s terrible and I’ve mentioned it on a post in FB how sad it makes me but I think going through all of these thoughts are just a part of that STUPID word and process: grieving. If I’m going to have to do it though, I’m going to have to do it honestly. I felt bad after the u/s because I didn’t say much to Laura, Anna or Nellie. Partly because I didn’t have to and partly because it was hard not to be angry at the “unfairness” of it all or what sometimes seems to me to be the senselessness of it. Not senselessness of her life of course, for I know she has a beautiful and perfect purpose, but just her not getting to stay with her sister or with her family here on Earth.
A big yawn! Being shy of the camera.
*Note that some of the 4D images look a little funny where parts seem to be missing but really aren’t. It has do to with the plane that the images are taken in. So for example in the Left photo above you see Georgetta yawning and that is actually Laurencia’s backside in her face, but you are seeing through (into) her body!
This past Tuesday we had another high level ultrasound only this time it was the full blown medical one and it was our first appt. at the hospital I’ll be going to. They did all of the measurements of both babies and Laurencia is now measuring quite a bit smaller than her sister. This is partly due to her head issues and partly because she doesn’t have a swallowing reflex so her tummy is smaller. I think they said the girls were about 1-1.5 lb. and 1.5-2 lbs each but can’t remember exactly. Georgetta looks as good as she can at this point and for that I’m thankful, though only cautiously optimistic. The dr. tells me not to put too much, if any, stock in the fact that their cords are not entangled. However I am grateful that we can’t see any issues with Georgetta at this stage. I am now 24 weeks. As you may recall, 24 weeks is when many people with monoamniotic twins go inpatient for additional monitoring to try to “catch” issues with cord entanglement. At this point we’ve all decided for several reasons that I will be monitored on an out patient basis for at least the next four weeks. I will go in at least 2x per week starting next week. The hope and prayer is that if any issues started to emerge either with me or with the babies, that we would catch it at these monitoring sessions. So, if you’re looking to pray for something, that would be a good one!
I’ve gained over 25 lbs. at this stage. I took a few quick photos of myself in the mirror Thurs. morning on my way out the door to work (working from home, I don’t go downtown much since it hurts very much to drive and to sit at my office desk–MY EMPLOYER ROCKS, right TC? –truly I am so thankful for such kind, caring and compassionate employers/coworkers and blessed to have the job I do). In the first two photos I’m wearing a brace like thing under my shirt which helps my back. The third photo is a little blurry with my hand on top of my tummy. If I knew all the weight was going to the babies to beef up little Georgie, I’d be a little happier about it. She’s going to need it being born 8 weeks early.
TUESDAY WAS A HARD DAY. As I mentioned, we went to the hospital where the babies will be delivered. This was our first visit to the hospital. Until now I have been going to a clinic closer to home. First we had the big measurement u/s and then met with the perinatologist as noted above. He told us that at 32 weeks gestation there is almost a 100% chance of survival with no lifelong complications/issues. So, if you’re looking for something else to pray for, it would be that Georgetta makes it to 32 weeks! We will absolutely not go past 32 weeks because the risk of something happening in utero is just too high compared to the very small risks of issues being born premature 8 weeks. As some know, our exact 32 week date is August 21, which happens to be my 39th birthday. The peri also told us that at 28 weeks there is a very, very good chance of survival but could be some long term issues. We continue to watch and pray that Georgetta makes it and grows to 32 weeks and that we have no other complications.
After that we met with the neonatologist for the first time as well as a coordinator and a social worker who will keep our Birth Plan in order and ensure our wishes are met. It’s quite a complicated situation we’re in what with the c-section, one baby headed off to NICU and one baby to hold and create a few memories with before she must leave us. The neonatologist was a beautiful, caring and kind man. He gave us information and answered our questions with patience and grace and expressed his sincere apologies for our baby girl. He also told us several things. He confirmed that 32 weeks is a great chance of survival with not too many issues, however, it could be that Georgetta could be on oxygen via respirator for a few days and/or CPAP. Additionally he said she will be in the hospital a minimum of 3 weeks, if born at 32. Both babies will be born via c-section and we will try to capture images of them together before they take Georgetta to the NICU, if she survives. Sometimes I wonder if my “bragging” about having had such EASY deliveries with all my other babies has brought me to this awful place were I have to go into surgery etc. I used to think it was really more me just appreciating the fact that I had such an easy time of it. What a change from the past. It’s not an exaggeration to say that whenever I pass the hospital where I delivered all of my other kids I used to get a wonderful feeling. I LOVED the day they were born, I LOVED giving birth to them. I LOVED knowing it was THE DAY and I felt I could conquer anything in those moments. I felt so strong and knew I could do it. Nothing about delivering my other babies scared me in the least, quite the opposite. Such beautiful wonderful experiences. And now, I’m scared beyond words. I will cling to those memories and cherish them, however, and try to pray for peace and understanding for my new experiences to come.
We talked with the social worker about the birth plan. This was one of the hardest parts. I had to ask a lot of questions like, “can the priest be in the delivery room (the Operating Room) to baptize them at birth?” “Can my sisters be there to get video in case it’s the only time we see her alive?” “Where can the kids go to hold their dying sister when I’m in recovery?”, “Where will Georgetta be whisked off to? Can we try to get photos of both of them together?” And the ones I almost couldn’t get out, the words just would not form but I had to know and had to ask: “When we have to let her go, where will they take her? How will I know she is safe? Where is the morgue? Does the funeral home come and get her?” I feel at least some peace about this ‘plan’ now having asked many questions and having gotten many answers. We all know that a plan is just that, a plan. I’m FULLY aware that some of the things we have planned might not work out or that I may change my mind about some things but at least there will be fewer surprises and I know they will treat both my baby girls with the dignity and respect they both deserve. We will be able to love and hug and whisper things to Laurencia for as long as we need. They made sure to tell us that we have as much time as we possibly want with her in the hospital. I’ll leave some details out for now but suffice it to say I do believe we will all be taken care of and that is a gift which is not lost on me.
We then went to tour the antepartum (before birth) floor where I will stay if I go in to be monitored before they are born. I kept thinking to myself as we toured the antepartum floor, “Well, this is all well and good but I won’t need to be here.” HA! I’m sure I will have to go at some point. Matt thinks 30 weeks is a good time to go in patient, just to be sure we give little Georgie the best chance. For Georgetta’s sake I’d go tomorrow and stay for 8 weeks if it meant giving her a better chance, of course. Either way it was good for me to see the place including the O.R. and recovery rooms so I know what to expect. The tour of the NICU was also difficult but very good in that we were able to see babies who are at our babies’ present weight (oh so tiny but so alive!) and babies who were about 32 weeks. My goodness. One little triplet girl I just can’t get out of my head. So, so tiny yet so strong. She was even breathing on her own. Just precious, perfect and divine. I found myself jealous of this family who had triplet girls and they get to keep them all, not a feeling or thought I’m proud of but it’s true. I had to remind myself we all have our crosses to bear and that I’ve been given so very many blessings.
I’ll keep you posted (in shorter posts next time!) as to any changes that we may find at the twice weekly u/s appts. I feel I should also mention since I may not have conveyed it, the magnitude of danger Georgetta is still in no matter what we see at any given ultrasound. You see, even if one minute it appears that she is fine (i.e. no cord entanglement), it could truly be minutes or hours later and she could be not fine. In other words, it’s not as if her making it this far means she’s more out of the woods. Actually, the danger of entanglement is pretty high right now. I mention this because I think most people hear that she’s fine and perhaps understand that to mean her odds of making it are increased. But really, it’s still a waiting game. I’ll also mention here again that if we had purposefully gone in and ended Laurencia’s life (not that it was really an ‘option’), it could have caused labor or other problems such as infection. I may have mentioned this before but Wyatt told me one night, “I think they are identical twins because God knew Laurencia was going to die and he wanted us to have a baby, so he made Georgetta too.” Perhaps.
I have an old and very dear friend whose wife was pregnant with monoamniotic twin girls just a few years ago. I was shocked to hear of it, as was my friend of my situation, since it is so very rare. Their girls were both healthy and fine until week 22. At their week 22 appt. very, very sadly, they were told that both girls had passed away. They were a mere 10 days from going inpatient. Devastating. Please say a prayer for this friend of mine if you think of them. They are doing well and have another beautiful child now, but they will never, ever forget their beautiful baby girls. I’m telling you this so you might realize the danger we are still in, and so you can also pray for comfort for my friend.
We also met with our priest a few weeks ago to talk about baptizing them at birth, the funeral and all of the arrangements that will have to be made. Discussing whether Georgetta could or should be put in the same casket as Laurencia if they both die or talking about what music and readings to have for my daughter’s funeral service was never something I thought I’d be doing. More than anything, more than details of the music, the readings, the type of casket or what she’ll wear, I am so concerned with making sure I honor Laurencia’s life. I want more than anything to honor her dignity as a human being, as our daughter and as our children’s sister. I have no idea the best way to do that. But we’re working on figuring it out. And talking about her here is where I begin to document her short but precious life.
As far as everything else going on at our house, the kids are quite happy about being out of school for the Summer, present cases of chicken pox excluded-I had no idea how bad it could be! Yuck. I’ve been trying to get some work things done before I have to leave. Matt is very busy with work as well and all of the kids are in softball or baseball, well, except our littlest stinker who is quite busy bossing everyone around. The kids are generally great but please pray for their little hearts when I have to leave them and for when they meet their sisters. I don’t think they really know what is coming though we’ve prepared them the best way we can. We’ve planted our gardens and have been anxiously awaiting the sun to come out and stay, along with the rest of this stinking state. Needless to say, the weather here in MN this past Winter/Spring has pretty well matched how I’ve been feeling. But we know the sun will shine again. 2 Corinthians 4:6 – For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Many people have told me they have prayed for or are praying for a miracle, that Laurencia would live and not have anencephaly. As you know by now, this would mean the anencephaly would suddenly be gone and she would have grown the remaining parts of her brain. It has never happened. It’s all a bit strange, this miracles business. Of course I believe in them and God can do anything. Holy smacks, he CREATED THE UNIVERSE. Surely he could grow a brain? However, I compare it to someone who has tragically lost a limb. Do we pray for a leg to grow back? Probably not. Unlike you, I have seen Laurencia several times beginning at 10 weeks gestation. Every single time I can see clearly how she is formed and how she is forming. And every time it rips my heart out. I want to “fix” it. I want to help her. I see her perfect hands, feet and tummy and I also see nothingness where portions of her head should be.
Laurencia’s torso, arm, hand, leg
I hesitate to share the u/s photos only because I’ve heard and read some truly horrid things said about babies with anencephaly and photos are often used without permission in not so nice ways. However, to me she is beautiful and at some point if I have to remove the blog or FB posts or make them private, I’ll do that.
At the beginning of this someone was worried that I sounded hopeless. Well, there really is no hope for Laurencia to remain here with us. There is hope for her eternal soul, however, and hope that we will find light amid the darkness. There is hope that God will show us the way to best love our sweet girls even if they can’t be with us until we should meet again, by God’s grace, in Heaven. Romans 5:1 – And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Thank you so much for your continued support and prayers, the thoughtful cards, tokens of love and kind words. God bless, Katrina
© Katrina A. Witschen and Victory of the Lamb, 2013. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.