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


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.

L's feet

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.




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.


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.


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.


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 ( 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.