My husband and I surrounded him in as much love and light as we possibly could during his passing.
Long before I was pregnant I intended to have a home birth. I chose to work with a very experienced midwife, and after measuring big at two of my appointments with her, she suggested I schedule an ultrasound. At 19 weeks, we found out the slightly shocking news that, it was twins! Two boys – oh my! Everything about my birth plan was going to change now that it was twins. I would need to have a hospital birth, deliver my boys in the OR and it could be a fight to have a natural birth. Little did I know, this would soon be the least of my worries… Just as I had adjusted to and become very excited with the idea of twins, in the wee hours of the night and with no warning, I awoke to soaked underwear. It seemed like maybe my water had broken but this hardly made sense to me as I was only 24 weeks pregnant. My husband drove me to Avista in Louisville as it was the hospital we had started to create a relationship with. All of this was made more complicated because I had not yet chosen a new doctor. With twins, I was no longer able to stay under the care of my midwife.
Once at Avista, things got really scary. It was true, my water had broken on twin A (Koa). I was life-flighted to Presbyterian Saint Luke’s in Denver. The admitting doctor told us we had two choices, try to not go into labor and keep both boys in, or deliver Koa vaginally with the likelihood of him not surviving but offering twin B (Leo) a better chance at life. None of the doctors could explain why my water had broken early and thus far my pregnancy had been normal. With our heads swirling and fear in our hearts we choose to delay labor for both boys. I was put on bed rest with the intent of keeping those boys in as long as possible. Exactly 2 weeks later (26 weeks in total and just as I was settling into my new life in the hospital), with little warning, I went into labor. I had been hoping to live there for 3 months and give birth to my boys at term. However, my boys were born at 26 weeks on May 9. Their due date was Aug 14th.
I was now in for a very long haul in the NICU. The boys were both doing well considering their early entrance into the world. But as anyone who has spent time in the NICU knows, things can change in a moments notice. Once again just as I was settling into my new crazy experience – we received the worst news yet; Leo had suffered a grade 4 brain bleed and was not going to survive. My heart shattered into a million pieces – nothing about this news made any sense to me. From the time I was admitted to the hospital Leo was constantly referred to as the stronger baby and now he was not going to survive? On May 23rd, exactly 2 weeks after being born, Leo died at my breast while holding his Papa’s hand. My husband and I surrounded him in as much love and light as we possibly could during his passing. When my father was dying of brain cancer my family started folding cranes as a peace prayer. When we received the news of Leo all I could do to hold myself together was fold cranes – oddly enough, Leo was named after my father Leonard.
My sister and mother offered tremendous support. While I could not bear to be around anyone but them and my husband, friends sent prayers, text messages, and cards with loving words. It was exactly what my deeply broken heart needed, to feel the loving embrace of my community all around me even though they were not physically standing next to me. The hospital gave us the book My Love Will Find You Wherever You Are and we put Leo’s footprints in the back. I read Koa this book frequently and sang him the lullaby I wrote for the boys when I was pregnant, but most of all, the thing that kept me from completely falling apart was that I still had another child fighting for life and he needed me now more than ever. After Leo’s death, spending time in the garden and just being in nature kept me grounded.
On the anniversary of Leo’s death we built an alter with items that connected his spirit to ours including a sacred candle that burnt for 4 days; we read him stories and sang to him; looked at his few sweet photos, cried and wondered what our lives would be like if he was still here (especially Koa’s); and at the end of day we hiked in the forest at the top of flagstaff mountain. We will never know why our sweet baby Leo left this world so early, but must trust that he had another purpose to fill elsewhere. He will live on in our hearts always.