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Laura’s Story


My story begins 16 weeks into my second pregnancy. I was on my way to “the” ultrasound …the one that would tell us “boy” or “girl”. I was alone…hubby had to work. I was so anxious to arrive on time that I scraped a brand-new car trying to get to my turn lane and had to wait to fill out a police report. I arrived at the OB’s office late and flustered.

The moment she started scanning, the tech said, “They didn’t tell me you were having two – did they tell you?” I was floored – my O.B. had already performed a quick ultrasound at 8 weeks to confirm a heartbeat and we’d only seen one. She showed me their little heads together on the screen and nervous excitement took over…I couldn’t hold back the tears. I even got the tech crying! They were little girls. I couldn’t decide which news to break to Darrel first: car accident or twin girls!

We were a bit shaken, but thrilled nonetheless. We were definitely on the fast track of childbearing, which was just fine with us. The college and church community we lived in rallied around us. The other faculty and church women gave me a generous shower, complete with matching outfits and loads of diapers. I studied up on how to nurse twins.

The pregnancy was uneventful and I was in peak health. At week 32, I went for another ultrasound. I had my 2-year-old with me and my sister met me at the OB’s office to babysit. This time, I noticed the tech barely spoke as I chattered about the babies. I thought she was just having a hard day… little did I know I was her hard day. She muttered something about not being able to see Baby B’s legs for measurement and went to fetch the doctor. They came back into the room; the tech pointed to the screen…”see here, and here”… technical jargon. Dr. A. said “Mmhmm, yes, I see.” Then he turned to me, pointed to Baby B on the screen and said (I’ll never forget the words), “This baby is no longer living”. He said it gently, but it hit like a ton of bricks.

Strangely enough, my very first emotion was to feel completely stupid and foolish for not even knowing that my baby was dead. They showed me…no heartbeat. I could see it myself. Shaking, I asked, “What happened?” Again, the tears came. Just one week before, we had heard two heartbeats. I could see that he was at a complete loss to explain her death. He told me it was not in any way my fault. We never determined the cause of her death…probably a cord accident.

I was so glad my sister was there. She was crushed too, and very concerned about my 45-minute drive home. That was the worst part… driving the long way home, all the time knowing that Darrel had no idea what news I was bringing. He knew immediately by my face that something was horribly wrong. When I told him, he sat down and cried heartbroken tears. I still ache when I remember that.

We had settled on a name for the presenting baby – Olivia Brooke – but were still negotiating Baby B’s name when she died. We had both liked Laura and so quickly agreed on Laura Blythe. I felt guilty for not having named her sooner…for not having bonded with her more. I took them both so for granted, as if my pregnancy were guaranteed.

Laura died so suddenly that I couldn’t help but feel anxious about Olivia. The doctor had me in weekly to monitor her activity. I carried them four more weeks before I was induced on May 28, 1998. Olivia was born first, after a mercifully swift labor, at 3:27 p.m.: 6 lbs. 3 oz. Laura followed at 3:33 p.m.: 4 lbs. 2-1/4 oz. I remember how Dr. A. caught her body in a steel bowl. We held Olivia (who wailed several hours after delivery) for an hour. Then they took Olivia to the nursery and brought us Laura, in a pink smocked dress and knit hat, wrapped in a blanket. Her body was soft, but she looked perfect and I could see her features were just like Olivia’s. We all held her…my mother and sisters too. We took pictures. I wish now I had one of me looking down at her instead of crying into the camera. I wish we had a close-up of them together.

A family friend had matching dresses made for the babies. Olivia stayed in the NICU for a couple of days for jaundice but was released the day of Laura’s funeral. Laura was buried in her outfit and Olivia wore hers to the funeral. Our church paid for the burial plot and the academic dean of the college spoke a touching message that reflected precisely what was in our hearts. The ladies of the church gave us a meal afterward, and many brought meals in the ensuing weeks. I must say that, during the whole ordeal, only one or two people said those thoughtless things we were warned we would hear. Almost everyone simply said, “We are so sad about this, and we’re praying for you.” Our friends were truly wonderful to us. That summer was hard; we moved into our just-barely-built house and were living in chaos, our marriage was strained, Olivia cried a lot her first four months. Eventually, though, with the Lord’s direct intervention, we found our equilibrium again. Things are a whole world better. I gave most of Laura’s little matching outfits to a crisis pregnancy center. It was sad going through them, but it felt good to give them to babies.

No one mentions Laura much now, two years later, except my family and occasionally good friends. I’m completing a scrapbook for her, mostly for Olivia’s and big sis Anna Kate’s sake. It helped me grieve a bit more just to work on that. Though I do feel for Olivia at times, I tend to see her more as an individual than an uncompleted twin. She is all dimples and blue eyes, with such winning ways – a real charmer. Between her scene-stealing smile and Anna Kate’s blonde curls, we attract our share of attention when we go out. If Laura were here, we’d undoubtedly be drawing crowds, as multiples are wont to do. I used to involuntarily glance away when I saw twins or articles about them, but I’m getting better about that.

I’ve learned now by experience what I already new cerebrally…That life is 100% gift; that pain eventually comes to all of us who live in this fallen world; that love is worth the pain; and that God is good, all the time, and I can trust that. I still want Laura, but I know I’m going to throw my arms around her someday and the sting of her death will be permanently erased from my heart. It’s amazing and comforting to think that she is alive right this moment in the presence and joy of the Lord, in a place where no such sorrow will ever touch her life.

Our fourth child, Elias Michael, was born in March and is a true delight. I’d be happy to correspond with anyone who needs a shoulder.

Susannah

We read the following at Olivia’s baby dedication:

I’d like to read something for Laura, Olivia’s twin sister, who has made it to heaven a little sooner than the rest of us. It’s a lullaby that I have always loved and that is even dearer to me now. You my have heard of George MacDonald, a writer who had no small influence on C. S. Lewis and other authors. He wrote a book for children called At the Back of the North Wind. It’s about a little boy named Diamond, whose heart longed for a better home – and North Wind, a lady who helped him find it. This is Diamond’s Lullaby, by David Edwards.

When Diamond was a baby, and wise for one his age,

He met a certain lady, a kind and chilly sage.

The north wind came one evening; she plucked him from his bed,

And soon he took to singing, and this is what he said:

“Take me in your gentle hand, meet me in the morrow;

Show me to the northern land; I’ll leave this world of sorrow.

There a river calls to me; it’s singing oh, so sweetly,

And its rhyme and melody are waiting there to greet me.”

He let the lady hold him; she pressed him to her breast,

And swept the streets below him with a whisper from her breath.

Now, Diamond didn’t know her as older people do;

So when the ride was over, he sang a little tune.

As Diamond used to greet her, and soar across the sky,

Someday you’ll want to meet her; she’ll be your wings to fly.

So if the north wind finds you when your slumbering is deep,

Put all your fears behind you, and sing this as you sleep.

“Take me in your gentle hand, meet me in the morrow;

Show me to the northern land; I’ll leave this world of sorrow.

There a river calls to me; it’s singing oh, so sweetly,

And its rhyme and melody are waiting there to greet me.”