Starting A Family
“I will never forget watching the pregnancy test turn positive just two weeks after the national emergency was announced and we were on lockdown due to COVID-19. Josh and I had been trying to have another baby for about a year, and we wanted this child so badly. We prayed over and over again for our son to have a sibling, and it finally happened! We were so excited to tell our 3-year-old son Jude he was about to be a big brother. Though I am not quite sure he fully understood, he yelled so loud and clapped with us the day we found out it was a little girl. We were all so excited to have a girl running around the house. ‘The perfect family,’ I thought.
That November, we welcomed Marren Rose into our family and we spent that winter staying inside and trying to keep our new baby safe from all of the chaos the world was in. Marren rarely went out, and when she did I was highly protective over her. I couldn’t help but feel like she was extra vulnerable. It was an instinct I truly believe was there for a reason, though I blamed it on postpartum anxiety. We spent most of our days cuddling inside and playing with toys, trying to keep her entertained. Eventually, the sun started to come out more and spring was coming. It was also time for me to go back to work. When I did, Marren went to the sitter and Jude went to daycare while I worked from home. Life felt crazy trying to balance work and two kids, but Josh and I enjoy the working parent life and believe it suits us best.
When March came, Josh was asked to go on a 3-month assignment for the Air National Guard. This meant I had to be home with the kids and to be honest, I was not excited. I knew it would be difficult to manage everything on my own, but I figured the months would go by quick. He was able to come home on the weekends to see us since he was only a few hours away, so that helped ease my mind. Yet, when the morning came for him to leave, I had this weird feeling come over me. I just wanted to keep the kids at home and hang out. But I still took them to the sitter and to daycare, thinking it was just my anxiety again. I remember Marren smiling at me in her car seat, wearing her pink polka dot footie pajamas. On the way to her sitter, she made some babbling sounds, and Jude said, ‘Hey! She finally said my name!’ It was so sweet. Just a typical Thursday morning watching the sun come up as I drove back home. I remember thinking about how good God is and how He always answers my prayers. It was a beautiful morning.
Josh texted me to let me know he made it to his destination, and I had a normal work day doing my typical tasks. I finished a little earlier than normal and thought about going to pick up the kids early, but I took a nap then went to the gym instead. I was training for a half marathon and figured it was a good opportunity to get my training in for the day. Around 4:15 p.m. I texted Marren’s sitter to let her know I was on my way. Usually she would respond with a simple, ‘OK!’ and start packing her up. That day, I never got a response. I thought it was strange but I figured she was busy with the kids. Marren was quite the diva and required a lot of attention! I headed there with my sunroof open blaring music. It was one of the first warm days of spring.
As I approached the road to get to the sitter, I saw a road closed sign and a police cruiser in front of it. Being my ditzy self, I asked the officer if I could just go through to pick up my daughter. ‘No, you need to wait,’ he said in a grouchy seeming voice. I rolled up the window and whispered to myself, ‘Jeesh.. I’ll just go around then.’ As I made my way down the road, Marren’s sitter called me. All I heard when I answered was the sound of her panicked yells. ‘The baby isn’t breathing!’ she screamed. Simultaneously, an ambulance appeared in my rearview mirror and I whipped my car around in the middle of a four way. I hung up after telling her I wasn’t mad at her over and over again. I always say God just gave me those words in a time of utter speechlessness. I just wanted to take care of both of them. Marren and her baby sitter, who is such an incredible and loving woman. Later, I found out she gave Marren CPR until the ambulance arrived. I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that to my own child in the panic of it all, and I am so grateful she immediately jumped to action.
The drive to the hospital was the longest drive of my life. I kept screaming at the ambulance in front of me to go faster. When we arrived, the screen at the ER said ‘CARDIAC ARREST,’ and I simply refused to believe it was about my child. Suddenly, a team of doctors and nurses helped the EMTs transfer her out. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It didn’t even look like her, and for a second I thought it had to be a mix up. My otherwise rosy cheeked smiley girl was connected to so many lines and monitors. My sister met me at the hospital since she could get to me faster than anyone else. I remember them telling us Marren didn’t have a pulse. We both just sunk and sobbed. I decided to go into the room where they were working on her, even though they told me I wasn’t allowed. My foot hit the threshold of the room as one of the nurses yelled, ‘I found her pulse!’ I immediately grabbed Marren’s hand and started talking to her, begging her to wake up.
Josh had a long drive ahead of him, and the only information I gave him was she wasn’t breathing and it wasn’t good. I can only imagine how he felt driving the few hours back not knowing what was going to happen. After they got Marren back, they life flighted her to a nearby hospital where they had a PICU to take care of her. I was so relieved when Josh finally arrived, and we were all able to be together. I needed my person to help me through this. He needed me too.
The next 12 hours were a nightmare. It was an exhausting blur of doctors coming in and out, nurses keeping us updated on the medications they were giving, and family coming in to give Marren their love. ‘She is very sick. This isn’t good,’ the doctor kept telling us. Still, I had failed to accept the fact she wasn’t going to come home. Finally, a doctor took us into a room and told us our daughter had no brain activity and her organs were failing. We could take her off the ventilator and let her pass away, or we could keep trying things that were likely not going to work. Her little body was not capable of fighting any longer, and we decided to lay with our sweet baby as she made her way out of our world and into heaven. Josh’s hand was over her chest; he told me her heart had stopped beating. I watched the tiniest grin come over Marren’s face. That was the moment I knew she saw something beautiful, and she was at peace. Death sounds so scary, but it was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever witnessed.
The following days and months were the hardest of our life. We still had our son Jude who needed his parents now more than ever, but we struggled to find a new normal. I was exhausted in every way, shape and form. Some days I just lay on the couch as our dog Jocko lay on top of me, giving me the comfort I needed to just get through the day. Josh and I stuck together and listened to each other to figure out how each other were grieving and supported one another as much as we possibly could. We grieve very differently, as most couples do. Him more angry and bottled up. Me, a blubbering mess with permanently swollen eyes. We had no idea what to do with ourselves. I continued to wean from breastfeeding by pumping less and less each day. So much milk, but no baby to feed. Though it was a dark time, I ended up saving 2,500 ounces of breastmilk. I divided it amongst five babies. FIVE babies got to have the nutritious milk that existed because of Marren. I was so proud to be her mom.
Infertility & IVF
Sometimes, I feel an immense amount of guilt when I think about how soon we tried to grow our family again. We were not trying to replace her, but we so desperately wanted to take care of more babies. Since we had such trouble getting pregnant with Marren, I decided to call our local IVF clinic to get the support we needed. Shortly after, we found out Josh and I both had infertility and, without IVF, it would’ve been extremely hard to have more children. We got started right away with genetic testing in mind. We did this because we wanted to do our best to have healthy babies and not risk genetic complications. With genetic testing you can also choose the gender of the baby they transfer inside of you if you would like. We decided we wanted another girl. After a few mildly invasive procedures, we found out we had only a few usable embryos. I will never forget the phone call that day.
‘All boys,’ the nurse said. I hated feeling so ungrateful. Truthfully, I always wanted a ton of boys running around my house, but after losing our girl my heart broke thinking of all of the girl things we wouldn’t get to do. No tutus and bows, no prom dresses, no walking her down the aisle, no baby girl to wear all of the clothes Marren had. I was crushed. A few days later, with full intent on trying to help me through it Josh said, ‘We could give the clothes to someone we know.’ I know he meant well, but I was sick over it and in complete denial. I decided to drive to the IVF clinic to obtain the report which contained information on all of the embryos that were ‘not usable.’
When I finally had my hands on the report, my eyes scanned it at the speed of light. She was right, all boys. Until I saw XX at the bottom of the report. A girl. She was listed as a mosaic embryo, which is defined as an embryo containing a small percentage of abnormal cells. I pulled out my phone and started doing excessive research on mosaic embryos. Three facebook groups and a whole lot of science articles later, I called the clinic begging them to let us transfer the mosaic embryo. They gave her a 40% chance of success and educated us on the increased risk of miscarriage. We decided to use one of our boy embryos also, as some research shows embryos succeed with the company of another embryo. Our embryo transfer went smooth, and I was now in a waiting period. I lay in bed praying this would work, asking Marren to help these babies grow healthy inside of me so they could fill our broken hearts with the love we needed.
Just five days later, I couldn’t take it anymore and I took a pregnancy test. The faintest pink line accompanied the control line. I thought I was seeing things so I sent a picture to Josh. I could tell he wasn’t convinced so we waited another couple of days. I took another test and, again, two lines, but this time much darker. I remember how fast my heart was beating, and I just started praying again. Another week later a blood test confirmed I was pregnant. I remember sobbing and Facetiming a few friends. For the first time in a long time I was filled with so much happiness and hope. Now another waiting period began.
Josh and I walked into an ultrasound room a few long weeks later. We didn’t tell anyone we were going, we just went in together with our guard up. I was so afraid to connect with this pregnancy. I didn’t want to get my hopes up only to get crushed again by an unforeseen event. My brain is ruined that way. I am in a constant state of fear of the absolute worst case scenario. After a very quiet scan, the tech looked up at us and said, ‘Sorry, that took so long because…there are actually two babies!’ She turned the screen around and sure enough, two tiny little bubbles. It was a beautiful sight, our rainbow twins saying hello to us for the first time. I took the ultrasound picture and sent it to my entire family and friends. It worked, and it felt like we could finally breathe.
After a healthy, yet very tiring, 9 months, Sunny Grace (the sunshine after the storm) arrived first in a very quick fashion. All 4 pounds and 10 ounces of our little mosaic embryo that could. She is our miracle girl. Nine minutes later, Barron Henry (rhymes with Marren) arrived. While Barron was nine minutes younger, he continues to outgrow his older sister Sunny. At 6 pounds 1 ounce, you can imagine the size difference was quite a sight! They both thrived so well we were fortunate enough to go home two days later. I firmly believe it was due to the hundreds of prayers going up at the time of their arrival and the handful of guardian angels they have watching over them. I just know Marren was looking down smiling at her younger siblings. We continue to imagine how great of an older sister she would be.
Grief is something we have learned to live with, though each day presents new obstacles. Certain triggers can send us into a pit of grief, and we just have to figure out how to maneuver through life carrying the memories of Marren, the happy and the sad. SIDS is a term I still cannot understand. It is so hard to live with the fact we may never know why we had to lose our daughter. I can’t help but hate the term. How is there such thing as an unexplained death in the year 2022? It is a hard pill to swallow. Some days I still wake up and have to remind myself of what has happened. It feels like a nightmare followed by a dream, truly surreal. Luckily, we have had nothing but love and support from our family and friends throughout this entire journey. If it weren’t for this amazing blanket of love, I don’t know how we would get through it. We continue to lean on our support system during this crazy season of having newborn twins while navigating grief and the anxiety that comes with having small babies again.
We have grown in so many ways since we lost Marren, our sweet Pearl girl. She is so greatly missed and will continue to be until we meet her again. A part of our family will always be missing, but I try to imagine her there with angel wings sitting with us at holidays and on the walks we take around our neighborhood. We know she is present everywhere we go, watching over us and keeping us safe. If there is anything to learn from our story, it is to not let the fear of the unknown stop you from doing what it takes to find happiness. There are many times we wanted to give up and sulk in our sadness. Don’t give up on yourself even during the darkest of times. It is so worth it to keep going.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sam Seedorf, from Waterville, Ohio. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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