I know I need to document this not only for my sake, but for Owen and for Lindsey, however it has taken me more than three weeks to find the courage to go through all of these emotions again. How do you write about the happiest and saddest day of your life without reliving it all? I’d love to just remember the happy, to go back and change it all so that all we felt that day was joy, but I know that in order to do that, I wouldn’t be honoring my sweet Lindsey girl. I would never erase her from my memories and I would never choose to not be her mother. I just wish that I could change it so that she were here and home with us, not waiting for us in heaven. Here it goes. Sorry if I go back and forth from that day to memories from things that happened previously, I just have to mention them because they were the thoughts that got us through that day.
|Our family photo taken by Erin at Lindsey's blessing|
Let me start by saying that I was blessed to have the perfect pregnancy. Right from the start when we found out in February, I felt great. I had a few nauseous days and I got really tired for a while there at the beginning, but really, I had a dream pregnancy. Then, at 16 weeks to find out that our miracle baby was really two miracle babies, I felt like I was floating for the remainder of the pregnancy. Everyone was warning me that I’d have to go on bed rest because when you are having twins you’ll start to go into labor early, or dilate early. With every passing week though, I felt strong and healthy, and more energized and happy than I had in ages. After hoping and praying for a baby for so long, I was just in awe that I was pregnant and that I was finally a mother. My babies weren’t even here yet and I was so grateful for the chance to be a mother. Starting at 20 weeks I got to go in every 4 weeks to see Owen and Lindsey on ultrasound. They were measured and I was measured and everything looked great at each appointment. They were measuring so close in size to one another and my body was doing a great job of stretching to keep them in there without too much discomfort.
At 34 weeks pregnant I had my last day of work at Deseret Book and it seemed so bittersweet. I still had lots of energy, but I knew that I needed to rest before the twins came. I felt like I might over do it if I kept working because I was feeling so good. So, I stayed home, well sort of. At that point I started having weekly appointments with my OB and weekly NSTs at the hospital to make sure that the twins were both doing well. Every week I got to hear their hearts beating and at the beginning of the NSTs I got to see both of them wiggling and interacting as they measured the amniotic fluid to ensure that both babies had enough space and oxygen. Every appointment went well. Every single one. All the way up to week 37. That Friday I went for a NST and Lindsey’s heart rate was really elevated. She was moving around like crazy and I was having a little bit of difficulty breathing because of the way the bed was positioned, but the doctor who reviewed the heart rate strip said everything looked fine and that Lindsey was okay because her heart rate would come down between bursts of movement. I’d also had orange juice with my breakfast that day and that always got her really excited. That was the Friday before our scheduled C-Section.
|One of many ultrasound shots that showed the two of them snuggled together head to head.|
I went in the following Monday for one last NST and one last appointment to make sure that both babies were still positioned appropriately for a low transverse incision. Before arriving for my NST I said a little prayer for Lindsey that her heart rate would be healthy and that all would be well. I’d prayed every appointment that they would find her heart beat. That seems strange to say because I was never worried about finding Owen’s, but it’s the truth. Just like Jon and I had prayed for both babies before we even knew it was twins. All along Lindsey had been positioned in a way that it made her movements hard to be detected from the outside. She was sitting breech, almost folded in half, with her bum over my cervix, her spine running up my right side, and her head tucked just below my ribs. Before my appointments I would try to jostle my belly to make sure I could feel both babies and with so little space, I started second guessing myself in knowing that they were both okay. There was no reason for the fear, my monitoring and growth, and their growth was fine, so I never mentioned the fear to my doctor or anyone else. I didn’t want to be a crazy first time mom. So, at my NST Lindsey was doing well. I even got to watch as she “practiced breathing.” At a lot of my appointments they pointed out the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed the amniotic fluid in and out. Owen was seen practicing occasionally, but not as often as she did. That day, she even turned to look at the ultrasound wand as the tech measured the amniotic fluid levels and I marveled to know that my body was making these two perfectly sized little babies. Her heart rate was in the normal range the whole time and within the first 6 minutes of monitoring I passed the NST and just had to stay hooked up until I hit the 20 minute mark and the doctor could sign off on it.
I went from my NST to my last OB appointment before their scheduled C-section and Dr. Robinson heard both babies’ heartbeats again, around 140 each, just like they always were at my appointments with her. She went over the list of things to look out for and said, “Well, if none of those happen, I’ll see you at the hospital Friday morning at 6. She was so confident that I’d make it to my scheduled time because I was 50% effaced and had not dilated at all. I went home and looked forward to Friday, double and triple checking my hospital bag, finishing the last few crafts and taking the time to print pictures for both of the babies’ baby books. I’d put off writing in their books because I have horrible handwriting, but decided that it was finally time. That and rearranging all of their clothes in their dresser seemed like my biggest priorities that last week.
On Tuesday night I sent Jon to bed and tried to make myself comfortable on the couch for the night. I’d given up sleeping in the bed because I was so big (52 inches around) that trying to roll from side to side to get comfortable made it impossible to breathe. After sitting on the couch for a couple hours I went in and told Jon I was having contractions and that I planned to sit in a warm bath to see if the contractions would go away. After soaking for 45 minutes and falling asleep in the tub, only to wake up really cold, the contractions had stopped and I decided I wanted to sleep in the bed. Jon was really concerned about the contractions and suggested we go to the hospital and I almost agreed, but since I had only had 4 per hour for 2 hours and they stopped once I was in the bath, we both agreed it was better to just wait until Friday. Jon went to work; I stayed home and watched Castle, wandering around when I was uncomfortable and soaking in the tub when my lower back was sore. That’s what continued for the day Wednesday. Jon checked in throughout the day to make sure that I was still feeling the babies move and I was pretty sure that I was feeling them both. He checked on them when he got home though and we both concluded that all was well. That night I decided I wanted to go out to dinner one last time before the babies came, so we went up to Cracker Barrel and then stopped at the Hennessey’s house to visit for a bit before coming home.
Thursday was a repeat of Wednesday with the pacing and trying to find a comfortable position and the soaking in the tub. At about 11 that morning I was so uncomfortable that I text Jon and told him, “I think I’m in early labor or something. I can’t get comfortable no matter what I do.” He responded that it was a good thing we were going in the next morning to have the babies then. Less than 30 minutes later I looked down at my stomach and noticed that it was listing to the left. I text Jon and told him that I thought the twins must be snuggling because every time I tried to shift them back to the right, they would pull to the left. The lean to the left became more pronounced throughout the day and Jon could see it when he got home from work. He’d checked frequently to see if I could feel both babies that day as well and although there was less movement than usual, there was still a ton of movement so I said yes. Once we’d settled in for the night, Jon brought a chair into the living room for me to sit in so that he could give me a priesthood blessing for comfort in preparation for the surgery the next morning. As Jon placed his hands on my head and began to reassure me that things would go well, his words changed course and I was stunned to hear him use the exact words from my patriarchal blessing to let me know that there are difficult decisions in being a parent and raising children and that as long as I was prayerful, that I would find comfort in my choices. That patriarchal blessing had been given to me the winter before my 16th birthday as I prepared to go and live with my sister Sarah in California. I did not understand why Jon would be prompted to say those words and mentioned that to him after. He gave me a huge hug and said, “I don’t know, they were just the words that you needed to hear I guess.” As the night got later I became more and more uncomfortable and Jon became concerned about the babies. I lay on the bed in our bedroom as Jon shined the flashlight all around my belly trying to get the babies to move around. Owen was obviously moving and I thought I could feel Lindsey’s flutterings in middle of my stomach. I tried not to be paranoid though and decided to soak once more in the bathtub. It was 12:30. After sitting in the tub and timing what were now obviously contractions I realized that they were coming every 3-5 minutes and were lasting 30 to 90 seconds and increasing in intensity. I went in and woke Jon up again. This time telling him I was pretty sure I was in labor, but that my water hadn’t broken. He said, “Well, lets get ready and head to the hospital. What’s the worst that they’ll do? Tell us to come back in a few hours?” I got in the shower and shaved my legs one last time. I dried and straightened my hair, something I hadn’t done for weeks because I wanted to look beautiful for my babies in their first day pictures. Jon showered and at 2:00 am, we headed out the door for the hospital, opting to take Jon’s car because I felt good enough to climb in.
|The final belly shot in the mirror minutes before we left for the hospital.|
We drove in nervous excitement to the hospital, marveling at how little traffic there was and gritting through the contractions as I rubbed the right side of my belly. Whenever I was worried during the pregnancy I’d rub Lindsey’s side and tell myself that it would all be okay. We parked in the parking garage, not in a labor and delivery spot, and I walked very, very slowly up the stairs to the hospital. Jon kept teasing me that with every step I was going slower. We rode the elevator to the fourth floor where I’d been on Monday for my NST. We were greeted in labor and delivery by a male nurse who took my information. He confirmed that we were preregistered and scheduled for a C-section that morning at 7:30. He shared that he had boy/girl twins at home and we were so excited that we’d be joining that club so soon. Another nurse came and greeted us and took us to a labor and delivery room where I was instructed to put on a gown so that they could hook me up for monitoring. I had my blue and pink belts from the NSTs that I was so excited to use to listen to the babies one more time before they were born.
The nurse told us when she came back in and helped me into the bed that she had 13 year old girl twins at home and how excited she was for us also. As she got the heart rate monitors untangled and the contraction monitor ready, I kept thinking how perfect it was that we had the staff that we did that day. It was then that everything changed. The nurse asked where she could find baby A’s heartbeat for monitoring, I showed her on my lower right side, and as she placed the Doppler there, there was silence. Jon and I both looked at each other, a little worried, as she moved it around, not finding any noise. I’d prayed every other time that Lindsey would be okay, this time I hadn’t because we were so close, I didn’t think anything could go wrong. The nurse seemed worried, but said, “We’ll come back to baby A, where can I find baby B?” I showed her the upper left spot where Owen’s chest was and as soon as the Doppler hit my skin we were hearing his heart thumping steadily. She then put the contraction monitor on and I watched as my contractions were coming quite steadily. She went back to Lindsey’s heart rate monitor and attempted again to find her heart beat. She quieted Owen’s monitor so that we could hear as the silence from her side continued. She told us not to worry as she called another nurse in to check and called for a portable ultrasound so they could try to find her. When the portable ultrasound came in, the other nurse moved the probe around and we could see Lindsey’s head and then down to her chest and there was no movement. I’m pretty sure that was when my shaking began. I was trying to remain calm, but I was hurting a lot from the constant contractions, and just didn’t want to believe what I was seeing. Jon held my hand and kissed my forehead, and just said, “We can do this. We’ll be okay.” We both knew inside that Lindsey had already passed away, but neither of the nurses could say that, instead one of them went to get the doctor who was on call for the night, so that she could confirm things. Jon grabbed the ultrasound probe then and after finding her chest; we could see the chambers of her heart as they sat motionless. When the doctor came in I just wanted her to change what I already knew. I asked the nurse if we could just try to zap her, not meaning with electricity, but with the probe that I had heard them use during other people’s NSTs. I’d heard babies who were very inactive wake right up with the loud sound buzzed on their mothers’ stomach. The nurse squeezed my arm and said, “I’m so sorry, it won’t help. She’s already gone.” I was in full shock at that point. What was supposed to be the very best day of my life, when I got to hold my squirmy twins for the first time, had turned into the saddest day. It was a day that I had hoped I would never experience, after watching my parents lose my sister, and my sister-in-law lose her son, I never wanted to know their pain.
Things started moving at a break neck pace at that point. At least it felt like the world was spinning out of control to me. The doctor on call went and called Dr. Robinson and they decided they needed to get Owen out as quickly as they could to ensure that he would be okay. They started pumping me with IV fluids to prep for the surgery and I listened as Jon had to call his parents and my parents to tell them that we’d lost Lindsey. After he told his mom and dad, he asked if I wanted to use his phone to call my parents and I just told him that I couldn’t because I didn’t want to break their hearts. He did it for me and made that call over and over again to let the family know what was happening. It was so early in the morning; everyone thought we were just calling on our way to the hospital. Jon tried to answer everyone’s questions as best he could, even though neither of us had any clue as to what happened. Every time he’d greet a new person over the phone and say, “We lost Lindsey”, I would have to stifle a sob because I didn’t want it to be true. I think the hardest call was when Jon said he needed to try to call Erin. We had both mentioned the year before when James passed away that we felt like his passing was preparing us for something. We didn’t want it to be this. It was obvious to us both that the Lord knew that we would need the comfort of others who had this experience, but we just didn’t want to be experiencing it. He wasn’t able to get her on the phone while we were preparing for surgery.
When Dr. Robinson arrived I had to start signing papers and listening as doctors, anesthesiologists, and nurses explained what would happen next and have me sign forms to say that I understood. I wasn’t scared at all about the surgery anymore, I just wanted my babies out so I could hold and kiss them. I wanted them to be delivered so that I could see that Lindsey was really okay. In my head I just kept thinking, if they can get her out they can save her, they can still bring her back. That’s what I kept thinking until the doctor sat down with one last form and explained that because Lindsey had not had a heart beat for more than 5 minutes prior to their delivery, that no life saving measures would be performed. I felt like my heart was tearing as they handed me a pen that I could not keep steady. I kept muttering, “I understand,” as I signed the form. I still couldn’t grasp it though, I still hoped that something would change and they would pull her out and she’d cry and squirm and turn nice and pink. They then explained as we walked to the operating room that they would wrap Lindsey up as soon as she was delivered and have a nurse bring her to Jon so that he could hold her and I could see her while they delivered Owen and as they checked him to make sure he was okay.
Once we got to the operating room the anesthesiologist got right to work. Jon was trying to get the camera working so that he could document their birth and for some reason, the lens that was on it wouldn’t work. I was shaking so hard at that point that I started to worry about the spinal block and my ability to stay still as they inserted the needle. As I hugged the pillow and felt the slight prick of the numbing shot I tried to will myself to calm down. I knew that I needed to calm down for the babies, that if I didn’t remain calm I might hyperventilate or throw up or something and then I wouldn’t even be allowed to see them. By the time the spinal block was done, Jon had finally fixed the camera and had a few shots of the operating room floor. I was asked to swing my legs up onto the operating table and as I tried they felt very heavy. As I turned I felt a gush of warm fluid and one of the nurses said, “We’ve got a bloody show.” I listened as the nurses and doctors took a count of all of the instruments and sutures, and as Dr. Robinson requested a smaller scalpel and a tray for taking a biopsy of a mole of my stomach. I was a little relieved that in all of the commotion, she hadn’t forgotten about that. Sometime close to this I started asking if they were putting medicine in my IV really often because it kept burning every time they added more. By the second time I asked the anesthesiologist brought an oxygen mask over and placed it over my mouth and nose. I thought it was just standard procedure, but I’d done a bad job of not hyperventilating and I needed it. I was shaking so hard at this point and I had my arms laid out on the arm pieces of the bed and I kept wondering when they were going to strap my arms down. They never did strap my arms down but I dutifully kept them stretched to my sides.
When the surgery began Jon was standing near my head watching and providing a calming commentary. He was asking lots of questions and the doctors were helping both of us stay calm by answering them patiently. I remember at one point Jon teased me because they were cauterizing the incision and he said, “Rachael, I can smell your flesh burning.” I couldn’t smell it because of the oxygen mask. Soon after that as they cut down through another layer they hit a vein or an artery on my left side and I spurted blood 6 feet or so and hit every person in the surgical area. Jon cheered for me for getting them all and the doctor teased that I needed to behave. Then, they were deep enough to deliver the babies. Lindsey was delivered first, just as was always planned. When they broke her bag of waters it was full of blood rather than clear amniotic fluid. Jon asked if it was normal and they responded that it wasn’t and that he’d see the difference when Owen was born. He also asked if her cord looked normal, to which they gave the same response. Her cord was red and shriveled instead of white and rubbery. I could feel them tugging as they tried to get her bum unwedged from my pelvis. Jon watched as her lower half came out, completely folded in half, the doctors then had to work to get her head out. She was wedged under my ribcage. I could feel the pressure of the doctors pushing on my stomach trying to get her head out and I just wanted to use my hand to push her head down because I could feel exactly where she was. Once she was loose she came all the way out and Jon just exclaimed, “Oh, she’s beautiful!” One of the nurses or doctors commented that she was beautiful and that she had so much hair. I just wanted to see her; I couldn’t believe that she was actually born because she was so silent. They called her birth time at 4:29 am. Then as they wrapped her up to bring her to us, Owen was born. Jon could see the difference because his amniotic fluid was the normal yellowish color and his cord was fine. He came out head first, with his body sliding out easily after and made one loud squawk to mark his entrance into the world at 4:30 am. He stretched all the way out and every marveled at him as well commenting on how tall he was right from the start.
|Lindsey's toes. Owen definitely got Jon's feet, those pictures are still in the camera though.|
The nurse brought Lindsey over for Jon to hold and after briefly showing us Owen, they took him to be weighed, measured, and wiped down. We could hear him screaming about it as we marveled at our sweet sleeping beauty. She looked so healthy and so alive. Her lips and fingernails had a dark tint to them that made her look so much more delicate and feminine. We noticed right away that she had my dimpled chin and it was so important to me that Jon unwrap her lower body and show me her toes so I could know if she got my feet or his. She had mine, with the overlapping second toe. They had said that I could hold Lindsey, but I was still shaking so hard and wearing the oxygen mask that kept fogging up my glasses and I was still expecting that my arms should be strapped down so I just laid arms out and watched as Jon adoringly stroked her cheeks and kissed her head and loved on her. It was so beautiful to see him repeat the process with Owen when he was brought around. I had been a little concerned about loving one baby more than the other or thinking one was cuter, but seeing the two of them, I knew that they were two of the most beautiful babies and although they were obviously brother and sister, they were so uniquely wonderful that there was enough room to have love for each of them in my heart.
|Holding hands, Owen on top, Lindsey on bottom.|
|Brother and Sister all snuggled up in their going home outfits.|
|You can definitely tell that they are twins, yet they have their own looks for sure.|
As we enjoyed the babies they continued to work on me, delivering the placentas and taking samples of cord blood and sending both placentas to pathology to see if they could find the source of Lindsey’s death. They gave us the stats for both babies then. Lindsey was 6 lbs. 11 oz. and 20 inches tall; Owen was 6 lbs. 12 oz. and 20.5 inches tall. They gave Jon a tour of my uterus showing him all of the parts and where they would all go as they put it back inside my incision. They then biopsied my mole and the whole staff laughed as no one could find a Band-Aid to put over the three stitches that were placed to allow the biopsy site to heal. They covered it in gauze and surgical tape instead. I was then shifted to a recovering bed and both babies were placed on me, one on either side, as they wheeled me to the “VIP room” to recover and spend time with our sweet babies. The thing that broke my heart the most about the ride though, was watching as they positioned the blankets over Lindsey’s face so that prying eyes wouldn’t see that my sweet girl was born sleeping.
|Head to head at Lindsey's blessing, they are so similar, yet so individual.|
Getting settled into the room, someone brought our things from the first Labor and Delivery room and set them on the couch. Then Jon began the task of making more phone calls to the bishop, to his siblings, to my family to confirm that I was okay and that Owen was healthy, and to a few friends to let them know what happened. While that was going on nurses were telling me that Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep had already been called and a photographer would be there shortly to take pictures of my Lindsey girl. They also brought in a white dress and blanket for her to wear as well as a memory box for her clothes and hospital things to be stored in. The nursing staff gifted us the Angel of Hope Willow Tree ornament that holds a lantern. While all of this was happening every person who came in commented on the beauty of our babies. Owen was so content and after just a few minutes began rooting, ready to start eating right from the get go. He latched on really well right away, but when visitors began arriving, the nurse suggested giving him a binky so he’d remember the suckling reflex. Bishop Chidester, Josh Lukenga, Patty Godfrey, and Trina Smith were the first visitors of the morning. They came to represent the ward, but also as our friends. Bishop confirmed that we would be allowed to give Lindsey a name and a blessing and that we just needed to let him know when we wanted to do that. The next visitors were the Talbots, the Morrisons, the Graves, and Beth Child. Beth had stopped at our house to get Lindsey’s blessing dress just in case we decided to use it for pictures. During this commotion we learned that Drew and Susan had bought tickets and were on the first flight from San Diego, they had dropped everything to be there for us. My mom was already booked on a flight to get there that night and my sister Beth had packed bags and was driving up right away from Nevada. I told my Dad to stay in Michigan and wait until we had more plans about when the funeral and all of that would be. It was just a whirlwind of all of our families and closest friends trying to get there to be with us and support us as quickly as they could. I don’t think I’d ever felt such an outpouring of love. I think one of the harder moments for Jon during this time period was talking to Erin on the phone. He finally got in touch with her and after telling her, heard as she handed the phone to Jon Mason and went outside to scream for a few minutes, to just shout to get the pain out. I was feeling like that was what I wanted to do so badly, but I couldn’t. I could already feel the strength and the calm from everyone’s prayers washing over me. I just kept thinking we’ve been prepared for this, right from the beginning. We hadn’t ever really considered it, but both Jon and I felt like we knew all along that this was a possible outcome. The Lord prepared us through all of our life experiences to have both of these sweet babies come into our lives, knowing full well that one of them would never have a chance to take a breath in our arms. We both knew in the moment that it was all part of Heavenly Father’s plan for our family and that this trial was something that we had agreed that we could handle. It wasn’t just Jon and I who agreed to it, Lindsey had agreed to be our daughter and to lead the way for us. Owen had agreed to come to Earth with his sister and be our happiness and our joy in such a sad time. We had all been prepared. When that peace washed over me, I remembered the words of Jon’s blessing and my testimony that this was part of a greater plan was just reaffirmed. Jon had been inspired to bless me with the same words that I had heard more than 10 years before so that I would find comfort in knowing that this was the Lord’s plan for me as a mother. For some reason I have always needed two witnesses and in this circumstance I had it.
|Our Sleeping Beauty, photo thanks to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep|
As visitors stayed and held both of my babies and stroked their cheeks and cried on their heads, I slowly came out of the fog of the narcotics from my surgery. My legs regained feeling and my whole face and body began to itch. I felt present in the experience, but so distant from it all. I was still shaking so much that I was nervous to hold Owen at first and I had to sit in the hospital bed and watch from afar as Jon had the opportunity to give Lindsey a bath and dress her in her coming home outfit so that we could take pictures to remember our sweet girl’s birthday. In all of it though, I felt my daughter’s presence there with me, reminding me that she is mine and that I can do this. That I have to do this; I can make it through every day and every challenge, for her. Well, not just for her, for her brother too. That’s the remarkable blessing in all of this. Owen is safe and healthy and mine here on Earth as well as in the eternities. In the last calendar year, I went from thinking that I might not ever have children here on Earth, to having one waiting for me in Heaven, watching over me, and another here on Earth with me, for me to watch over and protect. I am so blessed in both instances and I need to remind myself on the hard days that “its going to be okay and we can do this.” We’ve been prepared and we are an eternal family and we can get through anything as long as we rely on the Lord and remain faithful. I’ve quoted Neal A. Maxwell before, but I have to keep reminding myself, “Faith in God includes faith in His timing.” If I knew it to be true with the conception of these sweet babies, then I know it to be true in the way that I get to raise them too. There are a lot of other things from that first day and these first few weeks that I would like to document, but this is what I need to share for now.