‘Sweet boy, Mommy and Daddy love you so much.’ His silent 3-pound body was wrapped in a blanket.’: Parents of child loss know they will see son ‘in heaven,’ celebrate living twin’s life while grieving their loss

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“‘When did I last feel the babies move!?,’ I thought, as a pit of worry started to grow inside me. I put my hands on my growing 30-week belly, willing our identical twin boys to make their presence known with the kicks and punches I had felt innumerable times before.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder

A Wednesday morning the previous June started like any other as my feet hit the carpet in our bedroom, but it quickly turned into the day that would change our lives forever. I had felt off for several days, so I pulled out a pregnancy test and followed the instructions. It seemed like an eternity but was really only moments before the results appeared. Pure shock and joy spilled down my cheeks in the form of tears as I looked down at the word ‘pregnant.’ A dream come true!

Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder
Annaberry Images

Five weeks later, I walked into the small room where I was about to have my first ultrasound. I lay on the bed and looked up at the ultrasound screen. Not long after, the black and gray shapes started moving before my eyes. The ultrasound tech was silent, studying her screen, and I felt uneasy. Why wasn’t she saying anything? I spoke up, only half joking; ‘Is there a baby in there?’ The ultrasound tech smiled at me, ‘Yep! There are actually two.’ Shock coursed through my body. ‘Are you freaking kidding me!?’ I blurted out. Tears and laughter mixed as I tried to wrap my mind around those words. I looked over at my husband, Avery, and took his hand as his face mirrored the shock on my own.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder

Following the ultrasound, our doctor stepped into the room and shared with us that we were pregnant with Mono Di twins. He explained what this meant; they each had their own amniotic sac, but they shared a placenta. These types of twins could develop a rare but serious condition called TTTS. ‘You will have an ultrasound every two weeks to look for signs of TTTS. If it should develop, there are procedures that can correct it,’ he told us. The weeks ticked by, each ultrasound showing no signs of TTTS, and our boys looked as healthy as could be. I struggled with fear throughout my pregnancy, but I clung to one particular Bible verse, Isaiah 26:3.

‘You will keep Him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because He trusts in You.’ I prayed that our pregnancy would be healthy and complication-free, but I knew that no matter the outcome, God was in control.

Anna Brace Photography

It was Saturday, December 29, 2018, and I was 30 weeks and 1 day pregnant. I had experienced a lot of Braxton Hicks and had been to the ER the previous Wednesday, but the babies’ heartbeats were strong, and I had not dilated, so I was sent home. I started to panic as I realized that I had been so focused on the Braxton Hicks that I hadn’t thought about their movements. Usually they moved after I ate sugar, so I ate a big bowl of Greek yogurt and two packets of fruit snacks, laid on our couch and waited for the movements to come. I finally felt one tiny poke at the top of my stomach, and my worries eased.

We continued with our New Years plans by driving to my parent’s house a little over an hour away. All day, I waited for more movement, but my womb was silent. Again I expressed my concerns that evening, and my mom finally said, ‘Elizabeth, go get checked out. I’m sure you’ll hear both heartbeats, everything will be fine, and then you’ll be able to sleep tonight.’ I agreed.

My parents, my husband, and I went to the small town ER. In that hospital room, only one heartbeat was found. During the exam the doctor told us that the second baby might be right underneath the other, making it difficult to find the second heartbeat. They sent us to a hospital in Des Moines that had extensive training in handling twins.

The hour-long ambulance ride seemed like an eternity. Avery and I tried to distract ourselves from the thoughts of what we would find out at the next hospital, but finally I closed my eyes and prayed. ‘Lord, please let us find the second heartbeat. Let our second little one be okay.’

Upon arrival I was admitted into a room, and the same nurse that helped me in the OB Emergency Room three days prior walked through our door. I felt hope. ‘She found both heartbeats last Wednesday! I’m sure she can find them again,’ I thought. Our nurse found the first baby’s heartbeat quickly, but the minutes ticked by as she searched for the second heartbeat. I could feel her concern, and I was trying not to panic. Finally, she stopped what she was doing and turned to me. ‘I’m not able to find the second heartbeat, so your doctor is going to come do an ultrasound. She’ll be in shortly.’ She slipped out the door. Silence and dread filled the room.

The doctor entered our room and set up her ultrasound machine as my husband stood beside me holding my hand. Like so many times before, I felt the cold gel on my belly and looked up at the screen as my heart pounded in my throat. She found Baby A first, and I could see his heartbeat flickering in his chest cavity. As Baby B’s chest came into focus it was horribly, undeniably, tragically, still and lifeless. I stared numbingly at the screen as I realized Baby B was gone. My heart ripped in two. ‘How could this have happened!?’ My brain screamed in those moments. ‘I heard his heartbeat three days ago!!’ My doctor turned with tears in her eyes and said, ‘I’m so sorry, Baby B doesn’t have a heartbeat.’

Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder

The doctor quietly slipped from the room, as tears spilled from my mom’s eyes as she walked over and pulled my head to her chest. The sobs welled up inside me and burst out. All I could feel was shock and pain. My husband laid his head on my lap, sobs shaking his body. My dad joined us at the bed and shared a verse that had been on his mind, his voice breaking as he read. ‘Job 1:21: The Lord gives, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ ‘Blessed!?,’ I thought to myself in agony. ‘How can I bless the Lord. One of my babies is gone!!’ That verse was heart-wrenchingly painful and difficult. It still is to this day. However, even in those grief-filled moments, I still chose to believe that God loved me and was in control.

Following the ultrasound my doctor told us that it showed Baby A had fluid in his head, chest cavity, and abdomen. He was in distress and his best chance of survival was outside the womb. I was overwhelmed and terrified that we would lose Baby A. My dad prayed with the doctor, and us and I was taken in to prep for my C-Section. I laid awake on the operating table while my husband held my hand, feeling the tugging and pulling for several minutes. Finally, my doctor said for all the staff to hear, ‘Baby A ruptured, 1:54 A.M.’ As she spoke, Baby A let out a small cry and was whisked away by the NICU team to be intubated and stabilized.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder

My doctor spoke again as she pulled Baby B from my body, ‘Baby B ruptured, 1:55 A.M.’ The room was filled with silence and I sobbed on the operating table. Baby B’s silent and still 3-pound body was weighed, measured, wrapped in a blanket, and handed to my husband, who brought him to me. We cried, touched him gently, and said over and over, ‘You’re so beautiful, sweet boy. Mommy and Daddy love you so much.’ Later that morning, after my husband and I fitfully slept, we named our surviving twin Liam Andrew and our stillborn twin Noah Ezekiel. Noah means ‘comfort,’ and Ezekiel means ‘God will strengthen.’ We clung to our God as we walked through those moments and days of crushing grief.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder
Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder

Later that day, one of our nurses shared with us that a photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep would gift us professional pictures of Noah, if we wanted. We were amazed that such an organization existed. We were desperate to remember Noah in any way we could, so we said yes. Our photographer was kind, considerate, and compassionate. She took beautiful pictures of Noah, and we will treasure and cherish those pictures forever.

Image courtesy of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Photographer Amy Mulford and Digital Retouch Artist Lisa Manchester
Image courtesy of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Photographer Amy Mulford and Digital Retouch Artist Lisa Manchester
Image courtesy of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Photographer Amy Mulford and Digital Retouch Artist Lisa Manchester

In the days that followed, we had so much joy and heartbreak to process. I was overjoyed with the first words the doctor told us about Liam, ‘He is a lot feistier than we thought!’ I had conflicting emotions of love and sorrow as I held our precious Noah, and a fierce mother’s love and wonder as I saw and touched Liam in the NICU for the first time. I was filled with confusion and heartbreak as I struggled to answer questions like, ‘What color would you like Noah’s casket?’ and ‘What outfit will he be buried in?’ I couldn’t stop thinking, ‘I’m not supposed to be making these decisions. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children.’

Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder

Before I was released from the hospital, my doctor shared with me that she believed Noah had passed away from acute onset TTTS, meaning the TTTS developed rapidly. There had been no signs of it developing at our last ultrasound less than two weeks prior. She also said something I will never forget. ‘Elizabeth, in the vast majority of cases, acute onset TTTS will take both babies’ lives.’ I broke down and cried as she said those words, realizing that Liam’s life was a precious gift and miracle.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder
Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder
Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder

Liam spent 62 days in the NICU before he came home. He is almost nine months old now and has no lasting affects from TTTS or being born 10 weeks early. I am immensely thankful to God for the gift of Liam’s life, but his life does not negate Noah’s death.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder
Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder

We celebrate Liam and we grieve Noah. As we so tragically experienced, death doesn’t just come to those who have lived a full life; but also to those whose life has barely begun. But, death is not the end! We have hope knowing that Noah’s spirit is in heaven. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the grave provides a way for us to live in heaven for all eternity, if we place our trust in Him. Because of this wonderful gift of salvation, we will see Noah in heaven some day. It is my family’s prayer that Noah’s life and death will allow others to hear and come to know the hope of salvation found through Jesus Christ.”

Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder
Courtesy of Elizabeth Snyder

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elizabeth and Avery Snyder of Ankeny, Iowa. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) is an international non profit, proving the gift of remembrance portraits to bereaved families through the talents of volunteer photographers. To find out more information about NILMDTS and volunteer opportunities, click here.

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