this is the story i have to tell you

There are so many stories I want to tell you. Stories of our daughters’ births, lives, and deaths. Stories that have ended and stories that are just beginning.

Some stories will take months and years before I can share. Some stories I will hold sacred and secret until the end of my days.

But this is the story I have to tell you now.

Margaret Susan and Abigail Kathleen were born on Saturday evening via c-section. When we finally got to sleep late that night, they were stable in the NICU. By Sunday morning, they were not. We spent Sunday afternoon holding Maggie as she died in our arms.

People say there are no words for this, but there are. They are just achingly hard words. People say that parents should not have to go through this, but they do. It is just overwhelmingly awful.

But what everyone agrees upon is that having to do this two days in a row – having to hold two children while their breathing slows and their hearts stop – is unbearable. Beyond the pale. Nothing but nightmare.

I am here to tell you that it is not. 

On Sunday, we collapsed into bed with the full weight of grief. We knew the morning would bring the task anew, that now we had to say goodbye to Abby. I sobbed myself to sleep and I cried myself awake. I did not know how to do what we had to do.

We dragged our feet. We tried to eat breakfast. We prayed with the chaplain. Finally the terrible hospital phone screamed its shrill ring again. We knew we had to go. I winced into the wheelchair, and Franco wheeled me slowly down the hallways we had come to hate, happy paintings of animals and butterflies, cheerful photos of miracle survivors.

When we entered Abby’s room, her nurse asked if we wanted to hold her for a while before they started disconnecting all her tubes. There was no rush, she said. We could take all the time with her that we wanted. And did we want to do skin-to-skin time with her?

The lump in my throat escaped into a sob. No. I wanted to do skin-to-skin with two healthy twins ready to nurse. I did not want to do this with a tiny, sick preemie who would die within hours. I wanted anything but this.

The nurse persisted, gently. I could tell Franco was reluctant and weary, too. But something nudged us to relent. Ok, we said. We would hold her skin to skin.

This is where I have to pause the story. This is where I have to tell you that if someone told me what would happen next, I would glare and shake my head fiercely and deny that such a thing could ever exist. Let alone happen to me. That it sound like pure sentiment, a wistful dream. Nothing like reality.

I have to tell you this because I understand how the next part of the story sounds.

The nurses uncoiled Abby from her nest of cords and tubes. I tugged my shirt over my head and pulled the hospital gown around my shoulders. I inched back into the recliner, rows of stitches from Saturday’s two surgeries sending searing pain across my stomach. They slowly placed Abby onto my chest, covered her with layers of warm blankets, and left the room.

And every last dredge of sadness left my body.

I started to smile. I started to grin. This is not the reaction you expect when nurses place your dying baby to your skin. But everything turned inside out. I was flooded with peace. I was filled with the deepest joy I have ever felt. I could not understand why sorrow and grief had occupied any inch of my body before that instant. This was a different world.

Abby breathed and I breathed. She stretched out her hands across my chest, reaching with her tiny fingers. I held the smallest small of her back, felt her lungs and heart flutter against mine. I closed my eyes and sat there, smiling. The nurse came into the room and shook her head, I can’t believe you are smiling. Franco whispered into my ear, I wish you could see how you look right now. You are so full of joy.

It transformed everything.

After a while I tried to rationalize, gently. Surely this was just the oxytocin high I missed after delivery. All the love hormones rushing to help me bond with baby and let down my milk. I understood the physiology of labor and birth; I knew science could explain this. But after twenty, thirty, forty minutes of unrelenting joy, I started to wonder why there was no dip in the surge. Why I could not conjure a single sentiment of sadness. Why I could not remember why I had wept when we said goodbye to Maggie, when we knew this perfect joy was what awaited her.

It made no sense.

I opened my eyes, still smiling. Franco was at peace next to me, his body relaxed, his eyes unred. Do you want to take a turn? I asked him. Of course, he smiled. So with the help of two nurses, we carefully lifted Abby from my chest and placed her onto his. He closed his eyes and grinned; she stretched out her arms and held him.

And right before my eyes, I watched the exact same joy unfold on his face. 

It was all the same bliss.

We held Abby for hours. We took turns. We took photos. Whenever we opened our eyes to talk, we had the same bewildered conversation.

I’m not sad anymore. This makes no sense. You look just like I feel. I have never felt so much joy. I think this is honestly what heaven must be. I never knew anything could feel like this.

And this is the part of the story I want to impress upon you, as deeply as that 1 lb, 5 oz baby impressed herself upon my chest. This was the happiest I have ever been. 

You know those flashes you glimpse, when life seems perfect for an instant? A wedding day, the birth of a baby, a sun-soaked summer evening. We all have a handful of moments. Fleeting foretastes of the beyond. Glimmers of how good life can be here below.

But everything that had flashed before? It was nothing like we felt in that NICU room. This was heaven stretched out for hours. 

It seemed audacious to say at first. We laughed about lumping ourselves into the same category as Aquinas and so much straw. Who dares to put themselves in the company of saints and visions?

And yet. And yet after hours soaking in this unrelenting joy, we could only conclude that we had been given a rare and perfect gift. We were in it together. Our tiny daughter, our second dying child, had opened up a space we never knew existed.

We were right inside the heart of God.

I will never again feel that much joy this side of whatever comes next. I am absolutely sure of this. And if I could share only a sliver of what it felt and breathed and loved like in that NICU room, you would never again fear any doubt of the divine or the existence of an afterlife. I am certain of this, so deep and enduring was what we experienced. It is anchored in every fiber of my body from now on.

This is the story I have to tell you. That right inside what we expected to be the worst day of our lives, we were given the fullness of joy. That as we met death face-to-face, we found it to be life. That when we expected despair, we discovered nothing but love.

It is a story that makes no sense. It is a story that changes everything. It is a story that has transformed what makes up our very being, how we want to spend the rest of our lives, and everything we know about God.

It may be only the beginning of the best story I have ever been given to share.

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Photo from the amazing Jennifer Liv Photography, thanks to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

94 thoughts on “this is the story i have to tell you

  1. Laura, there are no words. Thank you for sharing your story. Praying for your family. So glad you got to meet and smile upon your girls.

  2. Oh Laura. God bless you and your family! What you have shared is such a gift that I didn’t anticipate to unwrap by reading this post. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing and continued prayers for your journey.

  3. Intellectually, I think I understand this joy. I can only hope to truly FEEL it in my bones, in my heart, and in my soul if every faced with such a situation. I ache for you as a mother, but I know your perfect girls are in complete peace, and any sorrow, even sympathy sorrow, while understandable, comes from selfishness. And, from a place of guilt. I am faced with the Truth that I take this life, and most especially my children and husband for granted. I pray for you and your family during this time, and if I may, I pray that your precious little Saints might pray for me, and all us who blissfully remain blinded by the veil of this world that we might not take this for granted.

    Thank you for sharing.

  4. God has blessed you by being able to feel Him and to be able to share your story with others. You have been given a tremendous gift. While I wish to express my condolences, after reading your words I feel compelled to also smile and praise God for Maggie and Abby’s miraculous lives. He has something tremendous in store for them in Heaven. May He continue to hold you in His arms.

  5. Oh my dear friend, your daughters teach us so much. Thank you for sharing this miracle with us. We love them and you.

  6. My heart aches for you and you are in my prayers. What a gift! What joy! What beauty is in this story. Thank you for being brave enough to share it.

  7. God bless you and your family, Laura! Your story moved me deeply. Prayers for continued peace for you and yours! XOXO

  8. This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I am so sorry that you have had to say goodbye to your baby girls. Thank you for sharing this with us. It is a gift. I have never experienced kind of loss that you have. The only thing close (but not really close) was holding my 2 inch miscarried baby in my hand and saying goodbye. I don’t ever talk about the joy I have over that baby because it doesn’t seem to mesh with the grief that other women feel in the same situation. I did grieve… I do miss him… but there is that joy that has never left. Your words have given me permission to feel it in full. It is the closest I have ever felt to heaven… the memory of that child is one of my greatest earthly consolations.You have put words to what I never could. I will continue to pray for your family. Please know that your girls are already blessing the world. That grace will spread like a wildfire. God be praised!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing such beauty. How amazing that such grief can be met with such joy! Your family continues to be in my prayers.

  10. beautiful. transformative. life-giving. nourishing. thank you for your tender vulnerability in sharing this piece of your story. you and f continue to amaze and astound.

  11. Kelly, I have always strayed away from child loss stories for all the obvious anxiety ridden worst nightmare reasons. So your post is the very first one I’ve ever read to completion. Thank you for sharing the gift you have been given, for giving a glimpse of “life in death” in a society where something like that is unfathomable to consider or experience. This is a beautiful testament to life in Jesus Christ. Praying continually for you and your husband.

    1. Laura!! I’m so embarrassed. I guess my eye reads the Kelly on your IG and it sticks. My apologies.

  12. What a beautiful gift. I experienced a glimpse of that joy holding the two babies I lost in the second trimester (eight months apart), and I pray I never forget it. May God continue to bless you with peace, consolation, and joy in the midst of sorrow. You will be in my prayers.

  13. What a beautiful moment Our Lord allowed you and your husband to experience with your sweet Abby before she went Home!! I couldn’t help but be brought to tears as I read it. Thank you for sharing that with all of us! I will continue to lift your family up in prayer. God bless you, dear!!!

  14. Crying, crying, in the middle of a busy coffee shop. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story. What a beautiful hope we have. And how amazing that your daughters are right now feeling that joy, and will forevermore. Praise to our most loving Father.

  15. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us. May the Good Lord continue to wrap your family in His love!

  16. This is amazing, and I’m so astounded you found the words to do justice to your experience. God bless you and your family! Sts. Maggie and Abby, pray for us.

  17. God works in incredible, unbelievable ways sometimes. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    I had a tiny glimpse of this years ago when I stopped breathing after an operation. It’s the kind of story I tell only to those who will not think I’m crazy. I’m so glad to know that you had a longer experience and that you have also tasted heaven.

  18. Someone above said my exact feelings after stumbling upon this post…what an amazing gift I did not expect to open. Thank you for sharing such an incredible story.

  19. Just amazing and beautiful.
    So happy for you to have had this joy and so sorry for your loss, Laura…..xoxox
    Praying for you, thinking of you, your husband and your daughters…..
    God bless, Laura.

  20. So deeply moving. As a preemie mother of two, I am so touched by your story. Amen. I will pray for you and your family.

  21. What blessed, comforting grace. I pray your daughters are playing together with mine. I pray you feel their joy and their laughter in unexpected moments throughout the rest of this earthly life. I pray that your entire family feels closer and more connected because of the two little lives that have reached out to encompass not just your biological family, but your Church family.

    We are all in this together, and your joy is our joy. So though I, for one, grieve with you for the loss of your children, I rejoice in the gain of two perfect saints who await us with incredible, boundless joy.

    Bless you all. <3 Thank you so much for sharing this.

  22. You have seen, touched. held, experienced the Divine. That peace that goes beyond human understanding. What a gift! Your family has been, and will continue to be, in our thoughts and prayers.

  23. Laura, this is beautiful. What a wonderful gift given to you by the Lord. That joy is what we hope for all of our children. Thank you for sharing. Amazing.

  24. This is so beautiful. I’m so very sorry that your precious girls are not here with you. How amazing that the Lord gave you such peace and joy in those final hours. We lost our twin daughters to TTTS as well, and I can honestly say I have never felt closer to God nor had as clear a perspective on heaven and eternity as I did in those days following their deaths. Your family will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.

  25. What a gift of grace, Laura! You had a candle burning here at the Grotto for your entire family. I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m so thankful for that revelation of joyful life you were given.

  26. Just realized my comment this morning didn’t post. I cried at my desk reading this — just incredibly beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing, Laura. Praying for you all.

  27. I prayed so hard for a different outcome for you and your girls, even at Adoration lasts week (the first time I had been in months). I’m so sorry for your heartache, but so thankful for the gift you have been given, and amazed at how God has used the lives of your twins to reach others. Having lost my own set of identical twins 8.5 years ago at 13 weeks gestation (I feel strongly that they also were girls), I know that I would have given anything to have been able to see them and hold them, let alone to have exerienced what you described. I hope that taste of Heaven sustains you forever.

  28. Laura and Franco, you take my breath away. Thank you for teaching me (us) about faith, love, grace, surrender, hope, perseverance, death, beauty and unity. Through your words, I now have an image of heaven – a tiny but strong, pure embrace with absolutely unconditional love and joy. God bless you and your families every minute.

  29. I echo Anita’s words. I will hold your family in my prayers and speak Maggie and Abby’s names into the universe. Thank you for the gift you have given us all by using your talent for writing to convey these beautiful words to others in the midst of your grief. God bless you.

  30. What an amazing gift you have been able to find during difficult time. What a blessing you both are able to trust God and His plan for your babies. Your faith runs deep! Blessings of healing for you.

  31. Laura and Franco, God bless you both and your family. You have shared a beautiful story of love, and a true belief in a life beyond. Laura, you have a gift in being able to share such tender, peaceful words. I remember you as a small girl and you have truly grown into such a strong , beautiful women. May you, your husband, and family remain in God’s arms. Thank you for sharing this story. I have prayed for these babies every day, and will now give those prayers for all of your family. God bless you all.

  32. I just realized that your twins were born on February 27, which was my twins’ due date in 2008. And it was the day after I prayed for you at adoration. I’m sure that God (and maybe my twins) are speaking to me through your experience. Thank you for caring enough to share with us.

  33. Laura and Franco,
    Thank you for sharing the beautiful story of Maggie and Abby with us. I weep for your loss, and also with your joy. You put words around my experience, time and again, as a NICU chaplain – the love of the parents and the children that I witnessed was incredible, sacred and palpable. Just as it was again in this post. You have given a great gift by sharing the lives of your daughters. Thank you. May these memories give you comfort and joy in the days and moments ahead. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Much love, Natalie

  34. Laura, these were some of the most glorious, moving, faith-inspiring words I have ever encountered. Truly. As a fellow young Catholic mother please know that I am aching for your loss, but celebrating your daughters beautiful lives and their reunion with their Heavenly Father. You and your family are held in prayer tonight.

  35. God bless you and thank you for sharing!!! It is always beautiful and encouraging to hear about those moments where we are absolutely certain beyond any shadow of a doubt that God exists and is right there with us. Peace to you and your family!

  36. God bless you and thank you for sharing!!! It is always encouraging to hear about the beautiful moments where we know beyond any shadow of a doubt that God exists and is right there with us! Peace to you and your family!!

  37. Morning my sister, thank you so much for sharing your Joy. To be inspired is to be In Spirit–it is out of our control, only in gods hands and with our surrender of our human ego do we feel it. We lost my husbands brother in a shooting accident last year–a long story I don’t need to relate but the essence that I experienced the night he died also settled a profound Joy in my God Heart. The energy that surrounded his death was so familiar–I kept thinking, “I have been here before, what does this remind me of?” In the midst of my family’s grief, panic and sadness I felt completely calm, peaceful and supported…..and then I realised–I felt exactly as I felt during labour the moment my child arrived to the world. The vibrations in my body, in the air, the deep sound of a mother grieving her dead child–it all sounded like birth, felt like birth. Just symmetrically opposite. The portals of birth and death my seem so different from the outside but where we came from, where we return to and the energies that surround the journey are all one–all the same god all the same infinite knowing, infinite innocence and Love. Thank you for sharing, thank you for Loving, thank you for Evolving:) May your insights and beauty reach out to many, many more. love and light from afrika, namaste

  38. Dear Laura,
    I am short of words. I was seated in a work related retreat yesterday when I saw your post. I was so disappointed tears ran down my cheeks and so I quickly rushed to the bathroom and sat there for a while thinking–why do Christians have to go through all this?i left the retreat, drove home with a heavy heart and went to my bedroom feeling so bad I could not even take a shower but then your photo with a smile made me feel so guilty of the many times I have complained to God about situations not as hard as yours. I made a phone call to a friend and shared your story and your smile in the midst of this situation. Today i decided to wait on the Lord in fasting asking God to give me the grace to remain grateful to him in times like these.You are in my prayers

  39. Laura, thank you for sharing this moment of true joy. To be in the true presence of Christ through your daughters, is nothing but a miracle. God is awesome in all ways, happy and tragic. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. And you were. Blessed are the pure of heart for they will see God. I believe your daughters showed you Him. Oh how wonderful! Im sorry for the loss of your baby girls. But thank you for showing us how God is working through all of this. All my love to you and your family..

  40. Laura, thank you for sharing your loss, your grief, your joy. Your words move me tremendously, and I find myself weeping in sadness and awe and love and hope. You approach life — the highest highs and the unimaginably lowest lows — with so much love, grace, and joy. Wishing you and your family strength and peace.

  41. God surprises us at ever step in our life if we let him. It has taken me a lifetime to learn to trust but now that I do God throws the door open with graces. I am so sorry for the loss of your two daughters but I am very happy that God gave you this gift to share with others. Peace to you both and to your Saints in Heaven.

  42. Laura, this is extraordinary beautiful. Both Greg and I wept. Through all the sadness, God’s light shines through you and you bask in His glory. Your story is such a witness and inspiration to the rest of us. God Bless you, Franco, the boys and the little angels.

  43. Laura,
    Each week I open your email to savor the words you share. Your writing, the deep, honest and real words have helped me reorganize my sense of faith after my own pregnancy losses. (Much of our stories are the same: multiple miscarriages and raising boys.) This time when I opened your email, I savored again–for different reasons. I’m aching, heartbroken for your (and your family’s) loss. I am simultaneously grateful that you had hours of pure joy to know the feeling of loving and holding a daughter.

    As a writer, I am guessing you love good books. One that helped me through the loss of our only girl (died in utero at 16 weeks) is Symphony in the Dark: Hearing God’s voice in seasons of grief by Rainey and Mutz. The primary writer also lost her baby shortly after birth. Because of my personal experiences I have transformed some of my counseling practice to fertility-related work. Another book that might be useful is We were gonna have a baby, but we had an angel instead.

    I will continue to pray for you, your children, and your entire family. Your writing is a gift and is healing. I hope the prayers and these book suggestions help you in this next phase of your journey in grief and in faith.

  44. OK…I have no idea how I got here…but its what I needed today. As a Father of 7 and we had two miscarriages (one at 27 weeks) you’ve placed a good glob of butter on my worst fear… Thank you.

    May God Bless you and your husband with many children and your two Saints continue to watch over you.

    Mary Queen of Peace….Pray for us.

  45. This gave me chills all over. You are an amazing mom. You know what true love is and you truly felt every bit of it in that moment the baby was in your arms. Thank you for sharing your story!

  46. I noticed your joy-filled face in the picture you posted on IG. The full story behind that picture is amazing, sitting here in tears (and I am not a cryer). All I could think of is that suffering purifies, and when you entered your suffering you experienced pure love. It all echoes Jesus on the cross so deeply. Thank you for letting your family tell the story of the cross and our faith so beautifully. Keeping you all in our prayers.

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  48. I have seen moments such as this during my career as a NICU nurse. I truly believe that these beautiful and frail infants are so close to God and so enveloped in His love that there is an aura of heaven around them.

  49. I find it to be no coincidence that I am reading this on Easter morning. Thank you so much for telling your story. I experienced that kind of joy amidst suffering when I watched My brother pass. There’s an awe and wonder I will never forget- it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed. Anyway, this is such an important story to tell: joy in suffering, and I am so grateful for you for telling it so beautifully. Bless you and your family as you go into this Easter season.

  50. Laura, I step-stoned to this post through Nell at Whole Family Parenting, so I HAD to read through all of the posts. When I arrived at this one (and I went backwards), I was struck with an image of your sweet Maggie, sitting on Jesus’ lap, yearning for His love, His joy to touch you after the heartbreak, the immense sorrow that you had just endured with her death–but only through Abby, of course! Her twin! What a gift that our Lord allowed this new saint to give to you through those last hours of Abby’s life! Only in Heaven for a short time and already allowed to intercede for you! These two precious souls will be very powerful intercessors for you! I know–I have my own little saint in Heaven and the fruits of her intercession have been abundant.

    Yes, this is the hardest thing you will ever have to suffer, and yet, at the same time the easiest trial, the most bitter-sweet. You are not alone (as you have discovered!) and the prayers being offered up for you are continually stored for you to draw on in times of greatest need. Truly, God is so awesome, so loving, so faithful. May He continue to bless you all. All my prayers.

  51. This is so beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. May God bless you and your family. One day you will all be together again in this joy. I have 2 little ones in heaven and 3 here with me and look forward to the day we will be together. <3 Your post on Blessed is She today was wonderful and led me to your website.

  52. This is quite possibly the most powerful story I have ever read. I just had my 2nd child and thank God he is healthy and strong. But I don’t for a second take that for granted. I am so profoundly moved by your experience. Thank you for sharing it with us all.

  53. I don’t know how I’ve only just discovered you, your story, and your beautiful writing, but here I am after wandering over from Instagram. I am nursing my fifth baby holding him closer than ever and also crying. The profundity of what you have shared, the beauty of it, well, I could say I can only imagine. Only I can’t imagine it at all. Not yet. But one of my favorite scripture passages has always been from John: “Your grief will turn to joy.” Your sweet baby was a missionary sent to complete this very mission, and she continues to be a missionary along with her sister because I am reading your words feeling hopeful. Thank you for sharing. You have a gift with words. And you have an amazing gift of faith. God bless you.

    1. Thank you for these beautiful words, Kate. I am so grateful to know that Abby and Maggie’s story touched your heart.

  54. Laura I’m so sorry that you had to go through this heartache. I pray that you meet your rainbow soon. You are such a brave woman and an inspiration to me

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