When I found out we had to ask a close friend or family member to share with us their favorite Christmas story for a column that would be published in this edition of the paper, I decided to ask one of my friends from college to share a Christmas story with me. She wanted to know if I wanted to hear the one about how the worst Christmas of her life started one of the best Christmas traditions she has? I said yes.

The following is what she wrote to me in an e-mail about the twins she and her husband lost 17 years ago. They went on to have another child who is now a high school freshman and a member of his school’s football team.

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In 1991, the Saturday after Thanksgiving we were at mass at St. Mary’s in Hillview, Ky. I was 21 weeks pregnant with twin boys. We were sitting back in the cry room. (That’s a room in the back where you go with small children. You can still hear the mass, but everyone else can’t hear the kids.) We sat back there with my sister-in-law who had a baby and a 6-year-old. My mother-in-law and father-in-law were there too. We stood for the gospel reading, and when I stood I remember I felt this really heavy sensation in my abdomen, like the babies were about to just drop out. And then there was this big gush. My water had broke 19 weeks too soon.

I was rushed to University Hospital in Louisville. They did an exam to see if I was dilated and monitored my contractions. It turned out I wasn’t in active labor, but had a premature rupture of the membrane. The sac had ruptured on the lower twin, who the doctors referred to as twin A, but I called Andrew. I was admitted to the hospital where I remained for a couple weeks on constant bedrest. They did ultrasound test almost everyday. They constantly monitored the babies’ heartbeats and my contractions. The plan was to keep me pregnant as long as possible so the babies’ lungs would have time to develop. Fluid had stated to redevelop around Andrew again.

They sent me home after two weeks with orders to stay on bedrest.

It was getting close to Christmas and there wasn’t anything more they could do there that I couldn’t do at home. Just keep off my feet. Stay in bed. Christmas preparations happened all around me. Either my mom, my aunt, my sister or in-laws came over everyday to get my breakfast and lunch while Randolph went back to work.

Randolph did our Christmas shopping that year. He got done in three hours what it takes me three months to do. Of course most everyone got gift certificates that year. My sister-in-law and her girls helped Randolph put up the tree and decorated it while I laid on the couch and watched.

The love and support we got from our family through all of this was just amazing. Anything we needed they were there to do.

After a few days of being home I noticed one morning I had a discharge. Randolph took me back to the hospital. They scheduled me to come the next day for a shot of a steroid to help develop the babies’ lungs faster. I felt kind a sick all day after I’d had that shot. By that evening, which was Dec. 20, I was cramping. Randolph and his parents took me back to University Hospital.

When I was examined the doctors could see the top of Andrew’s head, so it was too late to stop the labor.

Little Andrew was born and only lived for nine minutes. He was bruised from not having the fluid around him as he was in the birth canal. A few minutes later Justin was born. He was still in his sac when he came out. Randolph said it looked like there was a water balloon around him. They rushed him into the neo-natal intensive care unit. He was quite a fighter. He was still with us the next morning, but was getting weaker. They transferred him to Kosair Children's Hospital to try a different kind of ventilator, but there was just not enough of the lungs developed and we lost him after 12 hours.

With hearts breaking we buried our little ones at Calvary Cemetery in Louisville on Dec. 23, 1991. We went home and managed to get through the saddest Christmas we ever had.

The next year around Christmas I was three months pregnant with John. Still not a day went by that I didn’t think about Andrew and Justin. I was saddened by the fact that this should have been their first Christmas. I had imagined all the toys and the gifts they would have received and I felt cheated out of a Christmas with them. That’s when I decided that if I couldn’t give my boys a big Christmas like I had always dreamed of, then I would give some child somewhere that big Christmas. So Randolph and I stopped by a Salvation Army angel tree in the mall and selected two 1-year-old boys from among the angels. We bought them everything on their list. This has brought such a healing to us.

Every year after, we would try to get two children about the same age as Andrew and Justin would be. Now we have begun to help families with three or four children through our local schools, and we do this in honor of Andrew and Justin every year. This is the best part of Christmas for me. It gives me the spirit of Christmas better than anything. I love children, and I know that even if this tragedy had not happened to us we would have always been willing to offer help to children at Christmas, but I am not sure I would have done it to the extent that we have since this happened to us.

I like to think that Andrew and Justin see what we do for these children who may not otherwise get any gifts for Christmas. They see what we do for these children and through this I hope that they feel our love for them.

Gina Kinslow is a staff writer for the Glasgow Daily Times. She can be reached by e-mail at gkinslow@glasgowdailytimes.com.

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