Jason here: I have sort of hijacked this blog for the moment, as Chelsey is quite busy celebrating and grieving. And even as I sit to write, thoughts spiral into so many places – painful, dark and hidden places that I never imagined exploring; but also into possibilities of the future. Too much to make sense of just yet, and too overwhelming to sit with for too long, lest I get lost and cannot find my way back. And getting lost in our grief is clearly not an option right now. Magness Maxwell is only 5 days old, and quietly (most of the time) demanding our attention. And his sweet brother Spirit B as been so patient and comforting when we need it most. Appearing everywhere for us when we need it most.
We needed to take just a moment to reflect on the incredible support we have seen. Although we’ve consciously stayed away from actually reading complete messages for the most part (neither of us can usually make it through a single one before the tears start), we do feel the immensity of love and sadness that people around the world are sharing with us. There are also so many people to personally thank, people who literally saved us in moments where we doubted our ability to take the next breath.
Kindra – our amazing doula – was one of these people, and woven into the tapestry of Magnus’s and Spirit’s journey more deeply than they will likely ever know. She has blessed us by writing the story of their beginnings from her perspective. It is a task that I have started too many times in these last five days, and gotten nowhere. She reminded me that Chelsey and I are still living that story every second with both the boys.
I know that she wrote it as much for her own healing process and to give us something to reflect on when the time is right. I made it about halfway through this morning before I just needed to cry with Spirit and watch Magnus sleep.
So we leave it here. Thank you Kindra. Thank you to everyone that has grieved with us, and is holding space for us and our two boys in their heart.
Magnus and Spirit B,
I want to tell you the story of your parents journey into parenthood. Like all stories, there are several different versions, perspectives, and viewpoints. I want you both to be able to see what I saw in the months, days, hours, and moments before you were born. I hope someday your parents can know in their bones what I witnessed.
When I first sat with your parents in their home, they had just learned they were pregnant and I witnessed the typical excitement, nervousness, and curiosity about how our medical system works for pregnant couples in America. I saw a devoted and caring husband who I knew would learn everything he could about this process. I saw a nervous and excited newly pregnant mother who was carefully considering all of her options. We chatted about resources, different providers, and insurance. Chelsey and Jason were both a little wide-eyed as they contemplated the reality of birthing a baby and taking on the responsibility of parenthood.
Not too long after our first meeting, Chelsey messaged me that the ultrasound exams revealed two babies! I called expecting to start the task of helping to equip these parents with contacts, resources, and support as they grappled with the reality of not just one baby to care for but two. I discovered that Jason and Chelsey were already pretty good at doing this for themselves. They knew several couples who had twins and Jason himself is a twin so they were already leaning into the support they had built in to their community. I would come to learn later that this quick processing and facing challenges head on was typical for this couple, these skills they had already developed in their lives would serve them well when they needed it most.
For months after the discovery that you two were coming together, I witnessed your pregnancy from pictures and blogs on the internet. My facebook scrolling would capture your mom’s growing belly on the side of a snowy slope, standing on top of your dad’s shoulders during a class, walking on bridge railings, and skiing next to rushing rivers. The four of you enjoyed so many adventures together!!!
In the third trimester, after your parents returned from Europe I got the honor of sitting with them through childbirth classes. During the first few classes I realized that your parents had already done a lot of work and were transforming into the parents they would need to be for you two. Jason asked a lot of questions and made sure he understood all the concepts we were covering, challenging the ones that didn’t quite make sense to him and helping to educate the other couples in class with everything he had already researched. Chelsey worked diligently during that time to help both of you turn from breech to head down. Her adoration of you was so apparent as she would pat the places on her belly where each of you were living. Her wide smile radiated excitement and joy moving through pregnancy. They both grappled with the decisions that would lay ahead during your birth.
As things got closer, I visited your home again to discuss what your parents desires and decisions were about the birth process. Again, the transformation they had already made since the first time I visited in their home was glaringly obvious. This visit, I found not only a loving, devoted, and caring husband, but a well-researched, knowledgeable, and determined father. I found a grounded and calm mother – Chelsey carried very little fear about the birth process despite the complicated nature of the decisions she knew she faced. She admitted to some concern that maybe she wouldn’t have the maternal instinct she witnessed in others. I giggled a little on the inside knowing that the process of birth would build this instinct in ways that I couldn’t express to her at this moment. I was confident she would find it. What I knew about both of your parents after this meeting was that they would be strong advocates for themselves, they would find a way to make their own decisions, and they would be fun for me to witness in the hospital. I was so excited to work for them and witness their journey!
We were all sure you boys would come on the early side, but December turned into January, single digit days turned into double digits and your parents continued to wait. They were faced with decisions about inducing labor or waiting for their babies to initiate labor naturally. These weeks and days were challenging for them. What I saw in these moments were strong, confident parents who were willing to learn everything they could to make the best decisions for their babies. Jason was reading research papers and learning statistics about every procedure and test that was offered. Chelsey was taking the time to quietly reflect, sit with both of you boys and listen to what your spirits might be trying to tell her. The were both bearing witness and sitting in contemplation about how American maternity care functions. The days marched on and still you both were cozy inside of your mama.
In your 38th week, I got a call from Chelsey – we chatted about the decision your parents were faced with, to induce labor or continue waiting. I told her she had a hard decision to make and only her and your Dad could make it. Thursday night I got the call – “I hope you can get some sleep tonight, we have decided to get these boys out tomorrow“. I knew that both of your parents had struggled with this decision and I was proud that they took the time to make it on their own. They were ready. The universe, or maybe you boys had different plans.
Your parents showed up Friday ready to meet you, instead the hospital told them that they were understaffed and unable to do the induction that morning. The emotion of that moment was palpable. The excitement and preparedness in their faces fell, their shoulders dropped, and then their curiosity rose. What did this mean? What were you trying to tell them? We stayed in the hospital for monitoring and began the work of trying to understand the bigger picture. In my perspective, this day is the first day of labor – the labor of deciding. Jason diligently learned more about maternity testing and researched the new tests you boys were subjected to that day. Chelsey discussed the higher messages, saying her boys were showing us all who was really in charge. She tuned in to both of you and interpreted the signs she was given, the hospital cancelling the induction, Baby B turning head down at 39 weeks. In the face of fear, both of your parents took as much time as they needed to learn, contemplate, feel, listen, ground, and do one of the hardest things that parents ever do – decide. They didn’t do it lightly, they didn’t do it carelessly, the didn’t do it without as much information as they could gather. They did it with clarity, with strength, with their boys health and safety at the center of their minds and hearts. They owned their decision and left the hospital to spend a few more days with the two of you in charge of when you would be born.
Monday morning your Dad called from the hospital where they’d gone for a routine screening. They had rescheduled the induction for Wednesday.
I told him I was on my way. I sobbed all the way to the hospital. After composing myself and preparing to do the impossible task of helping your parents through the worst news anyone ever receives, I walked into the hospital room where your parents were. I expected to find hollow, broken, shocked parents. I didn’t find that. I found sadness, you could have painted the walls with it, like it had a color of it’s own for the walls of that room. I found grief, and sorrow, and pain. I found parents struggling to handle their own sense of guilt. Your mom repeatedly said “I keep going back to Friday“. Over shadowing the pain and sadness though was strength. I was astounded by the strength in your mom and dad’s eyes, by the love there.
This day, Monday, I see as the second day of labor – the labor of grief. The labor of losing Baby B. Inside of that room that day your parents danced through the emotional task of accepting the loss of Baby B and preparing to birth Baby A. It was beautiful to witness. The waves of sadness, loss, guilt, despair would wash over your mother and your father would hold her, council her, love her through every second. He talked about plans bigger than all of us, he told her stories of how Baby B would impact people across space and time as a Spirit. Your parents spent hours staring in each others eyes trying to make sense of this. The love, power, connection in that space between their eyes was tangible. Your dad whispered encouragement to your mother throughout the whole day. He stood in such strength for her and allowed her to move through all of the emotion without ever expecting her to coddle him. Your grandmothers diligently waited in the hallways of the hospital for every time your dad needed them for support. He would leave the room and return with red, glassy eyes – using his support team to feel the deepness of this loss on his own so Chelsey didn’t have to feel his pain too. Such a graceful and powerful gift. I sat in awe as this parenting team gracefully moved through this impossible task.
Towards the afternoon, Jason gently started guiding Chelsey’s focus back towards Baby A. He started talking to her about gratitude, love, joy, hope, family, and consciously creating memories of a happy labor and birth for Baby A. In these moments I witnessed the creation of two sets of parents – Parents A and Parents B. As contractions started to come, Parents A started to allow excitement into their space. Parents B would continue to get waves of grief in between the waves of contractions. I knew this task would challenging, to do both a grief labor and a physical labor at the same time seemed nearly impossible. I swelled with pride and awe as these parents chose to labor for Baby A.
Induction of labor took more time than was expected and your parents continued to labor through the grief and prepare for the physical labor to come. They rested as best they could but sleep was understandably illusive. It wasn’t until Tuesday evening that a good pattern of contractions was established. Chelsey took a deep breath and got ready for the night.
We would now enter into the third labor – the physical labor. We all hoped for fast progress. As contractions got stronger, Parents A became more focused, more grounded, and more excited. Parents B were still present, still mourning, but quietly watching from the background as Parents A worked. Chelsey needed constant eye contact during the contractions and the strength behind those eyes was deep, and powerful. Your dad continued to stand by her side and provide her with everything he could. Your grandmothers sat patiently waiting and ready to help in the hallway.
In the early morning hours, the work of the grief coupled with the intensity of the physical contractions and the slow progress weighed heavily on your mom. She made the difficult decision to accept an epidural. As all decisions your parents made throughout this process, this one wasn’t made without deep thought, consideration, and intention. We were all hopeful that the epidural would aide in progress and allow your parents some much needed rest. I went home too, expecting to get a call in a couple of hours that you both were ready to be born. Jason called me at 6:15 to say they had more difficult decisions to make. Baby A was no longer tolerating labor and had made it clear he needed surgical intervention.
Baby A was born via Cesarean at 7:02, Baby B followed at 7:06. The hard work your parents had done through all three of their labors would now pay off as they had transformed into grounded, wise, intelligent, informed, loving, and dedicated parents. They had accomplished the goal of creating loving and joyful memories of labor and welcoming Baby A with smiling faces. Parents A and Parents B were coexisting and clearly defined for each baby. They held Baby A with smiling, hopeful faces. Magnus – you saw joy, love, and excitement. They held Baby B with sadness, loss, grief, but also with gratitude for his life. Spirit – they held you with honor, respect, mourning, and a great love.
Parents A and Parents B shifted quickly between babies, loving and honoring each of them separately and together. Chelsey started the task of breastfeeding with gentle and instinctual grace. She held her sweet Spirit baby and told him how grateful she was to have shared his life and how much she loved him. Jason dreamed of the adventures Spirit would go on now that he was free to travel without the confines of a human body. They both apologized to Spirit, and promised Magnuss to protect him in the years to come.
Magnus – as you grow and learn this story of your birth my hope for you is that you know how deeply you are loved. How your parents still kept their focus on you and what would be best for your short and long term health. How they set aside their own pain and grief with the desire that you be welcomed into happiness, joy, and love. How they felt the deep loss of your brother and how that would change who you grew to be. They love you so sweet boy and after witnessing their journey I know they will be strong enough to hold you through all of your adventures. They will be kind and generous with their love. They will continue to create intentional memories and make decisions for you with wisdom and intuition.
Spirit – I feel humbled to be telling you anything at all as I believe you are now the wisest among us. I thank you for your presence in the physical world, for watching over what was best even if the adults struggled to accept it. I know that you already know how much your parents love you, how they will always carry you with them, and they are learning already to trust your journey in this world. Thank you for the strength and wisdom you offered your parents, as it served them well and will continue to do so. Your physical body will be sorely missed but I second your mother’s voice as she distributed your ashes to your loved ones – “Thank you for making me believe”.
We are working on ways to keep Spirit in our lives as we move forward and look forward to sharing those with you when we are ready.