Silverthorne parents welcome the unexpected
May 23, 2008
SILVERTHORNE – Lines of blue twine affixed to pushpins bear rows of greeting cards hanging along the wall meant for the Karden twins’ changing table.
As springtime’s soft, warm sunbeams reflect into Lily and Maya’s room, their mother speaks of candles lit in tribute by strangers in New York; she says the prayers of thousands – of a variety of faiths – are felt.
Laura Karden, 31, and Rick, 39, gave life to stillborn twins born April 24. They had planned for one and birthed two.
The couple recollects on their couch in a modest Silverthorne home, near VHS copies of “Peter Pan,” “The Lion King,” “Alice in Wonderland” and more beneath the window.
They describe the excitement of learning they were five weeks pregnant in June, how an April delivery coincided well. Rick is a Summit High School teacher who planned to have the summer off to be with his child.
Having reached full term at 37 weeks, Laura went to a routine prenatal appointment where in her womb no heartbeat could be detected. A short time later she was at Lutheran Medical Center in Denver, where they began preparing her for a Caesarean section. She refused, upholding plans for a natural birth.
Lily was born April 24, at 11:10 p.m. Maya came along by surprise in the next 20 minutes.
“They didn’t look like anything was wrong with them. And I remember touching them, touching their face and just being like, ‘Oh my God, they feel like a baby’s skin,'” Laura said.
“And they had fingernails. I remember being amazed that they had fingernails, and when you looked at them they looked so real, and so there, that it was just like it was almost odd that they didn’t just open their eyes.”
The couple awaits test results to determine how the twins died.
“The week before we had a prenatal visit, and there wasn’t any indication that we had something wrong ” and then the next week they couldn’t find the heartbeat,” Laura said.
She said this visit was on a Thursday, and that it was estimated the deaths occurred either Tuesday or Wednesday.
“And I was very surprised that I didn’t know.”
About six weeks before the birth, the couple was preparing a nursery. There was a baby shower and excitement and support from family and friends.
Laura and Rick have been married five years. This was their first birth and they intend to try again, provided the test results will allow for it. Otherwise, they would like to adopt.
After learning they were pregnant, the two agreed to have a home birth with midwives. The decision to use midwives led to criticism following the deaths; however, the couple plans to do everything the same next time.
This includes no pain medication during delivery.
Laura said the birth was empowering and beautiful.
“I feel like our culture kind of has this image of the rushing and the sirens and the the bright lights,” she said. “And you know, you don’t see anything in the media that’s other than people just screaming in agony. But we had worked on the relaxation (excercises) and it looked and sounded like it was at least possible to have a ” a more calm experience than that.”
Though she was predicted to be in labor 24 hours, the babies were out in seven and a half.
She was given a small does of medication to induce labor at 4:30 p.m. Contractions started in about 20 minutes.
The doctor came to check on her some time between 8:30 and 9:30 and she was fully dilated; it was time to start pushing. Two midwives and her husband were on all sides supporting her.
“There was a really beautiful energy working together and having Rick supporting me. And that made it easier to deal with, too,” Laura said.
“Your body cranks out a lot of endorphins, so I was actualy feeling really, really good and the baby came out and Rick, Rick hadnt known that he’d wanna, you know, before, when you’re preparing for all this you don’t know if you’re gonna see this baby come out.”
Rick watched the birth and assured Laura with “just such tenderness and emotion that I knew I wanted to see her and that I wanted to hold her,” Laura said.
“And it was amazing looking at her and seeing how beautiful she was and sharing that moment. And right then I knew. I understood how a parent loves a child in a different way than I had before.”
“And right then I knew that if the tests come back that we can have kids again ” I knew that I wanted to try again and be able to go through the process with something really nice to look forward to at the end instead of kind of having to put the end out of your mind to get the important job done.”
When it was time for the placenta to come out, Maya emerged instead. It was a complete surprise, as none of earlier tests had detected the second child.
“It just felt nice that they were together. That always sounds a little weird but she was actually ” as happy as can be for that sort of thing ” she’s a happy surprise.”
After the birth the couple’s family members came into the room.
“And my dad’s a pastor, so he baptized them. And I think we held them ” I think people in my family didn’t put them down for about two hours, and you (Rick) held them and I didn’t hold them very much, I just held them a little bit. I was kind of tired.
“Now I wish I’d held them more but at the time that wasn’t really the right thing to do.”
Laura has returned to work now as a broker associate with Century 21 Mountain Specialists. She said it makes her happy to see young children, but that nurseries are upsetting. When showing homes, this sometimes proves challenging.
“You walk into a nursery and you’re like, this thing is hitting you but the people you’re with don’t really know that that’s going on inside of you.”
Rick said that though tragedy can end marriages, the two have made a deliberate choice to work through this hardship.
“We wanted to look at it with most positive attitude, wanted to let people know we’re OK,” he said. “It sucked but we’re gonna be stronger for it.”
They said the grieving comes in waves. Laura said she became extremely angry three to four days after the birth ” anger that she felt wasn’t justified toward anyone.
She said Rick’s mother has helped her reflect and gain understanding through spiritual excercises.
“When you’re sad or when there’s something really big going on, one of the things that’s kind of a blessing about that is that it makes you be more physically present in yourself, and more aware and more present in ” and this is the same with childbirth ” you’re just in that moment in time,” Laura said.
“You’re fully present in that moment. And I think we seek those experiences. And for me, being fully present in a moment has come from things like snowboarding in powder or surf ” things like that. If you catch a wave on a surfboard there’s a similar time freeze where everything about you was in that time.”
More information on the Karden family is available at http://www.wedream.com/lilyandmaya.
Robert Allen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.