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The Girl Who Lived

Lorelai Winter GuardOur youngest joined her sister in winter guard this year, and it was amazing and strange and wonderful and awful all at the same time. She absolutely rocked it, but it was hard for me to watch for reasons that no one else understood at the time.

Because there’s a part of my story I’ve never really told.

The song chosen for my tween’s guard team was sad and beautiful. Everyone thought so. But not everyone has the same personal connection to it. I sobbed for every performance. Sobbed. I didn’t tear up. I didn’t cry a little. I sobbed big, fat, heavy tears of joy and loss.

What It Means to Be Loved by Mark Schultz is the song of a father to the daughter who shouldn’t have survived. It’s the story of a baby who almost didn’t make it, but against all expectations she was born. And then she lived. And then she grew up to be a beautiful young lady who defied all the odds.

Just like my girl.

But there’s even more to our story than surviving a difficult pregnancy and beating a failure to thrive and becoming a rambunctious girl full of love and life. A lot of people know about her difficult first year that led to our celiac disease diagnosis — and the complete turnaround her gluten free diet provided.

Most people don’t know about the complication I had early in my last pregnancy. That’s what they call it. A complication. Such an odd word for loss. They used a lot of strange words that week. Non-viable fetus. Placental debris. Spontaneous abortion.

Except, I was still pregnant. While I was out of town around 8-9 weeks pregnant, I started bleeding and cramping. I was panicked and talked to my obstetrician on the phone. She said it sounded like I was having a miscarriage, but that there would be nothing they could do at this stage. She recommended staying home on bed rest, then taking a pregnancy test the next morning.

So, I stayed where I was, rested and cried and talked to Spencer by phone off and on all day. The next morning, I drove 3 hours back home and took another pregnancy test. Positive. That should be happy news, but as my doctor had explained it to me, it would instead mean that I would likely need to come in for a D&C.

We scheduled the appointment for the next day, where I got to see my baby by ultrasound for the first time. My healthy, well-developed baby. Lorelai was born almost exactly 7 months later, and the rest was just a blip on the radar. I was pregnant. Something happened. I was still pregnant.

Vanishing Twin Syndrome is a phenomenon that happens early in pregnancies that start as two fetuses, but for one reason or another, only one develops. And that’s the one we focused on. She was developing normally. She was okay. She was born healthy, and we concentrated on that.

Concentrated so hard that Spencer barely even remember it happened until I explained to him why the song hit me so hard. And then he got to cry at every performance with me. I don’t think either of us truly processed what was happening until just this year. Grief is a funny thing.

There were times over the years that I would see twins or notice something silly like National Twin Day and wonder. What would it have been like to parent twins? But even then, I rarely gave a lot of thought to the one who didn’t survive. It was mostly how it would have affected the girl who lived.

How would her personality have changed if she grew up with a twin? Would they be alike or work hard to be completely different? Would Lorelai still play soccer and softball, or would she have followed a twin to different interests?

But she didn’t. She eventually chose color guard, and it was absolutely beautiful. She lit up on the tarp. She was radiant and beautiful and every bit of a survivor as the girl in the song. But she had no idea her life could have turned out so differently. We had never told her — or the other kids — because how do you explain something like that to a young child?

She’s not a young child anymore. None of them are. And given that they saw us cry week after week through the entire season, we knew it was time they heard the rest of the story. I had no idea what to expect from them, but they asked good questions. They put a lot of thought into processing it, and then Lorelai asked something we had never thought of. She asked us to name her sibling.

For 9 months through every pregnancy, we agonized over names. We debated. We researched. And I like to think we nailed it every time. When we finally sat down to have the discussion this time around, it took literally minutes to agree on the perfect name. It’s strong. It’s gender neutral since we have no idea what we would have had. It has meaning to us. It just feels right.

Devon Reynolds Sokol
April 3, 2005

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