The radiant Kethra Ramert and Markie Shiflea with their sons Flint (2) and Madden (2).
Kethra is also mother to Amber (17), RubyLee (12), and Copper (February 22, 2013).
Markie is also mother to Teagan (4.5), Adalyn (September 16, 2012), and Evan (7 months).
Kethra and Markie are cousins from a big Catholic family and have been close for most of their lives. They never imagined, however, that motherhood would bond them in the ways that it has. Through loss, grief, and rainbow babies they have found a closeness and connection that transcends their relationship as friends and family.
When Markie was pregnant with her second child in 2012, she began to experience bleeding. The bleeding became more and more severe and she was diagnosed with a placental abruption. Markie's baby was still doing well so she was put on bed rest to see if her body would heal. Unfortunately, she continued to bleed and passed grapefruit sized clots and was ultimately put on completely flat bed rest in the hospital. While Markie's baby continued to do well, the clots and blood she was passing caused her to begin to contract and she ended up delivering her daughter Adalyn at 22 weeks, 5 days gestation.
In the moment's after Adalyn's birth, and death, a nurse told Markie her daughter was perfect, she was just too small and that sentiment has stuck with her. Markie needed to have blood transfusions and was so grateful that the hospital staff took photos of Adalyn and created keep sakes for them while they were in the haze of trying to navigate all that had happened. Markie was grateful to know her daughter was perfect but struggled with feeling her body had failed her and done this.
Markie was one of five of her cousin's pregnant at the same time and the first to ever lose a baby. Knowing how to relate to respond to her grief and how to relate to still pregnant family members was trying but her family did so with grace.
Kethra was one of Markie's cousins who was pregnant at the time. She and her husband had conceived their first son with the help of IVF and she was enjoying a healthy, "text book" pregnancy. Kethra had planned to deliver at home and as labor progressed her midwives joined to support her. After having trouble finding heart tones they realized that the baby's cord was prolapsing and called an ambulance to rush them to the hospital. Being in the midst of labor, Kethra was retreated within herself and unable to talk. She didn't fully comprehend what was happening but understood there was an emergency and they needed to get to the hospital. When they arrived, things were frantic and then, they were calm. A doctor came in to perform her ultrasound and told her that he was sorry - Copper didn't have a heart beat.
Kethra remembers her husband taking her face in his hands and telling her to just look at him. She recalls asking her midwives if they could just take her baby out, if they could give her medicine so she just wouldn't feel anything and they wisely told her that what was happening was the medicine, she needed to deliver her baby. Kethra gave birth to Copper soon after and says that it was surreal how "normal" everything seemed. He was put to her chest and she held him as her family and nurses cried. They took pictures, her doctor reassured her that these things happen sadly, even in the hospital, she understood there was nothing more she could have done.
In the months after, as they grieved, Kethra and her husband understood that they wanted to have another baby soon and they had seven other embryo's ready due to their previous IVF treatment. They gave themselves six months and decided to try again. At the same time, Markie and her husband had decided that they too were ready to try and both cousins conceived very soon to one another.
These pregnancies brought some trepidation and anxiety, as those following a devastating loss will do but both remained very healthy and both Kethra and Markie delivered baby boys, Flint and Madden, without complication just four days apart. In their grief and in the new life brought forth from it, they are bonded more strongly than ever before. Both Kethra and Markie acknowledge that though they long for their children who don't get to be here they simultaneously understand the weight of having the children who wouldn't be here if they had. Kethra considers Flint to be Copper's twin as their embryos were fertilized and frozen on the same day and Markie knows that had Adalyn survived the trauma of the experience and her care very likely would have prevented them from growing their family.
While both women were drawn to this movement at different times, sharing their stories together was incredibly important to them.