It’s funny how affected you can be by the stories of people you don’t even know.
Last week, I got teary-eyed at least twice while scrolling through the newsfeed of a social media site. Two stories, two women on opposite sides of the world, two mothers who gave so much of their selves so that their children would live.
I have geographical ties to the first story and several of my Facebook friends shared it, as that’s where my own family was stationed during my high school years. A soldier and his wife, stationed at Fort Drum, New York, tried everything they could to conceive. Eventually, Brandon and Jenna Hinnman were expecting twins, little girls. Everything was fine until Jenna’s 30th week of pregnancy when she went into premature labor. By emergency c-section, Kinleigh and Azlynn were born and rushed to the NICU. The Hinnmans only saw the girls as they were quickly carried out by the nursing staff.
But then Jenna couldn’t catch her breath. It was odd. Doctors thought she had somehow contracted pneumonia. But it was far worse than that. As Jenna’s life was in the balance, doctors found that she had an extraordinarily rare form of cancer, the pregnancy-related choriocarcinoma, and her lungs and body were filled with tumors. She was placed in a medically induced coma as doctors administered as many treatments as possible to combat the cancer, infections and internal bleeding.
All the while, Kinleigh and Azlynn were getting stronger day by day, cuddled together in the same incubator as close as they were together in the womb. After several weeks, the twins would go home with Jenna’s mom while Brandon split his time between his daughters and sitting by the bed of his wife. Jenna showed some very positive signs of recovery.
But on Monday, Jenna passed away.
The thing about choriocarcinoma is that while extremely rare, it is a very treatable form of cancer. The survival rate is very, very high for the mothers. But for the unborn, the survival rate is very, very low. In fact, only about 15 percent of infants born to mothers with choriocarcinoma survive.
“The type of cancer she had almost always claims the life of the child, not the parent,” her best friend wrote the day she died on the Facebook page that had kept the community updated on Jenna’s condition since March. “Jenna sacrificed herself to save her two children. She defeated the cancer before it ever hurt the two most beloved people to her in the world.”
I didn’t know Jenna at all, but I know Jenna is in a better place now, watching over her beautiful babies. I know she didn’t make a conscious choice to give her life for her girls, but I hope her daughters grow up knowing that if Jenna was given that choice to make, she wouldn’t have changed a thing.
The second story is one of the strength of a mother’s love and her touch. It’s not a recent one — it happened in 2010 — but was shared by friends several times last week probably because of the proximity to Mother’s Day. Kate and David Ogg were also expecting twins, but when the Sydney, Australia, mother went into labor at only 27 weeks, one of her babies was pronounced dead after doctors tried to resuscitate him for 20 minutes. Baby Emily was rushed to the NICU while their son, Jamie, was laid on Kate’s chest so the couple could say their final goodbyes.
“I wanted to meet him and to hold him and for him to know us,” Kate said. “If he was on his way out of the world, we wanted for him to know who his parents were and to know that we loved him before he died.”
After five minutes, Jamie began to gasp and jerk. The nurses said it was nothing more than reflexes as the body died. Still, Kate held him, skin to skin, and stroked his back and told him how Emily was going to be OK and how much she loved him.
Then Jamie opened his eyes. Since the couple had been repeatedly told that everything that was happening was part of his death, the Oggs were happy they got to see their son’s eyes before he died. But then he didn’t close them. Then he grabbed for his mother’s finger. She put a little breast milk on her finger and Jamie happily suckled it. This didn’t feel like death to them, but the doctor refused to come back into the room. So the Oggs lied. After two hours of watching their son come back to life, they told the nurse to inform the doctor they had finally come to terms with his death and asked if he would come into the room and explain it to them.
Instead of finding grieving parents, the doctor found a joyous celebration of a life they all believed was lost. Jamie was healthy and alive and soon was sent to be with his twin sister in the NICU.
Kate just did what felt natural to her. She didn’t know at the time that saying goodbye to the little man she carried inside her for almost seven months would mean that he would defy the doctor’s prognosis and not only survive, but thrive.
These are the extraordinary stories of the strength of motherhood. We don’t see these kinds of stories every day. What we see are reports of child abuse or neglect or drug abuse or death. While these instances happen too often, they are symptoms of weakness. And we forget the strengths that women in their day-to-day lives show.
There are strong mothers all around us who should be celebrated today and every other day. The woman who unknowingly goes to the office with a bit of spit-up on her shoulder and a spot of jelly on her slacks. The woman who works through her lunch break so she can leave the office in time to catch her son’s T-ball game. The woman who knows every word to every song in “Frozen” and will sing them with her daughter on long car rides. The woman who longs to buy that stylish pair of boots but knows her son needs a new pair of basketball shoes. The woman who hides her tears behind a camera as she takes photos of her daughter on her way to senior prom or her son walking across the stage to get his high school diploma.
From the messy-hair, sleep-deprived new mother to the one standing in the grassy area between two baseball diamonds so she can watch two children play games at the same time, there is strength in every single moment devoted to giving their children a better life. Baking cupcakes for bake sales into the early-morning hours, running to the store after midnight for milk for the next day’s breakfast, hours spent in emergency rooms or pediatricians’ offices, getting down on the carpet to play Matchbox cars despite a mile-long to-do list, it’s a strength that is tested every minute of every single day of motherhood.
And even when that mother feels broken, when things aren’t going according to schedule, when naps are missed and meltdowns happen, when things are spilled or broken or missing, when calls come from school or a not-so-great report card comes home, when hearts are broken, there is still strength in motherhood.
What the mothers around us do each day to ensure their children are strong, happy and healthy may never make a viral post on a social media site, but never minimize just how extraordinary their roles are.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Misty Poe is the managing editor of the Times West Virginian and can be reached by email at email@example.com, on Twitter @MistyPoeTWV or by phone at 304-367-2523.
It’s funny how affected you can be by the stories of people you don’t even know.
Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial
NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.
Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives
It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.
Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely
The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.
- Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer
Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life
Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.
COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?
Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.
Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions
This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year
It’s happening again.
It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.
County honors men who gave all in helping their community
The next time you’re driving in the Rivesville area, you might notice new signs on two of the area’s bridges.
Those signs, which bear the names of Alex Angelino and Denzil O. Lockard, were unveiled Saturday in honor of the men whose names they display, two men who died while serving their communities.
The bridge on U.S. 19 over Paw Paw Creek was named to honor Lockard, while the bridge on U.S. 19 over Pharaoh Run Creek was named to honor Angelino. Lockard, a former Rivesville police chief, died in 1958 at the age of 48 while directing traffic. Angelino, a Rivesville firefighter, died at the age of 43 of a heart attack while fighting a fire in 1966.
State must learn to keep costs down and perform more efficiently on less
The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.
Let’s not do that again.
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