Volunteer Spotlight: Winnie Lee

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I volunteer with PSVa because I love my children, parenting is hard, and community is healing. You don’t have to do this alone.

My story is one of loss and tears and gratitude and anxiety and fear and connection — sometimes all at once.

I am a mother of two children that I can wrap my arms around, and two more children that I cannot. My first pregnancy was straight from the textbook; in fact, it was easy. After my daughter was born, I was lucky to have informed doctors who helped me through her colic and my anxiety. Being armed with information about postpartum depression and anxiety— and knowing what to do about it—made all the difference.

My second pregnancy seemed to be a repeat of the first—all smooth sailing and I felt prepared. But when I arrived at the hospital, full-term and in labor, the Doppler could only pick up my distant, echoey heartbeat. It wasn’t until after I delivered her a few hours later that we knew why. The umbilical cord had become wrapped around her neck and as I labored, she had simply run out of slack. I was definitely not prepared for that.

In the weeks after, I saw her gifts reflected in the people around me—a single flower left on my doorstep, poems, a song written in her remembrance—and I found a deep sense of gratefulness that became a piece of me. Her brief life was a gift and the people supporting me were mirrors allowing me to see that.

The story goes on, as life typically does. A few months later I became pregnant with twins. I was extremely nervous but deep breathing and other calming exercises kept me level. More than halfway through the pregnancy, we discovered that they had twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). With the help of amazing doctors, we monitored, tracked, measured, and eventually, performed surgery on my placenta attempting to save both babies.

The last months of my pregnancy were a roller coaster, and one baby didn’t survive. Those last weeks were the hardest. Finding the strength to carry one baby who was in constant danger alongside another who was already deceased all the way to full term was difficult. I tethered myself to the deepest place within me and surrounded myself with people who would listen. It was just a year before, in the delivery room after the stillbirth of my second child, that I decided to always talk openly and honestly about my experience. Pain is easier to carry when you share the weight.

I did carry the twins to full term, and the birth of my son was joyful. Years have passed, we’ve never really felt out of the woods, but I’ve grown roots inside myself and others.  And I’ve learned that I can be happy and sad, grateful and grief-stricken, all at the same time.  I can love my babies and feel the weight of life concurrently.

We are all walking this path together, and together, we can do hard things. If you’d like to chat about it, you can find me in the PALS (Pregnancy After Loss) group on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month.

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