The 1 in 4: Kaleb Paul and Ezra James, Our Angel Babies

Let me begin with an introduction, I am Melissa Pinkston. My husband Joshua and I have 2 living boys Eli (8) and Noah (5). We have twin baby boys in Heaven, Kaleb and Ezra. I am also currently 8 months pregnant with our 5th child. In 2018, we discovered we were having fraternal twins. It was the best pregnancy until it wasn’t. On Monday morning August 27, 2018, at 19 weeks gestation exactly, I woke up around 7 a.m., my water broke for Baby A. I was in complete shock. Josh and I raced to Woman's Hospital to discover Baby A had very minimal fluid. Baby B on the other hand was perfectly healthy. On the second day, Wednesday, August 29, I was receiving my discharge papers to go home on bedrest, and I started feeling very cold and slightly nauseated. Within the hour my temperature jumped to over 102. I was throwing up uncontrollably. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was septic and both my babies were going to die that day. That is a hard reality to swallow when just shortly before we had our hopes up about going home on bedrest. Things quickly got worse. I started contracting terribly. Then it was confirmed that pressure I started feeling was Baby B's placenta exiting my body. This meant that Baby B had died inside me. If the placenta continued to come through, it could cause me to hemorrhage. Reality of the situation became so much worse. One of our babies was already dead, and our healthy baby was going to be taken from us, too young to survive with medical intervention. I started to become lethargic. My blood pressure was getting as low at 20s/30s. My OB told Josh that he didn't know if I would survive with my emergency C-section because I was so sick. I knew I was either going to die that day to be with my twins in Heaven for eternity, or God was going

to spare me to be here on earth with my living boys, Eli and Noah. I made a choice right then to trust God and to never turn my back on him. I knew if I lived I could not deny Eli and Noah knowing God. By the grace of God, I survived. I was told I was blessed with 2 beautiful boys. We named our stillborn baby boy, Kaleb Paul. Kaleb is Josh's middle name and we felt it was fitting that our beautiful son would be named after his Daddy. We named our infant death baby boy, Ezra James. I have always loved the name Ezra. It was my top boy name when I was pregnant with Eli. Our baby boys were placed in our arms. Kaleb looked so similar to his brother Noah. Round faced and very slightly upturned button nose. Ezra looked exactly like his brother Eli. I am still amazed by their resemblance. They were just so beautiful and perfect in every way. We later learned that Ezra lived almost 2.5 hours on his own. We had only about 20-25 minutes with him alive. I have struggled more accepting Ezra's death. He was so healthy and lived so long without medical intervention. Because my boys died for very different reasons, I have grieved differently for both of them. I felt like my body had completely let me down. I am never sick other than random sinus infections. To go from a completely healthy pregnancy to septic to both babies dying. It was a nightmare. The physical pain of knowing I would never see them or touch them again, it is a pain that to this day will never be matched in intensity.

Even after well over a year of burying our babies, I still wail and whimper and cry my heart out. I know this will never change, I know I will always miss and long for my Kaleb and Ezra. This is a pain that our whole family still lives with each day. In some ways I feel like I have been a mother in mourning forever, as each day my mind is always on Kaleb and Ezra. Their absence is known greatly with each milestone they should be making. As I mentioned in the beginning, I am 8 months pregnant with our 5th child. Pregnancy after loss is very intense emotionally. Grieving Kaleb and Ezra while excited and in love with a new baby is hard to process. One thing is certain, Ezra and Kaleb will never be forgotten. I will always do anything to honor them. Any future children I have will know about and love their twin baby brothers in Heaven. Our family will forever be incomplete without them here. We will always be a family that cherishes Anna's Grace. An organization that honors and respects the short lives of babies that have died, our babies, is worth supporting. I had a close relative urge me to attended the Walk to Remember shortly after Kaleb and Ezra's death. I was so in awe of how beautiful and respectful this event was. To walk and see all the babies signs and finally find Kaleb and Ezra's sign. It was this bittersweet moment of loving seeing their names written so elegantly across the sign, and the reality of knowing why their sign was there. When I lit 2 candles in honor of them, I completely broke down. I was surrounded by this whole community of grieving mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents and friends. It was a powerful moment and one that I needed to see. I was not alone. I also attended a speaker series on grieving during the holidays to help me cope with my first Christmas with out my babies. The first person I met when I walked in was Monica Alley. I had no idea it was her, but when she immediately remembered Kaleb and Ezra and our story months from our original phone conversation and said their names, I knew right then that I would give back to this organization as much as I could. When a baby of yours dies, you want more than anything for everyone to remember they lived and to remember their names. It was the first time this happened to me by a complete stranger, and I will never forget the impact that had on me.

Monica told me about Anna and how Anna's Grace came to be. We talked about our other children and homeschooling. To speak with someone who had experienced this loss years before my own, helped show me, I can continue Kaleb and Ezra's legacy through my own way. We talked a lot about allowing our living children guide our grieving. This was a conversation I think back on many times because it has impacted me for the better. Then right before Kaleb and Ezra's first Christmas in Heaven, I received an unexpected package in

the mail from Anna's Grace Foundation. It was two ornaments. One for each Kaleb and Ezra with their name on it. It was such a thoughtful gift at such a heartbreaking time. Multiple times a day during the Christmas season, I would go up to our tree and find Kaleb and Ezra's ornaments and it would help soothe my completely broken heart. My family then decided to do the Anna's Grace Quarter Marathon because Eli really wanted to run the mile for his brothers. I wanted him to be proud of himself for running a whole mile. We got a little team together of close family and friends. I was very excited to see our team come together in honor of our sweet babies. I could not stop smiling the whole mile I ran with Eli. I encouraged him the whole way and when he received the medal he beamed. I did not expect Noah to run the whole mile, but Josh said he ran a good bit of it. He crossed that finish line with this huge smile. My boys wore their medals for days. Eli and Noah still talk about this race and can not wait for the next one. It was such an exciting, lively event. This was the first time I enjoyed and was genuinely happy about celebrating Kaleb and Ezra's lives. It was a milestone in my grieving that I willingly welcomed. On Ezra and Kaleb's 1st Birthday in Heaven, I received a personal email from Monica Alley on behalf of Anna's Grace. I had been crying all night and early morning. To see such a sentimental note first thing in the morning was a reminder that my babies were not forgotten on their special day. To never experience making memories with Ezra and Kaleb and watching them grow is a raw tearing sensation in my chest that hits me all the time. Everyone at Anna's Grace understands the pain of unreached milestones you grieve. It is so helpful to have this support through some of my hardest days. We will be attending the Quarter Marathon again this year. Eli and Noah want to run the mile with Josh. I will be walking with our new baby in a stroller. We have set up a fundraising team because we want to give back as much as we can to new grieving parents. We want them to feel all the love and support Anna's Grace has given to us. The impact Anna's Grace and Monica Alley have had on my family and I can never be erased. We have felt so welcomed and loved by this organization. Grief is a very lonely road. To have Anna's Grace there every step of the way in our emotional journey has been so beneficial to us. We are forever grateful.

About Anna’s Grace Foundation Anna’s Grace Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supporting families in the Greater Baton Rouge Area who experience miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Each and every day one of our neighbors, friends, coworkers, or family members will experience the devastating loss of a baby, and Anna’s Grace is there to provide emotional and financial support so that families can focus on healing. The Anna’s Grace Quarter Marathon is on March 22, 2020. For more information or to register, visit http://www.annasgrace.org/registration.

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