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Nielsens share their grief

Family makes community display for lost infants

By Holly Neumann
Troy and Angie Nielsen still struggle with the loss of their twin daughters, Harriet and Greta.

The girls were stillborn on Feb. 4 of this year.

Becoming pregnant was a surprise for the Nielsens.

“This wasn’t a planned pregnancy. We thought we were done having children,” said Angie. “I remember jokingly saying, ‘Now watch. It’s going to be twins.’”

To their surprise, it was twins. Two girls would be added to their family that already included their children Oscar, 6, and Eva, 3.

“Even before we knew for sure, I just had this feeling,” Angie said. “This was God’s way of saying, ‘You thought you had your lives all figured out. Now I am giving you not one, but two more babies.’”

At seven weeks, they had their first ultrasound, confirming what Angie already suspected.

“We saw two heartbeats right away,” she said. “I looked at Troy and said, ‘I told you so.’”

“It was exciting,” said Troy. “I was looking forward to the opportunity to experiencing something new. Twins. Wow. There was no nerves, no fear. It was just so exciting.”

A month later, the couple went in for a second ultrasound where they learned the babies were monochorionic-diamniotic twins. They were identical twins, who shared one placenta, but not an amniotic sac.

This made the pregnancy risky, forcing them to change their birthing plan from a home delivery like they had in the past to a hospital birth.

The pregnancy went on normally.

“The babies were good, and they were growing fast,” Angie said. “Every appointment was reassuring.”

Angie recalled Friday, Feb. 2 when the babies had the hiccups. She even made a video tape of her belly to show to Troy and her parents Cass and Carol Reynolds.

“It looked like a boxing match in my stomach,” she said. “But that night, I was not feeling well, and when I got up I noticed that the babies were not very active.”

The very next day Angie’s sister Christie, who is a midwife, came over to check on the babies as the babies were still not moving.

The couple made a trip to the emergency room on her recommendation.

“I figured we would go there and they would just keep us until they were delivered,” said Troy. “It never crossed my mind that we would be given the worst possible news within the next half hour.”

They were told there was no cardiac activity in either of their chest cavities.

“Just like that the girls were gone,” said Troy. “It was heart wrenching. Absolutely heart wrenching. I was so worried because Angie would still have to deliver these babies.”

Harriet Ann and Greta Rae were spontaneously born on Feb. 4, each weighing over 8 pounds.

“They were 36 weeks and 5 days of utter perfection,” said Troy. “There was not a single problem. My little girls were beautiful.”

The Nielsens have no answers as to why their daughters died. To the best of their doctors’ knowledge, they believe it could have been an umbilical cord accident.

Troy, Angie and some of their family members spent 17 hours with the girls following the delivery. The emotion shows on the couple’s faces as they describe those moments with their daughters.

Harriet and Greta were dressed, put in diapers and clay impressions were made of their feet.

“The staff at Theda Clark really took care of us,” Troy said. “But then came the thoughts of burying our children. You never think you will have to do that. I had to call a funeral home, we had to make arrangements and it just ripped your guts out.”

Leaving the hospital without their daughters was indescribable.

“I remember that empty feeling of wondering who was going to take care of our daughters once we left,” said Angie. “Where would they be going? Did they need their car seats?”

She remembers questioning why it had to be both girls, but found comfort in the words of her friend Jane Peterson, the midwife that had delivered the Nielsen’s older children.

“She told me they came into this world together, it’s only right that they leave together,” Angie said. “They were literally one and turned into two. They needed to stay together. This is the way it had to be.”

Never hearing the names of their daughters again haunted the couple.

Now seven months after their passing, Angie is working diligently to make sure that not only their daughters, but other children will always be remembered.

“I am working on a traveling community display for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in October,” said Angie. “We believe every baby deserves their name to be said and written regardless of how old they were when they died.”

“We don’t want people to be afraid to talk about our children or theirs,” added Troy. “We love our daughters and are willing to share their story with anyone willing to listen.”

As the Nielsens move forward, they still struggle with the loss.

“The worst thing that can happen to a parent has happened to us and has happened to other people as well,” said Troy. “I will never get to see my girls smile or take their first steps, see them learn to drive or walk them down the aisle. I want them and others like them to be remembered.”

“There shouldn’t be so many grieving parents out there,” said Angie. “We have missed out on a lifetime of memories and so have they. These are our children. No they are not here on earth with us, but they are still our children and we want everyone to say their names.”

The traveling display contains more than 400 names and will be at Theda Clark Hospital in Neenah on Oct. 1.

It will then travel to various other locations, including ThedaCare Clinic in Waupaca, the Waupaca County Courthouse, the Portage County Public Library in Stevens Point and the Iola Public Library in Iola.

It will also be at several Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness events in central Wisconsin.

Those wishing to add their children to the memorial may do so by emailing Nielsen at [email protected].

In addition, Nielsen will read all of the babies’ names from the Awareness Board at noon on Oct. 15, in Room 42, located in the lower level of Waupaca County’s courthouse.

All are encouraged to wear pink and blue to raise awareness and support those who have lost a baby.

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