Richmond VA moms and their preemies

When I first got an email from reader Meg Sherriff, I was blown away. Not only had she given birth prematurely to her twin sons in 2008, but tragically, after only 23 days, they lost their infant son Michael.

It stopped me in my tracks. I’d read stories about things like this happening, but never really truly talked it through with someone who had a living, breathing child in their arms one minute, and the next minute-that child is gone.image

We banded together, Meg (pictured here with Michaels’ twin, Matthew who came home at 97 days) and her family, and lots of other great Richmond moms and their families to join the March of Dimes March for Babies, and had an amazing time.
image Our tshirts rocked and had the logos of our amazing sponsors: By Invitation Only, Hayes & Fisk the Art of Photography, Real Life Studios, Children R First Consulting, and Monograms for All Occasions.

Laura Hamilton, a mom-on-a-mission with four children, the youngest of whom was born prematurely, was a money-raising machine when she jumped on board the team. The Hamilton’s son Ethan was born six weeks prematurely and has congenital birth defect, and continues to undergo treatment. With Laura’s power-packed fundraising skills and the help of our generous t-shirt sponsors we enticed the team to raise $50 each–and many raised much more. In fact, Team was the “Top New Winning” team of 2009 with the highest amount earned of any team.

Laura is pictured here with her brood & we appreciate her incredible efforts as part of our team. image

Better than that feeling, though was the amazing feeling of true togetherness as we tromped through downtown Richmond, in the fog together. Many of us pushing strollers, tugging toddlers, sloshing around sippy cups and all the while remaining incredibly cognizant of our many blessings: our children are with us; our children are healthy. image

We plan to continue the walk next year and hope our team will grow even bigger and stronger, especially our little ones still undergoing treatment, and that the memory of Michael Sheriff lives on through efforts like this, and the work that his mom Meghan does through her new Baby Steps program at Bon Secours. Please read a personal excerpt from Meghan’s writing about her memories of Michael:

I met my sons through two photographs. Their tiny outstretched bodies dwarfed by large ventilators; their small eyes wide open to this world. There were no chubby baby rolls to squeeze, no balloons bouncing around, and no congratulations to be heard. Weighing only 1lb, 8oz and 1lb, 7oz., Michael Carroll Sheriff and Matthew McDowell Sheriff began an uphill battle from day one. I stared at the photographs through tears. It was not the first time I thanked God for their survival and it certainly would not be the last.

This is very different from how most mothers envision meeting their children and welcoming them into the world. This day was a stark contrast to one just two years earlier, when my husband and I had joyfully greeted our first son, Charlie, born at term and weighing over two times the combined weight of his twin brothers. For us, March 9th will always be a bittersweet day; it was the day we first laid eyes on our sweet boys, and the day when fear gripped us like an angry parent and did not let go for months.

After enduring a difficult battle with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome and surviving fetal surgery, Michael and Matthew’s birth was the start of a new journey, a new battle called prematurity. We had no idea what life in the NICU had in store for us. Our sons had survived a catastrophic pregnancy, and now their tiny lives relied solely on ventilators, medicine and the power of prayer. We prayed God would grant us the opportunity to raise our boys.

Our initial days in the NICU are a blur. I recall flashing lights, beeping machines and the image of two tiny babies anchored to cords, wires and tubes. Through it all, I searched for hope on a nurse’s face or confidence in a doctor’s words. Mothers possess an innate strength; it comes from somewhere deep within and emerges during times of struggle and hardship. This strength supersedes pain, fear and guilt and all it knows how to do is nurture. Even during our darkest hours, we seek to comfort our children through a touch, a word or an action. The reality is when babies are this small, they cannot be held. Hands reach in through incubator doors and seek to do what the womb could not.

I try to think of our sons’ story as one of hope and not sadness. From fourteen weeks gestation, they told us the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy was slim. In fact, if untreated, TTTS has a 90% mortality rate. Our “donor” twin (Michael), the one transfusing blood to our “recipient” (Matthew), was not expected to survive. Yet week after week, his heart beat stronger and body grew bigger. However, even with this great news, worry did not cease; our babies were still very much in danger, but our hope remained strong.

After a brief period of “being out of the woods,” our sons’ condition took a turn for the worse and at twenty-four weeks gestation, we drove to Baltimore to have fetal surgery. Surgeons would separate the vessels connecting the twins in an effort to stop the transfusing of blood. Each twin would be “on his own” so to speak. The surgery was a partial success, as the doctors were able to limit some of the connections but not all. It was a game of wait and see. We, unfortunately, did not have to wait long. At twenty-five weeks, my water broke; the boys held on for ten days, and at twenty-six weeks, four days (three and a half months too soon), I gave birth to my strong fighters via an emergency c-section. The boys’ cords had become entangled and their fragile lives were in extreme danger.

On their second day of life, we were informed we may lose both boys. TTTS had affected their kidneys and their doctors did not know the prognosis. Despair enveloped us. My husband and I wept on a tiny hospital bed. There was nothing left to do but pray. The feeling of helplessness was greater than any I have ever experienced in my life. Why had this happened to our family? Why did our babies have to go through this?

A week passed and the boys progressed a little more each day. Matthew was doing better than his twin, though both boys needed full assistance breathing and numerous procedures were performed on a daily basis. As the days turned to weeks, we knew that our sweet Michael was fighting for his life, and after twenty-three long, heart-wrenching days, our son left us. Our angel was finally free of wires, tubes, transfusions and procedures, but we would never again hold him, rock him to sleep or sing him a lullaby. Losing Michael created a void like no other. In the midst of our immense grief, we braced ourselves for an uphill battle with his tiny brother, who three feet away, still battled on unaware of the enormity of this loss.
For ninety-seven days, Matthew fought and grew bigger and stronger. Amidst many setbacks and terrifying moments, we remained hopeful and prayerful that God would get our little boy through this battle. Poignantly hung above his isolate was the only crucifix in the unit. Matty had Jesus and his guardian angel, Michael, watching over him day and night as he learned to breathe and then to eat.

On June 14, 2008, Matthew was discharged from St. Mary’s Hospital; he came home on oxygen and equipped with numerous monitors. Scary as it was, we were bringing our miracle home; he was a whopping 6lbs and was three and half months old. The moment was like all moments since Michael’s passing— bittersweet.

Some have asked, how did you get through this year? I have one answer: faith, hope and love. I had faith in my sons. Their tiny bodies endured more than men 100 times their size, and through all of the suffering, there was always hope. I begged and pleaded with God, and though the outcome was not at all what I had wished, I have to believe it is part of the master plan. I have to believe that God picked me to be my sons’ mother; I was chosen to love these boys with all of my heart. I was selected to endure the heartache and to search for hope through the pain. Why? I am not sure but these answers will come in time and some have already.

The other day, our two-year-old son, Charlie, said, “Mommy, Michael flies. No more medical tools. No more vent.” As tears streamed down my face, I was reminded that God lets us know things are going to be okay. We had never used the term “vent” in our home, and we had never referred to Michael needing “medical tools.” The innocence of a young toddler spoke volumes. Charlie, on another occasion, insisted that he and Baby Michael ate yogurt at the hospital, and that in the NICU he “met God.” He explained that God said, “Hi Charlie Arlie.” Sadly, Charlie never met Michael but he will adamantly tell you otherwise, and who am I to argue that he did or did not “meet God”? I think we all “met God” in one way or another during the past year.

For reasons such as these, I have faith that our angel’s influence will create a ripple effect in the coming the years. He has already influenced us in ways unimaginable, and I routinely hear from folks who are inspired by our twins. For friends and strangers alike, Matthew and Michael helped put life into focus. Michael was only on this earth for twenty-three days. At his memorial service, my sister asked the congregation, do you think someone can make a difference in twenty-three days? Before knowing my son, I’d have to think twice, not anymore.

I met my sons through two photographs. I have one son here and one son everywhere. For Matthew there will be many photographs documenting his first day of kindergarten, graduation from high school and his wedding day. For our sweet Michael, there is hope and faith that we will one day meet again. Above all things, there is love. Love is something that absence cannot steal. On days when I struggle, I think of his fight, his endurance and his love. I may not be able to hold my child, but I forever feel him in my heart. His legacy, his photograph, is yet to be developed.

It is in the darkest of times that faith pulls us through. Through all the heartache, certain things are a bit sweeter; Charlie’s tantrums are not as big a deal, Matthew’s cries in the middle of the night, appreciated. We are not always granted all that we seek, but it is the bigger picture that allows us to understand the immensity of God’s love.

Biographical Information: I am mother to Charlie (2), Matthew (8 months) and angel Michael. I taught high school English from 2000-2007, and I currently own and operate my own tutoring company in Richmond, VA. I write mostly for pleasure, but have found writing to be extremely healing over the past year. I am an active member of the March of Dimes site, Share. It is a NICU support site for parents. Our sons’ story can be found at I am also an active member of Shady Grove United Methodist Church; our moms’ group is working on a yearlong mission at our local NICU in honor of Michael and Matthew. We provide support boxes to mothers of micro-preemies.

Kate Hall

Kate Hall is the Founder & CEO of and author of Richmond Rocks ,a history book for kids. She has three children and a cup that overfloweth. She is truly appreciative of the 100,000 + visitors who visit the blog every year, and for the amazing team of writers who create unique, valuable content. Kate is thrilled to fulfill her dream of having a cool place for Richmond, VA parents to learn, grow, and share while supporting local charities.

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