As moms, we know to trust our gut. It’s that uneasy feeling, the hairs on the back of our necks, or maybe an urge to ask just a few more questions. But what if there are no answers to those questions?
First-time mom, Cyndi Schultz, knew something was wrong as she decorated the nursery for her twin boys who weren’t due for another four months. Cyndi was quick to follow her doctor’s instructions to “drink some water, get off her feet, and take it easy” for the rest of the day. But when she spotted blood, her husband Trae agreed to meet her at the doctor’s office, and Cyndi was admitted to the hospital immediately.
After a whirlwind of tests and explanations, she still couldn’t process the words from her doctors. Cyndi remembers, “I heard talking but nothing made sense. I was only 23 weeks. How was I dilated? Was it pre-term labor? Was my cervix giving way? Within two and a half hours, my son Sawyer was born en caul, and Tristan followed nine minutes later.” (An “en caul” birth is when the baby is born still inside an entirely intact birth sac.)
Cyndi says the doctors were as shocked as anyone. “There were no warning signs. My regular check-up the week before was perfect. But as my babies grew, my cervix couldn’t sustain their weight. I’ve since learned that less than one percent of women give birth prematurely due to an Incompetent Cervix, like mine. There were no answers when I asked why.”
Even more heartbreaking news followed. Sawyer and Tristan fought hard to survive, but as “Micro Preemies” born in 2013, medical science couldn’t save them. “The text my husband dreamed of sending ‘Mom and babies are doing great’ was replaced by words like ‘get here fast’ and ‘babies in NICU’,” said Cyndi. “Trae and I were able to hold them, sing ‘Eyes of Texas’ to them daily (the only song Trae seemed to know the words to), feed them my milk, and even change their tiny diapers where we learned that no baby, not even my 23-week-old son likes to have his diaper changed. We were given a miraculous six days with our sons before they got too sick and we had to let them go.”
Cyndi says that precious time with Sawyer and Tristan wouldn’t have been possible a decade earlier. “When I think of all the women before me who never got that precious time with their babies… maybe my great grandmothers.”
The grief and confusion Cyndi felt those next few months was followed by purpose at the Austin chapter of the March of Dimes (MOD). “I walked into the MOD office, and they greeted me with ‘Hi Tristan and Sawyer’s mom!’ I knew I was understood.”
Cyndi dug in with MOD friends and colleagues in support groups and fundraising, and everyone celebrated with Cyndi and Trae with the subsequent births of their three daughters, twins Lyla and Nixon (born exactly one year and three weeks after Sawyer and Tristan) and Bellamy, their youngest, in 2014.
Today, the Schultz family continues to honor the memory of the boys as Austin’s 2019 March of Dimes Ambassador Family, sharing Sawyer and Tristan’s story throughout the year. Cyndi says, “I will always be mom to my five kids, and my hope is that 20 years from now, when my babies are having babies- make that 30 years maybe- is that there will be answers. Being a mom is the greatest gift ever, and this allows me to give a little back.”
Tonya Kerr is a mom of three girls and a former KXAN news anchor in Austin. She currently freelance produces for ABC Good Morning America and enjoys writing for various family publications nationwide.
March of Dimes Austin
Premature births take a devastating toll on Texas families with a heavy financial burden on our health system.
– 1 in 10 babies in Texas are born premature
– Prematurity is the leading cause of death for children under 5
– Prematurity is a leading cause of lasting childhood disabilities
– It is estimated that the societal and economic costs of pre-term birth is $26.2 billion annually
The 2019 March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction, featuring the Schultz Ambassador Family, is an event to support healthy moms and strong babies. Austin’s top culinary chefs donate their talents to create tastings for the savviest “foodies.” Enjoy the tastes of Austin, dancing, and an auction as you support the research, advocacy, and resources for the March of Dimes’ Austin chapter.
Thursday November 7, 2019
The Fairmont Hotel, Austin
Tickets are still available at www.signaturechefs.marchofdimes.org.
photos by Jenny Davis Photography