Before 27-year-old Jaymi Shaw gave birth to twin girls on Dec.15 at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, she was already planning memories with them.
One of those memories would be their first visit with Santa.
So when Harper and Paisley were born premature at 35 weeks and wouldn’t be able to leave the hospital to go to their Eatonville home before Christmas, Shaw was heartbroken.
“I was hoping that we would be able to get them home so we can go see Santa,” she said. “We found out they weren’t going to be able to go home in time. It was pretty devastating.”
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But even more important for Shaw was not leaving the sides of her twins. To Shaw and the father, Timothy Cleland, the twins are their “miracle babies.” To the nurses, they’re rainbow babies — babies that are born after the mother has experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or other infant loss.
Shaw has been pregnant three times before — twice with twins. All three times, the pregnancies resulted in loss. In 2012, Shaw’s son was stillborn. In September 2014, her twin boys died at 17 weeks. The same happened in 2015.
“I’ve always gone home with empty car seats,” she said.
I’ve always gone home with empty car seats.
“I learned that you get pregnant and you get excited but you have nine months of worrying,” Shaw continued. “There’s not a moment when you’re not scared. I spent my whole pregnancy making sure these girls were okay.”
And then, her twin daughters were born.
“As a parent, you always plan to do things with your child before they’re even born,” Shaw said. “(Seeing Santa) is something I never got to do with my other kids.”
As luck would have it, Stacey DeMaranville, the manager of labor and delivery in the Family Birth Center, was planning for a Santa Claus visit.
A graduate school student at Gonzaga University, DeMaranville was tasked with “doing something that promotes nursing in the media.” She got the idea for taking pictures from a nurse practitioner, then coordinated with hospital volunteer Matt Gray Jr. to play Santa.
As a parent, you always plan to do things with your child before they’re even born. (Seeing Santa) is something I never got to do with my other kids.
Gray, 68, volunteered at the hospital for two and a half years, and was used to dressing up as Santa, having played the role at parties and events for around 25 years.
After securing a Santa, and with the help of her nursing staff, DeMaranville started talking to families about taking pictures.
“(Shaw’s) twins were in the nursery and she was one of the families that I introduced myself to,” DeMaranville said. When she mentioned Santa, “(Shaw’s) initial response was priceless.”
Shaw told DeMaranville that she and Cleland had been thinking about some way to have Santa visit their twins. Then, on Dec. 19, Santa made his appearance.
“It was priceless,” Shaw said. “There were no words to describe it. Every parent wants to take their kids to see Santa.”
But it wasn’t just a special moment for Mom and Dad — it meant a lot to Gray, too.
“I did Santa ten times this year,” he said. “Without a doubt, that was one of my favorites. That was one of the most special ones I’ve ever done.”
I did Santa ten times this year. Without a doubt, that one was my favorites. That was one of the most special ones I’ve ever done.
Matt Gray Jr.
In the past, Gray’s granddaughter was born with underdeveloped lungs. She lived for 30 hours. It’s a loss that he still carries with him today.
“I know going through life, how painful that is,” he said. “This was a very special gift for (Shaw). I was just glad to be a part of it.”
Shaw will be staying at the hospital during the holidays while the twins gain weight and strength, but looks forward to the trip home.
“They are my Christmas miracles,” Shaw said. “We’ve been waiting five years for these babies.”