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Family Forever

Ron and Michelle Wullstein of Fargo wear matching black T-shirts: the logo of their favorite team on the front -- the North Carolina Tar Heels, the name of their beloved son on the back -- Zachary.

Ron wipes away tears as he describes Zachary’s brief life. Michelle grabs his hand.

Today, more than a year later, they reunite with the nurse who never left their side: Corinda VanDyke, registered nurse at Sanford Women’s Family Birth Center.

They hug as if they’ve been friends for years.

“I guess you could say we’ve been through a little,” says Ron.

April 8, 2011...

Michelle was 35 ½ weeks along and their baby was getting big. Their doctor indicated the delivery could happen any day. So when Michelle’s water broke at 1:45 a.m. on April 8? She woke Ron and they called the Family Birth Center.

“We were so excited,” she says. “We knew we were having a boy, we had the nursery ready, we were set to go.”

But when they arrived at the Family Birth Center, the initial exam revealed concerns. A fetal heartbeat could not be detected. An ultrasound confirmed the worst.

At 4 a.m. they found out their son had died.

Hours of labor

Michelle immediately wanted a C-birth, but a normal birth was better for her medically.

“I just wanted to get it over with. Instead I had to be in labor all day, knowing what would happen in the end. That was really tough,” says Michelle. “Now we realize it was definitely the right thing. That was our only time with Zachary.”

At 7 a.m. they met Corinda -- a new nurse working side-by-side with a senior nurse. Corinda had joined the Family Birth Center 10 months earlier and was completing her last day of labor orientation. A 2010 graduate of the University of North Dakota, she had a passion for obstetrics.

For the next 12 hours, Corinda stayed with Michelle, talking with her, guiding her and simply being present. Her instincts were spot-on.

“I was still in shock at what was happening, but Corinda was right there at my side. She never left me alone,” says Michelle. “It helped Ron, too. He was finally able to take a break.”

Corinda’s shift ended at 7 p.m., but Zachary hadn’t yet arrived. By choice, Corinda stayed on and saw the birth through. Zachary was stillborn at 11:08 p.m.

“It meant so much to have her there,” says Michelle.

A sister’s perspective

Ron’s sister Jolene Dose was one of several family members at the Family Birth Center that night. She saw the profound sadness -- and the early steps toward healing.

“Corinda was amazing,” she says. “She listened to the stories of Zachary’s pregnancy, cried with us, hugged us and comforted our entire family through what was a very traumatic ordeal.”

In the next couple days of hospitalization, Ron and Michelle were able to spend precious time with their son. A specially trained photographer took photos, the nurses made clay replicas of his hands and feet, mementoes filled a handmade bereavement box given by the Family Birth Center. The tender moments will never be forgotten.

Ron and Michelle continue to receive excellent help from two support groups: SHARE and Compassionate Friends. They also attended Faith’s Lodge, a retreat center in Wisconsin especially for parents who’ve had children die.

“The answer is not to pretend this never happened,” says Ron. “Zachary will always be part of our lives.”

Blessed a year later

Months later, another pregnancy. “The stress of those nine months was beyond belief,” says Michelle. “I was so scared the same thing might happen.”

The couple identified a key step that could help: once again getting Corinda as their nurse. Advance arrangements ensured her availability on March 30, 2012, the day Michelle’s labor was induced.

From morning to night, Corinda stayed at her side -- just as before. But the outcome was far different. At 10:38 p.m. they welcomed a healthy 7 pound, 3 ounce baby girl.

Today the 6-week old nestles in the arms of Corinda while the Wullsteins tell the story of the gifted young nurse who helped bring their two children into the world.

And the baby’s name?

“As soon as we knew we’d have a girl we started talking about names, but we had trouble deciding,” says Michelle. “One day I said to Ron, ‘How about the name Corinda?’ His answer was immediate: ‘Yes, absolutely.’ We spelled it ‘Karynda’ for uniqueness and put a ‘y’ in for Zachary.”

To Corinda, it’s further confirmation she’s doing exactly what she’s meant to do.

“First, I get the privilege of helping a family through one of the toughest times in their lives. Next, I get the honor of having their baby named after me,” she says. “I can’t imagine anything more special…”

Posted Date: June 2012