When Lola Jayden Fitch arrived eight weeks early in 2009, Cathy Motley-Fitch didn’t realize the impact her daughter’s birth — and brief life — would have on her.
Lola and her fraternal twin, Grayson Howard, were born on May 29, 2009. They were due on July 29. Lola weighed three pounds and four ounces, while her brother came in at three pounds, seven ounces. He arrived first, at 1:51 p.m.; Lola followed a minute later.
Cathy and Alan Fitch welcomed the twins, who, she recalled, “were perfectly healthy” at birth. A week later, however, Lola died as a result of necrotizing enterocolitis. The condition, which primarily affects premature infants or sick newborns, is said to be the death of intestinal tissue.
Grayson remained in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at VCU Medical Center for six weeks. As they mourned the loss of their daughter and stood watch by their tiny son, Cathy and Alan learned about the role and work of the March of Dimes.
Almost three years after their daughter’s passing, Cathy and Alan, along with Grayson and 10-month-old Sawyer Graham, will participate in the Richmond March for Babies Walk, which gets underway at 9 a.m. on Sunday, April 22, at Monroe Park. This year they are serving as the Ambassador Family.
Cathy said they were notified of their selection last summer and have been making appearances and “telling our story.”
They have been active members of the March of Dimes since 2009. As for how they were chosen, Cathy said, “I think our story” influenced the selection process.
A singer, Cathy performs at March of Dimes events, including the organization’s Nurse of the Year Awards. “I’ll be singing the National Anthem for the walk [on Sunday].”
She has a CD, “Broadway My Baby,” with a portion of the proceeds donated to the March of Dimes.
“Grayson is the light of our world,” Cathy said about her oldest son. She described him as “hilarious, happy, healthy.”
With Sawyer, she said she was “treated as high-risk during the pregnancy because of what had happened with the twins. He was full term, no complications.”
Due to the March of Dimes, Cathy continued, she received progesterone shots to prevent pre-term labor, “so I benefited from their research. That helped us have a happy and full term baby.”
As the Ambassador Family, Cathy said they will kick off the Richmond event. “We’re just so happy to be a part of March of Dimes and trying to turn a tragedy into something positive.”
She said their story “isn’t necessarily about the loss — it’s about the miracle of the life that was saved.”
However, she still becomes emotional and teary-eyed when she talks about Lola.
They take part in the walk as Team Lola Gray. She said the name was chosen by combining the twins’ names.
The goal of the work of the March of Dimes is “for these premature infants to thrive and save their lives.”
Cathy also said that the loss of Lola is always there, but, “because of that research, we’ve got two healthy babies. The March of Dimes is one of the biggest organizations in the country.”
On Sunday, they will be walking with a goal of $5,000. About 30 people usually participate on Team Lola Gray.
Cathy said they hope to become the statewide ambassadors for the organization.
“People have been so supportive for us,” she added. “We’ll never forget about our cause. We’re lifetime members. With the addition of Sawyer, it’s something that we’re going to be raised with. Grayson was a preemie and it affects everyone in our family, so we want them to be able to give back — to learn to give back as well.”
“We’ll never forget and we’ll always miss Lola but we never thought we could be this happy, because that’s the truth,” Cathy said. “Some days I look around and I think I never thought I could be this happy — that it would be possible.”
To donate, or for more information, contact Cathy Motley-Fitch at firstname.lastname@example.org.