The Osborns, from Utah, had always wanted a big family. They married in 2010 and their son Carter was born in 2013.
Soon afterwards, Clarissa was diagnosed with brain tumours and needed radiation therapy. It affected her fertility, but with intrauterine insemination, she was able to conceive again.
While pregnant, Clarissa and Jason learned that their unborn daughter had a heart defect and would need surgery after birth.
Shanna arrived four weeks early.
“Once they placed her in front of me, I cried,” Clarissa wrote in her blog. “She was the most beautiful thing, and all I could think about was the rough road ahead. I wanted so badly to take away her heart defect and take away all the pain.”
The surgery was successful, and the Osborns brought their baby girl home from the hospital.
“One thing I have never regretted is all the snuggling and cuddling I did with that sweet little baby,” Clarissa added.
But one morning, the Osborns heard a cry from Shanna they’d never heard before. They ran into her room, and minutes later, she stopped breathing. Jason began CPR, and paramedics soon arrived, but Shanna couldn’t be saved.
She was just three months old.
“I believe that with all my heart and know that I will see her again,” Clarissa wrote. “I just have to endure this time on earth without her.”
Little Carter had formed a strong bond with his baby sister in the time they had together.
“It still breaks my heart when he asks why she had to leave, and when she’ll be back again.”
Through fertility treatment, Clarissa became pregnant again – this time, with quadruplets. When the couple’s family and friends found out they had four babies on the way, they did everything they could to help them prepare for the arrival.
Clarissa’s friends nominated her for the TV show Random Acts. Soon they had four of everything they needed: four bassinets, four car seats, four strollers.
In June this year, just as Clarissa was reaching 23 weeks, she started bed rest. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop her from going into early labour.
Kylie, Ellie, Savannah and Lexi were born by emergency caesarean. The biggest, Ellie, weighed just over 500g.
“We will take it one hour and day at a time,” the Osborns wrote on their Facebook page. Two days later they posted a devastating update.
“Kylie did have brain bleeding and lung issues and did not make it through the night. Ellie, who was doing great yesterday, took a turn for the worst, and due to lung bleeding she did not make it this morning.
“Savannah and Lexi are hanging in there right now.”
A day later, there was more tragic news. “Lexi and Savannah took their last breaths in our arms this morning.”
The Osborns couldn’t face going home from hospital to the four sets of baby items given to them by Random Acts. So they donated everything to Intermountain Healing Hearts, which helps children with congenital heart disease, like Shanna.
Kylie, Ellie, Savannah and Lexi were all buried in the same casket, and placed in the same plot as Shanna.
“We were late getting to the cemetery, and were greeted with saddened eyes and familiar faces who had been in that same place only 11 months ago,” Clarissa wrote in her blog. “I felt as if I should apologise to everyone for making them hurt for us yet again. In so many ways I’ve felt like I let everyone down. I was supposed to share my little girls with everyone.”
Clarissa says losing all of her daughters has helped her see things in a different light.
“I may not have the opportunity to raise my girls here on earth, but I do have a sweet little boy that I’ve been a mother to for four years. There are times I complain, there are times I get frustrated, but then I am reminded that I am so blessed to have him.”
One of the ways the Osborns have chosen to honour their daughters is by setting up educational scholarships for college students who have survived heart defects. The first two of those scholarships were recently awarded, and the Shanna K. Osborn Foundation is continuing to raise money.
Jason tells Mamamia that sharing their story online is helping them.
“We gain support, and we can give support to those who reach out,” he explains. “Having the support of people all over the world and being able to look for ways to help others have both been the best medicine for healing.”