Cico-Konecky ’04, ’10E named Mother of the Year in Nebraska
October 12, 2017.
It’s an emotion-filled day for Erin Cico-Konecky ’04, ’10E and her family, for many reasons.
Cico-Konecky has just given birth to her second child, Spencer. Her husband, Tim Konecky ’02 and her son Gram, who is six years old, are by her side to meet Spencer.
It’s a time that only a mother like Cico-Konecky can begin to describe what the emotions are like. Not because she had just given birth to a child. Or because she had undergone two miscarriages prior to Spencer. It’s a wide-range of emotions she can only begin to describe because just three months prior, Cico-Konecky and her husband found out Spencer was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, which the doctors deemed “not compatible with life.”
Trisomy 18, also known as Edward’s syndrome, is a condition caused by an error in cell division, resulting in an extra chromosome 18. This disrupts the normal pattern of development in significant ways that is often life-threatening before birth. Doctors told Cico-Konecky and her husband that their baby would die, it would just be a matter of when.
At that time, they had a difficult decision to make, and little time to make it. Because Cico-Konecky was 21 weeks pregnant when it was determined Spencer would, at best, live for a day or two after he was born, she only had two days to determine if an abortion is what they would choose to do. State law in Nebraska states abortions are not authorized after a woman has been pregnant for more than 21 weeks and 5 days. At the time of the ultrasound, Cico-Konecky was 21 weeks and 3 days pregnant.
Cico-Konecky and her husband elected to go through with the pregnancy and welcome Spencer into the world, God willing.
“The day we found out the diagnosis is still etched in my brain,” Cico-Konecky says. “I thought at 21 weeks miscarriage was the worst thing that could happen but then quickly discovered this was way worse. We had a growing baby that was living fine at the time but then wouldn’t be able to survive. That was hard to come to terms with.”
Knowing that their time would be very limited with Spencer, Cico-Konecky wanted to make the most out of it.
On October 12, 2017, Cico-Konecky and her family welcomed Spencer into the world, sharing precious moments with him. Her closest family and friends were in the room, her father who is a priest baptized Spencer, and family photos were taken.
Sarah Skinner, a NICU nurse practitioner, and Jolie Vega, founder of No Footprint Too Small, a nonprofit organization based in Lincoln that provides perinatal support to families affected by pregnancy or infant loss, were also present.
The moments with Spencer were genuine, tender, and loving.
Although Spencer Konecky was only alive for 96 minutes that day, the moments the Konecky family shared with him will last a lifetime.
Skinner, who had been so graceful with Cico-Konecky during that difficult time, provided words of encouragement that turned out to be instrumental for her well-being going forward.
“Sarah told us, ‘I see you celebrating this kid,’” she said. “So that’s what we did. She was the voice that helped me figure out the direction to take this.”
Although the Konecky family attempted to move forward in a positive manner and honor Spencer the best they could, no doubt the months ahead were challenging. What was already a difficult time for their family, however, was about to get worse. Just three months after they said goodbye to their newborn son, Tim Konecky’s father passed away.
One month later, the family received another emotional blow.
Cico-Konecky received a card in the mail from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. It was sent out in conjunction with the Governor’s Office, and Konecky was unsure what this card could be. Perhaps it was a condolence card, she thought.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The card had congratulated Erin and Tim on the birth of their child, Spencer, and reminded the family of the immunization shots their baby should have in the future. There had been a mistake between the hospital and the DHHS and Spencer’s death certificate had not been filed by the time the card was sent.
“I was very angry and confused,” Cico-Konecky said. “At that point, we were trying to manage our grief. Things were fresh with Spencer but the death of my father-in-law catapulted things. I couldn’t have imagined that the card could be what it actually was.”
Cico-Konecky decided to write back to those who had sent the card, sharing Spencer’s story and including pictures from their time together on October 12th. As she says, it wasn’t a note that was written with anger or revenge in mind, instead it was a therapeutic for her to share her story and share pictures of her baby. As part of the note, Cico-Konecky did include that she hoped this mistake could be avoided in the future, so other mothers who had experienced loss wouldn’t have to go through the same thing.
The following week, Governor Pete Ricketts called Cico-Konecky.
He apologized again and again, and the two discussed a possible solution. What if mothers who had lost a child could receive a condolence card, Cico-Konecky thought. She said this would be something she would be interested in helping with.. and within a few weeks, the project was underway.
Working with No Footprint Too Small, the DHHS, and the Governor’s Office, Cico-Konecky discovered that the DHHS cannot legally release information that includes death certificates. With permission from No Footprint Too Small and asking for mothers on social media who have experienced perinatal loss, Cico-Konecky received a list of mothers that cards could be sent to.
The first batch of cards were sent in November, and in total, around 70 cards have been sent out. Inside the card is a message from the Governor and a message from Cico-Konecky.
Each year an organization called American Mothers honors moms that make a difference through a Mother of the Year award. For her work with the condolence card project, Cico-Konecky was nominated by Governor Ricketts’ office for her work. It was the first nomination American Mothers said had ever received from the Governor’s Office in Nebraska.
To her surprise, Cico-Konecky was selected as Nebraska’s Mother of the Year.
“I was really excited when I found out,” she said. “Just to be nominated was neat, especially when it came from a public figure. It’s good to feel like you’re making an impact on others."
Cico-Konecky will be honored with other Mothers of the Year from each state at next weekend’s American Mothers National Convention in Washington, D.C.
Cico-Konecky received her bachelor’s in Mass Communications from Doane in 2004 and completed Doane’s Education Fast Track program in 2010. She is currently an English, Psychology, and Journalism teacher at Waverly High School, a position she has held for the past nine years. Additionally, Cico-Konecky is an adjunct faculty member at Doane, teaching an English teaching course in the College of Education.
For more information on Cico-Konecky’s Mother of the Year award and to read about the other Mothers of the Year, visit here.