5 years ago today I lost my first daughter at birth. Her name was Monroe and I was 35 weeks pregnant. The first month we tried for a baby we conceived. We were so excited that we told everyone right away! How arrogant we were thinking that nothing could go wrong…that we were invincible. So, at our 20 week ultrasound we found out that we were having a girl, that she had 6 of the 10 signs of Downs and that she was missing her esophagus. The OB tried to convince us to have an abortion quoting that “no marriages lasted after they have a child with special needs.” I was livid!!! We went for a second opinion. All the results were the same. We had an amniocentesis done to verify the downs, because an esophagus surgery with a “normal” child would go very differently and need less attention than one with a Downs baby. It was confirmed. To be honest I really could have cared less that she had Downs, I grew up with my sister with Downs. I was just more concerned about her esophagus and whether we’d have any healthy children in the future. So, we were high risk, had many ultrasounds (always with the anticipation that we would go in and she’d be all better), interviewed the best Pediatric surgeon who would fix her esophagus, toured the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where she would be for a few months after she was born, and had genetic testing done to see if this was hereditary. Fortunately it was not hereditary.
I felt such a great bond with Monroe throughout the pregnancy. Because we were dealing with so many obstacles, I talked to her constantly about them. I prayed over her continually. I demanded that she suck it up and get better…I was her mom and she had to listen to me! She was my first child who I wanted to protect. She had Downs which made her even more fragile and sweet and precious. I actually bonded more with her during the pregnancy than I did with any of my other pregnancies. I loved her and I felt her love back…something only a mother could understand.
Around 30 weeks the doctor put me on bed rest. Because Monroe had no esophagus and was not swallowing any amniotic fluid, the fluid just kept building up and building up…making me ready to burst at any moment. Finally, I went to the doctor at 35 weeks, looking 42 weeks pregnant. It was a Thursday and he gave me steroids shots to prepare her lungs and said I could go off bed rest because she was developed enough and could come any day now.
The next day, a Friday night, I was sleeping when I awoke to a gurgling noise. I thought my water had broken. I went to the bathroom, realized I was dry and went back to bed. Saturday morning we had a lot of shopping to do to prepare for the baby, especially since I had been in bed for 5 weeks. Throughout the day I felt no movement, which was very abnormal for Monroe. I drank sweet drinks, pushed my stomach around, and jumped up and down…still no movement. We called the doctor and they said come in immediately. After many technicians looked at the ultrasound it was confirmed that she was dead. Rob and I just held each other and cried. I was blindsided! They said I could go home and come back to be induced whenever I felt like it – I asked for an emergency c-section! They didn’t allow that but admitted me right away and started the cervidil to prepare me for labor. I was in labor for 30 hours. I was devastated. How could I give birth to a dead baby?
But, she arrived May 30, 2004 at 9:00pm. When she came out…she was my baby girl…so beautiful…she was just sleeping right? I was a proud mom, so happy and wanting to show her off to everyone. I couldn’t stop smiling…until I gave her up. I was able to hold her for 2 hours until she started turning blue, cold and her skin began to peel off. Then I let them take her and I left early the next morning. I had many nightmares after that day. I felt like I had abandoned my baby, left her there; that she was still alive screaming in the morgue. A few months later we tried again and conceived easily. We lost that baby, which I named Lael, when I was 10 weeks pregnant. Again, I felt hopeless.
Here is a poem I wrote 8 months after she died:
“No one knows the pain I’m feeling” I vow
They just see my smile and my uplift brow
They think I’m dreaming of purses and shoes
But I’m forcing back tears I’m about to lose.
I talk about shallow and meaningless things
Cause they don’t want to be bothered by the pain I bring
Every thought is consumed with Monroe and Lael
What I’d be doing if they were with me right now
Anger then arises, I feel life is unfair
God has seen my good deeds, is He not aware?
I feel hopeless when I think “I’ll never have a child”
Every pregnant woman I see just drives me wild
I try to be nice and seem interested in their life
But I’m screaming inside “This can’t be my life!”
My husband is stuck with an unhappy soul
No money or gifts can make me whole
I wish he could feel the loss I feel with each breath
But the pain is too heavy; it could lead to his death
So I choose to hide it each day from him and others
I shouldn’t hurt them just because I’m not a mother.
It took me almost a year, but I finally accepted that the “Sun rises on the good and the evil.” I accepted that life was put into motion and that shit happens, to all of us. Sometimes there’s no one to blame but life. Sickness and death is a part of this world and since I’m a part of this world I cannot escape its effects.
So 5 years later, how do I feel on this day? GRATEFUL for the children I do have!!! I miss Monroe deeply and sometimes even cry thinking of the beautiful life I could be having with her; but for the most part, I am so appreciative of the 4 beautiful children I do have. On a side note, twins do not run in our family at all (and I am the family tree keep so I should know) and the fact that I had twins was healing for me. I felt like I was given a gift, to compensate for the two I lost. Maybe one day I will know for sure? But as for today, I know that life can be short and I want to spend as much precious and special time with my kids as possible!! So every year on this day I have a birthday cake to celebrate the short time we had with her and then we each release purple balloons into the sky to remember where she is. In the future, I hope to take my kids to a “special Olympics” activity on this day or something so they grow up loving people with special needs…as I did.