Stories from our Families
The Morris Family - A Family of Five.
Dawson Morris age 9
Brother of Drew Morris
Since my brother, Drew, has been in Heaven, I have been very sad and happy, too. I think of him a lot. At Christmas, we read him a story and hung up a stocking for him. Also, we hung a wreath at the cemetery for him. I did a power point at school and I mentioned him as my brother. His birthday is April 1st and we are going to get the basement done at our house by then. For his birthday, I want to do something fun. Mom says we may release balloons.
Dylan Morris age 12
Brother of Drew Morris
Since Drew was born and passed away, we have done many things to honor him, including talking at Bowties for Babies and visiting Alexandra’s House several times. On Christmas Eve of last year, my brother, Dawson, and I read to him. We also each bought him a little gift for the only Christmas we got to spend with him. This year we visited his stone and hung a wreath right by it, so he could look down on us and see it. Our little cousin, Gavon, even brought him a couple of books for Christmas gifts. It was hard having a Christmas without him and it seems funny because we have not even known Drew for two years, but I can’t remember life without him. Now it is nearing this little miracle’s first birthday. Last year on his day of birth, it was a beautiful 80-degree day, and he passed away after two hours and twenty-two minutes of life. It was the happiest and saddest day of my life but I definitely don’t regret it.
Note: Dylan and Dawson wanted to do something’ fun’ in honor of Drew’s first anniversary. One of our other families Bob and Staci Courter recently started a new program in honor of their two baby girls who died of an inherited disease. Mallory Hope and Julia Faith Courter inspired their program called Project Fun with Hope and Faith. Knowing how much time families spend planning for and collecting memories of their babies’ births and deaths, they want to help the family create new and happy memories, yet always in honor of the siblings who have died. Dylan and Dawson were the first recipients of this gift from Bob and Staci’s family.
Brandon and Lindsey Carlson Family
We wanted to send these thoughts on our precious Caden from big brother Connor and big sister Kylee:
"When I held him in my arms, he felt light, but I knew his Spirit was in heaven with God."
"I remember Caden with my bear, Carl."
"I felt sad knowing that Caden wouldn't be here with us, but am happy knowing that Caden is living a happy life in heaven." -Connor Carlson, Age 9
"When I held him in my arms, I knew that he had light in heaven."
"I remember Caden with my bear Sparkles and with the (memory) garden outside."
"Caden's body was sick, but his heart was so strong."-Kylee Carlson, Age 7
As you know, the kids' experience with creating bears in memory of Caden sparked the creation of Caden's Cubs (http://www.cadenscubs.com) We have attached a picture of Connor and Kylee with their bears along with a photo of our newest blessing, Hadley. We have also attached a picture of artwork that Kylee created at school when she was asked to draw a picture of her favorite tree. She drew the tree we have planted out in Caden's garden with the quote "This is my favorite tree because....it stands for my baby brother. And it is old.".
Thank you for this opportunity!
Joy and Joya's Family
Joy and Joya were twins, very special twins. They were joined at the chest and shared one heart. After complex testing prenatally, it was determined that Joy and Joya could not be separated surgically. Neither would survive the surgery.
The twins’, their Mother Jackie, and their older sister Jaterra were deeply embraced by Alexandra’s House and its community. During phases of the pregnancy the little family lived here as our guests. Jackie reported that one night while getting ready for bed here that she and Jaterra, who was seven at the time, were chatting. Jaterra quietly asked Jackie if Alexandra’s House was Heaven.
Joy and Joya were born alive and survived seven incredible days. Literally everyone who met them fell in love with them. Even in their short lives, though quiet, they were very interactive with each other. Joya often nuzzled Joy’s face and Joy would use a hand to push her away. Soon all noted their very distinct mannerisms and saw subtle yet special differences. They were both seen as completely unique individuals. Jaterra spoke that her favorite memory was brushing their hair. That was her special job.
On the seventh day they rested. We miss them so but Alexandra’s House will always bear the fragrance of their sanctity and treasure their memory.
The Dement Family - Joshua's Story
Now that a year has passed, I feel that I can finally write our story. The testimonies that I found at Alexandra's House helped me to better prepare myself for the chapters which were to come, especially those relating specifically to Trisomy 18, or Edward's Sydrome. I would scour the internet for some kind of shred of anything to hold onto regarding what realistically I could expect, but in the end, just living day by day and having no idea of what exactly would lie around the corner was my reality.
We found out we were pregnant with our eighth child, Joshua Ezekiel, on July 4th, 2019. I was cautiously optimistic at this point, since I had just suffered two miscarriages. However, after our seven-week checkup, a heartbeat was finally detected, and I breathed a sigh of relief. This child was alive. Relief was short-lived as at ten weeks, I took a Panoramic DNA blood test that would give information about chromosomal abnormalities as well as gender. I really was only interested in the gender aspect of this test and had no interest in the rest. I had seven other healthy children, no family history of development/chromosomal disorders, so I was not terribly concerned. Though I was 42, I figured if we had a Down's Syndrome child, we would raise him/her as any of the others. Edward's Syndrome never entered my mind. So I was completely shocked when the test came back with a very high probability for Trisomy 18 or Edward's Syndrome. I figured that the test was likely wrong and was trying to remain calm until I had something more concrete to go on. Close to two months later, we had our level 2 ultrasound. They found that likely our baby DID have the terrible disorder and that his heart was shifted to the right which indicated that his organs were not developing in their proper positions. We were told that there was a high probability that his lungs would not develop properly, and he would be unable to breathe. The male physician had just delivered his diagnosis, but then spoke to our hearts. He said, "Though you may not be asking this question right now, I want to reassure you that nothing you did or didn't do caused the problems in your son." In a whirlwind of confusion and heartache, those words were helpful to hold onto.
The rest of my pregnancy was filled with tears, pain, and at times disbelief. I continued to hope that everything and everybody was wrong and that somehow this son of mine would be fine. Medical errors happen all the time. I tried to not get sucked into the vortex of despair because I still had seven kiddos to mother, one of which was not even school age yet. That at times, however, was nearly impossible. My four-year-old seemed to always be around when the house was quiet and I couldn't hold it in any longer. He saw Mommy crying a lot that year.
Shortly thereafter, I got in touch with Alexandra's House and had a meeting with Patty. She touched on something, that even a year later, I still don't fully comprehend. During our time together she told me that God had prepared me for this. Oddly enough, this was the very same statement that I felt God speak to my heart when I first learned of the diagnosis. I truly believe that all situations and trials only come as God allows them; no pain is without a purpose, though that purpose may not be realized for years later.
As the months progressed, my womb continued to enlarge, even though my baby was not. I had polyhydraminios and was larger than I even was with twins. The condition was uncomfortable and frustrating but did serve to keep me grounded in the very real possibility that this diagnosis was in fact correct. We were advised to consider being induced as there was a risk of uterine rupture the larger my womb grew. I was opposed to the idea, wanting to give my son every fighting chance of developing functioning lungs. Finally, at one day short of 39 weeks, we got a call from my doctor to go into the hospital and have my water broken to allow for labor to begin. This was March 12, 2020. I did not realize at the time what a blessing this would be, for starting on the 13th, COVID would effectively limit how many visitors would be allowed. Undoubtedly all my children would not have been able to come up and say good-bye to their baby brother.
I got to the hospital with my husband and four-year-old son. I was placed in a room, changed into a gown, and then awaited my doctor. He arrived shortly and broke my water. Fluid began saturating the bed, and despite multiple towels, the floor as well. The heart rate monitor for my son's vitals started to slow drastically, and the doctor had to be called back in. I was told that he was in distress and asked whether I wanted a C-section. I responded that I did if there were any hope of seeing him alive. So, I was quickly rushed into the OR, given a spinal, and tried not to cry hysterically. My husband joined me as soon as he was able to pass my son off to family friends. The operation took a bit longer than normal as I had a good amount of scarring from two previous c sections. My baby son was finally born and laid on my chest, but I never saw him take a breath, open his eyes, or make a single noise. Though he had a heartbeat immediately at birth, the next time his vitals were checked, he did not.
I couldn't really comprehend all that was happening and just kept saying, "I'm so sorry. I am so so sorry." I was returned to my birthing room so that I didn't have to hear the cries of living babies while I mourned for mine. Nurses bathed my son and a hospital photographer came in later. She took pictures of sweet Joshua after we had placed him in the preemie jammies we brought with us. My parents brought our other children to the hospital after they were done with school (little did I know that that would be the very last day of school for them due to COVID). I was allowed to keep Joshua in my room in his air-conditioned bed as long as I wanted to. I think that that helped. I still could not process what had really happened and how I now finally knew how short his life would be.
I still am unsure how I was prepared for this loss. Never before have I experienced pain to that level. Although a year later, the tears are undeniable, but the loss is less gut wrenching. Joshua will always be a part of my life and I look forward to meeting him in heaven one day as he tells me of the adventures he has already had while waiting for me.
Tyler Brown about Baby Brother Trenton
My mom (Janet Brown) let me know about the writings for the Alexandra's House newsletter. Hopefully this doesn't sound like an overt advertisement for Alexandra's House rather than a story, but Alexandra's House was a crucial part of my family's story. So, telling it without Alexandra's House would make it incomplete. Regardless, here's my own story:
Although Trenton died around ten years ago, I still remember the effect Alexandra's House had on my mom. Essentially, when Mom found out that Trenton had Trisomy 18, she was heart-broken. We all were, but it affected my Mom the most. Frankly, none of us really knew how to fully support Mom. We couldn't put ourselves in her shoes as an expectant mother.
I remember how inadequate I felt to comfort Mom. I don't remember talking about Mom with my dad or my sister, but I'm pretty sure they felt it too. That's where Alexandra's House came in. Somehow, Mom got connected with them, and suddenly she was understood. She got to meet other women who had been through or were going through the same thing. This brought an incredible level of relief to Mom and therefore to the rest of our family.
Although the pain from Trenton's death has never fully healed for our family, Alexandra's house definitely helped alleviate a lot of it. We still commemorate Trenton's passing by going to the cemetery on his birthday in order to give him a new teddy bear and some balloons, just to let him know that he's loved.
I don't know exactly if the scars from Trenton's tragic death will ever fully heal for our family. And frankly, I don't know if they're supposed to. I don't think it's right to try to forget and to try to run away from his impact on our lives. However, I do know that Alexandra's House was there for my family and my mom especially when she needed them the most. For that, Alexandra's House will always hold a special place in our hearts."
Thanks again for helping my mom when she had her deepest need,
Patrick and Debra McShane Family - About Baby Mary Catherine
We talked to our kids this weekend, and they were so individual, heartbroken and sweet. Our daughter, Annie, said she thought God must have put four seeds inside of me when I was created and one was an angel seed. So I had three babies and now I would have the angel baby. That's the story I am going with from now on because it sounds just perfect to me. Our oldest, Leo, was the most emotional. He quickly went to work drawing pictures and making a paper doll for Mary. He asked me to get a picture of her with the doll. He also thought we should make a special keepsake box to put things for Mary. He made us each a card with Mary's name (spelled "Merry") on it and told us to keep it in our wallets. Then one night I was lying in my bed with Jack watching TV. He took his favorite dog (named "Dog Dog Dog") and laid it on my stomach. He said he was letting Mary Catherine snuggle with it. He's so young, but he has come through this a very thoughtful little person. These kids are amazing.
I also called to schedule the 3-D sonogram for late April. I told the kids that we would get to see some really special pictures of Mary while she's still in my tummy. They are very concerned that they may not get a chance to meet her so hopefully this will help a little.
Ultimately the kids didn’t get to meet Mary face to face as things moved so quickly with her birth. I took great joy in telling the kids how much she looked like them. It was amazing...such tiny little features, but so distinctly familiar to us.
The kids still participated actively in Mary Catherine’s life and even in planning her funeral service and they continue to talk about her.
We were introduced to Alexandra's House when we lost our daughter, Kinley, unexpectedly in March 2010. My pregnancy was going well and I had reached 27 weeks. I woke up on a Monday morning and realized she had not woke me in the night by kicking me. She was very active, especially at night. I went to work and noticed little to no movement, so I called my doctor and they asked me to go to the hospital for monitoring. They monitored her heartbeat for an hour, it was good and strong, but I still wasn't feeling her move. They sent me home and agreed to do a follow-up ultrasound the next day. When we went in for the ultrasound, there was no heartbeat. I felt as if my whole world crashed down around me. I went in to be induced that evening and we had Kinley at 9:58am on March 24th. She was beautiful, looking just like her big brother. I attend the monthly unexpected loss group at Alexandra's House and find it so helpful. It's so encouraging to be surrounded by other parents that know how I'm feeling.
Sophia by Dante
It was a rainy day.
I was at the hospital because my Baby sister was born her name was Sophia.
I held her.
She was light like a pillow.
It was fun.
I like it.
I miss Sophia
Ben and Christy Shively Family
(These are thoughts the children wrote before Baby Ian was born)
I know you have problems and we pray for you at dinner. People have been bringing food to the house because mom can't. I love you Ian. Mom has told us all about your problems and Ian, I felt you kick. I like to give my mom's belly kisses. Can you feel them? I can't wait for you to be born. That's all for today. Love, Olivia
I am sorry for your conditions. We are praying for you. I love you. I hope you get to meet us when you are born. If you live for a long time, Tyler would be your best bud. I love you. I'm your biggest sister. You might be going to a soccer game of mine if you are well enough. We are thinking of you a lot. When you go up to heaven, can you tell me what it's like? I'll listen in my heart when you tell me. Look for Toby, Smokey, and Moose when you go up to heaven. They are some pretty cool dogs. That's all I have to say today. I'll write more another time.
ps-my nickname is Sam
It's your sister Lucy here. I love you. I want to give you a hug and a kiss when you are born. You will be my baby brother. I want to be with you when you are sick. And that's it now.
Ian’s Day: July 7, 2010 according to Samantha (10)
“I remember going to the sonogram and looking at him on the screen. I wasn’t sure why we were crying. I was trying to help Lucy to understand that Ian didn’t have a heartbeat. Later that night, I came home from an event and my Aunt Lou Lou was over. She took us to the hospital to meet Ian. I was able to hold him and he was baptized in my arms. I was sad and happy because Ian was going to live a better life in heaven rather than struggling on earth. If it weren’t for Ian, we wouldn’t know what it felt like to have someone die close to us. I remember seeing one eye open a little bit. He had blue eyes like me. There was a drop of holy water on his eyelid. Ian was really small. Patti from Alexandra’s House was there, taking pictures. Now we can look at those pictures. A couple weeks later, we had a Mass and a balloon launch for Ian. There were balloons with his name on them. After letting them go, I felt kind of sad but happy because I wrote him a note but I knew he would get the note in heaven. We planted a tree in is honor and wrapped our palms from church on the trunk. I like to see his tree everyday so that I am reminded that he his always with us in our hearts. At night when I see one big star and one little star, I know it’s my baby brother and my uncle watching over us. I sometimes wonder if he has other little friends to run around and play with up in heaven.”
Ian’s Day: July 7, 2010 according to Olivia (9)
“I remember the day Ian died. We were watching Ian on the screen at the sonogram and then he didn’t have a heartbeat. We were all crying because it was sad that he wasn’t alive. We went to the hospital late at night with my Aunt so that we could hold him. I remember holding my baby brother and wearing the scrubs like my Dad was wearing when Ian was born. He was such a beautiful baby. Fr. Farnan baptized Ian in my sister’s arms. We were all around him and it was so nice. I really liked that we lifted balloons off to him in heaven. All of our friends and family were there. I pray to Ian when I need his help. I will miss him.”
Ian’s Day: July 7, 2010 according to Lucy (5)
“I remember everyone crying when we went to see him on the computer. I was sad because Mommy was sad. I remember holding my sweet baby brother but he wasn’t alive. My sisters got to hold him too. Mommy was really sleepy but she was covered up with blankets. I like that we planted his tree because I can sit on the bench next to it and think about him. I feel my brother hugging me when I am warm and cozy in my bed at night. I love him.”
(Editor’s note: Kim and John’s first born is the delightful Gabriel. We met them when their second son was diagnosed prenatally with a fatal birth defect. Zachary did not survive. Several years later they conceived a beautiful baby girl and the pregnancy was advancing normally. Unexpectedly their perfectly formed Isabella was stillborn. Recently Kim and John received a new baby into their family through adoption. He is Lucas and these are their reflections with Gabriel.)
We've been extremely busy. Lucas is very adorable and very demanding! What five month old isn't!
Anyway, Gabriel is totally in love with his new brother. The first thing Gabriel does in the morning is to kiss Lucas. He constantly wants to hold him and has even shared his "baby" toys with him.
This past March before going to bed, I told Gabriel that it was his sister Isabella's birthday. I had questioned whether to say anything or not. I wasn't sure how he would react. We talked about how old she would be now and what we thought she would like; playing dolls, dress up, etc. After the conversation it was time for bed. Gabriel was saying his prayers and said, "God, please tell Isabella I said happy birthday."
Lucas has been a blessing! He fits in our family so well. Our adoption isn't finalized yet, (another month) but it's hard for us to believe that he ever had other parents. I asked Lucas the other day if he was born for us and I got the biggest smile! That's all the answer I will ever need!
I asked Gabriel if there was anything he would like to say and he said, "I like Lucas and he likes me, and if Zachary and Isabella were here they would like me and I would like them too!" Well said!! HA!
In November of 2009, my husband Eric and I found out that we were expecting another bundle of joy. We have a son, Brennen, who at the time was approaching his 1st birthday. We were so excited about our new edition. I spent a lot of time in the doctor's office because I was constantly bleeding and no one could really tell me why. At 17 weeks I went in for a normal check up and my doctor decided to do a sonogram. During the sonogram my husband and I found that we were having a baby girl, we also found out that I had a incompetent cervix and would need to have an emergency cerclage placed to keep my cervix closed. After the surgery I was placed on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. The only time I could leave the house was to go to my doctor's appointments every Monday.
After being on bed rest for 6 weeks, I went to my regular Monday doctor's visit and my doctor told me that my cervix was continuing to shorten and that she wanted me to admit myself into the hospital on Thursday so that they could monitor me. On Thursday March 25th I admitted myself into The University of kansas Hospital. On Friday March 26, 2010 at 8:30 a.m. my water broke and I immediately went into labor. They were not able to remove the cerclage so I had to have an emergency cesarean section. Brooklyn Mwikali Musyoki was born at 1:07 p.m., she weighed in at 1 lb 6 oz. and 12.5 inches long, I was 24 weeks and 2 days. The doctor's and nurses worked on our little angel for 20 minutes, reviving her a total of three times, my husband never left her side. It was concluded that our daughter passed away from a Pseudomonas infection.
We decided to have Brooklyn cremated and held a small memorial service for her. Every year for her birthday we have dinner and release balloons with our loved ones. She truly is a blessing. Her short presence in our lives have made us take a look at the things that are important in life. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. God always knows best and He will never put more on us than we can bear. Brooklyn will always hold a special place in our hearts. I thank God for giving me the time that He gave me with Brooklyn and the time that He continues to give me with Brennen.
The pain of losing Brooklyn seemed overwhelming at times. Some days I didn't want to get out of bed and I struggled with really bad anxiety. I was so angry and I felt so alone. I started attending meetings at Alexandra's House about 2 months after losing Brooklyn. It took me a while to really address my feelings but when I did I felt so much better. It's such a wonderful feeling to talk to people who can relate to your feelings. Alexandra's House has played a huge role in my healing. Our faith, our family and our friends have all been a great comfort to us and we will be forever grateful to them all.
My Little Angel
She never opened her eyes but I already knew her eyes sparkled like the night sky. Sophia, born an angel, that God already needed. Her life lasted only a few hours but changed by life forever. Only the best die young. Sophia deserved the life that she will never be able to experience but we will life through her. She made the biggest impact on my life even though she'll never know it.
My mom has four kids; Sophia would have been her fifth. On the phone with her boyfriend (the father of Dante, my little brother who's 7), she expresses to him that she may be pregnant again. She asks me, "Do you know if we have a pregnancy test?" I said, "I'm not sure, why?" She replied, "I think I might be pregnant." After looking for a pregnancy test and realizing we didn't have one, she ran to the store to buy one. Moments later, she took the test and came back with the news. "I'm pregnant", she said. I didn't know how to feel at the time. I was mad because she already had four kids, upset because I felt it wasn't the time and happy because there'd be another baby on the way. I wasn't sure how my other siblings were going to take it. Last time my mom was pregnant with Dante' and told my brother Gage(age 21), he was completely distraught and didn't know how to handle it; I didn't know what he would say or think about another baby. After a while, everyone seemed okay with it, and excitedly awaited the baby.
I went to one of the ultrasounds with my mom to hear the heartbeat and see what the baby looked like. Nervous and excited all at the same time, I awaited the doctor to call out my mom's name. Finally, the doctor said, "Miechelle?" We got up and followed the doctor back to the ultrasound room. The doctor started the ultrasound and began looking for the heartbeat. She searched and searched for the heartbeat, I tried to comfort my mom with a reassuring smile but I felt just as nervous as her. After some time, she finally found the heartbeat but it was dim, a bit of relief lifted off our shoulders. The doctor said that the amniotic fluid was low and to drink plenty of fluids and get some bed rest. My mom nodded with acceptance and in her mind I knew she felt terrified but she put on a pleasant smile and sat up.
Throughout the following months, things took a turn for the worst. My mom fllowed the doctor's orders and stuck to her bed rest and drank plenty of fluids. It almost felt like my mom went to the hospital almost every other day because of her heavy bleeding. Every time she returned home, she would say, "The doctor told me to stay on bed rest." Days later she'd be right back in the hospital with the same problem. We weren't sure what was quite wrong yet. Finally, the doctor told my mom that the baby had Potter's Syndrome, a fatal disease that caused the baby to be born without kidneys or even have room to have kidneys. Commonly the baby would have deformities to the face or to the body. The doctor told my mom that Sophia wasn't going to make it after the birth. If anything, the baby would survive for moments after the birth and then she'd pass away. My mom had no idea how to take this news, crying hysterically all the time; no one knew what to say to make her feel better.
The night of the birth, my mom experienced the same heavy bleeding, so when she left for the hospital, nobody knew we'd get a call saying, "I'm in labor, come to the hospital." My mom and I both agreed that I would be in the room when Sophia was born but once we got there, the doctor told me I couldn't because of a C-Section and I had to be 18 to be in the room. MY brother Gage went into the room with my mom, expecting the worst but praying for the best. Sitting in the waiting room, trying to keep my little brother and sister(Madison,11) calm, only made my nerves worse. My heart began to race and I stared at the clock, bouncing my legs up and down anxiously. Finally, Gage walked out with the saddest face on and told us to come with him. He had tears in his eyes and I already knew what to expect. I walked in the room hesitantly, not sure what to think of how to feel. My mom full of tears handed Sophia to me so I could hold her. I just looked at Sophia's face and began to cry, just knowing that her life was about to come to an end. The most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen in my life, just lying in my arms. After the doctor told us that she may have some deformities, I expected the worst and almost afraid to see her but she was incredibly beautiful. She looked like every other normal baby, just a little smaller but I can't even express the true beauty I saw in her. I only held her for a short period before I just couldn't handle the pain anymore. I hugged my brother and we just cried hysterically. Dante', Madison, Hasana (Gage's girlfriend), and I all walked back to the car just distraught from taking in what had just happened. Nobody talked the whole way home because no one knew what to say.
Sophia survived longer than the doctors predicted. She pushed through and lived for 2 hours. I never thought that something so tiny could have such a large impact on me. In a heartbeat, I would have traded places with her just to let her have a chance to live her life. Sophia brought our family closer than we've ever been before. She taught me to take nothing for granted and your family is the only thing that matters because when you're at your lowest, they're going to be there to pick you back up.
My husband and I found out that I was pregnant on August 8, 2008. We were excited, although a bit reserved since I had suffered an early miscarriage three months prior. My OB was wonderful and basically held my hand in terms of doing what it took to calm my nerves. We hit the 12-week mark and decided to tell friends and family that we were expecting, thinking that we were out of the woods for anything to go wrong. We found out that we were having a daughter and prepared for her arrival accordingly. We went to several Baby “101” courses at the hospital to better prepare us for parenthood. We also picked out a name, Addison Paige Clabaugh, which we were waiting to reveal to everyone after her arrival, a decision that I regret. I had a textbook pregnancy with no indication (that I was aware of) of any potential issues that could put my baby in danger. I was so excited for her arrival and looking very forward to the baby shower that my family was throwing for me. Little did I know that the day of that baby shower, March 7, 2009, would be the day that I would be going into the hospital to start the process of inducing labor and delivering my lifeless baby girl.
I remember waking up the morning of Friday, March 6, 2009, having not awoken that night by the usual punches and kicks of Addison. I really didn’t think much of it because she was extremely hyperactive the day before. I just chalked it up to her being tired, not knowing at the time that babies have a very scheduled sleep cycle in the womb. I also remember feeling different that morning in terms of how I was carrying her. My stomach was a bit harder than usual and had a heavy feeling …kind of a weighed down feeling. I brushed it off and went to work that morning in a chipper mood thinking that my birthday would be in three months and by then Addison would be here with us. I went to work and ate my breakfast thinking that would get her moving, but when that didn’t do the trick, I decided to call my OB even though I felt like a burden for doing so. Let me preface this by saying that I had been in to see my OB for a routine weekly OB visit that Monday and I was seen the day before because I was leaking fluid. They wanted to rule out amniotic fluid, so they worked me in. I didn’t see my regular OB that day and often wondered if things would have turned out differently had I gone to the satellite office to see her instead. I have since stopped playing the what-if game just because I knew that nothing good would come from it. The nurse said to head to L&D right away so they could do an NST to reassure me that everything was ok. I honestly had no idea that something was wrong. To make a long story short, I went to L&D only to find out that our daughter had returned to heaven. I was alone at the time (with the exception of the nurse) thinking that there was no need to call my husband as I would be in and out and there was no need to worry him (another decision that I regret). March 6, 2009, was the day that has forever changed my life, my way of thinking and who I am right down to the core of my soul.
Addison was born March 9, 2009. She was perfect and beautiful. She had died as a result of a nuchal cord accident. I had never heard of this happening and certainly was never made aware that it could happen to me, nor of the extreme importance of kick counts and/or any unusual behavior, such as hyperactivity or frequent hiccups, as being an indicator of a potential cord issue. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think of her and miss her. But, I know she is sitting in the lap of God surrounded by angels and Joy and that along with the fact that I will one day get to see her again brings me peace.
Addison’s little brother, Evan Bryce Clabaugh, was born into this world 14 months later. He was and is healthy, although a failed Bio Physical Profile bumped him up on schedule for a cesarean section that day. He was born with the cord around his neck and his leg, though not tightly I am told. Regardless, something was wrong to result in a failed BPP, and I believe it had everything to do with the cord. After Addison’s passing, I did a lot of research on stillbirth, including flying to see a stillborn research specialist, Dr. Jason Collins, when I was 28 weeks along in my pregnancy with Evan. I knew that I had to be Evan’s advocate and help ensure his well being (to the best of my ability). My wonderful OB (the same that delivered Addi), a perinate and Dr. Collins were all very much involved in monitoring Evan. Their help, along with the support of my family, my friends (the few that truly understood), other angel moms, my church and my faith are what got me through the very long nine months of extreme paranoia, fear and sleepless nights. I was a statistic and nothing that anybody said could have made me feel better.
Evan is the light of my life, and I can’t imagine life without him. I know now what a miracle it is for any baby to arrive into this world safe and sound. I thank God for Evan and believe that he is a gift and a blessing. Evan’s arrival, God’s grace, and time have helped heal my heart to the best of its ability. I have met several angel moms on my journey and we continue to share, vent and lean on one another for support and continue adapting to what we call our new reality. We are part of the dreaded club that nobody wants to be associated with, and we are desperate to help ourselves, our families, and others who have experienced and potentially could experience the loss of a baby. We want to be heard and understood. We want to make certain that our babies’ deaths were not in vain and carry out their legacy by sharing what we know and not holding it within like a dirty secret. In my opinion, sharing is a key component of the healing process. To anyone who has lost a baby, I give my deepest condolences. To anyone still struggling from this, please know that happiness does return to your life. I look back at what I call the darkest days of mine and recall how hopeless I felt and how grim I perceived the future to be. I never believed that I would have the strength and courage to get to where I am now in life. Stay strong by leaning on your faith, your family and your friends to help you through those dark days.
To commemorate my daughter and give purpose to her life, I initiated discussions with St. Joseph Hospital (since that is where both Addison and Evan were born) about starting an annual perinatal bereavement ceremony. I feel it is so important for moms to connect with other moms as a way of coping and healing and feel like this ceremony provides an opportunity to do that in addition to acknowledging our angel babies. With the help of other angel moms, we have created a Facebook page called The Angel Baby Project which is another great resource for moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and anyone who has experienced infant loss. I am excited to announce that The Angel Baby Project of Greater KC along with St. Joseph and St. Mary’s Medical Centers will host the first annual Perinatal Bereavement Ceremony in April 2012 on the St. Joseph campus. Please follow The Angel Baby Project on Facebook to learn more about upcoming event details at: http://www.facebook.com/TheAngelBabiesProject
Colette Waters' Story
Do you want to go to prom with me?” That was the question Michael, my now husband, asked me when he was a junior and I was a sophomore at a tiny Missouri high school. We knew each other before then but this was the start of something new. We started talking more. We ate at Applebee’s and went to the movie theater on our first date. Soon we were boyfriend and girlfriend, and even though we went to different colleges, we stayed together and got married after my graduation. After spending many years together as “just us,” we decided it was time to think about having a child. We did not stress about it but thought, when it was time, it would happen. I figured within a year or so we would have a baby.
Five months later, after a Friday morning doctor’s appointment because I was feeling weird, I made my way to work. I decided to grab an early lunch while I was already out. I was almost to Panera Bread when I got a got a call from my doctor’s office. "It sounds like you're driving," my doctor told me. "Let me know when you've pulled over or parked so I can go on and tell you about the results of your blood work." With my heart thumping, I quickly parked and told her to go on. She tenderly told me that my blood test showed I was pregnant but might be having a miscarriage because my hormone levels were low. Since it was Friday I would need to wait and get my blood taken again on Monday to see if my hormones had increased or decreased, and thus show if I was still pregnant or not. I quietly thanked her for getting my blood work evaluated quickly, and then I hung up.
As I sat in silence in my car, it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Then the tears came. The big sloppy tears that run down your face and onto your shirt while you try to catch your breath. I felt like I was living in a movie. This could not be my life. Shaking, I called Michael and could barely get the words out. "I'm probably having a miscarriage," I finally managed to spit out through sobs. "I have to wait until Monday to find out for sure." Shocked, Michael comforted me and asked if he needed to leave work and come pick me up. Trying my best to stay strong and positive, I said no. After a few more “I love you’s” we hung up and I sat, dumbfounded. I didn’t know how to react so I just went through my day which was a blur. I remember my head throbbing, my eyes stinging and my heart pounding. At 5 o’clock I headed to my hometown for my nephew’s birthday party. I cried and prayed during the hour drive, taking comfort in knowing that no matter what, God was in control.
What unfolded was the longest weekend of my life. That Sunday was technically my first Mother's Day. As I celebrated my wonderful mom, mother-in-law, sisters, grandma and aunt, I wasn't sure what was going on in my body or the life of our first child. At church, when the pastor asked all of the mothers to stand up, I was stuck in my seat, feeling like I was betraying my first child as I continued sitting in the pew. For the hour they spoke about and honored motherhood, I tried my best to discreetly wipe away my hot tears which were smudging my vision and rolling down my cheeks.
After I got my blood taken on Monday, we got a call confirming our worst fear. My hormones had unfortunately decreased; and just like that, we were broken. I couldn’t stop sobbing into Michael’s arms. We had a child for a little while but now they were gone. I felt grief that I didn’t know I could feel.
Later that year in November, the same thing happened and we lost a child very early on through miscarriage. I was very numb to this loss and it took me awhile to comprehend it or talk about it at all.
As a photographer I wanted a way to convey my feelings of grief and my hope for the future. I also wanted something tangible here on earth to represent my babies in Heaven. I was reminded what a stranger said to me in May 2017, a few weeks after my first miscarriage. He said God had told him I was in a dark place—a season of winter—but that he saw me walking in fields of flowers. God saw me and my pain, and spring was coming. This inspired me to symbolize the end of winter and start of spring through photography. I took self-portraits which was therapeutic, and then I started doing “Seasons of Hope” photo shoots for other women too. These photos honor babies in Heaven and the women who have experienced loss and heartbreak whether from the loss of a child or the emptiness caused by infertility.
The next year we found out we were pregnant again. We were overjoyed when we passed the 12 week mark and were told we were having a baby boy. We had a small gender reveal party with our family and were able to rejoice in our blessing.
In mid September 2018, Michael and I went to our monthly doctor’s appointment and then went to the movies. I felt Bennett move for the first time and we talked more about names. We decided we were both pretty smitten with the name Bennett, which means “blessed.”
Michael and I were excited and anxious for our October doctors’ appointment— the 20 week ultrasound. Michael took off work early to meet me at the hospital. We had plans to go to our hometown afterward with new ultrasound photos in hand to proudly show our family. I was so excited to see how Bennett had grown since our last ultrasound. While lying down with warm gel on my belly, we quickly saw Bennett’s perfect head and spine on the screen. I felt a wave of relief. After a few seconds though the nurse excused herself out of the room. I felt like I was going to be sick as we prayed out to God that Bennett was ok.
But he wasn’t.
Our world came crashing down as our doctor confirmed his little heart was no longer beating. Our baby was gone. I just kept thinking, “This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. Please God no.” Lying on the hospital bed and crying with Michael is one of the most painful and surreal moments of my life.
The next morning we left our house and headed to the hospital to induce labor. I remember thinking before I walked out of our door that it was the last time Bennett was going to be in our home. We had been praying for a miracle so when we arrived we asked our doctor to do another ultrasound to confirm that Bennett was really gone. We thought, “This can’t be our story. 2017 was our year of loss and 2018 is supposed to be our year of happiness.” We held our breath as our doctor took her time checking over Bennett’s body but she sadly confirmed his soul was no longer with us.
In the early morning hours of October 19th, I gave birth to our Bennett. Worship music played while Michael held my hand, gave me kisses and whispered over and over, “I love you” and “I’m so proud of you.” We spent the day holding Bennett—marveling at him and honoring him. Our nurses and doctor were so thoughtful and caring, making us precious keepsakes we will treasure for the rest of our lives. We are so thankful for them and our families for not leaving our sides. As evening came upon us, we were ready to be home but we did not want to leave our Bennett. Leaving our hospital room was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done.
On November 2nd we celebrated Bennett with an intimate graveside service. My sister said that morning she woke up upset. She had dreamt I was in the hospital having heart surgery. She had to tell everyone that my heart had broken in two and the doctors were trying to mend it back together. And that is exactly what happened to me. My heart broke when we lost Bennett.
As Bennett’s short service started, rain began to fall. When the last song played, the rain stopped. We felt God crying with us as our tears mixed with the rain. Oh how Bennett is loved. As I touched Bennett’s tiny casket one more time before leaving him to be buried, I quietly thanked God for the short time we had with Bennett and that we are his parents. I find comfort knowing I literally carried him for his entire life. Our baby went from being safe and warm inside of me and hearing our voices, to opening his eyes for the first time and seeing our Lord God and meeting his older siblings. He never felt pain or did anything wrong. After Bennett’s service and the rain had cleared, a rainbow shone brightly in the sky. God sees us and he is good.
Fast forward to August 2019. Michael and I were going on a weekend trip to New York to celebrate my 30th birthday. We didn’t know it at the time, but there were three of us on our trip. Well, actually, Michael was convinced I was pregnant. I didn’t think so because I had taken a test right before we left for New York and it was negative.
Yes, it was negative but Michael was still convinced I was expecting. The day after we got back home, I took another pregnancy test to confirm what the last test had said, that I was not pregnant. I wanted to be able to drink a large coffee the next morning without any guilt. As I took the test in our master bathroom, I was shocked when it came out POSITIVE. I had to laugh that Michael was right. I went downstairs and showed him and he replied with a big smile that he knew it.
There was a very special package waiting for me in my mailbox that same evening. As I opened the parcel, I was greeted with our BENNETT bracelets from Comfort and Heart! Comfort and Heart sells jewelry to benefit the Comfort and Heart Foundation, which helps bring comfort to families who have lost a child. A week prior, Comfort and Heart had completely surprised me and announced they were releasing their first gender neutral piece and naming it the Bennett Bracelet in honor of our son Bennett. When I saw the announcement on my phone, I lost my breath and began to cry. It felt so good to see Bennett’s name, and to see his life making an impact on others.
So the same day we found out we were expecting, we received our Bennett bracelets and our family and friends received their orders too. My phone was blowing up with texts and Instagram tags with photos of people wearing their new Bennett bracelets. I was in awe of the timing and knew it was God. As Michael and I started to dream about the child that was growing within me, we honored our son who we miss and love so much, and received so much love from our family and friends at the same time.
We were very excited to find out if Bennett was going to have a little sister or brother. Michael and I found out on a sunny October morning that we were having a daughter. A week later we had a small gender reveal party with our family. It rained all day of the reveal. I thought for a moment it would be amazing if there was a rainbow but I let the thought flitter out of my mind because I didn't want to get my hopes up. Then my mom told me she was praying the rain would stop and that there'd be a rainbow.
And do you know what?
That’s exactly what happened.
As the weeks went by we had laughter and tears and anxious thoughts. God always reminded us though that he was with us. My sister ordered our baby shower invitations, and after she opened the invitations she noticed the box they came in and sent me a photo.
The box said BENNETT Packaging on it. What are the chances of that? Tears came to my eyes as I saw the symbolism of Bennett taking care of his little sister and paving the way for her. I received a moment of peace knowing that my son is safe and happy in Heaven.
I was also reminded of just how close God is to us and how he is always intertwined in our lives. I am forever grateful for these notes from Heaven when I feel God telling me: I see you. I love you. I’m here for you.
I really needed those reminders as we waited for our daughter to be born. For awhile I had placenta previa and I realized I could need a c-section. I mulled the idea around in my head and came to terms with it pretty quickly. Honestly, I was a little relieved. I was induced with Bennett and I did not want to relive the same sensations and pains while birthing Pepper. I wanted a different experience. I knew it was ultimately out of my control and tried my best to put it in God’s hands.
My amniotic fluid was also low and had to be checked weekly. We even had to stay overnight after one appointment because it was so low. Luckily though, the placenta previa went away, and my low fluid never got so low that it was an emergency. However, baby girl was breach and never flipped around, so we penciled in my c-section date for when we would be 39 weeks—April 2nd, 2020.
When our daughter was being born, my doctor talked us through what was happening and said when she could see her feet, legs and body. Soon the blue sheet between my chest and torso dropped and we saw our beautiful chubby baby girl staring at us! It was amazing and it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. She reached out her little hand and I reached mine out too as we held hands through the clear sheet. She didn’t cry at first and I remember asking a few times if she was ok but then I heard her make some noise. Very quickly they brought her over to us and put her on my chest. She immediately started sucking on my skin and the nurse closest to me said she was trying to breastfeed. I was in complete awe. Before I knew it I was being wheeled into a recovery room as Michael pushed Charlotte Pepper in her bassinet behind me. They had daddy/daughter skin-to-skin time and then she came to me and nursed for the first time. I was so grateful and again, awestruck at our beautiful baby girl.
I thank God for his timing and for reminding us that he sees us. Thank you God for never leaving us, for gifting us with treasured signs of your presence, and for all of the blessings in our lives. The grief of losing a child never leaves you but the future always holds hope, and that is a beautiful thing.
Megan Fordham's Story
My name is Megan Fordham. I am 11 years old, and I am the oldest in my family. My youngest sister is named Noelle. She is 3 ½ years old. My middle sister’s name is Mallory. She was stillborn when she was 32 weeks old. She had a form of dwarfism, and doctors told my parents that she would not be able to live after she was born. There are many kinds of dwarfism, and since I was only 6 at the time, I did not really understand that there were kinds you could die from. I kind of knew a little bit of what was going on. I remember everyone being sad after they went to the doctor visits. Mom and dad told me what was going on. I had been really excited to finally have a baby brother or sister. It was no fun being an only child. I had been very lonely all by myself. Mallory’s birthday is December 06, 2007. The first year after she was born, we got a balloon for each one of us, and we let them go on that day. It was a dark cloudy day, and we watched them go all the way up into the sky. We sent them to her. We still celebrate her birthday every year. Last year, I got to pick out the cupcakes for our family celebration. I chose some with Christmas lights on them, since she was born so close to the holiday. We go to visit the cemetery a few times a year. We bring flowers. It is sad for us. We have some very nice pictures of Mallory all over the house. It is nice to be able to see her, and know she is still part of the family, even though she is in Heaven. I am glad mom and dad hung them up. I know I can always talk about her, and she is not a secret. Someday, when Noelle is big enough, I will tell her all about her other sister, who watches over us, but is not with us here on Earth. I am glad I have Noelle, and I am glad we had Mallory too.
Megan Fordham, Age 11
Parents: Amy & Byron Fordham
McCoy's Story: Say His Name
Sometimes I still have that innate instinct to care for McCoy. In the ordinary moments, my mind alerts me that I should be doing something. And I am reminded that it is done. Every need was met. And my hands feel idle.
Grief continues in waves. It all seems surreal and then all too real in the next moment.
The numbness. The anger. The denial. And then the acceptance.
And the incompleteness that is my life. HE is missing.
Never to be replaced. Like, how do we move forward without HIM? But we do.
And in the moving forward there is awkwardness. An uncharted territory. It isn't every day that someone tells you of their dead child.
Just... say his name.
McCoy will always be my son. He will always exist in my life. He will never NOT be on my mind. He lived. He died. And that is okay. It does hurt. The grief is sometimes unbearable. But you know what makes me feel better? Saying his name. It feels like he is still here. The memory of his life is living. Talking of the times we had together is healing. Remembering details is therapeutic.
Ask me how we chose his name.
Ask me what color his eyes were. What color his hair was.
Ask me what type of temperament he had as a newborn.
Ask me about his diagnosis.
Ask me about HIM.
Just... say his name. For in his name, there is JOY.
--More about McCoy's story can be found at the blog https://saramuskopf.wixsite.com/mccoysstory