My name is Chrissy and Krista is a dear friend of our family. Along with being Down syndrome awareness month, October is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness month, and today, October 15, 2013 is the official day of remembrance so I want to share a little of our story. I have 4 beautiful children “at home” - that is how I answer when people ask how many children I have. They are 7, 4.5, 2 and 4.5mths. But I also have two beautiful babies in heaven, one I never got to hold or even see, and one I held and saw her beautiful face, despite her never taking a breath.
Katie, Morgan, Rachel and Liam
My first loss was in October 2005, a miscarriage at 14 weeks, it was devastating. We were so excited, had the nursery started and were dreaming of meeting our baby. I closed the door to the nursery, cried a lot of tears and tried again right away. Almost 1 year later I had our beautiful daughter Katie. I fell in love so deep I had no idea it was possible and I wanted to experience it again. When Katie was 10 months old we conceived again and we were thrilled. After an anxious pregnancy with Katie I was able to let go and enjoy, thinking we’d had our rough time and were now in the clear. For 26.5 weeks I was blissfully ignorant, and enjoyed my pregnancy. February 3, 2008 everything changed. I had some cramping and spotting, and couldn’t remember the last time I had felt babe move. I called my midwife and we met her at the hospital. I remember saying to
“what will we do if they put me on bed rest”. I was in denial; I kept
convincing myself that I felt the baby moving and everything would be ok. Bryan
Katie and Mommy
Many things happened over the next several hours, some things were very traumatic but the outcome was unchangeable, our daughter had died. I was crushed in every way possible. I had never known this kind of pain. I knew what it meant to hold my child in my arms, see her look at me, know me as her mother, and all that came after that. Mostly I knew the love, and that love had been growing for 26.5 weeks already and it was fierce. I was never going to get to do any of the things I had looked forward to. Two days later I gave birth to our 1lb 10oz baby girl and she was beautiful, but not in the ways a parent dreams about. It was obvious that there was something “wrong”, and testing confirmed it – our angel had Turner Syndrome. Turner Syndrome occurs when females have only 1 X chromosome, instead of the usual 2. Males have 1 X and 1 Y chromosome. Like other genetic abnormalities people with Turners can live long beautiful lives, but it also predisposes them to hosts of health issues. For Gabi there could not have been any other outcome as her “condition” could not support life. Had she been born alive the time we would have had with her would have been very brief. We had chosen not to have ultrasounds in our pregnancy, had we had any we would have known she was not developing normally, and may even have been advised to terminate the pregnancy.
I feel we made the right choice, but sometimes I wonder if we were cowards, if we weren’t brave enough to make the decisions that would have been put to us….that it was just easier to leave it up to God. When Krista shared their initial testing results with us my heart just broke for them. I wished she wasn’t living the nightmare I had feared and avoided. I wasn’t sure how to support her; I knew what it meant to have a baby die but nothing about what she was dealing with. Shockingly though a part of me was jealous, and still is…why, because she gets to hold and raise her daughter. Talking with her made me question our decisions, ask “what if”? I wished I could be as brave as her. And I felt ashamed because I would be lying if I didn’t admit I am at times relieved that I am not raising a child with special needs, maybe God felt we weren’t strong enough to do so. Mostly though I do stand by our decisions, as our outcome wouldn’t have changed…maybe I would have gotten to gaze into her eyes as she looked back at me, maybe I could have told her I loved her and she would have heard it, but at what cost to us all?
It will be six years in February since Gabi left us, and at times it hurts as much as the days everything was happening. I have 4 beautiful, healthy children whom I wouldn’t give up for the world, but I also would give anything to raise Gabrielle, special needs or not. Her conception and death may have been just a “series of events” in our lives but the impact she has had on us is forever. My husband always says that time doesn’t heal, it just gives you distance and perspective. That is certainly our experience. I used to adamantly answer that I was the mother of X number of children and include Gabi and our other lost baby in that number. At some point I gained some perspective, I didn’t have to mention then in every conversation to ensure they weren’t forgotten, and began replying with “X number of children at home”. I talk about Gabi very openly and if you come into our home she is there – her candle, with her name on it sits in our living room, her photograph and urn are in our bedroom. As a mental health nurse I see everyday the impact that trauma has on people, and how it affects them, losing children is traumatic. We need to support each other as women and mothers in all the trials of our lives, whether it is losing a baby, at any point in pregnancy, or raising a child with special needs, or just having a bad day. Celebrating the fun and happy times is the easy part…anyone can do that…not anyone can listen when we cry in pain, grief or frustration. Thank you for “awareness” months and days, and for people like Krista trying to bring awareness on a daily basis by sharing her story. And thank you for reading my story. Much Love, Chrissy