I wasn’t 100 percent convinced I was ready for a baby when I got pregnant with Jennifer. So when I learned my baby would be born an angel the day before she was scheduled to join our once happy family; the pain was overwhelming.
I wondered, “What if I’d wanted her more? Could I have done something different to have kept her here?”
While I spent years struggling with that guilt and those questions my precious son had some questions of his own.
“Did Jennifer give up her life for me?”
That was the innocent question he asked after hearing the story of me losing his sister a few years before.
I don’t know the answer to that question. There probably would have been no Matt though if his sister had lived. I have always felt that she did give up her life for him. But it gives me comfort to know Matt has a special angel looking down from Heaven; we all do.
I was married at 20, divorced at 23 with a baby and a toddler. For five complicated years I was a single mom.
Then came Tom. I knew right away that this man would be a wonderful husband and soul mate but more importantly an amazing father to my two kids. We discussed having more children before we married; I promised him we would have a child together.
Tom adopted the children in our first year of marriage and talked about having a child together to complete our family. I had doubts and worries of course. My oldest was already 5 and I was nearing 30. I wondered if I was really ready for another child.
Those thoughts and doubts later haunted me.
Tom and I bought our first home. After just one year of spending our marriage together as a happy family of four, I got pregnant . It was a great pregnancy. We found out the baby was a girl; she was going to be our Valentine’s baby. I spent the weekend before my Tuesday due date in full-on nesting mode eager for Monday’s appointment where we would get a peek at the baby via an ultrasound.
During the scan, the mood in the room changed drastically. What was normally friendly, chipper chatter turned into dark quiet as one nurse after another came into the room.
“We just can’t seem to hear the heartbeat,” one of them finally told me. “We are bringing in the doctor.”
Reality set in; our sweet baby girl was gone.
I didn’t understand; how could this be? How can you lose a baby so close to a due date?
Tom rushed over; we sat down with the doctor. I was given the option of a cesarean section or natural childbirth. I chose the C-section. We called our parents and headed to the hospital.
I already had my hospital bag packed; I was ready to go any day. Still to this day, 25 years later, I vividly recall opening up the suitcase and delicately pulling out the tiny, newborn dress I had so carefully picked out for Jennifer.
It was not going with me to the hospital; I no longer needed it.
The hospital staff was understanding about the situation and put us at the end of the maternity ward in an attempt to shield us from hearing the sounds of motherhood – tears of joy, quiet cries from a baby, families celebrating new arrivals. They were sounds we wouldn’t be hearing.
After the surgery, we held our little girl in our arms. We will never get to see her grow or put her precious hand in ours. My heart was broken as I watched the man I loved so much weep into his hands.
They asked her name; it was Jennifer Marie, a little angel’s name. They came to take her newborn picture, but the dress was lying at home on the bed.
Someone at the hospital took their time to get Jennifer a beautiful, pink dress. That picture of her will be in my heart forever. She was a beautiful, little angel with ruby red lips and closed eyes. I will never get to see Jennifer’s eyes look at me.
Although I knew better, I felt like it was my fault. That’s what you do. At the beginning of the pregnancy, I had thought, “Do I really want a baby right now? But I made a promise to my loving husband.” When she was not here I felt like it was my fault because of these normal thoughts of doubt that every mom goes through.We could run through the events of our pregnancy and our thoughts and wonder if we did something differently if maybe we could have saved our child. We all could be a little gentler on ourselves.
But this beautiful baby that at one point had life within me was now gone. It’s very painful to feel that guilt on top of all the other feelings of grief.
And your body, in this situation, isn’t kind. I knew she was taken from us for a reason, but reminders of the baby I would never have were coming at me from every direction. My milk came in and I had no baby to nurse. My arms ached for her ; I remember wrapping my arms tight in a blanket because that was the only thing that would give me relief from the psychical pain.
On this past Valentine’s Day, Jennifer would have been 25. That holiday is a special day in our hearts.
Tom and I had another child a few years after Jennifer’s passing, Matt. Having Matt and my other two children who needed me and my love helped ease the pain.
And time has helped heal my soul; it has taken away the pain. I can’t tell you how long it takes for the pain to subside but eventually – little by little – the pain ebbs away and is replaced with the comfort that my baby was loved and will always be loved until we meet again.
I don’t have any magic words to help ease the pain for others who tragically have to walk down a similar path; it’s different for every person. For me, I found great comfort from a grief support group I joined. There women shared about losing their babies. It was comforting for me to know that other people felt the same way.
Putting one foot in front of the other was the most important thing for me. I kept walking through the pain for me and for my family and eventually it got easier. Losing Jennifer hurt so bad I could hardly handle the pain. Years later I looked at the angel in the garden that we placed for her, and the pain had lessened. Today I truly know there is nothing I could have done or thought differently that would have saved Jennifer.
Over the years, as I’ve cradled my precious grandchildren in my arms – rocked them to sleep, kissed their foreheads and wiped a tear from their cheeks — I think of Jennifer so much more. These newborn babies that are so loved and cherished, I feel their warm bodies and gaze into their beautiful eyes. The feelings come back a little; a lifetime goes by. When I hold them in my arms, their eyes are open, they look at me and I remember. I feel a pang in my heart. I know I will never see her with her eyes open.
But then I remember my angel, our angel – Jennifer Marie – and I smile.
RTS Beverement Services and Support Groups
The Women’s Hospital