Thursday, April 29, 2010

March of Dimes ~ Sunday, April 25, 2010

For the first time, my family and I participated in the March of Dimes.  It was a 5K through the beautiful campus of Christopher Newport University.  It was my first time doing any type of actual fundraising for a cause in honor of Savannah, and I was able to raise $150.00.  Not bad, for my 1st time!

The weather was beautiful.  The sun came out and it was around 70 degrees.  I walked along side my Peninsula Mommies Team.  It was a great experience and I was honored to walk for Savannah and other babies suffering from premature birth or birth defects.  Our journey has brought us together with new friends who also lost children due to Potter's Syndrome and Trisomy 13.  We walked for those babies as well.

Afterwards, we went as a family to visit Savannah.  I know she was proud of us and the money we raised to help other babies.  I miss her so much and as her 1st Birthday in Heaven approaches, I am filled with worry, anticipation, anxiety, terror, and hope.

I am told that the anticipation leading up to the date is much worse than the actual date.  At this time, we are planning a family picnic with Savannah alongside her grave.  I have ordered new floral arrangments and a special spray to mark the date.  I will always miss her and long for her and think about everything that she would be doing right now, but I am also filled with peace, knowing that she is safe and waiting for us.

New at Blogging...

So, after many prompts and suggestions from friends, I have started this blog in an effort to channel my feelings and emotions and hopefully, help someone else on this journey. Losing a child is unnatural and out of sync with the way the world should work. You should never have to bury your child. It's just not how things should work.

It has nearly been a year since we have lost our sweet baby girl and while the emotions are still fresh, my family, and more importantly, I have come a long way on our journey of grief. We have accepted Savannah's life and death and most importantly, look forward to meeting her again someday.

To introduce you to our story, here is something that I was asked to write for a book submission to benefit the Missing Grace Organization. It was written nearly 3 months after we lost Savannah.

Savannah Smiles

My husband and I had been married for 4 years and had a son who had just turned one when we found out we were pregnant with our 2nd. We always wanted more children and I especially wanted a little girl. I already had her name picked out, Savannah Grace. To me, it was the most beautiful name ever.

After several months of trying, I found out I was pregnant. I knew it was a girl, my Savannah. The theme of her nursery was to be ballerina. I loved to dance, ballet was my favorite and I hoped it would be hers as well. Shortly before Thanksgiving, I took the quad screen test and a few days later, I got a call from the doctor. Savannah had a 1 in 9 chance of Down Syndrome. I was so upset. I wondered what was wrong with me, what I had done wrong. Who would take care of her after my husband and I passed? She would never be a ballerina. Was I strong enough to be the Mom of a special needs child?

We researched Down Syndrome and joined a local Support Group. The more I learned, the more my faith was strengthened and my heart was opened to children of all special needs. I knew that even if she couldn’t dance, she could be a fan of dance. We love her unconditionally. If this was what God planned for us, we would take it with willing and open arms.

We saw a genetic counselor that encouraged us to terminate. Abortion was never an option for us. It simply was never our life to take. Savannah later developed kidney problems as well and again, termination was brought up. Again, we declined. They wanted to perform an amniocentesis on her to see if she did have Down Syndrome. After much research and the only real benefit was knowing definitively if she had Down Syndrome, the risk from the procedure itself was 1 in 100 of miscarriage, so we declined.

I continued to be seen by maternal fetal specialists at one hospital but continued my prenatal care at another. We prepared for her arrival. I had a special needs group contacted and my husband changed his deployment schedule so that he could be here for her birth, which was expected to be early. We toured different hospitals and different NICUs and met with the doctors so that in a split second, we knew where we wanted her sent for emergency care since the military clinic I was being seen at did not have the resources.

At 34 weeks, I had am elective 3D/4D Ultrasound of Savannah done, just for fun. She looked perfect, beautiful in every way. I have a DVD of her smiling, opening and closing her eyes, practicing breathing, and waving. She was a happy baby and I could not wait to meet her. I knew in my heart, she would be my little ballerina, at least until she was old enough to tell me she liked something else.

At my 39 week appointment, I asked my doctor to be induced that weekend. It was the weekend of Mother’s Day and I had developed a lot of problems. It had been a difficult pregnancy and I found myself complaining about all the aches and pains. Since my cervix was unfavorable, the doctor strongly discouraged induction and scheduled an induction date for my 41st week. That same night I had the worst anxiety attack ever. After 30 calls, numerous messages to my doctor and labor and delivery, my doctor finally called me back 2 days later. She told me that I was fine, my baby was fine, and it wasn’t fair to her time with her family. I felt horrible, like a hypochondriac. I was having strong strange movement with the baby, but didn’t go in to get checked out for fear of being labeled a “difficult patient.”

At 40 weeks and 3 days, I went to church. It was Sunday and we did our usual routine. I felt her moving during Church. We came home and put our son down for a nap, and my husband made crepes. I was tired and went to take a nap. A few hours of being in and out of sleep, I noticed that I hadn’t felt her move in awhile. I drank lemonade, trying lying in different positions, poking around, but nothing helped.

I swallowed my pride and called L&D. They told me to come in. As soon as I got there, I was put into a room. The nurse assured me that I would feel much better once I heard the heartbeat. They couldn’t find one. The doctor came in and did an ultrasound. After a few minutes, I heard the most awful words a parent can ever hear. “I’m sorry, but I can’t find a heartbeat.” I burst into tears and called my husband who was home with our son. Then I called my sister, a nurse, because I couldn’t tell my parents in California. I am so thankful she was able to do that for me.

My husband arrived at the hospital and the chaplain was called. He was very nice and supportive and prayed with us, but we wanted someone from our own Church. We decided to do the amniocentises because at that point, it couldn’t hurt her and could possibly provide information as to why this happened. There was meconium in the amniotic fluid which was an indication of high fetal distress. That was the worst part, to think that she struggled.

I delivered Savannah the next morning at 10:15AM on May 18, 2009. She was beautiful and perfect and looked exactly like my son. We had a photographer come from a non-profit “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” and she took pictures of us with Savannah. Those are the most precious pictures I have and I made them into a book. The book includes everything from my pregnancy, all of my ultrasounds, and pictures of me pregnant – even a picture of the positive pregnancy test.

I was emotionally and physically drained from having given birth but we held Savannah for a few hours. My husband and I cried together and wept over what could have been. We realized she was just too beautiful for earth. I was no longer afraid of death. I was so depressed; I just wanted to be with her. But I still had a husband and son to take care of. I would have switched places with her in a second.

My parents dropped everything and flew in from California the evening after I gave birth. It was the beginning of a new relationship with them. They were like a totally different set of parents who were loving and understanding and supportive. I cannot thank Savannah enough for bringing us so close.

After getting released from the hospital the next morning, my husband and I were so busy making all of the funeral arrangements. I was so busy and in such shock, those days seemed like a blur. Her funeral was beautiful and she was buried in town in the Children’s Garden at the local cemetary. I go and visit her several times a week.

The first month was hard. My husband went to work, and I had a toddler at home to take care of. I was very depressed but didn’t cry. I thought something was wrong with me. I tried to immense myself with activities to keep my time filled. It was difficult getting back into our routine. I expected to be overwhelmed with two children, not one child and one very broken heart. It was hard to see other moms with babies, especially those around what would have been Savannah’s age. My arms ached to hold Savannah.

At Savannah’s 1 month birthday in Heaven, it really started to hit me that she was gone and that she should be here. Our lives are so different than we thought. The grieving process is hard and long. There are no shortcuts. I was angry at myself, I was angry at the doctors, I was angry at everyone. I was filled with guilt about things I could have or should have done differently. I reached out to others and joined support groups.

The Missing Grace foundation saved me in so many ways. I was able to connect with others who shared my pain and grief. They grieved with me and I grieved with them. I found my inner strength through Savannah. I had to find the beauty in this tragedy and make something good come out of something so horrible and painful. I reached out to others who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth. I am more compassionate and understanding towards others. We plan to foster children with special needs. I know Savannah opened my heart to that.

In the end, Savannah did not have Down Syndrome or any kidney problems. She was completely perfect as she is now in Heaven. Her life has changed mine in so many ways. I have a new relationship with my husband. I have a new relationship with my parents and my sisters. When the waters were troubled, I realized who my real friends were and I understood why some were not. I also found it helpful to listen to a CD of the instrumental version of the songs that were sung at her funeral. They really calm me down and give me comfort and strength, but mostly a sense of peace.

I miss my daughter every minute of every day. The pain does not lessen but the burden becomes more bearable. Sometimes, I go to visit her, and I curl up on her headstone so I can feel close to her again. I’m sure people passing by think I’m crazy. When people ask me how many children we have, I say 2; our son, Jeremy, and my daughter, Savannah, who lives in Heaven. Every night when I put my son to bed, I talk about her. I tell him how much Savannah loves him and that he will always be her big brother. He will grow up knowing he has a little sister who loves him and who watches over him from Heaven.

Some other things that helped besides making the book documenting my pregnancy and all of my ultrasounds, was planting a rose bush. The plant was given to me from a friend. When I cut the roses, and bring them inside, they seem to last for weeks. I try to find comfort all around me. We had a star named after Savannah. We had an autograph matte at her funeral and placed a picture in it just like we had at my baby shower with my son. It hangs in our living room right next to his. I had a teddy bear made from one of the blankets we bought and had it dressed in the outfit she wore in the hospital from “Remember Me Bears”. My sister gave me a necklace with a heart that has Savannah’s initials on it. A friend that I had been on the outs with came by to the house in the days following saying how sorry she was for everything and gave me a prayer blanket. It is white, hand crocheted, and was prayed over while it was made. I sleep with it over my comforter every night. It reminds me that God has a plan and I feel surrounded by prayer when I fall asleep. It helps me feel a little bit closer to her.

It has been nearly 3 months since Savannah left this Earth. I have often wondered what it would have been like to hear her cry or to look into her eyes or to caress her cheek and know that she felt her Mommy’s love. I have faith that she did feel those things, somehow, some way. It’s hard but I am trying to find a new “normal” way of life. If we are blessed with more children, Savannah will always be our oldest daughter. Her future brothers and sisters will know about her and talk to her in Heaven. They will come with me to visit her weekly after Church. They can look at my book and ask us any questions. It’s important for people to know that she existed, she was a real person, and her life had meaning, value, and purpose.

No matter what, Savannah is our daughter and we love her unconditionally in Heaven. We wished we could have loved her here longer than just 40 weeks and 3 days, but it wasn’t part of God’s plan. I don’t understand it, but I intend to ask Savannah when I get to Heaven. Both my husband and I said following her death that we don’t want to do anything in our lives to jeopardize being with her. I have found the strength to comfort others going through miscarriage and stillbirth, most that I don’t know or haven’t met before. It is at times agony, but we strive each day to find the beauty and purpose in Savannah’s life. She is my angel ballerina, smiling down at me and dancing in Heaven. I believe it and I know it’s true.