Sunday, April 25, 2010

March of Dimes 2010

(This is the speech Jim and I wrote and I delivered today for the March for Babies)

We are good at finding answers. Which is a fortunate thing, because, as adults, we ask for a lot. We ask that diseases be cured, that lives be saved, that answers to very complicated questions be found. And we keep asking those questions - questions that science calls research, the results of which aid babies in need of our help around the world. We are very proud to have been selected as an Ambassador family for an organization that so tirelessly asks questions, and finds answers to so many of them.

Babies do not ask for much, but they too ask a lot of questions. Even before they develop speech and begin to ask that favorite of all childhood questions: why? they ask of us nonetheless, with their eyes and their cries.

Babies do not understand fatigue. As anyone who has ever tried to put an infant down at the end of a long day will testify, they are so hungry for life they will sometimes fight rest itself. While a parent asks: "Will I ever get a good night's sleep again?" babies ask of us: "If I sleep, what will I miss?"

Babies do not understand billing departments, deductibles, or prescription costs. They only know helping hands, and loving arms. While a parent asks: "Can I afford to help my child?" babies ask of us: "Will you help me?"

Babies do not understand courage. Their foes are many times bigger than they are, yet they are naturally, and limitlessly courageous, amazing us. While a parent asks: "How can I cope?" babies ask of us: "Will you give me a chance?"

That is why we sing our babies to sleep, feed them well to keep them living and growing, and hold them safely. And that is why we raise money for, and give generously to, organizations like the March of Dimes. We would like to thank personally our team, and everyone that is part of today's walk, whether by participation or donation.

Not every child will live, and some will live short lives.

Our first son, Brian William Rennie, was born at 22 weeks gestation on July 11, 2006 due to incompetent cervix. He lived for just 30 minutes. In those 30 minutes, we lived what felt like a lifetime. We wanted to breathe in every part of him. We held him close, watched him try to move, and kissed him as the life slowly slipped from his tiny body. The sorrow was unimaginable, but in some ways, so was our pride and joy. We had the opportunity to witness a miracle for the first time. Our son was perfect and beautiful. While our time with him was far too short, we will never forget him.

Our second son, Sawyer James Rennie, was given the chance that his brother was not. Born on March 31, 2007 at 23 weeks, 6 days gestation, just one day shy of viability, the doctors told us they would try to save our child. We were warned that the odds were against him; he was still very, very tiny and his lungs very immature. However, we felt so full of hope that he would beat those odds. During the 11 days that Sawyer lived, he faced medical obstacles of many kinds. Each day, we prayed that God would give Sawyer his obstacles one at a time. We knew it was never going to be easy, but we wanted him to be able to handle whatever came his way. We also prayed that if the time came when Sawyer’s obstacles became too great for him to fight, that he would be granted peace. That day came, once again, all too soon. On April 11, exactly 9 months to the day after his older brother, our second son lost his battle. He fought valiantly and surprised the strongest skeptics, but in the end, the struggle became too great. We held him, we played him music, we sang to him. We told him it was okay to let go, that we understood, and that we were proud of him. We will never forget the moment he opened his eyes one last time and looked at us, as if to memorize our faces for his journey.

We miss terribly the babies they were, and the people they would have become. Still, we are so proud of them, and grateful for them, and for the part the March of Dimes played in giving our boys the chance to live lives in which they knew only love.

The loss of a child at any stage, or age is, for parents, a loss of direction. We lose, and so become lost. And twice in under a year we found ourselves in that strange place and time where the path ahead, life together as a family, had disappeared before us. Many people remarked to us after our loss that they could not understand how we kept going, and it was a very difficult time. We asked endless questions: of ourselves, of God and, loudest of all, "Why?" But under the shadow of these questions, we somehow kept going forward, while wondering, would we ever be parents to a healthy child? After much research, we found out about a procedure called the Transabdominal Cerclage. This surgery had given women who lost babies due to incompetent cervix not only a chance, but an extremely high success rate of having a full term, healthy baby. As Mary Anne Radmacher so aptly states, “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.” And so we decided to try again.

Now, thanks to the ingenuity and tenacity of Dr. Arthur Haney at the University Of Chicago and the Transabdominal Cerclage, we are now parents to Amelie Jane, the beautiful, healthy one-year-old girl walking - or rolling - with us today. She is truly the light of our lives, and we cannot imagine life without her. We know that she has two very special angels watching over her from heaven—her big brothers, Brian and Sawyer. We see both of them in her, and we know how proud they must be to see the smile on Amelie’s face as she explores this world.

Many of you have lost children, and many of you are here with your miracles, who have, against all odds, not only survived, but thrived.

Perhaps, when we are so lost and find ourselves, like children, asking "Why?” it is our children, in the end that might inspire us - to eat, sleep, love, move forward - with the faith, courage, and hope of a child. And, perhaps, somewhere on the path, we might find our answer.

Until then, the March of Dimes and its supporters will continue to give babies, and parents a chance.

As individuals, we have many questions, but when we walk together, moving forward, we are good at finding answers.

1 comment:

Becky said...

This is beautiful Amy. We Marched for Babies this year as well. It's also something we are very fortunate to be a part of.

Thank you for speaking those words and for walking for all of our babies.