Saturday, October 23, 2010

March of Dimes Speech #2

(delivered last night at the Signature Chef's Auction)

July 11, 2006 was a day that started like any other, but at the end of which, our world would be turned upside down. I was 22 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby. We were hoping soon to find out if we were having a boy or a girl, since at the 20 week sonogram, the doctor wasn't able to see. We would find out later that night, when our firstborn son, Brian, entered this world. He weighed only a little over one pound, and was only 11 inches long. We were told that he would not have a chance to survive, and 30 minutes after we said hello to him, we had to say goodbye.

We left the hospital carrying this bear. While the lucky parents get to leave carrying their healthy newborns, we were forced to make that long journey to the car carrying a teddy bear in place of our son. This bear wears the exact same outfit that our son Brian was buried in, and he is wearing his hospital ID bracelet. There were many nights when I sat and rocked this bear, remembering and longing for the baby who should have been resting in my arms.

I was diagnosed with Incompetent Cervix, and were advised that we could try again. Of course, this experience would be different. I would be high risk, and would see not only my regular OB, but an excellent specialist. Through it all, our love for our firstborn son encouraged and inspired us. We had so much hope that this time, things would be different.

Unfortunately, the surgery that I was given to try to keep my second child safe caused an infection and failed to protect him. Our second son, Sawyer, was born on March 31, 2007, at 22 weeks 6 days gestation . . .right on the cusp of viability. The NICU staff at St. Francis assured us that they would do everything possible to try to help our son survive the huge odds stacked against him. Those amazing nurses and doctors became our extended family. The work they do is nothing short of heroic. They are among the most incredible angels who walk this earth, and every day we are grateful to them for the love and care that they gave our son. Though he fought long and hard, Sawyer, could not win his battle for life. His little body began to shut down, unable to withstand any more. On April 11, exactly 9 months after our first son passed away, we were told that there was nothing more they could do, and we knew it was time once again to say goodbye. Needless to say, our hearts were broken and our lives were shattered.

This time we left the hospital with a memory box. It was full of Sawyer's things . . .not the things most baby memory boxes might be filled with . . .but with medical wires, sensors, tape . . .a bottle of germ-x, some aquaphor. It also contained these special items . . .Sawyer's hats and a couple of his blankets. I decided to keep them in these ziploc bags to try to preserve the way they smell . . .because they smell exactly like my baby boy. There have been many nights when I have opened them, just for a few moments, and taken out my son's hats and blankets . . .held them close to my face, and breathed his scent deeply, remembering his precious life . . .and thinking of what should have been.

Life after that was a fog for awhile. We didn't know which direction to take. We often felt like giving up, but the courage displayed by our boys as they fought to hold on to their lives was our constant inspiration. After much research and discussion, we found out about a procedure called the Transabdominal Cerclage. In October of 2008, 10 weeks into my third pregnancy, we traveled to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where our hero, Dr. Arthur Haney operated. His surgery was a success, and on April 13 of 2009, our healthy 9 lb daughter, Amelie Jane, was born at 37 weeks gestation. Finally, we left the hospital with our child in our arms. We both cried tears of gratitude as we left the parking garage, knowing that everywhere we went, Amelie would go with us. She is a true miracle, and the joy of our lives. We will never take for granted that we can go and check on her as she sleeps . . .that we can hear her breathing close by, and see how beautiful and amazing she is every single day.

This is Amelie's dog, Billie. We bought him for her from the hospital gift shop a couple of days after she was born. Billie sat and watched over Amelie while she was under the Billiruben lamps. She now plays with him often, and will someday know his story.

I brought Brian's teddy bear and Sawyer's hats and blankets to remind us all that not every parent goes home with their baby, because not every baby goes home. And every baby should. We are here tonight to do our part to try to help that happen. With research, education, and perseverance., more and more is being accomplished every day. I brought Billie to remind us all that miracles really do happen. Because of the dedication of the March of Dimes, both parents and babies who 20 years ago would not have had a chance are now getting to make that trip home . . .but their work is not done. They need our help to keep on supporting them and fighting with them. Thank you all so very much for coming tonight, and for helping to give every baby a fighting chance.


AKD said...

I am in tears - this is so beautiful and brave.

Jim and Amy Rennie said...

Thank you. ♥ It wasn't easy to get through . . .but it was for an important cause, and hopefully inspired many to give.