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Originally published April 16, 2004

The Post-Crescent

Reprinted with permission



Fox Valley families share

personal stories of surviving

the loss of a baby

Here is a selection of letters and e-mails from parents who have lost a child (these readers responded to Andrew’s request for others to share their personal stories):

‘We were blessed with this girl’

We lost three babies through miscarriages. I had ultrasounds for all three (they seemed to be healthy) and actually held the last one in my hand after the miscarriage.

I have always been a very strong and independent girl since birth. My first word was “no.” I had a very tough time getting through the loss of my children even though I had two beautiful boys at home.

The things people said to me did not help: “You are already blessed, why do you want more?” “It is God’s will.” “Be satisfied with what you have.” “It’s not like they were real babies.” “There are people in this world in far worse situations.”

I finally read a small article in your paper about St. Bernard’s mass on Nov. 1 of each year for parents who have lost their children through stillbirths, accidents, even miscarriages.

I went by myself the first time five years ago and was overwhelmed by the spiritual message and their acceptance to my loss through miscarriages. In fact, I was feeling so guilty for being there since my children were never actually born until one kind lady said to me, “It does not matter how or when the child was taken, it was a child.”

I have since gone back with my husband to this mass and he was just as moved as I was. We go there to celebrate the time I got to hold my babies in me and feel their spirits.

I have always had guilt about not listening to my body and taking the time to rest during and after my miscarriages. I did not take the time to mourn (extremely important). I do not like wallowing in self-pity. We were going through a rough time with my oldest child as he was going from doctor to doctor and I was concentrating on that.

Our story does end on a happy note. We had a sixth baby who lived. A girl, Graceeanna (named Grace, because of the grace of God she was given to us and Anna, because her older brother wanted to help name her).

Now, that we have had time to reflect on our situation, I feel each of my children down here on Earth have a very special guardian angel in heaven to watch after them. We were blessed with this girl.

She brings such joy to her older brothers and us. She puts the gentle touch on situations that we may have otherwise tried to bulldoze our way through. Plus, our oldest child is healthy now, too.

Do not give up. God is there even when you think He is not. I guess he does have a plan because I feel I am a better person, more understanding of others and not so stubborn.

Erika Weber, Menasha

‘I was told not to try getting pregnant again’

I will begin with the happy news I received in 1991: I was pregnant with my first child. With a regular checkup though, at four months, I was dilated. I was put on bed rest and told that the baby may come early.

At five months, I went into labor and after 10 hours gave birth to my son. He died with his first breath because his lungs were not yet developed. Holding him is a memory that is crystal clear to this day. Junior was a beautiful baby.

In 1993, I was given the news of another pregnancy. I was sent to a high-risk specialist at
Theda Clark Medical Center and was determined to have this baby. I was put on bed rest immediately and started progesterone shots three times a week to help maintain the pregnancy. But I was told in the ninth week that the baby had died.

In 1994, I again received the news of a coming baby. Bed rest, progesterone shots and ultrasounds began immediately. This time, I also developed gestational diabetes.

There came a time when I just asked “why me” and begged for the one chance to be a mom. Words cannot describe the feelings I had and how much I wanted this child.

At 5½ months, I began to have contractions in the middle of the night. I was taken to Theda Clark and my doctor said that I was too high risk for even him and arranged for an ambulance to take me to
Meriter Hospital in Milwaukee. On the way there, the umbilical cord started to deliver and the contractions were horrid.

The next two days were spent having contractions stopped and then started up again while the doctors tried to figure a way to save the baby. I was pretty numb at this point, but bound and determined to have this baby.

Even though my family was there, I felt alone and that I could not go on without my daughter. She was already named Samantha Jeane.

My water broke and, after six hours, they had to induce labor even faster than it was happening because I was developing an infection, which was putting my life at risk. I delivered Samantha and, with her first breath, she died. I held on to her tightly and would not let her go.

She was baptized like her brother was and brought home to rest at
Riverside Cemetery with him. Driving home with her in the back seat in a cherub casket is not what I had planned for. Nobody should have to endure that torture – that’s what that was – pure torture.

At age 26, I was told not to try getting pregnant again because my life would be at a greater risk next time. Words cannot describe how I felt and still feel to this day.

I am thankful for all the little things that I would have taken for granted before these experiences. And I try not to let little things that go wrong bother me because I know what it is like to have bigger problems in life.

I do have a son now who was adopted seven years ago and I tell him every day how much I love him and appreciate him. He is my living angel and means the world to me. I cannot imagine my life without him; he makes me the happiest mom in the world.

I have four angels in all and, in a way, that makes me a very fortunate person.

Kari C. Stumpf, Darboy

‘Abby died in my arms’

I was 18 weeks along when we found out our much-anticipated baby had something wrong. Her heart had a hole in it, and there were other abnormalities as well.

Her heart rate was much slower than normal babies at this point in pregnancy. She was checked regularly by a perinatal specialist and a pediatric cardiologist, but the consensus for the most part was that she would be fine.

She would need heart surgery in her first year but other than that it was expected she would have a normal, healthy life.

Then, at 33 weeks, the doctors found that the baby’s heart was beginning to fail. My husband and I were sent to
Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee the next morning and Abby Elise was delivered via c-section that night.

She was put on a ventilator immediately, and got a pacemaker the next day. The days in the NICU at Children’s Hospital were a blur. Abby endured endless IVs, chest tubes, X-rays, ultrasounds, catheters, small surgeries.

Some days she seemed to be getting better, but mostly she just got worse. She contracted an infection in her blood, and then her kidneys shut down.

When the doctors told us that the damage was too great and things weren’t looking good at all, on their recommendation we made the inconceivably difficult decision of taking our baby off life support.

Less than a minute after the doctor removed the respirator tube, Abby died in my arms.

Like you, there is yet to be a happy note on which to end this story. If nothing else, I’m glad our then-3-year-old daughter Megan was able to see Abby and does think of her as her sister, mentioning Abby in her prayers each night. I also think that our ordeal has made the people in our lives appreciate their own children more.

But it sure is hard to see anything good in the senseless tragedy of the death of a child.

Julie and Dave Hickinbotham, Menasha

‘I can still see the ultrasound image’

On Jan. 6 this year, we gave birth to our son, Elias. He is the fourth child I delivered, but seventh pregnancy. I truly did not believe I would be bringing a baby home from the hospital until he was born.

Elias joins his big brothers, Nathan 7, and Noah, 5 at home. Although I have experienced three pregnancies ending happily, I will never forget those that didn’t.

My first miscarriage happened in February 1997, when Nathan was 9 months old. I was heartbroken but accepted the fact. My second miscarriage happened in June 2001. I was more upset this time around as I tried to understand why this happened to me twice.

Otherwise, 2001 was a great year. I finally had the opportunity to work part-time and be home with my family more. My husband transferred to a new job and in September, we were pregnant again, due
June 4, 2002. By the end of 2001, life seemed pretty good, except for the fact that due to insurance changes, we needed to change doctors.

In January 2002, my husband is informed that the plant he works at will be closing. He would not be transferred elsewhere in the company. He had worked there 17 years.

He found another job, but the hours and environment were not good. (Fortunately, he was only there six months before being hired at his current job). Throughout this time, I tried to focus on my pregnancy, as it seemed to be one of the few positives we had in our lives at the time.

May 16, 2002. I scheduled an appointment to see the doctor a day ahead of time, as I was feeling crampy. My husband believed I was starting labor and felt he should stay home from work to accompany me to the appointment. I assured him I was fine, but did pack a bag just in case. Everything else at home was in place for our new arrival.

At the doctor’s office, he was unable to locate the heartbeat and sent me straight to the ultrasound room. I was not at all worried as I assumed that perhaps labor had begun and that was why he could not detect the heartbeat with a stethoscope. This was not the case.

I can still see the ultrasound image in my mind and the tears began to flow. I called my husband at work and could hear him tell others as he came to the phone that I was probably in labor. I was sent home and told to come to the hospital the following day to induce labor. Words cannot describe the rest of that day. I did not sleep.

I reported to the hospital the next day at
8 a.m. The only way to get to the desk was by first walking past the nursery and seeing all the other babies, knowing mine was not alive. Although, the only thing that got me through the day was holding onto the hope that they were wrong. Somehow, my baby was alive.

My water did not break until
5 p.m. At 6:50 p.m., my daughter, Emma Claire, was born without a sound. She was 6 pounds, 5 ounces and 19 ½ inches long. My heart has been broken ever since and the tears still flow. The last time I saw my daughter was at the funeral home on my 35th birthday.

The tears no longer flow daily but there was a time I feared that they would never stop. Emma lives forever in my heart. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and wonder what could have been/should have been. I miss her.

Our family has been forever changed. My boys have had to face death at a very young age. They too talk about their sister often and wonder what she is doing.

I continue to struggle with all the whys of Emma’s life and death. I do know that we are very fortunate to have so many caring people in our lives that were there for us in our time of need. They are too numerous to mention. We could not have survived without them.

My most recent miscarriage happened in March 2003. I could not believe it. How could I have suffered three losses in a row, when I have two beautiful boys at home? By this point, we pretty much decided that we were done. I wanted no more of this roller coaster ride.

May 15, 2003, I found out we were expecting again, two days before Emma’s first birthday. One thing I can say is that you never know what life has in store for you.

I have been trying hard to learn to live in the moment.

Janet DeWitt, Appleton

‘I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak’

She would be 12 this June. Every year, every holiday, every day I think of her. The little girl who changed my life.

My husband and I were married only a few years when we found out we were expecting our first child. At first I was so very scared.

This pregnancy was unplanned, and we had no insurance as well as fairly low income. Luckily we had a supportive family structure and I had a very industrious husband.

At eight months, our doctor decided to do an ultrasound. No explanation was given, but we were so excited to get a glimpse of our little baby that we didn’t even think to ask why.

The appointment was on a Friday. The technicians took all the normal measurements and to our wonder and amazement we watched our baby taking practice breathes. The little bundle was strengthening its lungs for birth.

The technician told us that the baby was about 7 to 8 pounds, then she stopped looked at the chart again, mumbled some words and abruptly left the room. A waive of panic washed over me.

Saturday morning, the phone rang. It was our doctor. Our baby was way too small. Apparently, the technician recalculated the measurements and left the room when she realized the baby was half the size it should be.

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. All I could do was hold my swollen belly and wonder what is going to happen.

We were told to be at Theda Clark on Monday morning for an amniocentesis test, which would determine how developed the babies lungs were.

Up on the table I went. Scared, but keeping the faith, the doctor explained what he would be doing. A small amount of fluid would be extracted and then tested to see if the baby’s lungs were strong enough for delivery.

The doctor asked the ultrasound technician if she had found a pocket of fluid. No answer. Again the doctor asked the tech if she was ready. Her response was one word: “Aorta.” I quickly looked at the screen and realized the wonderful little bleep we saw on Friday was no were to be seen.

No heart beat. My baby had died over the weekend.

I was induced and 24 hours later our tiny baby girl was handed to us. So small, so incredible, but already gone, already in heaven. We named her Angel and laid her to rest on top of her grandfather’s burial plot in Chilton.

The only reason we were given was that the placenta aged to quickly. That’s it. No reason it aged. It just did.

The grief was overwhelming. The pain almost physical in nature, would take my breath away. Even today, it will catch me off guard, tears will flow, my heart will ache.

Every family event stirs a longing for her. Every year, as I pass through the new spring collections, I wonder what dress she would have wanted for Easter. Every Christmas, I wonder what her wish would have been.

Each night I tell her to enjoy the wonders of heaven and that I will never forget her.

Angel gave me so much in such a short time. She is always there, reminding me to embrace life, to say I love you, to know that sometimes you only have one chance to do the right thing and to make sure that the people in your life know how you feel.

She made me a mom, she made me a better mom for my son, Adam, and my daughter, Sylvia.

She refocused my life. I thank you, my little lady, for everything you have given me. I will miss you always.

Mary Daun, Sherwood

‘He pulled his tiny hand away’

It has been 10 years, almost 11, since our twin son, Adam, died. It is something one never forgets about.

I went into premature labor at 24½ weeks. At the time we lived in
Milwaukee. I was thankful we lived near a well-established NICU and my doctor had a keen sense to get us there right away by ambulance. They unsuccessfully tried to stop the labor and by the next morning I was prepped to deliver the babies. First our daughter Sara was born. Not even a cry was heard. Then shortly after Adam was born. He was bigger and seemed stronger than our daughter. He even managed to utter a cry to let us know he had entered our world, and before the team of specialists intubated him and swept him away to the NICU. Because they were born so early and their conditions so critical, we had them baptized. Since my condition was still unstable, I did not get to see them in the NICU until the next day.

The next day I was finally wheeled into the NICU. It was a very sterile room filled with about eight incubators. It was a rather loud room with all the sounds the ventilator made breathing for the babies. First I was taken to our daughter Sara. I put my hand through the porthole to touch her hand, talk to her and let her know I was there. Although she was very critical, she managed to wrap her tiny hand around the top of my index finger and hold on tightly. I took that as a good sign. Next I was wheeled over to Adam. I put my hand through the porthole to caress his hand and let him know I was there. In a startled movement, he pulled his tiny hand away from mine. This is something to this day I will never forget. I always felt he was trying to tell me not to get too attached. I went back to my room with a feeling of rejection.

The next morning as I was getting ready to visit them again, we got a call to come down right away. When my husband and I got there the doctor and nurses were working feverishly to recessitate Adam. His heart has stopped beating, he was bleeding internally and they were giving him CPR. After working diligently for about a half an hour, the doctor advised us we had to make a decision to stop. It was the hardest decision we’ve ever had to make, to put an end to his life-saving measures.

My husband and I were then taken to a special family room. There they would bring him to us tightly bundled in his blanket wearing his handmade knit cap. We could hold him and comfort him while we watched his last breath escape his small, frail body. At the time we didn’t understand why we should do this, but we were so thankful that the hospital knew what was best for us and encouraged us to do this. They even took pictures of us holding him.

After three long months, Sara finally came home. When we were finally able to take her on her first outing to the mall, we bought her first book there, a small fabric book titled, “Good Night.” It was tightly wrapped and I didn’t know what was on each page until I opened it. As I read it to her for the first time, when I came to the last page my eyes began to well up with tears. On the last page it said, “Good Night, Adam.” After that, I read it to her every night after to remember her brother. We will keep that book for her forever as a special remembrance of him.

Although we had to experience such a great loss, we have been given many opportunities to help others and share our story with them because of our loss. We were able to be involved with the hospital to help the nursing staff understand what parents need at a time of loss. We were also able to help parents in the NCIU by sharing our stories with them and telling them that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You will survive even though you feel you are living a life of helplessness and sadness. We heard a lot of parents express anger with God and wonder why he did this to them. I often felt that God didn’t do this to us, but that he was with us to help us through this difficult time in our lives.

Lynn Gruenke, Appleton

‘My memory can’t grasp how small she was’

Just over eight years ago I was 23 weeks pregnant. Like many others experiencing pregnancy for the first time I did not worry about the health of either my baby or myself – I took it for granted that we would be fine. I didn’t drink or smoke or lift heavy objects. I did everything right and it didn’t work.

On the morning of
Jan. 18, 1996, I woke to very slight pain in my lower abdomen. I assumed it was some kind of bladder infection even though I never had one before. I went to the doctor and she concurred that it was probably nothing. Our lives went on. I drove home blithely convinced that nothing was really wrong and my husband went on a planned business trip. Later that night as the pain grew worse so did my powers of personal persuasion. I spent the evening convincing myself that the increasing pain meant nothing. At 2 a.m. the on-call doctor told me to come in at 6 a.m. Oddly, I still thought everything would be OK.

My eyes were finally open to the seriousness of the situation when the doctor first checked my cervix and pulled back suddenly as if he didn’t want to touch me. I was in labor. Not too much is clear about the rest of the day but by the end of it my daughter was born via emergency c-section.

Anna Louise was so tiny that my memory can’t grasp how small she was. Preemie diapers were too large for her and the shield that covered her eyes also covered most of her face. I won’t write about the myriad of problems her body had to cope with.

No one will ever know how much pain she felt. I pray that her soul was already somewhere else far from what we thought was right at the time. It is easy to say that loved one’s should be let go, set free of their bodies – but when it is your child you see it very differently. Where there is a glimmer of hope there will always be a determination that life is the only choice. We kept Anna with us for 11 days – cold, frigid January days that took your breath away. We went up with every small success she showed, be it a lack of brain bleeds or kicking away a wet diaper. We fell face first with the diagnosis of necrosis of her intestines. She died as the NCIU team was preparing her for the flight to

When a child dies a parent goes too. Not the whole person, a healthy adult can survive and thrive beyond the death, but that part of a mother or father that is invested in the deceased child is living with that child on whatever plane he or she exists. I call it Heaven. When Anna died I had to rethink a lot of things that I had taken for granted and say goodbye to what I assumed would be the path of her life. I said goodbye to Anna’s first steps, her first day at school. I would never celebrate her graduation, or see her wedding day. The Anna I wanted was gone and I had to meet the child I was given instead. Anna would have to be celebrated and loved in a different, more complex fashion. Instead of using my lips to speak, the words would have to be felt in my heart. The magic of embracing my child would be a fluttering in my chest when I thought of her. I wouldn’t need to kiss her bruises when she fell, she would hold me up instead.

To the rest of the world Tony and I must have seemed strong. We are truly united on all the important things in our life. It is what saved us – that and a mutual sorrow that we shared freely with each other. There were days when all that came easy were tears and hours when I only spoke to Anna. Times when I scolded God. The macabre spectacle of picking out a casket for her funeral. The Mother’s Day when I wasn’t a mother – at least not to the world. And most of all, worry that my baby was all right.

It’s not easy living between heaven and earth. The only constant is the tug of your heart wanting to be with your baby and the tug of knowing you must stay put in this world. The lure of being with Anna has not left me after eight years but now there are other children depending on me. Their pull has me planted.

I do believe that someday I will be reunited with my little girl. And while I can honestly say I will never accept her death, I am resigned to it. I don’t think anyone can expect more than that. Sometimes my grief is happening when you don’t see it, and after all these years it will slap me in the face unexpectedly as if to remind me of lessons still being learned. A child named Anna will always cause me a fleeting ache. A baby’s baptism reminds me of Anna’s hurried baptism in the NICU – lest she die before it could be accomplished. I wonder at the hidden layers covering the people I only know in passing.

So there is the story I have to tell of Anna Louise and all she means to me. If I haven’t got it right, if my deep love for this child has not been shown then it is only because she and I don’t speak with words, we speak with hearts. Still, I miss her.

Julie Genisot, Sherwood

‘I see my Emma Jean everywhere I go’

I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son Patrick. I know your pain, and I could feel it in your words.

In reading your article, it reminded me so much of my own loss of Emma Jean, she would be 12 years old on April 5 (you never forget them).

I had at that time two boys, ages 2 and 5 years old. I was 32 and a little girl would have given us what I thought would have been the perfect family. My dreams of a little girl died that day.

She had a knot in her umbilical cord, which cut off her supply and she died before birth. We held her in our arms, her skin so pink, her face so sweet. And I remember looking at her and thinking how peaceful she looked, like she was just sleeping, and I wished she would just wake up.

I never knew that babies could die or the true miracle of birth. There is nothing that anyone can say to make you feel better. But I did find comfort in the people who stepped forward and shared with me their own personal losses of stillbirth or similar situations.

Only the people that have gone through this type of loss can really understand all that you are going through. I do not believe that there is a greater loss then the loss of a baby.

After a period of time I could look back and see all of the gifts that she brought to my life. I am more compassionate and I appreciate so much more in my life. Each baby born brings with them their own uniqueness and beauty into this world and I have learned to look for it in each and every person.

There is no perfect family, you learn to appreciate all the many gifts that God gives to you. I did go onto have another baby boy and his birth was so wonderful and we celebrated it all together as a family. He is 9 year old now and he has brought us so much. But still I see my Emma Jean everywhere I go.

She is the new spring flower in April and she is the strange peaceful feeling that I feel suddenly when I am sad. I will never know the joy that a mother feels when her little girl dances and giggles. The thrill of dressing her up for Easter Sunday. Shopping trips, make-up tips, pink bows and her father walking her down the aisle on her wedding day.

But she will always be in our hearts. God has chosen a different life for us, filled with baseballs, basketballs, footballs, bruises, big league chew, tournaments and I love it all. My boys fill my heart with their very special love.

Debbie Ropella, Appleton

‘I am so thankful every single day’

My first pregnancy was unplanned, and it ended a few days after I knew about it. I knew that miscarriages were common, so I didn’t let myself feel much about it. When my husband and I tried to get pregnant later, it took seven months.

We were so excited when it finally happened, but decided to wait to share the news until the “magic” 12-week mark. A few days before that, I began bleeding. We found out that the fetus had stopped developing at 8 weeks. My husband was devastated, but I was OK.

During the ultrasound, the technician noticed that I had a severe uterine anomaly—a probable cause of my miscarriages. I was relieved to know that I could have a surgery and I would be fixed and ready to go.

I had the surgery, and got pregnant again. I had some bleeding, but the ultrasounds revealed a viable fetus. We were waiting to get past the “magic” 12-week mark that time.

It was
Nov. 14, 2000, at 2:30 a.m. when I was 13 weeks, three days along. I woke up to go to the bathroom, and when I stood up, my water broke. We spent several hours in the hospital before we knew there was no hope of our daughter to make it. I was devastated.

The testing started after that, as well as the depression. I don’t remember much over the next six months—it is a blur. All of my tests came back normal, except the test that showed that my uterus was still very abnormal. I remember crying as I looked at that X-ray—I knew what a normal uterus looked like, and then I saw mine. I had another surgery to correct it, and got pregnant again.

I bled early on, and discovered on an ultrasound that I had gotten pregnant with twins. One of the sacs was collapsing and the other didn’t look good. We had to wait a week for another ultrasound. We lost one of the babies, but the other was still there.

We had a motto that we would say every day, probably a million times a day, “Just get through today, don’t worry about tomorrow, just get through one more day.

We didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant until after 16 weeks—farther than we had made it before. We told my family at 18 weeks, my husband’s at 20. Then, I began to not wear baggy sweaters all of the time and reveal our secret to everyone.

All of this sounds like it was easy, but I had panic attacks and night terrors. I had to stop working at 24 weeks to rest; I had a 15-pound lifting limit; I ached so badly in my joints; I puked twice a day for five months. And, I was so thankful for all of it.

Then, I developed gestational diabetes and had to poke myself four times a day and rearrange my entire diet. I developed placenta previa that didn’t resolve, and finally, I had a cesarean section. That’s right—I made it! After seven surgeries and over 300 needle pokes, my miracle was born two years ago this month.

I am so thankful every single day that my daughter is here. I still can well up with tears at any moment when I think of how lucky I am.

No matter how naughty she is, or how much she drives me crazy, I am so utterly thankful—thankful for every moment I get to be a part of her life, every word, smile, giggle, hug and kiss. I’m thankful for every drink spilled, crayon mark on the floor, and every food smear on my clothes.

Although my journey to have my miracle has ended, it is still a struggle to not let the sadness of my experiences creep into my life. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of what could have been, what should have been, and the magnitude of what I’ve lost.

I thought the birth of my daughter would erase the sadness, but it didn’t. The other babies weren’t erased or replaced, just added to in a very wonderful way.

Stacey L. Bower-Steffes, Chilton

‘I must continue to have faith’

My husband and I recently lost our second child. Fortunately, we have two beautiful and healthy children. Abby is 5 and Sarah is 16 months.

I had my first miscarriage in May 2001 and after months of trying for a second child again, Sarah was born in November of 2002. She surprised us five weeks early and we were ecstatic to have another child.

We recently found out this past Christmas that we were expecting baby No. 3. We, too, were not trying but were so excited to welcome another new addition to our family. We decided to sell our three-bedroom home and purchased a new four-bedroom in Menasha.

Two weeks before our moving date, I miscarried again. We were devastated that this happened once again to us.

Even though this little being was only inside of me for nine weeks, we started planning and preparing for him. After my
OB did some testing, we found out that I had four too many “Y” chromosomes and the child most likely would not have made it past the first trimester.

We were also told that it was a boy. We already had begun to think of baby names and we now refer to him as our “Baby Jack.” He would have been named John Patrick, after both my grandfather and my father.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of the baby we lost but the support of family and friends has been wonderful. I must continue to have faith and be grateful for the two little girls that we’ve been blessed with.

Cathy Blohowiak, Menasha

‘She couldn’t breathe on her own’

My name is Kelly; my husband is Claude. We lost our first baby, a daughter, Alyssa Nicole. She was born on Nov. 19, 2003. Alyssa lived for only 15 hours and 52 minutes.

Here’s our story.

We found out we were having a baby in March of 2003. We were scared to death and very excited at the same time. Alyssa was actually a surprise honeymoon present!

The first ultrasound was done on
April 24, 2003. Of course at that time, we didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl. It was so exciting to see Alyssa in there dancing away.

Just hearing her heartbeat and seeing her, made it more real for us. It finally set in that we were parents. The due date was set for
Nov. 29, 2003.

Our second ultrasound was done on
Aug. 1, 2003. That’s when we found out we were having a girl. We were so excited. It was great to finally give our baby a name.

Around week 36, a slight case of preeclampsia was determined. No medication was needed, just some extra precautions.

My water had broken at home, and there was a slight tan color to it. On
Nov. 18, 2003, we checked into the hospital. My doctor said Alyssa had her first bowel movement, which they call meconium, while in my womb.

After 18 hours of labor with four hours of pushing, Alyssa was born at
5:59 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2003. Her birth was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced.

Alyssa was sent to the nursery to get weighed. She was brought back into our room. I’ll never forget my husband saying, “Look who came to see you.” She was so beautiful, I just couldn’t help but crying.

After about 45 minutes, a nurse came in and took her back to the nursery for another test. While in the nursery, they noticed she was having problems breathing.

Alyssa’s progress was only getting worse. She couldn’t breathe on her own. Her blood vessels started to constrict, so she was given several doses of nitric oxide. That didn’t help and, by this time, her heart was starting to fail. They decided there wasn’t anything else they could do for her.

She was taken off all the machines and she passed away in my arms at
9:52 p.m., Nov. 19, 2003.

The cause of death was overwhelming sepsis with E. Coli, meconium aspiration and pneumonia. The doctors really didn’t have any answers for us. They said everyone has traces of E. Coli on them, and most babies can fight it, and some can’t, and she may have gotten it from the meconium.

Losing Alyssa was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to deal with. We still can’t believe she is gone. It makes it so much harder that we were able to hold her and was told she was perfect and healthy, and then she died 15 hours and 52 minutes later.

Kelly Weidner, Menasha

‘She and the other women there helped me to heal my heart’

My husband and I were pregnant with our first child at this time last year. We were joyful at the thought of bringing a new life into the world, but it was not to be.

After just 10 ½ weeks of pregnancy, I began to bleed. We found out that our beloved baby had died. This news hit us both very hard. I was unable to cope with this terrible loss and felt an overwhelming sadness.

My family and friends were very supportive but did not know what to say or do to heal my broken heart. I spent many days sitting at my desk at work crying uncontrollably.

We went out to dinner with friends and I would break down in restaurants, at weddings and at the news that yet another one of my friends was expecting. The people around me began to lose patience and wondered when I would just “get over it.”

After about three months of this deep mourning, I stopped at a small house on
Wisconsin Avenue. It is the location of Elizabeth Ministry. I had heard they were an organization that helped women and I was somehow drawn to them on my way to aerobics one night.

I stood in a corner looking at the resources they had about miscarriage and child loss. It seemed that my heart broke open and all of my misery poured out.

Here I was standing in a room with people I did not know, again crying for my child. But this time was different. The people who were there opened their arms to me and told me that what I was feeling was good.

They are a Christian organization. I told Jeannie Hannemann (one of the founders) that I was angry at God. I had prayed and thanked God every day for my child and still he took her away. Jeannie held my hand. She and the other women there helped me to heal my heart and gave me a safe place to mourn. I no longer cried in places that embarrassed me.

I thank
Elizabeth Ministry for helping me to heal my heart, to trust in God again and for giving me the strength to try again.

Liz Hopfensperger, Appleton

‘Here was my son. I longed to hold him.’

The year, 1974, I “had to get married.” I was 18 and he was 21. Our baby was due early July. So, we did the necessary things, we prepared for the birth. I was so scared. Having a child at such a young age—what was I thinking?

The pregnancy was precarious from the beginning. Lots of spotting, not feeling well. By the sixth month, things had quieted down and the doctor suspected twins. Not only was I ready for one baby, but two!

They would wait and see. On May 14, I went into labor, two months early. Remember, this is 1974, in a small hospital in northern
Wisconsin. For two days, the labor came and went. On the third day, they wheeled me into the delivery room.

Within minutes of the first baby’s birth the room became suddenly quiet, yet full of people. The doctor then realized that indeed I was having twins. The second baby was born.

As I watched these people working so quickly and quietly, I wondered what could be happening. A nurse came to my side and told me that the doctors weren’t sure that they could keep these two small babies alive. They would want to transport them to a neonatal unit at
St. Joseph Hospital at Marshfield.

As we waited for the ambulance to come for the babies, one of the pediatricians came to me and told me that my baby boys were very small: Twin 1 weighed 3 lbs., 13 oz.; Twin 2 was 2 lbs., ¾ oz. Again, I wondered how this could be. Don’t women my age have eight- and nine-pound bouncing babies?

Our pastor was called in to baptize these two boys. Anthony Bernard Stein and Timothy George Stein were then taken to

Within three hours, a call came to my room. It was the doctor at
Marshfield. He informed me that twin 1 had died. His lungs just weren’t strong enough. He had little hope for our little Timothy.

After one week, I was able to make the trip to
Marshfield to see our baby Timothy. I couldn’t touch or hold him. Just look into his incubator.

Here was my son. I longed to hold him. He would fit in both my hands.

After 3 weeks, another call came to our home from
Marshfield. The doctor called to inform us that our son Timothy was born with Down syndrome. I remember thanking the doctor, sitting on the floor, and sobbing. The tears seemed to have no end. There are many days that I remember my tears, the pain in my heart, and my prayers. As I read your article that same pain filled my heart.

Timothy will be 30 years old on May 17. He loves life, and gives love freely. It hasn’t always been easy. That young marriage didn’t last and I was alone with Tim and a second son born 18 months later.

After many years, I met a man who loved all three of us. We were married and he adopted those two boys. We have gone on and had genetic counseling. We now have two more boys and are very blessed.

When I look back those 30 years, I ask, “How in the world did we make it this far?” The answer is simple. It is my faith in God, loving family and friends and lots of prayers.

June Vandenberg, Appleton

‘We will always remember our lil’ angel, Ian’

In part of our healing too, we wrote about our son Ian, who died of an undetected heart defect eight days after birth. We went through all the stages (several times) of shock from losing a child; denial, sadness, anger, acceptance.

At best, we want to implore expectant mothers to ask for a level 2 ultrasound, a closer look at all the organs performed by a specialist, despite most doctors’ recommendations that it was not necessary. Since Ian’s death, we have come to realize and appreciate our many blessings, including our older son, Remington, and, after Ian, came Maxwell.

Also, we have become part of this great group of people at the
Infant Death Center, part of Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee. We quickly found, as I’m sure you will too, that we (parents who have lost) are not alone.

Back in my parents’ day, if you lost a son or daughter, you don’t talk about it and try to forget. Today, we found it’s OK to talk about it despite making a few people uncomfortable because it is better to remember. We will always remember our lil’ angel, Ian.

Steven J. Trettin, Menasha

‘It was a test of our marriage and of our inner strength’

Thank you for your article on your son, Patrick, and Potter’s Syndrome.

I do not read a lot of the paper, but seeing the article headline and picture of your son—I was drawn to the article. I cried reading it. Our first son also had Potter’s Syndrome. Reading your article brought back many memories.

Our son, Tyler, would be 21 this July. We have two beautiful, healthy children—Maia is almost 18 and Alexander is almost 15. I still miss my baby boy!

Since I have diabetes, all of my pregnancies have been “abnormal.” This first one was supposedly going good until the Fourth of July weekend (our due date was Aug. 23). We were told there was not enough amniotic fluid around the baby. An ultrasound showed what was thought to be only one kidney.

Our doctors said not to worry—there are a lot of people who are born with one kidney, never know it but yet lead normal lives.

I went into labor July 29.
Tyler was born July 30th at AMC. The GP on call told (not our regular doctor) told my husband “your baby is very sick.” Before we knew it, Tyler was rushed to Theda Clark. My husband and parents went to Theda, I stayed at AMC wondering what was going on only to find out Tyler passed away eight hours after birth.

I was glad to read you were able to spend time with Patrick before he passed away. I will always remember being able to touch
Tyler only briefly and will forever regret not being able to hold him. My husband and parents were able to hold him and take a few pictures.

Some how, we did manage to survive our experience. It was a test of our marriage and of our inner strength. Through our experience, I was amazed to learn of the multitude of families that have experienced newborn deaths. All pregnancies do not have a happy ending. It was a great comfort to talk to others who had experienced something similar.

I know I will never be “over”
Tyler’s death. I don’t want to be. I want to remember him as a special, important part of our family because he was and still is..

Thank you for sharing your special son with Post-Crescent readers. Thank you, too, for the information on Potter’s Syndrome.

Beth VanGroll, Little Chute

‘We waited, prayed, and planned’

Thank you for sharing your story. It touched my husband and I deeply.

Your son was a brave fighter and we thank you for reminding us to spend every moment aware of what we have. We know it was difficult to write about Patrick’s short life, we will never understand the depth of your loss.

Our story very similar to yours, but we given an extra miracle and our daughter, Serena, lived. We to were told after our 20-week ultrasound that something was very wrong. There was no amniotic fluid to be found in the womb, and our baby’s kidneys were tiny.

Dr. Susan Sipes, who is a wonderful, compassionate doctor, informed us that the likelihood of our daughter surviving after birth was close to zero. We were told she most likely had Potter’s Syndrome. So for two months, while on hospital bed rest, we waited, prayed, and planned.

God was gracious. Although, Serena was born and both lungs collapsed, she was immediately put on a ventilator and flown to Children’s Hospital in
Milwaukee the next day. She retained enough kidney function to get her to two weeks old when they began peritineol dialysis.

At five weeks old, she was weaned from the ventilator, and we were allowed to take her home to be with her big brother at nine weeks old. We do at home dialysis every night for 10 hours and we expect Serena to have a kidney transplant in September.

I tell you all this because your article brought me back to that time and made me thank God, along with you, that you had those 23 minutes with your son, and we have this time with our daughter.

Life is too precious to ever take for granted.

Kevin, Gina, Quinn and Serena Kroon, Appleton

‘We now remind ourselves every day of the good fortune’

We have not experienced anything near to what your family had to go through, but we understand all too well the ups and downs and anxieties, and how much we must come to appreciate the tiny gifts that life hands us, even at the worst of times.

Peter and I were never really sure if we even wanted children, kept putting it off until that wretched clock was winding down and we had to decide. Even then, we wanted to let fate take its course and boy did it: Two horrible years of infertility treatments, all the science of conception and none of the joys—a bitter irony for a couple who thought we were happy just the two of us.

Making the decision to “give up” or adopt was gut wrenching; in both ways it felt like admitting that our own bodies had failed us and that all the science in the world couldn’t make us be something we weren’t destined to be.

We took the adoption process as a grab at hope and the belief that this was truly meant to be our path. And, of course, that’s exactly what it was—our perfect path, as painful and “why us?” as it often was—and we now remind ourselves every day of the good fortune we have in our son, Jack, because of all that prior angst.

Cathy Mutschler, Appleton

‘Eight pregnancies, three live births’

My husband and I were stationed in Germany and we had just mailed our Christmas letter home to our family and friends with the news that we were expecting our first child, after five years of trying. By the time we were allowed to make our Christmas call home to our parents (it had to be scheduled for a specific time), I had miscarried. We lay on the floor and cried as we broke the news to our parents.

We decided to adopt a child abroad, and put our names on a list with the JAG Corps (the lawyers were the people consulted when there was a “problem” pregnancy among service personnel). Nine months later we were the proud parents of our first child, the son of a British woman and an American GI.

After returning stateside, I became pregnant again, but again miscarried. I always said that I was glad I didn’t carry the baby full term before it perished. I realized how much more difficult that would be. I became pregnant for a third time, and medical technology intervened, trying to sustain the pregnancy with hormones. I lost that one when it became obvious that it wasn’t a viable pregnancy. They took me off the medications and I carried it for another three weeks before going into labor.

We consulted a fertility expert at the
University of Michigan, who agreed to take us on. Many tests intervened, I was put on birth control to allow the eggs to mature before impregnation, discontinued the pills after six months, and, finally after 10 years of trying, I gave birth to a perfect baby boy, five years after adopting. By that time I was 30. Needless to say, we discontinued the pill and I got pregnant again. This one miscarried. Three years after the first birth, I managed to carry a girl full term. Another miscarriage after the girl, then another live birth five years after the girl. A 9 pound, 15 ounce boy!

Eight pregnancies, three live births. Hang in there! My three biological children made it to adulthood (miraculously, considering their teen year antics!) and are, respectively, a TV news director for NBC, a member of the Lawrence Academy faculty and a computer Web page designer for a major company headquartered in Madison.

Carol Leybourn Janssen, Appleton

‘Nursing is the compassionate touch’

The birth of our third child was an unforgettable experience. Two previous premature deliveries had alerted the obstetrician and us to suspect an incompetent cervix. Therefore, at 16 weeks, I was admitted for cervical suturing.

The procedure was performed without complications, not even necessitating an overnight hospital stay. The remainder of the pregnancy progressed without apparent problems. Then, three weeks prior to the estimated delivery date, I started with regular contractions. I was admitted to the hospital at
2 a.m. The cervical sutures were removed, much to the dismay of all concerned, labor slowed down and the contractions ceased to be effective in further dilating the cervix. At 9 a.m. Pitocin was started IV and at 11 a.m. our second son was born, weighing four pounds, 14 ounces (we were not dismayed at the weight as our daughter had only been four pounds 11 ounces at birth and had done beautifully). As I held this new son in my arms I noted that his cry was not lusty, his color was poor and his responses were sluggish.

He was immediately whisked off to the neonatal intensive care unit. When I was wheeled from recovery room to the ICN, baby Paul was intubated, on a heart monitor, and umbilical IV’s had been started. Frequent ABG’s (arterial blood gases) showed poor lung perfusion. He had a mediastinal shift due to a collapsed lung. This was quickly remedied by the insertion of a chest tube. Echocardiogram revealed no real cardiac reason for the baby’s poor condition. As we watched, waited and prayed the ABG’s slowly improved. Pavulon was tried to synchronize the breathing with the respirator rate. Twenty four hours and no urine output. ABG’s worsening, chest x-rays worsening, pelvic x-rays showed a dislocated hip and other skeletal deformities of the lower extremities. Renal ultrasound done, renal scan done, technetium dye studies done. All led to the diagnosis of Potter’s Syndrome.

Potter’s Syndrome is a fairly uncommon developmental defect.

Exactly 48 hours after he was born, baby Paul died in our arms. The intent of this narrative is not to elicit sympathy from the reader, but rather to lay the groundwork for the following comments.

Nursing has been described at various times as an art, science, a skill, a profession. Yet, nursing is more than just a body of skills or a paycheck for services rendered. My past nursing experience includes three years in intensive care, six years in hemodialysis – most recently as the coordinator for the home hemodialysis program for Fox Valley Regional Dialysis Center (How ironic that a “renal” nurse should bear a baby without kidneys).

The intent is to encourage fellow professionals to work on developing their people skills. The concern and competent care of the OB/ICN staff was worthy of praise. Every team member made every effort possible to make my husband and me feel comfortable and needed in this situation. It required extra effort to move suction apparatus, IV’s, into a private family room near the ICN so that we could spend the last few hours alone with our son. Our 2-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son were allowed to come and see baby Paul through the nursery window so they could visualize and internalize this experience. Polaroid pictures of the baby for siblings, constant support, and explanations from the neonatologist, pediatrician, and nursing staff were comforting.

It is very different being on the “receiving” side of nursing care – a learning experience that really awakens in a professional the desire to be more. We get caught up in the daily activities/hassles/short staffing/critical patients/difficult treatments, etc. We need to remind ourselves and each other that nursing is the compassionate touch. Nursing is the profession that sets the emotional tone of a unit. Nursing is the essential ingredient necessary for competent, organized, concerned care. Nursing actions broadcast real care and concern for patient and family. Thanks to the nurses who remember that – nursing is the compassionate touch.

Jim and Margie Weiss,

‘Grandma, I love you’

My first grandchild was Adam Boelter. He was born to life on April 9, 1975. He was a bundle of joy to all who held him.

As he grew to be a young man he was full of love and helping whoever needed help. Two weeks before he died he borrowed some quilts to go camping. When he returned them he hugged me and said, “Grandma I love you.”
July 24, 1999 Adam was born to eternal life. He was helping a friend who was tubing and was in trouble. Adam stood up in the boat at the same time the driver made a sharp turn and Adam fell in the water for which the propeller hit him in the back of his head. The young boys couldn’t find him so the next day we went out there to find the Sheriff’s Department out there with boats and a human chain. They found him. I’ll never forget that scene or the phone call the night before or his saying, “Grandma, I love you”.

Rita DeGroot, Appleton

‘We talked, we cried, we hoped’

My name is Jenifer. I am a stay-at-home mom and a loving wife to my husband Keith and mother of three children, two girls, Celia, age 5, and Claire, age 3, and another child born into eternal life on March 3, 2004, who is my Miracle.

A little over two years ago my husband and I began trying for a third child. We wanted three children and hoped for a boy. We expected to conceive easily just as we had with our first two children. After 6 months of trying unsuccessfully, I was referred to an OB/GYN who specialized in fertility. After my consultation, however, my husband and I chose not to go the route of intrusive and expensive fertility testing. We chose to let go of “trying” and trust that if it were meant to be, God would give us another child.

During this same time, my best friend Jenny and her husband and my sister Jean and her husband were also struggling with infertility. In Jenny’s case, she and her husband decided to try fertility treatments to conceive a second child. Sadly, all attempts failed for them. It was a very difficult time for her and I did my best to be there to support her. We talked, we cried, we hoped, we dreamed together, and eventually, we made peace with our situations and tried to move on. However, beginning the week of Thanksgiving 2003, God started to change things for all of us.

Prior to going home to visit my family for Thanksgiving, I attended a meeting of a Mother’s group called Mothers and Others through my church, St. Bernadette. A guest speaker came to talk about Mary, The Blessed Virgin. She ended her talk on the power of praying the rosary. This caught my attention, because in the past I had had great success with praying the rosary. Twice in my past I had prayed the rosary for 30 days, once in December 1999 for my best friend Jenny that despite infertility problems that she would be able to conceive a child, and also in December 2001 for my husband to avoid surgery. Both times God graciously granted my prayers.

In Jenny’s case, in December 1999(during the 30 days that I had said rosaries for her) she miraculously and without fertility assistance conceived her daughter, Sara. While on
Dec. 15, 1999 I also found out that I was pregnant with my second child, Claire. My rosary prayers had worked and it was such an incredible blessing that Jenny and I were able to share our experiences of being pregnant together. Jenny’s daughter Sara was born on Sept. 20, 2000, a bit overdue, but just about one month after my daughter Claire (Aug. 9, 2000).

Since that time, despite the fact that Jenny, my sister and I were all struggling with the heartache of infertility, I could not bring myself to pray the same way again. Jenny had had a very difficult pregnancy and delivery with Sara and I was afraid it would be risking her life if she became pregnant again. Ultimately, I guess I came to believe that when the three of us were not getting pregnant, it was God’s plan. I thought that maybe I was now experiencing the pain and helplessness of infertility as a means of understanding, helping and supporting Jenny and my sister. I figured it just wasn’t meant to be for us, but God was giving us each other to lean on.

However, on Thanksgiving things started to change for me, my sister and her husband came home from
California for a rare visit. While they were visiting, my sister told us that she had been looking forward to coming home with good news. She planned to tell us that she was pregnant (after trying to conceive a child for over two years), but she had lost the baby in a miscarriage just before they came. My heart broke for her and her husband.

Shortly after getting the news, my friend Jenny called to tell me she was feeling desperate to try again. She had called her doctor to being another round of fertility treatments. She even had picked up a prescription script for fertility drugs from her doctor and was about to fill it at a pharmacy when she heard an inner voice tell her not to do this and to call me to talk it through. I now felt sure that I was supposed to say the rosary again for Jenny and for my sister Jean. I told Jenny not to fill that prescription and to give me at least 30 days to say rosaries for her and my sister.

I began saying rosaries again on
Dec. 8, 2003, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception after attending mass. I continued them until the Epiphany on Jan. 6, 2004, saying a total of 30 rosaries within these 30 days. After each rosary I tried to play it safe with my prayers and asked God to only help Jenny and my sister to conceive children, if they could be blessed with healthy pregnancies, and safe deliveries of healthy babies. I didn’t want my sister to go through the pain of losing another child through miscarriage (or any other means) or for Jenny to lose her life through a high-risk pregnancy and difficult delivery. I felt I had done my best through these prayers to help them each obtain what they desired with the fullness of their hearts, while at the same time trying also to protect these two people I loved so much. I had also decided after searching my own heart not to include myself in these prayers.

Life moved on, and on Jan. 13, I was asked in my Mother’s Group at St. Bernadette to join a book study I had not prepared for. The book we began was “The Prayer of Hannah” written by Kenn Gividen. In chapter one of this book he challenges readers to “Prove God’s Power with the prayer of Hannah.” He asks you to pray Hannah’s prayer and ask God for something specific that you would not otherwise expect to acquire and upon receiving that, which God would give, return it to Him. I told my book group about my rosary prayers for my sister and best friend Jenny and that I would also try Hannah’s prayer for them. I later prayed Hannah’s prayer and told God that if he fulfilled my rosary prayers that I promised I would do my best to tell people of the resulting miracles through which God would be glorified. I now understand more fully that that through the prayer of Hannah I opened myself up spiritually; I opened my life to God’s use. Not only did I become a witness to God’s power, but I also became a willing part of one of God’s many miracles. In essence, I was being called to share a story beyond my initial expectations and one that would bring a miracle to me as well.

On Feb. 3 my friend Jenny called to tell me that she was pregnant. It of course happened naturally. She said she couldn’t believe it, that she did three pregnancy tests in succession all of which came up positive. We both were sobbing and awestruck. It was the most uplifting and surreal experience I have ever had. I was so emotional, I couldn’t stop crying and shaking, I was so happy for Jenny, proud that I had some small part in it, and so unequivocally aware that God was present in my life because he answered my prayers for her again. Jenny asked me that night if I wanted her to start saying rosaries for me. Did I still want another child? I told her to just prayerfully consider me for a Godmother for her baby and that I felt comfortable leaving my situation in God’s hands. That night I was on cloud nine. I thanked God for Jenny’s miracle and made love to my husband. It was a night filled with celebrating God’s love. I did not expect or pray to become pregnant myself, but God answered that night and gave me my own miracle.

I have no doubt that it was that night that Keith and I conceived our third child. The next day I started to experience early symptoms of pregnancy or implantation. My uterus felt engorged and thick and throbbed at times with my pulse. As the days progressed other symptoms also began to appear that I recognized from previous pregnancies. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed with all of this, but I also wrestled with feelings of guilt. Part of me was afraid that I might have received the blessing that was meant for my sister and I was afraid to tell her I was pregnant and cause her any pain. So I kept the possibility that I might be pregnant to myself. I didn’t even share it with my husband Keith at first.

Publicly, I happily concentrated on fulfilling my commitment to God; to telling people about my prayers for Jenny and my sister and that Jenny was miraculously pregnant. I sent out an e-mail to friends and I told them to pass the story on to anyone who might appreciate it or need to hear it. On a personal level, I was consumed with joy at the possibility of being pregnant.

I was constantly thanking God for what I knew in my heart he had done for me. My mind also went wild in anticipation. It feels funny to admit it now, but I daydreamed or thought about some pretty outrageous miraculous scenarios like being pregnant with multiples, or having a spiritually gifted child who would help bring about world peace. But, this pregnancy was my miracle from God, so I let myself wonder and dream big. Eventually, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I told Keith that I believed I got pregnant the night Jenny called us with her news. Waiting to test was also driving me crazy. I was still many days away from being able to take a pregnancy test that would give reliable results. However, now that Keith knew, he could dream with me, too.

When I tested positive on Feb. 23, we first told Jenny and Brad (who I hoped would be future Godparents to our new miracle). Once again Jenny and I cried and talked about how miraculous this was. We were both so grateful to God. For the second time, God had given us the great gift of being able to support each other and share the joys and trials of being pregnant together. We would be for the second time having children about one month apart. Jenny was due
Oct. 9, 2004 and I would be due Oct. 28, 2004. I also told my news to my Mother’s Group. My joy couldn’t be contained and I needed to let people close to me in on this miracle. I was so in awe and thankful to God.

But even in the beginning my great joy was also tempered with worry for my sister. I still had no news from her. Could she be pregnant and just not so eager to tell my family because of her previous miscarriage? Although it would be hard, my husband and I decided it would be best to keep the news I was pregnant from our extended family and our children for a while. However, we decided that even if no news came from my sister, we would tell our children and families about our miracle on Mother’s Day. In the meantime I would channel my joy and gratitude into more rosary prayers. I thought it was an appropriate way to thank God for my miracle, Jenny’s miracle and keep him working on one for my sister.

On Feb. 25, after going to mass for Ash Wednesday I began another series of rosary prayers for my sister that I am trying very hard to continue through 40 days of Lent. They have taken on new meaning to me now because, one week after I started (on Wednesday, March 3) I miscarried my miracle child. When I first saw blood that awful morning I was in shock, I couldn’t believe that God would take this miracle away from me. I was panicked and confused about what to do to save my baby. After talking to my doctor’s nurse I realized that there was nothing medically that could be done to stop me from miscarrying this child. All I had was my faith and the power of prayer. I knew I had to put my faith in God; to believe that God was with me and that he does do miracles. This of course came easily for me because I knew God was with me; he had answered my prayers and I knew he could do miracles; he had given both Jenny and I miracle babies.

So I fought with the greatness of my love for that child using my only weapons of prayer and faith. I tried hard to hold on to my miracle, even though, I did not really know who or what I was fighting. I did realize that if I were fighting “God’s will” I would have to accept losing my child. I thought maybe the bleeding would stop because I was not having any cramping. Still, I called my husband to come home from work. I also called Jenny, and other close friends to ask for their prayers. I didn’t want to be alone in this fight. It was a long and exhausting day I will never forget. At one point in the day I was praying with my eyes closed and in my mind’s eye I saw a dark shadow circling me. I immediately knew this was death and was so afraid to lose my baby. Then I had a moment of great peace when I heard in my head that God was going to save my baby and I let go of fear. I was finally at peace because I was convinced that my baby would be saved and not taken from me.

When I later discovered (after an hour or two) that I had passed or miscarried the baby, I was in shock and numb with pain. I didn’t understand why God did not save my child. How could I have been so wrong? After facing my new reality, I named my baby Miracle, baptized my child by saying, “I baptize you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” and asked God to take him or her home.

I did not have full clarity or understanding of what happened until three days later. It wasn’t until waking up from a dream Saturday morning that I realized that God truly did save my baby. Of course it was not in the way I had expected, but my baby did get the greatest of all miracles that day, the miracle of eternal life. I also realized with great comfort that I had not been fighting with God to keep my baby, I had been fighting with death. When death came to take my baby from me, God was there to save my child from death. Miracle was born into eternal life on
March 3, 2004, one month from the date he or she was conceived. From beginning to end, my baby’s life (on earth and within me) also spanned 30 days, the exact amount of time of my rosary prayers.

On March 10, I placed Miracle’s body in a special box for miscarried babies purchased for me from
Elizabeth Ministries by my friend Paulette (and leader of Mothers and Others). Keith and I said some prayers and goodbyes and buried our beloved child in a flowerbed just outside our bedroom. We plan to place a memory stone there with our babies name on it, Miracle. Although, we declined to have any genetic testing done on our baby, my husband and I both have a gut feeling our baby was a boy. We look forward to the day we will be able to meet our Miracle in heaven. Although, I still feel the pain of this loss deeply, I also can still feel the great joy this child brought to me. I still thank God for our Miracle.

Jenifer Rettler, Appleton


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