Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Nine Years of Sarah

Nine years? Nine years. It's been nine years since we delivered Sarah at 22 weeks and 3 days.

In less than two weeks we had gone from a stress inducing but otherwise fine pregnancy, to complete devastation.  On Bridget's first birthday, I had my 20 week ultrasound.  I thought of it as the gender scan at the time.  It didn't occur to me that the anatomy they looked at, could be anything but perfect.

My poor ultrasound tech.  She knew exactly what she was looking at, but couldn't let on.  Couldn't tell me at all.  She let me walk out of that office on cloud nine, with little black and white pictures of my little girl.  My girl.  I was going to have three little girls, all in a row.  How funny, since the pregnancy was completely unplanned, and I'd felt really done with three kids.  But I knew when I found out that I was pregnant, that my family wasn't complete without her.

A few days later I found myself in another office, hearing that my baby couldn't live.  Hearing that the pregnancy carried potential complications for me.  I can remember sitting in the waiting room afterward, waiting for someone who was supposed to give me information on my choices, and listening to a woman discuss her normal pregnancy.  I remember being so filled with grief, I couldn't stand it.  I kept wishing she would shut up.  Couldn't the whole world see that something had gone terribly wrong?  The appointment itself was so last minute, Dominic had stayed home with the kids.  I'd just found out that my baby would die and I had to drive myself home.  I'm not entirely sure how I did that, except that I had to, and it turns out we do what we have to do, sometimes.

Of course, being new to blogging, I came home and poured out my grief out on my blog.  I had no idea what I was doing.  My blog, then on blog-city, I think, received over 25,000 hits that month.  People love a trainwreck, and I'd suddenly become a face for the pro-choice/pro-life movement.  No one, when trying to make a decision for their health and for a baby they want and love, should be in that position.  It's too much pressure.  I couldn't make the right choice for everyone.  I could only do what I thought was best for myself and for my baby and family.  That was hard enough.  I still wonder what-if.  And of course the ideals didn't see me, they didn't see Sarah. They certainly didn't see my grief.  I could tell stories of what people told me, but if you click on the label for this blog post, you can go back and read for yourself.  It was a shitstorm.  And for a brief time, I was the center of it.

So much has happened in nine years.  Our family has welcomed Ciaran, Quinn, Brennan, and Liam.  Four little boys.  I wonder if any of them would have been here if Sarah hadn't come, or if she hadn't died. Selfishly, I'd like to have all of them with me.

Tonight, Dominic and I went through her box.  Even after nine years, for me, Sarah's short life is so big.  And yet everything we have, fits into a little amazon box.  In it is her bunny, her blanket, the hat she wore, books we were given, cards we were sent.  Anything that would be a memory for us, a memory of her big life, is in that tiny box.

I am grateful for every piece of it.  The hand and footprints, the washcloth they used to get the ink off of her.  Every little thing is what we could get to make a few hours together, last a lifetime.

Sarah taught me about grief.  She taught me about learning to live with part of your heart missing.  Most importantly, Sarah put me on a different path.  One that took many years.  I didn't even realize it at the time, really, but I'm most definitely not the Conservative Catholic Homeschooling Mom I was then.  I'm a better person for having been her mother.  I'm more open.  I understand more.  

I found a paper in her box.  It said "findings consistent with semi-lobar holoprosencephaly and encephalocele".  I can't understand why, now, but I focused so much on the first diagnosis, that I forgot the second one.  I never realized that there was an increased chance of neural tube defects after having a child with a neural tube defect.

When Liam was diagnosed, I was angry.  I couldn't go through all of that again.  But Liam is still here. Thursday he will have a CT to see how his shunt is functioning, and will see the neurosurgeon.  Still, he is here.  It makes no logical sense, but I feel like the Universe owed me a keeper.  And while no child can replace another, I feel like he's the gift that we were given, the one we got to keep.

Our family is as complete as it can be without Sarah.  Our Shooting Star. In my dreams she was always blonde, which I thought was weird.  I didn't have any blonde kids.  Then Liam came, and he is all blonde.  I'm sure that means something.  It feels like another connection between them.

After nine years I can say that I survived the worst.  But I can also say that grief leaves its mark on a person.  It changes, the way scars do, but it's always there, and it's always tender.  My little girl is gone, but she is remembered.  She is loved.  And we have been too.

Thank you to everyone who has carried the spark of her memory in their hearts.  She lives on through you.  And thank you to everyone over the last nine years who has shown us kindness and support.  It means so much to us that we have been loved.

Happy Birthday, Sarah.  Your tiny life was grand, and I'm grateful for every moment that I had with you.


  1. "Anything that would be a memory for us, a memory of her big life, is in that tiny box."

    As another mom with only a tiny box, and a big ache, this just expressed things so clearly. Thank you for sharing Sarah with us.

    I remember when you got Liam's diagnosis. I spent the whole next few days in alternating fits of crying, praying, and yes, feeling really really MAD that you had to talk "options" again, that there was a very real chance he might not be staying with you.

    Every picture and story about him just delights me.

    And yes, I wish we could have both kept all our kids with us... but then I'd never have "met" you and... so many things we never would have known any other way.

    1. I'm so glad to know you, Kathryn. So grateful for your friendship and your support for all these years. Of course, you are right. And thank you for loving my Liam. Not a day goes by that I don't think of your Liam, and the special name my little guy carries. ((hug))

  2. I love you, Anne. With all my heart.


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