As I sit here and write this on my son's 2nd birthday, it, like so many other special events and holidays, is bittersweet. Today the bitter comes from not having my sweet girl here to sing “Happy Birthday” to her little brother. The sweetness though, is knowing that through our storm came this precious 2-year-old little boy. And so looking back, here begins our story…
Early March of 2014, my husband and I stood in our living room and revealed a test that would change our lives forever. We could not wait to tell the world we were having a baby! Two months into our pregnancy we got the wonderful news that my sister would be having a baby as well. A sister’s dream, right? We would get to share the most amazing feelings and changes that were going on with our bodies together. We spent hours and hours talking about our babies’ futures together. We just knew that they were going to be inseparable.
During the summer, we found out that my little peanut was a baby girl. There are not enough words to describe how thrilled I was to be having a little girl. A pact that my sister and I made when we were younger was that whoever had a girl first could use our maiden name. So there in my belly was our sweet Maddry Grace. Not long after we found out the sex of Maddry, we got news that my sister would be having a baby boy. A girl and boy, so close in age, was a dream come true. We just knew they were going to conquer the world together. We had so many coordinating clothes for our little ones… they were sure to be the cutest babies around. My mother and father were so thrilled not only to become grandparents, but to have both of their daughters share such a blessing together.
October came so quickly, and that’s when our lives were turned upside down. It all happened so quickly, literally within the blink of an eye. My entire pregnancy had been so easy. I had the normal pregnancy side effects, but overall I went through all nine months with no problems whatsoever. It was October 21st, early morning, that I started to feel something different than I had ever felt before. Cramping about 10 minutes apart, I woke my husband up and said “Hey, don't freak out, but I think I'm having contractions.” He immediately threw the covers off, let our puppy outside, and ran back in asking if I was ready to go.
Once we got to the hospital, they evaluated me, and sure enough, we were having a baby! I was so excited, and surprised, it’s not like they show on the movies… I had no idea that my water had even broken! We both called our parents, and not long after that we were in a room impatiently waiting for Maddry to grace us with her presence. My sister came to wait it out with us in the room. As we waited, she applied my make up so I could be ‘picture perfect’ for my picture perfect little girl. If we only knew then how life would play out a few hours later.
My doctor came by to check on me around 5 p.m., told us I still wasn’t quite ready yet, and let us know he would be back in a bit to check again. About an hour after he left my nurse came in to check my progress. That was it. It was time to begin pushing! I wanted my mom and my sister in the room with us. My sister was in charge of getting this miracle on tape. I had done three rounds of pushing when a nurse frantically came running from outside and said we had to stop. They could no longer hear our baby’s heartbeat... You can imagine the reaction I had, I felt so scared, completely helpless, as they rushed me into the operating room to perform an emergency c- section. My mom and sister were left to only pray and keep replaying that moment in their heads as they waited. My husband and I tried our hardest to stay strong and keep faith that it was all going to be okay. A few minutes later, but what felt like hours, our sweet Maddry Grace was pulled from my stomach. My husband knew in that moment that we were going to have a long road ahead of us. My doctor warned me that I would not be able to see her because they would have to begin immediately working on her to resuscitate her breathing again. Our precious baby girl went through so much during birth. It was nothing short of a miracle that the doctors at Woman’s Hospital were able to revive her.
Four days. That was all we had. Those 4 days in the NICU were the hardest days of my life. We were so hopeful that she would pull through, but we remained realistic to the terrifying thought of losing her earthly presence. Each day was a rollercoaster of emotion, one minute we were getting news that she was improving, then what seemed liked the next minute, getting news that she was fading downhill. It was a living hell.
At the advice of our nurses, we wanted to read to Maddry. I knew the perfect book to read to our baby girl. The book we had bought and intended on having each guest sign as they would come to visit her. We decided that even though it’s not how we planned, we were still going to have our family and friends write little messages throughout the book.
So on the evening of day 4, I was finally able to hold my little girl. That moment is one that I will forever cherish. For a moment, everything wrong in our world, felt better. It felt as if there was not a machine allowing each breath, that she was a healthy baby girl, and I could just walk right out with her. My husband said that this was the perfect time to read her that special book.
Everyone had written such sweet things, but one of my best friends wrote something that would become one of the most meaningful of the notes. The page she wrote on had a ladybug swimming in a pond. She wrote, “Maddry Grace, my little lady, my little love bug, …my little lady bug. Your precious presence is amazing. Its amazing grace for Gracie. My ladybug, I love you.”
It was after we finished this book that I looked at my husband and told him I was afraid that this was the end. Soon after that, the doctor came in. He had tried all he could and was out of options. I was numb. It’s those little things that people take for granted. Reading a book and holding my baby is such a precious memory that I will be forever thankful for. Something that many do every day without realizing the significance. I carried my baby girl for 9 months, and then held her as she went into the arms of Jesus.
I know Maddry heard every word out of the book we read her, but for some reason she hung onto “ladybug.” Legend has it that the ladybug was named for the Virgin Mary who assisted farmers once they prayed to her. Keeping fields safe from harm, the ladybug evokes the energy of harmony. A ladybug’s life is short. It teaches us to release worries and enjoy experiences to the fullest. A messenger of promise, when a ladybug appears in our lives it is telling us to “let go and let God”.
Since that day, ladybugs appear in places that only God could place them for us to see. They appear at just the right moments. Just to name one in particular, a ladybug appeared in my sister’s hospital room when she was delivering her son. My mom put the perfect words together to describe her feelings. She said, “How am I supposed to be happy and sad at the same time?” God knew that everyone needed a glimpse of Maddry during such an emotional time. Anyone that knows our story will send me pictures of their visits from our angel. Each glimpse puts a smile on my face. It is those signs that keep pushing me to be the best I can be.
People ask me all of the time, “How are you so strong? How can you be ‘ok’?” The truth is, I’m only ‘ok’ because of my support system. My family and friends pick me up on days that I’m low. I am forever thankful to them. I am also thankful for Anna’s Grace Foundation. It is organizations like Anna’s Grace that let families like mine have a chance to talk about their angel babies and give broken hearted families a special way to honor them.
Anna’s Grace Foundation has been an important step in the healing process for me, my family, and our friends. I truly believe that Maddry is in Heaven looking down on us and is proud that we have joined a cause that makes such an impact on so many lives. Last year was the first year we ran for the 1 in 4. I speak on behalf of my whole team, “Maddry Grace’s Ladybugs,” when I say it was just one more step in healing our broken hearts. When you are running and passing all of the signs with precious names on them, you can’t help but feel like you are running with angels. Please join us on March 25th to honor all of our babies… gone too soon. Let’s give them something to be proud of, and help other families get through, what to some will be, the hardest time of their life.
About Anna’s Grace Foundation Anna’s Grace Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supporting families in the Greater Baton Rouge Area who experience miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Each and every day one of our neighbors, friends, coworkers, or family members will experience the devastating loss of a baby, and Anna’s Grace is there to provide emotional and financial support so that families can focus on healing. The Anna’s Grace Quarter Marathon is on March 25, 2018. For more information or to register, visit http://www.annasgrace.org/registration.