Emma Kate Safris (March 9th 2001-March 17th 2001):
After a normal pregnancy and the birth of a healthy son two years earlier, I was pregnant with my first daughter when I went to the hospital at 35 ½ weeks with contractions. My greatest concern at the time was that I might deliver early, but delivering anything other than a healthy baby never even entered my mind. Yet my naivety would not last long as just hours after entering triage signs began to indicate that something was wrong. An ultrasound showed fluid in the abdomen, a sign that my baby’s girl’s heart might be in trouble. Within a few hours our worst fears were confirmed by the pediatric cardiologist, who diagnosed multiple congenital heart defects and congestive heart failure in-utero.
Less than 48 hours after I had entered the hospital with contractions, Emma Kate Safris was delivered via c-section. Unable to breathe on her own, she was dependent on a ventilator and would require a heart transplant for any chance of survival. Whereas 48 hours earlier, not faced with such treatment for my own child, a heart transplant had seemed an easy solution. Yet as we learned more, including the terrifying reality that if she survived the initial transplant she would require a new heart every 10 years, we came to realize that this was not the life we wanted for our daughter. And so on March 17th, just 8 days after her birth, we made the most heart-wrenching decision a parent could ever make. After disconnecting the ventilator, Emma Kate Safris passed away peacefully, without ever taking a breath on her own…and our lives were never the same.
Since Emma’s birth I have been blessed with two more healthy children to join their big brother, Luke. Ali Emma was born in April 2002, and Will Henry followed in March 2006. My husband and I live in Johnston, IA with our three children who run and our angel who flies. Each of them touches our lives every day in amazing ways.
- Kate Safris
Madeline Yamen – born still on May 31, 2003:
Our second pregnancy had progressed uneventfully until I went into labor in my 37th week. At the request of my doctor’s office I went directly to the hospital for monitoring. Throughout the first few hours of monitoring Madeline’s heart rate and my contractions the nurses repeatedly expressed concern about our unborn baby’s lack of movement. The on-call OB/GYN doctor ordered a biophysical profile (level 2 ultrasound) and medication to stop my contractions. The ultrasound technician commented that our baby wasn’t moving much, but still gave her a perfect score on the biophysical profile. An hour later the doctor gave instructions over the phone to the nurse to dismiss me from the hospital. My husband, Joe, and I left the hospital confused and a little concerned. After six hours of monitoring, worrisome comments from our nurses and never seeing our doctor we were being sent home to wait.
Less than 40 hours later I went to my regularly scheduled OB check at my doctor’s office. It was there that I heard the devastating words from my doctor, “Tiffan, I’m worried. I’m very worried.” He rushed me into the ultrasound room. And then, “Tiffan, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I can’t find the heartbeat.” I faintly remember leaving the doctors office that day.
Our baby girl, Madeline Ruth Yamen, was born early the morning of May 31, 2003 via c-section. She looked just like her 2 ½ year old sister and was perfect in every way…except that she didn’t cry or open her eyes. Madeline had died of a true knot in her umbilical cord. No one knew that she was desperately fighting for her life in those last few days. I had never heard of counting kicks and was under the impression that babies move less frequently at the end of a pregnancy because they run out of room.
Joe and I welcomed our third daughter, Zoe, in March 2005 making our oldest daughter, Isabela, the proudest big sister you’ve ever seen. We are so thankful to have two healthy, busy little girls. It’s hard not to wonder what it would be like to have Madeline right in the middle of it all. That sweet little baby has taught us more about love, family and hope than we could have ever imagined. All three of our little girls make our lives rich and full.
- Tiffan Yamen
Grace Pattinson – born still on July 22, 2003
During Christmas 2002 my husband Brian and I shared the news with our families that we were expecting our second child. Our baby was due the day before our son Charlie’s second birthday. My friends all told me I was made to have babies. No problems getting pregnant. No morning sickness.
My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief after my first trimester like most couples do. As the summer progressed, the countdown was on. On a Tuesday afternoon, at our 35 week appointment, Charlie got to hear the baby’s heartbeat – 160 beats per minute. The doctor told me I was measuring perfect, had gained just the right amount, and the baby had turned and was no longer breach. Brian and I breathed another sigh of relief. He told us to start coming in every week so they would keep an eye on my blood pressure to make sure it didn't get too high. My blood pressure was always extremely low, so that wasn't a worry for us.
On Sunday night, a pain in the top part of my right leg was excruciating. I was up for a couple of hours before finally getting comfortable. I mentioned it to Brian and my mom the next morning. My mom suggested that I call the doctor to make sure it wasn’t anything serious. I called the doctor that morning and spoke with a nurse. She said she’d check with the doctor and call me back. That afternoon the nurse called to say the doctor wanted me to come in. I called Brian from the car to let him know I was headed to the doctor. He asked if I wanted him to meet me over there. I told him that I didn’t think he needed to come. In fact, I was almost embarrassed about going. I knew they’d tell me that my leg hurt because I was nine months pregnant and carrying an extra 25 pounds.
The nurse took me into a room to wait for the doctor. She checked for a heartbeat like they do at every appointment. She couldn’t find one. It didn’t surprise me too much. My baby was a mover! She tried again to no avail. She told me not to worry; she’d have the doctor do it. Another nurse came in to try. She couldn’t find a heartbeat either. I started to worry. She took me to the ultrasound room where I waited for the doctor. It seemed like eternity. I called Brian. I told him they couldn’t find a heartbeat, and I was waiting for the doctor to do an ultrasound. Brian said he was on his way. The doctor came in and started doing an ultrasound. No expression on his face; he didn’t say anything. I asked if he found the heartbeat. He said he was having trouble finding the heartbeat or seeing any movement. He sent me downstairs to the perinatologist’s office because he said they had a better ultrasound machine.
When I got downstairs Brian was waiting for me in tears. We checked in and waited to be called back. The ultrasound tech had our baby on the monitor. There wasn’t any movement. No heartbeat. I didn’t know what to think. I was just waiting for the doctor to come in to figure out why no one could find our baby’s heartbeat. Instead, she broke the news to us that our baby had died. I was in absolute shock. I had just heard the baby’s heartbeat on Tuesday. I had had a nearly perfect pregnancy. I asked her if she was mistaken. She said she was so sorry, there was no mistake.
I delivered Grace Elizabeth Pattinson the next day. She was a beautiful baby; she looked a lot like her big brother. 5 pounds, 9 ounces, 19 inches, and a full head of hair. Grace died of a true knot in her umbilical cord.
- Janet Petersen
Jayden Caruthers – born still on October 9, 2003
I had been pregnant twice before. Both pregnancies ended in miscarriage. When my third pregnancy lasted beyond 12 weeks, my husband, Keri, and I could hardly contain our excitement. Due to my history of miscarriage I was considered a high-risk pregnancy. Over the course of the pregnancy I had two level two ultrasounds. After each ultrasound, the technician said that everything looked great. We asked the technician why a color monitor wasn’t used and were told that it wasn’t needed. We asked the technician if they could see the umbilical cord and were told “not really.” We asked our OB/GYN why we never saw the Specialists and were told that technicians had more experience in reading ultrasounds.
On October 3, 2003, we had a regular OB appointment and were once again told that everything was measuring great. On October 8 I was making a routine job call in Kansas City. After midnight, I noticed that I could no longer feel our baby kick and the stillness lasted into the next morning. Concerned, I called my OB/GYN and was told it was probably nothing but I should stop by the hospital and have it checked it out if it would ease my mind.
At 37 weeks in a hospital in Kansas City, alone, I saw our daughter on the ultrasound. I saw our perfect daughter with curly black hair. I saw our beautiful baby girl with 10 fingers and 10 toes. I saw the most amazing child lying curled up, lifeless, her heart not beating. Jayden Renee Caruthers was born still at 3:00pm on October 9, 2003. She weighed 4 pounds and 12 ounces. Her skin was so soft, her face more beautiful than Keri and I could have imagined. We never got to welcome our daughter into the world because the moment that we met her we had to begin saying goodbye. Jayden died of a velamentous insertion.
- Jan Caruthers
Grace Morlan - born still on May 19, 2003
After struggling with infertility my husband, Luke and I were so thrilled to learn we were pregnant with our first child. We did all the things expectant parents do: We read the books, signed up for classes, decorated the nursery, kept a journal with entries we wrote to our cherished first child throughout our pregnancy. I read and sang to the baby and Luke, a music lover, played a variety of his favorite artistes to my growing belly. My baby shower was planned and everyone was excited and the count down was on.
Grace Biondi Morlan died when I was almost 32 weeks pregnant from placental infarcts. With the words of “there is no heartbeat” I started to scream “our baby, our baby, our beautiful baby” and Luke laid his head on me and sobbed. She was born May 19, 2003 on a rainy morning. Luke said that the world was crying for us. We held her and loved her as best we could. She had a head full of dark curly hair. We laughed that she had the “famous Biondi lips” which is a dominate characteristic in my Italian family. We told her how we met, how much she was wanted, desired and loved. We tried to fit a life time of stories into a few short hours. She was baptized and we kissed her goodbye for the last time. Our world changed…forever.
After all this time I think of her everyday and I am forever grateful that she came into our lives. We named her Grace to remind us of God’s love and His promise to us. And for a long time I needed constant reminders of those two things, and for a long time I questioned if they were true or if they even applied to us. I remain amazed at everything that Grace taught us even though she didn’t live to open her eyes or take her first breath. She taught us much about love and pain. These lessons were not always easy, but they have been profound and life changing nonetheless. Grace blessed us with many gifts. We were touched by the kindness of strangers and friends alike. We learned how to truly count our blessings, we inherently became aware what was important in life; we learned how to not take love for granted. We met some wonderful people and became closer to old friends. Yet I was drowning in grief and guilt. I was convinced that I did something wrong and that I didn’t deserve to be a mother. Then I met the co-founders of Healthy Birth Day. After my first meeting with these amazing women, I felt that I could breathe again and that I wasn’t drowning for the first time. These women were my life line that first year of grief and have since become family. Grace eventually blessed us with 3 healthy children. I know that she hand-picked them just for us.
Grace changed me. Not in ways that I had asked for and not in ways that I expected. I think that she made her mother a better person. I wrote Grace a letter for her funeral. In it I stated that even though our grief was unbearable, I wouldn’t chance a second of it. We were given the beautiful gift of knowing her, and even though our time together was much too short, the love in our hearts was worth every ounce of the pain. We are richer by far having held her a moment than never having held her at all. These words are still true.
- Kerry Morlan