From the beginning...
In the final days of November 2020 my Husband and I found out we were expecting a sweet miracle after the heartbreaking loss of our first precious baby to miscarriage just months before. We were terrified yet hopeful. We believed that God would give us a perfect, healthy baby to love after experiencing a loss.
The appointments began. Seeing Theodore’s (who I call Teddy) little heartbeat flicker on the screen at 7 and a half weeks was the greatest joy. I remember every moment of our 11 week appointment where I could see sweet Teddy’s little fingers, like he was waving to me letting me know that he was alright. Then, alone in an exam room that was cold and bare, I was told that something was not right. No one knew for sure what was wrong but we knew things weren’t “perfect”. I left the office and hopped in my mom’s car. She had been waiting for me in the parking lot because at the time COVID restrictions kept her or anyone from being by my side in the office. We drove straight to the lab where they ran every test imaginable. I barely remember telling my husband about the appointment. I know I did, I've simply erased that from my memory as it was so painful, after telling him just a few months earlier that our first baby had passed away.
When the testing came back "low risk", we found out that our baby was a boy. A tough little man. We were counseled repeatedly, each doctor offered us options, one being to terminate the pregnancy, (offered more times than I can count) but we decided that for as long as Teddy was willing to fight, we were as well. Whatever needed to be done, we would make it happen for our son. Once he made it to 18 weeks, we were told the chances of a 2nd trimester fetal demise were close to 100%. Almost guaranteed he wouldn’t make it past 24 weeks gestation. Teddy made it clear that he wasn’t planning to give up anytime soon.
After visiting our local MFM doctors (most of whom were absolutely wonderful), we decided we’d like to get a second opinion, simply because I wasn't ready to come to terms with what I was being told. We traveled to Hershey only to find out that the list of anomalies present had grown. In a conference room with a doctor on Zoom, we cried. Teddy had no kidney function and therefore no amniotic fluid to help his lungs develop. He had little room to grow, known as severe IUGR. We couldn’t accept that our precious Teddy was so sick, because he was happily moving and grooving inside my belly. We left Hershey with our hearts shattered into a million pieces.
If you could ask my Husband, he would tell you I’ve never been one to take no for an answer, I’m persistent and determined and I certainly wasn’t going to sit back and wait around for what would come next. That is simply not who I am as a person or as a mother. In the days following our Hershey consultation I searched tirelessly for ways to help Teddy. I wracked my brain and found myself in a sea of research articles focusing on similar issues. I joined Facebook groups and met mom’s near and far who had babies with similar issues. Finally, I found a clinical trial at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) that could be a step in the right direction; the direction of saving my child’s life. After more testing than I ever imagined possible, 3 hours worth of ultrasounds, and one frustrating and defeating conversation, it was decided that the team there was not willing to intervene because it would be too risky. They assured me he would not be born alive anyway. They insisted that he would have a few weeks left on the inside, if that. I was angry. So angry. I had been told the same spiel over and over again...Teddy won’t make it to 18 weeks, Teddy won’t make it to 24 weeks but here we are at 26 weeks gestation and he’s still here.
Each week passed, attending two appointments a week at our local MFM, which I could finally bring a “support person” to. Our local MFM and OB providers were saints, allowing us to come in so often to see sweet Teddy. They prayed with us and kept Teddy in their thoughts. The uncertainty of the entire situation was overwhelming to say the very least. We prepared ourselves each time to be told that Teddy’s fragile heart had stopped beating. I had to be prepared each time to be told that I’d now have to deliver my son who had died. Miraculously though, he persisted. I'm often left speechless when discussing Teddy's strength and resiliency.
On May 20th, I finally felt my sweet boy kick. At the time, I thought those precious kicks were the greatest gift I could ever receive. I remember laying in bed, just Teddy, our dog Puppers, and I, soaking up the miracle of finally feeling his sweet little feet moving around. I waited for those kicks every day and though some days we went without, I know Teddy always tried his best to let me know he was hanging in there. I’ll remember that morning for the rest of my life.
The list of concerns grew longer and longer each week but so did Teddy. He was slowly growing, always a bit behind, but growing, nonetheless. Matthew (my Husband), my Mom and I had the opportunity to watch Teddy wiggle around week after week on the screen. We gushed over his precious little lips, blowing us kisses from inside my belly. He’d always cover his sweet little face with his hands and feet.
We decided that if Teddy really was so sick, we were going to experience as much as we possibly could with him in my belly while we still had time. We took several trips to the beach, swam at the pool, went to a few Phillies games, visited the zoo, rode on the Cape May-Lewis Ferry, went to the aquarium, enjoyed a stay at the hotel where Teddy’s Daddy and I used to visit years ago. There were countless precious moments spent with those who love Teddy the most. We began planning for the day that we would officially bring Theodore into the world, praying for a miracle each and every day but knowing that God has a plan, always.
Teddy’s birthday arrived in a fashion I can only describe as both quickly and at a snail’s pace, in unison. After carrying our sweet boy in my belly for 37 weeks, it was finally time to meet him. Our scheduled c-section went as planned and Teddy was here. 3 pounds, 6 ounces of absolute perfection, and 15 inches long, our miracle made it. He breathed sweet tiny breaths on earth, something our doctors never imagined he would be able to do. He proved everyone wrong. After 33 minutes and a 37 week fight against all odds, our dear Theodore could finally rest. He took his last breath and opened his eyes in the kingdom of Heaven, perfect, in the arms of Jesus.
We spent 3 beautiful days with our son, kissing his perfect little nose and plump cheeks. Breathing in his coveted newborn scent that we waited so long for. Precious moments snuggling with his Mommom and cousin each day and meeting some very important people who can now reminisce with us about that perfect little nose of his. Napping together as a sweet little family of three in a tiny hospital bed. Feeling the softness of his skin and his strawberry blonde hair and the wrinkles on his head and feet. Holding his perfect little hands. Introducing him to his beautiful family and friends who both congratulated us on the birth of our angel and wept with us because he had to go so soon.
We are heartbroken. No longer whole, we will never be again. And though our hearts will ache every day for the rest of our lives, I am hopeful. I know that we will hug our baby boy again one day. I know that embrace will be like no other. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Teddy knows we did absolutely everything we could to help him to stay here but he was just too precious for earth. Teddy knows he is so loved.
Teddy reminded us all that this life here is temporary and to be cherished every single day. We know that he is being wrapped in the arms of Jesus and his sibling in heaven, waiting patiently for us, as we did for him. I know that one sweet day we will meet again.
Until then, though nothing can take this heartache away, we are working towards healing. Talking about Teddy might make us cry but we were already crying. We invite our family, friends and strangers alike to ask about our son and to talk with us about their children, both living and dead.
Let us remember Teddy and all of the precious babies and children who had to leave too soon.