Tread softly for our hopes and our dreams lie here.

Grace McVicar
December 20, 2001

Those are the words we chose to write on our daughter's gravestone. How strange to even say those words-- to have had a daughter die and be so young and have no chance to even see her alive. We felt such pain, such agony losing out on the time to love, and care for our sweet little baby. There is such an ache in missing out on the opportunity to live out our hopes and dreams with our precious girl. There was so much planning, so much anticipation. There were so many nights laying there feeling her move and smiling as my mind raced with the wonder of who this wonderful little person would be. What would she look like? Which of our traits would she inherit? How wonderful it would be to watch her with her daddy as he let her win a game, and she giggled with glee or he cradled her and she rested in the safety and warmth of his arms. How I would marvel at her discovery of life and how much fun it would be to guide her in her journey.

The horror of losing my healthy and perfect daughter at 32+ weeks was so incredibly traumatic. It's hard to even find words that adequately express what I went through emotionally, physically and spiritually. I think that the only people who truly can understand are the other moms and dads who have gone through this. I hope though that my story will help in someway. I know that I spent an incredible amount of time in the months after Grace died reading the emails and reading the web pages of other moms who experienced a loss, and they were very helpful to me.

I was so sick during my pregnancy. I had severe nausea and hyper-emesis (a condition of excessive throwing up), which meant I vomited non-stop 8 to 12 times with each episode, each day and that went on for almost 5 months. I had Group B Strep with all the accompanying yeast issues. I was in the ER for Pneumonia and heart palpitations, and I was put on bed rest for back problems too. So pregnancy wasn't very "easy" or "fun" for me, (as most of my friends that were pregnant could say), but it was all worth it, w hen I knew I was fighting for a baby's life and I would get the reward of our baby in the end.

I started to have decreased movement at night and I felt that things weren't as they should be. I was at the clinic 6 times in the last 2 weeks she was alive, having them check on me as I felt that there was less movement and I was having several other different symptoms too. Each time they patronized me and sent me away like I didn't know what I was talking about. "There's the heart's doing just fine. You can go home and rest your mind everything's ok." I would later find out from the autopsy and talking with Dr. Collins at the Pregnancy Institute that I was absolutely right in thinking that she was in danger and needed to come early. My baby had a Velamentous Cord, which could be seen on the ultra sound. Babies with that situation sometimes don't have a strong enough cord connection to the placenta to sustain them to full term. My healthy baby girl just needed to be delivered early in order to survive. If you are pregnant or planning to be, PLEASE act on your gut feelings ladies. If you have a sense that something is wrong, don't stop until you find a Dr. who will listen to you and help you and your baby!

The 7th time I went in they couldn't find the heartbeat; there was a beat and the Dr. tried to say it was the baby's...but it was mine she was listening to. She said the baby had probably moved and the way she was positioned, it was just hard to hear the beat. She sent me for an ultra sound. Thank goodness my husband Steve was able to get out of work, he didn't want me to be alone and he had been at almost all of my appointments. It was December 18th and I feel like I walked into a torture chamber. I found out in the coldest cruelest of ways: "As you can see on the ultrasound - we are looking at the heart chamber, there is No heart beat - your baby is dead" and the Dr. walked out of the room. Then the tech said, "You guys will need to go directly to the hospital and take care of "IT". "IT!!!" She called my baby an IT - and my baby, the baby I had longed for, loved, cherished and prayed for, was not alive anymore??? I went into hysterics. I refused to go to the hospital, and later the Dr. called and said it was absolutely fine if we went in the next day. All the way home I screamed, cried and sobbed. We called friends and family, we could barely tell them the horrible news. We went into a state of shock and I began to panic, I felt I couldn't breathe. I called a friend who had just lost her baby 2 weeks before, at 20 weeks and she had to deliver her baby too. She helped calm me from 2am until 4am. She helped me breathe and helped my heart rate go down. I tried to sleep, but I couldn't. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. I had a full belly, we had come so far, we were ready, and we wanted her so badly. I couldn't believe I was going to have to go to the hospital to deliver my baby, and after all the work of labor, she would not be alive. I was living my worst nightmare.

On the 19th we went to the hospital, and I was given a pill that softens the uterus. Slowly I went into labor. I asked them not to give me any strong painkillers and to not give me an epidural. I was so afraid that if by some miracle they were wrong, and she was alive, the medications would hurt the baby or if they were right, that I would be too drugged up and I would never remember seeing the baby when she came. After 22 horrible hours of labor pain I delivered my daughter Grace on December 20, 2001. There were no cries, no breath to feel against my cheek, her eyes were not open, her lips did not pucker to suck the milk from my external lifeline. I looked at her, attached to me by the lifeline that failed her and felt like I was screaming, "Someone save her, she needs to be resuscitated! Please save my baby." But no sound came out of me; just the tears dripped down my face and soaked my chest. . Then I felt a part of my heart dying, slipping away, I wanted to go with her, and I didn't want to live without her.

My husband and I held Grace for hours, trying to soak in all the details of her perfect little 3 pound 5 ounce body. She had my nose, Steve's face, my fingernails, Steve's feet, and our hair color with waves like Steve's. She was so frail and we were so careful in holding her. We took 2 rolls of film (thank goodness we have those pictures). Our friends from church bought a pink sleeper for her and my girl friend that helped coach me during labor gently washed her and dressed her for us. We had the nurse get her hand and fingerprints. We kissed Grace and cried as we held her for the last time. I could no longer hold her because I was so exhausted. I was falling asleep sitting up. I had been awake for over 2 days straight. So we said goodbye to our sweet baby Grace.

Several hours later, after I had been able to rest, we asked to see her again, we needed to see her and we wanted one of my dear friends to have a chance to hold her. She was so cold and her body had changed so much. It was so hard to see her that way.

She had turned purplish red and she was so very fragile. Steve held her and kissed her goodbye again. I just couldn't hold her at that I regret that I didn't spend more time holding her. I was not able to hold her at the memorial because she had an autopsy and she was even more fragile than before.

I spent the days before the memorial making a laced bonnet and pillow for Grace and planning her service and making her program. I went with my mom and ordered the flowers for the church and I started sobbing. "I should be ordering flowers for her to enjoy at a special occasion.. not her funeral." I completed each task in a daze and I felt I was moving in slow motion. I was surrounded by friends and family, but I felt such emptiness and so alone. My house was full of all the flowers and cards that everyone sent with their messages of love and sentiments. I have saved every card, every petal, and every flower and I made dried arrangements from all of them.

We had a memorial service and buried our daughter on December 27, 2001. It was a beautiful service. 85 people came to share their support. The service lasted 2 hours as people gave words of encouragement, read poems, and played music. Grace looked like a perfect little porcelain doll in her casket. People said she looked like a little American Girl Doll. They had done a beautiful job preparing her and her skin was the color it would have been had she been alive. I ached to hold her; my baby was gone forever from my earthly arms. I felt so betrayed by God, so angry and so isolated. I felt I could not trust Him any longer. He hadn't protected her or us from this, even after all the years of dedicated prayer for her future well-being and health. He allowed her to die. And now He had turned His back on me, I had no answers from Him to the cries of my prayers for peace, for comfort, or for help in my great hours of need during my anxiety attacks and pain during labor. In the last months, after she was born still, I've cried to Him in the darkness of my depression and anxiousness, and He chose to stay silent on the other end. There have been no answers, no soft whispers of comfort and my once strong faith has now faltered. It lays dormant waiting for some sign of possible hope, or a season of spring, and that simply seems eons away.

Now that I have gone through this my innocence in the whole process of pregnancy is gone and I know all that can go wrong and all that I may have to endure again...with no guarantee that I will come home with a baby in my arms. It was so horrible to leave the hospital and come home without our Grace. To go home to the empty baby room and to cancel all the baby showers and baby furniture orders. I dreaded getting the mail, because of all the baby invitations, product coupons and magazines for new moms. I had to avoid all women with babies because I would break down and cry or become angry. 8 of my girlfriends and my sister-in-laws were all pregnant. I wrestled with all WHYs, "why me, why us, why did we get picked on, why do people who neglect, hurt, abuse and destroy children pop them out like Pez candies and we who would love and care for our baby....? WHY?!" Such darkness and sadness filled my heart. I was so, very depressed.

Supportive friends and family and most of all a wonderful husband have helped me see my way through much of the depression, but it is a long process and new situations, will trigger a whole new wave of heartache and emotions that I haven't dealt with or that I still have a hard time with. I have been in a great support group with other parents who've had a baby die and I received tremendous support from my 2 online support groups too. I totally recommend using all the resources possible to help you if you are in your grieving journey after a loss.

Some of the women in my support group got pregnant as soon as they were able to after their loss, and now I see them and they have found that they have a lot of fear and emotions that surface each day. They needed to fill their empty arms as soon as possible. They are very proactive with their medical care and they will "be a pain in the Dr's side if they have to" in order to be taken care of properly. I think they are very brave and I have an intense hope that they will have success in having a healthy baby. They certainly deserve it after all they had to endure.

How many years until I will feel confident enough to consider the possibility of conceiving again? I don't know, I think it will take years to be far enough down the road - that the pain, emotions, and pictures in my mind are no loner as vivid. Hopefully if/when that time comes, I won't be a basket case during the waiting period of a pregnancy and all the unknowns that lie in wait.

In the time being, we are pursuing other plans and dreams. We are in the process of adopting a baby and we are very hopeful and excited for the day we become parents to our second child. What an amazing gift that a birth mom will one day bless us with. We are really looking forward to the day we can bring a baby home to join our 2 cats and 2 puppies and a mom and dad that have a lot of lovin', hugs and kisses to share. A nd Grace - she'll not ever be replaced; she will always be our first-born child. She will forever have a special place in our hearts. Our first adopted child and any other future family we have will always know that they had a big sister and that she is still very much a part of us.

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