Wednesday, November 04, 2009

In Memory of Caitlin on her 18th Birthday - The Impact of a Stillborn Baby

As Christmas approached in 1991, we were excitedly anticipating the birth of our first grandchild. An early sonogram showed the baby to be active, healthy and female. We watched our daughter-in-law's slim body expand with Caitlin's growth, and we saw our son eagerly anticipating the beginning of his tenure as a dad.

The last weekend in October, we met our son and daughter-in-law in Cartersville, GA (halfway between their home in Rome and ours in Decatur) for dinner. La Donna was experiencing back pain, but had consulted the doctor and been assured her that all was well with the baby. However all was NOT well. The next week, on November 5, our son called us in tears saying that they were at the hospital. The doctors said that Caitlin must be delivered at once. They were not able to hear a heartbeat. Steve was terrified that he was going to lose his entire family, since La Donna's blood pressure was very high. Her life, as well as Caitlin's, was in jeopardy.

We arrived at the hospital about an hour and a half later not knowing what had happened in the interval (this was before the the day of constant contact with ubiquitous cell phones). As we entered the room, our son came toward us holding a tiny pink bundle in his arms, and tears were streaming down his cheeks. Our precious, much-loved Caitlin had been delivered stillborn. Her tiny hands, each featuring 5 perfect fingers, were curled as if reaching to clutch a parent's finger. Her delicately shaped lips formed a little O. She was perfect; beautiful. Her maternal grandparents, and Jim and I, each took a turn holding Caitlin, welcoming her, mourning her loss, and telling her goodbye. We circled our precious baby with love as we thanked God for the blessing of her short life. Soon the hospital personnel came and took her away. Such a short visit with our grandbaby!

Caitlin lived her entire life in her mother's uterus. We were not to see her learn to walk, go to school, or reach life's other expected milestones. In spite of the brevity of her life, Caitlin was well-loved. Her memory is dear to each member of our family. Her younger siblings know about her and talk about her. Her younger cousins mention her from time to time. We like to imagine what she would be like if she were with us today and how her daily presence among us would have changed the dynamics of family relationships.

Today I am trying to imagine our Caitlin celebrating her 18th birthday. It is hard to believe that 18 years have passed since the day I held her -- so briefly -- in my arms.


Carol said...

That brought tears to my eyes. So sad...

Jane said...

What a beautiful tribute Joan. I did not know this.

Ruth said...

Joan...You are so precious...what a beautiful tribute to Caitlin. Yes, like Carol, I read it in tears.

Lyn said...

I can picture her perfectly. She was beautiful and I would have loved to watch her grow.
Thanks for the wonderful tribute to her - even if it did make me cry.
Love you,