Having two little boys at home, we were shocked to find out we were going to have a little girl! We had already picked out her name years ago, before we were even married. So it was no question that her name was going to be Claire Marie. The second we found out, we began shopping for clothes, accessories, and all of the other stuff that makes having a girl so much fun! There were many shopping trips, baby showers, and late nights decorating making sure everything was perfect for her arrival!
It was getting so close to her due date, and we couldn’t have been more excited if we tried. It was a Saturday morning, and we only had two more days until we were going to get to meet our baby girl! That morning, I was actually excited, because I hadn’t felt her kicking all morning, and she was usually active at that time. I thought, today’s the day! I was just positive she was resting up getting ready to come into the world.
A half hour passed as I laid on the couch waiting to feel her kick, and I wasn’t feeling her move. I was having minor contractions, so it was hard to tell what was actually going on. I called my doctor right away, and headed straight for the birth care center, as I knew this is what they would tell me to do. We were nervous, yet, so excited because we thought for sure they would keep me there, and I would get to deliver Claire. We threw our bags and camera in the car, to make sure we had what we needed for her delivery.
The car seat was in, and we were ready to meet this long-awaited baby girl of ours.
I arrived at the birth care center and our nurse, Pat, was who would check me in, and make sure Claire was ok. As I lay on the bed, and she put her heart monitor to my stomach, there is always that feeling–what if they can’t find the heartbeat? But I knew they always did, and wasn’t worried. As seconds passed, I just sat in disbelief. I told myself to calm down, and that Claire was just turned a funny way, and they would find the heartbeat any second.
It was a few seconds later that Pat regretfully said “I’m not hearing a heartbeat.” I remember looking at Blake, my husband, and just saying “She’s dead. What are we going to do?” and then it hit me. I jumped up from the table, and began to scream. Pat tried to calm me down, and she hugged me, and I screamed louder. She asked me to lie back on the table, so the doctor could come do an ultrasound to confirm. I remember yelling, saying I wasn’t going to lay down because nothing mattered anymore, she was already gone. We sat there and cried and screamed for what seems like a lifetime.
We were told to call family, so we called my mom right away. I have no clue what Blake told her, or what happened then. I just remember wanting to die.
Then it was time to head to my delivery room. I had to prepare to deliver my dead baby–a preparation no mother should ever have to endure. I remember my two boys coming into the room, knowing something was wrong, but not sure what. I sat them down, and told them that Claire wasn’t going to get to come home with us, and that she had to go right to heaven. I was calm when I told them, as I am their mom, and that was the only choice I had.
I told them over and over that mommy is fine, but baby Claire was not going to get to come home with us.
Everything about the delivery process was just as if she was alive. The same words were used. “Epidural. Contractions. Pitocin. Induce.” I had already had two healthy children, and was all too familiar with the process. I remember I kept saying, “Stop saying those words. I’m supposed to get a baby when you say those words.” And just crying and crying.
I can’t say enough good things about our nurse, Pat. She welcomed our entire family with such loving care, and provided an entire room next door to mourn and cry. I was getting numb. I remember not caring if I lived or not at that point. In a shocked, numb, emotional state, I asked Pat, “What do we do with her?” This seems like such a silly question looking back, but again, I wasn’t me. I wasn’t thinking. I was too in shock. I remember the hardest thing to hear was her response. “You will have to have a funeral for her.” And I lost it again. I had to plan a funeral for the baby girl I was so excited to have. The crying, the numbness, family, friends, and our wonderful pastor were all there throughout the day.
It was time to start pushing.
Just like when you are having a healthy baby, I had to push. I had to push my dead baby out of my body. I thought this was going to be impossible. I had no strength, no will, no nothing. I was empty. Pat and I had talked earlier, and I asked her how was I supposed to live? I told her I didn’t want to. And I remember her telling me, “Right now, you live second to second. And then minute to minute. And then hour to hour. And some day, you will live day to day again.”
“Right now, you live second to second. And then minute to minute. And then hour to hour. And some day, you will live day to day again.”
As I prepared to push, Pat said, “This is going to be a hard minute, but it’s going to end. You’re going to get through it. And then we will go to the next minute.” To this day, I use this advice, and always will. It’s how I get by. Some days are minute by minute. And some are better.
In only a few short moments, Claire was out. I let out a huge cry and told my husband not to look at her until I was ready. I remember the doctor saying, “She’s beautiful. She looks like she’s sleeping.” How was I going to look at her? How was I going to hold her? When they handed her to me, I couldn’t look. It was too hard. I would look for a split second, and look away, crying. And each time I looked, I was able to look a little longer, until finally, I could study everything about her.
This was the only day I would have her in my arms and I didn’t want to let her go.
As the day went on, family was there and all spent time with her. Holding her, kissing her, and giving her a lifetime full of love, in one short day. She was baptized by our pastor, surrounded with family. I held her. I kissed her. I had to let her go. To this day, I have no clue how I lived through that moment of giving her to the nurse, knowing I would never see her, touch her, or kiss her again. I think the only thing that made me able to do this was my numbness. No human could do this in a full state of mind.
As the days passed we planned her funeral, I picked out a casket for my child, I laid her to rest. Forever. There are times today that it doesn’t seem real. Times I don’t believe it. Times it seemed like a lifetime ago, and times it seems like it was yesterday.
To any mother or father who has had to endure this pain, I salute you. You are a hero to me. You have lived through the worst thing in the world.
And if you’re anything like me, you are a different person now. You are strong. You are so strong.
I will never be the same person I was when I walked into the hospital that day. Claire took a very large piece of me with her when she left, and I love that. She will always have it. And I have my angel. She has made me into the best version of myself. She is my rock. She is my happy place. She is my daughter. And I am so proud of what she has done for so many people. She has made better mothers, better fathers, better givers, bigger hugs, bigger hearts, and more love than anyone could hope for. We love you with everything we have, Claire.
There is truly No Foot Too Small, that it cannot leave an imprint on this world. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for letting us share our story.
**Special thanks to Blake and Stevee Tiernan for sharing their story of their sweet baby Claire. The Tiernan family was 2015’s Feature Family for the 2nd Annual No Foot Too Small Benefit. This event was created to honor babies whose lives have been lost too soon and is also a fundraiser for the March of Dimes. If you are a family who has lost a pregnancy, infant, or child, or simply would like more information on how to support this event, you may send an email to [email protected].