By Kristina Smith
I didn’t want her to stop. The doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists in the ER – they all worked hard, so hard. They pumped her chest for 30 minutes, gave her 11 shots of epinephrine, breathed for her with a bag.
“Just breathe baby. Prove them wrong. BREATHE.”
I used to think I had a lot of life-changing moments to reflect on, to remember. Not all of them were good – but not all of them were bad. Until this moment – this soulless, breathless, lifeless moment. I swear my own heart stopped. It wasn’t just life-changing, this moment. It was the only moment in my life that didn’t have words to describe how it changes everything.
There truly are no words to describe child loss.
It’s not the picture you dream of as a parent of an 88-day-old infant – or any age child for that matter. Lifeless, on a gurney in the sterile, bright ER room with doctors and nurses rushing about, trying desperately to resuscitate her.
In the normal world, you stress about getting enough sleep, trying to keep up with laundry and diapers and cleaning bottles. You stress about whether she is sleeping through the night at the right age, or smiling at the right benchmark. Maybe your biggest concern is she isn’t doing enough tummy time so she has a slight flat-head that needs to be corrected by a helmet (that was mommy guilt with my #3).
Although Morgan was only 88 days old when she died, she was far from the “normal” you would anticipate as a parent. She was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD) called Truncus Arteriosus and had a micro deletion of her chromosome 22 (this is called DiGeorge Syndrome).
Morgan, as a brand new 4-day-old baby, had open heart surgery. She recovered beautifully – at least we thought. Then this. This horrible, awful, disaster of a morning where she unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest at home.
It’s been 16 months since this morning, October 9th, 2014. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what she would be like, or question what happened to her that morning. What did happen? No one will ever know. This is like rubbing salt in the wound. As a parent of a newborn, your one job is to keep your children safe, fed, clean and (really) alive.
So it’s reasonable, then, to feel like a failure, right? Yes. And I do. Maybe that is why I try to overcompensate in other areas of my life. I work too hard. I stress too much. And I want so terribly bad to be perfect – but since I already know that I am not, I just get depressed. I give up. I think of all the “what-if’s”. What if…?
What if the world kept turning despite witnessing a child, who you brought into this world, leave in almost an instant while in your arms?
What if connecting with other bereaved parents made you only that much more humble in your grief – and knowing that a passion to help people BECAUSE of grief would be sparked?
What if watching your other small children grieve their baby sister in their own, tender way was enough to bring you to your knees and pray to God to please bring comfort to them despite you needing His love?
If I have learned anything in my journey, so far, with grief and losing a child is that grief does not go away with time. It matures. While Morgan has been gone for a mere 16 months, I have learned that I am a changed woman because of this tiny little baby whom I gave a piece of my heart to. She not only showed me the dark side of life – the side child loss brings you to… but she also shared with me that, through grief, I could love and appreciate so much deeper than I could ever imagine. I am humbled.
Despite this new epiphany, I still do struggle…a lot. With depression, with sadness, with anger and with all of the what-if’s. I know this will change with time – for better or for worse. But for the sake of Morgan and my other children and my husband, I want so bad to choose the better. I pray every day for the strength and wisdom to guide me along this journey.
I just need to remember to breathe.
Kristina Smith is wife to Jeff, mother to Gavin (16) Taylor (7) Brooklyn (3) Morgan (angel) and Danielle (due March 16, 2016). She is a full-time corporate finance executive and proud co-founder of the 335 Heart Foundation. Kristina and family are in process of overcoming the loss of their 4th child, Morgan Avery, and are committed to sharing her story and helping others through the non-profit organization they set up in her memory. Kristina travels a lot as part of her ‘day job,’ however, she still loves to do it. Her new-found favorite travel experience is camping with the family in their travel trailer.