Mine isn’t the typical birth story with contractions, an uncomfortable ride to the hospital and an epidural to take the pain away. But rather, a story of 2 sisters and 5 births, many happy days and many sad ones. A story about loss and blessings, of guilt and acceptance.
In the beginning of May 2011 I received a phone call from my sister. She told me that she was pregnant! I was beyond happy for her and her husband. My sister is ten years older than me and we started dating our husbands around the same time. She married and waited a couple years to have kids. I dated my husband for four years before we were married. Being nine years apart we weren’t that close; I was the youngest of four and she was the oldest. I was twenty-two at the time and she was thirty-one.
Later on that month I was astonished when I found out that I was pregnant. I realized I had finished a whole carton or Sherbet Ice Cream and was still hungry. I thought to myself, did I really just eat all of that? Something’s not quite right. So I took a pregnancy test, and sure enough I was 5 weeks pregnant. I remember being so surprised, freaking out and calling my four best friends. I was crying, and I was scared. Yes, I had a good job and I was living on my own but I was nowhere near ready for that phase in my life. Michael and I were taking a break from our relationship. He called me every day wanting to get back together but I wasn’t sure what I wanted. If I didn’t know what I wanted in a relationship how could I raise a child? I called my sister the next day and asked her to come over. She rang my doorbell and when I answered she saw that I had been crying. She looked at me with concern and said, “Are you pregnant”? She knew? She knew. How did she know? Was she going to be mad at me for stealing her excitement?
I was so scared of what she might say. She interrupted my thoughts by hugging me and telling me it would all be okay. That she was there for me and she loved me so much. That moment I really understood the sisterly bond and the sisterly love she had for me. A few weeks later I made a doctors appointment with her OBGYN, Dr. Christine Jordan of Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner, Louisiana. She came with me and stayed in the room while the doctor observed me and told me, “Yep, you are definitely pregnant. Your due date is January 22, 2012.” My sister had previously seen her and was told her expected due date was December 28th, 2011. We would be having babies three weeks apart.
I was so scared in that doctor’s office, I cried and said how can this be? My sister held my hand and hugged me and told me we were going to get through this together that she was excited for us to have babies together. I had always been around kids, I was known in my neighborhood as the great and trustworthy sitter. I babysat kids for weekends at a time, and accompanied families on vacations to watch their kids. Yes, I could take care of kids and knew enough about them, but to have your own is another thing entirely.
My sister’s pregnancy was a breeze; she had no complications and was never sick. I on the other hand had low progesterone levels and had to be put on medicine so I wouldn’t miscarry. I was very sick for the first 12 weeks and after that I would still get sick and throw up every few days.
On December 22, 2011, I was getting ready for my annual Christmas party with my best friends. I saw that I had a missed call from my Aunt. I called her back and she said “Kaci, can I come by real quick?” I thought it was odd but replied “Sure, no problem”. When she arrived I opened the door and saw she had been crying. My heart sank. She began to tell me that my sister had gone for her 39-week appointment and they couldn’t hear a heartbeat, and that they were inducing her as we speak. I felt sick to my stomach. My best friend drove me to the hospital. When I got there I saw my family members waiting around. After the baby was delivered my immediate family had a chance to hold her. I held my still niece in my arms. How could this be? How could this happen to my sister and brother-in-law? They are married, Michael and I weren’t. Why would God take their baby away from them? Why not mine? At that point, my sister was acting strong in front of everyone although she must have been dying inside. We later found out it was the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck that killed her.
I cried that night all night long and every night and morning until the day of January 20th when I was scheduled for a C-section. My baby was in a good position, and Dr. Jordan could feel his head, but my body wasn’t progressing. We monitored my dilation and effacement to see if my body was getting ready for labor; my doctor was especially vigilant after what had happened to my sister. It became evident that I was not progressing, so my doctor wanted to play things safe and decided it was necessary to do a Cesarean. During the C-section, Michael was ready with the camera and I kept waiting and waiting to hear my baby cry. Finally at 2:07pm I delivered a beautiful healthy baby boy named Madden. I remember vividly Dr. Jordan telling me, “Kaci, it was the umbilical cord that was keeping him from coming down”. I wanted to throw up, I was so sick, I didn’t ask how the cord was wrapped around or if it was life-threatening to him.
My sister and brother-in-law came and congratulated me, as soon as I saw them my stomach turned, how are they here? How can they even look at me? I felt ashamed and guilty for having a healthy baby. The day of my niece’s funeral was the worst day of my life. I was big and pregnant while my sister was saying goodbye to her baby. I went through a very dark time, hating and feeling disgusted with myself.
After Madden’s birth, my sister never came around and I understood. The few times she was around I felt so horrible that I had a baby and she did not. They would be the same age and meeting the same milestones. It should be both babies playing on my mom’s carpet while we all laughed and clapped for them. It wasn’t. It was just my baby. Michael and I prayed for my sister often; we prayed that she would deliver a baby safely.
In August 2012 we went to Houston to visit my brother, as we walked in I saw my sister in the living room. She started playing with Madden and reading him books. This was the first time she had ever done this. In my heart I felt God telling me “I am taking care of your sister, Kaci. Stop worrying”. I looked at her and for the first time I saw hope. And even more, I heard a whisper in my heart that maybe there was a baby on the way. Sure enough a month later she announced her pregnancy. Another girl. Her pregnancy was fine, she was a nervous wreck I’m sure, but seemed to be excited. She was scheduled to be induced on her 39th week mark due to the complications of her previous pregnancy. During the induction everything seemed to be going well, until suddenly everything changed. Hours into labor she had a placental abruption. She was given a blood transfusion and had an emergency C-section. After the chaos and scare her baby girl was born healthy and my sister was fine.
My niece and Madden are one year and two months apart. They love each other so much and have such a special bond. When my son was about to turn two we wanted to try to have another baby. Being that Madden was beyond a surprise for us we thought it would be easy to get pregnant the second time. We tried for 12 months. 12 months of negative pregnancy tests and disappointment. During that time my sister and her husband were trying for a second child as well. One night while lying in bed singing to Madden I suddenly felt so ill. I instantly knew I was pregnant. I took a test and sure enough I was.
Again, I was very sick throughout the pregnancy and had to be on hormones just as I was for Madden. This time however, the doctor told me that because my hormones were so low there was a chance the pills might not be enough to keep my baby alive. I cried and cried and every time I went to the bathroom I would check to see if I was bleeding. I thought well, maybe this is what I deserve for having a healthy baby while my sister lost her first born. A month later my sister found out she was pregnant. Again, we would be having our babies just three weeks apart. This time we were both having girls. Throughout my pregnancy I was terrified I would lose my baby. My mind was so screwed up and I continued to blame myself for my niece’s death.
But I was wrong. This time we were blessed to deliver healthy baby girls three weeks apart. My daughter was born August 3rd and my sister’s second girl was born August 25th.
Seeing our children play and bond has been the greatest gift. It allows the guilt that I held in my heart for so long to finally slip away a little here and there. I hope that my story can comfort someone going through this same thing. After what happened with my sister’s baby, I began to run into and meet people that have delivered healthy babies while their best friend, cousin, sister or co-worker lost theirs. I began to realize that all the guilt I felt for so many years was not good for me and that it wasn’t my fault. I had nothing to do with what happened to her. Just because our circumstances were different does not mean that I was to blame. I felt alone; I felt no one knew what I was dealing with. At times I even felt guilty for feeling sad while I should be enjoying my new baby. But why should I enjoy my baby when my sister had lost hers?
Little by little I’ve come back to myself, and now I look into our children’s eyes and think wow; God has used what was so tragic to make something so beautiful. I will never understand why God allows a baby to be taken from their mother. But what I do know is that God is taking care of us. He took care of my sister and I know God is going to do amazing things in our children’s lives.
Nothing will ever bring my baby niece back, including my feelings of guilt and shame. My support and prayers did more for my sister than my pain ever could. Four years after that horrible day I am starting to forgive and love myself. So if you’re going through this or something similar just knows there is hope, and it is not your fault. You have a duty to be the best mommy you can be to YOUR baby. I encourage you to enjoy every moment of life because our children and our lives are never guaranteed.