Thursday, October 05, 2006

Kaitlyn's 1st birthday is very bittersweet

My Dearest Kaitlyn,

Today is October 4, 2006. Just one year ago you and your sister came into this world, whether we were ready or not. The emotions I feel about this day are so strong, I find it hard to put them into words – and I’m not usually one that is in a loss for words.

I love you with all of my heart and soul. I’m sorry your first year of life has been so hard, but you are doing so incredibly well, your strong spirit always shines through, even if you rarely show it with a smile. You are such a good, well-mannered baby, you hardly ever fuss or cry, only to show us that you need something and you are so easily consoled. As I look down at you sleeping on the evening of your birthday, I am so amazed to think of how far you’ve come these past 12 months. You are sitting up on your own, and rolling all over the place to get things that you want, I think you are almost 16 pounds, that’s a far cry from the 1 pound 10 ounces that you weighed when you were born. You are truly my miracle child and you have a very special guardian angel sister who looks over you at all times.

I love you my Dear Miss Kaite with all of my heart!!! Love, your mom

October 4th is very bittersweet for me.

Most mother’s are so excited for their child’s first birthday, it means less sleepless nights, eating grown-up food, walking, giggling, smiling 1 year old. Play-dates with other 1 year olds. An occasional pediatrician visit. They can look back on their babies birth with joy and wonder about the amazingness of bringing new life into this world.

Everyone says to me, oh, but why do you call this day “bittersweet” you should be joyous as it’s Kaitlyn’s birthday and she's come so far. I think those are mom’s who’ve had a “normal” experience of their child’s actual birthday – mine was anything but. Now I don’t say this out of jealousy or trying to be mean or anything, it’s just the fact, that October 4th 2005 was not a joyous day.

It is a day that I tried with all my might to fight and postpone just a little bit longer. I can so strongly remember how I kept saying to myself, no, no, no, babies, just stay inside of me a bit longer. It’s too soon, you are not ready to come into this world. All night on October 3rd as they filled me full of shots to get my labor to stop I kept repeating this over and over. But an infection had started grabbing hold, my fever started raising, so my body had another thing to say about their arrival – they were coming whether we were ready or not.

I remember about 5 in the morning, waiting for Brian to come (he was working a fireman shift that day prior) and I asked the nurse what the date was, knowing that this would be my daughters’ birthdates. October 4th she replied. October 4th.

Once Brian got there he looked as scared as I felt. They wheeled me out of my room into surgery. I threw up on the way the operating room from some horrible thing they made me drink. Everything seems so surreal, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. They administered the spinal block with Brian out of the room. He took this self-portrait while he was waiting. I was so scared. There were so many other people in the room, my OB doc, another OB doc, L&D nurses, NICU docs, NICU Delivery nurses, I knew 1 NICU doc already, the other introduced themselves to me. I eventually became very close with both of these doctors and the NICU delivery nurses in our months at the NICU.

Corinne was born first at 7:30 in the morning. We still hadn’t decided which name to name which daughter. Brian felt strongly that Corinne needed all the strength she could get, so she was named after our mothers’ Corinne Margaret. Kaitlyn Elizabeth was born just a minute later. Brian took pictures of the delivery (poor Corinne with no amniotic fluid whatsoever) and pictures of the NICU team trying to save both of them. We never were able to hear that newborn cry that parents long for.

After I was wheeled into recovery, about an hour later I believe, one of our NICU docs (Dr K) came into tell us that Corinne wasn’t doing well, that her lungs just never developed enough without fluid and that she wasn’t going to make it. I hardly remember this moment, it all seems like a fog to me. He asked if we wanted to hold her. We of course said we did.

I was wheeled on my gurney into the NICU. There, lying side-by-side were my 2 daughter’s isolettes. Corinne on the right, Kaitlyn on the left. I hardly acknowledged how small they were at the time. They wheeled my bed up to Corinne’s bed. They slowly unhooked her equipment, pulled her ventilator out and handed her to me. Tears rolled down my face, as they still do now as I write this. She was absolutely perfect, incredibly tiny, but absolutely perfect. She held my finger in her hand. I think I was in a fog at the time, in complete and utter shock that this was happening; my first born daughter was dying in my arms. I laid in bed for 10 weeks doing everything I could to save her, but I couldn’t do enough. Before they were born one doctor told us that if we were ok with our PROM princess passing that we should continue the pregnancy. He said that he’s had PROM babies surprise everyone and survive as well as other’s who haven’t made it. We both said, sure that’s no problem. I NEVER knew how hard it was going to be. To have your child die in your arms is about the worst, most raw experience I hope to ever have in my lifetime.

After Corinne had passed they put her in Kaitlyn’s isolette and took a few pictures with the two of them together. Kaitlyn held Corinne’s hand. Our camera ran out of battery (we hadn’t planned on delivery that day) That picture with a Polaroid camera is probably the most precious picture I have and I have to thank my NICU nurse angels, Kerry and Rose for it.

I was then brought into a private regular post maternal recovery room, where I was tortured with babies crying all around me as their mother’s learned to breast feed. They had a sign on my door that said do not enter without nurses approval. The hospital gives you big plastic bins to put in all of your babies gifts/diapers etc. when you go home, and I received 2 – with twins written on them. When I first was brought into the room, an aide, who delivered the 2 bins said “twins, wow how wonderful!” It felt like a kick in the stomach. The nurse scooted her right out of there pronto. I was in shock and disbelief.

I was taught how to breast pump. I couldn’t do it that first day on the 4th. I told the nurses (and Brian) that I just wasn’t up to it that day, and I would try on the 5th. My fever started really spiking on the 5th (and yes I started pumping). Brian would go to the NICU to check in and get Doctor updates on Kaitlyn. I couldn’t believe that I was in a room down the hall and couldn’t even see my surviving daughter. This was all so surreal. My room was non-stop with visitors but not the “norm” for the birth of a baby (social worker explaining how to make funeral arrangements, another social worker brining us a memory box – that held a lock of Corinne’s hair, her footprints, her id bands, lactation consultant –teaching me how to use the breast pump, then many doctors to check on me, drawing labs, brining ice packs, especially as my fever started really spiking – it eventually hit 105. I was sick, really sick. My heart was also sick from grief.

I wanted to hold both my babes in my arms, to hear them cry, to let them nuzzle and learn to breast feed. Instead I was packed in ice and got to hear updates from Brian as he checking in on Kaitlyn’s progress. It was determined in the first few days that Kaitlyn was going to need heart surgery to close her PDA valve in her heart – this surgery (we were told) could cause damage to vocal chords and that could have a “quiet” voice. I was still too sick to go see her before her surgery. Brian had to be there alone as I lay in my bed with a horribly high fever.

When I improved a bit and was finally able to go see Kaitlyn again (4 days later) the first thing I did was look to the spot where Corinne’s isolette was – the space was still empty right next to Kaitlyn. I immediately started crying, and then I finally “saw” Kaitlyn – my gosh, she was so tiny, had so many wires on her, looked so fragile, the tears didn’t stop rolling. Brian said I had to be strong for her, she could feel my energy – it was so hard, all I kept doing was looking to where Corinne was supposed to still be. The NICU doc who delivered the news about Corinne came and spoke to us, most of it all went over my heard, I leaned on Brian to understand and explain to me. How could this be happening?

I know I’m not supposed to feel regret, but fateful thoughts of that amnio on 7/26 sure filled my mind. How different my life would be, both of my daughters would be here with me and would still be in my belly.

At night in my room I could hear other mom’s babies crying nearby as they learned to breast feed. This couldn’t really be happening to me. Eventually I had to wait 4 long weeks to finally hold my beautiful daughter Kaitlyn – 4 long tortuous weeks. We saw proud parents take their babies home with them day after day after day after week after week after month after month after month. Not us. Kaitlyn was still in the NICU. She stayed for 4 months (127 days).

October 4th 2005 wasn’t a good day.

So, today, October 4th 2006. It’s a day I’ve actually dreaded in a way, Everyone tells me that I should feel joyous and celebratory of how far Kaitlyn has come these last 12 months. I do, she’s my miracle little girl and she’s a special girl to have her own guardian angel over her watching out for her. But, it’s still so hard for me. I miss her sister incredibly so.

I sang happy birthday to Kaitlyn twice, once today with just Brian and myself, and on Sunday at her party with all of our friends and family. Both times I couldn’t get the song out. I started weeping as I cried for all that I felt: The loss of Corinne, all of Kaitlyn’s health issues that she’s been through and is still going through and feeling blessed for how far she’s come and how absolutely amazing she is. For Sunday’s birthday cake, they bakery was supposed to put angel wings on one corner of the cake (they forgot to do so) but I put a single white candle in the corner of the cake for Corinne, as well as Kaitlyn’s birthday candle. For today, their actual birthday, I ordered a small cake for just us. On this cake I had both of their names written: HAPPY BIRTHDAY KAITLYN AND CORINNE. We had 2 candles on the cake. It was very hard for me to get the happy birthday song out without my voice cracking. I was trying so hard to be strong and feel joyous for my daughter Kaitlyn. Next year will be easier.

I know that birthday’s from here on out will not be as difficult as this one, I’ll better be able to accept the “celebration” of Kaitlyn’s birth and not have it be so bittersweet I won’t constantly be saying, “wow, 12 months ago I was….” I think only other preemie moms can truly understand this. I’m sorry if I seem so down on my child’s birthday – I’m sorry if you can’t understand this feeling, and know that as Kaitlyn starts to know her birthday in the future it will be a joyful celebration day for her. We will find another day and way to celebrate Corinne’s passing.

I’ll post pictures soon of her party – which was fabulous. And of her going to town on her birthday cake (no eating it of course, but she enjoyed making a mess of the frosting!).

Here's the link to the slide show of their birth:
Link to K and C's birthday


Kim said...

Oh, Liz, I am sorry that it was such a hard day for you. But know that no one is passing judgment on you for not being joyous--we have read about (and felt) your pain over the last year (more than that, even). You agony at losing Corinne is palpable through your words. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we are so amazed by your strength and grace. Kaitlyn is so lucky to have such a strong female role model and mother. I do hope that this day gets a little easier each year.

stephasteph said...

It will get easier each year. A little bit at a time. A little more each year. This year was 3 years for my loss but I still cried and was still sad. But not AS sad. I feel my daughter around me everyday. I am so happy that Kaitlyn has done so well. It really is truly a little miracle.

Kristin said...

I know that this is difficult and something that I can't completely comprehend despite the tears I shed with you.. but remember that Corinne saved her sister which is truly a blessing and a miracle. You will heal, not completely, but each passing year will become just that much easier.

One of my favourite poems..

"Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad."
Christina Rossetti, 1862

lots of hugs from Kristin and Presleigh

Shannon said...

The first year after we lost our son was the worst for us. I'm so sorry that you are still in so much pain but I am also amazed at your strength. You are a beautiful mama to both of your girls. Even with Darsie, who didn't lose a sibling, her first birthday was very tough.

Anonymous said...

Liz: I thought of your girls early this week, knowing this was their birthday week. I read your blog entry this morning and cried and cried and cried. Thank you for writing your thoughts and emotions about Oct 4. As a mother, you have such beautiful expressions of your love for your girls.

Maria Kallmeyer

Kristin said...

Happy Birthday to Kaitlyn! After reading your thoughts and feelings of the day, my heart aches for you. You have been through so much as a family and especially as a mom. You are so strong and you are such a wonderful mother. I pray that coping with the gief of losing Corinne will become easier for you. We as mom's of preemies grieve many of the losses due to early delivery, but to lose a child is one only those who have experienced it can understand in full. May tomorrow be a brighter day!

Hechung said...

I can't imagine how hard it was to lose Corinne and at the same time be so strong for Kaitlyn. Thank you for being so honest and sharing your feelings with us. Your blog has been such a source of comfort and hope. You are so right though that only other preemie moms can understand that bittersweet feeling. You are so happy at how far your little has come yet you still feel regret at having delivered too early.

Happy Happy Birthday to both of your precious girls! I can't wait to see the pics. :)

michelle flannagan said...

Liz- it's ok not to feel joy as you mark this day. Nothing I could say would be adequate enough to say how I feel, reading your posts.

Miss Kaitlyn is very fortunate to have you as her Mom, her strength in getting through this difficult year is coming from you, each time you hold and kiss her, each time you read to her, each time you clean up another vomit, or attach another feed, that strength is felt, and she gets stronger and stronger.
Happy Birthday to her and Corrine up there in heaven, smiling down on all of you. Love, Michelle

Shima said...

Dearest Liz

I can't stop my tears as I read your words and I can't finish viewing the pic. I"m feeling what you felt and my heart goes with you. I'e also lost my boy at 25 weeks and I have another 29 weeker who is now 9 mth actual. I love reading your blog coz my precious boy is so much like Ms K. Be strong, our baby need us.

miraclebaby said...

I can only imagine the feelings that must go along with that day. How beautiful that you had a cake made for her.... we did the same for Kaily Beth. Big hugs and lots of prayers.

Michelle and Jim said...

Your story is so much like mine, yet so much more tragic with your loss of Corinne. Please know that there are some of us out here who know your story in our own hearts and understand every word you've said. Let's hope that next year will be easier for us.

Jill said...

I am in tears right now. I feel your pain all too well. You are an amazing mother and Kaitlyn couldn't have been born into a better family.

I can't wait to see pictures!!!!

sarah Furlough said...

Dear Liz:
Reading your post brought me to tears. I have often wondered how I would feel when Logan's first birthday came. I have three more months before we get there.

I know I will remember how we tried to save Cooper, by getting a few more precious days. I will never forget how I felt in those five days in between, wondering if my sweet Logan would make it.

My heart breaks for you, for having to go through this past year. I know each new milestone that Kaitlyn meets, you think of Corrine. I know, because everytime I celebrate Cooper, I am reminded that Logan isn't here to do the same thing.

You have given me strength and inspiration that though your heart is breaking, you find joy in your precious baby girl. Kaitlyn is a miracle in every sense of the word.

Congratulations to you on being such a wonderful mother. Happy Birthday to both of your sweet girls.

Jill & Terry said...

Wow, all I can say is Wow. You are an incredibly strong family. I have never seen the slide show, that was unbelievable. I never really realized all you had gone through. God bless your family. And Happy Birthday Kaitlyn your sister will always be with you in your heart!!!!! Love The Hoffmans Zachs parents

Jodi from PROM said...

Thinking of you and Kaitlyn on your bittersweet day, and remembering sweet Corrine.


Anonymous said...


Don't feel at all bad. A micro-preemie's birthday is a very bad day. We had to tell our family members that it would NOT be celebrated. Some could not
understand, but they have not walked in our shoes. Wishing you and your dear little Kaitlyn the best.