First You Cry… Twice (A Grandparent’s Grief)

Guest Post by Shauna

My Mother died when I was in college. I often said the biggest regret I had was that she never knew her beautiful grandchildren. So when we learned we would become grandparents we were thrilled! Living 1000 miles away didn’t keep me from attending to every detail of the pregnancy, I didn’t miss a single baby shower, I helped decorate the nursery and I would talk to my unborn grandchild every chance I got. I offered motherly advise to my daughter, but as a pediatric nurse practitioner she had already read up on the responsibilities of pregnancy – and she followed them religiously. And of course, she was well prepared for caring for a new baby. We enjoyed those months as mother and daughter/mother-to-be so much, just as we had enjoyed planning her wedding a few years before.

I distinctly remember the day that Lindsey hit the 28 week milestone. She said to me, ”we’re home free, I’ve taken care of 28 week babies and they do well these days.” With each week that went by we knew that our little one was gaining weight and would thrive in the outside world. At her 38 week appointment she said she had lost about 3 pounds but the doctor wasn’t concerned. It concerned me – but I trusted that her doctor knew best and I brushed it off.

Two days later I was on my way to await the delivery of this child when the unbelievable happened. It was about 7 am in the morning and I was less than 200 miles away when my cell phone rang. I cheerfully answered thinking Lindsey was wondering how close I was.

She was in tears and all she said was “Mom, there’s no heartbeat.” At first I had no idea what she was telling me.

They were at the doctor’s office as during the night Lindsey woke up with an ominous feeling that something was terribly wrong. As the hours went on, she realized that baby wasn’t moving and yet just the night before he had been so unusually active. It had been their wedding anniversary and she told me how they both sat on the sofa and giggled at how crazy active he was. Yet by morning nothing had changed so they called and went to the hospital to have it checked out – only to learn the worst. He was gone. Our beautiful child was gone along with all of the hopes and dreams for his future.

The rest of my drive was spent screaming at God – “How could you give us this baby and then take him away like this?” I was numb and kept asking why – why us? Why not the pregnant gal I saw in the grocery store that was a known crack addict? This couldn’t be happening to my daughter – the pain was unbearable. The hours went by in a blur and the next day we held our beautiful 6 pound grandson, Garrett. He was perfect and looked like he could wake at any moment – and oh how I prayed that he would. Surely there was a mistake.

In retrospect, I realize that grandparents mourn twice – once for the grandchild you so eagerly anticipate but perhaps even more so, you hurt like never before for your own child. My maternal instinct was to comfort and protect my daughter – but there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix it for her. It was the most horrible feeling in the world. I wanted to kiss away this boo-boo like I did when she was a child.

Since then, I’ve come to understand that stillbirth is the most terribly neglected subject in medicine today and yet the technology is available to prevent these needless tragedies. If only, Lindsey had been offered an ultrasound in the third trimester they would clearly have noted that Garrett was completely entangled in the umbilical cord and the outcome would have been entirely different.

Life moves on. Lindsey and Trent went on to have two more handsome sons and a beautiful daughter. All three had umbilical cord issues like their brother and are here today perhaps only because she was ‘entitled’ to high risk care because of Garrett. Is that fair? Why should anyone have to pay the price of the life of one child to be entitled to the very best medicine can offer? 30,000 little lives lost each year in the US is a crisis of untold proportions – why isn’t anyone talking about it?

About the author:
Shauna Libsack is a Mom to two and Nana to 3 grandsons on earth and 1 in heaven and 2 granddaughters. Together with her daughter and son-in-law she helped found the Star Legacy Foundation which is dedicated to stillbirth research, education & prevention. The foundation promotes their See Me, Feel Me awareness materials to encourage families to become their baby’s own advocate before he/she is born. Learn more at www.starlegacyfoundation.org


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    July 1, 2016
    July 1, 2016

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    1. Reply

      Jo Fortkamp

      September 8, 2017

      Thank you for your story. My family experienced a much similar event 17 months ago and tragically we are experiencing this again as we speak. The feelings of helplessness are unbearable and to see your, in my case, son go through this TWICE is unthinkable. We lost William at 31 weeks; my DIL is now 31 wks 6 days. I live 500 miles away and because this is my son and not my daughter, I don’t get much information and feel very alone. At least this time around, as you said, they are getting high risk medical care which helps but it’s a day to day, minute by minute existence for us all right now. Thanks for letting me vent and thanks for sharing.

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