Today is apparently “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day” and being new to this whole world of babies dying I feel kind of guilty for almost missing it. But at least I’m catching the tail-end of it. I’m going to write the short version of Angelo’s story, but I have to warn you that it’s still pretty long.
Kevin and I got pregnant with our second son in September 2007. My pregnancy felt completely normal, i.e. overwhelming nausea, depression, and a general distaste for life. But I knew it was all for a good cause–we’d have a baby in nine months! I never thought anything different.
At our 20 week ultrasound the OB noticed something in the baby’s stomach that told her the baby might have Down’s Syndrome. We spent the weekend first mourning and then coming to peace with this idea. At the second ultrasound, after an agonizing two hours of waiting, the doctor returned. “Good news!” she told us. “The baby’s stomach looks perfectly normal!” It was a pretty cruel way to transition to the news that our baby also had six fingers and six toes, a heart defect, and mostly likely a fatal condition called Trisomy 13. I was racked with sobs through the entire amniocentesis, which ultimately confirmed what the doctor had suspected. While it was hard news to receive, I thanked God every day of my pregnancy that the OB sent us for a second ultrasound because many cases of T13 go undiagnosed and the parents are completely snowed the day of delivery.
Through our research we learned that if the baby made it full term he would likely die of apnea during his first hours of life. A handful of babies survive beyond that each year. These babies need lots of resuscitation, cannot eat solid foods, are plagued with seizures, and are severely mentally handicapped. And that’s just a fraction of the list. I talked to some of these parents and they all said it was hard but none of them would have done anything differently.
We were presented with many choices. It wasn’t easy to decide to continue the pregnancy but Angelo had already beaten so many odds to have made it this far and I didn’t want to take away any opportunity from him. I want the best for Vincenzo, and I wanted the best for Angelo too. I watched this moving video, and it made my decision final.
We named the baby Angelo, or “messenger of God,” and David, which means “loved one.” And we did love him so much–we still do. We got pregnancy photos as a family and Vincenzo started incorporating Angelo in his nighttime prayers and even during playtime. We always reminded him that his baby brother would be different, and although once or twice he seemed upset, he accepted it once he processed it. I wrote a children’s book about Vincenzo’s experience and will post it once I get a chance.
Then one weekend in April, at 7.5 months pregnant, I could tell Angelo had stopped kicking. We went to the hospital and an ultrasound confirmed what I knew. While we were heartbroken we also felt a lot lighter that night as we were no longer anxious about what life would be like if Angelo did end up living, because while that would have been a beautiful thing, it was the unknown, and it was also terrifying. We spent our last night as a foursome at the park where we would later toss Angelo’s ashes. I got induced the next day.
Angelo was born on Wednesday, April 23, 2008, at 2AM. Family came in to hold his body and a Jennifer of Bella’s Images voluntarily took pictures of our precious hours with Angelo. My dad put it best when he held his grandson and said, “He looks like an angel.” We told our son how much we loved him and what a big deal he was in this world. We held him and held him and held him and the room was so full of happiness and love, much like it felt at Vincenzo’s birth, and then Kevin and I sent everyone away. We spent the last hour with Angelo’s body crying and just feeling everything we needed to feel without saying a word. Finally, we were ready for the nurse to take his body away. I kept reminding myself we weren’t sending Angelo away. He had said goodbye to his body two days ago and was just waiting for us to do the same.
A month later we had a beautiful memorial service for Angelo and tossed his ashes into the lake that we see from our house. It’s the lake we play at all summer, and every time I’m there I smile to think I am with both my sons. My family came over after the service and built a children’s garden at our house that is the most lovely spot on our entire property. Just last week we decorated Angelo’s magnolia tree with pumpkin lights. And we joked that he’s probably going to be a ghost for Halloween.
I look for Angelo in everything good that happens in my day (and a LOT of good happens every day). Thank you, little Angel Baby. You taught me so much about how to love someone I would never really know. You taught me patience and sacrifice. You showed me that I never have to worry about being lonely because my friends and family are 100% here for me (thank you, everyone, who knew exactly what to say and when to call and who still call up just to remember Angelo with me). And I will never be lonely because I will always have you in my heart. You have given me a reason to be hopeful my entire life because I will always have hope that we will meet in death.
Thank all of you for taking the time to walk a little in my shoes. I know beyond a doubt that I have the greatest friends and family in the world. If you know someone who has lost a baby, please give them a call this week to say you’ve been thinking of their angel. Don’t worry about me–you’ve read this post so I know you’ve thought about my angel today. Thank you.