Infant loss affects the tiniest family members

Loss affects entire families every day, in many different ways. In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day tomorrow, here is the heartfelt story of a family who lost their precious daughter Madeline, due to complications from prematurity.

We welcome guest blogger Heather as she shares the ripple effects of losing Maddie, as seen through the eyes of one of her children.

Maddie“Mom, we were counting our family members in school today.” The Kindergarteners have been doing a lot of exercises where they “find numbers” in the world, like counting steps, trees, etc.

“That’s fun. Do any of your classmates come from big families?”

“Yep! I didn’t know exactly how many to count. There’s four of us, but five if you count Rigby (our sweet dog). Six if Maddie hadn’t died.”

– – –

In our house, we don’t make a big deal about Madeline. We talk about her when she comes up naturally, which means sometimes we discuss her multiple times a day, and sometimes we’ll go several days without mentioning her.

I, however, say her name every day, even if it’s just to myself. I wonder what she’d be like, who her friends would be, which classroom she’d be in. I think about her without even thinking about it. Missing her has become one of my body’s automatic functions, like breathing.

Protecting myself has become automatic, too. I rarely bring her up with strangers anymore. I know many loss moms never hesitate to mention all of their children when given the chance, but I don’t. Basic questions like, “Oh, do you have other kids?” don’t hurt me the way they used to. I don’t feel like I am denying her when I don’t mention her. Instead, I am saving myself the agony of having to answer additional questions, having to relive it, having to watch a person I don’t know process this complicated answer to their simple question. I know about her, the people who love us know about her, and our future friends will one day know about her, too.

Of course, the people who surround Annabel at school every day aren’t strangers, not anymore. But this is her domain, so I follow her lead. Her drawings are of the four of us and Rigby. She said that one time she mentioned she had an older sister, but her friends were confused. I explained to her why they might be confused, and I reminded her that she only has to say what she is comfortable with – it’s okay to talk about her sister, and it’s okay not to.

“I told my teacher four or five or six, and I counted everyone for her.”

“…and what did she say?”

“She said all of my answers were right!”


Maddie’s story

After 28 weeks and 6 days of an extremely rocky gestation, Madeline Alice was born on November 11, 2007. She weighed three pounds one ounce, and was 15 3/4 inches long. Because she was over 11 weeks premature, she was rushed to a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She spent 68 long days there until the wonderful January afternoon we brought her home.

Maddie’s prematurity left her lungs scarred, but her amazing happiness remained unscathed. She lit up the lives of everyone she met (and countless more she didn’t) with her bright eyes, infectious laugh, and gigantic grin.

On April 6th, Maddie came down with a severe respiratory infection. She left the world suddenly and unexpectedly April 7, 2009.

We miss her with every fiber of our being.

News Moms Need thanks Heather for giving us a glimpse into how deeply the effects of loss are felt, and how it affects every family member for a lifetime. You can read more about Heather and her family here.

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One Response to “Infant loss affects the tiniest family members”

  1. Elizabeth Lipford Says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! Our family lost our first son six days after he was born to prematurety. He was born at 26 weeks and not a day or hour goes by that I don’t think of him, or how his life would be. I have my second son Thomas Jacob (T.J.) who is eleven now and everyday I’m thankful for him but we never forget “Jacob” as part of our family! When questions arise at school for TJ he always makes a point to never forget him. So thank you for encouraging others to never forget they are always with us and never forgotten!

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