Always in our thoughts

Yesterday came and went without mention of our daughter’s birthday. She would have been 32 years old. I know I remembered and I know the husband remembered. It’s something you don’t forget. Even if you could forget, that’s not what you’d wish. Remembering is the only thing that keeps her alive in our hearts.

I was about 28-weeks along in my pregnancy and on bed rest after being diagnosed with preeclampsia.  It was Jan. 20, 1981 and my due date was March 25. I was so bored and couldn’t imagine resting for the next nine weeks.

Watching television was not a cure for boredom as the only thing being broadcast was news of the American hostages being freed from Iran and the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. I was thankful for the release of the hostages, and the inauguration was interesting, but only for an hour or two.

I noticed some lint on the carpet and decided I could vacuum without exerting too much energy. I figured I could even sit down and just move the sweeper back and forth.

Once I was on my feet, I felt a little funny. I sat back down. I can’t really describe what I was feeling, except that something was off. I went into “mommy-mode” and sat still until the husband came home from work. I asked him to take my blood pressure.

“170 over 120,” he said calmly.

“That can’t be right,” I said. “Take it again.”

He did, but the numbers were the same.

“You must be doing something wrong,” I insisted. “Call the fire department and have them send someone to take it.”

This request was granted, but this must have been hard for the husband. He was a volunteer firefighter and had passed his EMT class. He knew how to take someone’s blood pressure.

Charlie from the fire department arrived and took my blood pressure. Still 170 over 120.

We called the doctor and he said to come right in and be prepared to stay until the baby was born.

I was given magnesium sulfate, which gave me a horrendous headache, but did not lower the blood pressure. My doctor transferred me to a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit. My blood pressure came down, but was still in the danger zone. I was stabilized until Jan. 29, when I had a seizure.

I now had eclampsia. According to, eclampsia is “a very serious complication of preeclampsia characterized by one or more seizures during pregnancy or in the post-partum period. In the developed world, eclampsia is rare and usually treatable if appropriate intervention is promptly sought. Left untreated, eclamptic seizures can result in coma, brain damage, and possibly maternal or infant death.” Fortunately, I wasn’t aware of what was happening or how dangerous the condition was for my baby.

I had an emergency cesarean section and our beautiful little girl was born 8 weeks early weighing three pounds, eight ounces. Rachael Suzanne was tiny, but perfect in our eyes.

Her little lungs were another matter. Her lungs collapsed a week later and on Feb. 8, we chose to remove her from anything that artificially kept her breathing. The first time we were allowed to hold her, she died in our arms.

At the time I thought I’d lose my mind, and I never thought I’d be alright with the grief. Surprisingly, I didn’t lose my mind and the grief is just ingrained in who I am. It’s like a scar, only it’s on the inside.

We recently learned that friends of ours lost their nine day old granddaughter. The husband and I sobbed in each others arms as if the loss were our own. Yes, the scar is on the inside, but it’s very close the surface.