April 15th, 2005.
It was the day my world came crumbling down around me.
It wasn't the day my daughter, Melissa, died.
It was the day Melissa and Ann Catherine almost died.
It was a day that put us on a collision course with June 1st, the day my daughters would be born 14 weeks premature and the day that we would ultimately lose Melissa.
Five years ago today, I was 19 weeks pregnant with twins. Chris and I had just found out the week before that we were having two girls!
Everything was going fine.
Then I started feeling like something just wasn't right. This had gone on for a couple of days but because I had never been pregnant, I didn't know what "right" was. Finally, when I woke up on April 15th I decided to call my doctor and just make sure everything was alright.
I had a condition called Incompetent Cervix, which means the cervix can't withstand the pressure of a developing pregnancy. Especially one with twins.
My cervix was opening and Melissa, who was on the bottom, was in danger of being born.
Luckily, my OB/GYN's office connects to Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children, so once they realized what was wrong, the nurse put me in a wheelchair and got me over to the Labor and Delivery floor. I remember shaking the entire way there and thinking, "This cannot be happening." I had never been so scared in my entire life.
I was admitted, and put into a hospital bed in a position called Trendelenburg. I laid in this position for eight hours. My doctor was hoping that gravity would pull Melissa's amniotic sac back in. I thought I was going to go mad. My sinuses were stopped up, I couldn't breath and I felt like the room was closing in around me. Add to this the fact that I was terrified my babies were going to die. The entire time, Chris sat by my bedside.
That evening, it became obvious that gravity wasn't helping us. My doctor came into our room and, if I live to be 100, I will never forget what he told us.
"I'm not going to lie to the two of you. This is as bad as it gets. We are going to have to do some heroic things tonight to save these babies."
He explained that my only option was a procedure called a rescue cerclage. It was our only hope, but it still wasn't a guarantee. He explained to us that there was a chance that they wouldn't be able to hold Melissa in during the procedure, and that if they had to deliver her, they would have to deliver Ann Catherine too.
And neither of them would survive.
I remember I had to sign a piece of paper saying I understood that my babies could die during the procedure. It was a sick feeling. I felt as if I was signing their lives away. And mine.
But it was the only chance we had.
Before they took me to the OR, I asked everyone to leave the room. And Chris and I held hands. And we sobbed. And we prayed. And I said,
"God, I KNOW you are still in the business of doing miracles. Please give us a miracle tonight and save our babies."
And he did.
When I woke up from the procedure, both of my babies were alive. We were so grateful.
But we knew we weren't out of the woods yet. I was informed that I would stay in that hospital bed until my babies arrived. (It was April and my due date was September). There were no guarantees that they would make even it to a point where they could survive outside the womb.
But it was a chance we were willing to take.
By now, you know the story. I delivered them on June 1st, at 26 weeks gestation. Melissa died shortly after birth and Ann Catherine went on to spend 68 days in the Neoantal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Huntsville Hospital.
I remember shortly after Melissa died, asking God why in the world he allowed her to survive on April 15th if he was just going to take her 7 weeks later. Why did he allow us to get our hopes up, only to take her anyway? After all, when he gave us our miracle on April 15th and allowed her to live, we thought there was NO WAY she was going to die.
Eventually, he showed me the answer. By allowing her to live until June 1st, he gave me 7 more weeks with her. Seven more weeks to carry her. Seven more weeks to hear her heart beat. Seven more weeks to feel her kick and move around. Seven more weeks for her to bond with Ann Catherine. Seven more weeks to see her perfect, precious body on ultrasound (they performed an ultrasound on me each morning while I was in the hospital on bedrest).
But it didn't make April 15th any easier.
So now you know why April 15th is such a hard day for me and Chris. Why we cry each year when we relive the fear, the sadness and the miracles of that day.
But now let me share with you - five years later - the rest of the story.
April 15th, 2010.
I pull into the parking lot of the school where Ann Catherine will attend kindergarten next year.
Where did five years go?
I hold her hand as we walk into her school for "K for a Day," an orientation to introduce her to her new school.
When Chris left the house this morning to take Lily Baker to school, he hugged Ann Catherine. And it lasted a little longer than usual. I cried as I watched them.
"Be strong for your mommy this morning," I heard him whisper in her ear. And I cried harder.
She thought he was talking about K for a Day.
But, I knew better.
Yet, he was right. She was strong for me on this day.
You see, five years to the day that she came so close to dying, here she was. Holding my hand and walking into school where she will take the giant leap from big girl to kindergartener.
Do you realize how wonderful God is?
He knows how painful, how horrible April 15th is for us. Each year, I go to bed dreading it.
But on this day, five years later, he allowed me to fully see his mercy and his love.
Ann Catherine is alive. She didn't die on April 15th. She could have. But she didn't. Because God had other plans for her life.
And not only did she survive, but she thrived. Five years to the day that I felt I was losing everything I had ever wanted, I am at Ann Catherine's side as she takes the next step of this amazing journey of life.
She almost died.
Instead, she's going to kindergarten.
Yes, I so badly wanted to have Melissa holding my other hand. If this was a perfect world I would have walked into that school today with two little girls, one on each side.
But I didn't.
And I could dwell on that.
But I can't. Because I have Ann Catherine. And she's alive.
It doesn't mean I don't mourn Melissa. Believe me, I have cried enough tears today to last until next year. But it means you find a way to grieve what you have lost, while remembering what you still have.
I thought to myself that even on April 15th, 2005, when our world came crashing down, God knew there would be redemption ahead. I can imagine He was in Heaven saying, "Amy, I know it hurts now, but if you can just hold on, I promise there will be better days ahead."
And there have been.
And today was one of them.
After we left the school, I told AC this was her day and we would do whatever we wanted. So we went to Toys R Us (so she could see if there is anything she wanted for her birthday), Chick-fil-A (and her daddy met us!) and then, her favorite, Peggy Ann Bakery to pick out a cookie.
As I tucked her in for her nap today, I just kept telling her how much I loved her.
She has no idea what this particular day means on the calendar for our family. But I do. And Chris does.
And we are so grateful to a God who loves us so much that he cushioned the blow of April 15th by allowing something so beautiful to happen, five years later.
(Amy and Ann Catherine, April 15th, 2010)