This is the story of me and my wife Jennifer as we deal with the possibility of having a child with a rare birth defect. I began writing this story in September when we found out that our baby had the birth defect and just continued the story. My intention was to chronologically record the day-by-day progress after the baby was born and had surgery. The title started off being 1 in 5000, explained in later in the story. The title was then changed for obvious reasons. It’s fairly extensive and may take a while to read.
The alarm rang out on what I thought was just another ordinary Sunday morning, and just like every other Sunday morning the snooze button got a poundin’. After I used my elbow to nudge Jennifer a little, we began to stir. She usually gets her shower first to her enough time to get her hair and makeup done while I get my shower. So just like every other Sunday morning, she made the climb upstairs to the bathroom to begin the mundane process as I sat at the computer to check e-mail.
A million things were running through my mind on that mild Sunday morning of March 12, 2006. Jennifer said “Johnny, come up here.” I reluctantly climbed up the steps, rubbing the sleepers out of my eyes. She had secretly taken a pregnancy test and it revealed two lines! For those who don’t know, we’d have a new member of the family in about nine months or so. Jennifer was pregnant! Finally, after several years, literally, of trying! I was excited, but it was bitter sweet, kinda like drinking a glass of unsweet tea on a hot summer day, it’s refreshing but hard to swallow with no sugar. With two miscarriages in the past, one in 1999 and another in 2003, I really didn’t know what to think.
I was happy though. I went back down to the computer desk and sat just starring at the screen as I said a silent prayer. During the car ride to church, I found out that while Jennifer was in the shower and me at the desk, we both said the same prayer that morning, for a healthy baby with ten fingers and ten toes.
We’d been married nearly nine years now and had been hoping to hear the little pitter patter of little feet for a while, and personally, I didn’t know how I’d get through losing another baby, and I’m sure Jennifer felt the same way.
Right then, I didn’t want to tell anyone. I just didn’t want to get everyone’s hopes up on a giant wave only to be crashed into a rock if there was another miscarriage. Jennifer, on the other hand, wanted to shout it from the highest mountain, so we came to a compromise, or at least that’s what we’ll call it. We would tell our little secret so people could pray. Don’t get me wrong here, I was excited too, but I didn’t want to let people down, so to speak. During the last miscarriage in 2003, I didn’t tell anyone at my work to spare them the big let down. Most of them still didn’t know what we were going through.
We started by telling some special friends of ours. It’s sort of an “I’ve got a secret” game, with their children, we were told before anyone else, so they were the first ones we told. Followed by our parents, some more special friends, and many others, it seemed like everyone eventually found out somehow. People I didn’t even know approached me and told me they were praying for Jennifer, the baby and me. It was comforting and gave us peace to know. To all who have prayed, THANKS!! At the time we didn’t know how much we would need those prayers to sustain us.
I made a personal and spiritual decision - on Thursday of every week I’d fast. The Bible says pray without ceasing, and Jennifer and I would constantly say prayers and as we blessed our food we’d always pray for that healthy baby with ten fingers and ten toes. Fasting is the next spiritual level and that’s why I chose to do it. I’d go 24 hours without food; in some ways I think it was my idea of showing God that I meant business with those prayers about Jennifer and our unborn child.
After finding out a baby was on the way, I thought it would be a good idea to have a pastor friend pray for us. I work at a church, putting together their television program, and have become good friends with the people there. I called him and asked if Jennifer and I could come to his home for him and his wife to pray for us and our baby. We planned for a Thursday evening and they said we should stay for dinner. I asked Jennifer what I should do, “Do you think God will punish us if I say yes to dinner after I already committed Thursdays to fast?” I didn’t want anything to happen, so I graciously declined the offer and said we’d just make the trip for the prayer. I didn’t want to announce to anyone that I was fasting because I didn’t want to be looked at as some “holier than thou” fruitcake or be prideful for what I was doing.
We arrived at our pastor friend’s home and after the casual hellos they anointed Jennifer with oil and prayed. Now I can’t remember what specifically was said in that prayer, but we were appreciative of it! During that whole day, the pastor friend had a scripture running through his mind; Judges 13:3. (KJV) “And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.” Now this is a story about Sampson; he was the big strong guy in the Bible who didn’t cut his hair because that’s where his strength came from. Anyway, this was something we took to heart; we were both hoping for a boy. Of course we knew that there were only two options, so we had a 50 / 50 chance of a boy.
A week or so after finding out the good news, it started happening again, Jennifer began to bleed. After tell-tale signs of another miscarriage, the doctor sent Jennifer for her first sonogram, well the first with this pregnancy anyway. I didn’t go because I was afraid of what I’d hear, and besides, with all the other sonograms they wouldn’t let me in the room with my wife. I remember how angree I got during the first miscarriage when I was asked to leave the room. I was so hurt, I know some men might not care or even go to these things, but I wanted to be so much a part of my child’s life and still do. At the same time, with this sonogram, I was just expecting the same old miscarriage speech again; we heard it two times before. At this point I thought I knew what was going to happen. I didn’t want to go, so I found some work to do; something I will regret for the rest of my life.
Attempting to cope with another loss by going about my work to keep my mind off things, my cell phone rang and it was Jennifer calling me in tears. I felt like I knew what she was going to say. Boy, was I wrong. “They found a heartbeat!” she exclaimed. I didn’t know what to say, my eyes teared up then, just as they are now as I’m writing this. This was totally new; with numerous sonograms with both miscarriages there was never a heartbeat to be found. Before, even though it was several months into the pregnancy, the cells were not developing, but our luck had changed with this one!
I couldn’t believe I missed it. I told myself that I wasn’t going to miss anything else ever again! I met up with Jennifer at the hospital parking lot where she was going to visit her father and she showed me the print out of the sonograms. There it was in plain sight, the heartbeat of my baby, graphed in a wave for with up and down patterns. I scanned the picture in the computer, made a copy of the picture and put it on the dashboard of my car, where it remains today with other new, more up to date ones and a bunch of extras to give out. There were two reasons for this; one, to show my handy work, I finally got it right, and two, people were praying and this would be a point of contact, they could actually see what they were praying for and it would remind them.
The weeks went by, but I didn’t think forty weeks could go so slowly. I just wanted to hold my baby!
Jennifer’s birthday was in April, so as the good and loving husband that I am…I remembered to get her something. I was thinking about a ring, but it wasn’t the first time I’d gotten her a ring for her birthday. We had calculated the baby’s due date would be in November so the ring that I was thinking of would be more than just a ring, this one was more special, it was a birthstone of the baby. The stone was a honey color with a gold band. As she saw the wrapping paper and the small ‘jewelry’ type box she had an idea, but she really didn’t know what exactly it was until she delicately unwrapped the box and slowly opened it. Of course she was excited to get it, and I thought it was a good idea; we men don’t come by good ideas that often! Right guys?
We had our first doctors visit and it went well and we were given a due date of November 12th. Could I wait that long? I’d have to, as my grandfather used to say. Years earlier Jennifer and I made a decision to continue or a tradition. Well it may have not been a tradition, but we were going to make it one. Nearly 30 years before, when I was brought home from the same local hospital where our baby would be born, my parents and my only grandfather, my mother’s father, stopped at a locally owned, one of a kind restaurant in LaVale; it’s on the way home. I’m not sure why they stopped there just days after I was born, but they were still open after all these years in the same location. And it just so happened that I worked at the adjacent motel for about 4 ½ years during college. Jennifer and I agreed that we’d follow suit and do the same. At the same time, we’d ask others in the family to see who else wanted to go with us. It would be something that we could look back on and tell about. We just thought it would be a neat idea.
The doctor’s visit in May was fairly routine, with one exception. We finally got to meet the actual doctor who would deliver Jenna. The first visit to the office we saw the midwife, but this time it was the actual doctor. She was the most down-to-earth doctor I’d ever met. Certainly not what I imagined a doctor being, because the first doctor Jennifer had, during her two miscarriages, was an older man, someone who you’d think looked like a doctor. But when he retired, Jennifer found this doctor, by personal referral from a close friend who liked her too.
But there was something else during the visit, the check for the heartbeat. After so far along, they check for the baby’s heartbeat at every visit. I looked forward to this ever since Jennifer got to hear it on that first sonogram when I didn’t go. They check the heartbeat with a small hand-held Doppler device. The doctor put a small amount of sonogram jelly on the end of the probe and placed it against Jennifer’s exposed stomach. With a little searching, there it was! One of the most wonderful sounds I’ve ever heard, my baby’s heartbeat! The sound radiating from the little speaker reminded me of a little choo-choo engine chugging away, trying to get up a small hill. This little baby was our “Little Engine That Could.”
The baby was real! I finally heard the proof. I quickly pulled my cell phone from the belt clip and prepared to record the beautiful sound as a voice memo so I could hear it again and again and again. I asked the doctor if it was OK, and as she said it was I recorded just a few seconds of the sound. It remains on my old cell phone to this day along with other ones from the local doctor’s visits. They’re now on my website too, so anyone in the world can listen.
I shared our baby’s heartbeat with everyone who’d listen, people at work, church and family. They all heard it and were even amazed at the simple technology.
The middle of May was coming, and we all know that’s Mother’s Day. Our church celebrates by honoring mothers, of course. But mothers weren’t the only ones who were honored, all the adult women in attendance were given a small gift and a silk rose, whether they had children or not. Of course by this time, Jennifer was in the church 8 years and had 8 roses and would get another on this day. I felt proud of my little woman! I got her a mother / baby pendant to wear on her necklace. It’s in the shape of a heart and has a figure of a mother holding a baby. It’s a classic mother’s symbol. She liked it and wore it proudly on this Mother’s Day as we enjoyed lunch out by ourselves.
We had our own little celebration, again, going out to dinner (hey, we really like food!), after the conclusion of the first trimester. It marked a milestone in the fetal development. That’s when the doctors say you’re part most of the threat of miscarriage. “Maybe I’ll get to be a dad after all!” I thought. It was at this time that I felt a release from the fasting that I had been doing and I began eating on Thursdays again.
Week by week I was counting them down. I even marked a calendar numbering the weeks that had gone by and how many were left. I was like a kid counting the days until Christmas, putting the little Santa on the calendar or making his beard grow. But the anticipation was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.
At the end of May, Jennifer’s cousin was going to getting married and I was to take the pictures. The ceremony would take place in Virginia, about a three hour drive from home, near Manassas. We traveled down for the wedding and it went ok. Following the reception we began to head back, but we had have to make a stop at the “big city” mall to make our new baby a teddy bear; something we wanted to do. We found the mall, then the store. As we entered, the colors on the walls and the displays were bright and vivid with un-stuffed teddy bear shells in bins. We chose one and went on to the next station, picking out an outfit. But we didn’t know what the baby was going to be, so we had to find a teal colored neutral sleeper outfit with a hat and booties that matched. We then moved onto the “voice boxes,” the little devices that make sounds when you squeeze their belly or foot. There were many to choose from, some that played “Take Me out to the Ball Game,” and things like that. We found one that played the classic lullaby tune. We moved on to the “stuffing” station. A girl was sitting at the machine and as we walked over she asked us where we wanted the music button to go. We thought it’d be best and the easiest to get to when it needed to be played quickly to quiet a screaming infant if it was placed in the hand. As the bears are stuffed, they put a heart in them. It’s just a little heart shaped piece of material about an inch long. The girl noticed that we were “expecting” so she put two hearts in the bear; one for each of us. But first, she made Jennifer and me kiss the hearts and rub them on our chests against our own hearts before we put them in the bear and she finished stuffing it.
When we were finished the stuffing we had to dress the bear and type up the “birth certificate.” I sat on a little stool at a computer terminal with Jennifer beside me and I began typing the birth certificate for “Baby Bone Bear” as she began dressing the bear. I helped her pull the little ears through the hat. We paid for the bear and they put the bear in a box that resembled a house. This was awesome, the first thing that Jennifer and I made for our little bundle of joy; something that we could keep forever. We made the trip home safely, but didn’t get home until really early Sunday morning, about 2:00 a.m.
We were looking forward to the next big moment, or so we thought, the next sonogram. At about 18 weeks into the pregnancy they can tell if we were going to have a son or daughter. The real reason for this sonogram at 18 weeks was to show the doctor the anatomy of the baby, to see if everything was developing correctly. Something that’s important to know, so learning if it was a boy or a girl was kind of an added bonus, or blessing. We were both hoping for a son, but it didn’t matter as long as our baby was healthy! My parents only have granddaughters, five of them, so I thought they needed a grandson after about 17 years of grandparenting.
The date was set; we wanted to know what we were going to have so we could start getting the baby’s room ready and narrow the names down to male or female.
Finally, the day came; I could hardly keep from biting my nails. The appointment was in the afternoon, so Jennifer and I had to wait all day. We sent text messages back and forth on our cell phones saying, “2 hours left,” “an hour and a half,” and so on. We wanted to know what it was so bad! I wanted to call my child something other than “it.” He or she would be much better. Then we could pick a name. Looking back it’s kinda silly, but not really.
It was time! I picked Jennifer up from work and made the short drive to the hospital. After getting registered and a short wait, a technician came into the waiting room and called Jennifer’s name. We were in! The room was dark with a small light illuminating the area.
After squirting a bunch of sonogram jelly all over Jennifer’s stomach, the technician began looking at the anatomy. We were able to count ten fingers and ten toes; one prayer answered! It was amazing, being able to see a baby inside of my wife’s womb. You could see the perfect little profile of the baby and the legs and the arms. This was just at 18 weeks. These pictures proved that it was a real human being; someone with a face, arms, legs, and a heartbeat! It was just amazing, to think that those fuzzy pictures were of my baby and I helped make it. (Again, me calling the baby “it.”)
Jennifer and I would exchange glances with the anticipation of finding out the sex of our baby. Those silly little looks of wonderment back and forth. She couldn’t take it any more, Jennifer burst out with excitement, “Can you see what it is?” she asked the technician but the sonographer just kept doing her job. After a while the technician announced as we waited with baited breath….that she couldn’t tell what it was. “What? We’d have to wait longer?” I thought to myself. It seems that nothing in life is easy.
Personally, I said it must be a girl because she was being stubborn and didn’t show us. Funny, but on the other hand, one of our female friends said it must be a boy for that exact same reason.Hmmmmm?? We wanted to know so badly what we were going to have. Jennifer and I wanted to pick out a room theme and names. I just couldn’t wait, but again, I would have to.
The Sunday following the 18th-week sonogram was Father’s Day. Honestly, a difficult time for me in the past. Just like Mother’s Day, all the men ‘of age’ are honored in our church whether they are fathers or not. With the two miscarriages before, sure, I guess some people would consider me a father, but I really didn’t feel like it. I don’t know why, I guess maybe because the other guys had ‘proof’ of being a father; the kids running around or all grown up, it was something that I didn’t have physically, I couldn’t reach out and touch my kids. There was even one year that I was asked to write men’s names down on slips of paper for a drawing for prizes. I was told to make sure I included myself, but I just didn’t feel right doing it. One by one I wrote the names of men on small square pieces of paper, folded them and put them in a can. When I was finished, my wife told me to put in my name too. So being the ‘obedient’ husband, I cut a tiny piece of paper, just small enough to write my name on it. If I’d have to give a size I’d say about a ¼ inch square. I folded it up as tight as possible and put it in the can with the other guys’ names and it was taken up front. The pastor had some kids start drawing the names for the prizes after the sermon and one by one all the guys were up front with their prizes in hand except me. My name was indeed in the can, and the pastor even looked in the can to see if there were any more names, but he didn’t see the micro piece of paper with my name. That’s how I felt, the men in our church deserved to be honored more than me. We have some awesome fathers that I’ve been watching ‘father’ for years. But again, others didn’t share my feelings. I would even get Father’s Day cards from my parents. But this Father’s Day was different, I had a little one growing and I had proof, the recent sonogram pictures. There it was, the little skull, hand bones and toes, it was my little baby, inside my wife at the time, but it was there. This Father’s Day I really felt like a dad, but I couldn’t wait to be a Daddy to my little one! I gladly stood up front and proudly accepted the small gift that every father received; I held my garden hose, literally, with pride!
Six long weeks later, twenty-four weeks into the pregnancy, we were scheduled for another sonogram. The one at 18 weeks didn’t show all of what the doctor wanted to see, me either (HaHaHa). Getting through the six weeks was rough.
In the mean time, Jennifer and I traveled to Baltimore for an award banquet where I was given an award for my work from a world-wide news organization in a state contest. We didn’t mind the drive of over 2 hours, it was nice and I knew were I was going. Following the banquet they gave us tickets for an Orioles baseball game. Some people walked from the banquet hall to the stadium, but Jennifer was getting larger, with the baby of course, so she’d be miserable if she had to walk the several blocks so we drove, found another parking space and went into the stadium. Personally, I don’t care for baseball, but we went just for the experience. We don’t get the chance to do things like that too often, so we went and had a good time. We drove home holding each other’s hands as we usually do.
Before the next sonogram, Jennifer and I were walking along, shopping in the local mart, and she paused as she felt her stomach. I immediately thought something was wrong or she was in some sort of pain. She told me to feel, put my hand right where her hand was; she thought I would be able to feel the baby. I put my hand on her belly and felt something. I’m not sure if the baby kicked or just moved a little, but I felt my baby move for the very first time. Jennifer had been feeling the baby move for a few weeks now but nothing anyone else could feel. But getting to feel the baby was awesome! I’d never felt a baby like that before, even though we had friends and family pregnant recently or in years past. I guess I didn’t want to weird anyone out by feeling another woman’s stomach. Some people might have thought I was ‘funny’ or something.
The third scheduled sonogram was coming; here we go again, the anticipation, the torture, all day. Finally we were in. It was a different technician this time and as she began, my eyes were glued to the computer screen. I couldn’t take my eyes off it, I was trying so hard to make out a right and left femur bone to see what was in between. I thought I was making out something, but I wasn’t sure. A few minutes into the sonogram the technician found what we wanted to see. “It’s a girl,” she announced. Right then I’d have to say that I was just a little disappointed, I wanted a boy but there was nothing I could do to change it. I immediately accepted that we were going to have a girl. I guess we’d have to trade the snakes, snails and puppy dog tales for sugar, spice and everything nice. I guess that’s an improvement, right?
As we exited the sonogram room, Jennifer turned to me and said, “I hope you’re not too disappointed.” Honestly, I was not fond of hearing this. People were saying similar things the last few weeks about not being disappointed if it’s a girl because I was looking forward to a boy. I accepted that fact that we were having a girl, and was happy whatever we’d have. So now with Jennifer saying that too, I was a little hurt. I told her I didn’t want to hear her say that again. How could I be disappointed by my baby? Any parent would know what I’m talking about. “It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s healthy!” There I go again, calling our baby an ‘it,’ but it’s no longer an ‘it,’ She’s a She!!!!
I guess my parents were going to have to wait for that grandson: too bad. After my “revelation” I didn’t mind a bit, though I told Jennifer that I thought God was giving us a girl just to soften me up. I can be a little hard on my nieces and her nephews, but I don’t mean to be. Some kids have it easy now a days, right? I don’t ever remember having it as easy as some kids today when I was small.
So we knew! We began looking for themes of bedding. I had no idea there was so much to choose from. We looked at all of the themes in the local stores, but couldn’t find anything that tickled our fancy that everyone we knew hadn’t already used, so we turned to the Internet. Jennifer found some that she liked with lady bugs, dragon flies or bumble bees, girly looking patterns. But I began thinking, I didn’t want bugs all over my little girl, these designs were covered in tiny lady bugs, dragon flies with giant wings or bumble bees with big stingers. So I began looking myself. Now, I never did like the “puke” pink that the baby girl stuff is colored, but I always did like bright vibrant colors. I guess the pastels didn’t do it for me. I came across something on a popular Internet auction site. It looked like someone had a bunch of Hawaiian shirts left over from the seniors cruise to Honolulu, cut squares and sewed them together in a quilt type pattern and made a comforter out of them. It was covered in bright blues, pinks, oranges and a little green, it was awesome! It was a brand new set that included two valances, bed ruffle, diaper holder, toy holder, pillow, bumper and sheet. It was the whole set for one price. The set was surrounded by the puke pink that I really didn’t like, but the vibrant colors in the pattern more than made up for the pink I didn’t care for. There was also a mobile and wall hangings that you could purchase separately with it. I somehow talked Jennifer into this wild set; I don’t know how I pulled that one off.
Within a week we chose the bedding and decided what we were going to do with the spare bedroom that would become our little girl’s room. We could now say our little girl instead of it. It was such a happy time!
When the bedding arrived in the mail, we needed to decide what we were going to do with the shell of the room, how we’d make it our little girl’s room. We took the comforter to the home store and began to look through the pallet of hundreds of colors on the little tags in the store. How are you supposed to pick colors for a room from those little tags? We thought a chair rail would be nice, but the paneling in the room looked bad, so we chose to go an unconventional route. I’d fill in the cracks above that chair rail with drywall mud and the bottom would look like Wayne’s coating. We’d paint the cracks in the bottom paneling and paint the panels themselves different colors. We tried to match the colors. Some of our friends gave us some tan paint. We’d use that for the top of the wall, it was a basic color. We chose a bright pink that was in the blanket for the bottom panels. The cracks would be orange and the chair rail and trim would be dark blue. The colors we chose were vivid. I loved them, but Jennifer wasn’t convinced that they’d look good together. I assured her that they’d be OK and if not, we could just repaint it. I wanted my little girl’s room to be amazing, something that looked like it was designed by a professional and right off the pages of a magazine.
The clock was ticking for the baby to be here and me to get the room done. Even though my father was a carpenter and I watched and even helped him on many of his jobs while growing up, I didn’t realize how much of a job and expense renovating a room could be. Just to do one simple thing can seem like it takes forever!
I know pregnancy is challenging on the ladies, but we men are going through it too. Not physically, but emotionally. I appreciated everything my wife had done to carry this baby so far and what she’d have to go through for the rest of the pregnancy. I know I’m going to be a mess emotionally when the baby finally arrives. I don’t know who will be crying more - Jennifer, the baby or I. One minute I’m up and the next I’m down. A cluster of “what ifs” wander through my head.
Doctor’s visits by this time are going well; I don’t think we could have found a better doctor in the area! During the next visit she said that we’d have to have another sonogram soon because there were still things they couldn’t see on the sonogram. We scheduled one for a few weeks later. Just to clear things up, here in a small town, they don’t do things like in the big city. They didn’t do any sonograms in the doctor’s office; we had to go outside, mostly to the hospital.
We started the daunting task of naming a person. It’s not as easy as you might think. Just think, this name will be come molded into child’s personality and who their known as forever. In my family, growing up, everyone in our family, including the fish and dog, had names that began with the letter ‘J.’ Now I just happened to marry Jennifer, another ‘J’ name, so why not keep up the tradition? Now I don’t expect this child to feel that she has to carry on the tradition, but we were already both ‘J’s’ so why not? We kicked around several names, even before we knew we were going to have a little girl. Jovy, Jossilynn and Jenna were just a couple that I can remember. Jovy and Jossilynn seemed to just be too hard to say, so we settled on Jenna. Now I know what you’re thinking, “that’s too much like Jennifer.” But if we were going to have a boy, we were planning to name him Jonathan. So Jenna wouldn’t be too bad.
Next we had to find something that would go well with Jenna for her middle name. One day we had to make a trip just west on Route 40 and we came upon a town, well more like a borough or something, I think it was only a sign on the road, Addison, Pennsylvania. Jennifer always liked the name Addison, and it sounded good with Jenna.
Jenna Addison would be our daughter’s name. It was easy to say and spell when she starts preschool. After her birth, I wanted to be able to introduce her to our family and friends. This was our little girl and I wanted people to meet her, just like you’d meet anyone else. I could imagine walking out of the hospital room to people waiting, holding my little girl and saying something like “Meet my little girl, Jenna Addison” or “This is Jenna Addison.” I thought it sort of takes something away without that introduction, but maybe I’m just funny or something. Jennifer and I would talk to her and use her name when we were alone, home in bed or something, in private so as not to give away the secret. On the other hand, some people don’t tell the names that they have picked out because they don’t want to listen to other people talk bad about the names that they have picked out or try to talk them out of it. If they wait until the baby’s born and then tell everyone, there’s nothing that the ‘complainers’ could do about it. That’s the baby’s name…..period. But that wasn’t my reasoning at all.
In August we drove Jennifer’s parents to Niagara Falls in Canada. Her father always wanted to see the falls and the first and only time we were there, a couple of years ago we only stayed a few hours on our way elsewhere….just to say we were there. The hotel that we booked was overlooking the falls so her father could just look out the window and see Canada’s Horseshoe Falls and America’s side too. The view was indeed spectacular! While we were there only two nights, we couldn’t do too much but eat and shop just a little, plus Jennifer was getting bigger so she couldn’t walk like she used to. As we were in a gift shop near the falls with her mother, we were looking through the souvenirs talking to ourselves with her mother lingering nearby. Jennifer accidentally said something about Jenna, using the name. “Oh no, did her mother just hear that?” I thought. I was a little worried and tried to cover it up with some talking and act like it didn’t happen. To this day I still don’t know if she actually heard.
In another gift shop up the street, I found key chains with the baby’s name. They had three left on the little Jenna peg, so I grabbed them all and quickly headed for the checkout, so as not to be seen by Jennifer’s mother. I was thinking Jennifer could have one, I could have one and we could put one on the baby’s diaper bag, after she was born, of course. Jennifer and I still have ours on our key chains and there’s one on Jenna’s diaper bag to this day.
Around this time a friend told me how he’d put his son to sleep when he was young. His son would lie on daddy’s chest and quietly fall fast asleep. I couldn’t wait to do this with my little girl, lying on the living room floor, with Jenna on my chest, watching television or something as she’d go to sleep. (I sometimes have a vivid imagination.) It would have to be one of my daddy duties.
Also during this time, as Jennifer and I were riding in the car, I’d put my hand on Jennifer’s upper thigh. No, it’s not what you’re thinking. I’d put my hand there and hold it tight against Jennifer’s belly. It’s then when I was able to feel Jenna kick and move around. I don’t know if it was something strange being tight against the stomach, or what, but every time I put my hand there, Jenna seemed to move a lot.
The next sonogram came on a Thursday morning; September 7th to be exact. This time the scheduled time was 8am. The technician did her job but didn’t talk as much as some of the other ones. Jennifer thought it was weird. I thought nothing of it; it could have just been her personality or something. After she was done with the pictures and the measurements, she said that we’d hear from the doctor’s office soon. Again, weird. Shortly after the sonogram was complete, and we left the hospital, Jennifer’s doctor called and said that they couldn’t see the stomach on the sonogram, and we would have to go to Morgantown for another one, kind of like a second opinion. The words Amnio (amniocentesis) rang in Jennifer’s ears. As Jennifer’s doctor said that if they found something abnormal, they’d go ahead and do one right there. We were afraid of having this done because of the associated risks. It could throw Jennifer into labor and there’s a potential that we could loose the baby. That’s just something we never wanted to have done because anything could happen.
When we found out we immediately started calling our family, pastors and friends asking everyone to pray. My sisters said that they’d make the hour trip with us.
Wow, I thought waiting to find out that our baby was going to be a girl was long, but the few hours between the sonogram in Cumberland and the one in Morgantown seemed like an eternity. I felt so many things during that drive. “What’s wrong with our daughter?” “Is it going to be able to be fixed?” “Why us?” “What about work?” I just felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest. But I had to be strong for Jennifer.
After the drive to Morgantown, that just seemed to go on forever, and another sonogram, number five now, same result. They still couldn’t see the stomach.
Although it was nice, at the “big” hospital there was a radiologist who took a look at the sonogram right away and came in and talked with us about the results. This was something new, because in Cumberland, just like earlier that day, they just weren’t staffed to be able to do this and we had to wait for the call from the doctor. At least she gave us some information about what could be wrong, a birth defect that could be fixed after our little girl was born.
That fuzzy picture of our little girl was taken so late in the afternoon, our doctor’s office in Cumberland was closed by then, so again, the wait. Waiting is the only option.
Of course we had to look up information on the Internet. They say that’s not the place to get the information because it talks about all the bad stuff more than the good. Personally, I would like to know everything, the bad and the good. If we could find the information and read the worst, we’d be prepared. And I’d also be pleasantly surprised if things turned out better. We both didn’t sleep well that night with a million thoughts running through our heads. The following day, we called and arranged a meeting with the midwife at our doctor’s office since Jennifer’s doctor wasn’t in that day. We needed to find out some more information about everything. There, she was very helpful and explained to us the situation.
Esophageal atresia or tracheoesophageal fistula, it really wouldn’t mean anything to you unless you’re in the medical field and you had to study it for some test, or you know someone who has gone through it. Basically, they couldn’t see the stomach on our little girl while doing the sonogram because there was no fluid in it. Fluid shows up solid black on the sonogram. The esophagus wasn’t connected to the stomach, like it should be, so it wasn’t allowing the baby to swallow the amniotic fluid that she was floating in. Atresia means that the esophagus just goes down and stops; it’s not attached to the stomach. Fistula means a connection, in this case between the food pipe and the wind pipe. So there might be a small connection between the trachea and the esophagus or the esophagus might just go down and stop. There was no way of telling what the exact condition was until she was born.
In addition to the baby’s problems, this also caused Jennifer problems. The baby couldn’t swallow the fluid so there’s an abundance around the baby so her belly is a little larger than it should be. Because of the pressure, this could cause Jennifer to deliver sooner than the November 12th date that the doctor’s office gave us.
This condition can be corrected a few days after birth with surgery, having a 95% success rate. After a successful surgery, the baby will have to spend a few weeks in the hospital until she’s eating on her own and gaining weight, with regular check-ups, of course.
The midwife recommended that we deliver in a different, “big city” hospital, because the doctors in the Cumberland hospital couldn’t fix the abnormality with the special surgery she’d need they just don’t do that here. Baltimore, Washington DC or Pittsburgh were our options. We chose Baltimore because I’m a little more familiar with it and plus, we’d still be in our home state, Maryland, ‘America in miniature.’ But I thought of myself as in a state of confusion and bewilderment, I think.
It was lunch time when we left the doctor’s office so we went to get something to eat at a local fast food place. After ordering and finding a table, we began to give thanks to God for our food. That’s when I personally began to break down. Before this, ever since finding out about the baby, we would include prayers for a healthy baby. I thought to myself, “But the prayers didn’t do any good.” The tears just began to flow. I could hardly take a bite of food. The other people who were sitting at nearby tables were probably looking at me thinking, “My fries were cold and chewy too, but I didn’t take it that hard.” I remember the words of the midwife from a short time earlier. She said it was OK to cry because you’re grieving the loss of a “normal child.” These words rung out in my head. What is a “normal child?” I don’t thing the medical community or anyone here on Earth knows either. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I just expected the worse I guess. We finished our lunch and left with a stack of napkins to blow my snotty nose in.
We called nearly everyone we could think of to have them pray for our baby and Jennifer. That’s when Jennifer wanted to tell people her name so when people are saying a prayer for the baby they could at least call her by name. But with the circumstances we thought about using a different middle name. Addison was good, but now it seemed that we needed something a little more spiritual. We thought about Faith, but, that Jennifer’s middle name and it might be a little bit too much. We also considered Hope, but Hope doesn’t go with Bone too well. We settled on, Jenna Grace. But I still wanted to introduce my little girl when she was first born, so we just told the first name; Jenna.
The weekend after we found out about Jenna’s potential problem, Jennifer and I had a banquet that we were planning to attend with the church I work for. Here, I was busy working, recording a television interview as I noticed across the room, at the entrance, a classmate from high school enter the room pushing a stroller. The baby was born about 5 months earlier, a little girl. He and his wife had challenges with miscarriages in the past, but more than Jennifer and myself, so they valued this little bundle of joy. As I watched him push the stroller between the tables I was a little jealous and tears began to form in my eyes. I thought, “How lucky!” I wondered if he really knew what a blessing he had in that stroller. But I’m sure he did. I didn’t and don’t want anyone to feel sorry for us so I didn’t want to say anything. I just went about my work even though I wanted to just scoop up the little baby and hold her tight to my chest. I just pray he takes care of his little blessing, and if the great-grandparents have anything to do with it, he will!
The appointment was made at a hospital in Baltimore; the only problem is that it was about 10 days away. Once again the wait…..this is just about killing me!
Before the appointment time came, Jennifer had been dealing with upper back pain. I would give her a massage and rub her back as often as I could, but I really don’t have the strongest hands in the world, so I couldn’t do it for too long at one time.
On Monday, September 18, the pain in Jennifer’s back had moved to her lower back while she was working. With mostly ladies in the office, they advised her to go to the hospital because they said she could be going into labor. Of course I’m not anywhere nearby; I’m about 40 miles away with my job.
So Jennifer was taken to the hospital by a co-worker as I try to rush safely back from West Virginia without a speeding ticket. I’m thinking, “This might be it, I might have my little girl sooner that I thought. But it’s only thirty-two weeks, she’d be too small.”
When I arrive at the hospital, Jennifer’s hooked up to the machines that monitor the baby’s heart rate and mild contractions that she was having. The nurse gave her medicine to stop the contractions and also a steroid for Jenna’s developing lungs. They put the shot in a round fleshy part of her body that’s on the opposite side of her top, if you know what I mean. As the medicine when in, Jennifer said it burnt like fire, but she handled it nicely with a few funny looking faces, wincing a bit. This is just in case Jenna would come early; her lungs would be better developed so she might be able to breathe on her own. At this stage, they are most worried about the lungs.
There was another sonogram done at the hospital to check things out, and again, they couldn’t see the stomach and the fluid was measuring even more. The doctor wanted Jennifer to stop working “until further notice.” This wasn’t good for our financial situation because we were planning on her being off the normal six weeks or so with her short-term disability helping out. We could make it like that, but she didn’t have any of that paperwork taken care of and you know how long the paperwork can take. I was figuring that we’d have a hard time making the bills starting in October.
After about 5 1/2 hours in the hospital, we went home with instructions to return the following day for an additional shot of steroids for the baby’s lungs. There has to be two shots a day apart for the baby’s lungs.
Through the night and the next day, Jennifer couldn’t feel the baby like she once did. Until then, she said it felt like Jenna was doing somersaults. Jennifer described it as Jenna was just having “a good old time in there.” But this just wasn’t right; Jennifer barley felt anything for the last day. So after a call to the doctor she was instructed to go to labor and delivery.
After a short time hooked up to the machine, they said everything was OK and that Jennifer couldn’t feel the baby because of all the fluid, there was just too much. But the baby didn’t mind all the extra fluid a bit. I thought of it as one lone pickle in a big pickle jar. If you shook it up it wouldn’t touch the sides too much, not as much as a smaller jar with one pickle or a jar full of pickles. The nurse at the hospital said that Jennifer’s stomach was measuring the size of some ladies at 38 weeks and she was only 32 weeks along. This caused her to be in agony with pain in her back. But she didn’t want to take any medication for fear that it would harm the baby.
With the appointment at the hospital in Baltimore in a few days, the next two nights were horrible. Jennifer was tossing and turning in bed, not being able to find a comfortable way to lay with her back in so much pain.
In the meantime I checked with my employer and confirmed what the handbook said. I could take an FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) but I’d have to use up all my vacation, personal and sick days. Now I had planned to use my vacation days that I saved up for the year, a total of two weeks, when the baby came anyway. I had nearly 4 weeks of sick time to take so I could have about 6 weeks off without any disruption in my pay. But I wouldn’t get any mileage reimbursement, which gives use a little extra to pay my car payment each month. Jennifer on the other hand would have to do the same thing, use her days for the FMLA, but she’d already been using her ‘paid time’ for doctor’s appointments and sick days. Her income would be limited to the short-term disability that only gave a percentage of her pay after a consecutive week of being off.
The date was approaching for the trip to the Baltimore hospital. Thursday afternoon we planned to go Hagerstown to stay with some good friends before going to Baltimore on Friday morning for our first appointment. It would save an hour off the trip in the morning. Jennifer and I were overwhelmed as a few friends and family gave us cash to help with the trip. It was an enormous help and came just on time. I calculated later that the fuel alone would cost $25 per trip, the parking cost us $10 that day and over $10 for lunch. That doesn’t count dinner on the way home or a drink or snack if we needed it. Anyway...It was a blessing and we thank them for doing it! It came just in time, because we really didn’t have any money to go on.
After I finished work that Thursday, we began the hour drive to Hagerstown. Arriving at our friend’s townhouse in the early evening, we had some Chinese food before talking and getting ready for bed. The friends we were staying with let us have their master bedroom with the bathroom. They thought it’d be best for Jennifer; it’s just a little more convenient.
Again tossing and turning throughout the night, Jennifer told me that she was only able to get about 3 hours of sleep while at our friend’s house. I’m sure being in a different bed and a strange house didn’t help her.
We woke up, got ready and left our friend’s house just after 7am. The drive from Hagerstown to Baltimore was relatively traffic free, for Baltimore anyway. I followed the directions that we printed off the computer traveling through the Inner Harbor area into the more ‘seedy’ part of town. After having to drive around the hospital to find out where to park, use finally got to the right place. We parked in the garage and began to look for the doctor’s office. It was across campus, where else, right? Arriving just after 9am for the 10am appointment, we had a walk ahead of us, but plenty of time. Mobs of people flowed by us on the right and left as we made the walk. I’m sure they were all coming and going, some were hospital workers, dressed in scrubs, and others seemed to be visitors walking around, somewhat aimlessly like us. By the time we got to the correct building, Jennifer again was struggling with the back pain. I tried to rub her back a little as we walked, but I could only do so much.
Finally, we took the elevator to the second floor to maternal fetal medicine and made our way back the hallway to the doctor’s office.
After signing in and a short wait, we met with the doctor and talked to him about the pregnancy. He reassured us by telling us a lot of what we already were told at our doctor’s office in Cumberland. He also answered some of our questions. “What’s going to happen?” “How long?” That kind of thing. This is where I get the number 1 in 5000. He explained to us that is how often this type of birth defect happens. Although not 1 in a million, it’s still considered rare. He said that they may take the baby in 4 to 5 weeks. She’d be a little early, but he didn’t want Jennifer’s water to break while we were in Cumberland because she’d have to be flown to Baltimore immediately. And I might not be able to ride in the helicopter with Jennifer. Riding in the helicopter was always something I wanted to do, and I’d be soooooo jealous if my wife got a ride and I didn’t.
This was Friday, September 22, and we made another appointment for the following Thursday, September 28, for a follow-up sonogram and doctor’s visit.
At the end of the doctor’s consult, there was another wait, although this one was scheduled. Jennifer didn’t have to be at the fetal diagnostic center until 1pm for, yet another sonogram.
Jennifer could hardly walk because of her back. She barley made it out the doctor’s office door when we found a row of chairs. We sat down and I asked her if she needed a wheelchair or something. She agreed and I began my mission to find her one. I remember there being some at the hospital’s main entrance. After checking one out at the security station, I made my way back to my beautiful bride of nearly nine years.
By now it was lunch time, so we decided to go to the cafeteria to get a bite to eat. As I wheeled my wife around the Baltimore hospital, I couldn’t help but think. “Why us?” “What did we ever do?” I know you’re not supposed to think of that kinda stuff, but honestly, I think everyone who faces a tough situation always thinks like that, whether we’re supposed to or not.
We turned the corner into the cafeteria and found the table in the hospital’s hustle and bustle of staff, patients and visitors during lunch time. Together, we decided on something and I left Jennifer at the table as I got a couple of sandwiches and we ate. We didn’t have to eat in a hurry at all, something I’m certainly not used to, so we talked a little about the plans for the hospital trips and how once our little girl was born, we wouldn’t leave Baltimore. Somehow we’d stay nearby. We were also excited about knowing that we might be able to see our little girl in five weeks or so; sooner than the due date, but I just wanted to cradle her in my arms.
After finishing our drinks and sandwiches, I took a stroll and Jennifer took a roll, remember I was pushing her in a wheelchair. I followed the long corridor that we entered to a different part of the hospital and use sat and talked. Again talking about what we’re going to do about the baby, bills, work and things like that. Having a baby is such an awesome thing, but there’s so much to think about and then we have Jenna’s birth defect on top of that.
It was nearing 12:30pm with the sonogram scheduled for 1pm. So we began to head back to the second floor, around the corner from the doctor’s office. We checked in with a lady who seamed to be very cordial. She seemed very out of place in the big city hospital, she seemed more like someone from our little hometown hospital instead. As she finished the paper work, she said that the people waiting outside the check-in area were still waiting to go in from their morning appointments so there’d be quite a wait. It was nice that she gave us a warning; I think most people would have just let us sit there and wonder why we weren’t in yet. I pushed Jennifer by the other ladies, who had disgruntled looks on their faces, I guess from waiting so long. The waiting area was not a regular waiting room. Instead it was just a busy hallway with some chairs and sofas lined against a glass wall that overlooked the main entrance of the hospital. Doctors and nurses were constantly passing by as duty calls in such an environment.
We sat down at about 12:45pm and began yet one more wait, or so we thought. I think we may have dozed off in the chair a few times, Jennifer too. After that long a time in one place, Jennifer’s back was in knots. Finally, at about 2:30pm, a sonography student called her and I wheeled her back to the small darkened room while the technician asked Jennifer to get on the table. I sat in the “Daddy” chair I guess, a chair beside the bed with a view of the sonogram screen.
The technician began taking the familiar fuzzy photos with the machine as the student watched, this is a teaching hospital. Don’t get me wrong here, but the first sonogram was exciting. Each one after that would become old hat, been there, done that kinda thing. They always said the same thing; they couldn’t see the stomach….duh, that’s why we were there. The technician was taking all sorts of measurements as Jennifer laid on the table for over an hour. Finally, the technician was finished and left the room with the student who was observing. Jennifer told me that she was just about to go crazy with the pain radiating in her back while lying in the same position for so long.
After a short time the doctor came in to talk to us. To me, she seemed a little young to be a doctor, but she said she was and wore the white coat with her name embroidered on it, so we had to take her word for it, although I think she might have been the female Doogie Houser or something. She told us that they still didn’t find the stomach and the fluid measurement was over 40. When measuring, the medical field didn’t have a specific unit such as milligrams or ounces; there were just numbers to count the amniotic fluid. Normal was between 8 and 20 right now in the pregnancy. So Jennifer had over double the amount of fluid surrounding the baby than what she should have.
The doctor recommended a therapeutic amniocentesis. This would drain off a portion of the fluid surrounding baby Jenna. At the same time, since they were going to take fluid off, they would send it away to the lab to look for chromosomal abnormalities like Downs syndrome. The doctor also said that Jenna’s left kidney was dilated a little. The combination of the absence of a visible stomach and a dilated kidney raises the suspicion of Downs. I personally wanted to know this, because I immediately thought the worst, because of the information I read on the Internet saying that 50% of the cases of esophageal atresia were accompanied by other birth defects such as Downs.
As the doctor was talking, she was referring to Jenna as our daughter. This is the first time that anyone really addressed Jenna as my daughter. Until then, I didn’t think of this little baby growing inside of my wife as my daughter. I was so used to calling her my little girl, I didn’t think of her as my daughter. A daughter was someone older, not this precious little girl.
Jennifer and I decided to go ahead and have the amnio done. If it helped relieve the pain in her back, I was all for it! I didn’t know how she’d go through the 4 or 5 more weeks that the doctor said she had.
The doctor left the room to prepare the supplies and we called our families on our cell phones so they’d know what was going on. When the doctor came back to do the amnio, Jennifer was back up on the table waiting. At that point the tag-a-long intern excused himself as if he didn’t want to see the procedure. I was thinking to myself…’better get used to it.’
The doctor began by numbing the area where she was going to stick the needle after finding an area where Jenna wouldn’t be harmed. To make sure, the sonographer came back to operate the machine. We could see the needle going in on the inside of Jennifer’s belly. When the doctor stuck Jennifer, the fluid seemed to erupt into the bottle. There must have been a vacuum pressure in the bottle, the hose started to jump like there was a great amount of pressure. We could see Jenna’s hand almost touching the end of the needle on the sonogram screen, but the doctor reassured us that it was like touching the end of a straw, it wasn’t a regular needle that we think of. After several minutes, the doctor said that she took off 550 milliliters. That’s almost a 20 ounce bottle of water. Wow! The doctor also let us know that Jennifer would have to stay a few hours for observation to make sure that the amnio wouldn’t put her into labor.
I could tell that Jennifer’s belly looked smaller and she said she could tell a difference too. Her skin wasn’t stretched so tight, it looked looser. The nurse wheeled her to the check-in desk of labor and delivery as the pain was growing in Jennifer’s stomach. As we were waiting for the lady to check us in, Jennifer told me that if she wasn’t having this baby now she didn’t know what was happening. The pressure was relieved, but there was a new pain, she thought she was having contractions. When we finally got back to labor and delivery she was hooked up to the machine and she was indeed having contractions. We waited a while before the doctor came in. Yet another doctor came in and checked Jennifer’s cervix and found it closed, the same as in the doctor’s office earlier that same day. They gave Jennifer a boxed lunch because we had not had anything since lunch, which the nurse said could be causing some contractions too. By this time it was after 8pm. We’d been at the hospital for 11 hours. I was about done, I could only imagine how Jennifer really felt. We thought that we’d have enough time to stop at a certain Italian restaurant that’s Jennifer’s favorite, in Frederick, on the way home. The later it got, I could see the never-ending bowl of pasta slip through my fingers.
The contractions finally subsided and they said we could go. Finally!!! We found a wheelchair for Jennifer outside the little room we were in and I began pushing for the trip down toward the parking garage. I don’t think I could have pushed Jennifer any faster through the halls. I think if I did, the wheels would have fallen off, I was almost jogging. I didn’t want them to change their minds, we just wanted to get out of there. We passed by a glass wall that led to a small garden outside, but it was dark, so they were more like a row of mirrors as Jennifer and I looked at how I was pushing her. I looked hilarious and we both started to laugh. I got to the parking garage, we found the car and I helped Jennifer in. We left the parking garage at 9:30pm. Over 12 hours since we got a ticket in. We were both exhausted!
We began the 2 hour 15 min drive home (that’s without traffic). We got to Frederick and I wanted to go by that certain restaurant that Jennifer loves so much, I think I was just about ready to chew my arm off. Jennifer had eaten that boxed lunch with a sandwich, but I had nothing. I got out and looked at the time on the door, they didn’t close until 11pm on Fridays and it was just after 10pm then, so we were in, YES!!!
After a nice meal, we headed home and arrived at about 12:30am and went right to bed. Dorothy was right ‘There’s no place like home!’ I think I woke up in the same position that I went to sleep in, I don’t think I moved all night. Getting up for work the next morning was rough; it was my weekend to work.
The week went by and the thoughts of the amniocentesis results were going through my head…”What are we going to do with a Downs child?” “How would that change our lives?” I couldn’t imagine why this was happening to us. I don’t ever remember having made fun of mentally challenged people, of course it’s hard not to stare at someone different than you. But at the same time I knew of other people who really made fun of these types of people, all the time. They’d make jokes and laugh. But the same people who made fun of the handicapped were happy and had healthy children. I didn’t ever remember doing this. What did all that hard work do for me? All the nice things I did for people. It didn’t seem like it was paying off for us. Looking back now, that was pretty stupid of me.
The days crept by. Wednesday evening we returned home from somewhere to a message from thehospital asking us to come down earlier the next day. With a 1pm sonogram scheduled they wanted us to come at noon to meet with a doctor from the neonatal intensive care unit (N.I.C.U.). So we left Cumberland about 8:45am Thursday to meet with the doctor at noon.
The drive down was pretty much uneventful. We parked and walked into the building about 11:15am and made our way to the second floor for the consult.
We met with the doctor who told us some of the things we could expect when the baby is in the N.I.C.U. This special unit is for babies who are born and have to stay in the hospital. They went right from the delivery room to the N.I.C.U. These babies never had the chance to go home yet. There was something wrong with each one that prevented this, whether it be a disease, observation, prematurely or whatever. She told us they may have the baby on a ventilator after surgery to keep her stable. We also were relieved to learn that Jennifer and I would get cards to gain access to the N.I.C.U. so we could go in to see our little girl any time day or night. This was a big relief to Jennifer especially. We were afraid we’d be limited to some obscure visiting hours and go crazy when we couldn’t see Jenna. We also learned that the grandparents could go in anytime too. Other visitors would have to come in when Jennifer or I were there and limited to two visitors at a time.
After a while talking to the doctor, she took us on a tour of the unit. We kinda knew what to expect, by visiting my niece in the N.I.C.U. in a Morgantown hospital when she was born. My sister’s girl was born with a diaphragmatic hernia and was rushed to the hospital about an hour drive away from Cumberland right after she was born. Undergoing surgery the next day, the doctors closed the hole in her diaphragm. The hole allowed some of her intestines to develop in her chest cavity, which caused her lungs not to develop like they should have. The surgery was a success and she was in the hospital for nearly a month before coming home. But there was a difference; we were getting the chance to prepare for what was going to happen. With my niece, they didn’t know anything until she was born. I’m not sure if these two birth defects were related in any way, and I don’t think the doctors knew either.
But back to the N.I.C.U. tour…We walked through the double doors and came to the nurses’ station with several people in scrubs furiously walking around as if they’re on a mission. To the left, front, right and to the right behind us were 4 separate rooms. We entered through the doors at the left of the nurses’ station. Again, several hospital personnel scurrying around with another tall desk in the middle of the room with about 10 infant patients around the perimeter of the room. The doctor walked us over to a small incubator with one of the smallest human beings I’ve ever seen.
This little boy’s thigh was as big around as my thumb. I thought, wow, this little thing is a person, I heldback the tears as I saw tubes that were going into his mouth and nose with wires hooked up to monitor his blood oxygen level and temperature. Each one of the stations had a monitor for the baby’s vitals. As we walked around, the doctor explained some of the things, but I really can’t remember too much of what she said, all I was thinking about was the teeny, tiny babies. Most of these babies in the unit seemed to be preemies with some being born 13 or 14 weeks early at just over a pound. Some were bigger and in for different reasons. With over 40 spaces for these babies, the doctor said that they are nearly full almost all the time; it was overwhelming to think about.
I couldn’t help but say a silent prayer for the children we passed. We came to one small incubator that I remember with a small stuffed animal at the one end and a photo of whom appeared to be the parents taped to the side so the baby could see. But these people didn’t look like ‘crack heads’ or something like that, they were just normal people, just like Jennifer and myself. I realized this kinda thing could happen to anyone.
The short tour came to an end before Jennifer was scheduled for follow up sonogram just down the hallway. We checked in and again noticed a number of people waiting. The appointment was for 1pm, but we didn’t go back until about 2pm and we still had a doctor’s appointment at 2:30. Our last sonogram took about an hour, but we didn’t have that much time today. We walked back to the room, a different one than before, it almost seemed to be an old operating room. There was tile on the wall and places in the ceiling where lights would have hung. The technician began looking with the equipment. She didn’t say much, except that we wouldn’t be long because this was just a follow up sonogram and they would look for the stomach and measure the fluid.
After about 20 minutes she excused herself to go put the readings in the computer and talk to the doctor. A few minutes later another technician came in and told us that the doctor would be a while and she eventually showed us the back way out that led right to the doctor’s office where we were supposed to be.
After checking in at the doctor’s office, we soon went back to the exam room. Now even though this was the same doctor’s office where we had the consult the week earlier, we were seeing a different doctor. There are several doctors in the practice on the ‘team.’ So after the nurse got Jennifer’s vitals, we waited in the room for the doctor. When the doctor walked in, to me, she looked like she just came for Ringling Brother’s side show. Wearing bright blue pants and a just as bright pink v-neck sweater with a few buttons not fastened with a pink polka-dotted turtle and with the ‘bed head’ hair look, she could have passed for a clown, for sure. But they said she was a doctor, and they were right. She knew what she was talking about, she just needed some emergency help from that TV show, “What not to Wear.”
During the appointment she recommended a fetal echocardiogram (FECG) to have a closer look at baby Jenna’s heart to make sure there were no defects. She also wanted us to meet with someone from pediatric surgery for a consult about what the surgeons would do with the baby. And finally she said to come back to the office in two weeks and another sonogram then too.
“Wow,” Jennifer and I thought! We’d have a week off. We could schedule those things all in one day to limit the trips to Baltimore.
So we began by scheduling the doctor’s appointment for two weeks and a day, which just happened to be Friday the 13th. The receptionist told us we would have to schedule everything else ourselves. This was different; maybe she just didn’t want to do it. That’s what we were thinking.
We walked from the doctor’s office to back over to the sonogram desk. There, we scheduled the sonogram for Friday the 13th, but the only thing they had open was an 8am. Now traveling from Cumberland to be in Baltimore before 8am can be challenging, especially since neither Jennifer nor myself are in NO WAY morning people. But we’d rather have the appointment at 8am and get it over with. That way if we were the first ones in, they might be able to take us on time. While there I asked if they could schedule the FECG for us and she gladly said yes and called. While on the phone she said the soonest she would have something would be a few weeks from then. I guess that would have to do, so she put us down. Before walking away from the desk, the phone rang. It was the person whom she just called, calling back to tell us that we already had an appointment for the next day, Friday, and the following Tuesday, Oct. 3. I’m not sure why we needed two. I told her that there wasn’t anyway that we could make the next day; after all, we had a baby party (shower) to get ready for. I was going to cook the spaghetti. So the Friday appointment was canceled and we held the one for the 3rd at 8:45am. I guess we wouldn’t get a week off after all.
On the way to the car in the parking garage I called the phone number to set up the surgeon’s consultation, but when we boarded the elevator the call was dropped so I called back, but there was no answer, so I left a message. I was trying to schedule the consult for the 3rd or the 13th when we’d already be there.
We drove home but stopped in Frederick for something to eat after running into a traffic jam. It took us two hours to get there from Baltimore, normally about a 40-minute trip. There was a heavy rain storm and an accident that caused the delay.
Jennifer and I couldn’t wait for the Saturday shower. There were over 80 people to attend and they were all coming for us, or really the baby.
Friday after work I went home and collected tools and spices to begin making the spaghetti. For our wedding, nearly nine years ago, we had one of the fancy punch bowl fountains, and Jennifer wanted one for the shower. So being the good husband that I am, I fulfilled my husbandly duty and ordered a punch bowl. I picked it up from the rental shop and I headed to our church, where we were going to have the shower, and began cooking 25 pounds of hamburger that my sister had purchased. With onions and peppers I had three skillets going at the same time. But I did have several extra hands in the kitchen, my family; my sisters and parents came to help.
We had the whole team work thing going, so before Jennifer made it to the church after going to the market with her mother, we were finished. With all that food it was funny not to eat any, so I got some pizza from a shop up the road. Honestly, I didn’t like it a bit, I think it was one of the worst pizzas I ever had. But anyway…We began to decorate. Many of our friends and relatives helped with buying stuff and giving us money for things. We really appreciated everyone’s help to make one of the nicest showers ever! And that’s not just my opinion, because I’m a guy, I don’t get to go to these things. It’s just what people said, ladies that is.
When we began to decorate, we knew we’d be awhile. A few weeks earlier Jennifer had decided on a little yellow ducky theme for the shower so that’s what we did. The hours went and my family began to leave, a few at a time. It was after midnight now, and we were still waiting for Jennifer’s sisters to bring the rest of the decorations. Finally, about 12:30am they arrived, (Thank goodness for a 24 hour ‘mart,’ I don’t know what they would do without it) and we began to decorate again.
They had some really nice decorations, but it seemed like it was taking forever though. I still had school work to do, so I was ready to go home to work on it. It was about 3:30am and I had to lie down. I curled up on the love-seat on the television studio set at the back of the church and fell asleep.
I had an appointment to get my hair cut at about 9am that morning so I didn’t want to miss it. I didn’t hear too much as I laid there, but I woke up a little after 7am and everything was quiet. I looked around and there laid my beautiful wife on the couch beside the love seat where I had been snoring a short time earlier. I looked around and found one of Jennifer’s sisters asleep in the nursery and her nephew curled up in the sound booth. I woke Jennifer up and cleaned up a bit before heading home. It’s funny as I look back because I remembered burning the midnight oil nearly nine years earlier as some of the same people decorated for our wedding reception.
We went home and Jennifer laid down as I went to get my hair cut. After the appointment we went to her aunt’s to pick up a slow cooker that would serve the spaghetti for the shower. We went to the church and I began the water for the noodles and added sauce to the hamburger that I cooked the night before. My family members came to help again.
The hours ticked by and the party was about to begin. I had a little trouble getting the punch fountain started but when I did, I think it was a nice touch and it added to the ambience, plus it freed up someone from having to pour drinks.
Guests began to arrive and church was filling up quick. We had set up 11 tables with 8 chairs each. Again with help from just about everyone, things went smoothly. I don’t know how we could have done things without our family and friends!
Our friends who were in charge of the games came up with the idea of a silent auction and gathered the items. The money that people paid for these things would help with our expenses on the hospital trips. That brought in $100, which was a blessing; it’d buy a couple tanks of gas and pay for parking.
There was a mound of gifts at the front of the church. After eating the spaghetti that I cooked, one by one we began to open them. At times, Jennifer and my eyes teared up as we read the cards and opened the gifts. We received so many cute little outfits and blankets. A lot of pink…but it was starting to grow on me. I wasn’t all the way for it, but I wasn’t all the way against it either.
After we finished opening our, well really Jenna’s gifts, Jennifer’s sister gathered everyone in a huge circle around the perimeter of the church as Jennifer and I remained seated on the chairs in the front, then she led a prayer for baby Jenna and her complete and total healing. This particular sister of Jennifer’s is what I consider a prayer warrior. She was healed of ovarian cancer after being diagnosed at the age of 14. As she prays, the words just flow out and they make sense. Now, when I pray I have a hard time thinking of things to say and making things sound meaningful, but not her. To say the least, the prayer was powerful. All this time I worried about the results of the amniocentesis that was done a week and a half ago, we still hadn’t gotten the results yet.
After the night was over, all the gifts barely fit in our car. Many of the ladies from the church stayed and helped clean up as the men put away the 11 tables, and some kids helped vacuum. Again, a team effort that we couldn’t have done without everyone.
Monday came and Jennifer and I went to an Amish furniture store to buy a high chair that Jennifer wanted for Jenna. It was solid oak and hand-made, but it’s not a regular city store so they didn’t have any in stock. We ordered it and paid for it with money that we received at the shower. Later that evening we headed to Hagerstown, again, to inconvenience our friends. Honestly, they might say it was not an inconvenience, but when you give up your bed to sleep on the couch for the pregnant lady and her husband, I would say it’s an inconvenience. Anything other than the “norm” is an inconvenience. We had a good dinner before talking a while and heading for bed. It would be an early day tomorrow.
We got up about 5am and began to get ready. We left about 6am and headed for Interstate 70. Personally, I think we’ve seen too much of that road lately. I remember something specifically that I said during the drive on that highway. To do a little history, about 7 years earlier, Jennifer and I were babysitting a young infant, just a few weeks old, when we were that much younger and our patience was not what it is now. One evening, out of pure frustration when the baby wouldn’t calm down, Jennifer said something like, “I don’t want to have kids until I’m 27.” I’m not sure of her exact words, but you get the point. This was before the second miscarriage, but well after the first. Apparently, God was giving Jennifer her request. She was now 27 and going to have her first baby. I’m not sure if this is something that God had planned but, it was strange! Anyway, back to the I-70 drive. Jennifer and I were talking about what she said and I said out loud, “I don’t want to have a baby with a birth defect until I’m 30.” I was 29 and I had hoped that God would understand my statement and take it to heart and when Jenna would be born, they wouldn’t find anything wrong with her. It really wasn’t a real prayer, just something I said exactly like what Jennifer said years earlier. I wanted a miracle so bad! I wanted Jenna to be born and the doctors would be amazed that she was completely whole with no birth defects, even though numerous sonograms said that there was a problem. It would be such a testimony to God’s healing power, and we know he could do it with the simplest of thoughts. It was also on one of these drives that we talked about again changing Jenna’s middle name. If there was a miracle, and Jenna was indeed born with no birth defects, we thought it’d be appropriate to give her that middle name, Miracle. But we’d have to wait until she was born if it’d be Grace or Miracle.
Anyway…We arrived at the hospital in Baltimore about 8am. I dropped Jennifer off at the entrance door and went to the parking garage to find a space. Being that early, I found a good space, down low before walking through the hospital where I met up with Jennifer, then we made our way up the elevator to the cardiac floor.
This was the day for the FECG. We checked in and waited for our name to be called. Again, a million things were going through my head as I said a silent prayer for everything to be all right with Jenna’s heart.
The voice rang “Jennifer Bone” as a technician called out her name. We got up and followed the lady to the small dark room. I was surprised that the machine looked like a sonogram machine.
The technician began to do her job, and I tried to decipher what I was seeing on the screen. I picked out the four chambers of Jenna’s heart and it was beating. I saw the valves open and close. Of course Jennifer and I didn’t know what to look for so after the technician was finished and walked out to see the doctor, we were in agony. “Was it OK?” “Did she see something wrong?”
Finally the doctor came in to talk to us. Just to explain something…down at this hospital after you have a test like this done, or even the regular sonograms that we had earlier, a doctor specialized in the field would look at the results, in this case the pictures of the baby’s heart and come in to talk to the patient. Just because the doctor comes in, isn’t because it’s bad. We had to get used to this because in Cumberland we would have the sonogram, then the doctor would read it and send a report to Jennifer’s doctor. I guess they do this so the patient has an idea of what’s going on right away, and they don’t have to agonize for too long. Plus, if they had to wait at a hospital that size, they’d probably get so backed up with patients.
Anyway, back to the story. When the doctor came in she talked to us a little while and said that Jenna’s heart was normal and they didn’t see anything unusual. Praise the Lord! I felt like running down the hall shouting, but I refrained.
We never did hear back from the surgeons for a consultation, so we left in good spirits and I just drove straight home. Jennifer fell asleep, something that’s not too easy for her to do because she’s getting to be so uncomfortable. I didn’t bother her as I drove.
When we pulled in to our parking spot on the street, we went in and Jennifer laid down on the couch. I got on the computer and typed out a praise report about the good news about the heart and sent it to everyone on our e-mail list. Jennifer was still asleep so I laid down on my make-shift bed on the floor beside the couch.
Some time went by, an hour or two I guess, and the phone rang. My hearts raced as I saw the caller ID say the Baltimore hospital. I was thinking… “did they see something wrong that they missed this morning?” I gave the phone to Jennifer and it was the doctor who did the amniocentesis. My heart was just about pounding out of my chest. I could tell by the way Jennifer was talking to the doctor on the phone that there was good news. Baby Jenna did NOT have Downs. It was such a big relief!!! The doctor also told us that our baby was definitely a girl too. I was fretting the worst and with the good news from the FECG and now this, all in one day, we were so happy.
Now this doctor who just gave us the news was what we considered famous. A few weeks earlier, I was watching Discovery channel and thought I saw her in the background of a scene and a few moments later she was plainly on the screen with her name and title delivering a high-risk pregnancy, but it wasn’t in the Baltimore hospital. I guess she hadn’t been in her current position too long. It was kinda neat to see her on TV.
Jennifer was getting more miserable with every passing day. That extra fluid was taking its toll.
Jennifer and I would talk about, ‘what if the doctors want to take her Monday, the next doctor’s appointment, (the 16th) or something.’ We just wanted to get the baby here to deal with her imperfections. The waiting was just about killing me. As men, we want to fix everything, after all, when you were a kid and your toy broke, who would you take it to be fixed….Dad of course. I wanted to do so much, but it’s like my hands were tied or handcuffed, I just couldn’t do anything for my wife or my little girl.
The next appointment was Friday the 13th at 8am for yet another sonogram. I had to work Thursday night so we couldn’t leave until about 10pm or so for Hagerstown to stay with our friends.
After another uncomfortable night, Jennifer got up just after 4am and got ready, as did I, for the trip to downtown Baltimore.
----- It is with great sadness and sorrow that I continue writing this, please read on to understand.
The drive to Baltimore was again, uneventful with the anticipated heavier traffic near the city. We arrived about 7:30am and made our way to the sonogram area.
My assumptions were correct when I scheduled the sonogram; we only waited about 10 minutes past our 8am appointment time before Jennifer’s name was called. We entered the room, and I guess we were becoming veterans for sonograms at this point, with this being our 9th sonogram. The technician did all the measurements and then she changed the device she was using on Jennifer’s stomach. It was the tool that the sound waves radiate from and back to so a picture can be seen and resembles a wired remote control. She began using this larger instrument. Jennifer and I didn’t really know what this was for; we’d never seen this before. Of course we were thinking something might be wrong, that they had taken a look deeper or something.
The technician took picture after picture. And then it was apparent, I understood what was happening. We’d never seen this before because this was our first three dimensional (3D) sonogram. You could see Jenna’s face almost flawlessly, I couldn’t believe it. Jennifer and I looked at each other with wide eyes, as if to say ‘Oh my Lord, there she is!’ On the screen they put a flesh-color on the baby to look more realistic so it wasn’t just a black and white image. The technician finished with that 3D and excused herself to go put the numbers into the computer to calculate everything, but as she left she gave us a print out of some of those 3D pictures. There were 5 pictures, one of a regular sonogram picture, like we had gotten in the past, and 4 more 3D images, 1 profile and 3 looking straight on, face-first. It was amazing! We got to see our little girl’s face.
The doctor came in and said that everything looked as expected; still no stomach and he said that he didn’t see a need for any follow-up sonograms, and we could go. Jennifer asked about the fluid and the number was back up over 40 and they said that the baby weighed about 5 pounds, 14 ounces, give or take a little, it was only an estimate.
We left the sonogram department feeling like a million bucks, really, we were on cloud 9, so to speak. We sat in the waiting room, wasting time before the scheduled doctor’s appointment and just looked at the pictures. She was so cute; she looked like a mini Jennifer in the pictures. We took a short trip around the hallway to the doctor’s office where the appointment was scheduled for 10am.
After checking in and a short wait we met with the doctor and he talked with us. Jennifer and I were on pins and needles waiting for the doctor to say ‘let’s go have her’ or ‘come back Monday to have her.’ I wanted him to say that so bad. Throughout the pregnancy, I just wanted to hold my baby. This is the same doctor that said in 4 to 5 weeks we would have her, the same doctor who we first met with at the hospital several weeks before for the consultation. He said we should come back the following week for another visit when we would schedule the date for delivery. At that time they would decide if a C section would be necessary. With all the extra fluid, the baby may not get in position with her head down, so yet another unknown in little Jenna’s story.
Jennifer and I were so disappointed that we didn’t have a date scheduled. She told me that maybe God had the sonogram technician do the 3D picture so we could see our little girl. Giving us the chance to see our baby was something that would tide us over until we could actually see her and have her in our arms.
We scheduled the doctor’s appointment for the following Thursday at 3:30pm and began the 150 mile trip back to Cumberland.
The anticipation was excruciating. All this time I’d work a few hours in the evenings, after my job, on Jenna’s room, getting things ready for our little girl. When someone said that they were painting a room or their house, I really didn’t have any idea what kind of a job it was. I wanted everything to be perfect; I wanted my little girl to have it all, but not spoil her of course…Yea right! I meticulously painted for hours trying to get things looking how I wanted them. I didn’t ever imagine that an 11’x12’ room could be such work. I’d put a coat of pink on and see where I went too far and had to touch up with orange, then the orange ran too far into the blue so I had to touch up with that then. It was a never-ending circle. It must be the paint manufacturer’s scheme to make you buy more paint, just kidding, but it took forever to get things the way I wanted them.
The next Thursday came and it was time for us to travel to Baltimore again. The appointment was late, 3:30pm, so I worked a half a day before having to get on the road. We couldn’t wait, today we’d be setting the delivery date. We were also to meet with a pediatric surgeon for a consultation at 4pm.
We arrived at the doctor’s office about 3:05pm and checked in. This was a different doctor in the team, one that we had seen before, remember the clown? The waiting room was full; there wasn’t an open seat at all. I thought I’d have to stand, but someone was called as we were checking in and Jennifer and I both had a seat together. I would have gladly given my seat for a lady, or anyone else who needed it.
The minutes ticked by……..3:30 passed and it got to 4. I asked how long we’d be because we had that consultation scheduled. They said it’d be a while, but go ahead and have the consultation while we were waiting. So I asked to use the phone to call the surgical department and tell the surgeon we had some time. As I did, they said that the surgeon would meet us there at the doctor’s office.
4:30 ticked by and we were still sitting in the waiting room with no doctor and no surgeon.
Finally, Jennifer’s name was called, as we were one of the last ones in the office. She got to the prep area where her vitals were taken along with her weight, and wouldn’t you know it, here comes the surgeon. She met up with us in the exam room and began to tell us the procedure and how the esophageal atresia or tracheoesophageal fistula would be corrected and what we could expect.
The surgeon was just finishing up when the doctor made it to our room. The nurse checked Jenna’s heart rate and found it to be in the 130’s and I thought that was low and asked the nurse about it, but she said it was normal. This is the same Ringling Brothers doctor from before, but I found out she wasn’t a kook, she was just very precise in her job. She began asking Jennifer the normal questions and continued with an exam, where Jennifer later said that she felt her fingers tickling her throat. You ladies might know what she means. Anyway, she finished up and left the room for a moment. She was going to get a portable sonogram machine that was in the office. With the door open slightly, Jennifer noticed that she began to roll the machine in another room and look around as if she was wondering where we went. Finally she strolled into the right room and began to look at Jenna on the monitor.
The doctor was a little puzzled at a large bulge in Jennifer’s stomach to the right of her belly button. We assumed that it was Jenna’s little bottom, but the doctor looked and she said it was fluid. I didn’t think fluid could do that. Of course the baby’s bottom was behind that but the big bubble was just fluid.
I think I bit my lip holding back the question, “so when can we have her?” The doctor said that we could schedule, but it just happens to be nearing 6pm and everyone else in the office has left and the doctor would have to talk to some other people to set it up first. Then she wanted us to schedule an appointment in a week, in Baltimore, for another regular doctor’s visit. We didn’t think that Jennifer could make the ride for another visit again, so we asked if we could just go to her doctor’s in Cumberland (who I can’t say enough good things about!!!!!!!!!!!!) and they could fax the information. The doctor was really looking to monitor Jennifer’s blood pressure and other basic things that they do during each office visit anyway, so she said that would be OK.
“Man,” I thought to myself. We’ve been waiting for this day, to find out when we’ll be able to have her. The doctor said she’d call us the next day, Friday, to set up the induction date in two weeks. But wait, that’s Halloween, we can’t have a baby on that day. Jennifer blurted out, “Can we wait until the first?” The doctor didn’t have any problem with it and agreed to wait the extra day. Some people might say it’s silly, but we just didn’t want a Halloween baby.
On our way back, we stopped by a home improvement store in Frederick to get a blind for the window in Jenna’s room that was still blindless? (Is blindless a word? Anyway…) We headed out of Frederick and made it to Hagerstown to gete a bit to eat. Jennifer had wanted an onion cut to resemble a flower blossom (you know what I mean) for a while, so being the good husband I am, that’s where we ate. We made it home late, so we went straight to bed, again with the anticipation of having a delivery date scheduled the following day.
In the mean time, Jennifer and I had been doing loads of Jenna’s laundry. All the new things we got for the shower and the things that we had bought together for our little girl as well as some things that people gave us from their children.
Friday came and Jennifer waited all day at home, as I worked, but no call. This really didn’t surprise me much with doctors’ busy schedules in the big city hospital. But what more could we do? The ball was in their court.
But wait….Two weeks isn’t that long at all! I still had to finish her room. Sunday evening, after church about 8:30 pm or so, I came home and began to work. I put up the blind in the window that faces Jennifer’s parents’ house and put up shadow boxes and wall hangings. Good friends of ours, the same ones whom we stay with in Hagerstown during our trips to Baltimore, painted and personalized letters that spelled out her name, J E N N A. These letters that we received for our shower were white with small delicate flowers on the tips of the letters. I spelled out my daughter’s name on the largest wall in her room. Everything was coming together.
Earlier, the phone call came about the high chair being finished, so I went and picked it up. It was a little darker than we thought it’d be, but it was so nice. Nothing’s too good for my little girl.
The last time that Jennifer was pregnant we had put a solid oak crib, a changing table / dresser and a cedar chest in lay-a-way at the same Amish store we got the high chair from more recently. By the time that we had the furniture paid for, Jennifer had her second miscarriage and we’d lost another one, so after my father and I picked the furniture up in his truck it remained in the plastic that the Amish craftsman wrapped it in for a long time. But now’s it’s our time! Although there was one hitch, we couldn’t find the hardware to put the crib together. I know we got the small bag of bolts and screws and stuff with the crib, but back then we didn’t have a reason to put it together, so the bag got bounced around from box to box and closet to closet. I think I had looked all over the house for this bag of bolts and had just about given up. I’d even called the store to see if I could get another set, but they’d have to order them, and they didn’t know how long it’d take. The only place I didn’t look was a small closet in the upstairs middle room, under the steps that go to the bathroom on the third floor. We had taken everything out of Jenna’s room to have a nice piece of carpet laid and the changing table / dresser was in front of the door, along with all the tools and paint we’d used in the room. But with the carpet now laid, I could move the dresser in my daughter’s room and look for the kit. Thank God!! There it was, of course toward the back of the closet, but I’d found it. We were feeling the pressure of having to get everything done, so I was elated to find the kit I needed to put my little girl’s crib together. We cut the plastic off the pieces, the head and foot boards along with the side, and, Jennifer’s nephew, Jenna’s cousin, helped me turn in the bolts with that silly little allen wrench that they had in the bag. It’s a solid oak crib, lightly stained, with slats, not spindles on the sides. When it was ordered, they were making it from scratch, so we could have it any way we wanted it, as long as we wanted to pay for it, but I liked the look of the slats rater than spindles.
So we put the sheet and bumper on as well as the ruffle and the comforter with the Hawaiian type theme we picked out earlier. Everything was really starting to come together! I can’t wait to see her sleeping in her crib and give her a gentle kiss good night and quietly close the newly painted door behind me. I just wanted to have her home so bad!
Monday, during the day, the doctor from Baltimore called Jennifer while she was at home and set the date for November 2 for the induction. The doctor who did the amnio would do the delivery, and this was a small relief too because we knew her and besides, she must be good, right? Because she was the one we saw on the TV. The date was actually set, I immediately sent out an e-mail with the good news. The anticipation was mounting now; we couldn’t wait.
With the induction date set for the following week, Jennifer and I thought it would be a good idea to take one of the blankets we received for Jenna to our church the following Sunday to have the congregation pray over it. After our church would pray over the blanket, we’d leave early from our church and drive out to Jennifer’s father’s church and have that congregation pray over the same blanket. This anointed blanket would cover Jenna while she was in the hospital in Baltimore after her surgery. It certainly couldn’t hurt to have the blessings of God covering our little girl. She’d need it for sure.
Tuesday night after our regular Bible study, Jennifer and I went to the local mart to get more things to make Jenna’s room even better. We got a really nice diaper pail and wipe warmer, so her little bottom wouldn’t be cold from the wipes, and some other things that we didn’t get for the shower.
We went home and Jennifer continued folding Jenna’s clothes and blankets, getting ready for our little girl, who was going to be here next week. Jennifer’s oldest sister had come by to help clean and get ready. The sisters kept folding and it was getting late, but having to work at 8am, I had to get some sleep, so I went up to bed.
A short time after I made the climb upstairs to our bedroom and my head hit the pillow, I was out. I remember Jennifer letting Jada, our little Jack Russell dog, in the bedroom door with me. She said the dog was driving her nuts, jumping up, putting her paws on Jennifer’s stomach and just acting hyper. She is a Jack Russell, so being hyper wasn’t anything new for the 6-year-old dog. But tonight was different, just weird I guess.
The dawns early light came and Jennifer woke me up about 6am to tell me that she hadn’t felt the baby last night and she was going to go to the hospital. The last time that she remembers feeling the baby was about 4am Tuesday morning. Now if you read this story close enough, you’d know that this had happened before. Jenna was just bouncing all around in there, but Jennifer couldn’t feel her because of the extra fluid. After a short visit to the hospital, the doctor said everything was OK. I said OK and dozed back off to sleep before the alarm woke me a very short time earlier….I’m surely not a morning person! Going to bed for the last several nights between 2 and 3am didn’t leave me with too much sleep before having to get up for work. When I got up and got ready, Jennifer was lying on the couch sacked out. I gave her a kiss, as usual, and went off to work telling her to call me before she went to the hospital.
As the day went on I had several assignments to take care of and I stopped home for lunch about noon or a little after as Jennifer was getting ready to go to the hospital. It was nearing 1pm when we went up and I had a 1:30 assignment, ironically for the groundbreaking of the new local hospital, where the new labor and delivery unit would have half of the rooms the hospital currently had. But there are so many new housing projects in the works and being planned for the area, it seems kinda stupid. Anyway…We arrived at the labor and delivery department and rang the buzzer. They said that Jennifer would have to have a seat in the waiting room because they were really busy. Every one of the 10 rooms was full. But I couldn’t wait; besides, all I wanted to do was to hear my baby’s heart beat, just to know everything was fine. Jennifer told me to get going and she would call me with any news. I didn’t want to, but, there was no one else who could have taken my assignment right then. So reluctantly, I went to my car and made the short drive down the hill to the new hospital site. I parked and began to work. Maybe about 20 minutes went by since I had to leave and I remember sending Jennifer a text message from my cell phone asking how things were. She responded that she was still waiting to get in. A short while later I received a message saying that she loved me.
My work was complete and I began taking the construction photos that my office wanted as my phone rang. It was Jennifer; her voice was so shaky she sounded like she was standing on the edge of a cliff. She said I needed to come up to the hospital right away. I asked why, she didn’t tell me because someone told her not to. She said that they couldn’t find the heartbeat on the machine in labor and delivery so they sent her downstairs to radiology for a sonogram. During the sonogram, Jennifer was on pins and needles. She asked the technician if everything was all right and she just shook her head. The technician there couldn’t find a heartbeat, and she said that our little Jenna was gone.
I think right then, my heart just about fell out of my chest, crashing onto the sidewalk and shattering into a thousand pieces. During my life, I remember where I was when things happened and what I was doing, we all do. Like when the president was shot or a terrorist attack or something, most of the time the things you remember most vividly are the tragedies.
At the old health department site, where the new hospital would be built, standing on a slab of a concrete sidewalk, I will never forget it. But I guess it does my heart good that the piece I was standing on would soon be cut up and used as fill as they construct the new hospital. I will never be able to go to that exact spot again and think about the terrible news that I received. I didn’t want to believe it; I just couldn’t believe that she was gone. I ran to the car and sped back up the hill to the hospital while calling everyone I could, asking them to pray. “Pray for life,” I said. I called the pastor friend who we had pray at the very beginning of the pregnancy; he was at the other hospital in our area visiting and would come right over. I found a parking spot and ran into the hospital and quickly made my way to labor and delivery. I rang the buzzer and a nurse came out to meet me. She led me to a different room, one like we hadn’t seen before; it turns out, they were still full and this was a ‘C’ section recovery room. When I got there Jennifer was in the bathroom. I knocked on the door and opened it to meet her. She was just coming out and we embraced one another. She told me that she could get through this if I could, but I wasn’t worried about myself right then, I was more worried about her. Jennifer took the last miscarriage bad and I never want us to have to go through something like that again! But this was 100% different; this was a baby, not a clump of cells, or blob of nothing that some people seem to think. I just felt the baby with my own hands a few days ago, and now they say she’s dead?? As we talked alone, we said that if she’s not alive, we want a ‘C’ section so they could take her right away. I guess we just wanted it to be all over. Jennifer was very adamant about the ‘C’ section. I didn’t think Jennifer could get trough a natural birth, knowing that she’d give birth to a dead baby.
“Was this really happening again?” I just couldn’t accept it. Soon, my sister arrived, followed by the pastor friend whom I called, Jennifer’s mother and our pastor. I had them anoint Jennifer with oil and pray for life again as we gathered around the chair that Jennifer was sitting in. I couldn’t let the devil steal what we had waited so long for! I called my work and told them that they would have to send someone to get my digital card with the pictures and notes, because I didn’t know what time I’d get done, or if I’d ever be. When my fellow photographer arrived at the hospital I went down to meet him at my car and told him the situation. He prayed for me right there on the street, something that I appreciated greatly. At that point, I needed all the prayer I could get. I continued by giving him the card and my notes and explaining the photos I’d taken. He said he would call others in his church and ask them to pray too.
I got back up to the room and Jennifer was still waiting to hear from someone. Jennifer just wanted her doctor, so the nurse called, but she was busy, and she would come up as soon as she finished what she was doing. I was so glad; she’s just the best doctor ever, to sacrifice her personal time to take care of our situation was amazing!
Then finally, the hospital staff was able to get us in to a real room as Jennifer got situated. I think it was one of the biggest they had, and it would be fitting for everyone we’d have in there. There was nothing that we could have done, or wanted to do, until Jennifer’s doctor arrived. We waited for a short time before she came to our room. She gave Jennifer and me a hug and said there’s no way she’d ever see this coming. Jennifer got into bed and the doctor sat on the edge as she talked. Honestly, I don’t think every doctor would take the time to do that. She told us the options. I guess there’s really only two options right then, have a regular birth or ‘C’ section. She told us that we could wait, go home and let it sink in, but Jennifer and I didn’t want to do that. After all, she was already 37 weeks and 4 days and with all the extra fluid Jennifer was worn out. We had the appointment for the induction at the Baltimore hospital scheduled for the next week. As I look back, I thought to myself, “If she’d had only been taken a few days or a week earlier when we thought the doctor said we’d have her in Baltimore.” But hind sight is indeed 20/20. The doctor also warned us that a ‘C’ section is a major surgery and we’d be already going through enough with everything else.
I didn’t want Jennifer to go through any more than she had to. We’ve been waiting this long; another day wouldn’t hurt. (This would be the induction process) I was hoping, myself, that Jennifer would choose natural, but the decision would ultimately be up to her. Jennifer finally settled on a natural birth for our little girl, Jenna.
A short time later, the doctor broke Jennifer’s water as I aided by opening the instrument that looked like a knitting needle since the nurse stepped out of the room. When this was done, Jennifer was dilated to 1. For those who don’t know, dilation has to be at 10 for birth. A member of the IV team came in to start an IV with a slow drip of a drug that educes labor along with the sugar water. All we had to do right now was to wait….sound familiar?
Jennifer and I just didn’t comprehend it. Honestly, I didn’t know how we’d get through this one. I remember when we found out about the birth defect, I didn’t know how we’d get through that one, now this. The Bible says that God wouldn’t put more on us than we can handle. I guess He thinks that we can handle this one too, but only by His grace. I kept praying for life for my baby. I thought the sonogram and the machine could be wrong.
The anesthesiologist came to give Jennifer an epidural. This takes away most of the feeling from Jennifer’s lower half. The doctor tried several times before getting the catheter in the right spot. They made me sit down because some husbands faint when they see it….Not to mention any names. (One of our very good friends.)
During all this time our family and friends were coming and going. For the past few weeks our church members had been getting ready for a parade in Cumberland and one in Frostburg as they made signs and assembled a float. It was about 6pm, time for the float to be in position and everyone to get ready, but our pastor and his wife were there in the room with us. I told them that they’d better get going to the parade, but they said that they weren’t going; everyone was out in the waiting room. The tears welled up, “all that time, hard work and the money spent, and no one was going to be in the parade.” I thought to myself. I didn’t want to cause anyone any more inconvenience, but there’d be no one in the parade that night. But we didn’t make the decision, someone else did. We had people coming in the hospital all evening. The support of friends and family was overwhelming!
There were many tears and sniffling noses and we hadn’t even had Jenna yet. Honestly, I was believing in a divine miracle. I was so convinced, because after we prayed when everyone started to arrive at the hospital, no one ever checked for the heartbeat again. I was thinking my little girl’s heart could bebeating right now, but we’d never know because that monitor wasn’t hooked up.
Now I knew how the monitor worked. During normal situations, there would be two small disks orprobes strapped to Jennifer’s stomach, one to monitor contractions and another to monitor a heartbeat. With the earlier trips to the hospital and at the hospital in Baltimore after the amnio, Jennifer was monitored and I was used to the procedure. If she had to use the restroom, I would unplug the wires and follow her into the bathroom and when she was finished would bring them back and plug them back in.
But I guess I didn’t have the faith of a mustard seed because I wanted to see for myself, if there was a heartbeat. I got the small disk out of the drawer and put some sonogram jelly on it and plugged it in. As I laid it on Jennifer’s stomach, I was praying to myself, “Please God, we need a heartbeat!” But there was only silence. People often say silence is golden, but to me, right there it was devastating. I heard it for myself, or didn’t hear it for myself. My little girl was gone. I wanted to just curl up in a ball in the corner and cry for the rest of my life. It was kind of a confirmation, but I still believed there could be a God-given miracle before Jenna was born.
It was about 6:45pm and Jennifer asked me if anyone called the person from outside our church who was going to be in the parade with us on our float. He was going to dress up like Jesus. Let me explain a little, it was an election year, so we went with the theme “Vote for Jesus.” The float was decorated with red, white and blue. Anyway…I said no and called him to tell him the news. He was wandering around the parade line-up area looking for us. He only looked half like Jesus; he hadn’t put on the full costume yet, but bet he was getting some strange looks as he passed people. About 8pm Jesus walked into our room. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Jesus? How charismatic are these people?” But look at the pictures on my website; our friend left the parade and came to visit us in the labor and delivery unit of the hospital. I wonder what the doctors and nurses were thinking when Jesus came walking in? How about the patients whose rooms he walked by? The phone lines were probably tied up with people calling their loved ones saying, “Jesus just walked by my room!” “Yea, right, grandma, we’ll have the doctor get you a pill for hallucinations in the morning.” We all laughed as we saw how authentic he really looked. He did a good job! After all, he played Jesus in a local production of a play a few years earlier.
It was now about 10pm and Jennifer hadn’t eaten anything but soup at lunch so she wanted something. Still dilated to 1 or 1.5, she could still eat, according to the nurses. The dilemma was what?? That’s nothing new; whenever we go to eat neither one of us wants to pick something that the other doesn’t want, so back and forth we go, “You pick.” “No, you pick.” If you’re married, you know what I’m talking about. But this was her night; I think she had the right to choose anything she wanted, but because of the time, choices were limited. We settled and I went to get it for her. She wanted a baked potato, so I went to the one place in town that has them. She also told me I had to eat too, so I went through the drive through, but much to my dismay, they didn’t have any baked potatoes, I guess it just wasn’t our night. After calling Jennifer on my cell phone, she quickly chose something else. As I drove back to the hospital I worried about Jennifer the whole time. She told me that she could get through this if I could. She was more worried about me than herself; of course I was more worried about her than anything else at this point. I know that she can take things rough and I didn’t know how things would be. Never in our wildest dreams would we have imagined this.
It began to sink in. “What are we going to do?” Honestly, I didn’t know. Several nurses at the hospital talked with us and told us what could be done. First we could have a funeral or private service, or maybe cremation. But what really got us is when they said the hospital could dispose of the baby. Now personally I don’t know how someone could have the hospital just dispose of my baby.
As we waited in the room, I couldn’t help but think, "People get rid of babies like this in partial birth abortion clinics every day." And we want our baby, but she’s already gone. It really doesn’t seem fair.
We learned by a phone call from a friend that there was an accident during the parade that we were supposed to be in, and things got held up, someone was told (you know how that goes, gossip seems to run like a train without brakes in a small town and usually these rumors end up to be a train wreck). As my family would enter and leave the hospital, they saw the associate pastor of the church I worked for in the emergency waiting room. As they stopped to say hello, they learned that the person who got run over by the fire truck was the associate pastor’s grandson. He was riding on a fire truck and he fell off and the tire ran over his leg. We couldn’t believe it and ironically, I took this young man’s picture just hours earlier. For my job, I went to his school and he was chosen for the photo because he was one of the students wearing crazy socks for the crazy sock day to show school spirit. We both were in the same hospital hours later.
There were some friends in our room at the time, so I decided to go down to the emergency waiting room to see how this middle-school aged young man was doing. I told Jennifer I felt I should just go say hello and let them know that we’d pray for him.
When I got downstairs, I met up with the associate pastor to learn for myself what had happened. The fire truck ran over his grandson’s leg but there were no bones broken. That was a miracle; how much does a fire truck weigh? As I was talking with him a person came out to the waiting room to give an update. Me being as nosy as I am, I listened in, but not really. There was a bunch of family and friends there gathered around listening so the person giving the update had to talk loudly. She was saying that the doctor just arrived and was going to look at the boy’s leg. They were unsure at that point, until the doctor evaluated the situation, if they could operate at the local hospital, or whether he’d have to be flown to the same Baltimore hospital where we were going for appointments. With that, the update was over and I told them that we’d be praying for the youngster. I headed back up to the room with my wife.
Jennifer’s oldest sister came up to be with us. Jennifer always said that she wanted her mother with her when she had the baby, but she wasn’t able to be there because she had to take care of Jennifer’s father. So with her sister there, she was comforted. The minutes ticked by as the nurses said that it was getting time for visitors to leave so Jennifer could rest. She’d need plenty of rest for all the pushing she’d have to do when it was time.
Jennifer’s sister and I stayed in the room and my parents stayed out in the waiting room through the night. I told my parents that they didn’t have to stay the night, but they said that that’s where they had to be. The nurse made a bed for me with a chair I was sitting on and we brought a recliner over from another room for Jennifer’s sister. We all took to our beds, so to speak, and talked as we watched the contractions on a monitor as we tried to get some rest. But there was so much on all of our minds.
The pull-out chair made into a bed was very lumpy, unlike the pull-out sofa at home that I hoped it would be like. I just couldn’t get comfortable. It was about 2am when I untied the straps securing the mattress to the frame and put it on the floor. I thought I’d be more comfortable lying on the floor, after all, that’s were I’d been spending most of my nights anyway. No, not because Jennifer and I were arguing and I got thrown out of our bedroom, but she seemed to be more comfortable on the couch for the past few weeks, so I slept on the floor beside her.
As I drifted off to sleep, the last thing I remember was a nurse saying Jennifer was dilated to 3 at 3am, the next thing I knew it was about 6am and I heard the nurse say she’s nearly 10. For those who don’t know, that means it’s just about time. I walked to the waiting room and found my parents sleeping. My father stretched out on the couch with his feet hanging off because he’s so tall and my mother in a chair with her head back and mouth open, it reminded me of her father when he slept. I’m sure it was a short night for them too, so I didn’t want to wake them. I just let them sleep for a while longer. It’s not like Jenna was halfway out or anything.
A short time later I went down to the lobby to get a newspaper to see what had happened the day before, I like to be informed. As I came back to the third floor I stopped at the waiting room just outside labor and delivery to wake my parents to let them know that Jennifer would soon be pushing.
I got back to the room and began coaching. I guess that’s what you call it. When a contraction was visible on the monitor, Jennifer was told to push. A nurse would hold one foot up with her knee bent and I would hold the other.
I was surprised how well Jennifer was doing. Being married for nearly nine years, I thought I knew her, but I guess not. For some strange reason I thought she’d be a sissy, but once again she proved me wrong. I can’t say it enough, I was so proud of her!
The doctor arrived and checked things, and said she was doing well. I’m sure she says that to everyone though. Another nurse came in the room to hold Jennifer’s feet so I moved to hold her head as she bears down. The doctor thought it’d be better for Jennifer’s legs to be on a bar, funny they didn’t use any stirrups, you hear about those stirrups all the time, but they are used for some things, the ladies will assure you. So Jennifer’s feet were up on a bar that attached to the bed.
The nurse turned on a set of bright lights overhead, and then she grabbed a remote control to adjust the lights to the correct position. It was cool, the remote had a strobe light that flashed and the lights moved to aim toward that flashing. Neat!
This whole time I was praying for a miracle. I believed that my little girl could come out and take a big breath and start crying. “Please GOD!” I thought. Jennifer, her sister and I were talking about the buzz that would go through the hallways if that happened. What a testimony! We could only imagine how they’d talk about us, not us, but Jenna, the miracle baby.
With every contraction Jennifer made no sound, she’d rest between contractions and maybe talk a little. Jennifer’s sister said that if she didn’t have that epidural she could tell her how it’d feel as the screen measured each one. When her sister had her final baby naturally, she did not have the lower half numbed by the epidural.
Jenna’s almost here, but we have nothing for our baby to wear. We didn’t plan for any of this! But then again, who really does? Jennifer’s sister volunteered to go to our house to get the outfit we planned to bring her home in. Jennifer had already washed nearly everything, so it was in a basket folded up. I remember we got this outfit about two months earlier. We were in Hagerstown and went to an outlet store where we found a cute pink striped outfit with pants and jacket. We added a mock turtle neck with a fringed neck to complete the ensemble. Jennifer’s sister would also get a onezie and a pink pair of socks to match.
While her sister was gone, with each contraction, Jennifer kept pushing. The nurses would come and go; just after 7am, there was a shift change so we had some new nurses now. There were a number of nurses coming into the room where they’d stand at the end of the bed and talk to one another while Jennifer was there with her legs up and wide open. It was sort of comical, that they were having a perfectly normal conversation in the situation. But this is everyday to them, it’s no different then Jennifer talking to a co-worker while she had a customer on hold or something. It was just funny at the time.
The doctor said she felt Jenna’s head and then could see it. She said, “She has black hair.” Now this was something we wondered about during the whole pregnancy. Red hair runs deep in both of our families, my sister, my nieces and Jennifer’s grandmother. I went around getting a better look. I asked the doctor if I could see. She was able to show me with a simple curtain pulling technique with a couple of fingers, without going into too much detail. I saw Jenna’s head! Wow! That’s the top of my little girl’s head; the hair was just as black as mine when it’s wet.
Several more pushes and Jenna’s head began to crown. Soon her head was all the way out. I was still praying for LIFE, praying that she’d gasp for that first breath. I was snapping away with my camera as the doctor pulled Jenna out. Click, click, click. As fast as the camera would take another picture, I’d take it. With head out now, the shoulders were the final challenge. Jennifer said that my have been the worst part. As she grunted with one last push, she screamed for the very first time. With a little cry she blurted, “Get her out!” With that, at 8:10am, the doctor pulled Jenna out and for the first time I saw my baby, she was long and shiny with the fluid but blue with her top layer of skin ripping a little on her arm and chest near her shoulder showing the red, more delicate skin beneath, reminding me of the skin beneath a blister or something.
“OH GOD, PLEASE!!!!!” I knew he could do it, but she wasn’t moving or breathing. It finally sunk in, she wasn’t coming back. The doctor asked me if I wanted to cut the cord. I knew that they had fathers do this, but I didn’t expect it with everything that was going on. I said yes and with the scissors in hand cut the cord. The cord that used to be my little girl’s life line, before something went terribly wrong, they said we may never know why, just one more thing to have in the back of my head the rest of my life.
I felt excited and mortified at the same time. The nurses began wrapping Jenna up in blankets as the doctor was focusing on the after birth.
There she was, my little girl. I couldn’t believe she was there, but she wasn’t there at the same time. I didn’t know if I should cry tears of happiness or grief. But I was concentrating on taking pictures throughout the whole process.
The nurses quickly put a yellow hat on her little cone-shaped head with a pink puff on the top. The two of them wrapped Jenna tightly in a hospital blanket and then wrapped her again in a crocheted blanket with pink, blue, yellow and green colors and a yellow bow made out of ribbon. She was wrapped up like a little present, especially with that bow.
Since day one, all I wanted was to hold my little girl. I would joke with Jennifer that she would be holding her for nine months, I need to catch up. She knew how much it meant to me so she said I could be the first one to hold her. She told the nurses to let me hold her first.
The nurse handed my little girl to me, my little Jenna Benna. Now Benna wasn’t her middle name, but just a pet name that I called her; it rhymed. I couldn’t believe it, my little girl.
She was beautiful!!!!! How could I help make something so beautiful? (Well I really had a microscopic part in it, Jennifer did all the work.) She was so tiny. Being a new father, I hadn’t held too many babies in the past I only started wanting to hold the little ones as Jennifer was pregnant because I needed practice, so I was still scared that I was going to squeeze her too tight or drop her. I knew that I really couldn’t hurt her anymore since she was gone, but still it was on my mind; I gently held her. The nurse grabbed my camera and got off a few shots of her first cuddling.
This was my little girl! She was a little blue, but she looked perfect. Her hands had ten fingers and her feet, ten toes. Her arms and legs were so long. She took after me in that department I guess. When I held her head up right too far, her little mouth would drop open. I took my finger and closed it, but it was like a little hinge and would keep dropping open. I hated to see her mouth just drop like that, so I made sure that I kept her head lower so her little mouth wouldn’t hang open.
I thought to myself, if only I would have prayed a little more, or had a little more faith. All it takes is the faith of a mustard seed. For those who don’t know, the Bible says that that tiny mustard seed, about the size of the head of a pin, knows it will grow up to be one of the largest trees and make millions more seeds. Wow, what faith. I’ve seen a mustard seed before, I think I even have one somewhere; it’s only about the size of the head of a pin, but I guess my faith wasn’t the strongest this time.
I leaned over and showed Jennifer our little girl. She wasn’t ready to hold her yet because the doctor was still finishing up with a stitch, but she enjoyed seeing her.
After I held my little girl in my arms for a while, the nurses brought in a scale to weigh her. They carefully unwrapped her frail little body and placed her on the scale. 4 pounds, 14 ounces. I thought this was weird because on the last sonogram, 13 days earlier they said she weighed 5 pounds, 14 ounces. Maybe their equipment wasn’t as good as they thought in the big city hospital. During this time, the placenta was out. The doctor looked at it and saw a small area that didn’t look normal, she called it an infarction, yes a funny word to say. According to Wikipedia, in medicine, infarction is when an artery leading to any tissue is blocked by some object (blood clot, cholesterol deposit, et cetera), depriving that tissue of oxygen, which causes the tissue to die, or in more technical terms, it is necrosis of tissue due to upstream obstruction of its arterial blood supply. From what I gather, a blood clot. The doctor wasn’t sure if this could have led to the stillbirth or not, but it would be sent out for tests along with the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord was straight, unlike the ones I saw on television in the past few months. I noticed this and thought it looked unusual as the doctor explained that as the baby moves around, twists and tumbles inside the womb, that’s how the cord gets twisted. This lack of the twisted cord could mean a lack of movement. Sure Jenna was moving while she was in the womb, but maybe it wasn’t enough.
By this time, Jenna was wrapped up in a blanket again and then given to her mother, Jennifer. Right now, to me, she really didn’t look dead; she just looked like a newborn baby. I haven’t seen one that fresh out of the womb in person, but that is what I imagined anyway. I was just snapping away with the pictures as our little girl was held by her Mommy.
Jennifer’s sister returned from our house, getting Jenna’s going home outfit and I met her in the hall. I told her that Jenna was born a few minute earlier. I told her to come in the room and she did but she just sat in a rocking chair, with tears streaming down her face.
I went out to the waiting room to have my parents come back after Jennifer had been covered up and made decent. They entered the room with their eyes filled with tears. I couldn’t tell you what they were thinking. I asked my mother if she wanted to hold her and she jumped at the chance; she was the first one to hold my little girl after Jennifer and myself. As my mother was holding little Jenna, my father had to turn his head, I guess to let some tears out. He finally regained his composure and sat in a rocking chair and my mother set Jenna in his cradled arms. He just looked at her little face with teary eyes; again, I don’t know what was on his mind.
For the next couple of hours friends and family came in the room. I sure was glad to have such a large room! Our pastor and his wife came, along with my two sisters, and another one of Jennifer’s sisters and a good friend who had a baby boy about 6 or 7 months earlier. There were so many tears that flowed down the cheeks of everyone in the room. I remember specifically our friend who recently had her baby boy. When Jennifer’s sister handed Jenna to her, tears streamed down her face. Honestly, I don’t think I’d ever seen tears flow like that before. It reminded me of a fast leak on a kitchen faucet. She squeezed Jenna tightly, but I could only guess what she was thinking.
Jennifer’s doctor and a nurse remained in the room, quietly standing in a corner, just watching. The night before, Jennifer said to make sure I get a picture of the doctor holding Jenna. So finally, the doctor who delivered Jenna just over an hour earlier got to hold our little girl. Jennifer and I were astonished as she was still in the room so long after she delivered the baby. She’s a busy doctor with a heavy patient load, so she once again sacrificed to be there. After holding our little girl for a few minutes, she passed her to the next in line, so to speak, and then excused herself. Thursday was her office day, so she already had to bump some patients to stay as long as she did.
Next our pastor and one of Jennifer’s brothers-in-law came in and held our little girl, as well as a pastor friend. While there, the brother-in-law led us in a prayer. It was very comforting to know that all those people where there. Next another good friend and her daughter came in. This was the family whom we stayed with in Hagerstown during our trips to the Baltimore hospital. I also remember her specifically as she held Jenna tightly and kissed her forehead. Just looking at her holding Jenna made me want to cry; truly, we weren’t the only ones who would miss this little angel here on earth, but the room full of people began to prove it.
This was something that surprised Jennifer and me, nearly everyone who came in the room held our little girl. Personally, if we faced that same situation, coming to visit someone else who had a stillbirth, we didn’t know if we would have held the baby. But of course now, we would for sure. I don’t think I’ll ever pass up an opportunity to hold another baby.
Jennifer had been thinking of a song for the last few hours. She asked someone to sing the chorus to the old hymn “Wonderful Peace,” words by W. W. Cornell and Music by W. G. Cooper. The words are:
Peace! Peace! Wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above;
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,
In fathomless billows of love.
Everyone in the room sang with soft “library” voices, but with the number of people in the room, I’m almost sure that much of the hospital heard.
A ministry friend soon came in the room as everyone took turns holding Jenna. It was kinda like a game of hot potato, but instead of passing her swiftly around, everyone stopped to say a silent prayer, shed a few tears or whatever they felt as they cradled her in their arms.
As we talked with family and friends, we also thought it’d be a good idea to bury Jenna with Jennifer’s grandparents. This is something else that the nurses said we could do, have her buried with a family member, instead of buying another plot by herself. Jennifer’s grandparents were the only pair of grandparents we both knew. We both knew my grandmother, but my dad’s father died when he was seven. So none of us kids knew him. But on the other hand, Jennifer’s grandparents went to my church, so growing up I knew them well, seeing them several times a week. We thought this would be best. But we’d need permission from the rest of the family, Jennifer’s mother’s siblings. After a few phone calls, it was agreed to bury Jenna with her great-grandparents. This was the time that Jennifer’s mother’s sister also came to the hospital. She came to let us know that we could bury Jenna with her parents, Jenna’s great-grandparents. She contacted her siblings and everyone agreed. We can’t thank them enough too.
During this time, Jenna hadn’t been washed off or anything. The white film that she came out with still covered her little body, so she needed to get cleaned up. With a room full of people, constantly for the last two hours and nurses before that, we needed a break too. So the nurse asked everyone to wait in the waiting room as Jenna was given a bath and dressed in her outfit that Jennifer’s sister went home to get earlier.
Carefully, after gathering all the supplies she’d need, the nurse began to slowly unwrap Jenna. Until then, she only had the yellow hat on, but the nurses had wrapped her tightly in blankets after the delivery and Jenna was now naked as she came out. The nurse gently began to wash the white slimy substance that covered our little girl. First her head, arms, belly, legs, and finally back. I wanted to wash my daughter, but I was afraid I would rip her skin off more than what it was. I was afraid I would make things worse; it was a fragile job that I left to the professional. The nurse completed the time-consuming task of washing her delicate skin and it was time for the measurements. The head was first, she wrapped the tape around the middle of Jenna’s head and it measured 12 ¼. Next Jenna’s chest, which measured 10 ½. Finally, the overall length, she was just as long as she looked. When Jenna was first born, she looked so long and the tape measure didn’t lie, 19 ½. During this time, Jennifer was lying in bed hardly able to keep her eyes open. Being drained physically from the birth several hours earlier and obviously just as much emotionally drained at the same time.
The foot and hand prints were next. She got a kit that had a small amount of putty and pressed her little feet in it, leaving an impression of each foot. This wasn’t something that was done for every baby, but individuals, groups or organizations donated items that would be keepsakes for stillborns. Next she got an ink pad and placed Jenna’s little feet on it and rubber-stamped it onto a birth certificate, a seashell (something else for the keepsake box), next on another paper, I’m really not too sure what that was for. Just then, I thought of something, a way to have Jenna with me all the time, I got a notebook from my camera bag, something that I use everyday at work, and I had the nurse put the tiny foot prints on the back of the book. Having her feet there would keep her near me when I was working; a little something to keep her in my mind and I could show them to people too. Her little hand prints were next but this time it was just the one print on the paper so after taking her hands off the slightly opaque (see through) plate, it left a print that looked like a photo negative. Being a photographer, I recognized it right off the bat, so I held it up to the window where there was a bright light coming in and took a picture. With that, the printing was done and the nurse wiped her hands and feet to clean them again. I noticed Jenna’s fingernails looked dark, as if they were painted. Actually, I remember someone who held her earlier asking if we had painted them. No, we hadn’t painted them, but it went along with the dark lips that would just continue to turn a deep hue of blue / purple, something that just happens to stillborns.
I wanted a way to express how I was feeling, but I couldn’t pin point what I was exactly feeling. It was kinda like a vegetable stew with just as many emotions as vegetables. It was during this time I took some photos with the shutter speed on my camera turned way down. Some people who know cameras will know what I’m talking about, but for those who don’t, these frames turned out like there’s a haze over the photo; I thought it was sort of fitting to the situation, being there, but not really. I will title these photographs “Stillbirth Daze.” That day was something I want to forget because I lost my daughter, but at the same time, I don’t ever want to forget it too because it was her birthday.
Next came the diaper. Now personally, I’ve never changed a diaper. Jennifer was going to teach me with Jenna, but now I guess I’d have to wait a while longer. Jennifer was dozing in and out of sleep as the nurse put the diaper on.
Next came the outfit. I thought to myself, “This is something I could do.” I told the nurse I wanted to help so I began with the onezie. I unsnapped it and began putting it over my daughter’s head, but the nurse stopped me, and I didn’t know why. Stupid me, it was backwards. (Hey, it was my first time.) So after turning it around, I put it on with the nurse’s help, followed by the pants and jacket to the outfit and finally the socks. Of course, again being the first time and all, the nurse stopped me and showed me that the little designs on the socks were to go on the outside. Of course I started to put them on the wrong feet and they would have been facing inward. The one time I have the chance to dress my daughter; she would have been all wrong and looked like a dork if it wasn’t for the nurse who was at our side since Jenna was born.
A little time went by as the nurse straightened everything up and took away everything from the bath. It was then she asked us if we had a middle name for our little girl. I didn’t know what to say. Jennifer asked me if it’d be what we had discussed. “Why not?” I thought. We told the nurse and doctor that Jenna’s middle name would be Grace, meaning unmerited favor. Jennifer and I believe that Jenna was a miracle from God ever since we found out she was on the way. After about three years of trying, I guess we finally got it right. We did nothing do deserve her, but we wanted her SO BAD! Jennifer prayed saying Jenna was His (God’s) and she was giving her to whatever He had planned for our baby. Now Jennifer really meant something like Jenna growing up to be a preacher, a singer, or maybe a missionary. Who would have ever thought?
During that day, Jennifer’s doctor called to check up on her and ask Jennifer if she would like to go home that evening or the next day. I think if we would have had a baby to take with us, we would have said we wanted to go home right then. But with no baby to share the rest of our lives with, to cuddle and raise, we chose to say the night and go home the next day. Now at first I thought it would be nice to go home and get some good rest because of not getting too much the night before, but I didn’t think after that long day that I’d have any trouble getting some rest, even though it’d be on that uncomfortable pull-out chair.
Jennifer just kept saying that she believed that we were being spared from going through something and such a peace came over her during this whole time. Throughout the time when visitors came the last evening and that day, when there was a prayer said, the person saying the prayer would pray for peace; ‘The peace that passes all understanding.’ Considering everything, Jennifer and I were doing fairly well. This was God’s peace. This is the only explanation, we should have been more emotional, beside ourselves or something, but we weren’t, we just had a peace about the whole thing. This wasn’t normal for Jennifer though, she’s usually so emotional, most of the time over-emotional. Jennifer’s tears can well up just as quickly as a summertime thunderstorm, even before her hormones were raging during pregnancy. She could be fine one minute but when talking about something that she really cared about, she would get extremely emotional. Again, it must have been that peace that passes all understanding that so many people were praying for.
Jenna was finished, but we forgot to get a hat for her little cone-shaped head. So the nurse went to try to find one. A few minutes later she came back two hats, one had more pink on it than the other, so Jennifer and I chose the one with the most pink because it matched the outfit better. I snapped pictures, one after another, with her in her completed little outfit, but honestly, she looked dead. These pictures looked really sad. Jenna was blue in the face and her lips were really dark.
Finally, my little girl was ready. Ready for what, I really don’t know, but she looked as if she could go home. I wished that I could have run out of the hospital with her in my arms, but it wouldn’t do any good, she’d still be gone. The nurse wrapped her in a blanket and it was time for Mommy to get cleaned up before we could allow visitors back in the room.
Jennifer carefully got out of bed since the epidural was wearing off and the nurse helped her to the shower that was in the attached bedroom. Jennifer said that I should get a shower too, and the nurse said that was all right but I didn’t have any other clothes than the ones I was wearing. The nurse offered me a hospital robe, but right then I couldn’t think of anything more hilarious than me, walking through the labor and delivery unit with my rear end hanging out. Come on, it’s not somewhere you’d find a man walking around in a robe. Right? As I waited in the room sitting on the edge of the bed, looking at the wood-covered bassinet with our daughter in it, I just stared into the face of our little girl. I pulled the small bassinet on wheels closer and rested my chin on the edge, trying to take in and remember every last detail.
Jennifer spent a little time in the shower and got freshened up. Before long she was back in bed with clean sheets and a blanket.
As our guests came back into the room, I introduced my little girl to everyone. Jenna Grace Bone. Until then, we didn’t tell anyone Jenna’s middle name, and it’s funny that no one asked. About this time, two nurses brought in food trays, one for Jennifer and one for me. It just had a sandwich and some fruit so Jennifer and I sat on the bed and ate as visitors still came.
My little girl was in the bassinet and I was again sitting on the edge of Jennifer’s bed. I looked over at her and she looked so peaceful. It looked as if she was sleeping, from this angle, she looked beautiful, and she almost looked alive. So I realized this would be the best photo and I took it, but with the flash off. When taking pictures of Jenna in her little going home outfit she looked bad, but without the flash, using the available light in the room, the bruises or blue discoloration didn’t show as much. This is the photo we used for the obituary and the one on her page on my website.
As I look back it seems like the longest day ever, but the shortest day at the same time. The longest day because of everything that we’d been through, but short because we only had our daughter with us for about 10 hours.
Back again was the steady stream of visitors that we’d grown accustomed to over the last 20 hours. This really isn’t allowed in the Labor and Delivery unit under normal circumstances, but because of the situation, it was accepted. It seemed like Jenna was making the rounds with friends and family holding her. Just about everyone that held her cradled her in their arms and patted her back side, rubbed her back or rocked her in the chair. She’s still a baby, and it’s hard to refrain from comforting her in some way. But that’s funny, she’s in heaven, she’s doing better than all of us. I can see her now with some of Jennifer’s grandparents and aunts and all of my grandparents and other relatives as they fight over who’s going to hold her next. I believe that Jesus was the first to hold her when she left us, but I’m sure being the way Jennifer’s grandmother was, she was sitting beside him, telling him all about my little girl, as if he didn’t know, as she waited with bated breath to get the chance to hold her next.
The nurse offered for me to use the hospital’s camera and get a few photos that they could print right away with their digital camera, so the nurse brought the camera in the room and gave it to me and I was going to take them, but she looked really bad. I guess I just didn’t want to remember her looking like that so I took the camera back to the nurse’s station without taking any. The photos I took with my camera earlier would have to do.
Jennifer’s mother made it back up to the hospital from taking care of her husband, and held Jenna for the first time. She had to take her glasses off for a closer look. With her petite nose and lips, they said she looked like me, most people who held her said she looked like me.
I was surprised to see people from my work stop in. The two other photographers and one of the newspaper’s reporters stopped. And when asked, they held her too. Jennifer wanted to hold her again, but when she did she broke. With tears streaming Jennifer and I sat on the bed where our little girl was born several hours earlier and looked at the little face that God created. We both lost it.
“What are we going to do?” I asked myself. I was thinking about the funeral and everything. But I didn’t want to think of that, I wanted to spend all the time with my little girl that I could. After all, we only had this day, none of us is promised tomorrow. Most people have a lifetime with their kids and some even take it for granted, but we had a fleeting moment. An autopsy went through our thoughts at the same time. The funeral home wouldn’t do anything until it was done. We both agreed, as well as friends and family, that it should be done. They may find out what caused the stillbirth or maybe what was really wrong with her esophagus and / or stomach. At least it would give us closure in that area. And of course if they find something that could have been prevented, someone else’s baby may not die. So it was something that would have to be done. But we wanted an open casket, so we didn’t want her to be disturbed too much. After a nurse called the doctor who delivered Jenna, she said they could do a directed autopsy where they would only disrupt the parts that the doctor wanted. We thought this would be best.
I couldn’t help to think, “Why?” You’re not supposed to ask that, but I think it’s hard not to. I thought of everything I’d done at home getting Jenna’s room ready, but she’d never see it. I thought of all the little clothes that Jennifer had washed and hung in Jenna’s closet. There were many thoughts that ran through my head.
The doctor who delivered Jenna was on her way back, and I’m glad! The nurses were asking us about an autopsy, they needed a solid answer, but they really didn’t know what was going to happen. With some reassurance from the doctor, we’d be more comfortable having it done. I was worried that she wouldn’t be ready for the funeral home to come get her.
Upon arriving, the doctor went right to work getting some answers. She had a nurse get the doctor who’d be doing the procedure on the phone and after talking with him; she said that the autopsy would be completed before noon.
Jennifer and I were worried about the funeral. Of the choices that were given to us, they really didn’t put too much emphasis on having a regular funeral. Jennifer and I thought that so many people were looking forward to our little girl arriving. There were more than 80 people at the baby shower, and everyone who was praying; we weren’t the only ones who were pregnant. We wanted to do the traditional funeral and bury Jenna. This was settled a little earlier in the day.
The doctor was still there talking to us and the nurse came in to tell us that the courier was leaving for the other hospital and would have to take Jenna soon to send her over for the autopsy. If she didn’t go with this courier, the autopsy wouldn’t be done the next day and things would be delayed. She was getting so blue and cold and Jennifer and I wanted to remember our little girl at her best, so we decided to say our good-byes and let her go.
Throughout the pregnancy, I just wanted to hold my baby, and this would be the last time I could ever do that. The tears were streaming down our faces as we kissed her and cuddled her for the final time. I held her for one last time and put my precious little girl in the bassinet. I was the first and last to hold her. It was one of the hardest things we’d ever do as parents, letting our little girl go. I kinda know how parents feel when their child goes off to kindergarten or off to college; it’s hard to let someone go. I wish no one would have to go through this ever again!
Just before 6pm, the nurse pushed the bassinet with our little bundle of joy out of the room for the first time as she reassured us that she’d take off her clothes and return them to us. Throughout all of this, the doctor remained with us. We couldn’t believe all the time she took for the three of us. It was getting late and the doctor had to go; after all, she has a family too.
After the doctor left for the night, I called the funeral home to get the ball rolling, so to speak. I let them know that Jenna would be ready before noon and we’d like to have the funeral Saturday, the 28th. We just didn’t want to have a funeral on Sunday. They already had a funeral in the morning but could do a 1pm, so that’s what we planned. We didn’t want anything at the funeral home, we would do everything at our church; besides, Jenna had already been there so much and I never wanted to do the funeral home visiting and funeral, even when I go, just do it in the church. Anyway, we settled on Saturday at noon for visiting with a 1pm funeral with the interment following. There was nothing private about the whole pregnancy, so we didn’t want just a private grave-side service either.
Earlier, after Jenna’s bath, Jennifer had a shower, but I didn’t get one. It was getting late, nearly 7pm and I was still wearing the same clothes as I had on the day before. I really needed a shower myself! But I wasn’t going to leave while my little girl was there. I wanted to spend forever with her, but 10 short hours would have to do. Jennifer told me to go home to get, in her terms, freshened up. By that time I probably needed it.
The deadline to get the obituary in the following day’s newspaper was approaching, 8:30, and we wanted to get something in then, on Friday, so family and friends could make plans to attend. We wanted everyone who had ever known Jenna, well, about Jenna, to come, but of course there wouldn’t be that many there. So while at home I could get the laptop and bring it to the hospital so Jennifer and I could write the obituary together; when talking to the funeral home I told them I’d take care of this since I had some “connections.” With the laptop there, I could download the pictures I took throughout the day and choose one for the obituary.
I started home thinking about what had happened in the past 30 hours. Upon arriving home I called the rest of my family and our pastor telling them of the funeral plans for Saturday. At that point, our pastor’s wife offered to go with us to the funeral home to make the final arrangements the next day after Jennifer was discharged from the hospital. I said that we’d have to go get an outfit to bury our precious little girl in too and she agreed to take us there too. Also I asked my mother to go to the hospital to wait with Jennifer while I was gone. I hated to leave her alone after this so my mother said she would go up right away.
After getting a shower and finding something to wear, I grabbed the laptop and began the short trip back up to the hospital. When I arrived, my mother and one of our friends who used to go to church, and we wished they’d come back, were in the room. She brought us a nice yellow flower; I’m not sure what kind, but it had petite flowers. I got right to work getting the laptop out and turning it on and I began putting the photos in. We wanted to put a photo with the obituary, but before we had her I thought I didn’t want a picture of my dead baby in the paper. I was thinking of using the last sonogram picture, the 3D one. But after looking at the one picture of Jenna in the bassinet using available light, we knew that would have to be the one we’d use.
I began typing the obituary with help from Jennifer, my mother, and our friend. Below is what we typed and ran in the Cumberland Times-News, October 27, 2006:
Jenna G. Bone (Cumberland)
CUMBERLAND - Jenna Grace Bone went to be with the Lord Oct. 26, 2006, at Cumberland's Memorial Hospital.
Born Oct. 26, 2006, she was the daughter of John A. and Jennifer Bone of Cumberland.
She was preceded in death by her maternal great-grandparents, Delbert and Anna Knippenberg and James Voorhees; and paternal great-grandparents, Frederick E. and Luella Peck and James and Vivian Bone.
Even though Jenna was here a short eight and a half months in the womb, she will be greatly missed by many who have a void in their hearts. Under the covering of constant prayers of family, friends, loved ones and strangers her little life affected many.
Jenna is survived by her parents, John A. and Jennifer Bone; maternal grandparents, Pastor Bernard and Audrey Yost; paternal grandparents, John H. and Judy Bone; maternal great-grandmother, Eva Voorhees; aunts and uncles, Tonya and Travis Cottrill, Amy Yost, Rebecca and Shannon Rust, Joy Layton, Julia Riggleman; cousins, Jeremy Harbaugh, Andrew Harbaugh, Brennan Yost, BreeAnna Cottrill, Shelby Garletts, Matthias Rust, Reuben Cottrill, Sarah Butler, Margaret Butler, April Butler, Kimberly Riggleman and Normagien Layton; and numerous extended family. Special friends, who are like family, Pastor Gary and Linda Gordon, William and Carrie Pifer, Corey and Angie Ellsworth, and many others from Liberty Christian Fellowship, Lake Gordon Assembly of God and God's Ark of Safety.
Friends and family will be received at Liberty Christian Fellowship, Route 220 South, Cresaptown, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006, from noon to 1 p.m. with services beginning at 1 p.m. at the church with Pastor Gary Gordon and Pastor Richard Greene officiating.
Interment will be with her maternal great-grandparents, Delbert and Anna Knippenberg, at Mount Herman Church Cemetery, Williams Road, Cumberland.
John and Jennifer wish to relay their heart-felt thanks to all those who have been praying and ask for your continued prayers through this difficult time.
The Scarpelli Funeral Home, P.A., 108 Virginia Ave., Cumberland, is in charge of the arrangements.
The deadline to get the obituary was near, but we had no Internet access at the hospital so I’d have to take it into the office myself. My mother left as I burned the text and photo to a disk and again left the hospital and hurried into the office as Jennifer and our friend looked through the photos on the laptop.
I got the office and talked to the obituary reporter as guys from the sports department came over to meet me and tell me how sorry they were. After my eyes well up another time, I go back to the photo desk to put in the photo and text. As we got sonograms I would make prints and put them up on the wall in front of the photography computer. When I went in, one of the reporters had taken them down and put them in a folder. I’m not exactly sure why they did this, maybe they thought I wouldn’t want to look at them or maybe they didn’t want see them. But I wouldn’t be there for a while, so it really didn’t matter too much to me. When I put the photo in I cropped it and toned it, preparing the photo for the next day’s paper.
After getting things done at the office, I thought I could go home and print out a picture of our little girl to have with us. I put Jenna’s picture on the computer and began printing photos of our little girl. The first one didn’t turn out too well so I edited it a little, lightening her little lips and face since she was a little blue. So as the last one was printing out, Jennifer called me on my cell phone wanting me up there; she was getting lonely.
I quickly took a photo over to Jennifer’s father, who couldn’t come up to the hospital because of his health. I wanted him to see his granddaughter and from there I rushed back up to the hospital to my wife. I was thinking that I always wanted to hear my little girl call me Daddy, not Dad, but Daddy. There’s a difference between the two. Anyone can be Dad, but Daddy seems so much more affectionate. To me it would mean so much more and with a girl, sometimes they call their father Daddy throughout life.
When I walked in my wife’s room she was there with a sad look on her face. This is something I really don’t understand, why she told me to go get the things done, but then she didn’t want me to go. I just don’t understand sometimes, but it’s not the first, that’s for sure. She showed me four containers of cookies that someone baked for us. A good friend from church who was there earlier in the day and held Jenna. She went home and baked us Jennifer’s favorite, M&M, and my favorite, peanut butter. She then had her daughter bring them to us at the hospital. That little gesture meant a lot to Jennifer and me, plus, the cookies were yummy!
But this was just a prelude to the outpouring of kindness that would come in the weeks ahead.
It was about 10:30pm or so and one final visitor came back to see us. This friend in ministry was the same one who came and held Jenna during the day, the same lady who was herself then going through a miscarriage. We chatted for a while when my cell phone rang, it was her husband who couldn’t be there then and just wanted to say hello and see how we were holding up. They’ve been good friends who were just one more encouragement to us during the horrible time we were having.
The night wasn’t kind to Jennifer. I guess she gets that from her father; he never did like the night she says. I slept fairly well after scooting the make-shift bed from the pull out chair as close to my wife’s bed as possible. I always did have a hard time going to sleep without her.
The dawn came and nurses came in and out of the room. When we finally roused, I walked to the lobby
to get a paper to see our little girl’s obituary. Upon making it back up to the room, Jennifer and I were going to read it together, but just as we were opening the paper a nurse came into the room with a tray and left and soon returned with another. This is one thing I’d have to say about the stay at the hospital, they fed us both. All the nurses on the floor took good care of us, all three of us! Anyway, when the trays came, we decided to eat the breakfast before reading the obituary. It was a good breakfast, I remember that, but not exactly what it was.
When we were finished eating, I began to look at the paper. First the death notices, there it was, after all, it’s in the newspaper; it’s got to be true, right? Our little girl’s name; Bone, Jenna G. We then opened to the obituary page. It was at the top left corner of the page, the first one, by special request of course, the photo of our beautiful daughter with her chubby cheeks and petite nose. This picture may have made some people sad, but I kinda liked seeing it. It was one more chance to look at God’s little creation, about 30,000 times, that’s how many times it was printed in the paper. Even now, a few weeks later, I look at her picture often. I still have all the old sonogram pictures on my dashboard, but the good picture, the one used in the obituary on top.
I began reading out loud as Jennifer sat beside me on the hospital bed. We both well up with tears as we read it. After getting through it, we just sat there, almost in disbelief. Again, “Is this really happening?”
A nurse came in to give Jennifer an MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) shot. The reason for this is when Jennifer’s blood was drawn and tested it came back that her immunization to rubella, a.k.a. German measles, was equivocal. It was explained to us that if she came in contact with the disease she could get it. They couldn’t give her the shot then because she was pregnant. We later found out the rubella could cause birth defects…..Hmmmmmm? We’ll never know if this was the cause for Jenna’s birth defect, but with research hopefully we will someday. Technically, the woman would have to be exposed to rubella during her pregnancy, and Jennifer never showed any signs of this. There’s really no evidence that this could be a factor, but you’re thinking about getting pregnant, make sure you’re up-to-date on your immunizations, there’s a reason for it!
We had no visitors, but many phone calls. It seemed that we were on either of our cell phones or the hospital phone for much of the morning. It was getting to be about 10am and Jennifer wanted to take a nap. Of course I let her get comfortable on her own bed, besides, it was her bed anyway, right?
I sat in a chair with the laptop and continued writing this story. At that time I was just at the point that we got the good news about the FECG and the amniocentesis. What a change of events. Going from that awesome news to our world falling apart just a day before.
As I was typing, the doctor came in to see how Jennifer was doing, but she was still asleep. The doctor gently woke her. After talking with the doctor who did the autopsy, she said that Jenna’s birth defect was an esophageal atresia. If you read the story earlier, you know that the atresia means that the esophagus just goes down and stops, also known as a blind pouch. This news was some closure when it came to the birth defect. There was no way of telling which one she actually had until she was born. Also the doctor said that Jennifer could go home whenever she wanted, she would go sign the discharge papers. She also expressed her regrets in not being able to make it the funeral. She said that she had a class and couldn’t get out of it. Now we didn’t really expect her to come anyway, but it was nice of her to let us know that she would have been there if she could. It was a nice gesture.
As we were talking with the doctor, a nurse came in the room with a vase filled with 24 yellow roses. As she set them down I knew who they were from. I read the card and my assumptions were correct, the roses came from the friends who we stayed with in Hagerstown during our trips to the large hospital in Baltimore. When his daughter was born, he got roses then too. It made us think that we were part of the family.
Since the doctor said Jennifer could home, she wanted to get into the shower, but here come the nurses with more food, it was lunch time. I didn’t know they wanted to fatten ya up while you’re in the hospital, but throughout the last two days, the nurses did a good job of keeping us fed, that’s for sure! But I appreciated it.
The last two days were filled with a constant barrage of friends and family coming and going, but today was different. There was no one other than the hospital personnel coming in and out of the room. Sure, we had phone calls, but it wasn’t the same. In some ways we needed the quiet, but in other ways it was really lonely, making us feel, once again, all alone. It really wasn’t a bad thing, just different than what we’d been used to recently.
After lunch, Jennifer prepared to get a shower. But yesterday the nurse was there to help; today she had to help with an emergency C Section. We were disappointed not to have her with us again. She did such a good job the day before as she helped Jennifer and gave Jenna her first and last bath and everything. But we didn’t mind her having to take care of others; we wanted to give her the chance to help someone else as much as she helped us the day before. So it was my job to help this time.
Of course I really didn’t know what I was doing, again. I helped as much as I could, getting clothes and towels ready. I tried anyway.
After a refreshing shower Jennifer got dressed and dried her hair while I got things together to go home. The nurse came in with the discharge papers. After going over all the details, Jennifer signed it to make it official, she was free to go. This nurse was a different one than the one who had helped us earlier and the day before.
I called our pastor’s wife and arranged for us to go to the funeral home together and the mall to get an outfit to bury our little girl.
We gathered our things and realized that we couldn’t carry all that we brought and get it down to the car in one trip. So with that, I took my cameras and laptop to the car. After putting the things in the car, driving up to the door, and going back into the hospital, I went back into the hospital lobby. When entering, I ran into someone whom I knew, I just took pictures of his son’s wedding a few months earlier and he expressed his condolences. I said thanks and had to leave to get back upstairs. This was my first experience with the “people on the street” experience, and I didn’t do too well. I could have cried, so I had to excuse myself and get going.
When I got back up to Jennifer’s room she was packing up a few things as the nurse was rolling the wheelchair to the room. We found a cart and put the rest of our things on it and I pushed it as Jennifer held the 2 dozen roses in her lap. We got on the elevator and heading down off the “baby” floor, but there was something wrong. We didn’t have our baby. It just didn’t seem right, leaving without our little girl. My heart was broken without our little bundle of joy. There was no car seat in the back of the car or no cries or whimpers of little healthy lungs. There was just silence. We were leaving the hospital on a soggy afternoon about 48 hours after arriving I guess that’s normal, but we were missing one thing; one big important thing, our baby, our precious little girl. She was so beautiful! She was the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen, but I guess I’m a little biased.
The nurse wheeled Jennifer to the car and let her get out and into the car as I put the rest of our things in the car. Jennifer had to hold the roses in her lap and couldn’t see around them out of the car.
Anyway we drove the short trip from the hospital to home, in just a few miles. It was a quiet ride; I guess there wasn’t too much to say. After parking, Jennifer and I took some things into the house, but she only came into the kitchen before going over to see her father; her parents live next to us. This was the first time Jennifer had seen her father since before going to the hospital. There were a few baskets of clothes in our middle room that two nights before were being washed and folded by Jennifer. She asked me to take them up and put them in Jenna’s room; she didn’t want to look at them. We arranged for our pastor’s wife to meet us at home and drive us a few blocks to the funeral home to make the arrangements.
Walking in the funeral home was different. We’re usually there for someone else, to pay our condolences and last respects for a friend or family member. But this was different; this was for our little girl. We met with the funeral home representative and he showed us the smallest casket I’ve ever seen. It was white with handles that folded up. The lid was not attached, it was separate. The representative said that this casket was an all-in-one, meaning that this would go in the ground and that’s it. There’d be no vault needed. This little box was air and water tight. I lifted it up and found it to be relatively light, but the lid felt a little heavier. One person could have lifted it and carried our little girl, but who’d be the pallbearers?
Jennifer and I thought we could ask her two oldest nephews and my two oldest nieces to represent each of our families to carry Jenna to her final resting place. But of course we’d have to see if they would or could do it. Also, while planning the service, I sent Jenna’s photo via e-mail, and a decision on the little program or memoriam that’s beside the book at funeral homes had to be made. The funeral director recommended the Lord’s Prayer printed on the inside but we didn’t know. Right then, our pastor’s wife spoke up and recommended putting the “Now I lay me down to sleep” children’s prayer instead. It was a good fit; after all it was a baby’s funeral. So that’s what we went with.
The funeral home employee wrote down the costs on an invoice with a total. Honestly, we were pleasantly surprised about the cost. He said we didn’t have to pay anything right then; we’d be contacted shortly after the funeral by the finance department to make some sort of payment arrangements.
After the funeral home, the three of us went next door to the flower shop. They were nice enough to give us the flowers for the top of the casket because of the other orders that were coming in for our little girl. We chose a heart shaped flower arrangement about 8 inches in size with white and pink carnations and a pink bow, yes the puke baby girl pink that I despised so much when painting her room. Jennifer and I wanted to get an arrangement specifically from us as well. We picked out a small figurine vase and chose to get an artificial arrangement. We paid for it and I think I was shorted about $10.00 in change, but I don’t know for sure. Everything the last few days was a blur anyway.
With a light rain now falling, we got in the car and our driver dropped us off at home to pick up our car before heading to the mall to pick out an outfit. We did this so she could head home after the mall and wouldn’t have to bring us back into Cumberland. It would just save her some miles.
In a few short minutes we met at the mall. Our pastor’s wife already scoped the stores out and found the best selection of christening dresses.
We looked through the little white dresses but many of them were so long; we didn’t want the dress to hang outside of the casket. We picked out a short dress with crosses embroidered on the chest and the bottom edge. We also got booties to match but she needed a blanket to keep warm, right? There’d be so much white with the dress, the casket and everything, we chose a pink baby blanket that had the word’s “Little Angel” on it. It seemed to fit.
After getting the outfit we’d bury our beautiful little girl in, we said goodbye to our pastor’s wife and thanked her for going with us, and headed to the local mart to get Jennifer’s prescriptions filled. She was given pain medication and sleeping pills. Upon getting there, we began to make the contact with our possible pallbearers. Everyone agreed but one of my nieces. She had a band competition to go to and was afraid of getting in trouble if she missed it. My niece really wanted to come, but the threat of not being able to participate in the homecoming events was the problem. In Cumberland, homecoming is one of the biggest annual events. So I made a few calls to the band director’s wife, who I knew worked in the building across the street. I explained myself and she said she’d try to contact their husband and son, who also was part of the band management. In a few minutes, I received a call back, and my niece was given permission to be excused from the competition. The rest of the contacts were made with four yeses total, so we had our pallbearers.
Jennifer and I continued looking around the mart to find something for her to wear for the funeral as we waited for her prescriptions. She found a pink blouse. Now I’ve always said that I’d NEVER wear pink, never say never, (I will never be a millionaire) so I went to the men’s department to look for something for myself. As I looked through racks of clothes, I found a pink shirt that matched Jennifer’s blouse and a black tie, and the best thing about it, it was all on clearance. I’d wear my black suit and with the new shirt and tie, I only paid about $12.00 for my outfit. Later I thought, “My little girl is worth more than $12.00.” But we made up for it in Jennifer’s outfit, complete with shoes. While walking around we received a call from one of Jennifer’s sisters who wanted to take us to eat. But before we left the store, we thought the church might need tissues for the funeral, so we went back to the paper section of the store and got several boxes of tissues. We didn’t know how many boxes the church had on hand and I’d probably need a couple boxes myself. We got the little boxes so we could spread them out throughout the church. We agreed on a restaurant near the mall where we were, but when we arrived, we learned that her parents would be coming to eat too. We had time to go drop off the outfit at the funeral home. So we headed back down to Cumberland, but first, we’d have to stop by the house so I could get a onezie and a diaper for Jenna; we didn’t get these with her outfit because we received plenty of each for the shower, a.k.a. baby party. Jennifer stayed in the car as I went inside and picked out a plain onezie. We couldn’t have anything too fancy under the white dress. I don’t know whose presents the onezie and the diapers were, but it was good that we had them on hand. We made the short trip to the funeral home and I took the completed outfit in as they were waiting on me. We then drove back to LaVale to the restaurant.
When we arrived it was raining, figures, that’s how I felt, dreary. As we entered we saw some people we knew from the church where I worked. They were with our family doctor and his wife to have dinner too. I went over and said hello as the doctor and his wife greeted me. Now it just so happened that our doctor’s wife is good friends with Jennifer’s doctor, who just delivered Jenna a day earlier. We had some brief words before I followed Jennifer to the table where her sister and parents were already sitting. I really didn’t feel like eating too much though so I just ordered a soup and salad.
While waiting for our food Jennifer went to the restroom, so I went with her, no not in the restroom, I just stood outside in case she needed something. As we walked there we happened to walk by the table where our doctor and our friends were sitting. When we came back though, I stopped at their table to say more than the hello that we said earlier. Our doctor and his wife expressed their condolences, they didn’t know earlier when we talked, but I had more on my mind. I wanted our doctor’s wife to relay the message to Jennifer’s doctor of how grateful we were and how much I appreciated all she did for Jennifer and Jenna. I just went on and on. Finally, I finished my rambling and excused myself to get back to Jennifer and our meal.
It was a touchy time, with a few watery eyes every once in a while. Jennifer didn’t want to go home, so from the restaurant, we drove to our pastor’s home where his daughter arrived earlier from South Carolina. She and her husband and two sons drove up for the funeral on the following day. We had some snacks and soda as we all sat at the kitchen table and talked. We just talked about everything that happened and made plans for the funeral. It was good that we were able to talk. It was getting a little late, so we left and made the trip of about 20 minutes home.
When we got there, Jennifer still was a little reluctant to go to our house, so we went next door to Jennifer’s parents to visit, as if we didn’t spend enough time with them already at the restaurant. While we were there, another one of Jennifer’s sisters stopped by, she couldn’t make it up to the hospital, but she had a card for us, and as we opened it together, it was touching. It was a sympathy card, but on the inside left of the card was a poem she wrote. Of course we cried as we read it. It said the following:
(By Aunt Amy Yost - October 27, 2006)
Jenna, just a little soul,
Who came from Grace,
And made a place,
With her perfect little face,
That you could never forget a trace.
We know you're not alone,
Because we feel it in our Bone's.
Even though you're not with us,
We know you're with Jesus.
Jennifer and I talked softly as we sat on the couch because her sister was in the kitchen. We wanted to have the poem read at the funeral. We thought it was fitting.
We left Jennifer’s parents and walked across the alley to our home. It was again rough, coming home without the little person who we planned so much for. I typed and printed the poem on the computer so someone could read it easier at the funeral. I also printed more prints of Jenna’s picture too. If I can go back about 4 weeks to the shower, a friend had everyone there sign a photo matte with a purple ink pen. Some people just signed their names, others wrote short notes and good wishes. Jennifer and I had bought a frame on a recent trip to the local mart and had the spot picked out on the wall. So I put one of the prints in the matte and secured the back to the frame and put a hanger on the frame (it was a cheap frame that didn’t even have a real hanger on the wood, just the cutouts in the cardboard back). I put a screw in the wall and hung the photo of my little girl in her room just above her crib where we put her sheet and comforter on just days earlier. She’ll stay there forever. You can see the matte and photo in the last photo on her room page on my website.
Before going to bed we checked the weather for the following day and there was a chance of rain. It figures, right? How could things get worse? Rain.
That night we didn’t sleep upstairs, we pulled out the sofa and slept in the living room. I hung one of the 8x10 prints of our little girl on the entertainment center in the living room where we could see it from the pull-out couch. It was good to be home, but needless to say we didn’t sleep too much that night.
The alarm rang out the next morning, and it was hard to get up, knowing that we’d have to see our daughter for the last time in just a few hours. While Jennifer was in the shower, I was thinking to myself, “I need to say something at my daughter’s funeral.” I mean, if I couldn’t say something, I wouldn’t expect anyone else to either. We agreed the night before that there would be an ‘open mic’ time so family and friends could say something if they wanted. So I began typing my thoughts on the computer. This was my little girl, what could I say? I just continued typing my feelings and kinda arranged them in some sort of order. Honestly, I’m more of a thinker than a talker. I like to know how things work and try to figure things out. So, I don’t consider myself a writer in any sense of the word, so I just typed what I was thinking. If I didn’t write it down now, later I couldn’t remember what’s been going though my head for several hours. I might get my mords wixed up or something. So I continued to type, filling up about a page of thoughts. Jennifer was done with her shower, and walking down the stairs as I was beginning to print it off. I told her not to look, because I like surprises, I guess under any circumstances. I thought it would be more meaningful if she heard it from me instead of reading it now, so she quickly agreed, but I think she had more on her mind with having to get dressed and do her hair and everything. I always tell her she’s beautiful enough without doing her hair and make-up and all that, but she never takes me seriously; I don’t know why. Of course she tells me I don’t have to lose weight, she loves me just the same, but I need to for myself, to be healthy. I guess we both play the little games….Don’t we all?
I looked outside and the ground was wet from the previous day’s rain but it wasn’t raining then. Thank God!! I prayed that it would hold off.
After getting showered and dressed, I had an 8x10 photo of our little girl so we could display her picture at the funeral. We were getting ready to walk out the door and thought we’d need a frame. Also, we thought it would be nice to have a bracelet for her to wear, one of those small baby bracelets. This is something that again we had planned, to get her a little bangle bracelet. As we left the house I realized that we forgot to bring something to put in the casket from us. I drove back home as Jennifer asked me what we should put in the casket. I was thinking it should be a photo of Mommy and Daddy and a stuffed bear. I got out of the car and headed up to Jenna’s completed room to find something. After getting some things we began heading to church, but we stopped in downtown Cumberland to get the bracelet and a picture frame, but Jennifer didn’t want to get out of the car, so I went to the jewelry store and got the bracelet and then to the card shop next door for a picture frame.
I got back to the car as soon as I could because I noticed that there were children dressed up for trick-or-treating downtown, and I didn’t want Jennifer to be overwhelmed by noticing all the cute costumes. We were soon on our way to church for the funeral; it was about 11:30 when we arrived.
There were already about 3 men from the funeral home in the church parking lot to direct the parking of the cars. These guys were waiting for us to give them a list of the order that we wanted the cars to go to the graveside. Jennifer and I would be riding in a limousine with the pastors and their wives. So I quickly wrote a list down with the grandparents (our parents) first, followed by our siblings, in their birth order, and then our special friends. But come time to go the interment, the order was messed up anyway.
I never thought I’d be going to my own daughter’s funeral, and now pray that I never have to look down at a child in a casket, ours or anyone one else’s.
As we entered the vestibule of church I looked down the hallway with classrooms lining each side into the sanctuary where my little girl lay in a casket at the front of our church. It just didn’t seem real. I gave the photo frame we got to my oldest sister to take the price tag off and get it ready for the picture. Jennifer stopped by the restroom to look at herself, then we began the walk to the front of the church that seemed to be a mile. But in reality, it was just a couple hundred feet. Step by step, it seemed like forever. Somewhere along the way, the funeral director met up with us and walked the rest of the way. I think our pastor and his wife walked up with us too, but it’s hard to remember.
I remember the flower arrangements that were fanned out from the left and right sides. There she was,our beautiful precious little girl, lying in that tiny casket all dressed up in the outfit we bought complete with the bonnet and covered with the pink blanket that had the words “Little Angel.”
She looked good, but of course she looked better the day before just after being born. But by now she was really blue and needed the makeup to cover her skin. We put items I picked out in the casket; a teddy bear and a pacifier. The bear was a birthday present for Jennifer from our pastor and his wife in April, just after we found out Jennifer was pregnant. The bear had a box in it, when you squeezed the paw it recited the “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer, the same as was in the card that was beside the book. And the pacifier we bought a while back and it had a hologram on it where at one angle it said ‘I love Mom’ and from the other angle, it said ‘I love Dad.’ I forgot the photo right then, but eventually remembered it. It was a photo that Jennifer’s nephew had taken of us a few months earlier, when we took her father to Niagara Falls before we knew anything about the birth defect. Jennifer said she looked beautiful, she was just perfect. But not 100% perfect, she wasn’t alive.
Jennifer and I then made our way to the right and left sides of the casket looking at the flower arrangements. It was touching as we read whom they came from. They came from employers, former employers, our church, Jennifer’s father’s church, family members and friends. They included traditional funeral arrangements, a really nice cross made of daisies, and table top arrangements to take home, real and artificial.
Soon one of the funeral guys asked me what arrangements we’d like to have taken to the graveyard. We told them the ones that could go, leaving one nice arrangement for the church and the live arrangements.
Jennifer had to sit, and have a pain pill; she hadn’t had one since the night before. My niece got a drink for Jennifer to take the pill. I got the photo and put it in the frame and brought it to the front with the casket. The casket was sitting in the center of a small table. There was not enough room beside her so I picked the small casket up and moved it to the right a little and then put the photo on the left side of my little girl by her little head. I guess this was really the last time I picked my little girl up; unfortunately she was in that petite white casket. She wasn’t that heavy, so I did it myself.
I arranged with the pastor to have someone read Jennifer’s sister’s poem and told him that I’d like to say something before anyone else did. Now this may sound like I’m some sort of person that has to win or go first all the time, but not really. I just wanted to say something before I couldn’t speak and totally lost it, you know, just in case. Then I sat back down with Jennifer as my parents arrived. I got up and met them in the back of the church and walked up with my family. Again, here come the water works. As people come in, Jennifer and I were up and down between the casket and our seats on the front row of the church meeting with people who came to pay their last respects, but really I guess it was their first respects or introductions at the same time. For many of the mourners, it was the first time they looked down at an infant in a casket; it was the first time I’d seen a baby in a casket, and she’s mine. Friends and family came, one after another, some people we hadn’t seen for a long time and others who’d traveled hundreds of miles to be there for Jennifer and myself. Some of the people being there were just totally unexpected.
Again, sitting there thinking….”Is this really happening?” It’s an experience that Jennifer and I pray that no one will ever have to go through ever again! It was getting close to the time of the funeral, so people were getting settled in their seats and I was amazed how many people were there. Nearly every one of the seats in the church was full. The funeral home guys began to set up chairs they had brought, lining the walls and putting chairs in the back were there was room. I guess in that business you have to be prepared for anything, and they were. I had never with my own eyes seen that many people in our church. It’s a shame that something like a funeral has to fill the church and not people wanting God.
The tissue box we had beside us was nearing its end as Jennifer and I blew our noses almost constantly. I really didn’t know what to expect at our daughter’s funeral, it’s something we never planned to do and there wasn’t a thought of stillbirth. This is something that they don’t tell you in the birthing classes.
Before things got under way, I walked around asking certain people to stay seated after the service. We arranged for the funeral director to announce for the family to stay for a few minutes after the funeral. Jennifer and I wanted to dedicate Jenna and anoint her with oil anyway. Sure she was already being held in the arms of Jesus, but we just wanted to go through the motions anyway, I guess to make us feel better, maybe to feel complete or something. We agreed earlier that we’d do this after the service with just mainly the family. But there were people other than family whom we wanted there; this is why I went around asking some of our close friends to stay as well.
Jennifer’s parents walked in. Her father, using a walker, gradually made his way to the front of the church and leaned over the casket, holding the sides of his walker as he looked at Jenna. This was the first time he got to see her, and he just stood there and stared. He and Jennifer’s mother stood there for about a minute before making their way to their seats to the left of their daughter.
It was now 1:00 and time for our little girl’s funeral. The pastor opened with a few remarks, read a scripture and prayed, then nodded at me, it was my turn. I began the walk from our front-row seat, to the podium. Maybe just a few passes, but it almost seemed like slow motion. As I turned to face the audience I retrieved my written statement from my jacket pocket and noticed that the church was even fuller than I saw it several minutes earlier. Nearly every seat had someone with teary eyes looking straight at me. They say public speaking is the most common fear, but I don’t ever remember having that problem, even when I was young. I guess all those times singing in church built me up and helped me face the crowd, so to speak. I quietly unfolded my notes, without which I’d been lost, and began. I paraphrased a little and may have missed something, but below are the words I typed out a few hours before as Jennifer was in the shower.
WOW, I couldn’t have imagined that anyone could have designed a better roller coaster. With all the ups and downs, back and forth, twists and turns, highs and lows and I think a few loops there at the end throughout the short 37 weeks and 4 days that you were with us. We were just about ready for you to come home, from a room transformed with new carpet and furniture and about 50 coats of paint, I think, to the clothes that Mommy washed that still hang in your closet that your Pappy Bone and I built. Jenna, I’m sorry to see you go, even before you took a breath of air that we all take for granted, but God needed you more. You’re probably up in heaven right now with Annie showing you off to everyone, or getting the tour from Emory.
I couldn’t imagine what it would be to go through this without the prayers and support of friends and family, especially if we didn’t know God. He’s brought strength and peace for the last several days. Something that I know he will continue to give us.
The thoughts and prayers of many are appreciated as well as the flowers and arrangements and everything that everyone’s done for us, from that day in March when we found out you were coming until now.
As I read, I heard it all, the whimpers, the chuckles, the sniffles and the blows. When I finished, I put my notes back in my pocket and walked back to my seat as it was time for Jennifer’s sister to sing. She would sing “Beulah Land,” a traditional funeral song for believers. Now Jennifer’s sister can just about sing through anything, her composure remains intact. She began singing and struggled though some lines, holding back the tears, she was able to get through.
Next, the pastor nodded to a friend whom he asked to read the poem that Jennifer’s sister wrote. He began saying how sorry he was and expressed his condolences and then continued with the poem he was to read. It’s in a previous part of this story but here it is again.
Jenna, just a little soul,
Who came from Grace,
And made a place,
With her perfect little face,
That you could never forget a trace.
We know you're not alone,
Because we feel it in our Bone's.
Even though you're not with us,
We know you're with Jesus.
(By Aunt Amy Yost - October 27, 2006)
When the poem was read the pastor asked if there was anyone else who had anything to say. The first to stand were my parents and walked the short distance, up the two steps to the podium. With my mother and father standing at the podium, my father began by saying thanks to Jennifer and myself for bringing Jenna into their lives and how her short time on this earth made him realize how precious life is. As he ended, he thanked everyone for their prayers and then handed the microphone to my mother. Her comments were short, but to the point. She said how Jenna brought three churches together in prayer; our own, Jennifer’s father’s church and the church where I worked. I guess that was true, but not entirely. I think Jenna brought more than three churches together. With all the people who were praying for Jenna from the beginning of the pregnancy, there were so many people who had Jenna, and us, on their prayer list.
The pastor once again had the microphone as my parents stepped down and once again asked if anyone else had anything to say. In my heart I wanted to hear everyone say something. But under the circumstances, I don’t know if I would have said anything.
Jennifer’s father stood. Now he’s not in the best health, so he had to stand with help and use his walker to steady himself as the pastor brought the microphone to him.
Jennifer’s father began by saying that the Bible is the Word of God and quoted the verse from Romans 8:28 (KJV) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” He continued explaining that one of the worst things that happened in his life turned out to be a blessing. Now people who may not know Jennifer’s family wouldn’t know that his oldest daughter had a son when she was only 16. This is what Jennifer’s father was talking about, but he didn’t mention the specifics as he talked. When he first learned that his unwed daughter was pregnant you could imagine that devastation in his heart, especially since he was the pastor of the church. To listen to Jennifer’s sister talk today, he agonized over all of this for quite some time; he held this in his heart for years. But to get to his point...What he thought was a curse at the time turned out to be one of the greatest blessings that ever happened to him. Now he and his oldest grandson are really close doing things together, especially a few years ago with the raccoon hunting. Personally, I think if he would accept the call from God on his life, this grandson could follow in his grandfather’s footsteps as a minister. Definitely not a curse!
At this time in his talking I knew the scripture he quoted, I’ve quoted it many times myself, but how could anything good come from my daughter dying? Right then I couldn’t imagine any good coming of it.
Jennifer’s father continued by saying that God is an all-seeing God and there’s no situation in our lives that He can’t handle or make up for. Again I was thinking, “How?” On he went to quote anther scripture. John 11:25 (KJV) “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:” He added “God meant that!” Next he said that he never really met Jenna, no one except Jennifer had the chance. Even when I would feel Jenna move inside of Jennifer’s womb, I really can’t say that I got to know my daughter. Jennifer’s father went on by saying that her body was lying there in the petite white casket, but he said, “I got hope. Hope’s a wonderful thing. Hope is the foundation on which our faith is built.”
He should know a little better than most people in the room when he said, “life’s not an easy journey.” But as we remember that scripture, God can’t lie so everything was going to work out for the good! He ended by saying that God is good and He gives the peace of God, which passes all understanding and praises God for letting Jenna be part of our lives. And that’s something that we all can be thankful for! With that he sat back down.
Later after everything was over, comments were made about what Jennifer’s father said. Things like when he got up to speak, this seemingly weak individual, the words were so powerful. He definitely was a preacher, especially that day.
I just sit there wondering how anything from this could work for the good. I really can’t wait to see what happens! It gives me something to look forward to anyway!
Next Jennifer’s brother-in-law came to the podium and took the microphone. Just like Jennifer’s father, he’s a preacher, well technically a chaplain; I’ve seen him preach up a storm. He began by saying that he had no thoughts about saying anything but he wanted to testify of God’s goodness.
Now in the church we know what testifying was…Someone would stand up and tell what God’s done for them and how He’s blessed them in some way. This word can be intimidating at the same time; in years past, churches would have what they called a testifying service. This is kind of like a regular church service but everyone was made to stand and say what God’s done for him or her. This terrified people. They say the number one fear that people have is public speaking, but I’ve never been that way….Hmmmm?? Anyway, this sure scared some people off. So if you’re not a churchgoer, you might be better thinking of testifying as in a court, but here you don’t have to swear to tell the truth, but since you’re in church you might want to. Anyway back to the funeral.
At that time I was thinking what goodness? He went on to say that when he walked into Jennifer’s hospital room with Jenna being handed off from person to person, that he knew there were angels in the room along with the peace of God that passes all understanding. Now this is a quote from the Bible too.
Found in Philippians 4:7 (KJV) “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I heard that saying all growing up… the peace that passes all understanding. I finally came to realize what it meant. My daughter was gone and I should be going crazy, but I wasn’t. There was just a peace about everything. And yes it was in the room on Jenna’s birthday. I don’t know how to describe it. It was one of the hardest times, no, the hardest time in my life, but there was a peace that I felt in my heart.
He went on to say that he felt heaven as he held Jenna, and even though we are living in bad times, our little girl made him think about heaven. Later others told us they were doing a lot of thinking about that same subject. He finished up by saying that he knew that God was going to touch lives through this situation, and good things are going to come out of it. He ended by saying that Jenna couldn’t come back to us, but we can go to her, in heaven.
After he was finished his wife, Jennifer’s sister who had sung a short time earlier began to sing the old hymn “Wonderful Peace” with most people in the audience, who knew it, singing along. It goes something like this:
Peace! Peace! Wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above;
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,
In fathomless billows of love.
This is the same song that Jennifer asked her sister to sing the morning of Jenna’s birth in the hospital room as family and friends were gathered around.
A friend that I’ve worked with in television production stood quickly at her seat and simply said, “Keep the faith.” Then sat back down just as quickly as she stood.
As he got the microphone back, the pastor said he knew that many would like to say things during this time, but it’s hard and he was confident that others would say what’s on their hearts after the funeral in the days and weeks ahead. As he was saying this, Jennifer’s oldest sister made her way to the podium. This was the same sister who stayed the night with Jennifer and me in the hospital. She took the microphone and began by saying that she wasn’t one who was good with words, but I thought what she said was touching, and so did so many others who were constantly sniffling behind where Jennifer and I were seated.
She said that over the last few weeks, she and her two youngest children had been anticipating Jenna’s arrival. They would talk about little things that the kids wanted to do and how they couldn’t wait to hold Jenna. It’s sad now as I look back, they never did get to hold our little girl. She went on by saying that she just couldn’t believe that Jenna wasn’t going to be born alive, even in the last few minutes; she thought to herself “God couldn’t let this happen.” Our thoughts seemed to be parallel that day. She added that she knew that God had other plans for Jenna; she was just so special that He had to have her for something else.
As she talked, she described herself not to be a strong person. As Jennifer and I were going through the ordeal with Jenna’s birth defect and the trips to Baltimore, she always said that Jennifer was a strong person. Not necessarily physically strong, but emotionally I guess. But when any of us is put in this situation, we become strong. I was thinking that just like steel, after being made, steel is surprisingly flexible to a point, but it has to be reheated with additional fire to strengthen. So with the trials that come our way, we’re toughened up. And the Bible says that God wouldn’t put on us more than we can handle. So you can’t really say how you’re going to react to something until that challenge is set before you. You just have to do your best to look forward to the finish line, not the next or current stride or step.
She continued by saying that she was praying to God, asking him to get her out of the room somehow. She didn’t think she was strong enough to see her sister give birth to a baby that wasn’t alive. She didn’t say this while she was in the room, so this was the first time we’d heard it. So we had no clue what she was praying for. But as Jennifer was pushing, that’s when we realized that we didn’t have anything for Jenna to wear, the tiny little outfit that Jennifer and I had picked out months earlier was still neatly folded in the clean clothes basket that Jennifer had been preparing for the arrival. This is when we asked her to go to our house and get the outfit. This was an answer to Jennifer’s sister’s prayer because during the time she was gone, our beautiful daughter was born. But on the other hand, this is something I regret. We sent her sister away after all the time she spent with us from the previous evening and through the long night, she didn’t get to see Jenna being born. I hope she doesn’t feel that we put her out, but maybe it was God answering her prayer. He works in mysterious ways.
She continued by saying that she didn’t think she had the strength to even look at Jenna without her being alive, but she said that something happened to her in the room that day, something that she’ll never be able to explain. (I can, it was God.) She ended her comments by saying that Jenna touched her life in a way that she’ll never forget.
The microphone was handed off to another one of Jennifer’s sisters, the singer. She began by saying that they prayed really hard for Jenna and the last thing that was on her mind was that she’d be gone. But honestly that was the last thing on everyone’s mind I think. She continued by saying that after she went home from visiting us in the hospital and holding Jenna that day, she realized that this world is so temporary and how our minds should be fixed on heaven, not on things here on earth, because everything here is so short-lived. We also need to know that we’re right with the Lord so one day we can see Jenna again. As she ended she said that she knows that God will bless Jennifer and me because He said that He would never leave us or forsake us.
My heart dropped about 12 inches as she handed the microphone to the pastor and I saw who was getting up to say something next. It was Jennifer, Jenna’s Mommy.
When we were planning the funeral, I said I wanted to say something at my own daughter’s funeral, but she said she didn’t want to say anything. When we took our marriage vows in 1997, I actually sang to Jennifer during the ceremony. Yes, solo with a background track, the whole song, “I will be here,” by Steven Curtis Chapman, but on the other hand Jennifer can sing too, but she didn’t, she said she’d be too nervous to sing during that time so she had her sister sing “Bless the Broken Road,” and that was about seven years before Rascal Flatts remade it. Yes, that song’s a remake. So she’s not one for public speaking and she didn’t think she could get through it. So you can imagine my surprise to see her leave her seat next to me and step up the two steps to get to the podium.
I was thinking the worst as she began in a quivering voice, so after the first sentence I went up to stand beside my wife, the woman who just brought my beautiful little girl into this world. She began to tell how she was impressed by God at the beginning of the year to begin to pray more, but the only time she could pray seemed to be early in the morning, so she’d have to sacrifice sleep to do it. But as she prayed, she wasn’t praying to have a baby, first on Jennifer’s mind were other people, her family and friends.
As she was talking, she told me later that she was trying to bring a smile on people’s faces when she said that she’d pray many times wrapped up in a blanket because, “as everyone knows,” it’s cold in our house.
She also prayed that God would give her a healthy child as she promised that she’d raise her child in church and be there for every service, no matter what. She continued that when March came around that she took a pregnancy test alone without me; she didn’t want me to be disappointed as we were so many times before. During this time, as she’s talking, the tears have slowed and everyone’s attention is focused on her as she says that while she was pregnant, she was looking forward to one day - and that was Thanksgiving Day - and the water works start for just about everyone all over again.
Annually, at Jennifer’s father’s church, there’s a Thanksgiving Day service. Just an hour; from 10am until 11am (Sharp!). It’s one day that I look forward to also, as do many others. As we were planning for Jenna and had the induction set, we were praying to be back from the Baltimore hospital and the surgery four weeks later for that Thanksgiving Day service. We had also planned to have a dedication of Jenna to the Lord during this time because it seemed like the only time that both our churches could come together and no one would miss out. But things just didn’t work out that way.
But she was looking forward to getting up during that annual service and thanking God for our little girl. Jennifer then recounted when she would pray early in the morning after learning she was expecting. She told God that this was His child and whatever He wanted to do with her was fine with her, never expecting anything like this, but God must have had to have Jenna for something special up in heaven.
Jennifer was wrapping up her comments by saying that she wanted to thank everyone who prayed for her, me and our little girl! The prayers of family, friends and strangers alike meant more than anything to her. She also thanked everyone for the gifts from the baby party (shower) we had. It was four weeks to the day since the shower and we still hadn’t passed out the thank you notes. I’m sure some people thought we were heathens or something, but it was a busy time with the trips to Baltimore and getting ready, but I don’t in any way want it to seem like I’m making excuses. As Jennifer said, “I don’t know what to do about that,” meaning the thank you notes, you could hear whimpers come from those who were seated. She thanked everyone again before handing that microphone to the pastor as I escorted her down the steps back to our front row seats.
Next to the podium was one of our good friends, the same friend who so generously gave up her and her husband’s bed in the Hagerstown home for Jennifer and me as we made the weekly trips to the Baltimore hospital anticipating Jenna’s birth and dealing with the birth defect. I think this one got to me the most; I was OK until I heard what she had to say. Even now, every time I listen to what she had to say or even think about it, I get teary eyed and could just ball.
Always dressed elegantly, she began as others saying that she hadn’t planned to say anything, but she continued by saying, “we miss her already.” She continued by sharing a scripture that was impressed on her, John 14:2 (NIV), “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling place, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. If I go prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am that you may be also.” She added that Jenna’s there right now. This next part really hit home for Jennifer and me. She said she believed that there was a room for Jenna in heaven just like the one we prepared for her in our home, with all the clothes hanging in the closet and she believed she’d wear those clothes too. She ended with the confident words, “And we will see her again.”
Give me a second to gather my composure again, like I said, that gets to me every time. I guess because we put so much work into our little girl’s room that it really hits home, in more ways than one.
As she walked away from the podium, I could hear whimpers from people seated behind me.
Next to the podium was another tag-team, my oldest sister and her daughter, my niece. My niece, who’s a junior in high school, began by saying that she loved us and continued by telling how she was able to be at the funeral. It turns out that during this weekend, she was supposed to go on a school trip, a trip that she’d already paid for with the money she earned from her part-time job. But because of her attendance at school lately, she wasn’t able to go; instead she was here for Jennifer and me and of course, Jenna.
It seemed like this was a theme. Something in our lives that we thought was so bad, for my niece, not getting to go on her trip. God turns around and makes it good. Not to imply that the death of my little girl was good, but being there for the funeral and for us was good, better than being hundreds of miles away without being able to get home. This was one of the nieces that was going to help carry the tiny casket later, so without her there, Jennifer’s plan wouldn’t have come to pass.
With the tears now flowing from my niece’s eyes, she handed the microphone to my sister. She began by telling how each time that we had a sonogram, they brought the picture home and she and her daughters prayed for Jennifer, Jenna and me. Now they didn’t have the original sonograms, because each time we had one, starting with the very first one, I made copies of it and printed them out and gave them to whomever wanted one. It could be a point of contact as people prayed. I was so proud of what my wife and I had done and I just wanted to show our baby off, even if she wasn’t yet born. This little life that was growing inside of her was something that I was especially proud of and I wanted to share it with the world. If the world could only be FILLED with the joy that we felt as we were planning for Jenna.
My sister ended it shortly after saying that those sonogram pictures brought her family closer together. By the look on her face, it looked like she wanted to say more but it seemed that she couldn’t. So she just handed the microphone back to the pastor who gave one last invitation for anyone to share his or her thoughts. There was no one else getting up, so he proceeded to read the obituary.
Sniffles could be heard as he began by saying, “Beautiful baby,” then paused for a moment before adding, “Beautiful picture and obituary that John had taken so much time on.” I was a little puzzled by this though, not by the beautiful baby or photo comment, but the obituary comment. I knew that our little girl was beautiful and any photo of her was just as beautiful but there is one draw back, photos can’t say it all. Of course a picture is worth a thousand words, but my little girl was worth more than a thousand, it’s more like a million, maybe two.
Anyway the pastor said about the time that we’d spent on the obituary. This was not the case for the most part. After the events of Jenna’s birthday and trying to get everything together, I really didn’t have too much time to write the obituary before the deadline at the newspaper. If you remember earlier in the story, after saying our goodbyes to Jenna’s little body, after they had taken her away for the autopsy, I went home to get a shower and grab the laptop, then I retuned to the hospital. With my mother and a friend there in the room with Jennifer and me, the same room that she gave birth in about 12 hours earlier, I typed out the obituary. I admit that throughout the events of the previous day and that day, little bits would come to my head that I should include in the obituary, but we didn’t really sit down and talk about it until that evening when I was quickly typing it on the laptop. Before we had Jenna I was also thinking about the photo for the obituary. I was thinking about using the three dimensional sonogram that was done at the Baltimore hospital two weeks earlier because I didn’t feel right about putting a picture of a dead person in the newspaper. But there are pictures of dead people every day in the obituaries of newspapers across the country, but they were alive when the picture was taken. At least that’s what I told myself. On the sonogram you could plainly see Jenna’s face, but some people whom we showed the picture to after having it done didn’t understand it until we pointed the features out. So it was a no brainer when I saw how beautiful she was, and the picture I took, we knew what picture it had to be. Now some people wouldn’t have even put a picture in the newspaper, but hey, that’s what I do for a meager living, so that’s how I wanted to remember my daughter. Plus, since I wanted the whole world to know about her in the first place, I wanted the whole world to see her for the first and last time. I typed out the obituary in about 30 minutes while I asked Jennifer the spelling of names, something I was never good at, and asking her what wording she preferred. It was crunch time, and the newspaper was even nice enough to hold the deadline by about a half hour so I could take it down too. So there was so much more we wanted to say in the obituary, but we just didn’t have the time to type it up. That’s why I was surprised by the pastor’s comments.
So he began to read what I wrote:
Jenna G. Bone (Cumberland)
CUMBERLAND - Jenna Grace Bone went to be with the Lord Oct. 26, 2006, at Cumberland's Memorial Hospital.
Born Oct. 26, 2006, she was the daughter of John A. and Jennifer Bone of Cumberland.
She was preceded in death by her maternal great-grandparents, Delbert and Anna Knippenberg and James Voorhees; and paternal great-grandparents, Frederick E. and Luella Peck and James and Vivian Bone.
Even though Jenna was here a short eight and a half months in the womb, she will be greatly missed by many who have a void in their hearts. Under the covering of constant prayers of family, friends, loved ones and strangers her little life affected many.
Jenna is survived by her parents, John A. and Jennifer Bone; maternal grandparents, Pastor Bernard and Audrey Yost; paternal grandparents, John H. and Judy Bone; maternal great-grandmother, Eva Voorhees; aunts and uncles, Tonya and Travis Cottrill, Amy Yost, Rebecca and Shannon Rust, Joy Layton, Julia Riggleman; cousins, Jeremy Harbaugh, Andrew Harbaugh, Brennan Yost, BreeAnna Cottrill, Shelby Garletts, Matthias Rust, Reuben Cottrill, Sarah Butler, Margaret Butler, April Butler, Kimberly Riggleman and Normagien Layton; and numerous extended family. Special friends, who are like family, Pastor Gary and Linda Gordon, William and Carrie Pifer, Corey and Angie Ellsworth, and many others from Liberty Christian Fellowship, Lake Gordon Assembly of God and God's Ark of Safety.
Friends and family will be received at Liberty Christian Fellowship, Route 220 South, Cresaptown, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006, from noon to 1 p.m. with services beginning at 1 p.m. at the church with Pastor Gary Gordon and Pastor Richard Greene officiating.
Interment will be with her maternal great-grandparents, Delbert and Anna Knippenberg, at Mount Herman Church Cemetery, Williams Road, Cumberland.
John and Jennifer wish to relay their heart-felt thanks to all those who have been praying and ask for your continued prayers through this difficult time.
The Scarpelli Funeral Home, P.A., 108 Virginia Ave., Cumberland, is in charge of the arrangements.
After reading the obituary, the pastor excused himself for a moment reached under the podium and pulled out a tissue and wiped a tear. Next, he said something that confirmed my suspicion; he said that in his 22 years of pastoring, he had never faced a situation as this. Since I’ve been at the church those entire 22 years and then some, I couldn’t remember any other infant funerals, and personally, I couldn’t remember seeing a baby lying in a casket throughout my 29 years on earth. We’re fairly close to our pastor and his wife, as we are with so many in our small church, so it’s not like he was going to preach a funeral for someone he didn’t know or someone he saw once a week on Sunday mornings. This precious little baby lying still in the casket at the front of our church was like a relative in ways. When Jennifer and I would go to different church meetings and things, people often ask if I am his son.
Next he said he was proud of Jennifer’s and my families and his congregation, who we feel are all part of our families who laid aside differences to come together to support us, to rally around us in a dire situation. Those who came to the hospital to see us before we had Jenna and those who came to hold her and cuddle her after she came were amazing. He again reiterated, “I’m proud of you guys.”
He then got into the meat of the message; some might call it a homily. He began by reading from the New Testament, 1 Peter 1:24-25 (NKJV) “because "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever."” Then he turned to James 4:14 (NKJV) “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” After reading this he read from the Old Testament, Jeremiah 1:5 (NKJV) "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations."
Following the scripture readings, he said that I have my own website on the Internet. Just then, my heart sank….I was thinking, “What’s he going to say about my website?” He continued by saying that you can begin to read Jenna’s story on my site. “Oh no!” I was thinking to myself as I sat quietly with my wife. A fear was welling up inside me that he was going to read from this story I’d been writing for nearly two months. With the ups and downs of the pregnancy and the trips to Baltimore, I was terrified what he was going read. I’d never heard my story read out loud and if he was going to read something from it, I thought I was going to lose it. I just didn’t want to hear my own words for some reason, but I don’t know why.
He continued by saying how the story was real, non-fiction, about a real person, a real life, our little Jenna Grace. He added that it WAS indeed a real life, even though some people in the world don’t look at it as a real life. This little life had a name too, Jenna Grace Bone! He went on to say how you could read the story on the Internet, but there are two chapters that haven’t been written yet. The one chapter I will write...the last chapter here on earth and the other God is and will continue to write in eternity. “We’re participating today, in the last chapter of Jenna’s life on this side of heaven,” he said. Meaning the funeral.
Just as God knew Jeremiah in the womb, God too knew Jenna as she was forming inside Jennifer for the past eight and a half months. But he added that God wasn’t the only one who knew Jenna. He relayed that everyone in the room there for the funeral and those who couldn’t make it or just couldn’t muster the emotional strength to come knew Jenna while she was in the womb. “John made sure of that,” he adds with some chuckles from and complementing whispers of ‘yeh’ from those seated around us. Hey, what can I say, I was really proud of what I did and I wanted everyone to share in our little bundle of joy. He told about the recording her heartbeat on my cell phone from the doctor’s office of and how I’d let everyone hear my little steam engine, that’s what it sounded like; and the first sonogram picture with the little dot and the visual representation of the baby’s heartbeat at only six weeks into the pregnancy. As well as the sonogram pictures showing that she was really a SHE. Next I announced her name would be Jenna and we could begin to actually address her as Jenna! She was indeed a real life!
He continued by saying he really didn’t know what to say or do in a situation like this. I could realize his anguish in this difficult position that he faced. But he continued by saying when he was coming out of a business in Frostburg the day before, he noticed a towering maple tree that hung over the parking area and as he looked at the golden colors that enveloped that tree’s fall attire, he saw a single leaf flutter to the ground. As he stood at the podium, he held this leaf that fell in front of him a day earlier. This single leaf that was among many lying on the ground, he began to think of this one little leaf.
He said, “Back sometime in March.” Right then I chuckled to myself, I knew right where he was going with this message. I guess I’ve listened to a lot of his sermons, some several times for our church’s television program. I knew what he was going to say.
In March this delicate golden leaf was just a tiny little bud on a branch. (Sound familiar?) After just a short time on the branch of the enormous maple tree, out of this tiny little bud, there comes a small sprout. Then if you look again in a while, you can see that the leaf is taking on its form, you can tell that it will be a leaf. (Sound familiar?) You can tell that it’s a leaf with all its individual parts that can be identified. With a little more time it ripens from the bright green color to its mature deep natural green color during the summer. But what happens next? Of course, autumn cool winds begin to blow and the once brilliant green leaf turns a glorious color, this particular leaf was golden, the color of the setting sun. He interjected that he had noticed and appreciated that astounding beauty of this fall’s colors on the hillsides throughout the mountains where we live.
The pastor continued by saying that he began to think more deeply about the life of this leaf. The budding, blooming, withstanding the strong winds, and a dry summer only to find itself, a short 8 months later falling from that branch that held it so tightly before. “Why such a short life?” he asked himself and adds that everything that God creates has a purpose. And then he began to think of the purpose of this leaf that he was holding.
When the spring came, after a long winter where snow would cling to its branches, the tiny little buds sprinkled generously on the tree gave us hope. Hope that winter was a faint memory and the cold chill in the air would soon be gone. This single leaf helped to give the tree the right stuff to sustain life as it was assigned to that particular branch. This leaf, combined with others on the tall tree, provided shade for someone who was looking for some relief from a hot summer’s day. But then autumn comes and this leaf’s short life is about over, but there’s one more purpose for this leaf. Now this particular leaf resided on a tree near a retirement home and I can just imagine the joy it brought to someone who couldn’t get out so much anymore when they looked out their apartment window to see its beauty coupled to the thousands of other leaves on the same tree and the trees surrounding it displaying just one more of God’s marvelous creations.
This single leaf made him think of Jenna and her short life. Starting as a bud in March, giving the hope of life, hearing Jenna’s little heartbeat warmed our hearts with the expectancy of new life. Then, just as the leaf, our little Jenna began to take form. On the sonograms you could see the fingers and toes. Then after the 3D sonograms, he said, I made sure everyone knew that our little bundle of joy had a face, you could actually see the face. Going the back to the leaf, after its short life it detaches from the branch that held it tightly all those months and fell to the ground. We then picked up this little leaf, our little Jenna, and held her as we looked in her face and we saw the shining beauty and the glory that she was. In Jenna we could see God’s handy work, how perfect her little face and hands and feet were.
“Oh Jenna, our little fallen leaf,” he said and went on to give some relationships which I couldn’t make sound any better, so I’ll quote.
“You didn’t get to walk your little feet on this earth, but you walked into the depths of our hearts. We were all pregnant with you.
You didn’t get to breathe the air, but you were a gentle breeze that refreshes our spirit and brings us hope.
You didn’t get to see all of us, but you caused us to see beyond ourselves and see the plight of others as we looked on your face.
You didn’t get to smell the fragrance of the rose, but we experienced the wonderful scent of love as you brought us together in prayer and support for John and Jenn and the family.
You didn’t get to touch our faces, but you touched our hearts.
You didn’t get to taste of our sweet candy, but you gave us a sweet taste of life and fellowship at your baby party.
You didn’t get to learn our ways, but you taught us things about ourselves that will help us change our ways. We learned to appreciate God’s gift of life.
You didn’t get to hear our songs, but we hear angels singing for you today.
But you did get to go to heaven, before all of us here, and see Jesus.
And now you leave us with only one hope of seeing you again, and that is Jesus.”
While looking down at the tiny white casket he continued by saying, “Jenna, while you were in your mother’s womb, I knew you.” The pastor then went on to say that how each of us has a choice to make, whether we want to see loved ones who have died before us. If we want to, we have to accept Jesus in our hearts as our personal savior. Jenna left us with only one choice…Jesus. He encouraged everyone to make that choice, to see Jenna and other loved ones some day. He asked everyone if they would die today, if we’d see Jenna.
The pastor began wrapping the message up by saying to my parents in a smooth, calm lowered voice, “Thank you John and Judy for John.” Then looking at Jennifer’s parents said, “Thank you Bernard and Audrey for Jenn.” Then looking at Jennifer and myself motioning to our little girl with his hand, he finally said, “Thank you, John and Jennifer, for Jenna.”
He concluded by saying how that every fall when we pick up a beautiful little leaf that has fallen from a tree may we think of Jenna’s life’s story. As he was saying this he held this golden leaf up above the podium. I was thinking to myself, “Don’t drop it, NO!” I don’t know why I was thinking that, maybe I didn’t want to see our little leaf fall to the ground. This wasn’t just a leaf anymore, this leaf represented my daughter. I didn’t want to see it fall. Just then he dropped the leaf and if fluttered down to the floor near the foot of the casket.
With that dramatic object message, he nodded at Jennifer’s sister; it was her turn to sing one more song. She made her way to the platform with another family friend who was going to play the music on his acoustic guitar. This next song that Jennifer wanted her sister to sing was from both of our churches’ song books. Both our church and Jennifer’s father’s church used the same song book. “Jewels” written by William O. Cushing in 1856. This particular song was sung at her father’s church while they where dedicating children to the Lord, that’s why we wanted her to sing it. The lyrics are:
When He cometh, when He cometh,
To make up His jewels,
All His jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own.
Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.
He will gather, He will gather
The gems for His kingdom,
All the pure ones, all the bright ones,
His loved and His own.
Little children, little children,
Who love their Redeemer,
Are the jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own.
She finished as a hush was upon those gathered. Finally, the pastor friend who we wanted to say the benediction came to the podium. This service remembering our little girl was coming to the end.
He began saying that he appreciated Jennifer and myself and thanking us for allowing him to be a part of our lives and Jenna’s life. While he was praying, preparing for the funeral, about what to say, he was impressed with Matthew 19:13-15 (KJV) "Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence." He then said that Jesus was laying His hands on her right now, cuddling and holding our little girl in his arms. Then he recalled the scripture that our friend read about the rooms, some versions of the Bible say mansions and how he has a little mansion of her own. I’d rather call it a room, since I’d worked so hard on preparing her little pink room.
Next he said a recognized scripture from funerals 2 Corinthians 5:8. For believers in Christ, when you’re absent from the body you’re present with the Lord. What an awesome thought, no purgatory or waiting around, but we’re just there. He reminded us that her little spirit that left her body immediately entered into the Kingdom of Heaven and then asked, if your spirit would enter into the Kingdom of Heaven today when it’s your time. Only those who have received Jesus Christ as their savior can say that they would make it in through those pearly gates and be able to hold Jenna and see her cute little face once again. And if she could tell us today, she’d be saying, “Please, please receive Jesus. Let Him lay hands on you as he did with the children when He walked the earth and as he is now with little Jenna.”
He then thanked the pastor for the message that he just gave, but he called him Pastor John. This, of course, wasn’t his name; it was his brother’s name. Granted that his brother was the one who founded our church in 1969, but his brother took over the church were he’s been the pastor now for over 20 years. This is nothing new though, many times he’d ask me how Pastor John was doing, but I couldn’t correct him this time.
He continued by saying how everyone in the room was a part of Jenna’s life and continued by saying how that he and his wife would pray over Jenna’s sonogram picture I gave them every day. “That’s dedication!” I thought to myself. He then prayed the benediction. (The closing prayer.) Then he handed the microphone back to the pastor who announced that following the interment, everyone was invited to come back to the church for a meal. Now this seemed to be a tradition at our church and we’re pros at converting the sanctuary into a fellowship hall in a matter of minutes.
Jennifer and I just sat quietly with a blank stair, looking at the golden leaf on the floor and our little leaf in the miniature white casket.
After the pastor’s announcement the funeral director moved to the front of the church and announced that the friends could take their places in their vehicles and the family could remain. By this time we’d been there for a while and I’m sure the funeral staff wanted to finish their busy Saturday, but I didn’t want those who were there to get the wrong idea, that we wanted them to rush out. So I stood from my chair and turned around and said, with a loud voice, that if you’d like to come by the casket again please do so, I just didn’t want to push people out or make it seem like we wanted them to get out.
People began gathering at the front and formed a line to give their condolences to Jennifer and myself, and I’m sure, get one last look at our little angel, now in God’s arms. Immediately, Jennifer’s brother-in-law went to the area beside the casket were the little leaf fell and picked it up, then gave it to Jennifer. Of course we’d keep it forever!
One after another, our family and friends passed by going down the line, beginning with my parents, to us then to Jennifer’s parents. Hug after hug…I don’t think I’ve ever been hugged so much, and if I have to again, I pray it’s not under these circumstances. Jennifer and I were just sitting there as I thought I could stand even if my wife couldn’t. It was awkward hugging people as they had to bend over as I sat, so I stood.
Those family members and our close friends who I’d asked to stick around did and soon it was just Jennifer and me along with our family and our closest friends. I announced our intentions of anointing our little girl with oil and dedicating her before everything was over. So we gathered around the casket as our pastor brought the small flat, round bottle of oil to anoint her. He asked me if I wanted to do it, but I didn’t think I was worthy enough to do it. Sure it was my little girl, but I wasn’t the minister there, he was. I wanted to but just didn’t think I should be the one to do it.
He opened the bottle of oil and put a small smear on her forehead and began to pray a simple prayer of dedication as everyone surrounded our baby.
After the “Amen” of the prayer, those gathered around us began moving toward the back of the church and I wanted to get my camera to take more photos. Hey, I’m a photographer, that’s how I remember things. I began taking pictures of Jenna in the casket and the flower arrangements that encircled our little girl as Jennifer’s father got up and slowly began to make his way to the casket one step at a time using his walker as Jennifer met him there. As he reached the casket, he stopped and bent down a little to get a closer look. I, being the photographer turned the camera on this touching scene. Daddy with his little girl and her little girl, the only thing wrong with the picture was that the littlest girl was in a casket. Jennifer’s father kept looking at Jenna, leaning down and straightening back up; he spent several minutes just standing there. Jennifer and I often wonder what was going through his mind, but we know better, we’ll never know, that’s how he is. He didn’t utter a word.
About that time, some of our family and friends returned into the church to tell us there was an enormous rainbow outside the church. They called it Jenna’s rainbow. It was the biggest one most of them had seen with vibrant colors. They said you could clearly see the red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple from one end to the other. Most times you can only see a portion of a rainbow’s colors and can’t see both ends, but this one, Jenna’s Rainbow, was awesome end to end it stretched across the valley. It reminds me of God’s promise after the great flood of Noah’s time. I didn’t want to leave my little girl and big girl, Jennifer, right then and go see it. I just told them to have someone get a picture of it.
Jennifer’s father turned after several minutes and began to make his way out as Jennifer and I stood by the casket saying goodbye for the last time. We stood there as our pastor friend noticed the same “Kodak” moment and grabbed my camera and began documenting this last fleeting moment with our daughter. I bent down and gave my little girl one last kiss on the forehead. When I did, I smelled the anointing oil on her head. It was a special oil from Jerusalem that contained fragrance so it wasn’t just oil, it had a distinct smell that I’ll never forget. Jennifer bent down to Jenna’s tiny little ear and whispered that she loved her.
It was time for us to leave. Jennifer and I headed toward the back of the church where we were stopped by the funeral director who wanted us to wait until they were beginning to bring the casket out. Out of my mind, I guess, I forgot to bring our coats into the church when we came in earlier. So I gave my car keys to one of our church deacons who braved the chill in the air to retrieve them from our car for us. As we were waiting, I looked back, down through the hallway to where our little girl laid. The funeral home employees were getting ready to close the casket, tucking in the blanket and the ruffle. I was thinking, again, “Is this really happening?” I quickly turned back around and held Jennifer and gave her a little squeeze.
Shortly we where directed outside and as the door opened I thanked God that there was still no rain! I didn’t think of looking for the rainbow that we were told about, it totally slipped my mind, but I think by that time, it had faded. We continued the short walk to a waiting limousine with six seats and six doors. We were ushered into the very back seat. From this view we could see the door of the church and the hearse. Our pastor’s wife sat in the back seat with us, and our pastor friend and his wife joined us in the stretched car riding in the middle seat. We just kept watching the door to see the miniature white casket. Soon it appeared. My two nieces and Jennifer’s two nephews carrying it, with our pastor following close behind. A pure white casket with the small heart-shaped flower arrangement that was laying on Jenna’s feet now duck taped to the top. Yes, it was duck taped; I guess they didn’t have anything else to secure it with. Wow! That stuff really can work for anything!
They exited the church and slowly made their way to the back door of the hearse that was now open. Fluidly, they moved closer and set the edge of the casket into the vehicle and then pushed it in as the funeral guys secured it as our pastor got in the front seat of our limousine.
We sat there briefly before beginning the journey to the grave site as we were the first car in the procession. Reaching the end of the driveway, Jennifer quietly told me that she should have stopped by the restroom for a little breather. Understandably, she wasn’t feeling too well. Of course everyone in the limo wondered what was going on, so I just said that she wasn’t feeling too good and left it at that.
As we drove along, I could smell the anointing oil that was on Jenna. I unconsciously licked my lips and tasted the oil that I must have got when I kissed my little girl goodbye. That’s where the smell was coming from, but it tasted really bad! Not a good taste to have in your mouth, that’s for sure.
A few miles down the road, Jennifer again said she wasn’t doing any better so I asked everyone in the car to pray. The ones closest to us turned around and our pastor friend’s wife got a small vial of anointing oil and dabbed a small amount on Jennifer’s hand as they reached over the seat and began to say a prayer. The driver of the limo, who was the funeral director, was too concerned and turned on the air conditioning in the back to see if that would help. After a short time, when we were nearing the interstate, Jennifer was feeling a little better, but as we were traveling just a few miles on the interstate at the head of the procession, Jennifer began to again feel ill.
Now you could imagine what is going through Jennifer’s head right now, driving to the graveyard during her daughter’s funeral and she’s about to be sick. She must have been turning a little pale and our pastor’s wife asked Jennifer if she needed to stop. Honestly, I thought this just before she mentioned something, so I was thinking to myself, “Well, there’s a fast food place on the way, but I don’t know if the whole processional could fit in the parking lot while Jennifer gathered herself.” But the pastor’s wife was thinking ahead and her daughter’s house was about a half mile off the route, but she was in the line of cars behind us. Not to worry though, our pastor’s wife had a key.
Under the nagging of the ladies in the car, Jennifer agreed to stop. The driver said that they could make a stop and have everyone else continue out to the graveyard. But how would they tell the next car, the funeral home’s other limousine, to continue? At that time we were at the exit that we needed to get off. The driver stopped the car at the end of the ramp and got out, walked back to the next car and told them to go on. Our driver stood there directing the cars to go around us as we waited on the side of the road. There it was, the hearse carrying our little girl, she went on without us too. Car after car drove slowly past us as it seamed everyone was staring at us, but we later found out, the windows were tinted so they couldn’t even tell who was in the car.
After everyone passed, the driver returned and we went the short detour to our friend’s house to see if Jennifer’s stomach would settle. It’s a good thing we did because by this time she’s in agony. As we pulled into the driveway the pastor got out and punched the code to open the garage door and I got out and helped Jennifer. We went in with the pastor’s wife and Jennifer went right to the restroom. After a few minutes and a small drink to calm her stomach, we went back to the car. The driver insisted that Jennifer ride up front. I remember years ago, when we were dating, Jennifer made the excuse that she couldn’t ride in the back seat of my car because she’d get sick. But honestly, I think that was just a ploy so she could ride next to me.
Jennifer sat in the front seat as I got in the middle seat and leaned over the seat to keep a close eye on her. The funeral director was a little concerned. As we pulled out of the driveway and began the short trip of about 2 miles, Jennifer asked him if he’s ever had to stop during a funeral procession before for someone feeling sick. This particular guy knew Jennifer’s father fairly well because he had done quite a number of funerals for the funeral home, which was just several blocks from their home. So it’s not like this guy was a total stranger. He thought a minute and cleverly came up with, “There’re always situations that arise.” Jennifer knew better and she responded, “So I’m the first!” It seemed like the car roared with laughter. We all needed that right then.
Within a few minutes we were joining the rest of the cars at the graveside. Driving on the road beside the graveyard, I glanced out the right side of the car and saw the small ‘funeral type’ tent set up where Jennifer’s grandparents were buried.
When we pulled up everyone was standing outside their cars, probably wondering what happened to us. There was a space to park saved for us near the hearse, so we were finally there. I think I had to pinch myself to, again, see if this was really happening. We got out of the car and I wrapped my arm around Jennifer, steadying her as we stood behind the hearse waiting for everyone to gather there. The pallbearers, Jennifer’s nephews and my nieces, were in place, but I noticed that my niece was shivering in the autumn chill that was in the air. So I took off my coat and gave it to her and told her to put it on. At first she refused, but I was persistent and she put it on. But please, don’t worry about my comfort, I was wearing my suit jacket and I was plenty warm, plus I was about numb to everything anyway, plus I have some extra insulation, if you know what I mean.
The back door of the hearse was slowly opened revealing our daughter’s casket; the tiny little casket with the words “Loved and Cherished” on a stainless steel plate on the lid, apparently over where Jenna’s head was just a few inches below. I must admit, there was a part of me that wanted to pop the top and grab her up and hold her, but that’s a little crazy, right? The pallbearers stepped closer as they stretched their arms to slide the casket out. Jennifer and I followed as they were led up the small hill past countless headstones and down the other side to where the tent that I saw from the road stood. This was the end of October, so there were fall leaves all over the ground. A virtually colored pallet of little fallen leaves covered the ground; bringing the message from the funeral home. I, personally, will never look at leaves the same.
As the pallbearers reached the tent the funeral director showed them how and where to put the casket, then directed Jennifer and me to the covered chairs beside the casket. We noticed right away that the hole was dug right at the feet of Jennifer’s grandmother. We really didn’t know if our little girl would be at her grandmother or grandfather, we weren’t asked to choose one. So Jennifer and I thought our daughter’s final resting place was appropriate because Jennifer’s grandmother loved kids. We knew that she was up in heaven showing her great granddaughter off right then anyway.
As we sat, I was thinking that this was the first time that I’d ever sat in one of the chairs at any graveside, usually I’d stand near the edge or just outside the tent. Jennifer and I took the middle seats with me sitting on her right side. My mother and father sat on the right side of me and Jennifer’s mother sat on the left side of her. We quietly sat there as other friends and family gathered and filled in all around us. Looking down on the green outdoor carpet that makes the ground look nice under the tent, again there were leaves all over the place.
With the tent being on a slight hill, the pastors took their place at the left side of the tent, the higher point. The pastor began saying the traditional graveside things. Then our pastor began to read the poem he penned within the last day.
Our Little Fallen Leaf
Precious Baby Jenna Grace Bone
Our little fallen leaf
Your life here on earth
Was oh so short and brief.
You have the name of Jenna,
Your middle name is Grace,
We knew you in your mother’s womb,
We got to see your face.
We know that you’re in heaven
Safe from all earth’s harms,
Because we know you’re with Jesus,
Cuddled in His Arms
We leave you here with Great Grandma
And your Great Grandpap,
I know they’re thrilled to share you,
As you sleep upon each lap.
Yes we have to leave you
Here within this ground,
We’re waiting with excitement
For that trumpet sound
Your mommy and daddy love you,
Your story he will tell
And they’ll leave here with assurance,
You’re with Jesus- and know that “It Is Well”
At this point, I really couldn’t say that “It Is Well,” with everything that happened, I kinda felt gypped. My heart was surrounded in anguish with a million why questions. I know, you’re not supposed to ask why, but everyone does, right? It’s hard not to ask why.
It was the other pastor’s time for the benediction. After a few words and a prayer it was over. Just as the beginning of this story, bittersweet. Of course I was glad for everything to be finished, but just knowing that we’d never see our baby or that little white casket again.
The funeral director stepped over to one of the flower arrangements, pulling small white roses that had a delicate pink around the edge and brought several over to Jennifer and me, and everyone else. We sat there for a few moments before getting up and looking at the casket one final time for a fleeting moment before walking off to the right, down the hill out of the tent.
I began walking with Jennifer through the graveyard, steadying her as we walked away toward the parked cars. Apparently, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to walk through the mushy ground with heels on, I obviously haven’t tried it. During this time, Jennifer’s father couldn’t make the walk to the grave, so he waited in the van. As we were coming over the crest of the hill, she said she wanted to see her father. We walked over to the door of the van where he was sitting with the window down and asked how he was doing. Following a brief conversation, we headed toward back to the limousine.
Of course, the driver was still worried about Jennifer and wanted her to again sit in the front seat, but by this time, I guess the nerves subsided and she was doing much better. So after declining the offer she climbed into the back seat with me following.
We sat quietly waiting for everyone else to make their way from the graveside back to their cars. As they passed by the limo, most were carrying a rose from an arrangement. Some were white and some were pink but all with long stems. I wondered what everyone would do with them after taking them home.
As the driver got back in the car he again asked Jennifer if she was feeling all right and once again we assured him that everything was OK, so with that we began the trip back to the church where church members where preparing a meal. Right then hunger pains weren’t anywhere near my brain and I really didn’t what anything to eat either.
We were both thinking the same thing; we thought it would be nice to come back to the graveyard after eating something just to see how things were after our little girl was buried. So that was the plan.
The trip was quiet and brief. As we exited the interstate and continued toward the church, I noticed a few drops of rain on the windshield. The small drops came just after everything was finished. Wow, what a relief! As we turned into the church parking lot, the drops were becoming more frequent with leaves blowing from the trees nearby. The driver pulled up to the same door that we exited just a short time earlier, but this time we didn’t have our little girl. While we climbed out of the limousine, we were just about blown away with a strong wind gust. The few drops of rain that I felt were like pins hitting my face. As we ran swiftly in the door of our church, everyone was saying how the rain held off just long enough. We opened the door as other cars were pulling in the parking lot. The wind-driven rain was pounding the ground as our friends and family ran from their cars to the church.
My simple prayer was answered. The rain held off just long enough! Just one more thing that I don’t understand; God held off the rain, but didn’t breathe life into our little girl. The Bible says that our ways are not His ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts. I’d like to know what He’s doing though. We here on earth are just looking at things too closely, and we’re not able to look at the big picture. Like looking at an oriental rug or an abstract painting, when you step back and look at the whole rug or the entire picture, you can see what the artist or carpet maker was trying to do. Sometimes I just wish I could turn to the end of life’s book to see where we’re going, but it’s not possible.
We walked toward the sanctuary as the food’s aroma was wafting in the air. We could see the tables ahead of us, reminding us of just four weeks earlier when we had Jenna’s baby party (shower). Although, Jennifer and I didn’t dwell on that fact, we just wanted to spend some time with those who gathered there to remember our daughter and comfort us.
We found a seat near the front left side of the auditorium. Jennifer’s sister offered to get Jennifer’s plate of food and she agreed, but I could get my own.
The dinner went on during one of the saddest days of my life. But I couldn’t help but think of the time we
had just few a weeks earlier in the same setting. Agreed, that there were no decorations, celebration cake or punch fountain, but it was some of the same people sitting around the same tables. Of course I was thinking of Jenna’s baby party where over 80 people came to celebrate the coming life. On the other hand, this time, still celebrating life, but it was to celebrate the past life, even though it was really a short life.
The dinner was pretty much uneventful; after eating, Jennifer and I had to take a bit of a break from the “event,” so we went into a room just by ourselves to gather ourselves for just a few moments. It was ironic the room we were in, the nursery, a room that our little girl wouldn’t get a chance to be in. We sat on the love seat in the room for a while just talking a little about the events of the day.
During the day’s events, people would give us cards, the dreaded sympathy card; the card that shows that you care, but no one wants to receive. So during this alone time, we opened the cards and read them. The cards were filled with thoughtful words that let us know that we were being held up in prayer by many friends and family. One thing that I was surprised about the whole experience was the money that people gave us in some of these cards. This was something I never thought about, giving people money when a loved one died. But then I thought, “What more do people need?” With upcoming funeral bills that we’d have to take care of and everything else, the money was a blessing. To all who gave something, THANKS!
The awesome team that we have in the church was beginning the task of cleaning up. About this time, Jennifer and I were exhausted. We sat back in the same nursery room as some of our friends began to join us. These were very close friends who all have children of their own. Now I don’t say that with any hard feelings or anything. Jennifer and I enjoy all their kids and we treat them as our own at times. The time that we spent with our friends and their children was priceless. Our friends, as well as their children, were looking forward to Jenna just as much or even more than we were.
We enjoyed talking and spending the time with our friends. During this time, we learned that one set of our friends and their daughters saw two more rainbows a few miles west of where we were during that day while they were picking up flowers for the funeral. This added to the one huge rainbow that was seen outside the church following the funeral. Then some of our other friends said that they saw two additional rainbows during the interment, one in the funeral precession and another at the graveyard. They got pictures of all three that they saw that day. You could plainly see them in the photos, with the biggest and brightest being Jenna’s rainbow outside the church after the funeral. That makes a total of five rainbows on this dreadful day.
We enjoyed talking to some of our friends as the two ladies who run the cameras at the other church where I produce a television program came into the church to bring Jennifer and myself some food. She walked in as we were talking about the five rainbows. She casually said how the number five means grace in the Bible. I’m not sure if she connected the two when she said that, but Grace was Jenna’s middle name. I don’t think that it was a coincidence that there were five rainbows on that day. I believe it was a sign, of God’s promises. Maybe that He would give us the desires of our heart or maybe He keeps us under His wings. Whatever the meaning, we won’t forget our little Jenna Grace.
Wow, what an amazing thought. Five means Grace!
As things were ending, vacuum cleaners began to turn on. This took me back again about the same time four weeks earlier. Then we were cleaning up after the baby party (AKA shower) loading gifts into the car. We barely had enough room in the trunk and the back seat. How quickly things can change.
Jennifer and I began to say goodbye and thanked everyone for their hard work to cook food, serve and clean up. When we opened the door it was dark. This put a wrench in the plans of going back to the graveyard that day. We’d have to go the following day, Sunday. We walked out the front door of the church and turned right where the car was parked. As Jennifer and I raised our heads as we walked along together, we paused in mid-step. On the ground there were many leaves, many of them maple. The storm that came through when we were getting back to church had leaves blown all around, in the corners of the building and on the ground along the wall. But one little leaf seamed dramatically out of place. There was a small orange maple leaf, just like Jenna’s leaf from the funeral, stuck to the driver’s side door. It stood out like a sore thumb against the white car illuminated by the light at the church’s entrance. There’s no way someone would have purposely would have stuck a leaf to the side of our car. We believed it was just another small sign, from God…maybe, but maybe from our little girl, “Our Little Fallen Leaf,” saying that she was still with us, even though we couldn’t have her here on earth.
Two more chapters will be written. Please get the book when it's published.
In loving memory of Jenna Grace Bone
© John A. Bone Photography - 2017 - Cumberland, Maryland, USA