This is our story:
It was my birthday October 24th, 2010 and my husband had arranged a surprise birthday party for me. I was about 7 months pregnant and I was having a baby shower given to me on November 13th. I had never had a baby shower before or a surprise birthday party by my husband so I was very excited, it was just going to be an awesome week. November 9th, 2010 was my next check up to see how the baby was doing. I had been telling my husband, the doctor and my friends that something was not right. The baby wasn't kicking as much. I even called the doctor who said it was perfectly normal. I wanted so much to believe everything was ok. I told everyone that the baby would come early, I just felt it. My now 6 year old daughter Samantha had been born a month and 6 days early in 2004. I knew something was wrong but everyone convinced me that it was still OK.
That day when I climbed on the weight scale, I had lost 3 lbs. I had been gaining perfect weight the whole time. I went into the room, I was almost shaking. My husband I don't think noticed because I was trying to push my worrying aside. I hopped up on the table and waited to hear the heart beat so I could relax. The doctor said, "where do we usually find it", I pointed to the exact spot and started to panic. I remember starring at the ceiling into the light above the table, my husband walking up to the side and gripping my hand. I held it tight. The doctor looked at me and said, Well I can't find a heart beat so I'm going to send you down for an ultrasound. He called downstairs and the guy wasn't there to do it. God was telling me, just wait. I was shaking and now the nightmare was setting in. He called across to the hospital and they were booked up for another 3 hours. God said, just wait. An appointment was made for us at 1:30. I remembered the ultrasound studio in Bentonville called What's Kickin, I told my husband, I have to know now. God told me to wait. My husband called and she said the machine was down until Thursday, it was then Tuesday. God said, you have to wait. Calls to our work was made, I went numb. God said, you have to wait. When we got home, all my husband could do is hold me tight and say, everything will be ok. We went to the hospital, finally and when we got into the ultrasound room, she said, I can't tell you anything that I find, the technician has to relay the information to your doctor.
After the ultrasound was done, another agonizing eternity passed and we were finally told "I'm sorry, but you lost the baby." Of course, what worse than that, but you're going to have to deliver. Back to the hospital, all I could do was lean on God. Our associate pastor was called, family was called and questions started. What's going to happen? How is this going to happen and why is this happening? I was given medication to start the process and at about 4 in the morning, November 10th, 2010 I had our son Sebastian Joseph Grigg. He was going to be our first boy. My husband and I joined each other with children, he with 2 girls and I with one. He is the last of his family name and after me telling everyone that I knew it was going to be a boy and everyone being so happy, we had our son. I can't say how much pain emotinally we went through, but it wasn't over. Before I had given birth, the hospital staff was already asking me if I wanted pictures, cast molds made, where I wanted the burial to be. It would have been unbearable if the Lord had not been carrying me. After I gave birth, I couldn't look at my husband, I couldn't look at anyone and they asked if I wanted to hold my son. They had him in the room for a long time before I could even think about it. He weighed .9 ounces when I delivered. It was the most aweful thing I have ever had to do in my entire life. When your baby is handed to you to hold, I kept thinking, this is not even a baby. It's not cooing, it's not crying, its not moving. God reminded me that Sebastian was not with us then and only had been in my tummy. The human body is just a shell and that was not my son. My son was in the arms of my God, being loved on and being given wings. My father in Heaven was comforting me and giving me peace like no one could. I know I have said that the hardest thing was to hold my son, but I haven't even mentioned that we were never told what happened. The doctor only said that he "got sick". I don't know to this day why he got sick. I didn't get that closure. The day of Sebastian's funeral, I realized that it was the day I was suppose to have my first ever baby shower. Instead, I was burying my first son.
The only thing that has given me great comfort, is sharing my pain with others, talking about it, and not talking about it when I didn't feel like it, and relying on the Lord. I know that if you are going through this or if you already have that you have the strength to get through it. God doesn't put you through the storm, he is in it with you and gets you out. I have never been closer to God than I am now because God has just filled me & showered me with love. You must handle what you go through in a different way, depending on your situation. But don't ever feel like you are by yourself. If anyone ever needs to talk or just to be listened to, I am here and lots of other women are too. The day after I buried my son happened to be my associate pastor's ordination which I was unexpectidly a witness at. There were several pastors there and they got up and told my story and of course, I was there in the front row just bawling my eyes out. I had a pastor's wife approach ME and say, you are so strong. She said to me, we just had a miscarriage a few weeks ago but I wasn't that far along. I hear that they are now pregnant again. Almost everyone that has come out about their situation to me has home. 2, 3 miscarriages and they have a healthy baby. I'm sorry that this was so long, but I know that my baby is safe. I know that God's plans are different than our own and that HE will use you if you let him. I want to change hearts and I want to give people hope. If I am able to do that out of my tragedy, it will help me heal. If you know someone hurting, all you can do is listen and love them. I don't think I've dealt with my son's death and I know my husband hasn't. But I see a change in both of us for the better. It takes time, but you will heal. Help yourself by helping others.
On February 6th, 2011, it will be when the baby was suppose to be due. Instead of giving birth, I will stand in front of my church and give my testimony. It will be hard, but it will also allow me to heal and help others. Nothing is impossible when you let the Lord carry you when you can no longer walk yourself.
Thank you for your time,
It all began on a beautiful sunny day in May, 1996. It was my sister Ashley’s senior prom night. I had driven in, just like a great big sister would, to see her, looking beautiful at her last high school prom. As she made her way down the steps and they announced her name over the loud speaker, I stood up, applauded and wave a little white stick in my hand. I had taken a pregnancy test right before Ashley left, and yes! There was a blue line! I had to shout it out to the world. It just so happened, the world at that time was at a high school prom. We were all so excited! I called John immediately. He was in Gainesville, Florida, working and recruiting. He was elated.
And so the story begins……..
Thirty-seven weeks later, a beautiful baby boy came bursting into the world. A boy. A father’s dream. Someone to carry on the family name—whew!!!—what a relief; pressure is off; He was perfect and healthy. Thank God for this blessing!!
Three years later, we found out that a baby girl was on her way into our world. Again, we were so excited! I got to my fifth month of pregnancy and my doctor ran some tests of which came back saying there were antibodies in my blood. My doctor was shocked and quite disturbed. He had no idea how this could have happened. My blood type was O-. Jaxson, my son, was O+. All precautions had been taken to prevent our blood from crossing. Still to this day, my doctor has no idea how this happened. At this point in the pregnancy, I had to switch doctors and start seeing a high risk OBGYN. His name is Dr. Patrick Duff. From day one, he gave me a comfort and calming sense, just like my own father would. I felt 100% safe in his care. And so this new journey begins. I am RH-. Now because of the antibodies that have formed due to the bloods somehow crossing, I have to begin a series of blood transfusions for my sweet baby girl. In simple terms, the transfusion tricks my body into thinking the baby is my blood type. We had two blood transfusions while I was pregnant and one more once she was born. This type of blood transfusion is extremely high risk, and is similar to having an amniocentesis. The needle is the same, once the blood is given, and the needed is removed, the hole in the umbilical cord in which was pierced, closes up and clots so that no blood will seep out. A very dangerous procedure, but was successful…all three times.
At thirty-six weeks, Dr. Duff felt like we had done enough—and on December 9, 1999, Ann Marie Grace Donovan was born weighing five pounds, four ounces. She was beautiful and healthy. Yet because her crit levels were still so low, she had to have that third transfusion. She was a miracle though!!! Our very own “Grace” from God. Thank you...God…again.
Going through all that we did to get Grace here is no different than what any other mother would have done for their child. But after she was born, and after hearing Dr. Duffs description of what we went through and what could have happened, we realized how little we actually knew of what we were facing at that time. Any one of the transfusions could have taken her life or caused serious complications for me. But, because we didn't have a vast knowledge of what we were experiencing, we did not know to be scared. We truly feel that this was God's protection. We literally just walked through the whole process with little worry, trusting our faith in God and trusting our doctor. And what a wonderful man Dr. Duff is. He has such a gift in what he does. His voice was so calming and confident; there was no reason to ever be worried. He called Grace his "amazing grace".
About three years after Grace was born, God gave me yet another blue stick. This time, there was no jumping for joy. There were tears; there was anger and mostly fear. I knew what was going to happen. Dr. Duff had told us that with each pregnancy, the antibodies would double, and the pregnancies would be much more high risk. This pregnancy was a shock. Not planned at all. And now, we no longer living in Gainesville, FL where our trusted Dr. Duff was. We were in Mobile, AL far way away from Dr. Duff. Now the fear of what lay ahead of us set in and we knew we needed a calming and confident voice of reason. We knew that there may be physical distance, but Dr. Duff was just a phone call away. He promised us that he would be there every stop of the way. John and I had made the decision to drive the six hours to Gainesville for each appointment to see Dr. Duff. He knew everything about me and the antibodies. I would have driven across the country to see him. When a parent has the type of trust and bond and confidence in a doctor they would fly to the moon and back to make sure everything can be as perfect as possible for their child.
Surprisingly, the pregnancy was great. No problems at all. I thought that I was going to set some sort of medical record because the baby was showing no signs of distress. None. We got to 20 weeks and found out that it was a boy!! He looked perfect. Ten fingers, ten toes. And my nose!! Another blessing. We began to be less fearful and began to get excited. We started driving to see Dr. Duff every 2 weeks and did each drive in one day! Oh my wonderful husband - in a car with a pregnant lady for at least 12 hours. We got to 27 weeks. Still1 everything looked good on the ultrasound. But for some reason, Dr. Duff wanted to do an amniocentesis to check exact crit levels. The test revealed the baby was beginning to show signs of distress--and we needed to have a transfusion. I was truly excited to have made it this far along in the pregnancy without having one yet. We were told at the beginning of the pregnancy, the transfusions could start as early as 18-20 weeks. We were at 27!! ! And so, that night we had our first transfusion. And everything went well. The transfusion was complete and the baby's crit levels were rising to normal. Dr. Duff wanted to keep me for a few hours just to make sure everything was ok. The only thing that was bothering him was that he could not stabilize the baby's heart rate. It would be fast than slow. Fast than slow. They were checking me about every 15-20 minutes and just could not understand why his heart beat would not remain stable.
It was the early a.m. of August 22 when Dr. Duff did his final ultrasound on me to check on the baby when he realized the baby's heart was not beating. Wait!!! How could that be true?!? I had just been listening to his heart beat for the past two hours. I saw the read out just 15 minutes ago. How could there be no heartbeat?? The heart monitor had been strapped around my belly and what we had heard for the last 45 minutes was in actuality, my heartbeat, not his. After they had done the transfusion and the needle was removed, the hole was supposed to immediately close-up. Unfortunately, in this case, the hole did not close up and our son had bled out. And this is why we didn't hear a heart beat on the ultrasound. And again, in Dr. Duff's soft yet so calming voice, I heard "I am so sorry". And I felt the arms of my husband wrap around me. But I did not believe them. I had just heard the heart beat! We did this three times with Grace. Come on!! This was the first time with him. It could not be true .... but it was. He was gone. I will never forget the sound of Dr. Duff's voice when he told us how sorry he was. He was in shock. Absolutely devastated. Moved beyond words. He looked at me with such sadness in his eyes. I knew he felt our loss to the depths of his soul. It was the first baby he had ever lost. He was/is the Chief of Staff and this had never happened to him. We had such a wonderfully close relationship with him he was like family. I was at a loss for words. I just knew we were going to get him here, just like we did Grace. We knew it would be a difficult journey--but I had such confidence and peace with Dr. Duff and I was determined to get my little boy here. But God had other plans.
Hours went by before the events of those hours leading up began to sink in. The nurses came in carrying our son. All bundled up. He looked perfect. He ended up weighing almost 4 pounds. Ten fingers, ten toes. My nose!!! And hair!! Lots of hair!! My other two had not had any hair until after they turned two. He was beautiful. Our angel. We decided to name him after John, and his middle name would be Patrick, after Dr. Patrick Duff. I wanted to make sure Dr. Duff knew how blessed we felt to have him be part of getting our AMAZING Grace here safe and sound. It was at that moment that we knew the miracle she was. We had no idea. We thought we did. But until that moment --the same procedure that had brought her to us took her brother away from us. We knew how Great God was! There really wasn't any anger, only sadness.
When we moved to Arkansas three years ago, John and I knew we wanted to do something to help other families that had experienced similar circumstances. We wanted to create a special fundraiser that could help make a difference for children who are suffering and families who are encountering those same struggles that we experienced. So, in honor and memory of our son, John Patrick, we have established the Pel's Pals Foundation. The focus of our foundation is to generate financial support benefitting children's charities with a special emphasis on providing resources and education for neonatal efforts throughout our great state of Arkansas.
The foundation generously contributes to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Maternal Fetal Medicine Program, Arkansas Children's Hospital and Children’s House in Fayetteville. Dr. Duff still remains a very dose friend. I have a bond with him that I will be forever grateful for. He is an amazing doctor that helps perform miracles on a daily basis. This bond I talk about is exactly the same feelings I felt when I was introduced for the first time to Dr. Paul Wendel just two years ago. He is the director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at UAM.S. This program deals with the management of high-risk pregnancies and is the only program of its kind in the state and a large portion of the mid-south region. Although he was not my doctor, his compassion, drive and love for his patients are the same qualities that Dr. Duff has, which are the same qualities that drove me to want to learn more about him and what he does. Dr. Wendel's patients seem to have the same feelings for him that I did for Dr. Duff. What he is doing in fetal medicine is life changing. He is one of the best, and nationally recognized experts in obstetrics and gynecology. Because of Dr. Wendel's work, high-risk pregnancies have resulted in healthy babies being born into loving families. If I had been living in Arkansas during my pregnancies, he would have been my doctor.
So, this is our story. And although there have been some tragic events that have happened along our Journey, we truly feel blessed to have been given the blessing of our children, the opportunity to grow in our faith and the ability to be given the privilege to give back to others and help them in whatever way we can. Our foundation was established to make a difference in our community, in our state and the lives of others.