I may be a throwback to an earlier time, when a woman’s whole world was her home and family. But there is nothing more precious to me than my family, my own children and my grandchildren. Along with my extended family, daughters- in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, I’ve been blessed with a very close, loving family all my life. In that context, the next best thing to having the good fortune of giving birth to five healthy babies is to welcome the grandbabies as they came along. To be present at the birth of your children’s children is a true privilege and a thrill.
When my youngest son Jeff married Jake (Jennifer) I was thrilled because, not only was he very happy, she and I had become great friends. She brought three beautiful children into our family and they fit in with all the other cousins immediately. The only thing that would truly complete Jeff and Jake’s life together would be to have a child together.
After three sad losses, two a miscarriage, one an ectopic pregnancy, they were very happy to announce that they were pregnant with twins. We subsequently learned that they were two little girls. Both families were thrilled with this news, as we always feel, “the more the merrier.” As a dedicated and hands-on Nonna, I was involved in many aspects of the coming event, even to the planning of a baby shower. Everything seemed fine and, at her four month exam, all was pronounced “perfect.”
Unfortunately, this proved to be untrue as the ensuing weeks would show. When Jeff called me to say they were at the hospital, I was sure it was nothing to worry about, maybe an early false labor, or something minor that would be corrected quickly. Instead, it was the start of several weeks of pain and grief.
The excited anticipation I’d been feeling for the previous few months quickly turned into unimaginable grief as we lost first one, then the other, baby girl, within two weeks. That these two innocents would never join our family, never participate in our Christmases, birthdays, or family dinners was unbelievable! I had been looking forward to having the twins with us for Christmas of 2011 as a couple of little dolls, dressed up in red and green, playing happily with their cousins, uncles and aunt by the tree. Instead, we had a memorial service to commemorate the two little souls that were called away before they had a chance to live.
Nothing in my life had prepared me for this situation. I had never lost a child to miscarriage or premature birth. I did know other people who had gone through this but never felt that it had any bearing on me. I guess I just never gave it any real thought, that someone had lost a child. Miscarriage was not something in my
As I walked this sad path with my son and his wife, I began to question the benevolence of life, wondering why this tragedy should come to them. They were so much in love and wanted a child badly. Although she had brought three older children into their marriage, to be able to have their own together would be the final strong bond between them. And, the older three were very excited when they knew they would have two little sisters.
The night that Tierney was delivered, I spent on a hard plastic chair in the waiting room with several others, my daughter-in-law’s mother, aunt and cousin, her sister, and her two daughters. All night we waited, praying for a miracle. But our prayers weren’t enough to save the baby. She arrived deceased, a tiny little girl, looking like a doll. We each held her, and prayed for her. She was dressed in a little pink gown and bonnet and my son baptized her Tierney Faith.
Afterwards, we all waited to see what would happen with the second baby, called by the medical staff, Baby Number two. Although they tried a seldom-used procedure to keep her in the womb, after two weeks Jake went into labor and was delivered of Eden Hope. Eden was another little doll, with ears, eyes, a nose, mouth, just a perfect little body, and she was breathing! We all hoped she could be saved, but the medical decision was to take no action with such an early birth, and she subsequently passed away after only a couple of hours. I can still see my son Jeff, holding his tiny daughter in his big hands and whispering to her, “Breathe, breathe.” It was the saddest thing I ever experienced.
Eden, too, was dressed in little baby clothes and when her mother was rushed to the OR due to excessive bleeding, I held the little baby up to the window, which had a panoramic view of San Francisco and pointed I out various landmarks. I told her that she could be proud to be a 6th generation San Franciscan and gave her a brief family history. That time with Eden was very precious to me and is a memory that is with me often.
Again Jeff had the sad experience of baptizing his little daughter.
The entry in my journal dated Feb. 6, 2011, “I’ve had many deaths in my life, Mom and Dad, grandparents, friends, my husband, but I don’t remember feeling this deep, deep sadness as seeing my two little granddaughters come into this world for only a brief time, Tierney born lifeless, and Eden, living only for a couple of hours.”
The subsequent months began with grieving and our efforts to resume our normal lives. As one can imagine, this was quite difficult, but the buoyancy of the human spirit and the loving goodness of our family helped us to gradually recoup. How we were able to do so will be the next installment of this journey.
Andrea (Andi) Ibarra is a forth generation San Franciscan, mother of five, grandmother of eight and great-grandmother once. Having been widowed at a fairly young age, with two teenage sons and an
eight year-old daughter to raise, she went to work at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, from which
she retired in 2008 after 18 years of service to our veterans. Her family is most important to her and she
is closely entwined with her children, their offspring, and their large community of friends. The loss of
her son’s twin girls due to very premature birth was a great shock and she needed time to work through
the grief, while staying available to help comfort other family members. Her musings here will attempt
to document the grief, healing process and, eventually, the joy of the birth of her latest grandchild,
Wyatt, a wonderful gift following the sad previous event. Andi lives near Ocean Beach and loves to walk
along the shore. She also enjoys traveling and has visited several countries with her two sisters.