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Gracie Lynn

Gracie Lynn, baby with anencephaly

Gracie Lynn Speights was born on May 3, 2006 at 2:24 p.m. at 38 weeks due to being induced. She weighed 5 lbs 3 oz. and was 15 inches long. I knew of her condition at 17 weeks and there was no question in my mind of carrying her as long as I could. I did a lot of preplanning for that day, from the birth plan, talking to the doctors and nurses about what I wanted to happen on that day, and how I wanted things done if different things happened, even who was to hold her and when. I preplanned the funeral (Celebration of her Life) just in case the doctors were right and she wouldn’t live long. I met with the LOPA (Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency) to talk about what could be used, when and how. I preplanned to have a kit for Cord Blood Donation to be done. I preplanned a list of photos to be taken and the people to have in the room with me, before, during and after labor. If I could plan it, I did (see her birth plan). It was how I could feel better and feel secure that while my attention was on my baby girl, everything else was being done for me.

I arrived at the hospital at 5:00 a.m. on May 3rd to be prepared for the big day. The doctors started my induction meds at 6:15 a.m. I had my daughter, husband, mom, sister, mother-in-law, father-in-law, dad, and a friend (to take pictures) in the room for my moral support. My friend, Joy and I had discussed in great detail the pictures that I wanted taken of Gracie and everyone holding her. These were going to be the only photos that I would have of my baby girl and I wanted as many of them as I could possible get. Pictures are your visuals, for when your mind can’t seem to recall.

As time past, I begin to hear of more and more people arriving to share our big day with us and to catch, if only a glimpse, of the precious little girl who had stolen some many peoples hearts. Family, friends, church family, they were all there for me and my family. For moral support when everything started getting really strong, everyone had their jobs to do while I was doing my “stuff”. Katlyn (my daughter) was my hand holder and rag holder (and she did a very good job!), my husband was to hold my other hand so I could “hurt” him when a pain would hit…ha-ha. My sister, she was my focal point with a 3-D ultrasound picture of Gracie, held high for me to look at, my mom was there to assist Katlyn, to answer questions, and to lift her up when the time came to watch as her little sister entered this world. My mother-in-law was there for my husbands support and of course, last but not least, my photographer, to take pictures of EVERYTHING as it happened.

Gracie was born at 2:24 p.m. She made a small noise that resembled a small kitten’s cry a couple of times. These few noises would be the only sounds that “we” would ever hear from our sweet baby girl. When they handed Gracie to me, I cried at the joy of being the one chosen to have such a beautiful, perfect baby. It’s true that love is blind, because what I saw, as they handed her to me was perfection! What others may have saw missing from this beautiful baby, I saw perfection. I held her for what seemed like forever, when it was actually just a few short minutes until I handed her to my daughter. My husband and I had discussed the importance of Katlyn holding her first and for as long as she wanted without any interruptions. It is important that Katlyn hold her sister while she was alive and active, to form a bond that nothing can ever break. This is important because, we as adults can grasp the understandings of what is going on better than a child. Katlyn is a mature child at 8 years old. We had prepared her the best way we could. She went to birthing class, I had her in therapy, and we had many open discussions of what were happening, what will happen, how Gracie could possibly look, and any feelings that Katlyn was feeling. Even now, at 9 years old, we know that we made the right decisions as to how Katlyn participated in Gracie’s birth. After a while they had to take Gracie and clean her up. Boy did she not like that at ALL!!!

God does hear our prayers, because one by one people made their way into the room to see and hold Gracie, all the while I was praying that she would live long enough for everyone to hold her for as long as they needed to. Our family (church and extended) all were able to hold Gracie and take pictures with her. They had pictures that each one of us would have to remember that day. All of this was happening, while I looked on, watching the changes that Gracie was causing among all these people. My mom, at one point, asked “do you want Gracie back to hold her; you haven’t had your time?” I simply answered “Mom, she is not just my baby anymore, she belongs to everyone in this room, and they have all put in their time and prayers. They all patiently waited for her to arrive. She will be here when they are done and I will have all the time I need.” What I didn’t know, at that time, was I was right. God had his hand on me, on all my words, my decisions, and my spirit.

After everyone left, except for our immediate family, we all had our time to hold Gracie. She had her 1st set of shots, we were able to feed her, and we even put a pacifier in her mouth. At one point, her little mouth was getting dry, so the nurse gave me a wet swab to rinse her mouth with. This swab must have tasted bitter (it must be what to us a lemon tastes like) because Gracie made the funniest face. We were so amazed at the face that we did it a couple of times more so we could take pictures of this awful funny face and to see how alive she was. After a while, everyone went home except for my husband and my sister. My sister stayed for many reasons and I am glad she did. I was so exhausted that after a little while, my husband and I laid down for a nap. After all, I did have a very long, emotional day. While we were sleeping, my sister held Gracie. She told me that Gracie would make little noises and would make funny faces. The time that my sister spent with Gracie, just the two of them, is something that she will never forget. Gracie was never put down (except when they changed her diaper and cleaned her up); we wanted her to know that she was loved and never alone. Around 3:00 a.m. I awoke and took Gracie back. My husband and I laid Gracie between us, so we could look and memorize everything about her, just to watch her, to embed in our memories everything about her. We must have dozed off, because the next thing I knew (it must have been a mothers intuition) I awoke with a feeling that it was almost time for her to go home. I told my sister to please get the nurse. I had some really great nurses. Anyway, the nurse came in and listened with her stethoscope and said the dreaded words that indeed she was going. I placed Gracie in my lap and talked to her, over and over, saying how much I love her. I told her so many things, so many things that I wanted her to hear. Then I said the one thing that I never thought I would say, “Gracie, let go and go home to Jesus.” The nurse looked at me and as she listened to her little chest, and as I was talking up a storm, she smiled a small smile and simply said “She gone!”
Gracie died the morning of May 4th at 4:42 a.m. exactly 14 hours and 18 minutes after she made her appearance, she made her departure. Soon after Gracie left to go walk with Jesus in his Heavenly Gardens, everyone began showing up. We did many things to preserve our memories of Gracie. We made her footprints in cement (as a stepping stone), I put her footprints in my bible, took a lot more pictures, cut some of her hair to put in her baby book, we saved everything that was used on Gracie (her brush, a clean diaper to show how little she was), the different sets of clothes that we put on her and the hats to match. Only when we were done with all of that did I know that I was ready for the LOPA team to come and harvest her organs. The heart valve and liver are two organs that Gracie had to be born alive to donate. They have up to 4 hours after death (if I remember right) to harvest the organs and have them on ice for transport. I had preplanned that when they were done, they would bring her back to us. When they brought her back to me, she was so beautiful! They had put some bandages on her chest, similar to those they put on for open heart surgery. She was a lot whiter due to the blood loss (which they had told me beforehand) and this was normal. I didn’t care; I had my baby back in my arms.

Because of us preplanning everything we could, I had become good friends with the nice lady at the funeral home. Her name is Kathryn, She was the one that would be preparing Gracie when the time came and I had complete trust in her. We made sure that she knew of all my wishes and would be the one to come directly to my room to get Gracie when I was ready for her to leave my arms (which would be never if I had my choice). Of course, the hospital had to be the one to make the “official” call to Kathryn. Kathryn was up and waiting for the call (we had talked that morning and she knew what was going on). Kathryn came to my room with the “okay” from the hospital. We all had our last time to say goodbye to Gracie, this was the hardest thing that we had and would ever have to do, was letting my baby go, knowing that I would never see her again on this earth. This was the only way that I could let my baby go, was to know that I trusted Kathryn and she was the one to care for my baby for the last time. I told everyone that I could not and would not let my baby be alone in the morgue, I just couldn’t handle that. We had already done all the paperwork ahead of time, so all she had to do was take her directly to the funeral home.

Kathryn took her from my arms at 6:00 p.m., 14 hours and 18 minutes after she died. If you will notice, she was born at 2:24 p.m., died at 4:42 a.m. She was alive for 14 hours and 18 minutes and I had her with me after she passed for 14 hours and 18 minutes. I never knew that until I looked at my paperwork and noticed the similarity. Now tell me that God doesn’t know what he is doing. That was the first time of the three that I just sobbed so badly I couldn’t breathe. The second was saying goodbye to her as they lowered her in the ground, and the third was upon receiving the letter from LOPA, explaining that her heart valve could not be used but her liver cells was. Now, they don’t usually let you know this, but I had notified them that I WANTED to know. You see to me, I had such high hopes for the heart valve because the heart is such a strong and powerful organ and to me if the heart is alive, then Gracie will always be alive. I had rather the heart had been used than the liver cells, so I cried.

I called Gracie “my butterfly”, and even in the obituary I started with the sentence, “Have you ever been kissed by a butterfly… I have.” Looking back a year later, I had to ask myself “Do I regret anything, any decisions, any wishes for anything to have been different?” The answer to that is NO! I wouldn’t change a thing; I would do it all over again if I had to. The only “wish” is what all mothers would want when they love a child and lose her, “Just to hold her in my arms one more time”! In a way I do get to hold her. My family and I attended the LOPA annual picnic in May of 2007. You get to meet so many people, some were the recipients of an organ, and others were the families of the ones that had so selflessly donated so others could live. Everyone had a name tag that was color coded as to which you were, mine said “mother of Gracie”. I had people come to me and tell me how grateful they were of “Gracie’s gift” and thank me. I would tell them that Gracie is the one that gave the ultimate gift; I was just a tool in our Fathers Plan. I happened to see a friend of mine, the sweet lady that helped me through all the decisions of the Organ Transplant. She was the one that came and stayed with me when they took Gracie to harvest her organs and now here she stood, once again, with arms opened wide. I had so much to tell her. I told her how some many people were thanking ME, and that it was Gracie that needed the thanks. She told me that I was the one that made that decision, I am the one that had to sign my name on the dotted line, and I was the one that made the ultimate decision to give so others could live. WOW! Talk about hitting me with a ton of bricks. She was right, my husband and I had made that decision, and we had to make that decision before it happened so they could be there in time. My family and I have become organ donors, so that in the event of our death, the decision will already have been made. Why not donate; you can’t use them when you are gone.

I am not saying that this is for everyone, that everyone should become an organ donor, but for us it makes it easier. For us, going back to the LOPA picnic every year is a reminder of Gracie and the fact that out in the world somewhere, someone is alive because of her. They have a quilt at the LOPA picnic that has Gracie’s name on it, a quilt with the names of all the “Heroes”. I am so proud of Gracie and of my family for being so supportive. Katlyn is so proud of her “little sister”. She only has one little jealous spot, the fact that Gracie is in Heaven with Steve Irwin (her hero) and has gotten to meet him. We always have to laugh at Katlyn and her simple way of thinking.

All my love for everyone, who have gone through a loss of a baby,

Mary

 

 

Forever my butterfly…

I know you are a butterfly.
I know because you came as a flutter in my womb.
I know you came from the Heavenly Garden.
I know because of your unique beauty.

You are His tiny, fragile little butterfly, but I will see you again.
You are His to forever keep, but mine to keep in my heart.
You are His gift, sent to spread His word in an unspoken way.
You are on a great journey, and I am honored to be chosen to take part in.

I promise to never forget you or forsake you.
I promise to try to be the best Christian I can be, to continue His message thru you.
I promise to not to be sad for long, but to rejoice in His name and celebrate.
I promise that every butterfly I see will be a reminder of you and your journey to us.

I thank you for showing me your beauty, while you were here in my garden.
I thank you for showing me your strength, as I found mine growing.
I thank you for showing me your faith, as mine grew stronger as each day passed.
I thank you for showing me that even though the winds are sometimes strong, pushing me off course, I can always find my way back.

My prayer is that everyone who knew of you will become closer to the Word, so you will not be in vain.
My prayer is that you will continue touching lives, wherever you may go and you will forever be remembered.
My prayer is to Jesus to forever keep you close to me so I will forever be reminded of His Grace, my Gracie.
My prayer is that when I am called to come home that you will be the beautiful butterfly to lead the way to our Heavenly Garden.
Where we will spend eternity together with those we love and waiting for those who have not yet come home.

This is not a goodbye.
This is not the end.
This is the beginning.
This is simply a “thank you” for being you.
This is a celebration of Gods work and your journey.

Until we meet again, I love you Gracie Lynn Speights.

 

Last updated November 14, 2011