First You Cry…….Twice (A story of Grandparent Grief)

June 28, 2012
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by Shauna Libsack

I am so honored to have my submission to the brand new ezine  “Still Standing” published in a recent issue.  I would encourage you to subscribe to this free publication if you haven’t already.  Just one more excellent example of the move to ‘get the word out’ that stillbirth can and does happen in this time of modern medical miracles.  The LANCET series referred to stillbirth as “the most under researched issue in healthcare today” and concludes that “half of the stillbirths today are potentially preventable.”  That is profound when you realize that in the United States there are 26,000 stillbirths each year and a mind numbing 4.5 million world wide.  Here is my article – I invite you to share it with your friends and colleagues and leave your thoughts and comments.

First You Cry……Twice

My Mother died when I was in college. I often said the biggest regret I had was that she never knew her beautiful grandchildren. So when we learned we would become grandparents we were thrilled! Living 1000 miles away didn’t keep me from attending to every detail of the pregnancy, I didn’t miss a single baby shower, I helped decorate the nursery and I would talk to my unborn grandchild every chance I got. I offered motherly advise to my daughter, but as a pediatric nurse practitioner she had already read up on the responsibilities of pregnancy – and she followed them religiously. And of course, she was well prepared for caring for a new baby. We enjoyed those months as mother and daughter/mother-to-be so much, just as we had enjoyed planning her wedding a few years before.

I distinctly remember the day that Lindsey hit the 28 week milestone. She said to me, ”we’re home free, I’ve taken care of 28 week babies and they do well these days.” With each week that went by we knew that our little one was gaining weight and would thrive in the outside world. At her 38 week appointment she said she had lost about 3 pounds but the doctor wasn’t concerned. It concerned me – but I trusted that her doctor knew best and I brushed it off.

Two days later I was on my way to await the delivery of this child when the unbelievable happened. It was about 7 am in the morning and I was less than 200 miles away when my cell phone rang. I cheerfully answered thinking Lindsey was wondering how close I was.

She was in tears and all she said was “Mom, there’s no heartbeat.” At first I had no idea what she was telling me.

They were at the doctor’s office as during the night Lindsey woke up with an ominous feeling that something was terribly wrong. As the hours went on, she realized that baby wasn’t moving and yet just the night before he had been so unusually active. It had been their wedding anniversary and she told me how they both sat on the sofa and giggled at how crazy active he was. Yet by morning nothing had changed so they called and went to the hospital to have it checked out – only to learn the worst. He was gone. Our beautiful child was gone along with all of the hopes and dreams for his future.

The rest of my drive was spent screaming at God – “How could you give us this baby and then take him away like this?” I was numb and kept asking why – why us? Why not the pregnant gal I saw in the grocery store that was a known crack addict? This couldn’t be happening to my daughter – the pain was unbearable. The hours went by in a blur and the next day we held our beautiful 6 pound grandson, Garrett. He was perfect and looked like he could wake at any moment – and oh how I prayed that he would. Surely there was a mistake.

In retrospect, I realize that grandparents mourn twice – once for the grandchild you so eagerly anticipate but perhaps even more so, you hurt like never before for your own child. My maternal instinct was to comfort and protect my daughter – but there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix it for her. It was the most horrible feeling in the world. I wanted to kiss away this boo-boo like I did when she was a child.

Since then, I’ve come to understand that stillbirth is the most terribly neglected subject in medicine today and yet the technology is available to prevent these needless tragedies. If only, Lindsey had been offered an ultrasound in the third trimester they would clearly have noted that Garrett was completely entangled in the umbilical cord and the outcome would have been entirely different.

Life moves on. Lindsey and Trent went on to have two more handsome sons and a beautiful daughter. All three had umbilical cord issues like their brother and are here today perhaps only because she was ‘entitled’ to high risk care because of Garrett. Is that fair? Why should anyone have to pay the price of the life of one child to be entitled to the very best medicine can offer? 30,000 little lives lost each year in the US is a crisis of untold proportions – why isn’t anyone talking about it?


About the author:

Shauna Libsack is Mom to two and Nana to six.  Today Garrett, Grant, Carley, Bennett, Graham and Austyn are the light of her life.  Garrett was stillborn in July of 2004 and since then she fervently advocates for stillbirth research, education and prevention through the Star Legacy Foundation believing that we can do more to prevent these needless tragedies

One Comment

Sorry for the loss of you grandson Garrett, Shauna, it
brought back so many memories, of what happened to my daughter
& son in law, with their first baby boy Jaxson, it is still
hard for me to even talk with out tearing up, we got that dreaded
phone call also, my daughter Amanda was at her. 36wk. regular
scheduled Dr. appt. she was so happy earlier & excited she
was going to get to hear the heartbeat, instead they could not find
one,I will never forget her crying voice on the phone when she said
they couldn’t find a heart beat, (he was also very active) but for
about a week he had been still (what she had told us not moving as
much) she called us to see if that was normal, I told her they do
slow down in movement the last couple of weeks because they run out
of room. I wished so many times I had told her to go to her Dr.
& just be checked out, (but it still would have been too
late). We don’t know the cause of why his heart stopped, they
didn’t want an autopsy but wanted test on the placenta &
Dr. or hospital forgot to order that so we will never know. On
March on the 28th 2013 Jaxson would have been 1yr.

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