At this point in my life, I am often asked if I have grandchildren. This comes from friends I have not seen in a while and from new people when we first meet. I never know exactly how to answer. The question seems innocent enough. However, for my family (and many others) it is not. Our grandbaby only lived three days. His perfect little body did not get enough oxygen during his birth so he could not live without life support.
This child was highly anticipated by both sides of his family—the first grandchild. His parents had almost given up hope of ever having a child. Then, miracle of miracles, he was there. Tiny little heart beating, growing, and letting his mom know, “Hey, I’m real.” Our family was growing and we were all so excited. We did all the things happy families do, bought baby furniture, clothes, painted the nursery, Mom and Dad picked out a name. Mom and Baby were given the best possible care and did everything just right. Everything was looking great for a natural birth.
So what went wrong? After he was born, the doctors said he did not receive enough oxygen during delivery. They did everything they could and he lived for three days before his tiny heart gave out. A chance in a million, they say. The placenta was infected. Mom and Baby showed no signs of infection, no fever, and no signs of stress. What could have possibly caused this? Gingivitis. The same virus that causes gum disease was in Mom’s blood and attacked the placenta. Gum disease. We were numb with shock and loss.
It has been several months now. Our friends do not know what to say to us. People who only know us casually might ask, “Oh you’re grandparents now, right?” How do we respond to that? It is painful for us and embarrassing for them.
In my heart, I know I am a grandmother but my arms are empty. The baby things are packed away in hopes of another baby. Meanwhile when asked, “Any grandchildren?” I hesitate for a moment, catch my breath, and then reply “still waiting.”