Another October has come and gone and I can’t say that I am sad to see it go. October is a very hard month for our family. Most of you who read this blog are my friends, so this should come as no surprise to you. For those of you that I have met over the past month, I will share my story with you. On October 6, 2007, our precious baby girl, Chloe Elizabeth Harrison, was born exactly one month early. I had a very normal pregnancy, and was so excited to be having a girl after chasing around Charlie for a little over a year. Rex and I expected everything would be perfect. New home in the works…one boy…one girl….one dog. What more could anyone ask for? I went into labor early that morning and knowing that I would not be eating for the next several hours, I had Rex take me to Junior’s to get a kolache. We were laughing on the way to the hospital while I was chatting with Ryan on the phone giving her a play by play between contractions. When I was admitted, the nurse informed me that my doctor was out of town and that another doctor would be delivering the baby. This sent me into a frenzy as we are very close to my OB, and he SWORE that no matter what, he would be the one to deliver. My mom was on a flight home from North Carolina, and my dad was taking care of Charlie. I called on my parent’s friends, The Dimmicks, to be there as Gregg Dimmick is our pediatrician and I figured Debbi could help Rex and me if we needed anything. We were not prepared for how much we would need them. The delivery itself was easy and uncomplicated, but before I could even see Chloe’s face, I saw her foot and sheer horror filled my body. I can’t really describe what it looked like except that it was completely mangled. I started screaming and I remember Gregg coming over to me, trying to provide words of encouragement, but at the same time letting me know that realistically, the foot would be the least of our problems and that they would be making a call to Texas Children’s.
In a nutshell, Chloe had a medical condition called cloacal exstrophy. It is very rare and occurs in about 250,000 births. As is if this wasn’t enough to digest we also learned several days later that Chloe was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Ip36 deletion syndrome which encompasses a myriad of problems: non-verbal, developmental delays, heart defects, mental retardation, etc., etc.
Chloe was in and out of Texas Children’s Hospital from the day she was born until May 16th. We were only home a total of 3 weeks during that time and most of the time we were home, she was sick. Fortunately when we came home for good, Chloe shined. She learned to laugh, she learned to sit up, she rolled over…all things no one thought she would ever be able to do.
I decided not to have a first birthday party for Chloe, but rather to have her baptized the week before her birthday and celebrate both events that day. To be honest with you, and to myself, I couldn’t face the thought of other little one year olds, normal one year olds, running around my house when my baby had just learned to sit up several months before that.
Sunday, October 5th was just like any other day in our house. I decided to take off work the next day to be home with Chloe on her birthday and enjoy the day with her. While Charlie was napping that afternoon, I dressed Chloe up in a new yellow dress and decided to take some birthday pictures of her. Her feeding tube was out and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity. Please realize that my photography skills are horrible, but somehow I managed to take some stellar photos that day (see below).
After the “photo shoot”, I put Chloe down for a nap. When she woke up I saw that she had thrown up all in her bed. I called for Rex, called the pediatrician, and started the Pedialyte. Standard procedure. By that evening things were not any better and we all decided that we should take her in to the TCH emergency room. We were savvy enough to know to wait until midnight when the ER had cleared out so that our wait time would be cut in half. As we made the hour long drive I remember looking at the time and bursting into “happy birthday”. Our baby was one. When we got to the ER, we knew the drill all too well. Standard stuff. Get some fluids, wait to be hydrated, go home. However, this time we never made it home.
Chloe stayed in ICU for two weeks, had two bedside surgeries, and never regained consciousness after she was intubated that first night. We had sent countless prayer request emails out during that time and got so many in return, many from strangers, and many from different parts of the country. On October 20th, Chloe made her way into Heaven surrounded by Rex, my mom, myself, our pastor, some of our dear nurses and nurse practitioner.
As we all crammed into her tiny room, we tried to make small talk knowing that it could be thirty minutes or take several hours, but that she was not going to make it any longer. Around 8 o’clock or so, her nurse practitioner told us to look at her oxygen saturation and that it would not be long. As we watched the numbers fall down we started to pray and all joined hands and sang “Jesus Loves Me”. As we were singing, I felt Rex squeeze my hand and gestured to look at the oxygen count, it was rising, and rising fast. We repeated the verse and by the end it was back up to 100. Now I don’t have any sort of medical background, but can tell you that that is not normal. As soon as we were done, we all talked about the miracle we had just witnessed and then watched as the numbers slowly fell back down. It took a while to get back down to 20, and we all joined hands again and sang one more time. I think we all assumed that it couldn’t happen again, but God wanted us to be sure that we knew this was no mistake. By the end of the first verse, the saturation level had reached 100. As the song came to a conclusion, the numbers went back down, this time more rapidly, and this was the end.
I didn’t know how to share my story with you on this blog, but I want you to take this away with you. No matter how hard it is for a mom to loose a child, or see her child sick, whether it be with an ear infection, a slight cold, or cancer, you can always get through it with the help of God. Jesus showed us that night that our baby had come home to Heaven and I know the angels were singing when she got there.
My friend Amy and I were talking yesterday about the Oprah episode on this week where a family lost their children in a car accident and how you don’t want to go on after a tragedy like that. But I am living proof that you CAN go on. I miss my baby girl every day, but know that she did what she was meant to do. She brought so many people closer to God and taught all those around her His grace.
I spoke at Chloe’s funeral and I want to share some of my words with you:
“Thank you all for coming here today to celebrate Chloe’s life. Some of you may think she had a short life, and some of you may say she had a hard life, but Chloe had a blessed life. I know that she had a blessed life because she touched everyone of you in here today. She taught us how to love unconditionally, she taught us it is okay not to be perfect. She taught us compassion, grace, and taught us to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ”.
Two months after her death I found out I was pregnant. I was devastated. Our next pregnancy (if there were to be one) was going to be planned, and planned after lots of genetic counseling. But sweet Jack Hudson has just given us one more reason to be blessed. I am blessed with two rambunctious boys and blessed to have had Chloe as my daughter.
It is not always easy being a mom. Some days you want to pull your hair out, and some days you just want Mary Poppins to appear and take care of your kids so that you can sleep in. But know that there are so many people around you that can provide support to you. Trust in God, and He will provide a way.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13