I remember when I was younger, seeing a picture of a man holding a newborn, not in his arms but in his hands. It was a sweet and romantic poster that made women swoon with delight, maternal instincts kicking in full force. Yet, on the night of Aug. 4, 2009, lying there in the delivery room, the image of my husband holding our son, Maddox, in his hands was nothing but devastating.
We learned early on in my pregnancy that I probably would not carry our son to full term and that, if we did make it full term, Maddox would not live very long if at all. During prenatal testing, Maddox was diagnosed with Down syndrome and fetal cystic hygroma. On their own, each diagnosis was just a complication, but together they were, in all likelihood, a fatal diagnosis.
In the middle of my second trimester, an ultrasound found a hole in Maddox's heart. In the following weeks, this third complication proved to be too much for our baby boy and on Aug. 1, 2009, his heart stopped beating. Maddox was gone.
Shortly after Maddox's funeral, my husband went back to work and our other children started school. We had just moved to Naperville in mid-June of that summer and I didn't know anybody. The loss of my son left me broken, angry, scared, and isolated; but being in a town where I knew no one only added to all of those things.
I attended my first SHARE meeting in late August and found a place where what I was feeling was normal. The nurses and other couples there could and did empathize with my story. In that meeting room, we were a group that could cry and laugh. Be angry and share joy. No feelings were off limits and everyone there supported one another. In that room, everyone was safe and everyone was understood. In that room, who we were and what we were going through was not only normal, it was the norm.
I heard about A Walk to Remember at a SHARE meeting, but I didn't know what to expect from the walk. It was just two months after our loss and I feared that it would be too sad, too much for me to handle, but we registered anyway. We participated in our first A Walk to Remember that October. I was truly amazed by the beauty and peacefulness of the event honoring my son and all of the other angel babies families were there to remember. For the first time in months, my son's story was about his life, not his death.
Each year at the walk, families have an opportunity to hear their child's name read aloud and to talk about their children and who they might be, if they were here. For one day every year, we come together, we honor our children, and we walk for them. We take the steps that they never will. For one day every year, our babies are very much alive. This is why I walk.