Monday, September 27, 2010


I have really been struggling these past few days with why this happened to us. With why, with all the many precautions I took for 17 months and 12 days (plus the nine months that she was in my belly), why I couldn’t save Hudson’s life. Even though I have gotten over the worst of the guilt, I still, always, imagine in my head how things might have been different if we’d made that trip to the ER at 4AM. I want so badly to have a do-over, one that somehow brings Hudson back to us. Because I have also been struggling, again, with the finality of all this. I look at the pictures of my sweet girl, and I just can’t fathom that she is really gone forever. It just seems like there has to be some way to bring her back.

When I was pregnant with Hudson, I read a lot about breastfeeding and attended several breastfeeding classes. I knew I wanted to try to breastfeed her for at least a year, so I wanted to have as strong a foundation for that as possible. One of the things I read was most important for establishing the breastfeeding relationship early on was frequent skin-to-skin contact, starting as soon as the baby is born. I’d read that the baby should spend some time on the mama’s bare chest just as soon as possible, and certainly before the baby is whisked away for measurements and eye goop and cleaning.

When they held Hudson up in front of me, my first reaction was, “It’s a girl!” realizing only then for the first time that despite all my assertions that I didn’t care what we had, I’d wanted a girl the whole time. My next reaction, a split second later, was to start tearing my hospital gown off—it was tied in the back and I couldn’t get the knot undone. I was desperate to get that little girl on my chest, to hold her close so she could smell me and try nursing. (I realize now, as a member of many online grief communities for babylost parents, how fortunate I was to have that time with Hudson, how lucky we were that she was born perfectly healthy and did not have to be whisked away to the NICU.) We sat together, with Ed right next to us, for at least 20 or 30 minutes, with the OB, the nurse, and the doula all nearby trying to help Hudson and me learn how to become a successful “breastfeeding pair.” Again, I know now how incredibly lucky we were yet again that Hudson took to nursing like a champ, that breastfeeding came very easily to us. But for as long as I live, I’ll never forget my fervor in trying to get that gown off so I could pull my daughter close to my skin, trying to give her the best start I could.

On the day Hudson died, we spent the entire day with her, knowing it would be our last, knowing that at around 8:30 that night, the doctors would do a second test for brain death and that barring a miracle (which thousands of people we knew and didn’t know were hoping and praying for), she would be declared dead. The doctors and nurses had told us that we could hold her, even though she was still hooked up to so many different tubes and machines that were keeping her systems functioning so that the results of the brain death test would be accurate. We pulled an armchair up as close as possible to the bed, trying to make the distance we had to move her as small as possible. I sat down and as the nurses began to prepare to try to move her into my lap, I said out loud, “You know, I’m also tempted to tell everyone to get out so I can take my shirt off and hold her skin-to-skin.” My sister looked at me and said, “Do you want us to?” I thought about it for a second. I remembered what Ed’s friend Scott had told me earlier that morning—he’d said that I should be sure to do anything I wanted to today and to say no to anything I didn’t want to happen. He said, “You don’t want to have any regrets about today.” I looked at my sister and said, “Yeah, I think I do.” I thought to myself that maybe, just like when Hudson was born, the skin-to-skin contact would have a magical effect, that just having my skin so close to hers might make her well. I pictured her in my arms, against my chest, slowly regaining consciousness.

I didn’t want to come to the end of the day and regret not having at least tried.

The rest of the family left the room. I was still a little shy and at first took off only my shirt, but then I realized that these were nurses and had seen a lot more, and probably a lot stranger, than a bare-chested mother holding her baby close, so then I took off my bra, too. We got Hudson situated in my arms--it was no easy feat. My poor little girl, so very different than the tiny baby that had been placed on my chest 17 months and 12 days before. So much bigger and yet so lifeless. I wished so hard that she would open her eyes. I thought wildly that if I could just nurse her (which I had not done in almost 5 months), then she would be healed. I wondered whether she’d have been able to avoid the terrible strep pneumo bacteria if I’d continued breastfeeding her after the first year—maybe her immune system would have been stronger or I could have given her the antibodies to fight it off. She slumped against me. The day before, her temp had dropped into the high 80s before anyone realized it—a very bad sign for her brain activity—and she’d been getting warming fluids and lying under a warming blanket ever since to keep her temperature normal. When they took her out from under the blanket, her temperature dropped a few tenths of a degree. I held her and waited, hoping that my skin next to hers would make that temperature start to rise again, just like skin-to-skin contact is supposed to help regulate the temperatures of newborns. I waited, and was crushed to see that her temp dropped another tenth of a degree while she was sitting with me. I could not save her. My chance to save her had been early Monday morning and I had missed it. I could not save her. I could not save her.

We then changed places so Ed could hold her for a while. I can’t remember if he took off his shirt, too—we’d tried hard when Hudson was younger to let her have skin-to-skin contact with her daddy, too, although it obviously wasn’t nearly as frequent. Moving her to the chair in the first place, though, had inadvertently caused a crack in her central line apparatus, but no one had realized it yet. Her blood pressure kept dropping, marked each time by a terrible alarm on the machine that monitored it. I thought it was possible that we might lose her then and there (even though we knew, of course, that she was already gone—her body was only with us because of the all the medicines being pumped into her). At one point, about 4 different nurses and the attending physician were in there, trying to replace the central line valves so that her medications could start flowing regularly again. The doctor told us that it was possible that these fluctuations in her blood pressure were just a sign of her body shutting down, that Hudson might not make it until tonight for the second test, and the doctor needed to know whether we wanted them perform any life-saving measures. We both immediately said no. As I said, we knew she was gone—all we were holding on for was a little more time to be with her, or with her body at least, and a chance to really say goodbye without alarms sounding all over the place. Ed and I looked at each other and I think I said something like, “We need to be prepared that this may be it.” And he nodded. We were so incredibly calm somehow. But they managed to get the central line fixed, which stabilized everything pretty quickly. I remember feeling traumatized that our attempts to hold her had almost been the end. How very wrong that seemed.

I have been thinking about these moments—again, two very incongruous images battling in my head—all weekend as I’ve been struggling again with disbelief, with the question “WHY?” and with my torment over my inability to keep my sweet girl alive, or to bring her back from the brink of death, or now, to bring her back from I don’t know where. Two poignant and precious moments: my first chance to hold her skin-to-skin seconds after she was born, and then my last chance to hold her skin-to-skin when she was only hours away from death. If only the latter could have saved her. Why couldn’t I save her?


  1. My God, I am so sorry. No mother should ever have to experience what you have been through. Even though you don't know me, I read your blog religiously and pray for you and Hudson. Your every post breaks my heart.

  2. Oh Mandy, as a mom who breastfed both my girls, I not only understand but feel -- in a very physical way -- the emotions you write about. I am so sorry for what you've been through. I am so sorry that your touch could not save Hudson. How beautiful though that your girl was able to leave this earth in the same loving embrace that welcomed her to it. You are an amazing and instinctual mother.
    ~Ashley D.

  3. Oh Mandy, thank you for sharing such beautiful, private moments. What happened is tragic. Still, I just see so much love. So much love.

  4. Mandy,
    All we can hope for now is that in Ed's embrace of you - long and often as I suspect they are, you can find comfort. Whatever remained in this world of Hudson in those last few hours, I know that she took great comfort in being held by hr mommy. It's clear you took comfort in holding her, even if it could not reverse that terrible outcome. Now, Hudsonholds all of us in her little heart, and we hold you and Ed likewise every chance we get.

  5. Oh Mandy, I'm so sorry the skin-to-skin contact (and everything else) couldn't save Hudson that day. As you have said, though, she without a doubt knew how much she was loved every second of her too-short life. I'm breastfeeding my baby girl now (not right this moment) and understand what a powerful connection that is. Thank you for continuing to allow us all to be witnesses for you and for Hudson.

  6. I'm so sorry Hudson is no longer here to make more memories, but am so thankful that she had parents like you guys (and that mommies like you are out there in the world).

  7. Mandy, this brought me to tears and I am so, so sorry you are going through such a terrible grievous loss. You did absolutely everything you could, both to give Hudson the best start possible, and to try so hard to save her. The horrible virus was too strong for her little body. It is horribly unfair and devastating. She was such a beautiful intelligent happy little girl. Sometimes there is no why. There is just putting one foot in front of the other because we have to. There will be better road, up ahead one day. For now, it is one foot in front of the other, and a terrible pain in your heart. We are all with you on this journey, supporting you and caring about you. Your loss is a terrible one. I am so sorry. But you will always be Hudson's mother. She will always be your little girl.

  8. You couldn't save her because sometimes as wonderful as the world can be, sometimes it also just sucks. There is no promise of safety or catastrophe from the universe, it just is how it is no matter your faith. I've known babies prayed for by thousands who died and babies who had no love or prayers who lived. It was outside your control and your power. That is so hard to comprehend because as parents it seems like we should be able to prevent bad things from happening to our babies. The reality that no one wants to face is that we can't stop all bad things from happening to our babies. We just work really hard and have to hope bad things don't happen, but it doesn't always work. It's not right and it's not fair, but it's reality. I hate that Hudson is gone, that all the love and breastfeeding and carefully selected foods and back sleeping and top rated carseats and immunizations and careful parenting and worrying and best medical care in the world could not save this one precious girl. And you are left rocking in a chair with empty arms crying. And we are left here beside you wishing there was something we could do to take it all away and bring her back. I'm sorry this is your reality and can only hope that someday, as hard as it will be without Hudson, that the sun will shine on you again.

  9. I saw this posted on another blog (a mother who lost her teenage son a few months ago). I thought it might bring you some comfort.

    "Today a reader sent me a link to an article by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Daughter of RFK and member of a family that has seen more tragic loss than I can even imagine. In the piece, Townsend quotes her grandfather, who lost four children (and later, several grandchildren) to tragic, early deaths:

    A decade after my uncle Joe and my aunt Kathleen died, my grandfather Joseph Kennedy wrote a letter to a friend whose son had died following brain surgery. Here’s what he said:

    Dear Jack,

    There are no words to dispel your feelings at this time, and there is no time that will ever dispel them. Nor is it any easier the second time than it was the first. And yet I cannot share your grief, because no one could share mine.

    When one of your children goes out of your life, you think of what he might have done with a few more years and you wonder what you are going to do with the rest of yours.

    You never really accept it; you just go through the motions.

    Then one day, because there is a world to be lived in, you find yourself a part of it again, trying to accomplish something–something that he did not have time enough to do.

    And, perhaps, that is the reason for it all. I hope so.



  10. When I think of how hard it must be to share such private moments, as you have these last few months, I remember what you've been through -- the hardest thing anyone could imagine. You've shown such strength. To read this, I can feel tears in my eyes, and sweat on my brow and shivers down my spine. The moment you describe is both incredibly poignant and also the most horrible anyone could imagine. Why this would be your fate, I can never understand. It could not be more cruel and brutal and unfair.

  11. I've been reading for awhile and I don't know you so I feel a little bit as if I'm intruding, but this post had be sobbing. I'm so very sorry. I have two little boys and it's too easy to forget how very fragile it all is.

  12. Thank you for sharing this intimate memory with us. Your post is heartwrenching.

    I remember holding my 4 year old daughter after she died. I didn't want to put her back on the bed. It will be the hardest thing I will ever do in my life.

    I hope in time these memories for you don't feel so crushing and they will bring you some comfort that you got to spend some special time with your angel.
    sending you love and a hug from a mom who understands.
    Diana x

  13. Your pain is searing. I cannot fathom the depth of the sorrow. Your attempts to keep your baby girl safe were so conscious, and there is no reasonable answer to "why". I so hate that this is where you are. I echo Erica in her hopes that the sun will shine on you again, although we know it will never be the same. Wishing and hoping for you, every single day, for peace. I am so, so sorry.

  14. Oh Mandy. This post is so beautiful and full of love and achingly, achingly sad. If love held any sway over the mechanics of the world, over chemistry and biology, you would have saved her. I know it. I only wish the world worked that way.

  15. I read your blog regularly and it often makes me teary, but this made me bawl. At work. This is the saddest, most tender and loving image I could imagine. It must take a lot of courage for you to share this, but I'm glad you did. I hope it's helping you heal, if only a smidge here and there, to share your heartbreaking and beautiful stories.

  16. Skin to skin contact with your precious baby is a wondrous image both times you describe it. Each time you instinctually mothered and loved your child the best way you knew how. Hudson knew she had parents who loved her and made her feel special every moment of her life.

    The "Whys" and "What ifs" and all the guilt that come with them won't ring so loudly in your head in time. I hope for you that the memory you have of holding Hudson after birth, inhaling her sweet smell and feeling the warmth of her body is the image that remains steadfast in your mind and heart.
    Be good to yourself,

  17. I'm so, so sorry. It is so damn unfair that this all happened-- and I'm so, so sorry. I hope that your new community here-- people who truly know what you are thinking and feeling-- are right and that someday the memories will tip to the good and not the what if. Until then you are in our hearts.

  18. Mandy,

    Your words, "I remember feeling traumatized that our attempts to hold her had almost been the end. How very wrong that seemed" ring out to me.

    Perhaps Hudson just felt so very safe in Mommy and then in Daddy's arms that she began to 'let go' at that moment (temp and pressure dropping). Your attempt couldn't save her, but in this sweet, loving, intimate act perhaps, just maybe, it is what Hudson wanted and needed before her sweet spirit ultimately left her body--to be in the greatest place in her world: Your arms.

    Mandy and Ed, you are amazing people. We love you and we miss Hudson.

  19. Mandy, I wish we could all go back in time and change things. I remember posting how we hoped Hudson felt better soon on Sunday or Monday and then later I kept thinking that a miracle would happen for you guys- it just had to! Tragically, the world does not always work that way and what you, Ed, and so many of us wish and wished for just didn't happen. Even if we could go back, nothing would change. You did take her in to the doctor asap and her blood tests from that morning were fine.
    You are such a good momma! I know you did everything you could for her. And it is tragic that she is gone. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and grief with us; I hope it makes it a bit lighter and helps. At those moments when you and Ed were holding Hudson, thousands of people were holding you three in their hearts and minds, wishing and hoping and sending you three love. And we still all do that today...

  20. Mandy,

    Thank you for the gift you share with us, your readers, some known to you, some not.

    I too love the image of you practically ripping your gown off just after Hudson was born - wonderful mind picture!

    Of course you will continue to question if you could have done more to save Hudson. Please know you did all you could; you did it'just right' and sometimes the world is unbearably, inexplicably cruel.

    Because of your exquisite sharing and wonderful photos, your girl lives on in all of us.

    With love from Jessica's friend,

  21. Mandy, This may be your most heart-wrenching post yet. I am in tears.

    I am glad though that you were able to hold Hudson as she died. That is something I will always regret not having been able to do with Veronica. I guess in our situations we have to be grateful for the little things because that's all we have left (of our girls anyway).

    Hugs to you.

  22. Mandy,

    I have been reading your site regularly for a month or two, and wanted to make my thoughts and presence known. I don't know you and Hudson, and I wish there was something (anything!) that those of us who read your site could do to salve your grief.

    I love reading about Hudson, her life and personality, and your relationship with her. I think of your family, even offline, and I cannot forget your little girl.

    Best, Lela

  23. I'm so sorry Mandy. I really can't think of anything else to say except I am so, so, sorry. I know that deep inside you know that you did everything possible for her, but I also know as a mother you will always wonder if you could have done more. So all I can do is hope that, over time, that feeling lessens for you. Thinking of you and Hudson always xoxo

  24. Mandy, I think about you and Hudson all the time. Since I started reading your blog, not a day has gone by that isn't filled with thoughts of what a tragic loss this is and how terrible I feel for you and Ed. In your darkest moments, I hope the knowledge of how many are holding you and your family in their hearts provides a little light. We can never make right this terrible wrong but rest assured that we will never forget Hudson or the remarkable love you share with her.

  25. This post made me cry more than any other to date. I had a miscarriage for my first pregnancy. My doctor was out of town, and I had to hear from a stanger that there was no heart beat. But the good news was I was able to get pregnant at all. (My left ovary and tube were removed several years ago). I became pregnant again. When I went into my first ultrasound, I was rushed to the hospital with an ectopic pregnancy. The only thing running through my head was that they were going to remove my right ovary, and I would never be a mother. Again my doctor was out of town (my luck) and a stranger performed the surgery. It turns out some how the egg traveled out of my right tube, through my uterus and settled in the little left over stump of my left tube. They were able to snip it without taking anything else out.
    I tried to convince myself that because they never had a chance, they were never "real". But that was the only was I could cope and go on. I became pregnant a third time and delivered a healthy baby boy. The first time he was in my arms I took my gown down and held him skin. I burst into tears and continued to cry for quiet some time. Everyone thought it was post delivery emotions and told me every thing was ok. I was overjoyed at the new being lying on my breast, but all that was going through my head was immense sadness for my son not ever getting to meet his older siblings. I have never said this out loud, and this might not even been the place to do it, but I felt compelled after reading this blog to finally put it out there.
    Thank you for opening up your heart to the world and sharing your joys and pain with us. You have helped me find my voice to my pain, and for that I thank you. Hudson is loved and missed. She will remain in the heart of every person that reads even one of your blogs. Thank you Mandy. I know this isn't the difference that you wanted to make in the world, but your blog changes lives.

  26. I have never met you and never knew Hudson, but it is clear beyond any doubt that you were the absolute best mother to her, and that you continue to be an amazing mother for dear, lost Hudson. She remains a force on this earth through your words and through the love that she has firing at her from all around. You did not fail her.

  27. I'll never forget that night. You have such a deep rooted strength, Mandy. Much love, wonderful cousin. I know that it's impossible for anyone to prevent the guilt, as it's a natural process, but you did absolutely nothing wrong, and I'm sure Hudson agrees.
    I'm so glad you're not keeping these things bottled inside.

  28. Oh, Mandy... Breastfeeding and that skin-to-skin contact with your child is such a precious thing. Your instincts to hold her close in the beginning and the end were so wise. What a wonderful mother you are. I hope you can be gentle and loving to yourself as you were with Hudson. I'm so sorry for this visceral pain that you carry. So many of us are here and witnessing it.

  29. Mandy, have you found the words? When I saw Matt at the funeral home I cradled his beautiful face in my hands...he felt like cool marble and was so perfect. I rarely in his 29 years saw him in repose, never so still. I wanted so badly to gather him to you, baby boy...but I couldn't. He was tightly wrapped...almost swaddled...with only his neck and face visible. I lay my cheek against his...kissed him over and over... whispered to him all the things a mother says. And leaving that room was the hardest thing I have ever done...

  30. My husband, Jacob, works with Ed, and I found your blog during the journal search.

    I want you to know how very sorry we are for your loss. Even though I do not know you, I think about you all the time and frequently lift you up in prayers for comfort.

    Hudson clearly had a wonderful mother, who cared for her baby girl in every way she knew how. Nothing will ever change that.

  31. Oh sweet Mandy. This is so heart breaking. To know what you and Ed were going through as others were praying and waiting for news. It is a vivid memory for everyone and I wish I could ease your pain.

  32. I hardly know what to say, and I've been there. That we can survive this kind of loss is the best argument I know for the existence of God, because surely it isn't something we can survive on our own. Thanks for having the courage to put this experience into words and to publish online.