After trying for 2 years, Ryan and I found out we were infertile in June 2010. After tons of tests and getting several opinions we decided IVF was our best option.
January 2012 we did our first round of IVF and found out we were pregnant on February 15. We couldn’t believe it! It actually worked the first time!
Like most women, I suffered from morning sickness and exhaustion. That was a fun little treat. At about 11 weeks we had a scare. I immediately left work for the day and headed to the ER. After a long exam and lots of waiting we had a sonogram that showed a nice strong heartbeat. Thanks be to God! Ryan and I both cried from relief. Turns out I had a subchorionic hematoma. I was put on bed rest for a few days then told to take it easy.
After that little scare everything went pretty smoothly with the pregnancy. All appointments were great, she was perfect!
June 3rd we found out that we were having a baby girl. My Mom and I had gone to my normal OB visit on May 16th and little Miss was being stubborn that day so we couldn’t tell her gender. We went to Before the Stork 4D on June 1st and she cooperated. We had the technician put the results in an envelope for a gender reveal party which was scheduled for June 3rd. With family and friends we cut in to a beautiful cake and found out that we had a baby girl on the way. Simply amazing!
Let the dress shopping begin!
I spent the next few months buying cute little dresses, decorating her nursery and planning her entire life.
On August 28th I was a little nervous that my kick count was down for the past two nights. So we went into the Labor and Delivery for a checkup; everything was fine. They ran the stress test and during the stress test Maura kicked so hard it knocked the monitor right off my stomach. We were incredibly relieved. The next day was our scheduled OB visit and same as the night before, ultrasound and heartbeat were excellent.
September 18th Ryan and I attended a parenting class at Kaiser in Irvine and packed my bag and baby’s bag for the hospital. Her due date was fast approaching.
September 19th was a normal day. Ryan was off work and we spent the morning prepping for Maura Lynn’s arrival. Ryan was putting together her cradle for our room and I was washing her sheets and clothes. Right before we left the house for our regular appointment, I threw a load of her onsies in the wash.
Little did I know I’d never get the chance to finish her laundry.
I knew something was wrong when the look on my doctors face turned serious with a hint of panic. He told us he couldn’t find a heartbeat. He tried for several minutes, the panic increasing with every passing second.
She was gone. Our daughter was gone.
They left us alone in the room as we wailed in disbelief.
We drove from the doctors office in San Juan Capistrano to the hospital in Irvine. The longest, most horrific drive of my life.
I immediately called my mother at work. I simply told her “you need to get to the hospital now.”
Less than 5 minutes later my sister Kerry called Ryan to ask what was going on. He told her there was no heartbeat and that she should come down now. Minutes after that my Father called and I told him the same. The terrible news spread like wild fire.
The rest of the day is a blur. Family showed up at the hospital to be with us, phone calls were made to all the women who were to attend my shower that Sunday, a priest came to bless us and many tears were shed.
I was induced around 3 that afternoon.
At 6:45 the morning of September 20, 2012 Maura Lynn Shafer silently entered this world. The only sounds in the room were the sobs from her Mother, Father and Granny Lene.
Once she was here Daddy and Granny ran over to see her, convinced the doctors were wrong. But she was gone. Our sweet little girl lay silently in the nurses arms.
She was beautiful and perfect!
Regrettably, I don’t remember the first time I held her. My mind was clouded from morphine at this point. I was unable to get an epidural because of a possible allergy so all they could give me was morphine for the delivery. Morphine didn’t do much for the pain but it helped block out some of the trauma. Unfortunately, now I can’t remember the first time I held my daughter.
October 30 we had a date set to have Maura’s newborn pictures taken with Richelle Dante, an amazing photographer in Orange County. My sister Kerry called her to cancel the appointment. This was the first call like this Richelle had ever received. She offered to come to the hospital and take Maura’s photos for us. Because of this we have some of the most beautiful photos of Maura and our family. In these photos you feel every ounce of pain and every ounce of love:
I thank God I have these photos. That day went by so quickly and was such an emotional blur that I struggle to remember most parts of it. I often find myself going back to look at the pictures to remember the greatest day of my life. The only day I ever got to see my daughter.
At 8:30 that night Ryan and I said our final goodbyes to Maura. The most difficult thing I ever had to do was hand my daughter off to nurse Kelly knowing I would never see her again. I wanted to die. I simply wanted to die.
The next morning I awoke with no baby in my belly and no baby in arms. It was the first day without my child. I couldn’t see the point in going on.
At some point an Irish priest mistakenly came into my room. He blessed me and was so kind and comforting. The woman with him sat on my bed and told me she had lost her son many years before.
They finally discharged me around noon. As they wheeled me through the hospital panic started setting in. I was leaving the hospital without my baby. I was leaving her behind with strangers who would not, could not love her and care for her like I could.
I walked in with a baby and walked out with a broken and battered soul.
We don’t know why Maura left us. Her autopsy results showed she was perfectly healthy and all my test results came back clear. Not knowing can almost drive you insane. I am always trying to figure out what I did that caused her to die. I can be in the middle of doing the dishes and I’ll holler out “it was the cookie dough! I took a bite of cookie dough while baking,” or something else that could have done it. My doctor assures me it was nothing I did but that does not help ease my mind. If I didn’t do anything wrong then why is she dead?
The following week all the women in my family and the “Wrecking Crew” rallied together and planned my daughters funeral leaving little for Ryan and I to do. If it were left to us, I don’t know that anything would have been done.
I remember thinking what a cruel joke it was, I went from planning her baptism to planning her funeral. My mother and sisters went from planning her shower to planning her funeral.
When we met with the Pastor of the church a few days before the funeral, he showed us around as we had never been to this particular church before. As we walked down the aisle I was overcome with grief when I realized Ryan would never get to walk his daughter down an aisle and give her away.
My cousin Mary wrote a song for Maura, “Maura’s Song.” I’ve only heard it twice; the first time in my living room just two days after saying goodbye to my sweet girl and the second time at her funeral. It’s a beautiful song and devastatingly sad. I can’t bring myself to listen to it again but one day I hope to have the strength to hear this beautiful song written for my child.
It’s been six months today since I said hello and goodbye to my baby girl and it has not gotten any easier. The pain and anguish isn’t as raw as it was in the beginning but it’s still there every moment of every day. If one could die from a broken heart I’d already be dead.
Some days I consider it a success to just get out of bed each day. I don’t function at the same capacity I once did and I’m definitely not the same person. You’ll often hear fathers of loss say their wife died right along with their child. It’s true. Every woman I’ve met through our common bond is a completely different person than she was before her child died. How could one not be?
Writing Maura’s story was very difficult to do. My husband Ryan wrote the first part for me to get me started. He has been my rock and I thank God every day for him. He is a wonderful husband and an amazing Father.
People often ask us where we got the name Maura Lynn. We wanted something classic, Irish and beautiful so we picked Maura, a variant of Mary. We named her Lynn after my best friend Kadra Lynn.
Since losing Maura we’ve learned that her name actually means sorrow. Sorrow now defines my life.
My heart is broken, my heart is full. Maura Lynn completed my life.
Ryan and Kelly Shafer