Incredibly, in her darkest moments, Natalie Morgan was thinking of us, her fellow parents, and what lessons her baby's unexpected death might teach us.
Yesterday, we had brunch with a dear friend who confessed that he and his wife were ready to have a baby. "It's as great as everyone says it is," I told him between bites of scrambled eggs—and I meant it. Then within a span of two minutes, we watched in horror as my 4-year-old swallowed a fist-sized dollop of whipped cream and jammed his finger up his nose.
Raising a child is worthwhile and rewarding and wonderful, of course, but no one said it was easy. It's baptism by fire from day one. For weeks on end, it can feel like your baby does nothing but sleep, cry, poop, and spit up. And when you're in the sleep-deprived trenches, it's tough to remember to take care of yourself, much less feel grateful for the experience—yet that's exactly the message one grieving mother hopes to spread by sharing her tragic story.
Natalie Morgan's pregnancy was going smoothly. She was at 40 weeks, and on September 10, fell asleep to the rhythmic kicks of her unborn child. But there was no movement when the Orlando, FL, mom woke up on September 11. She knew something was wrong.
After trying unsuccessfully to pick up a heartbeat on her home Doppler, Morgan and husband Brian rushed to the hospital. Multiple tests confirmed the couple's worst fears: Their baby girl had died in the womb. "In that moment, I felt trapped as if the ceiling was literally crashing down on top of me," she wrote in a beautiful, heart-wrenching Facebook post. "I couldn't breathe, I lashed out, I screamed, I threw things, I threw up...and then a piece of me died with her. I was helpless to change anything. My body was supposed to keep her safe, and instead it killed her."
After being induced, Natalie delivered baby Eleanor Josephine naturally on September 11. She refused an epidural, writing that she dealt "with the unbearable contractions, the ring of fire, the tearing...knowing that all of it was for nothing. I was delivering a lifeless child. There would be no happiness at the end of it to help me forget the pain. The pain, unlike my baby girl, would live on forever."
The Morgans spent six precious hours with their daughter and, along with a photographer, took "hundreds" of pictures, including the ones below.
The stark but stunning images, like Morgan's post, have since gone viral, with support coming in from all around the world. No doubt the kind words are meaningful for the grieving parents, but they weren't the reason behind the post. Incredibly, in her darkest moments, Natalie was thinking of us, her fellow parents, and what lessons her inconceivable loss might teach us. Namely, she hoped it would offer some much-needed perspective.
"There are going to be so many of you who have babies who are going to cry every time you try to put him or her down. Or they'll cry for no reason even if you're holding them and you've fed them, burped them, changed them...everything. And inevitably you're going to cry too, because you will feel so helpless and so frustrated and so clueless, and you'll want to scream, 'Why won't you stop crying?!'" she wrote. "You're going to be exhausted and angry and fed up and all you're going to want in this world is just a little time to yourself so you can sleep or shower or eat or whatever. I know, because I've been there with my son. But I will never be there with my daughter. And I would give anything to suffer as only a mother (or father) can in those dark moments of parenthood with her, my dear Eleanor."
Morgan wants to encourage us to approach those inevitable tough times with a sense of gratitude, "as difficult as it may be in that moment," she wrote. "And if you would, say a prayer for me and all the mothers whose children were taken from them too soon. Say a prayer for my sweet, sweet Eleanor who never got to know life outside my womb. Please. Do it for Eleanor. And do it for her mommy who loves her and misses her beyond measure."
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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.