Perinatal Bereavement & Palliative Care
We are grateful to Fox5Atlanta for this piece on the Reagan Marie program!
The Reagan Marie Teddy Bear Fund has provided support to hundreds of Northside families experiencing perinatal loss. If you would like to contribute to the Reagan Marie Teddy Bear Fund, visit the Northside Foundation web page. After choosing your donation amount, click on the "Designation" link and select the Reagan Marie fund. You can also make a donation by check. Please visit our donations page for more information.
The Reagan Marie Teddy Bear Story
After years of trying to get pregnant, it finally happened. In the Fall of 2009, my wife Cindy suspected she might be expecting. Without my knowledge, early one morning she took a home-pregnancy test. It came back positive. After so many years of failure, my wife was beside herself with joy. Yet amazingly, she was able to keep the results a secret from me throughout the day. That evening, when I walked into our kitchen for dinner, I saw a box sitting where my place-setting usually is.
"What’s this?” I asked.
When I opened the box, I saw a note attached to a “positive” pregnancy test which said, “God has answered our prayers.” Underneath the note was bib that said “I love my Daddy.”
I was stunned. “Really?” I asked.
I suppose a scene like that is played out by couples every day, in their own special way. Like them, we were now on the pregnancy pathway. Regular doctor visits, ultrasounds, and making a million plans for the arrival of our baby.
When week 20 came around, like most expecting parents, we were excited to finally have the ultrasound which would tell us what gender our baby would be. The ultrasound began with the technician sizing the baby while chatting casually with us. A few moments later, she gave us the information we had been excitedly waiting for. In a halting, distracted voice, she said, “This… baby… is… going… to… be…. a… GIRL!” We were so excited. We both had a sense we were having a girl, but to have this confirmed was an amazing moment. We had already decided we would name her Reagan Marie.
After giving us this great news, the technician continued her work, but she became more subdued. As the minutes went on, she became less engaged in speaking with us and increasingly focused on her screen. She asked us several unusual questions, a few of which she repeated.
“How far along are you?”
She went on to tell us she saw some things that were “unusual”, but not necessarily bad news. As a precaution, she wanted us to see a perinatologist. We scheduled a perinatologist appointment for the next day. Neither of us sensed any significant alarm, so I went ahead with a previously scheduled trip to Florida.
When Cindy met with the perinatologist, he carefully reviewed the ultrasound data. He then gave her the news that would change our lives. He said our child almost certainly had Trisomy 18. Trisomy 18 is a genetic disorder that, in clinical terms, is “incompatible with life.” Most Trisomy 18 babies do not make it to term. Those that do usually live minutes, perhaps hours, in rare cases they live days.
I was eating lunch in a restaurant in Orlando when Cindy called me. She was crying. When she told me Reagan probably had Trisomy 18, and what that meant for her and us, I was bewildered and distraught. “Tell me again, what is Trisomy 18?” I pleaded, barely able to pronounce a malady I had never even heard of before.
From that point forward, we were counseled by multiple doctors to abort the pregnancy. We never gave the idea serious consideration, being convinced that all life is a gift from God. We loved our daughter immensely, and were going to walk this journey with her every day God would give us with her. In utero, we treated Reagan Marie like any other baby. We talked to her, prayed for her, giggled at her movements, and enjoyed her growth. Somehow we knew she was happy, and we were happy with her.
About 1:00 AM, on May 4, 2010, Cindy was awakened by a strange sensation. Her water had broken. Reagan was at 30 weeks. We did not know what to expect, but we were concerned. At the hospital, Cindy’s labor progressed throughout the morning. At 10:03 AM, Reagan was born. Like most parents, we could not believe she finally had arrived. We could not stop looking at her. We talked to her, stroked her head, and told her how beautiful she was. We were determined to just enjoy her for as long as we had her. We did not know how long that would be. The doctor thought perhaps eight hours, but nobody really knew.
Reagan barely moved after she was born. Around 10:20 AM, Cindy suddenly had a sensation that Jesus was standing next to her bed. He was smiling, and his arms were open wide. A few minutes later, a nurse pressed a stethoscope to Reagan’s little chest. She announced, “I am not getting a heartbeat.” The time was 10:24 AM. Our little girl had left us. We spent the rest of the day holding her as family and close friends came to visit us in the hospital. We hugged and cried with them as we remembered our little girl’s brief life. We cherished every minute we had with her. As the day progressed, day changed into night, and then night became late night. It was time to say goodbye to Reagan Marie – for now. Late that evening, in an emotionally charged moment, we passed Reagan’s little body to two solemn men from a local funeral home.
Before our trip to Northside, like most expectant parents, we had pre-packed our bags. One item we brought to the hospital that most parents don’t was a teddy bear. Cindy had read that a mom who was at high risk of perinatal loss could take great comfort in holding on to a teddy bear when she no longer had a baby in her arms. After Reagan’s body left us in the hospital, Cindy held onto the teddy bear. We both cried, and began the mourning process that would intensify in the days and months to come. But that teddy bear, in a small and simple way, brought some comfort to Cindy. At one point the bear had laid next to Reagan and touched her. So in a way, the bear carried with it some sense of Reagan’s presence and memory.
No teddy bear can replace a child. However, a teddy bear can bring some meaning and comfort into a situation that is otherwise filled with pain and sorrow. It is our hope that by sharing our experience with Reagan Marie and “her” teddy bear, others would join with us in contributing to the The Reagan Marie Teddy Bear Fund.
The Reagan Marie Teddy Bear Fund has been inaugurated with one simple goal in mind: That no mom would ever again leave Northside hospital with empty arms. Every mom would either have her baby, or a teddy bear, to hold onto and take home with her.