Thursday, November 19, 2015

November 19 - Dear Nicholas Sparks (Guest Blogger Phyllis Smith)

Dear Mr. Sparks,

This is the story of our angel in heaven. Cherylynn Reneé Smith was born on September 5, 2001. My pregnancy was normal. Nothing unusual occurred. At least, that is what we thought anyway. All my tests were normal. Her ultrasounds showed only a healthy baby.

I was telling everyone at work that I'd have her on Labor Day. I only missed it by two days. I went to my doctor appointment like normal the day before she was born. My doctor said I was dilated to 3 and it was time for me to quit work. I called my boss and told him it was time for me to start my maternity leave.

I awoke the next morning as usual. I took our son, Michael, to daycare so they could take him to school. Michael was in kindergarten. When I got back home I made breakfast for myself. When I finished eating I got up to clear my dishes and that is when my water broke. At first I didn't think anything about it. With Michael, I felt a pop before there came a gush. There was no pop this time. So, I thought I just needed to go to the bathroom. I got cleaned up, and it happened 3 or 4 more times. I was running out of clean shorts by then. I called my mother-in-law to tell her my water broke. She left work to take me to the hospital. When I got there I had to check in and all the other things to go along with a delivery. I was pretty happy. I was finally going to get this over with. I was about to die from the heat.

I got settled in my room. Several friends came and went to check on me. I was on the phone constantly calling everyone. One of the nurses commented that she couldn't believe how calm I was - especially since I went from a 3 in dilation to a 7 in no time.

One of the people I called was my mom. She lives in Georgia. I had moved out to Arkansas in 1984 to attend Harding University. I met my husband the last year I was in college. I decided to stay when I graduated. I called my mom to let her know that her grandchild was on the way. Cherylynn made the 24th grandchild for her. I am the youngest of seven. She has gotten a lot of grandkids from us. That doesn't include step-grandkids, either. She has somewhere between 5 and 10 great-grandchildren.

The time came to get down to the nitty-gritty and have this baby. It didn't take long for me to have her. It was a shorter time than with Michael. Michael's delivery was hindered by the fact that his cord was wrapped tightly around his neck. Thankfully we have a very skilled doctor. If not for him, Michael might have either suffered severe brain damage, or worse. He very well could have died during childbirth.

Anyway, the time soon came for me to push. I think there might have been a total of 4 or 5 pushes and she was born. She was the most beautiful baby girl you had ever seen. She had a full head of black hair just like her daddy. Well, actually, she had more hair...on top, anyway. She looked just like him. She was all pink, and just beautiful. Michael was blue as a smurf when he was born.

She didn't cry when she was born. You could tell she was having some kind of problem. When the nurse couldn't get her to cry, my doctor left what he was doing to me and went to help her. They tried everything. They gave her shots of medicine. They gave her an external heart massage. They thumped her feet. But in spite of all that, all she could muster was pitiful little mews. I will never forget her sounds. I will never forget the struggle she had to try to breathe. You could tell something bad was wrong with her. When it was obvious that something bad was wrong my doctor told the nurse to take her to the nursery and to get her pediatrician over there right then.

The next 39 minutes were a slow motion blur. The nurses were running in and out of my room getting info from the fetal heart monitor. They were shoving papers in my face to sign. I'd try to get them to tell me how she was and the best I could ever get was that she was pinking up. Or that her doctor was working on her. My doctor said he'd find out what was going on as soon as he finished with me.

I will NEVER forget when he came back into my room after going to the nursery to find out what was going on. He told us that she wasn't going to make it. He told us that she had a diaphragmatic hernia. He said that from the chest x-rays her doctor had taken, it looked like her diaphragm had never formed. That was when the world came crashing down on me. If not for my son, I wouldn't have made it to the next day. All I wanted to do was curl up and die. I fought off strong urges to do just that for a while after she died. It was very hard. But, I couldn't do something like that to my precious son. He will never know just how much his mommy needed him then and still needs him now. Luckily, Ashley has provided help since she was born. I long to be with Cherylynn but I couldn't leave my precious children I have here on earth with me.

I think I may have hurt for Michael more than for myself. I didn't know what we were going to do. I knew it would break his heart. We thought at the beginning we were going to have another boy. So, we told Michael he was getting a baby brother. He was on cloud nine. When I had my second ultrasound we found out it was a girl. When I told Michael he was getting a sister instead, he cried and cried. It broke his little heart. But in no time he warmed up to the fact she was a she and not a he. He was soon so happy. He couldn't wait until she was born. Then, for this to happen was just not right for him.

His Aunt brought him to the hospital to see her. He didn't know she had died. Neither of them knew until they got there. One of the nurses asked if she could take him to see her. I let her take him to see her. I wanted him to be able to see her and tell her goodbye. I hurt for him so much. A five year old shouldn't have to go through something like that.

The next day when my doctor came to check on me I asked him if I had to stay until the next day. I wanted to get as far away from there as I could. He was reluctant to, but he went ahead and discharged me. We only live about four or five blocks from the hospital. He knew that if I had any problems we could be there in less than a minute. He also knew that I desperately needed to leave for my sanity. So, against normal protocol he discharged me only 15 or so hours after giving birth.

One of the worst parts of it all was having to leave the hospital without her. All I had was a box of items the Auxiliary put together for us. That is something they do in situations like that. It was just so wrong. I went in to have a baby and I left with nothing but a box. The nurses took a lot of pictures for us. They took pictures of her by herself, with her daddy, with her brother, with me, and with my mother-in-law. The hospital has a deal set up with a baby store in town to have the baby's footprint put on a plate which the parents can decorate, and they then put it in an oven to "cure" it. Of all the things I thought about during this time I asked if they still did the porcelain booty like the one I got for Michael. That is when they told me they were doing these plates. Well, I still wanted mine. I called the business and spoke to the owner. I told her what had happened and I asked her if she would be willing to go to the funeral home and get her footprint for me. She very graciously agreed. That was one of the most endearing acts anyone has ever done for me or my family. Just thinking about that is about to make me cry. I don't know the lady but that act has insured that I will always hold her in high regard. When I felt up to it I went to the store and decorated it. I bet I spent 5 hours working on that plate. I couldn't find an angel to put on it so she had her best friend who is pretty artistic draw one for me. That was another lovely act. That plate is one of the things I cherish most associated with Cherylynn. It has her precious footprint on it. I have it on Ashley's dresser. When Ashley was born I made one for her also.

We had Cherylynn's funeral on September 8. I can't deal with viewings so we combined the viewing with the service. A dear friend's husband did the service. Through the years they have done a lot for us. She performed our premarital counseling. He officiated at our wedding. In fact, our wedding was held in their lovely home. They have done a lot for us in the 20 years of our friendship.

My husband was scheduled for a vasectomy the following week after Cherylynn was born. My doctor told us to hold off on it until we had time to think about it. I was so hurt I told him we were not going to hold off. I was not going to get pregnant again and go through that horrific pain again. He told us to just think about it and if we decided to we could cancel it. He told us if we needed until the day of the appointment that was fine. I ended up calling and canceling the day before. He had originally been scheduled for one 2 weeks before she was born. I don't remember now why we cancelled it. I am just thankful that I changed my mind.

We were planning on waiting about four or five months to give me time to heal both physically and emotionally. Well, six weeks after Cherylynn was born I was pregnant. At six weeks and three days I miscarried. It was just too soon after her for my body to carry the baby. Six weeks after that I was pregnant again. That was the most stressful nine months of my life. I was so scared. My doctor sent me for a Level 2 ultrasound at UAMS in Little Rock to make sure Ashley didn't have a diaphragmatic hernia also. Much to our relief, she was perfect. They offered to do an amnio to check for Downs due to my age. We turned it down. We didn't care if she was born with Downs. We could handle that. Downs children can lead a fairly normal life. All we were concerned with was having a healthy baby that lived so we could take that baby home to love instead of a box.

Michael didn't care what this baby was. All he wanted this time was a baby to bring home also. He told me one night before Ashley was born that if this baby died she would go to Heaven to be with his sister, and if she lived we would bring her home. He said he didn't want her to die. That just broke my heart. He missed his little sister. He still does.

I guess we may never know why Cherylynn had to die. I believe in God, and I know that all things work for the good through Him. But I have a hard time seeing anything good with her dying. I do know that if she would have lived we would not have Ashley. I would not trade anything in the world for my baby girl I have with me right now. And on the other hand, I would give my right arm to have Cherylynn back. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my precious angel. My heart will ache for her for the rest of my days. But, I know that she is in Heaven with God. I know that Jesus is watching over her. I know she is in the best place in the world. But knowing that will never close the gaping hole in my heart, nor soothe my aching arms that long so much to hold her. One day I will hold her in my arms and be able to love her forever and ever.

I know deep in my heart that God will never put more on us than we can bear. I just wish He wouldn't have so much "faith" in me. That is something I hope I never, ever have to go through again. It is just not right for a parent to outlive their child.

I still have pain when I think of her. I will until the day I die. I have gotten better. I have learned to laugh again, and live again. I have to for my son and my other daughter. They are the very life in me. But for the rest of my days my heart will ache for my precious Cherylynn. May she rest peacefully in the arms of her Savior, Jesus Christ. Mommy loves you with all her heart, soul and mind. One day I will join her and hold her for all eternity.

In loving memory of Cherylynn Renee' Smith, born September 5, 2001. Died September 5, 2001 after only 39 minutes of life. "Though your life was so brief, your memory will live on forever and ever. Baby girl, Mommy, Daddy, big brother Michael and little sister Ashley miss you so much. Our lives will never be complete until the day we can be with you in Heaven." "Our love for you will burn for all eternity." Mommy loves you and misses you so much. No words can adequately explain the love and emptiness in my heart. I love you forever and ever.

Michael is in 5th grade now. He still misses his sister and still has a hard time with the concept of death. Ashley will be 4 soon. Even though she was born 14 months after her big sister died she knows Cherylynn's picture and will tell you that is her sister in the picture.

Written by Cherylynn’s mom, Phyllis Smith (Arkansas)

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