“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” – James Lane Allen
Austin and Kira had been married over a year when they FaceTimed Valerie and me in February, wanting to see our expressions when learning we would be grandparents around early October. While Val got into the labeling – quickly choosing “Nana” – I didn’t worry what the kid called me as long as the kid called me. When pushed for a name, I said, “Sir.”
We didn’t share the news (much) until late March, safely into the second trimester, at which time I cranked the brag machine up to “annoying.” I mentioned on Facebook that it was the first time in nineteen years (when we were pregnant with Allison) that I loved someone who had yet to be born.
The heart history in Valerie’s family led Kira’s doctor to extra diligence in testing, and results indicated the baby could be at risk for Down syndrome. The odds were remote, but still higher than standard, leading me to believe advancements in technology had simply created more ways to worry expectant parents. Besides, it was MY grandbaby and we had been through so much in our lives that we could deal with Down syndrome.
More tests revealed in early May that it was not Down syndrome, but Turner syndrome, which has various spectrums; it’s possible you know someone who has Turner and you don’t know it. It’s often uneventful and sounded like the better outcome, so I decided again it was nothing worth worrying over.
During Trenton’s college graduation celebration May 12th, Austin and Kira surprised us with the gender reveal; a little girl, Teagan Elizabeth, would be joining our family. Kira’s mother, Sandy Roth, was present and both grandmothers-to-be were given gifts with their “labels” inscribed. Don’t get me started on little girls – possibly the best thing God ever made, and I was soon to have one.
Late afternoon May 18th we were fully immersed in a letter from the family of Trenton’s second donor when Valerie walked to the bedroom to answer a call. Moments later, Trenton came out of the bedroom. “Dad, I think you better go back there. It’s Austin and it sounds bad.” I walked in to see Valerie sitting on the bed, eyes wide and in shock, trying to not let it show to her son on the other end. Austin had informed her that Teagan’s form of Turner was so serious that she would not live long if she made it to term, hours at best. She was growing, but fluid on her organs, caused by Turner’s syndrome, damaged performance.
Austin and I talked the following week, one week before Texas laws would restrict aborting Teagan. “What are you going to do,” I asked. “We’re going to go the doctor in a few days and learn some more,” and they soon after decided that, as long as their little girl was alive, they would do all they could for her regardless of her chances.
By mid-June, Teagan’s heart was weakening, and on Wednesday, June 28th, days from the third trimester, we received the call. Teagan’s heart had stopped and Kira would be delivering on Friday our stillborn grandbaby.
Valerie, Allison and I awoke early Friday morning and made the drive to Houston. There was occasional conversation, Val dabbed her eyes a bit, and music from the radio filled much of the silence on our trip. Nearing Houston, we began to discuss funeral plans; I didn’t want Val or me to mess with those details at this point, and pushed everything I could on to Allison who handled it.
We arrived at Austin and Kira’s Houston apartment before noon to find them impatiently waiting patiently, as the hospital delayed their morning check-in until early afternoon. Once the phone call came, bags were packed and ten minutes later, we arrived at Texas Children’s Hospital. “Another kids’ hospital,” I thought…
More in my next blog post, but the difficult path to this point had already shown me the love and care that Austin and Kira will have for their kids even before birth; and their decision to name Teagan and sacrifice their hearts for her, in spite of the odds, is why I can be Still Thankful.
P.S. Teagan: an Irish name meaning "beautiful."