Friday, November 22, 2013

The Day Part of the Dream Died

November 22, 2013

As many of you must know~ today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the youngest man elected President of the United States~ and the only Roman Catholic to date to be elected.

When you grow up in a Catholic/ Democratic household it was not uncommon in the 70's to grow up in a household completely in awe of and enamored by The Camelot Era.

As most people of age at the time of the assassination~ my mother could distinctly recall where she was at the exact moment she learned that JFK had been assassinated. She told the story with such detail that I almost felt as if I **had been** there. My siblings and I grew up sort of in the shadow of Camelot. My mother loved and bordered on obsessed with this man, his life, his death and what it meant to the American people. And she raised at least one daughter who was equally so.

My mother often cried when she discussed certain parts of his life and his legacy.....and to this day~ so do I.

When I was a young girl (and all the way to his untimely and equally tragic death) I dreamed of someday marrying or at least **meeting** JFK Jr. Such a part of the tapestry of my life is this family I have never met. To this very day I am completely in awe of Caroline Kennedy. THIS woman has known some tragedies in her life......and yet she conducts herself with such grace~ and instead of reveling in or taking advantage of her 'gifted' upbringing and family fame~ she lives and raises her children quietly and with decorum. That my friends is strength in action.

When my mother told the story of how Jackie and JFK had survived both a little girl being stillborn and losing a son as the direct result of prematurity (later I would learn that Jackie had a miscarriage too)~ I felt such a connection~ such an overwhelming sense of empathy~ I cried. A LOT. Every. Single. Time.

Little did I know that these tragedies would later DIRECTLY impact my own life and children (I'll get back to that in a moment).

My mother talked of a time when our President was great and honorable. Later it would widely be speculated if he was great or if it were our country that was great at the time. And HIS honor has since been called into question many, many times and details of his behind the scenes 'philandering' have been widely publicized.

Even still~ the love and admiration for this man and THIS family and THIS political and romanticized dynasty remains in my heart. There are still times (a LOT of times) I am moved to tears by the imagery and memories of this family and this era.

Like when I visited his grave at Arlington National Cemetery..... the 'eternal flame' quite literally brought me to my knees.

Like when I visited baby Patrick Bouvier Kennedy's grave at Arlington National Cemetery and I collapsed in a pile of tears.

Like whenever I see that iconic picture of JFK Jr. saluting his father's casket.

Like whenever I see that iconic picture of Jackie crawling on the back of the car to pick up pieces of her husband's skull and brain seconds after watching her husband be shot multiple times.

Or the one where he is slumped in her lap.

Or the one where she is boarding the plane, pink dress blood stained~ blank stare on her face~ I see the numbness~ her display of the universal body language of grief  and I remember that feeling all to well.

Like when I remember the desperate search for JFK Jr.'s body.

Or his, his wife's and sister-in-law's luggage and personal effects washing up on shore.

Or of their caskets being buried at sea.

Like when I see the picture of Caroline in her perfect dress clutching her mother's hand and putting on a brave face while practically the whole world watched her father's flag draped casket pass by.

Or when I see her speak~ with the same decorum and 'put together' confidence and beauty that her mother had.

Although I have never had the honor of meeting a single person from this larger than life family~ I empathize with them all the same and my own life has been directly affected by them.

          My own mother will forever be young and beautiful in my minds eye~ as she too was taken far too soon.

         My own father was slain with a bullet to the head. And he too remains young and handsome in my mind's eye.

         At times I feel like most of my own life has been a series of tragedies to overcome.

         My own son was born prematurely and died soon after birth.

         I fully KNOW that if the President of the United States and his young beautiful wife had not delivered a son and lost him to (what in the day was) severe prematurity~ that the medical science of saving premature babies would most likely be nowhere near what it is today.

and THAT, that right there alone brings me to my knees.

Patrick Kennedy was born at just over 34 weeks gestation.....weighing in at (what would now be) a whopping 4# 10.5 ounces~ and yet he could not be saved. Today his early birth and medical condition would be rather 'routinely' treated in the NICU~ probably not even requiring a lengthy stay. Today he would be one of the largest babies in the NICU~ and face a minimum amount of sequella from his 34 gestational week delivery.

It is largely due to the advance of medical science that was spurned by Patrick's death that allowed my own daughter to be born at 24 weeks 3 days gestation, weighing 1.6 ounces~ and survive to tell the tale. She and millions of other babies who would once have not even been attempted to be saved.

The significance of these facts and ALL of the Kennedy's contributions to our great nation is not lost on me.

So today, in honor of them all and of my mother who planted the seeds of love and admiration for this family, I REMEMBER. I take time to reflect. I take time to be grateful for how they, who I never met, impacted my upbringing, my love of my country and my own very premature daughter.

To Caroline I would say I understand at least some of what your life filled with a great deal of tragedy feels like. I would say thank you for all that your family has done to shape and mold me into the person I am today.

Love, light and profound gratitude,


Monday, November 18, 2013

A Letter to my Son

Today is World prematurity day 2013~

I share with you a letter I wrote to my son the day before his would be~ should be 3rd birthday. The sentiment and words are the same.....time has passed~ but the ache in the part of my heart forever broken he would be 6 and a half~ his baby sister ~his legacy really~ is 5 now~ and she remains a constant blessing and beacon of hope after the most devastating days of my life....
Please read and share,



A Letter to my Son

May 28, 2010 at 12:23pm
In memory of William Robert Erich Petsch

Dearest baby William,

I remember well the dark night in May when I awoke and immediately knew that something was terribly wrong. The gush of fluid, the familiar contractions… I prayed “no it can’t be Lord…please…it can’t be”. I woke daddy and we raced to the hospital. I remember saying to him during that car ride “you know this will probably not end well”. For two days we held out hope. Doctors and nurses came and went…all with the same message “it’s too early; your son will not live”. Only when mommy got very sick and things went from bad to worse did we agree to give up hope.

On a sunny Tuesday morning my labor in full swing, I was so very very angry. I kept asking WHY, why is this happening to me, to our son….after all that we have been through….WHY would he be taken away from us? After six grueling hours you were born, tiny, living and perfect. You looked exactly like your brother. Mommy held you; Daddy held you, your brother, sisters and Aunts came. For exactly 1 hour and 47 minutes you lived. We took turns holding you and each other ~ we cried a river of tears. That crowded hospital room was filled with a lifetime of love and a profound sadness that we would not be able to watch you grow into a man. Daddy was holding you when your tiny heart, through transparent skin, stopped beating forever. The midwife pronounced that you were at peace.

The next day~ I left the hospital with pictures, your footprints, your tiny hat, the blanket in which you were wrapped and a broken heart. How could they expect me to go to the funeral home? How could I possibly focus on the details of your funeral? How does a mother choose a resting place for her son or what clothes she will wear to his funeral? How could I take a maternity leave with no baby to care for? I cannot recall a time in my whole life when I was more profoundly devastated. I cried, I screamed, I ached to hold you and see you one more time. My heart honestly felt like it was breaking. The physical and emotional pain was almost too much to bear. There were days when I was certain that I would not survive. I was angry that the world seemed to just go on ~completely unaffected. And I wondered how everyone else could be the SAME when I was so DIFFERENT. The days and weeks passed in a blur of devastation.

Daddy and I decided that we would try again. We had so much love to give, we desperately wanted another child. The first try didn’t work and with the pain still fresh and raw I fell apart again. Months later, we tried for what we both knew would be the last time. I felt a genuine happiness when I found out that it had worked and I was once again ~ pregnant. The happiness was almost immediately replaced with sheer terror. After a difficult first trimester~ the second trimester brought fear that something was wrong. An amniocentesis confirmed that I was carrying a healthy baby girl. Once again I grieved for you. I had pictured my life for so long with 2 baby sons…I did not know how to come to grips with the fact that my dream of two sons died with you.

On a normal evening in late March my water broke. All of the memories flooded back. NO IT’S too EARLY. IT CAN’T BE HAPPENING AGAIN. To the hospital we went. They transferred us to Pittsburgh. The doctors and nurses there came with the same message “there is nothing we can do, your child will not survive”. Daddy and I were devastated. We cried, I screamed, I prayed “God what lesson is it that I did not learn losing William that You think I need to learn by losing another baby”. “How can I possibly lose another child?” The answer that I received there~ in the quiet of the hospital room~ was “you don’t have to”. From that moment on~ I knew I would fight with my whole life to save your sister. She was 4 weeks from “viability”~~ 4 long weeks before they would even consider trying to save her. Again they told us it was hopeless. Over and over nurses and doctors would come and tell us all of the terrible things that could and probably would happen even if she somehow miraculously survived. I was hearing NONE of it. Daddy says I was demanding…I like to think of it as being assertive:) We came back to Erie, a few days later I was admitted again to the hospital. For 4 seemingly endless weeks I stayed in the hospital on bed rest. The doctors and nurses continued with the gloom and doom prognosis. But my heart and mind were strengthened with an unexplainable peace and fortitude. Exactly four weeks to the day after my water broke…your sister made her dramatic entrance into the world. The first thing that Daddy said to me was “she is so much bigger than William”. At a whopping 1 pound 6 ounces and 11 and ¾ inches long she was! For 97 days we rode the NICU rollercoaster. Many times during those days we were told about all of the terrible things that she might face: deafness, blindness, brain damage on and on the list went. I visited her every day. I prayed to God and to you “please watch over her and keep her safe”. I cannot explain HOW I knew that she would be healthy…I just did. I knew that her path was destined to be different than yours. The path was difficult, the obstacles many. Throughout the journey I knew in my heart that she was going to be ok. Today your sister Faith is a walking, talking two year old miracle child. She is small but mighty. She is full of spirit and headstrong. She is here and alive because you gave me the strength to fight for her.

It will be three years tomorrow since you were born. I think of you every single day. Daddy and I both wear your footprints permanently…because no matter what~ you are ALWAYS walking with us. Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if you had survived. I am not at the point where I can say that I understand why you had to go to heaven. But I do know that you had a lasting and profound effect on me and on everyone who loves you. I am different because I am your mother. I am stronger than I ever thought possible. We will celebrate your birthday with a cake and a song. We will reflect on how your life and death changed us. We will cry that you are not with us. We will be more grateful for what we have because of what we have lost. You will always be a special part of our family. When people ask me how many children I have~ I proudly say 5~ one lives in heaven.

I love you and I miss you every day. Thank you for being my son.