Forever My Britni
by Jenni Proctor
I want to share my story because I know that reading other stories has helped me to heal. Sorry it's so long...
I joined the Air Force in May 1996 and shipped off to Lakenheath, England in October. I met my husband in November and by the end of January, we had decided to get married. On February 13 we moved into our new home. We planned on getting married on February 23, but British-American paperwork clashed and we had to postpone.
On February 25 I noticed that I had been craving and eating some really funky stuff (hot peppers, pickles-yes pickles, salt and vinegar potato chips, sauerkraut hot dogs, taco salads...). So after talking to "Dr. Mom", I went and bought a pregnancy test, and sure enough we were going to start a family!!! I was happy and scared all at the same time. The ironic thing is, I had a doctor appointment two days later to get "the pill".
I told Billy by giving him a baby book. He was ecstatic--he has a two-year-old son (Brandon) from a previous marriage, and didn't get to experience the pregnancy or special moments. He was looking forward to going through the nine months with me. We were married in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, U.K. on March 1, 1997.
I was given a due date of October 23, 1997. The first three months I was very paranoid because I had just recently helped three friends go through their miscarriages (GEE! Was it the water?) I heard the heartbeat for the first time on March 26--Billy was at work. It was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced and I knew it was going to get so much better. In May I let my guard down only to have a doctor tell me, "You aren't through your pregnancy yet." That did nothing but upset me. I was so confidant that everything would be fine. Around the end of May I realized that I could actually feel her moving inside of me! I knew she was going to be a dancer--she was so lively!!
The doctors continuously told me that everything was perfect and because of that they would not do an ultrasound. So we didn't know if she was a she or a he. But I had the "feeling" she was a she. She was very healthy and had a strong heartbeat. We borrowed a Doppler from a friend of mine and we listened to her heartbeat at home all the time. I called my parents on Fathers Day and they were able to hear it over the phone (them in Kansas and us in England). Dad said that was the best Father's Day present he had ever received. We bought a few little things (Pooh bottles and onesies). We bought a crib (which we still have) from a friend for $50--couldn't pass it up. Mom had sent odds and ends.
Billy and I were both Security Police and worked for a very tough commander, so after five months of being harassed by my superiors (obviously causing some intense stress), I decided to get out and separated on June 30,1997.
I don't know the exact date, but somewhere between July 1st and the 3rd (I was exactly 24 weeks) she stopped moving. I didn't want to believe it and I read that sometimes that happens, so I just kept telling myself that we were fine. I would jiggle my tummy trying to "wake" her up. I tried to drink a little caffeine (like the books said) to give her a boost. We talked to her. I could feel what I knew was her back (which it turned out to be) and would rub it, trying to let her know I was there.
I called the hospital on the 6th and they told me to come in. They tried for a few minutes to find her heartbeat, and even then I was sure we were going to look stupid because she was going to be fine. But when they squirted the gel on my stomach and put the "magic wand" on me, I looked back and forth between the doctor's face and the monitor. This was the first time I would see her. I was so happy!! I could see her little head and spine. Then I saw my doctor's face...and I will never forget it. She bit the inside of her lip and put her hand to her mouth slowly as to cover her frown. "I don't think your baby is alive." Those words will ring in my ears forever. Billy and I both burst into tears and they left us alone for a while.
They gave me the option to start labor that night or come in on the 8th. I wanted some time to come to grips with what I had just found out before I lost her forever. We had to go home and call my parents. That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. They were so excited about the coming of their first grandchild. They had gotten passports recently and were ready to fly over for the delivery (in October).
They induced labor on July 8th at 11:45 a.m. Billy was by my side the entire time changing bedpans and holding the "barf" bowl. I was very ill from the medicine they gave me. I was so grateful to have him there. Fourteen hours later I finally pushed her out--my doctor had just walked away from the bed, so she literally flew out and landed about a foot away from me. I immediately reached for her. They had already called the OB Loss Support Counselors and the Chaplain, so shortly after she came, they were there. Taking pictures of us, getting her prints, and making sure we were comfortable with the whole situation. I didn't want to let her go and Billy had a hard time deciding if he wanted to hold her at all. But he did and is very glad now.
She was beautiful--tiny, but still beautiful. She weighed 1 pound 1 ounce and was exactly 12 inches long. Her eyes were solid black almost. She had daddy's nose and lips and my hands and feet. Just a tiny bit of fuzz on the back of her head.
Now came all the questions... What was her name? Where did we want her to be buried? When were we going to leave? Were we going to be ok? Do you want your breasts wrapped? They just kept coming.
She was named Britni Nicole and she was laid to rest in Highland Cemetery (Kansas) with the rest of my ancestors on July 15, 1997--two days before my husband's birthday and three days before my grandfathers. We had a beautiful graveside service with the family. Billy carried her "bed" (I like that better than casket) from the Hearst to the grave.
Because of the situation the Air Force paid for everything--her "bed", her plot, the funeral services, the headstone, our plane tickets to the U.S. and back, and even gave us a little extra for spending while we were there. The people my husband worked with took up a collection of cash to help us out--they were all great. Men who I had never seen laugh before were crying.
We found out that we were able to transfer bases to be closer to her and family too, so we took them up on that offer immediately. Even though it was my life long dream to live in England, Billy wasn't happy at work, so this was his only chance to escape too. They told us that we didn't even have to go back to England--they would have people take care of our stuff for us, but we felt that we needed closure. So we returned to England for one last month--it was painful, but necessary. The hardest part was coming across people who didn't know. They would reach for the tummy like they had before and I would have to tell them what happened. It didn't upset me. At that point I think I felt embarrassed for them because they didn't know. It was nice to know that they cared enough to ask.
We got back to Kansas in the beginning of September and my best friend Jon was hit and killed by a truck on September 15. I had never experienced the loss of anyone close to me and then within two months, I had watched my baby and best friend be put into the ground.
It is still and always will be very hard, I know this. Today (February 23) would have been her four-month birthday--if she had been born on October 23. Two days from today will be a year to the day that I found out I was pregnant. To top it all off, Billy is in Kuwait, and March 1 is our one-year anniversary.
To add to all my turmoil, I was told on October 31 that I have some sort of virus on my cervix that never showed up before or during my pregnancy. The doctor says, things like that just seem to "pop" up with a pregnancy sometimes. I had my cervix frozen today--not the most pleasant experience. From what I've been told, it may or may not weaken my cervix. Now I am scared to try to get pregnant again.
I always look at the baby clothes in the stores--just to see how big she would be. When I see mothers and their babies, I still get teary eyed. Right now I have four cousins and two friends who are pregnant. I know all this is normal, and I hope it will get easier with time. But I will never let go of her memory. I actually miss being pregnant and can't wait to be again, but I don't know if it's because I want to replace her or because I want to be a mommy.
Thanks for making it this far! Take care and e-mail me!
"Forever My Britni"
You will always be my baby
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