Parents: Jo and Randy
Born to heaven, April 14, 2002
Laurence Michaels’ Story
This is for all the caterpillars that never became butterflies,
All the butterflies that never caught the wind in their wings,
And all the hearts that had hopes and dreams of a wondrous flight together….
Jo and Randy were excited about the baby they were expecting. About 4 months into the pregnancy, concerned that she was higher risk because of her age, Jo’s doctor insisted that they have an amnio done to see if there were any problems. And that’s when they found out the news that rocked their world: that their unborn son had Trisomy 18.
They decided to carry Laurence to term in order to enjoy as much time as possible with their son. They treasured his life before birth and cherished every moment. When Laurence would kick and turn and wouldn’t calm down, Jo would try to get him to settle down. Sometimes when she couldn’t, all it would take was for Randy to place his hand on her belly where Laurence was acting up and he would calm down immediately. Laurence obviously knew not only his mommy but also his daddy.
Although it was hard letting others know of the situation, they were straightforward with the facts: he has been diagnosed with Trisomy 18, which is incompatible with life. They decided on comfort care only for Laurence once he was born. Unfortunately, a month and a half before her due date, Jo slipped on a wet floor at work and fell. Several nights later, she didn’t realize anything was wrong, even though he was “spinning like a top and kicking up a storm.” Even Randy’s hand on her belly failed to calm him. At 5 am the next morning, Jo’s water broke and they headed for the hospital. As they drove there, Randy and Jo alternated between silence and talking about how scared they were. They got to the hospital with their birthing plan, and the first hour or so was the normal hustle and bustle of a labor and birth of a child. Then the waiting began.
It was very hard for Randy: Laurence was his first child and he felt so helpless watching the pain Jo was going through and being unable to take it away. They were so anxious for their journey to continue, yet afraid of its end. Randy was at once afraid to be in the room with them and afraid to leave it. After 12 hours of labor, at 5:18 pm, Laurence was born. Jo recalls, “As Laurence was being delivered I watched Randy’s face and my mother-in-law’s and when I saw the tears start I knew I wasn’t even going to get the 5 minutes I had been praying for.” Their sweet, precious baby Laurence Micheal was born still on April 14, 2002. Although they knew this was a possible outcome, there was no way to really prepare for the emotion ahead of time. It was a very difficult way to say hello and goodbye.
The nurses took him, and then washed and dressed him in a little doll outfit Jo’s sister in law had rushed out and bought for him. Then they left them alone with their son. A couple of members of Randy’s family were able to come in and see him. Randy’s mother couldn’t stop holding him. Finally, she and Jo were alone in the room with Laurence and she asked Jo if she wanted to hold him. Initially, Jo started crying and said no. Randy’s father came in and they were over by the table looking at Laurence. Suddenly Randy’s mother started crying and said, “Oh my God, he has Randy’s Kirk Douglas chin!” Jo remembers, “I started crying again and said, ‘please bring me my son’. When Randy came back into the room, he saw me holding our son and crying. He came to us, held us, kissed me and softly said, ‘thank you for the experience of being a father.’ We sat this way and cried together over our beautiful son. Finally, it was time to let Laurence go. They came and took him from us. The doctor who had just left called back excitedly and told the nurses to rush my bed to the window. On a clear day-when there had been no rain-there was the most beautiful rainbow directly over the hospital!”
As time passed, Jo and Randy struggled with their feelings of anger, pain, and rage at God for not allowing them to have time to hold Laurence and whisper their love and devotion to him before he had to go. Jo was able to make her peace with God before Randy, who still struggles with this. Nine months later, Jo wrote, “No one or nothing could ever replace the void left in our hearts after losing you. The pain of losing you has not healed, has not gone away, but has changed; it is a deep void that will never be filled. It is a livable void, but a void none-the-less. As this day of nine months goes by, and I reflect on what could have been, what should have been, I realize something, my boy: you are not in my arms, but in my heart, and shall be forever more. That will never lessen. When mommy and daddy’s turn comes to join all in heaven, I will be looking past the heads of all, looking for your beautiful face, searching for my happy, healthy little boy who I will finally be able to hug and kiss and hold forever more in my arms.”
Now Jo sees Laurence all around them. “We love the gentle breeze that caresses our cheeks. It is your little kisses. When the wind ruffles our hair, it is your gentle hands. When the wind chimes chime, it is your laughter sounding in the air. When we feel alone – and suddenly the feeling is gone, you have hugged us close. You surround us with your love, and we hope you are surrounded with ours. As you play with all your little friends today, take a moment, son, and know this: Mommy and Daddy love you, and we remember.”
Jo says that a lot of her healing is a result of the Trisomy 18 Support Community. “Without this board I don’t know if I would have made it, and my dearest friend in the world occurred from my being on this board: Lesa Kling!
“Although this is one of the HARDEST things a parent can ever face-with help from loving supportive people and time-you WILL get through this. You will not be the same-you will be a different person-but an improved person for having your life touched by an angel. These precious children who God loaned to us for a such short time, will inspire us, watch over us and protect us for ever more.”