In October of 2004, my husband, Bill, and I were like most expectant parents-excited and nervous about being responsible for the sole care of another human being. I had a wonderfully healthy pregnancy, and after consulting with my OB/GYN and midwife, we decided to give birth at home. We both wanted a natural and relaxing birth experience.
Around 10 pm on October 9, my contractions began. My husband was an anxious coach and didn’t like to see me in pain, so he was very relieved when the midwife arrived after a few hours of labor. She monitored the baby’s heart rate every 20 minutes and all was progressing beautifully. A little after 5 am Sunday morning I started pushing. After trying a few different positions, I ended up sitting on a birth stool with Bill behind me supporting my back.
At 6:28 am, our 7 pound 12 ounce baby girl, Virginia Lucille Porter was born. The midwife immediately handed her to me, and I cradled her in my arms and leaned back so Bill could see his daughter too. Ginny opened her eyes once to look at us, then struggled to take her first breath. The cord was quickly cut, and oxygen was given along with CPR. The squad arrived in just a few minutes and Bill rushed with Ginny to Children’s Hospital.
After a few days of testing, we were told the devastating news that our little girl was brain dead, and had been for a few days before her birth. Her brain had had enough function to beat her heart, and my body provided her life support system for a short time. Bill and I asked if she could be an organ donor, and the neurologist looked surprised for a moment, then said he wasn’t sure since she was a newborn but that he would find out.
Virginia was able to be an organ donor, and her strong, healthy heart went to another little girl from Ohio. The representatives from Lifeline of Ohio were wonderful throughout the donation process and afterwards, and we still feel comforted by our decision. The nurses at Children’s, who had cried with us the past few days, were kind enough to take pictures of Virginia after her donation surgery. Without their thoughtfulness, we would have no pictures of her without a breathing tube in her mouth. On days where it all seems like a bad dream, I can’t begin to tell you what having those pictures means to us.
My husband and I can never fully recover from the loss of our child, but at least we know that one other family won’t have to mourn their daughter’s death as well. Sharing the gift of life has helped us find something joyful about the short time we got to hold our baby in our arms, and has helped us grieve in a more positive way. While I can’t say that I ever hoped to be the proud mother of an organ donor, I’m glad that when we had to make the choice, we chose to share the gift of life.