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Mom to Avery Mae Chandler

July 2, 2008

Plano, Texas

I was a little hesitant to begin having children. I knew I wanted them, and, though my husband and I dated for seven years and were married for three when we finally decided to start trying, I was incredibly nervous about the whole process. (In hindsight I can’t help but wonder if a part of me subconsciously knew about the pain in my future.) I was a teacher and had a self-mandated “baby window” so my baby would be born during summer break, and, much to my amazement and delight, everything went as planned.    

My pregnancy was easy. I was never sick, I exercised, I felt great – if it wasn’t for the tiny flutters in my abdomen and the fact that my pants didn’t fit, I wouldn’t have even known I was pregnant. My doctors declared that I was experiencing the “perfect” pregnancy, and, when I found out I was having a little girl, (we named her Avery), my head was filled with promises of our perfect future together.

June 30 was a Monday. I was just two weeks shy of my due date, and suddenly everything felt different. Avery wasn’t moving as much; I felt more swollen and heavier than usual. I went for a walk, drank some orange juice, and told myself not to worry.  I had just been to the doctor two days earlier; I’d mentioned decreased movement at my appointment and they assured me it was completely normal towards the end of pregnancy.  There was no need to panic. Shortly after dinner I lost my mucous plug, and my fear immediately turned to excitement.

It was almost time to have my baby.

I waited for the contractions to start, for something to start, but nothing happened. I went to bed expecting to have a baby at any time, and when my water broke shortly after midnight, I was prepared. But then I turned on the light and saw the blood on my sheets, on the floor beneath my feet…I stood in the shower, terrified and sobbing as my husband called the doctor. We rushed to the hospital only to be told our daughter’s heart had stopped beating.  They didn’t know exactly what had happened, but Avery was dead.

Thirty-six hours later I delivered my beautiful daughter, her umbilical cord wrapped tightly around her delicate neck.  It was a complete shock, and I felt like a total failure.  I couldn’t understand how my body, the same body that nurtured Avery, the same body that grew her, was ultimately responsible for her death. My grief ate away at me, and I fell into a deep depression. I didn’t want to see anyone; I didn’t answer the phone when it rang.  Since I had the summer off, it was very easy to disappear. I became obsessed with having another baby, anything to fill the void that was left by the little girl I couldn’t keep.

I started writing down my story, Avery’s story, as a way to process my feelings, to figure out all of the pain and guilt twisted up inside of me.  It soon turned into a way for me to remember my daughter, to ensure that I never forgot the brief miracle that was her life.  The more I wrote, however, the more I realized that I had the power to help others with my words. To make a long story short, a publisher expressed interest in Avery’s story, and it’s now a book called Holding Avery: A Memoir. I’m thankful every day that I was able to create a lasting legacy for my daughter through my words.

Avery would turn seven this July [2015].  It seems so long ago that I held her in my arms, yet it also seems like yesterday.  I’ve since been blessed with two healthy, rambunctious little boys that, with their macaroni necklaces and dandelion bouquets, have made my life a whole lot brighter. My life is good – happy, even. But not a day goes by that I don’t miss my baby girl.

You can find out more about Heidi and Holding Avery: A Memoir at heidichandler.com or via e-mail hchandle@gmail.com.

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