The Day I Said Good-bye to Joan

I wondered if I should share all that events that lead up to the passing of Joan and after much thought I decided I would. It was consoling to read other mother's stories and to know that I wasn't the only one who has gone through this so I hope by my sharing this story someone who is in my situation will also find consolation and know that I am praying for them.


July 7th, Monday

I visit my midwife and we go over dates since I was reaching 42 weeks. After checking dates it seems like my due date based on LPD was actually a week early and really I would be 42 weeks on July 11th. We heard Joan’s heartbeat and everything seemed perfect. We went out for Mexican food for lunch and I thought the next time we went out to eat we would have a newborn with us.

July 10th, Thursday

My younger sister arrived for a 9 day visit on Wednesday evening. Thursday morning, I talk my Hubby into letting my sister and I make a trip to Costco and we stop for drinks at Sonic on the way home. The day is spent visiting with my sister, getting last minute things ready for Joan’s birth and keeping up on the laundry.

I started having contractions around 10pm and I hope this is the start of active labor because honestly I was ready to have my baby in my arms. I go to bed early since I figure I would be calling the midwife at some point in the night or early morning. I try to get sleep, but contractions keep me up a bit. I do finally get a stretch of long sleep.

July 11th, Friday

I wake up around 7am with hard contractions. I breath through the contraction and then decide I will get up and shower. First, I follow my normal routine and see if Joan is moving around. She gives me a few kicks so I get up and get in the shower. I time the contraction at coming around 10 mins apart and they are 30-45 seconds long. There are a number of contractions that are pretty hard and I need to stop and breath through them. I know the time has finally come and let Hubby know. He is happy about it and gets ready for the day. I call the midwife and she lets me know that she is on her way.

I eat breakfast and we let the kids and my sister know that the midwife is on her way. The kids come and bounce around on our bed as I am sitting on the birthing ball and dealing with contractions. Everything seems to be going as all my other labors have gone.

The midwife comes around 9:45am. We visit with her for a bit and then she has me lay down to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Her assistant uses the doppler to hear the heartbeat, but she can’t find it. She tries all over and can’t hear anything. The midwife takes over since it isn’t uncommon for the assistant to not be able to find it. The midwife also can’t hear it. She has me get up and use the bathroom and change positions. Still no heartbeat. I am starting to get nervous, but the midwife says Joan might be really low in the pelvic or maybe in a very posterior position. She had me eat something sugary and go take a walk to get Joan moving if she happens to be asleep.

I eat some smores bars that were made the night before and I go walk around the house and say hello to the kids. They are all wondering why Joan hadn’t come yet. I tell them to talk to Joan and tell her to come soon. They all yell at my belly for Joan to come out. I am surprised that I still don’t feel Joan move since the kids talking to her always get her to move and kick around. I go back into the house and the midwife again tries to hear for the heartbeat...nothing. She then starts to talk to us about the possibility of fetal demise...due to heart issues, cord wrapped around neck, etc. We already had a 42 week ultrasound scheduled for 1pm that day so the midwife calls to have it earlier.

I quickly change clothes and while I am changing I know Joan is dead. I keep telling myself maybe it is something else, but I know she isn’t living anymore. I tell my sister to call my mom to tell her that we are going for an ultrasound since we can’t find a heartbeat. I can barely get the words out without crying. Hubby and I drive the minivan while the midwives follow in their car. I pretty much start crying as soon as I get into the minivan since I know Joan is gone, but Hubby tries to get me to think positive and maybe Joan was just in a hard position to hear the heartbeat. I didn’t believe him. We drive the 45 minutes to the ultrasound place all the while having hard contractions. We get signed in and they start the ultrasound. The young girl doing the ultrasound is very calm and doesn’t say anything. After a few minutes she quietly says “a Dr will come and discuss the results with you.” I told Hubby “I don’t think it’s good news.” He still is trying to remain positive.

The Dr. comes in and asks some questions about my age, number of child, what had happened that morning, etc. We tell him the events of the morning and mention the midwife is here and if we could ask her to come into the room. He says yes. When they enter he says “I’m sorry, but this baby isn’t living anymore.” He confirmed what I already knew and the room stood still. I am not 100% sure what was said in the next couple of minutes because the words “this baby isn’t living anymore” just keep running through my head. The Dr. says he will give us some time and leaves.

The midwife tell us that they will stay with us with whatever we go home to have the baby or to have the baby in the hospital. I tell them I want to have the baby at home. This is tragic enough and I don’t want to be in a hospital. I want to be home where we planned on having her. The midwife say they will call the funeral home and everyone else they need to notify (sheriff department, coroner). I ask them to call our parish priest. They also say they are going to get some stuff so they can make us some keepsakes of Joan.

One sort of “funny” thing that happened was when the midwife asked the Dr. if he could get me into the hospital if I wanted to have the baby there. He said he would check. He comes back and tells us they are swamped, but they might be able to get me in tomorrow. That wouldn’t do us much good since I was in labor NOW.

We walk back to the car and I see various pregnant ladies walking into the office and I can’t help, but think “I look just like them, but my baby is dead.” I make it to the minivan and couldn’t be strong anymore and I cry and don’t try to stop it. My Hubby hugs me there in the parking lot. We finally get into the minivan and make our way home. I call my mom to tell her that Joan had died and we were on our way home to give birth to her. I told her I would call when she was actually born. I also tell her to call my younger sister because I wasn’t ready to talk to anyone else.

We arrive home and I go directly to my room. I can’t face anyone yet. I lean on a table to breath through a contractions and when I open my eyes I see the baby outfit that was waiting for Joan, but now she would never wear it. Again the tears started. This was going to be harder than I could ever imagine. It was one thing to find out that your baby died, but it is another having to go through labor knowing that your baby would be dead when you delivered her.

I asked Hubby to make me lunch since I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and it was probably around 1pm. I then go outside to walk and hopefully to make labor go faster. The midwife tells us that our pastor says he is coming over to talk with us. Father arrives and speaks with us for around 40 mins or so. It was actually very comforting to have him there and talking to us. However, the contractions were coming harder and stronger at this point. My Hubby still marvels that I go through hard contractions and no one would ever know it.

Father prays with us before he leaves and then the Sheriff arrives. The midwife notified him as the State required, but I think they were a little confused on what was going on since they came before the baby was born and not after. They asked some questions and needed to talk to me to make sure there was no foul play, etc. He asked me a few questions and then told us he was very sorry and he could relate since he and his wife also went through the same thing a few years ago. He told us someone would come after the baby was delivered.

At this point everyone finally left and I went to my room and pulled out the outfit that I wanted Joan buried in...her baptismal outfit. Again, the tears started flowing. I calmed myself down and focused on having Joan. I have a few more contractions and then move to the shower since the contractions were getting harder. I was probably in there for 15-20 mins when I got out since I started getting the desire to push. The midwife suggested I try to have the baby in the bed to limit the movement of Joan since her neck would be weak. I have had all my babies kneeling on one knee by the side of the bed. I laid in the bed and tried pushing though one contraction, but it hurt way too much. I told the midwife, I couldn’t do it laying down it hurt too much. She told me it was fine and to get in any position I wanted to. I knelt by the side of the bed and pushed through the next contraction, she was coming. The next contraction, push and she is closer. Another push and her head is out. One more push and she is completely out. They hand her to me and again the tears started flowing.

She looked perfect. A full head of black curly hair. Long fingers and toes. Slightly red lips. She looked like she was sleeping. It is such a strange feeling to go through labor and have what looks like a perfect sleeping baby in your arms, but knowing that she will never wake up. As the midwife looks at her she mentions it looks like she has Down Syndrome. I hold her for a bit and then they take her away so I can deliver the placenta, move up to the bed and I be checked out.

Honestly, I can’t really remember the exact series of events after this. At some point the Sheriff comes to take down all the information and to again ask me questions. Then the local EMT has to come to take down a report and to officially announce Joan dead. Everyone was very nice about everything.

I held Joan for most of the time all this was going on. I didn’t want to let her go. The midwife does take her to weigh her. She is 7 lbs 8oz and 17.5 inches long. She confirms with various outward appearances that she did have Down Syndrome. She gets ink foot prints of her feet, makes clay prints of her hands and feet, and cuts some locks of Joan’s hair. I am so thankful that she did those things and we have physical reminders of Joan.

Around three hours after Joan’s birth, the funeral director comes to take Joan’s body away. I tell Hubby to have him wait since I wasn’t ready to let her go yet. After a little bit, I still wasn’t ready to let her go, but I knew I had to do it. I give her one final kiss on her sweet forehead and say good-bye.

The midwives left around 10pm and we were left to get some much needed sleep. It wasn’t just a physically tiring day, but I was mentally exhausted. Even though I was so tired, I couldn’t sleep. I probably said 5 or more rosaries before I finally fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning, my first thought was the happenings of the previous day were all a bad dream, but when I didn’t feel any baby in the bed or my womb I realized it really happened.

We had to tell the kids. We didn’t say anything to them the previous day, but they knew something was up. Edith kept telling us to “tell her the truth” on why the sheriff was here, why we left the house for an ultrasound, and why Joan still wasn’t here. She is smart for a 5 year old. During the night, my sister had actually found all three girls looking out their bedroom window asking why the ambulance was here.

The kids came to say hello to me and Edith right away asked what had happened yesterday. We told them that Joan was sick and she died. She was in heaven now. They didn’t quite understand and kept asking when were the doctors going to bring Joan home and when would they get to see Joan. We keep telling them they wouldn’t be able to see Joan now because she was in heaven. Edith finally understood and then started talked about how they are probably having a big party in heaven to welcome Joan.

The days leading up to the funeral were hard. I couldn’t sleep at night. Either I stayed awake wondering what I could have done differently that might have changed the outcome, wondering if her death was somehow my fault, etc or when I did fall asleep I would have the same nightmare over and over again...Joan was died in my arms and none of the people around me would help me try to bring her back to life.

We set the funeral for Wednesday July 16, the feast of our Lady of Mount Carmel. I wanted the funeral to take place while my sister was still here. It was important that I had some extended family there. Hubby and I actually talked about having my parents come, but ticket prices were close to $1000 a piece so I just assumed it wouldn’t happen. On Saturday, my sister told me that a group of friends pulled up enough money to pay for my parents to be at the funeral and they would arrive on Tuesday. The tears flowed again, however, this time it wasn't due to sorrow, but at being overcome by the love of those around us. It is amazing how friends and even complete strangers will become family in moments of tragedy. My parents arrived on Tuesday night and my brother also made the trip with his 3 year old son. It was so wonderful to have part of my family there during this difficult time and to receive hugs from my parents and brother.

The morning of the funeral was sort of busy so I didn’t let myself think much about what I was actually going to have to do that day. We got to the church around 10:15am and the funeral was to start at 11am. Honestly, I didn’t want to enter the church. I didn’t want to see the casket and be reminded that Joan was gone. I finally go into the church and see the small casket near the altar. It is heartbreaking. I pray for the strength to get through the funeral.

The funeral is actually sort of a blur for me. It was beautiful, but also full of sorrow. Father mentioned in his homily that Joan was in heaven, but her presence was felt in the church and it was true. I think the most heartbreaking part of the funeral was the end when Hubby picked up the casket and walked it to car to be transported to the cemetery. I walked behind him with the kids and to think that Hubby was carrying the body of our sixth child to her final resting place made my heart feel like it couldn’t take anymore. We walk to the cemetery and there Father did the final prayers and blessings. I touch the casket and say good-bye for the final time.

We walk back to the church hall for a reception. I then realize how many people came to the funeral and was humbled that they showed up. I love our parish family!

It was amazing to see how Joan touched the lives of so many people even though she never took a breath on this earth. She will never be forgotten and forever be loved. St. Joan Iris, pray for us!


  1. I can relate to so much of this. It's probably good for me to cry. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You were my intention as I delivered our 5th baby the early morning of July 16th. I had no idea it was her funeral day- how providential. May Our Lady comfort you!

  3. It's eerie to read what was going on when mom called me and told me about Joan. The tears now are as strong as they were then. You may be my little sister but I've always admired your strength and ability as a mother. This only confirms it. Continued prayers for you and Vinnie. I love you guys! Sweet St. Joan, pray for us.

  4. God bless you Elena. Your strength is beautiful, your motherly love is inspiration. You and your family are in my prayers.

  5. I too am inspired by your motherly devotion and love. God bless you and your family. I will continue to pray for you all in this time of suffering.

  6. God bless you and sweet Joan.

  7. Elena, you are such an inspiration. God bless your mama heart and hold you in His beautiful and perfect peace during this time of suffering. My heart aches for you and all you experienced. Sweet Joan was so blessed to have your womb as a home for as long as she did. You blessed her and I know your little saint is praying for you already. Thank you for so courageously taking the time to share. Continued prayers. St. Joan, pray for us.

  8. Your faith and strength is inspiring. You will continue to be in our prayers. God bless you and your family.