by ALICIA GATTO
Addie’s Gift Foundation was founded in June of 2008 after my husband, Rob, and I experienced the traumatic and devastating loss of our third daughter in April 2008. Adalyn (“Addie”) Kathryn, was born still at 37 weeks gestation.
This experience is one that no parent will ever forget. After realizing I hadn’t felt my daughter move for several hours the day and evening before, I called my doctor’s office early in the morning. They advised me to come in so I could be reassured that everything was okay.
As I laid on the exam table with my mother and midwives by my side, Dr. John Maljovec searched relentlessly for my daughter’s heartbeat. I could see the sadness in his eyes and I will never forget the words he so apologetically spoke. “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”
My world stopped. I cried out, not only in disbelief but in hopes that I would wake myself up from that horrible nightmare.
The emotions were vast and uncontrollable.
Sadness. So much sadness. My daughter that I gave life to, carried and protected for nine months was gone. All of my dreams for her future were over.
Fear. How would I birth my daughter knowing that she would never wake up? I would never hear her cry or see her beautiful eyes.
Guilt. What did I do wrong? Could I have prevented her death?
Anxiety. What is going to happen next? How would I explain it to my girls at home? Was I going to survive labor, delivery, and the grieving process?
On April 8, 2008, I delivered a beautiful 7lb 10oz baby girl that looked just like her sisters. Cause of death: a true knot in her umbilical cord. Statistically: less than one percent chance. The hours and days that followed were full of research. I was determined to find answers as to how and why that could happen.
My grief was exhausting and consuming. I couldn’t function as a wife, mother, daughter, sister or friend. Postpartum issues reared their ugly heads. I suffered from postpartum depression after my first two daughters and it often gets worse with subsequent pregnancies. Grief and hormones continued to compound. I questioned God more than I could count, but I always came back and found peace in my faith. God needed her more.
I relied heavily on journaling and reading books about grief and losing a child. I quickly discovered I was not alone.
It was then that I made the decision to share the books that helped me with those who were experiencing the same pain. Addie’s Gift came to fruition two months later in June 2008. In 2009, a short 11 months later, we experienced a miscarriage at nine weeks. Our world turned upside down yet again, but I was able to turn to the journaling and books to help me get through it.
Since the inception of AGF, it has grown to offer many different support measures including resources for grief support, personal communication support and financial assistance for funeral services. We also work closely with “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” photographers so parents can have photos taken of their infant when it is often the last thing on their minds. Most recently, we have assisted in collecting wedding gowns that have been made into several Angel Gowns by Kris Sivak and Jean Olsen. They are gifted to our local hospitals or directly to families.
We have also purchased three Cuddle Cots and donated them to Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk, UPMC Chautauqua and Warren General Hospital. Cuddle Cots are cooling systems that allow parents to have their child with them for up to five days before saying their final goodbyes. It extends their time significantly and prevents families from having to rush through the departure process. Each system costs approximately $3,000.
Addie’s Gift has been the recipient of financial contributions from memorials, as well as from various organizations, especially the Young Mothers Study Club in Warren. Without these donations, we would not be able to provide the services and support we do. Our board of directors includes Alicia Gatto, Dr. Robert Gatto, Susan Knowlden, Becky Kubera and Kristen Lucas. We are always so grateful for the ongoing support of Warren and Chautauqua Counties. A special thank you to Dr. Maljovec for his love and care during the most challenging times of my life and for his support of AGF throughout the years.
My heart goes out to all parents who experience the loss of a child. I pray for them and all of our angels who walk beside us every single day.
Editor’s note: Your Daily Local reached out, through Addie’s Gift Foundation, to families willing to share their stories for National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Week (Oct. 9 – 15). All the stories were written by those who shared them and have been edited only for style and spelling/grammar where appropriate. More stories can be found here.