Holidays, Emotions, Birth and Death

Thanksgiving and Christmas were always my favorite holidays.  If I close my eyes, I can feel the excitement of waking up with my stomach churning in anticipation of the day, can smell the Thanksgiving turkey cooking and can see the formal china on the holiday tablecloth in the dining room. I remember the mounds of food that took hours and days to prepare and were consumed on Thanksgiving in about 20 minutes.

I remember the prayer of grace and focusing on everything my family was thankful for.  And, of course, football.


And then Christmas memories of my mother reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to me while the fire crackled in the fireplace and while I drank eggnog.  Then Midnight Mass with my father and trying so hard to fall asleep so that Santa Claus would come.

Then waking up to see that Santa Claus HAD come and there were presents under the tree.  I remember being so tired after the days of anticipation.  However, I was too young to remember this Christmas.

randy and me xmas asleep

As I got older, Christmas was still magical.  Pretending I was an angel dancing around the Christmas tree.  Having tinsel stick to the dogs as they walked by the tree wagging their tails.

163720_175407242493012_7290683_nAnd reaching the age where the edges between childhood and adolescence started to blur.

As an adult, I was so thankful for the birth of my first child, who was born about an hour before Thanksgiving in 1979.  This incredible happiness coming with prayerful thanks and the gift of new life.

This birth was followed by news that a second child was on the way.  And due on Christmas Day.  I had a Thanksgiving baby, and now a Christmas baby.

The season between Thanksgiving and Christmas brought a flurry of emotions.  I was anticipating two babies in diapers, worrying about a blizzard and having the baby in a snow plow.  Wondering how to handle Christmas Day for daughter #1 if I was in the hospital then.  Having daughter #1 put some Christmas presents in the bassinet for baby #2 so she’d start getting the idea that a sibling would be one of her Christmas presents.

I can remember every moment of that joyful birth.  The c-section on December 23, 1981.  The birth of my second daughter.  The disappointment that Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie, NY had a rule that newborns by cesarean section automatically went into the neonatal ICU nursery for a few hours.  I didn’t understand that because while a c-section is a difficult birth for the mother, it seemed a much less traumatic birth for the baby.  I was disappointed, but also exhausted, and knew that I’d be holding my baby in a few hours. We only took a couple of Polaroids, saving the film for when she would be out of the neonatal ICU nursery and upstairs with us.

But she never came out.

While resting in my room that was festooned with holiday decorations, we made all the phone calls.  We told our excited relatives that Megan Barbara was born healthy with 10 fingers and 10 toes.  A true Christmas gift.

Then my pediatrician walked into my room looking grave.  I was confused, as I knew he was on vacation and his partner had assisted in the delivery.  He told me that there was something wrong with her heart and she was no longer getting the oxygen she needed.  That this started an hour or so after her birth and they were frantically working on her.  He asked me if I wanted a priest to baptize her.

Time stopped.

The priest came and performed the rite of baptism in the ICU, without us being allowed to be present.  Afterwards, he came to my room and prayed for all of us.  I was dazed and praying that against all odds, that the doctors could do something and would tell us that the danger had passed.

They couldn’t.  They didn’t.  They told us that Yale New Haven Hospital specialized in cardiac care of infants and a team of doctors and nurses were rushing by ambulance from Connecticut to New York to prepare her in the ambulance for the open-heart surgery she would have the second they arrived back at Yale New Haven.

I was not allowed to go.

They would not allow me to accompany me daughter due to my cesarean section surgery.

They brought the incubator to my room so I could say good-bye before she traveled to the other hospital.  The incubator was too large to fit in the small aisle next to my bed.  I was unable, even with assistance, to get to the end of my bed due to my surgery.

I never got to hold my daughter.

On Christmas Eve, 1981, Megan died of cardiac arrest.  My beautiful daughter was now a beautiful angel.

megan gravestone

For the last 34 years, the season between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day has been tumultuous. I hope that my three children who are living and loved so dearly have wonderful memories of Thanksgiving Days and Christmas Days filled with glee and love. I hope that I have been able to bury my grief somewhat each year so that they remember their sister yet experience the glory and fun of a holiday season worthy of happy memories.

No more dancing around the Christmas tree pretending I’m an angel.  Now I feel the presence of my little angel dancing around our Christmas tree.  My gift of a daughter.  My gift of an angel.



About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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25 Responses to Holidays, Emotions, Birth and Death

  1. I am so sorry for your loss. I am glad you feel the presence of Your Angel , no doubt all year, but dancing at Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. George says:

    Beautifully written about such a heartbreaking time in your life during what is supposed to be a joyous time of year. I can’t imagine. Prayers for you and your precious angel.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Paul says:

    This broke my heart, Barb. I have no doubt she’s been there with you every day, especially at holiday gatherings.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. peckapalooza says:

    I wish I had words. This breaks my heart. God bless you this holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A beautiful post Barb. Thank you for sharing this. I can only imagine what going through something like this must be like.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Joseph Nebus says:

    I’m sorry. I can’t imagine my enduring that.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is very heartbreaking, but she’s always with you, your little Angel.
    Prayers and lots of love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you. My heart was broken. But my wonderful gift of a daughter/angel I would not have given up either. And she would have lived in pain all of her life. I would not wish that on anyone, especially one I loved so much. Yet I have few good memories. That is the hardest part for me. Thank you for reading this post and for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for sharing this. Hope you are feeling better. I can understand how difficult it must have been. But she’s always with you, held by eachother’s strong love. Many hugs and love Barb. All our best wishes with you.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Speechless. My heart is with you.
    I invite you to read my latest post “Making sense out of a senseless universe” at

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you for visiting my blog and for your kind comment. I accept your invitation and will visit your site. 🙂


    • Barb Knowles says:

      Your site is wonderful and I’m so sorry for the sudden loss of this young man. After Megan died, we had another daughter. I named her Keren, after one of Job’s daughters (post-lost-everything-Job). I felt that if Job could survive all that happened to him and still have faith, so could I. Although it was a struggle. And Keren was born after I had to deal with the unthinkable. We expect our children to bury us, not for us to bury them. I am going to follow your blog now and hope you will do the same. And if you are already following me, I sincerely thank you. I realized I’m also responding to your comment from my blog here, so I’m going to try to also post this on my blog. Thank you again and I hope the new year is a good one for you.


      • I have been a fan of your blog for a long time now. Your posts are usually witty and cleaver, with happier subject matter of course. Thanks for the like and follow. Whenever my wife gets out the Aunt Jemima pancake mix I think of Job 42:14, mentioning his daughter Jemima which means “dove.” We seem to move on through sorrow, but the heartache is always there. It’s what makes us human, and in need of a God who is acquainted with grief.
        Have a happy new year, and write on!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        And let’s continue these conversations! I’m grateful for the support and look forward to reading more of your posts.😃


  9. Maureen Durkin says:

    Most touching..There can be no greater sorrow. You are an inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you but I don’t feel at all like an inspiration. I’ve spent decades trying to deal with her death. Even though I get solace from knowing she’s in heaven. It helps me to write about it. Thank you for reading my blog ❤


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