Welcome to the Team Avery Website!

In the spring of 2008 my then 19-month old daughter Avery lost most of her sight to congenital cataracts.
The Delta Gamma Center for Visual Impairments in St. Louis was there for our family in our greatest time of need; teaching us how to alter our lives to incorporate a visually impaired child. To help them continue helping other families like us, we have formed Team Avery/ Team Margaret. ***To read about Avery's story, go to the Archives and visit Blog "Avery's Story" from January 24th, 2010.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Grief Won't Stop Me...

I'm going to start this entry with an enormous thank-you to each and every person who has emailed, called, stopped by, babysat, or otherwise embraced my family in the last 9 weeks. I am absolutely amazed at the outpouring of love that has come into our home. Please know that I have been struggling, but I've read your emails and they have touched my heart. At some point I intend to write back! For now, I am healing very slowly...one step forward, ten steps back.

As most people know, I was 20 weeks pregnant on Dec. 13th when I went in for a routine ultrasound. When the ultrasound tech and OB panicked at our baby's images, we were sent to Macon's perinatologist for further investigation. It wasn't even until I begged that I found out my dream came true, and I was having another girl. That dream quickly turned into a nightmare with our second ultrasound at the high-risk OB. Our daughter, Beatrice Heather, was extremely sick. She had no diaphragm, she had no lungs. All her lower body organs, such as her stomach and bowels, had migrated up where her lungs SHOULD have been...crushing her heart. At 20 weeks gestation Beatrice was in liver failure and congestive heart failure.

Since both my husband and I are in medicine, hearing those terms was terrifying. But there was one more term, and it was the one that broke our hearts: Fatal Defect. Essentially, Beatrice was dying inside me. Her odds of making it to term were 25%...when we asked if we could birth her and take her home to die, the perinatologist shook his head. "She will die when the cord is cut; we are talking seconds." It was as if time stopped. Like life stopped. I remember walking out of the office and the secretary casually said to her peer, "they won't need another appointment." That's right, because our baby was going to die.

The physician told us that we were welcome to try to take the pregnancy to 40 weeks, but that Beatrice was - had been - making me ill in the process. If she made it to full term, she would ruin my kidney, tax my heart, and cause many other nonspecific problems during the pregnancy. With heavy hearts and the recommendations from several surgeon friends, we opted to end the pregnancy. I'm not sure there are many worse things than knowing the baby kicking inside you is no longer yours. In one day, our precious Beatrice had become God's future child...and shattered our hopes and dreams of having a second daughter.

I checked into the hospital the night of the 13th. Over forty-eight excruciating hours of heartache and labor later, I delivered. That sweet little baby fought hard, but died during the final hours of my labor. Her weak little body just couldn't take it. My second daughter, Beatrice Heather Geary, was born still on December 15th at 7:09pm. I delivered an angel.

Life became a blur for me December 13th, and I have been spinning around ever since. It's hard to say what the worst part of those first few weeks were. Hearing that a baby we tried six months for had a death sentence? Delivering Beatrice and having the nurse tell me she had no heartbeat? Handing her stiff body over to the nurse who was in charge of taking her to the hospital morgue? Or going to the funeral home: picking my daughter up out of a coffin the size of a shoebox, cuddling her cold body, knowing that in hours she would be reduced to ash. All I know for sure is that there IS a Hell...I've been there. In fact, I visit it daily. If I could stop the world and stay in bed for weeks to recover, I would. Unfortunately I have two children to raise, a house to maintain - and life stops for no one.

So why on earth would I be telling this story on a blog devoted to my first daughter's struggle with vision? If you read my last blog entry, you will know why. When Avery Claire had two final surgeries and regained most of her vision, I said this:

While I will never be glad that Avery had to go through this disease, I will forever be thankful for the lessons it taught me. Like to strive to find a blessing in each day. Even the bad ones. As cliché as it sounds, the things you take for granted today may be ripped away from you tomorrow.

I learned that there are always people who have it worse…but that does not mean your tragedy isn’t horrible. I think it is okay to have moments where you are angry, sad, and think life is unfair. But I don’t want to live my whole life like that. There exists a choice: to become a victim or to use your grief to change the world around you. I want to look back and think that our struggle made a difference.

And finally, I saw firsthand how the support of family and friends can get you through your darkest days. Thank you for your love…and most of all, for the way it made me strong for my little girl.

It’s very easy to talk breezily about “the things I’ve learned from Avery’s blindness.” Of course it is. I had the fairy-tale ending. My daughter’s complicated case made her final result practically a miracle. Most of the children we know do not have stories with happy endings. For that reason, our family will continue to raise funds and awareness for kids that have visual impairments. I will still hit you up to participate in various events; to support a cause I will always have a personal connection to. Team Avery will live on as a tribute to my little girl, and more importantly, our small way of touching the futures of children not as lucky as she was.

This time I did not have the fairy-tale ending. My baby died. I have been through a mother's worst nightmare, and I currently reside in Hell. But as sad, angry, and heartbroken I am, I will stay true to myself...I will not be a victim. On March 20th, I will be running the Atlanta Publix Marathon in honor of my Beatrice Heather...and ALL the Angel Mamas who have given me the strength to get through life - hour by hour. That being said, I am still a stanch advocate for visually impaired kids, and I will use Avery Claire's story to help similar struggling families. By coincidence, my baby Beatrice was due to be born over the weekend of the Run for Sight. Originally I was not able to go - but now I cannot think of a better way to use BOTH my tragedies to help others. I think little Bee would be pretty proud that her Mama put her problems aside to help others.

If you would like to support me in my 26.2 for Beatrice, I ask that you donate to our team at the Delta Gamma Center for Visually Impaired Kids in St. Louis, MO. But if you are in the area and want to join our team to run/walk in the Run for Sight 5K on May 1st, sign up! (Bonus: you get to see the Gearys! Whoop Whoop!)

TEAM AVERY is under a new name this year: Team Avery / Team Margaret. Margaret is a four-year old friend of Avery's whose mom I met during last year's Run for Sight. Her story is sad but inspiring. Much like Avery Claire's and Beatrice's. So...

Will you help us make a difference?



Jamie said...

i love you erin! both avery claire and beatrice will be so proud of you for what you are doing.


q said...

Lots of tears and big hugs from one angel momma to another.

Jenny said...

Wow. I am crying. I love y'all so much and I think this is a perfect outlet/way to begin to heal. I love you.

Shan Herren said...

Erin, you write your "story" so beautifully. So proud of you for challenging yourself with this run! xoxo

Anonymous said...

Oh, how heartbreaking. I am so sorry to hear about Beatrice. You will be in my thoughts as you and your husband recover from this nightmarish experience, and I will root you on from afar as you carry on your good work with Team Avery / Team Margaret. What a lovely way to honor both of your daughters and a friend, as well as to help yourself heal.

claire.straight said...

I'm so proud of my daughter and my granddaughter Avery Claire for their bravery. They have both suffered so much yet continue to try to carry on and leave a positive mark on the world. I am so blessed to have you both to love.

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