COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A three-year-old’s birthday is typically a joyous affair – full of friends, sweet treats, and presents – but the Siegel family celebrated their little girl’s third birthday a little differently.
They invited FOX21’s Lauren Ferrara into their home during National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and shared their story.
Casey Siegel arrived nearly two months early on September 30, 2013.
At just 5 pounds 13 ounces, doctors considered her perfectly healthy.
“She and I just locked eyes and I just went, ‘Well, hello little missy. This is your mommy,'” said Shonda Siegel.
The Siegels spent the next few days in the hospital, recovering and bonding.
On the day they were set to go home, the nurse performed the car seat safety check and the lactation consultant visited one last time.
It was the lactation consultant who realized something was wrong.
A trip to the NICU revealed serious problems with Casey’s intestines.
In fact, of the organ’s 207 centimeters, only three were considered viable.
“They basically formed a loop and strangulated themselves through her growth and development,” said Shonda.
Then, she heard the words every new mother fears: “There’s nothing we can do.”
The news left Lawrence Siegel, an Army captain, speechless and helpless.
“(Accustomed to) being able to solve any problem, taking care of 900 people, and yet I was struggling to come to the terms with the fact I couldn’t take care of my own daughter,” said Lawrence Siegel.
Family members boarded planes and rushed to their side.
Shonda and Lawrence took the next few hours to treasure every last moment.
They gave Casey her first bath and her first haircut.
A remembrance photographer from “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep“ took what would become their only family photos.
“I was sad and I thought ‘I don’t want to be sad in every picture I have of her,’ so I was trying to smile but this was the most I could muster,” said Shonda pointing to the faintest smile.
When time grew scarce, the Siegels asked everyone to leave.
They held their precious girl and waited.
“I looked down and she kind of shuddered, and then went silent,” said Shonda. “I waited for that next breath and it never came.”
Casey was pronounced dead at 9:40 p.m. on October 4. She was just four-days-old.
“I thought why couldn’t it have been me? What did my daughter do to warrant her life being taken? There are bad people all over this world. Why couldn’t it have been one of them?”
Now, what might have been haunts Shonda and Lawrence.
“I’ll see a little girl who would be Casey’s age and I wonder what she’d be like,” said Lawrence.
As the couple grieves, their social circle shrinks.
“They don’t know how to handle me,” said Shonda of some old friends. “They don’t know how to handle my grief.”
Shonda herself has retreated from some well-meaning friends, who say “You’ll have another” or “There’s a reason this had to happen.”
Sadness turns to rage as Shonda describes one particularly cruel incident.
“I was having one of my bad days and I got on Facebook and let it out. Why did God take my child?”
That’s when the 18-year-old son of a friend posted God killed her daughter because she worshiped her and not Him.
“If you don’t know what to say, just sit with us,” said Shonda.
Here’s what she says holds the most power.
“Say our child’s name. That is one of the best things you can do. Oh honey, you’re not reminding me. I wake up every day knowing my daughter is not here. I go to bed every night knowing I can’t tuck her in. You’re not reminding me that she’s gone, but what you are doing is you are telling me by saying her name that you remember she lived.”
While the Siegels will never get over the loss of Casey, they are hopeful they’ll have what they call their rainbow baby.
To help ease the financial burden of IFV treatments, you can donate here.
Photos courtesy: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep