This is a guest post from our friend Kristine Brite (@kristinebrite). Kristine was one of our first supporters on Twitter and we actively followed her pregnancy and birth of her baby girl Cora. Thank you Kristine, for sharing Cora’s story with our readers. You inspire so many with your strength and determination.
My first thought when I saw my positive at-home pregnancy test: “How are we going to pay for this?”
For years, I’d heard the mantra chanted over and over, “babies are expensive.”
I worried about buying all the baby paraphernalia, stretching our budget for diapers, wipes and all the other baby stuff. This positive pregnancy test shocked me. Needless to say, this was an unplanned pregnancy. My now husband, then fiancé, just asked me to marry him three months before the positive test. Nine months before he popped the question, we fled our duplex just before eviction to move back to my hometown and in with my mother. Without the help of family, we would have been on the streets.
Preparing for a newborn while living on the edge
The nine months between near eviction and engagement, our financial situation improved little by little. My husband, Ben, and I planned on moving to our own apartment within a month or two. We couldn’t provide for a baby I despaired.
Within weeks of finding out I was pregnant, I was laid off from my position with Google working as a temporary quality rater. I spent my pregnancy tapping every resource I could. Pride flew out the window. I explained to my family and friends that this is what government resources were made for, people like us struggling but fighting none the less. We signed up for WIC, food stamps and Medicaid. I found a local charity that provided us with a new and beautiful crib. Our families again saved the day giving generous baby shower gifts knowing our financial situation.
We depended on the loans and grants my husband received to go to school. The chances of me, a pregnant lady with a journalism degree, finding employment in the midst of a recession weren’t good.
I worried about having enough diapers. The prices shocked me. I turned into crazy couponing hoarder lady. I hunted online sites for the best deals around town and clipped every coupon I could find. I argued with store cashiers and managers who thought the deals I found were too good to be true and didn’t want to honor them. Ben’s school loan checks only come twice a year, so I braced for the bad times by purchasing diapers in all sorts of sizes. Soon we had hundreds and hundreds of diapers.
My water broke while I flipped through my coupon binder looking for good deals because I worried we didn’t have enough diapers or baby supplies to last us through the tight months to follow.
A story of life and death
My daughter, Cora Mae, cried for two hours straight when she was born November 30, 2009. I felt happiness I didn’t know was possible. I remember feeling like I joined the secret parent club that day. No one could prepare me for the love and pride I felt. I awakened that night and became a new person. Instantly, patience, compassion, and pure joy reverberated through me.
Despite the economic stress, my pregnancy was healthy. Labor and delivery went smoothly. The nurses and doctors reassured me Cora was in perfect health. I bragged about the nines she received on her Apgar tests after birth.
We brought Cora home on schedule after two days. I woke up every few hours in the night to feed her. Five days after she was born, we had a feeding unlike the others. One minute she suckled sweetly from my breast, the next moment her face was covered in blood and she wasn’t breathing. Cora died in my arms while breastfeeding.
We later found out she had an unknown congenital heart disease, or CHD. Ben and I looked up congenital in the dictionary. We’d never heard of CHD. I didn’t understand how somebody so perfect looking could have such a serious heart problem nor how it went undetected. I reached out through Twitter and learned congenital heart defects are way to common, affecting about 1 in 100 babies. I soon learned of the need for advocacy and fundraising and started the journey into fighting for Cora by spreading her story.
After Cora’s death, I knew I had to share the changes she made in me. Her love and beauty would only multiply, I vowed.
My daughter lives through my actions
Just thinking about Cora’s nursery constricts my chest and makes me hold my breath. The nursery represents hours of hard work fighting to provide for my daughter. For the first days, we went in the nursery often. Now we both tend to avoid it. A day or two after Cora died, I opened up her closet and looked at the stacks of diapers. I instantly knew where they belonged. I thought of a woman I was following on Twitter who championed for mothers who were even more desperate than I had been. I contacted Lisa from Help a Mother Out to ask how I could help. She quickly shot back a message with the name of a homeless shelter about 30 miles from me in Fort Wayne, Indiana with diapers on their Web site’s wish list.
For Cora’s one month birthday, Ben and I decided to load up our minivan and drop off 12 packs of various size diapers from our stockpile. I counted before we left, the 12 packs held 583 diapers. We also dug into our baby wipes supply and donated a couple of tubs.
Before we headed up to the homeless shelter I called. The woman on the phone told me, yes, they needed diapers. In fact, a 7-week-old infant called the shelter home right then. I learned this shelter catered to women and children and let them live there for several months while providing classes and assistance for them to become self-sufficient.
I knew nothing about this mom or baby. The image of tiny infant feet, curled and wrinkled, popped into my head. I might not be able to see this mom and baby, but they weren’t invisible to me. I thought of how we struggled and multiplied the struggle by a hundred.
Driving home from the shelter, my younger sister called Ben. He described our experience and told her “When you think you’ve got it rough, think of a mom with a 7-week-old baby in a homeless shelter.”
Kristine started as a newspaper reporter back when newspapers were still relevant. She is currently transitioning to lobbyist, fundraiser, and awareness raiser after the sudden death of her newborn daughter, Cora. She fights in her daughter’s name for mandatory congenital heart disease screening for all newborns and spends any free time spreading Cora’s story. She graduated from Indiana University. She blogs about her daughter at instructionsarenotincluded.blogspot.com. For more information about Cora or congenital heart disease become a Facebook fan of Cora’s Story.
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