“He’s going to be born with complications, if he’s even going to make it, which is unlikely. Down syndrome, trisomy 13, these are the realities you’re going to have to face. There is just too much fluid in your placenta, Mrs. Pecher, and at 23 weeks the likelihood of him surviving are slim. We could do an emergency C-Section but the likelihood of you dying as well is high. Abortion is the best and almost the only option.”
23 weeks into her pregnancy my mother’s world came crashing down. This isn’t supposed to happen; this isn’t normal. “I’m delivering this baby,” my mother proclaimed. Just like that our world changed. May 17th, 1999 Joseph Christopher Pecher II was born, weighing in at 1lb 3oz, quickly dropping to 15oz within the first 24 hrs. After my brother was born, my mother asked the doctors if she could call my father. He wasn’t there at the time of the birth because he had two little children at home. She wanted to tell him to come to the hospital to say goodbye to his one day old son. No words can describe the amount of fear my father must have been experiencing. When he came to the hospital, he said his goodbyes and put his wedding band around my brother’s thigh. He was that small. Thankfully, my dad didn’t have to say goodbye to Joey forever that day. Joey was born without major complications, aside from a few setbacks and being really underweight and tiny. He was a completely normal little boy, but he was constantly hooked up to machines. Every breath he took was a fight. His lungs struggling just to fill with air. The machines he was hooked up to stayed on him for a very, very long time. Even when we brought him home, he was still hooked to an oxygen machine, but we were finally a family again.
I don’t remember much of Joey’s birth. I don’t remember the struggles my family went through during the first years after he was born. I was still so young. I do, however, remember many friends and family cooking meals and providing us gas money to help with the hour long trek to the hospital. After many years, we went back to being a normal family, but nothing could prepare us for the hell we were about to experience for the second time. At 11 years old, the birth of my sister would forever be engraved into my brain. The first 48 hours after her birth will haunt me for my entire life.
My mom asked me if I would like to join her at her ultrasound appointment. I excitedly and glady accepted. I didn’t know that that day would be one of the scariest days in my entire life. My mother was 27 weeks pregnant with my little sister, Elly. I couldn’t have been more elated to have a little buddy. My other two siblings and I were all born within 2 years of each other. Having a sister that was 11 years younger than me would be fun. I couldn’t wait to meet her. Then the doctor spoke, “Mrs. Pecher, I don’t know how to say this but your daughter isn’t getting oxygen to her brain, we have to perform an emergency C-Section within the next 48 hours or she won’t make it.” This cannot be happening. Not again. What if she—no. Don’t think like that. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My little sister was fighting for her life; she was struggling to breathe. Please let her be okay.
The next few events were a blur, I remember my mother calling my dad in a panic. The next thing I knew my grandparents picked us up and took us to my best friend’s house. My father came back that night to take us home, only exchanging a handful of words. I can’t even imagine what he went through that night, not knowing if his daughter would survive, not knowing how his wife was doing. I can only imagine the amount of prayer it took just so that his thoughts wouldn’t eat him alive.
I remember waking up the next morning, early, around 6am. I went downstairs and made myself breakfast. As I poured myself a bowl of cereal, I remember thinking wondering if the events of the past 24 hours really happened. It couldn’t have, probably just a bad dream. I was in shock, surely this couldn’t happen to a family twice. I was wrong, it had. My dad came down the stairs, looking exhausted. He solemnly uttered, “She was born at4am, Mom is okay, but they had to take the baby into surgery, she has a hole in her intestines.” August 4th, 2006, Elly Therese Pecher was born weighing 1lb 9oz. My heart sank. My dad didn’t have to tell me, but I knew, I knew surgery on babies at 27 weeks was incredibly risky. Within the hour we were headed to the hospital, it was about an hour away. I remember praying the rosary over and over. We can’t bury her, we aren’t strong enough. We arrived at the hospital to find my little sister hooked up to tubes and machines, fighting for her life with every breath she took.
Now we can fast forward to the present, in a world where my brother and sister live normal, healthy lives. My mother was scheduled for four hysterectomies before my little sister was born. FOUR. Every time something would come up. My mother would have to cancel her appointment. You don’t have to be a religious person to see that this was a sign. My little sister has a purpose in this world that her birth meant something.