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Alana's Birth Was Beautiful - Except That She Didn't Take Her First Breath

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
March 4, 2024 3:02 am

Alana's Birth Was Beautiful - Except That She Didn't Take Her First Breath

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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March 4, 2024 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Samantha Durante Banerjee knew that her stillbirth would be a nightmare, but she didn't expect feeling joy, too...the joy of holding her little Alana.

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Find a featured all-inclusive package to Iberostar Hotels and Resorts and do your deal at cheap Caribbean dot com. This is Our American Stories. As you've come to expect, we tell stories about everything. The good, the bad, and the difficult in life. When we do the difficult, it's always about how we rise above difficult circumstances and how those difficult circumstances shape us and test us. And ultimately, well, in the end, it's who we are, how we get through those kinds of things. In today's story, we hear from Samantha Banerjee, who experienced a stillborn birth with her daughter, Alana Marie.

She has black hair, I remember someone calling out brightly. I'd expected this part to be a nightmare, knowing in advance that our baby wasn't going to make it. I'd expected terrifying, I'd expected somber, I'd expected heartbreak.

I'd at the very least expected hard work and physical exhaustion. But what I didn't expect was joy. I didn't expect to feel focused and strong and confident as I brought my baby into this world. I didn't expect unadulterated wonder and appreciation and awe at the tiny little miracle my body had produced. I certainly didn't expect that my baby girl would come out warm and soft and glowing, looking like a perfect sleeping little angel, that her face would so much resemble her father that it would take my breath away, that my heart would immediately burst with love for every inch of her flawless little body as devastatingly still as it was. It turned out Alana's birth wasn't a nightmare at all. It was beautiful. It felt right, everything I'd hoped for.

Everything except the fact that she hadn't taken her first breath and never would. So we told her we loved her, we gave her grandparents a chance to hold her, and then we said goodbye. We left the hospital the next evening for my parents' house. Walking out those doors with empty arms was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. And the empty car seat in the back seat was a grim reminder of everything we'd lost. Amazingly, it'd only been 24 hours since we'd arrived at the hospital the evening before.

It felt like a lifetime. We spent the next few days surrounded by family and friends, everyone grieving together. We finally delivered the surprise that we'd been safeguarding for months, that we'd chosen to give Alana the middle name Marie after my grandma, who we loved so much.

Of course, Grandma Marie was honored. We were amazed at how much we managed to smile and laugh in between the tears and heartache. Everyone pulled together. Deep and I, our parents, our brothers, all our cousins and aunts and uncles.

Everyone united in our shared misery. This family had been dealt a great blow, but we would get through it together. We broke the heart-rending news to our friends slowly over the next several days. We contacted the funeral home to make arrangements for Alana's memorial. We went home and spent the week preparing. On the night before the memorial, we decided last minute to visit the funeral home and spend a few hours with Alana as we finished up assembling the photo boards for the week. We couldn't believe we'd managed to fill three full poster boards with memories. We shared each of them with Alana, told her again how much we loved her and would miss her, stroked that soft, soft skin while we still had the chance.

Even a week later, her skin still glowed. It broke our hearts how beautiful she looked, even in death. The following morning, we held awake a full Catholic Mass and a burial. My brother Mikey delivered a touching eulogy, a testament to how much this little girl meant to all of us before she'd even had a chance to live. And we buried Alana, perfect, in her tiny white casket in the same plot as my other grandma in my favorite cemetery in my hometown, where, no kidding, I used to like to play as a kid, much to my own mother's dismay. We felt very good about everything.

It brought us a lot of closure and gave us an opportunity to honor the person she would have been, the person she was already to those closest to her. Some days, this entire pregnancy feels like a dream, a happy dream filled with hope that ended in an unthinkable nightmare. But then we woke up and went back to our lives as they were.

It's an eerie feeling, but the hard truth is that it was not a dream at all. Everyone keeps asking how we're doing, and we're not really sure how to answer that question. Okay, we say, or we're hanging in there. The truth is, the grief comes and goes. Sometimes it's absolutely, devastatingly crushing, like a mountain of sorrow sitting on my chest. And sometimes it's surprisingly, mercifully absent.

After all, it's hard not to smile when you're surrounded by the people you love, even if one of them is conspicuously absent. But the gaping hole in our lives where Alana should be is never far from mind. We can push it to the side for a time, but eventually it sucks us back in, laughing cruelly as we struggle just to stay afloat of our tears. We know that it will get easier, eventually. But we also know that it will never be right. We'll always be missing something, someone, and there's nothing that we can do to change that.

That's probably the hardest part. We want so badly to fix this, but there simply is no cure. It's taking a while for that to really sink in, for us to really come to terms with everything that's happened. And every time I come to the realization, again, that there's no way she's ever coming back, that I really am not going to wake up from this nightmare, that this is now my life, well, it just hurts all over again. But we just press on.

What else can we do? We're doing everything we can to remember Alana. We've saved all her mementos in a keepsake box in our bedroom. We got those photo boards from the wake laminated, and we'll share them someday with Alana's siblings, so they'll know the story of the big sister who came before them. We planted trees in her honor and are getting a portrait painted so we can see her smile. I wear a necklace every day with her birthstone, which her father had bought in advance of her birth for me as a gift, hoping that I would someday pass it on to Alana herself. We filled out her baby book, sent out birth announcements, basically did all the things we would have done anyway, because we want to celebrate her life. She brought so much love to us in the short time she was here.

We just want to share that love with whomever's heart is open to receiving it. I'm still in utter disbelief that this happened to us, that this happens to anyone in this day and age. I had, of course, worried through the whole pregnancy about the possibility of miscarriage or early delivery. Not being able to carry a healthy baby to term was the deepest, darkest fear of the past 28 years of my life. But once we hit full term at 37 weeks, I finally breathed a sigh of relief. No matter what goes wrong now, I told myself, they could take that baby out and she'll be fine. It still amazes me that with all the reading I did, all the education I have, somehow I managed to overlook the entire possibility of a stillbirth.

I never knew it could happen to me. The one thing that has brought me the greatest comfort is knowing that in her short life and after her death, I have done everything I could for my daughter. I had a wonderful, happy pregnancy. I nourished her and loved her from the moment I knew she existed.

And now that she is gone, I've done everything in my power to honor her memory and cherish the person she was. Of course, I question if there's anything I could have done differently, if I should have known sooner that something was wrong, if I made some kind of terrible mistake. I'm only human after all. But in the end, I know that these doubts stem from my desperate wish for control, from wanting something or someone to blame, even if it's myself. But I know in my heart that this was in God's hands.

Try as I might, I cannot control everything. To Alana, I just want to say I love you. We love you. Your presence is already greatly missed and will be for the rest of our days. We will never, ever forget you.

Look forward to the day when we can finally hold you again. We love you so, so much, sweet baby girl. Watch over us. Keep your future brothers and sisters safe. And know that you are always in our hearts. And thank you for that reading, Samantha. And Samantha asked that we share this note with all of you. I volunteer with the Star Legacy Foundation, the premier organization dedicated to stillborn research and prevention. It's so, so important to my husband and I to get the word out. Their website is Again, that's

I would be so very grateful if you'd check it out. And thank you again, Samantha Banerjee and the experience she had with stillborn birth. Her daughter, Alana Marie. The empty car seat in the back was a grim reminder of what we lost. That just struck me. And that will happen the rest of her life.

There will be those reminders. And we know that when people say closure. I just always laugh at that.

It's just the silliest thing. My mom died four years ago. I haven't come close to closure. And always the reminders are there. But there was this. She brought so much love to us while she was here.

And so there you have it. Samantha's story. Alana Marie's story. Here on Our American Stories.

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