“Woman with Dead Child” by Kathe Kollwitz
A Prayer for Sophie
by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan
Five years ago, on October 2, 2006, our family experienced one of life’s great joys, the birth of our second child, Sophie Nicole Leonard. We had spent the months leading up to her birth excitingly waiting for her to join our family. I can still remember painting her room or getting all of the baby stuff ready; the vivid image of our oldest daughter shouting to her unborn sister “the eggs are coming down and they taste really good,” as my partner ate her breakfast, remains encased in my mind.
Our joy and excitement would quickly turn into devastating agony, with our daughter ultimately succumbing to an infection, dying in the early morning of October 3rd. In an instant, we had lost our child, a tragedy that was beyond our imagination, even though its occurrence is too common throughout the world. Every detail of that day sits with me: getting dropped off at the hospital; how sick my wife looked when I entered the room; the sights and sounds when Sophie entered the world. More vivid and painful are the memories of where I was sitting when she went into cardiac arrest, the clothes I was wearing, the hospital smell, and the sounds of “code blue.” To this day, I still cannot see a helicopter without thinking about the 60+ mile trip I took in the dark, so close to my dying daughter yet unable to help or hold her. I cannot shake these memories nor can I shake those moments alone in a sterile and quiet hospital at 3AM where I obsessively watched the various monitors as evidence of her continued life. Just closing my eyes now, I can still see myself in the waiting room – waiting for things to turn around, waiting for my wife to arrive, waiting for the pain to stop; waiting . . . waiting, only to see her die in front of us, holding her one time before we drove those 60 long miles home.
While it has been five years, these memories remain strong. They remain with me. So does the number of people who told me, “It’s not suppose to happen.” While understanding people’s efforts to ease our pain by noting disbelief and shock since it wasn’t suppose to happen to “us,” the idea that we (and not others) were suppose to be immune to the tragedy of losing our daughter is one that sticks with me. It isn’t suppose to happen to anyone, but it happens all too often within the United States and globally.
For every 1,000 live births, 4.5 babies die in the United States. While relatively uncommon in the United States, the U.S. accounts for the second largest amount of neonatal deaths (that includes child deaths within the first 27 days of life) in the industrialized world. Compared to other countries around the world, the United States ranks with Croatia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, and lags behind Cuba, Slovakia, all of Western Europe and Scandinavia. The situation is even worse when as we look at racial inequality, especially as we look at the first year of life. African American children are 2.5 times more likely to die before their first birthday than white children.
Continue reading NewBlackMan: A Prayer for Sophie.