In April 2001, I found out I was pregnant, and we couldn’t have been happier! We already had a 5 year old daughter, and we’d been trying to conceive for a while. My pregnancy was going along quite well. We built and moved into our brand new house in July of 2001, and things were going as expected.
We found out in August that we were having a girl, and we were so excited! We decided to name her Ashley Brooke Kalgren. I didn’t feel Ashley moving too much because of some abdominal surgery I’d had years prior, but I didn’t worry about it. I felt good! Since I wasn’t feeling her much we decided to rent a Doppler so we could listen to the sweet sound of her heartbeat anytime we wanted. I was 26 weeks pregnant.
Soon afterward, the country fell down around us on September 11, 2001 when the terrorist attacks happened. That happened to be the same evening our Doppler arrived. I worked at our daughter’s small christian school, and I didn’t watch the awful happenings all day. However, my husband watched all of it. He came home quite upset and drained. I was about to head to a prayer meeting at our church when the Doppler came. My husband asked me to wait so we could hear her sweet heartbeat. He said he needed something good on such a horrible day. We put the Doppler on, but we didn’t hear anything. What do we know?? We’re not doctors so I told him we didn’t know what we were doing, and I headed off to my meeting. My husband still said he thought something was wrong. I hadn’t felt her move, but that was pretty typical. I wasn’t too worried. We tried the Doppler that evening and nothing… the next morning and nothing. I still thought it was because we didn’t know what we were doing. My husband asked me to call the doctor, and I told him I would. I took our daughter to school and started work. He called me and asked again if I’d called the doctor. I hadn’t, but told him I would.
Finally, I called the doctor, and they told me to come in. I got to the doctor’s office with my Doppler in hand, figuring they could show me how it worked. I hopped up on the table, and the doctor came in. She searched with her Doppler and… kept searching. Then she said, “It’s not likely at this far along that I wouldn’t find it.” She said she wanted to schedule an ultrasound right away and that I could use the phone in the room to call my husband. She didn’t make it sound like Ashley was gone. I called my husband, but he was about an hour away. We decided to meet at my work and go back to the hospital together. Little did I know that he was very distraught and crying as he talked to his mother on the phone all the way to get me. He knew… but I still thought everything was going to be okay.
My husband met me, and we went to the hospital. We were finally called in and the nurse was so awful. As we walked in to the room she said, “You know I can’t tell you anything even if it’s viable.” Viable… really?? I was so upset. We got in there, but she wouldn’t let me see the screen. I looked at my husband to see if I could read anything on his face, but it was just blank. The nurse told us to go back to the doctor’s office. On the short walk back to the doctor’s office I stopped, looked at my husband, and said, “What did you see?” He said, “Nothing.” I said, “What do you mean?? She is gone??” My husband put his hands on my shoulders and said, “No she is still there, but she wasn’t moving at all.” I remember just falling into his arms as he held me. We went into the doctor’s waiting room, and we were crying. The nurse came and took us to a room in the back. It didn’t seem like too long before the door opened again, and there stood Dr. Browne crying. She came into the room, looked at us, and said, “I am so sorry.” She sat and talked to us for a while, not ever looking at her watch or anything. She explained that she wouldn’t know what happened until after Ashley was born. This was Wednesday, September 12, 2001. She scheduled me to come to the hospital on Friday to deliver Ashley. My husband was so upset he had to leave the room for a bit. It was like being struck by lightning on a clear, sunny day. There is nothing like it… a nightmare.
Thursday, my parents met with the funeral home… the director was a friend of mine from high school. He said he would come whenever we wanted to. We picked out an urn as we decided to have her cremated. We talked to family and cried a lot. People asked what they could do. I continually said, “Please just pray we can get through this.” Little did I know that God was listening to every one of those prayers.
Friday morning came all too soon. I got up at 5:30 to shower and get dressed in my favorite maternity t-shirt… it has pretty flowers and butterflies on it. At about 6:50, just before we were leaving, the phone rang. It was a friend (more of an acquaintance at the time), Sheryl. She said, “Dawn, I wanted to call and tell you that I’ve been in this place. I just wanted to call and tell you to hold your baby.” She said she would be praying, and we hung up. My husband and I got in the car and were on our way to the hospital. We didn’t talk much. He almost missed the exit, and I said, “Are you going to get off here?” He said, “I don’t want to get off here.” He was pretty upset. We got to the hospital, got to the maternity wing, and the nurse said, “How can I help you?” My husband said, “We’re here to have our baby.” She looked me up and down and said, “You don’t look far enough along to be having your baby.” My husband had to explain, and the nurse felt bad. She brought us to a room. At about 7:30am, the doctor came in to start labor (a slow process), and I asked her to do another ultrasound to be sure. She did without another word. Nothing had changed.
We had our family and church family come in and out all day. It was September 14th, and President George W. Bush had ordered the day to be a day of prayer for the victims of September 11th. The process of softening the cervix, etc. was long. I really wanted something to dress her in, but we didn’t have anything. My mom set out to find something… She came back with a doll dress and said that if it would fit a 12″ doll it would probably fit Ashley. Another friend, Patty, went out and bought a set of cross earrings. We used one as a pin on her outfit.
At around 5:00pm, the contractions started getting worse… intense. At 8:35pm, I gave birth to our precious Ashley Brooke, born right to Heaven and into the arms of Jesus. She was 15.5oz and was 11.25″ long. She died from a rare cord accident. She was perfect, and I was given God’s grace to take it all in. I held her for about 4 hours… She was just so perfect! My mom and friends came in, and our pastor came to pray for us and over her. It was such a special time. Then, at about 1:00am, my high school friend came to get her. I asked him to keep her warm and to keep the lights on for her. He handled her with such care. Even the nurses were so amazed at how he took such special care of her.
God answered everyone’s prayers that day. I saw my beautiful daughter through His eyes… I unwrapped her and wrapped her back up. I looked at all of her – her long fingers with fingernails… her gums even had the teeth buds. It was the worst day filled with so much joy. I know that sounds weird, but I was so blessed to get to know my little girl and have some time with her…. Was it ideal? No. It was what I got, and I cherished every moment. I got to hold an angel… How blessed am I? I thank God for the chance to be with her. I know I will see her one day when God calls me home, and that brings me joy.
It has been many years, but not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. I started Ashley’s Angels in her memory.