On September 7, 2022, Caroline McClain learned during a routine 20-week ultrasound that the baby, whose arrival she and husband Jason were happily anticipating in the coming year, had no heartbeat.
“It was a complete and total shock after a healthy pregnancy thus far,” McClain, former executive director of the Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center, later wrote in a Facebook post.
With no other choice but to immediately deliver the child they’d named Patrick Christopher, McClain arranged for three-year-old son Connor’s care and a few hours after the devastating news, checked into the Women and Children’s Center at Ascension St. Vincent’s Birmingham.
Just before midnight on September 8, Patrick was born, and the heart-wrenching process of honoring his life while simultaneously grieving his loss began.
“We were able to hold him, spend time with him, and have him blessed and baptized,” she says.
In all, the McClains spent five days at the hospital, a welcome respite during which they quietly mourned and prepared to deal with the onslaught of reality that would hit when they returned home. And for the entire stay, they felt wrapped in a loving atmosphere of comfort and support.
“The medical team at Ascension St. Vincent’s was incredible. The hospital staff shared personal stories of loss that touched our hearts and brought us comfort in a way that only a surviving parent can understand,” McClain says. “With so many things happening so quickly, we were never scared. Clearly, God was there the entire time.”
If not for the strong faith connection at Ascension St. Vincent’s, McClain believes, her family’s plight would not have prompted the abundance of care and comfort they received.
An especially touching moment occurred when the woman who delivered food to the McClains each day shared her own story of losing a daughter several years before. Later, as they prepared for discharge, the McClains offered the woman a floral arrangement that someone had sent as a gesture of sympathy and support for the bereaved family.
“Coincidentally, it was her daughter’s birthday,” says McClain, “and she told us she would be putting the flowers on her daughter’s grave.”
On a crisp and sunny Sunday the weekend before Thanksgiving, the McClain family – Jason, Caroline, and Connor – traveled to northeast Alabama to scatter Patrick’s ashes in the peaceful surroundings of Pisgah Gorge Falls near Scottsboro.
“It was just the three of us, a very private and personal ceremony,” McClain says. “It was the perfect way to turn him back to God.
“We truly believe that Patrick Christopher’s life and death has a purpose,” she says. “God had a different plan than we expected, and we will one day see what He reveals.”
In gratitude for the caring support their daughter and son-in-law received at the Ascension St. Vincent’s Birmingham Women and Children’s Center, McClain’s parents, Carolyn and Bill Satterfield, donated to Ascension St. Vincent’s Foundation. On a comment form accompanying their donation, the Satterfields noted that the medical team, led by Dr. Shannon Ellis, “was wonderful in helping our daughter through the ordeal when she lost her baby at 20 weeks.”
“They were looking for a way to show their appreciation,” says McClain, “and a donation seemed like the best way to do that.”
Supporting the mission of the Ascension St. Vincent’s Birmingham Women and Children’s Center promotes excellence in care for women and pediatric patients. Won’t you help?