The First Mother’s Day

Dear Mabel,

I survived.  I was dreading this first Mother’s Day because I feared I would be constantly reminded you weren’t here.  I worried people would be patronizing, saying “oh, yeah, you’re still a mother,” as if there were any doubt that I wasn’t.  I thought I’d spend the day under the covers, angry at the world.

You are so loved.  Your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends sent flowers to your grave.  We had left your graveside with a simple bouquet, not twenty-four hours beforehand, and we returned to see bucketsful of bouquets decorating your space.  They knew you’d be sad that you couldn’t be in my arms today.

I received many gifts, reminding me that people were thinking about how hard the day would be without you.  A hand carved wooden carrot.  A butterfly lamp.  A painting of you.  A tomato plant.  A purple lilac bush.  A sign for your garden.  None of these gifts simply said Happy Mother’s Day- they said Happy Mother’s day to Mabel’s mom.

But Mabel, the best gift was  It’s the story of all the things we would have done together.  You have travelled the world!  East coast, West coast, Midwest, Thailand, Greece, Tehran, Russia.  You have so many friends- more than I do.  You’ve gone to work with them, toured cities and helped them garden.  You’ve lain on the beaches, played with their toys and colored with their kids.  You’ve gone swimming, eaten ice cream and been to Disney.  You’ve run races, played tennis and drank coffee.  You’ve read books, played music and knitted.  You’ve taught classes, went to church, baked cupcakes and watched sunsets.  You’ve entered their calendars, walked on their toes, sat in their tattoos. You are living the life you should have had in the hearts of your friends and family.  All these people helped tell the world that you were real.  You existed.  You were here.

This Mother’s Day, I was not told that I was a mother; I was told what kind of mother I was.  I was worried I’d be reminded you weren’t here, but instead I was reminded of just how here you are.

I love you and miss you.  As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.



Watercolor by Mabel's grandmother Butterfyl lamp Lilac tree Hand carved and painted by friends Flowers at Mabel's grave

How Mabel got her name

We named our baby Mabel Cleary.  I have played around with baby names for years.  I think it’s an occupational hazard.  I witness so many people choose the lifelong names of their children and some are beautiful and some make me cringe.  Some do both at the same time.  The really popular names these days are really quite beautiful but hearing them over and over again make me cringe a bit.  And so I’ve always wanted a name for out baby that’s not too popular.  In my 16 person midwifery class there were 4 Jessicas and 2 Meg(h)ans., which demonstrated how popular names of a generation can cause some difficulty. We had to come up with nicknames for each of the Jessicas just so we could differentiate who we were talking about.

I’ve also had many patients tell me their children’s names before they were born.  I’ve gotten good at having a pleasant response even when the name is quite jarring.  I’ve had patients tell me stories about how when they announced their baby’s name prenatally, they got some negative reactions.  I didn’t want that for my baby. I did not want to feel pressure or judgment about a name that I painstakingly chose, so we kept our baby names a secret.

We had a girl’s names at the time of my positive pregnancy test.  It wasn’t Mabel.  I looked up the meaning of the chosen name when I became pregnant and found that it meant unfortunate.  I told Chris and we debated whether it was fair to call a baby a name we really liked but had such an unfortunate meaning.  When we found out our baby would have Down Syndrome, we totally scrapped the name- it didn’t seem fair.  So we played around with a few more.  We had a few boys names we really liked- including one that meant lucky.  But when we discovered I had low fluid and our baby’s prognosis was poor, we didn’t feel right about that name either.

One good thing that came out of the oligohydramnios diagnosis was it lit a fire under our feet to settle on some names.  We chose Caleb Odom for a boy.  Caleb meant loyal or faithful and Odom is a family name on Chris’s side.  I liked the meaning of Caleb because I was hoping my baby would be loyal and stick around through the pregnancy.  I was faithful to the idea that my baby might survive.  Caleb sounded right with our last name.  The name was on my list before we even found out about the Down Syndrome and when that was discovered, I could just picture our son with Down Syndrome named Caleb.  Though we really love the name Caleb, I won’t likely use it for a future baby.  Caleb was this baby’s name.  I liked Mabel because I like old fashioned sounding names.  And when I learned that Mabel means lovable, I thought it fit perfectly.  Cleary is a family name on my side.  I like names that have meaning or significance.

One week before Mabel was born, I was reading “An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination,” by Elizabeth McCracken.  I’ve written about this book before because it really resonated with me.  It’s a memoir of a woman who has a stillbirth with her first and then goes on to have another baby.  I was reading this while I was pregnant, but I don’t recommend the book to those who are expecting.  It’s about stillbirth, which no woman should have to think about in pregnancy.  But my midwife had given it to me because she would listen to me talk about my fears and feelings and heard me echoing many things this book described.  I am very glad she did- I identified with the uncertainty the author felt in her second pregnancy, when there were no longer “whens” but many more “ifs.”  I also could relate to the grief she felt after the loss of her first.  I hadn’t lost my baby yet, but I was already grieving the potential loss.  I found the book so helpful because it validated so many of my feelings (and still does).  And then six days before I had Mabel, I was reading the book as I was in bed during the only night Chris didn’t stay with me in the hospital.  The author hadn’t learned the gender of her second baby and was playing around with names.  She didn’t come up with a boy’s name, but she and her husband decided on a girl’s name- Mabel.  I had to put the book down.  We had already chosen the name Mabel and it just felt so intense.  I had already felt so connected to the book, I couldn’t believe she had chosen our name too.  The author goes on to have a boy- so I wasn’t sure if that meant we were to have a boy like her or if it meant we were to have a girl because of the shared names.  The next day I was watching Downton Abbey and a small character named Mabel was mentioned.  I never really believed in “signs” before, but looking back, the universe was trying to tell me something.

That is the story of how Mabel became Mabel.  She was loved from the start and has truly lived up to her name, as my lovable daughter.

Grieving Guilt

I’m feeling guilty.  This week has been full of ups and downs for me.  Days I thought would be bad were ok.  Days I thought would be ok were bad.  Monday, my first day at home without Chris had potential to be bad. It was the first day.  My original plans with a friend got canceled due to a sick kid.  But two other friends came through and filled my day.  I survived.  Tuesday, all went as scheduled- I returned to bootcamp, but early and on little sleep.  It was fine. Spent the afternoon with a friend on the couch mostly.  The time spent was lovely but at the end I lost it because I couldn’t imagine spending so much time on the couch for the next six weeks.  The thought of it just felt so awful.  I know I could be doing things- house projects, volunteering, shopping- things.  But I have zero motivation at this point.  It’s an accomplishment for me to run an errand.  Going to the grocery store for milk and eggs caused me a surprising amount of anxiety.  So I’m in this awful catch 22- I hate spending so much time on the couch watching TV but I cant seem to get myself to do anything but that.  I cried to Chris when he came home, about how I hate being home.  I hate it.  The feeling of why I hate it is hard to put in words.  Maybe I hate being with all this grief?  I cried all through the evening. I was mush.  Wednesday was better.  Yoga and brunch with some friends, my therapist and an open afternoon, which I filled with some little things around the house (watering plants! Folding my clothes!) and some TV.   When Chris got home, I got teary again, but this time for a different reason.  I didn’t cry as much that day as I did the day before.  I had felt ok in the afternoon.  And I felt guilty about it.


My baby died two and a half weeks ago and I had an ok afternoon alone?  It doesn’t feel right.  I know there is no prescribed way I am supposed to feel, but I felt somehow I was being untrue to Mabel.  I distracted too much. I didn’t think about her enough.  Earlier that day I talked to my therapist about similar feelings.  I’ve been invited out to dinner with some newer people tomorrow night and I don’t know what to do.  In my normal life, I would hop at the chance.  There is a part of me in this new life of mine that really wants to go.  But another part of me thinks it’s totally inappropriate.  Who goes out to dinner within weeks of their baby’s death?  There will be people I don’t know and if they knew that I was out after such a tragedy, what would they think?  Plus I am so not fun right now.  My therapist says I should go.  She disagrees that it’s inappropriate.  Chris thinks it’s ok too.  My therapist says not to worry about being fun- that I should fake it until I make it.  If I do that enough, eventually I will feel fun.


I ‘m afraid of appearing too “ok.”  I’m afraid if people think I’m doing ok that they’ll think I’m done.  That Mabel is behind me now.  They’ll have different expectations of me.  They’ll stop asking and calling and visiting.  I’m afraid if they see me too happy, there will be this sigh of relief that they don’t have to worry about me anymore.  And if I’m happy they wont want to mention her because they thing it’ll make me sad.  But these moments are just that- moments.  I still am sad- even when I’m happy, if that makes any sense at all.  Much more of my time is spent thinking, “how am I going to get through this?”  I’m not done.  Mabel is not behind me- I don’t think she ever will.


The mention of my child’s name may bring tears to my eyes, but it never fails to bring music to my ears.  If you are really my friend, let me hear the beautiful music of her name.  It soothes my broken heart and sings to my soul.

Mabel’s Birth: Part III “Hello and Good Bye”

No one expected her to cry.  The Newborn team initially said she was doing better than expected.  She first was on some oxygen, then CPAP (forced air through a mask), the nurse told us.   I was wheeled back to my labor room for my immediate recovery and Chris soon after went to check on Mabel.  While he was gone, those moments were optimistic- happy even.  My baby had cried!

Mabel gets a little oxygen.  Look how pink she is!

Mabel gets a little oxygen. Look how pink she is!

When Chris returned, he brought news.  Mabel was on the ventilator. They were monitoring her oxygenation saturations (her “sats”).  She had a chest xray, which showed a pneumothorax on one side (air leaking into the lung cavity- making it difficult for the lung to expand fully).  Her rib cage looked distorted- another sign of pulmonary hypoplasia.  And she had ascites- fluid in her belly, which we didn’t really know why, but it’s generally not a good thing.

Luckily at that time my immediate recovery was just about done, so the nurses packed me up and brought me over to really meet her.

There she was on her warmer with all her wires and tubes.  Her little chest rose and fell with the rhythm set by the ventilator.  You could see how hard she was working to breathe.  The doctor explained to us that her sats were in the 70s, which were low.  The goal is to keep them in above 95%.  She’s on the ventilator at maximum oxygen.  They could treat the small pneumothorax by placing a chest tube, but because of how hard she was working, they didn’t think she would survive that procedure and doubted it would work with her small lungs anyways.  For now they planned to just watch her.  They had done some blood gases after she was put on the ventilator, which were slightly improved from the gases they had done before.  The doctor let us know that she was sick and struggling.  I could tell our time with her was limited.  We didn’t know just how limited yet.  My hope was she would be able to meet her family, some of whom were en route.

My first good look at Mabel.

My first good look at Mabel.

She looked so precarious on her warmer, so I was surprised when the nurse suggested I do kangaroo care- putting her skin to skin.  With the help of another nurse holding the ventilator tubes, the newborn nurse placed her on my chest.  She was warm and little and mine.  I wanted her father to hold her, so eventually the nurse passed her to Chris and I just watched as he smiled, holding his daughter for the first time.  She soon came back to me and I held her so I could see her eyes and marvel at her light hair- which clearly came from her dad.  It was hard to see what she really looked like, because the ventilator blocked her mouth and its tape distorted her features a little.

Chris holds Mabel for the first time.

Chris holds Mabel for the first time

Her hair was blonde.

Her hair was blonde.

While holding her I started to feel lightheaded and a little faint.  I had spent a lot of my labor vomiting and could tell I was dehydrated, despite the two liters of IV fluid I had received.  So we placed Mabel back on the warmer, so I could be tended to back in the labor room.  I knew she was in good hands with the newborn nurse.

While back in the labor room, my nurse gave me more IV fluids and we contacted family.  We let our immediate family know that she was struggling and we didn’t know how much time we would have with her.  Our message was come now or come soon, if you can.  My parents were already on their way- we called them when I was in labor and they got on the road as soon as we told them she was born.  My sister lives in LA and Chris had let her know I was in labor around midnight our time.  She booked a flight for 8:30am that morning.  We called my brother who also lives in LA- it was 6am his time and he was able to get on that same flight.  They would get in around 7pm that night.  Chris’s parents live in Lexington and the Chicago area and were on flights the next morning.  We knew our time was short, but my hope was that Mabel would hold on at least until that night.

Just when I was feeling better and we made all our phone calls, the Newborn Unit called and said we should come back.  I knew that was not a good sign.  I hurried into a wheelchair and my nurse rushed us over.

When we arrived I could see Mabel’s sats were in the 50s-60s and she looked purple.  I could tell she was getting worse.  The doctor explained that she had another xray, which showed that one lung was completely collapsed and the other had a large pneumothorax.  She was working hard- so hard that they were giving her morphine to keep her comfortable.  They wanted to put her back on my chest- they were firm believers in kangaroo care.

Kangaroo care

Kangaroo care

Then the most amazing thing happened.  As she was skin to skin with me, we could see her pink up to her normal color and I watched her sats creep back up into the 70s.  Just being on me was not only comforting to her, but healing as well.  She was strong when she was on me, close to my heart and my skin, my warmth, my smell and my heartbeat was familiar to her.  So on me she stayed as we made some final arrangements.  We called for the chaplain- Chris and I liked the idea of a blessing for our Mabel.  And we called our parents.  I was frustrated they weren’t there yet- they were only coming from Massachusetts and if they left when they said they were going to, they should have been there.  What we didn’t know was that they had been in New Hampshire skiing, so the two-hour trip was more like five hours.  But Mabel was stable for the time being and she had some admirers.  My whole midwife and doctor team came.  I was so so touched that they all came in.  In the absence of family, they were my family.  Aside from me and Chris, no one knew Mabel as well as they did.  Three of them even knew Mabel was Mabel (that she was a girl- they had known from my CVS results but kept it a secret all that time!).  And we were also joined by one of the midwives and doctors I work with.  All these people surrounded Chris, Mabel and me, meeting her and witnessing her life.  Looking back, I can not be happier that they all met her.

As we waited for my parents, I told Mabel all our plans for her.  I told her about the house we had bought in the town with good schools just so we could take her home and raise her there.  I told her how she was going to be a snowboarder- only natural after she’d be spending so much time in the braces for her clubbed feet.  I told her how her daddy was going to build her things.  I told her about each of the people who came to meet her and how they knew her through our pregnancy.   The nurse also helped us make hand and footprints in ink and clay from a kit my sister gave us.  Having those clay prints are now the only physical thing I can touch and feel her contours.

My parents arrived and the chaplain then gave a blessing, which turned into a baptism at my father’s request.  I was raised Catholic and though I don’t subscribe to any particular religion, I could tell it was important to him.  After Mabel was blessed and baptized, the Newborn doctor came over and told us he thought it was time to take out the ventilator.  From our meeting prenatally with the Newborn doctor, they knew we ultimately didn’t want our baby to suffer.  If she was going to die, we wanted to make her as comfortable as possible.  I had been watching her sats and they were back in the 50s-60s.  She was getting half the oxygen she needed.  I knew from what the doctor had told us that there was nothing more they could do.  Even kangaroo care could only help for so long.  It was time to say good bye to our baby and let her go in peace.

Mabel's blessing/baptism

Mabel’s blessing/baptism

We had to decide how we wanted to do the next steps.  We could go back to my labor room and pass our final time with Mabel there or they have a room in the Newborn Unit called Caroline’s Room, a smaller room with couches, made for times like these.  We decided Chris and I would be with Mabel while we took out the vent and then bring her to Caroline’s room where my parents would be waiting.  I didn’t want to have my final moments with her in my labor room because when I returned to work I didn’t want that room to bear those memories.

They gave her more morphine and while she was on my chest, the nurse took out the ventilator.  For the first time, I’d see my baby’s face.  I looked down at her and she opened her eyes and looked up at me.  It was incredible.

She looked right at me.

She looked right at me.

They wheeled me into Caroline’s room and we sat with her on my chest with Chris’s hand on her back, so she could be most comfortable. I could tell that she had stopped breathing and the doctor checked her heart rate- it was present but slow.  So I held her close and a few minutes later when the doctor came, her heart had stopped and my Mabel was gone.

Mabel's last moments in her parents' arms.

Mabel’s last moments in her parents’ arms.

I took her down from my chest so I could see her- really see her- and she was so cute.  She looked just like a baby- an everyday baby you’d see in someone else’s arms.  She had Chris’s nose, my small chin but we couldn’t tell where her pouty lips came from.  She was all cheek!  Such big cheeks which I attribute to my high chocolate consumption in pregnancy.  Her ears were a little squished- the only sign really of the low fluid- and her feet were clubbed.  But who knew just how cute clubbed feet are!  Those little feet were marveled at while we were doing kangaroo care earlier.  Many pictures taken of those cute little feet- they were just adorable.  Even her toes were special- two of her toes were webbed, which reminded us of a friend of ours who has webbed toes too.  The medical term for it is syndactyly.  I myself was born with an extra finger on one hand (removed as an infant), which is called polydactyly.  So Mabel was “dactyl” just like her mom!

Mabel's syndactyl toes!

Mabel’s syndactyl toes!

My once over of my daughter.

My once over of my daughter.

After my thorough once over, Chris held her and then my mother and father.  We gave her a sponge bath and dressed her in a little pink outfit my midwives had given me.  We had no clothes ready for her- the carrot outfit had not come in yet (delayed from a snow storm) and my midwives came through yet again.  We dressed her up in non-hospital attire.  She had her own outfit and we wrapped her in her special blanket and she didn’t look like a baby that had been sick.  She looked just like a baby.

Doesn't she look just like an everyday baby?

Doesn’t she look just like an everyday baby?

We invited my cousin and her husband to come meet her.  My cousin, who had been my ultrasound buddy, who brought me ice cream in times of need, who could be called upon last minute.  I got to introduce her to Mabel and point out all her little features.  Her chocolate cheeks, her little feet.  I was a new mom, displaying her baby.  Again, looking back, I cherish all the time Mabel got to spend with my family (my family by blood and my family by work).

Look at her feet! Look at her toes!

Look at her feet! Look at her toes!

After I noticed Chris was nodding off (we were now facing about 36 hours of essentially no sleep), I told my family that we wanted to be alone with Mabel so we could say our final good byes.  When they all left, I played our wedding song (Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley) while we held her.  I began nodding off myself, listening to that soothing song with my baby in my arms.  I wanted to keep her forever, but I knew that we couldn’t keep her much longer.  We had to say good-bye.  The nurse came in to check on us- sobbing, I asked for a few more minutes.  And when she came back again, it was so hard to hand her over.  I just wanted to parade around the hospital, saying Look at my baby! Isn’t she sweet?  I had a baby.  This is my Mabel.  I wanted to show her off so bad.  I wasn’t ready to give her up, but I knew I’d never, ever be ready.  It was time.

Sweet Mabel

Sweet Mabel

I handed over my baby, never to hold her in my arms again.

“How very softly you tiptoed into our world, almost silently, only for a moment you stayed.  But what an imprint your footsteps have left upon our hearts”

I had a baby. Her name was Mabel.

(written yesterday, February 20, 2014)

Today I buried my daughter.  Words no parent should ever have to say.

We opted for a private, family graveside service in the cemetery nearest our house.  I wanted Mabel to be close so I could visit frequently.  Chris, I and our families caravanned over in the morning, with only minor mishaps.  It’s only 1.5mi from our house, but we had never been.  We entered through the wrong entrance and had to do a five car single file reverse.  But we made it with a few minutes to spare.

Neither Chris nor I are particularly religious, but we felt we wanted some sort of service at the graveside.  I was raised Catholic, but as an adult did not feel connected to that particular religion.  I liked the idea of religion, but had trouble finding the right fit.  While pregnant, I had tried a few local churches- two Unitarian Universalist and an Episcopal church- but I didn’t feel connected enough to any of them to bring them to Mabel’s graveside.  The funeral director suggested a local Methodist pastor who would perform a non-denominational service.  We spoke to Pastor Steve two days beforehand and he seemed nice.  It almost felt better to have a stranger lead us in her services.   And though the service was more Christian than I thought it would be, it was sweet and I appreciated the structure as we laid our baby to rest.

I had extended an invitation to any family members who wanted to speak at her graveside service and my father responded.  He said:

Mabel Cleary Constantino

Your time with us was very brief – too brief  – 36 weeks + 6 hours. The impact you have had on our lives is forever. It will endure forever. We knew you through the eyes and actions of your Mom and Dad, Meghan & Chris, the decisions they made during the past 36 weeks of your life to provide you with the best possible environment. We forever admire their respect for life, their love of life, their love of you and their commitment to each other. It is that love that brought us all together on September 22, 2012 and has brought us here today. It has been quite a journey, the Mabel elements of which have been captured and shared with relatives, friends and others.  Mabel, you have had more written about you than most people my age. Through such elegant prose, and through the love of your family and that of Meghan & Chris, your memory will endure. You forever will be a bright light. You will be the beacon for us all and our Angel. We love you.

I asked my sister to read an excerpt from Elizabeth McCracken’s “An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination”


After the baby died, I told Edward over and over again that I didn’t want to forget any of it: the happiness was real, as real as the baby himself, and it would be terrible, unforgivable, to forget it.  His entire life had turned out to be the forty-one weeks and one day of his gestation, and those days were happy.  We couldn’t pretend that they weren’t.  It would be like pretending that he himself was a bad thing, something to be regretted, and I didn’t. I would have done the whole thing over again even knowing how it would end.

She followed by saying a few words.  She had found out she was expecting shortly after we had found out about Mabel’s Down Syndrome.  She thanked me for letting her in at a time when I could have shut her out.  She also thanked Chris for being my rock.

My sister has been one of my go-to sounding boards throughout the pregnancy- I’ve been just about as open with her as I have my therapist.  And though it’s been hard for me to connect with other pregnant women, especially after the low fluid diagnosis, I was able to still stay connected with her.  It gave me some sense that all was not lost- that despite such terrible news and poor prognosis, I was still human and could find that compassion for someone.  It may have been only one person; I’ll admit I felt very separate from most other pregnant women- friends, coworkers, patients, but the fact that I could maintain some connection with one person made me hope I could return to myself some day.

After my sister spoke, Chris’s mother mentioned she felt just like my niece did at that moment.  My niece had to be taken away howling in that way only 3 year olds know how.  Her tears had nothing to do with the burial- she is too young- but her sobs at the injustice of not getting what she wanted were so very appropriate.  And my mother-in-law’s comment held a little comic relief.

Then it was my turn:

I had a baby. Her name was Mabel.

I carried her for 8 months with worry and hope.  I agonized about doing the right thing for her.  Ultimately she made it clear that she was happy inside me.  She grew and moved and became a baby.  I didn’t want her to be born. I wasn’t ready, but she was.  She showed me that she was feisty and would do what she pleased.

She gave me many gifts.  She came on her own time, with a quick labor, naturally without any distress. She paved the way for her siblings to come safely.  She hung on until she could meet more family.  She showed me she knew me, and was happiest on my chest, close to my heart.  She was here too short, but she was mine.   I made her and I loved her. 

I had a baby. Her name was Mabel. 

After the pastor finished, we each placed a rose (provided by Chris’s mother) on her tiny tiny casket. And then we left so my tiny tiny daughter could be laid to rest.  But I will be back.  With flowers and memories.  I will give her a headstone so that anyone who passes can see she existed.  I want something to mark the grave so that maybe a hundred years from now, someone will see her stone and think, I wonder what Mabel’s story was, what happened to such a little baby who was here only one day.  

My chance to show her off

The wake was harder for others than it was for me.  In a way I had been looking forward to it for days.


Chris and I arrived early with our family, for set up and some time alone with Mabel.   We had asked if we could see her before they closed the casket.   Chris and I went to see her first.  As we walked the hallway to her room, I broke down.  The tears were a mix of some sort of happiness that I could see her again and sadness that this would be the last time I’d see her in person.  I know I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised how small the casket was.  And then there she was- she was perfect.  Just how she was when we said goodbye in the hospital..  Her little pouty lips.  She was swimming in her carrot outfit, like I knew she would be.  She had her little hat with bunny ears on and her cute little feet were in little bunny booties.  I could she just a patch of skin on her ankle and it made my happy.  Chris’s mother had given her a few things to take with her- two little bunnies, one super soft and the other handmade holding a carrot.  And my cousin gave her a little carrot baby.  We thought about taking some pictures (she did look so lovely lying there), but decided we were happier remembering her with the photos we had.


Carrot Baby


After our time alone with Mabel, our family had the chance to visit with her.  Some had seen her before, like my mother and father, and some were seeing her for the first time in person.  It was lovely to watch.  I think it made it more real for them which made it more real for me.  My 3 year old niece jumped the line, because she wanted to see baby Mabel.  And then after everyone was done, she wanted to go back and see her again.  I loved her for that.


Chris and I spent the remaining time before calling hours began just visiting with her.  I told her lots of things.  How wanted she was. How much I loved her. How glad I was she came. How much all her family loved her.  How I would do it again for those six hours.


We opted for a closed casket for the calling hours, which was a good decision.  The pictures alone were enough to melt people, let alone the sight of such a small casket.  We laid the carrot baby in front of her casket.  We had brought several large photos of her, hand and footprints and a scrapbook of photos.  My mother-in-law, my sister and I had put together the scrapbook the day before, laying out photos to tell her story- from labor to her passing.  I am so thankful for their help in putting her story on pages, so people could see and know her.


As our friends and extended family came through, there were many tears.  My heart warmed watching so many people look at her photos and the tears that they brought.  I was touched by how emotional my family was.  I think the calling hours were actually easiest on me.  I was happy.  It was my chance to show her off.  So few people had a chance to actually meet Mabel or really see her face.  So this was my time to share her with my world.  See, she existed.  She really was here.  And look at how beautiful she was.  Know her.


Everyone came.  Those who could not, emailed or called or texted.  They were there too.  High school friends who lived close and far came.  Family friends traveled hours through a snowstorm to come.  So many nurses from the hospital came.  Just about my entire office staff came (and I work in four different offices).  The doctors and midwives in my practice came.  Midwives from other practices came.  My genetic counselor came.  Some of my close patients came.  Chris’s work friends came.  My dad’s work friends came.  Family came.  My own midwives and doctor came.


And they all saw her, my beautiful Mabel.


Mabel’s Services

A private graveside service for Mabel will be held at Cheshire Hillside Cemetery. Calling hours will be held Wednesday, February 19, 2014 from 4 to 7 PM at The Alderson Funeral Home of Cheshire, 615 South Main Street, 06410. In lieu of flowers, donations in her name may be made to the National Down Syndrome Congress,  30 Mansell Court, Suite 108 Roswell, GA 30076, or to the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress,, CDSC, P.O. Box 243, Meriden, CT 06450. To view these arrangements online, send a condolence, or light a memorial candle, please visit:


From the New Haven Register:


Mabel Cleary Constantino

Born February 15, 2014 6:25am

5lb 5oz, 17 ¼ inches

We knew that she had Down Syndrome and complications but eagerly awaited her with open arms. We enjoyed six precious hours with her. The nurses called her feisty and she fought hard.  She passed peacefully in the arms of her parents.

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