- Associated Press - Saturday, September 10, 2016

ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) - It was a day that started out like any other day for Sabrina Snyder.

It was a busy day, a hectic day. Snyder, an expectant mother who was 37 weeks pregnant, spent part of it at her mother’s house, then later drove her son to soccer practice. It was in the midst of the rush of life that it dawned on Snyder she hadn’t felt her baby move in a while, the Post-Bulletin (https://bit.ly/2c87608 ) reported.

“I had to take my older son to soccer practice, and I thought, ‘OK, while he’s at soccer practice and I’m sitting there, I’ll really start to pay attention, and if I don’t think I feel anything by the end of soccer practice, then I’ll probably go in,’” Snyder said.

Snyder didn’t feel anything. She made an appointment at Rochester Methodist Hospital that day, really thinking she probably was overreacting but best to play it safe - as any conscientious mother would. In the triage room, Snyder was connected to a heart monitor. That’s when fear began to grip her, as the nurse looking at the monitor told Snyder the “baby was being stubborn,” and she would have to get the doctor.

After waving a wand from an ultra sound machine around Snyder’s stomach, the doctor told Snyder there was no movement in the chest, no heartbeat. Her child had passed.

“I just immediately started crying, and I asked the doctor. I was like, ‘I just don’t understand. Can’t she just maybe come out and be OK?’ And they just said no,” Snyder said.

She called her husband, Jared, at work and told him to come to the hospital right away.

She didn’t tell him what had happened over the phone, but he picked up from her frantic tone of voice that the matter was urgent. The couple soon were joined by their parents at the hospital.

Even before Snyder had gotten pregnant, the Rochester couple had settled on the name, Olivia, for their first daughter. Olivia Mae Snyder. They had prepared for her arrival by decorating her room in purple trim and butterflies. Her name arched over her crib.

Now several weeks before Snyder’s due date, rather than anticipating one of the happiest moments of their lives, the couple were confronted with the grimmest of decisions. Did the couple want an autopsy performed? Did Snyder want to go home? Did she want to stay? They were told they needed to contact a funeral home.

Yet, of all the decisions Snyder confronted, the one to which she was not prepared to agree was the idea of having her daughter photographed after the delivery. Snyder adamantly was against the idea. Feeling bereft and overwhelmed with grief, Snyder wasn’t even sure she wanted to see her deceased child.

“I was like, ‘I just want them to take her away, and I never want to see her,’” Snyder said. “I don’t want a picture. Why do I want a picture?”

And so the matter would have stood but for the intervention of Snyder’s mother and mother-in-law. Both asked her to think about it. Snyder said no. They quietly and insistently asked her to reconsider. Still she said no. They were confident it would be good for her. They told her about a nonprofit they had heard about called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, an organization made up of volunteer photographers who take photos of stillborn babies.

It was in the delivery room as she was being induced into labor that Snyder finally relented.

“I was like, ‘OK. Fine. But then you guys have to contact them because I’m not doing it. I’m not even thinking about this right now,’” she recalled.

Olivia was delivered at 4:44 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, at 6 pounds, 4 ounces.

What Snyder remembers about that moment was her impatience to hold her baby. The nurses were cleaning Olivia up across the room as her husband looked on. Snyder waited anxiously until Olivia was placed in her arms for the first time.

“I remember just holding her and just like thinking how beautiful and perfect she was,” Snyder said. “She didn’t even look like there was anything wrong with her.”

The photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Steep soon arrived, and a mini-emergency ensued. Snyder’s mom wanted her granddaughter to be photographed with her blanket stitched with her name on it. But the blanket was back home in her crib. Snyder’s mom was “super-insistent” about having the blanket included in the photographs, and so it was retrieved.

The photographer’s name was Bob, and he was patient, capable, willing to do whatever the parents asked. Olivia was photographed in her knit cap and blanket. A nurse helped pose her and held her while photos were taken of her feet and hands. Photos were taken of Snyder’s mom holding her, of her husband holding her. James, her oldest child who was 6 at the time, was photographed holding his sister’s hand. And as she watched, Snyder felt her original opposition to the idea begin to dissolve.

“When he was there, I was more accepting of it,” Snyder said. “I didn’t realize how big a part it would play in my life afterward. Because I love having the pictures. If I would have said no, I would have regretted that for the rest of my life.”

Snyder was told Olivia died when her umbilical cord got twisted into a knot, cutting off oxygen and nutrients. The doctor told her it was a very rare event, as common as being struck by lightning.

It wasn’t until Snyder saw the photos for the first time that she realized how grateful she was to have them. The day after Olivia’s delivery, Snyder and her husband left the hospital. They drove up into the driveway, but instead of going inside the house, they decided to head straight to the funeral home. The funeral director asked if they had any photos. The couple said they did, but they hadn’t gotten them back from the photographer yet.

So they called Bob, who said he had the photos on a disk ready to be picked up. And a photo of Olivia was included in the funeral program, a fact for which Snyder and her husband are so grateful.

Olivia would be 4 years old today, preparing for preschool and getting her first backpack.

Her memory remains vibrant in the Snyder household, a fact that becomes evident once a visitor steps inside the house. Right off the foyer sits a chest-high glass-encased cabinet.

Inside rests a teddy bear made of one her blankets and weighted to Olivia’s weight when she was delivered. There are plaster molds of her hands and feet. A birth announcement proclaims, “It’s a Girl!” Her ashes rest in a heart-shaped container.

Hanging above the cabinet, occupying pride of place, is a framed photograph of Olivia.

Snyder, who since has become an advocate and raises money for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, says the photos connect her to her daughter in a way she never could have imagined.

“It validates her life,” Snyder said. “I can see her every day on my wall and have her be a part of our family. We can all see her. We know she was here. And it’s just nice to be able to see the person that we can no longer see and we had to say goodbye to so fast.”


Information from: Post-Bulletin, https://www.postbulletin.com

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