I spent last Friday afternoon at a luncheon event in New York City, “Priorities, Passion and Community”, listening to a conversational panel of women, Mompreneurs, who have turned their passions into their work. By work, I mean the definition of their individual creativities, energies, forces, passages… work that changes the world.
The event itself honored the work of Phyllis Rabinowitz, Co-founder of R Baby Foundation. The mission of R Baby Foundation is focused to save babies’ lives through improving pediatric emergency care. In its own words, R Baby Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that babies, including those in the first month of life suffering from viral infections and other infectious diseases, receive the highest quality of care and service through supporting life-saving pediatric training, education, research, treatment and equipment. It is Phyllis’s story, and her family’s story, that turned the tragedy of losing their beautiful newborn baby girl, Rebecca, at 9 days old, to a misdiagnosis at a hospital emergency room, into a life’s mission. It is Phyllis herself whom I see as the face of R Baby Foundation, whose goal is to save as many babies’ lives as possible… yet I feel the presence of baby Rebecca in each word that Phyllis says.
I am reminded of my Nana and her story of losing her baby girl… a loss that I know she felt every moment of her life. I remember, as a child… I was maybe 8 or 9 years old… talking to my Nana at her big kitchen table early one summer morning. My Nana was cooking breakfast, slinging giant cast iron skillets from the stove to the table to the sink. She was talking about how she used to cook for 6 children… way back when. My Nana was a 4′ 7″ lady with a big, big heart, and she loved her children and grandchildren beyond all measure. And she showed her love through her big, big hugs and her food. I was asking her all about my Mom when she was a little girl… and about my uncles and aunts. Nana was telling me all about how she got married very young, so in love with the “most handsome young man in all of Brighton, Massachusetts”, and a little boy who came along quickly after, my Uncle Ed. My Nana and grandfather (who died very young, and whom I never met) waited for another baby to come along, but when 4 years passed, thought maybe their one little boy was their one blessing. Not so. My Mom would come along next, after all those years… and she became their second blessing from God. Nana and my grandfather thought their lives were complete, but very soon after my Mom was born, Nana found that she was carrying her 3rd child. This was, to her, another miracle. As my Nana told her story about her second baby girl, I was a confused because I knew that my Uncle Bob was the next child after my Mom.
As I sat at the kitchen table on that sunny summer morning, my Nana put down her skillets and rested in a chair. My Nana never seemed to sit. She did that morning. Her eyes were far, far away. I now know that her eyes were searching heaven. My Nana told me about her 3rd baby, a baby girl named Dorothea… a baby whom she had for only a very short time. A few weeks. My Nana told me that Dorothea got sick… and she died in her arms. My Nana told me the heartache. The struggle. The going-on for my Uncle Ed and my Mom… who were very young and who needed her and my grandfather so very much. Nana talked about feeling alone and empty in her world, trying to put the pieces back together. I never have forgotten that morning I had with my Nana. I felt so close to my Aunt Dorothea, a woman I never met… through the words and love and longing of my Nana. I asked my Mom later about her baby sister, and my Mom was very, very surprised that Nana had told me about Dorothea, explaining that Nana never talked about that tragic time in her life.
But I never forgot that morning. Even decades later, watching my Nana hold my children… and when I held my own children and now my grandchildren… I think of Dorothea and I pray to her to watch over my family. I know my Nana is with her baby girl in heaven now, and I see them together. I thought of Dorothea and my Nana when I heard the story of Rebecca. I could see Phyllis’s eyes searching heaven… and Rebecca seeing her Mommy honoring her life.
What Phyllis and her husband Andrew have done is to take the unthinkable pain of losing a child away from another mother. Another father. Another family. Their passion and power to save babies’ lives has given their baby girl Rebecca an immeasurable legacy. A legacy of life. There is nothing bigger than this.
Please visit R Baby Foundation and do what you can to promote and help this most important mission. Perhaps participate in the Mother’s Day Run/Walk 2010 in NYC!! I have already registered to run, and I am building my own TeamCouto to honor the work of one of most inspirational women I have ever met. Words cannot begin to describe the love I still have for my Nana, who has been an angel for almost 28 years… but each time I meet someone like Phyllis, I see my Nana and her great love for the children of this world and beyond. And, by the way, my Nana and grandfather went on to have Uncle Bob, Aunt Jean, Aunt Joan and Aunt Ruth. 7 children in all. My Nana once told me that her arms and heart were always full, always blessed with her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren… but always with the thoughts of her angel Dorothea.
Phyllis Rabinowitz is the embodiment of saving babies. She may never know how many arms and hearts she has filled.