Being a parent has always been one of my life goals. The idea of having children and a family has always excited me and the news of our first addition to our family brought me so much joy. The preparation of welcoming a baby into this world is nothing simple. The appointments, milestones in development, and “nesting” are all part of the new lifestyle and mindset you adopt as a mom or dad.

At our 12-week appointment we got to hear our daughters heartbeat for the first time. At that point, the reality of being a dad set in and it was only a matter of time before I got to meet my first child. At our 20-week appointment, we found out that our baby had developed a potentially serious problem that may affect her development.

As weeks went on, we sought help from a number of doctors and determined that excess fluid around our daughters brain that was a result of a blood clot was preventing her brain from growing normally. We stayed positive although we really didn’t know the scope of this problem. Fast forward to 33 weeks, where my wife and I found out we were going to meet our baby early due to the size of her head and the concern we could not deliver traditionally.

At 35 weeks, I met my daughter Penelope Anne for the first time. When I looked into her eyes, I had a moment where all of the worries faded away and it was just me and her. The first few hours of being with her were pure bliss. My heart swelled when my wife was able to join us for our first family picture.

After the first night, reality set in and I realized our daughter needed surgery to have a chance at living outside the hospital. As a first time father, it was difficult managing the emotions I felt not knowing how serious her situation was and what her needs were going forward. I also was concerned for my wife, having just been through a major surgery of her own.

The day of the surgery came and like all other dads in this situation I was worried sick. I couldn’t leave her side since I knew she needed me. After many long hours of waiting, our family was greeted by the neurosurgeon which explained that our daughter had been very resilient despite the surgery not going as planned.

After Penny’s surgery, it became clear that she would not be coming home with us, and we would have to make some very difficult decisions no parent should ever have to make. We both got to hold her one last time before we said goodbye.

Grief is an unexplainable journey no one should have to go through alone. We have gained an extraordinary support system through our community and NFTS. We have found comfort in knowing Penelope is now our beautiful guardian Angel, who we will one day meet again. Until that day, we continue to live for her.

Jacob & Anna Shultz