Family says Baby Eden 'catfished' after passing away at birth
05/18/2017 12:56 pm PDT
The pictures of innocence: A beautiful newborn baby girl. But these images are part of one of the cruelest crimes of the heart we've ever seen.
Ryan Coker is Baby Eden's father, but the woman posting pictures of the child is not her mother, even though she's claiming the newborn is her own.
"It's basically like a 'catfishing' story. Our daughter was catfished," said Ryan Coker.
Taking Baby Eden's identity adds to the agony Ryan and his wife Megan have already endured. They lost little Eden shortly after Megan gave birth.
"I knew when she was born it would be the end," said Megan Coker.
Megan and Ryan knew their baby girl would never leave the hospital.
"If we had 60 seconds or 60 years, we're going to love her all the same," said Ryan.
What they had was 40 precious minutes.
"She took really big gasps of air," said Megan.
"It's something that's going to stay with me forever: Feeling her stop fighting while I'm holding her in my arms," said Ryan.
Since learning she was pregnant with her first child, Megan Coker had a feeling something was wrong; 21 weeks into her pregnancy her feeling was confirmed.
"He came back in and told us that he thought that it was a congenital diaphragmatic hernia," said Ryan.
"And he said this is often fatal," said Megan.
But at 24 weeks, the Cokers got the final devastating news.
"They said this is a bilateral form of CDH, and that means that this is 100-percent fatal," said Megan.
The Cokers decided to go ahead with the pregnancy. As the weeks progressed they bonded with the baby girl they'd named Eden.
"It was just surreal. It felt like an out-of-body experience, that you can feel your child moving and be told that your child's going to die," said Megan.
When the day came to deliver, the couple wanted the birth of their baby to be as joyful as any other.
"We were there to celebrate the birth of a child and leave the mourning of the death of our child until after she died," said Ryan.
Their family all gathered at the hospital, along with a photographer from the nonprofit organization Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.
"We made plans to have memories to take home with us when Eden was born, after Eden was born, and whenever we needed to feel close to her," said Megan.
Those feelings were captured forever in photographs.
"I was really thankful for the pictures," said Megan.
But now they say their precious pictures have been taken and exploited.
That disturbing news came from a group called Cherubs. The Cokers had joined Cherubs to help deal with their grief of losing Eden.
"The most beneficial part to me of Cherubs was the online community. They have groups for parents of children who died," said Megan Coker.
But six months after Eden's death, and just as Megan miscarried her second baby, the charity's founder called with even more bad news.
"I told her that it seemed that there was another supposed CDH mom who had taken Eden's photos and were passing them off as her daughter," said Dawn Williamson, Cherubs founder and president.
"My initial thought was it's a mix-up," said Megan.
It was no mix-up. A woman in North Dakota was posting pictures of Eden all over social media, claiming it was actually her daughter Parker.
"How could somebody do that to a baby that has passed away?" said Ryan.
The woman had hung a picture of Eden on her wall, and even had one taken with Santa.
But that's not the worst of it.
"We found a grave site and other things that they had done in the name of their little girl that they lost, and they didn't lose anybody," said Ryan.
"For someone to take the extreme to bury a casket and say that there is a child in it is unfathomable to me," said Dawn Ireland.
Megan contacted police in North Dakota. Sadly, they told her there was nothing they could do. Taking Baby Eden's identity may have been immoral, but unbelievably it wasn't illegal.
"They said, you know, 'It's not that she's committed any crime against you' because it was the identity of our daughter, so it wasn't our identity, and she didn't have any monetary gain from us, and so basically what the police said was 'We can't help you,'" said Megan.
Devastated, the Cokers claim they tried reaching the woman directly. They say an email was answered by her husband, who maintains it was all a big mistake.
"What he sent back to me was 'My wife has already contacted you and we immediately questioned the amount of hair -- no further action is necessary,'" said Megan. "You continued posting pictures. Instead of calling the photographer who gave you these pictures or I don't know, just taking the pictures off the wall would be a start."
Police say they were never able to determine if the woman was ever even pregnant, or had lost a child. Megan suspects not.
"Moms who lose their babies really care about other moms who lose their babies," said Megan Coker.
So why was she doing this? We tried to contact the woman posting little Eden's pictures to ask her, but never got a response.
The Cokers say all of this has made it that much more difficult to deal with their beautiful little girl's death and hold on to the memories of those 40 precious minutes with Eden.
"We read her a book that you know that was our favorite book to read to her while she was still inside the womb," said Ryan Coker.
"I was able to hum a song, 'You are my sunshine,'" said Megan. "She went really peacefully and quietly, and it felt like five seconds, it didn't feel like 40 minutes."
But the Cokers say they will not let this go quietly. They plan to keep investigating, and if they find out she took Baby Eden's identity for monetary gain, they promise they'll do everything they can to prosecute.
"I hope she's at peace with what she's done, because she has to live with herself," said Ryan Coker.
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