November 9, 2015 7 minute read
I am a Medical Laboratory Technologist, and have been for 10 years. In my years of working in a hospital I have come across requisitions with clinical details like “Unexplained Stillbirth at 36 weeks”, “Unexplained Stillbirth at 40 weeks”, “Stillbirth Work-Up”, etc. I remember seeing those requisitions, feeling awful for these women and babies I did not know, and doing these work-ups as requested. Did I ever think my name would end up as the patient on one of these work-ups? Never in a million years.
In August of 2014, my partner and I got the biggest surprise of our lives – a positive pregnancy test that told us we were pregnant with our first child! It was a big year for us, with both of us starting new jobs in new departments in our respective fields, buying our first home together, and the biggest and best part yet – we were going to become parents. My pregnancy was a “normal” (I’ve since come to hate this word), healthy, and relatively uneventful. I had a bit of spotting around week 9/10, some nausea without any of that around-the-clock sickness, and at 8 weeks I heard my little peanut’s heartbeat for the first time; this baby was real. After week 13 we decided to let the world know that we were expecting, our little baby was no longer to be a secret kept between the two of us (and a very select few family members) – after all, we were in the clear and in the “safe” zone now, right?? Little did we know we were wrong. So wrong.
Upon the news of our pregnancy becoming known, we were overjoyed with the amount of love and support surrounding us. Everyone was just as excited and hopeful as we were. Our baby would make our parents grandparents for the very first time, and make our brothers all uncles for the first time too. It was too early to know our baby’s sex, but we had this baby’s names picked out even before conception. We decided to keep these names a secret until he/she was born. Long story short, my mom got to calling this baby “Happy Feet” – a name that caught on among everyone and became this little one’s identity during his time in my womb. Anything having to do with penguins became meaningful, and brought smiles to our faces. At our 20 week anatomy scan, we found out we were having a healthy little boy, just as his daddy had suspected. And boy oh boy, did that little boy live up to his name, “Happy Feet”.
As my pregnancy progressed, so did my love for our baby. It’s amazing how much you could get to know and love someone you’ve never even met. I had no crazy pregnancy cravings, but did have an insatiable appetite for peanut butter – no doubt Happy Feet’s appetite for peanut butter. I would have the radio on in the kitchen and would sing and dance with him in my belly as we made dinner for his daddy who sometimes worked later shifts. We loved to watch Glee because I wanted my son to be stimulated by the music and humor, but also because Cory Monteith’s character, Finn, looked very much like Happy Feet’s dad. Our boy liked to kick me awake long before my alarm clock would go off, and in those early moments of the morning it felt like we were the only two people awake in the world. We went on like this for 36 weeks, him kicking me awake, until one morning he didn’t.
On the morning of Tuesday, March 24, 2015 our lives changed and our world shattered into a million pieces. We had just had an appointment the Friday previous, our son was measuring great and had that wonderful strong heartbeat I loved to hear. But that morning, after eating breakfast and after drinking some orange juice, I did not feel my son move. Scott was still home, getting ready for work, and I told him I could not shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. He called in, and off we went to Women’s Hospital. We were taken into triage, the nurse put the doppler to my belly, and I heard the most God-awful noise in the world: silence and static. Tears began to well up and burn my eyes, the nurse had told me sometimes these things don’t work right and that she would get another to try. But I knew better, no one ever had trouble finding our baby’s heartbeat. After another failed attempt with the second doppler, a doctor came in with an ultrasound machine. I couldn’t bear to look at the screen, but Scott saw what no parent wanted to see, he saw the lifeless silhouette of what was our perfect, squirmy little boy. He threw his arms around me and as we sobbed into each other, we heard the words that will haunt my life forever, “I’m so sorry, but your baby is dead.”
Nothing could have prepared me for the nightmare that would unfold on that day. From triage, we were admitted into a private room where we cried, screamed, held onto each other, and somehow found the strength to make the phone calls we didn’t want to make. Our families were amazing, and in their own grief, stuck by us for the four days we spent in that hospital. Lying in that hospital bed I remember thinking that I once thought getting through labor was going to be the hardest part of pregnancy, boy was I ever wrong. I lay in that bed, holding my still and lifeless belly, sobbing and apologizing over and over to the little boy that I had failed. I was induced, and after a very quick, excruciating delivery without time for an epidural, I delivered my son. On the sunny morning of Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 11:04 a.m. in the most silent of delivery rooms, our “Happy Feet”, Benedict Finn, made his way into the world. He did not cry, he did not open his eyes. Benedict Finn weighed 4 lbs, 1 oz. and was 17.5 inches long. With his full head of black hair, mommy’s eyes, nose, and chin, and daddy’s big ears and long legs he was the perfect combination of us both. No words can describe how heartbreaking and beautiful it was to meet our son for the first time and also have to say goodbye. No words can describe how perfect he felt in our arms, how good it felt to smell and kiss his baby soft skin, or how gut-wrenching it is to have all that perfection taken away from you. That day will always and forever be the most bittersweet day of my life. But it is on that day, that I had a little bit of heaven in my arms.
Seven months have now gone by since our son was born still and left this world. After countless tubes of blood work, genetic testing, and autopsy we have received no answer to why his heart had stopped beating, why our perfect little boy is no longer with us. Even with the advances being made in science and technology, it had still managed to fail our son and me. I’ve come to realize though that even if there were a scientific explanation to what happened, losing him would not have hurt any less. Grieving wouldn’t be any easier. All I can do is accept my reality for what it is, hold onto the beautiful memories, and some of the best days of our lives that our son gave us in those 36 weeks he was with us. He taught us a love so beautiful, pure, and unconditional, a love that before him we never knew. He continues to be our driving force, our motivation to carry on with life and to make the best of it. We have learned how truly fragile life is, and how nothing is every really promised. It’s been such a struggle to fight feelings of guilt, sorrow, and unworthiness – a struggle to find the light when all seems so so dark. In his passing we have learned just how much we love each other, just how much our son has strengthened our bond, and just how truly lucky we are despite our circumstances. Life can still be beautiful.
Benny, not a day, hour or minute goes by that I don’t think of you or miss you. I often wonder what life would be like, and what life should be like with you here. You made me a mommy and because of you, I always will be. We promise to remember you, honor you, and love you for the rest of our days. You will always be talked about, always be the first baby in our family, and always be included because your life will always matter. I know you are patiently waiting and smiling at us from heaven, and baby boy I will want you, miss you, and love you until my last breath and until we are united again in eternity. I carry your heart with me, I carry it in my heart.