I knew he was dead.
Before he was ever born, I knew he was dead.
He was my miracle baby…a baby who had a heartbeat and a name and plans. After four miscarriages, we could finally get excited. Dreaming of colleges and majors and football games and laughter.
And they were all dead. In one moment. They were gone.
They had the ultrasound screen looking at me. To prove it was fine. We passed the magical first trimester. Bad things didn’t happen. I was paranoid. I would see it was fine.
Sometimes babies were still. And I was just overly anxious. It was understandable–I’d been through so much. Everything was fine.
Until I saw his heart. His tiny, precious, beautiful heart. His heart that had stopped. And in that moment, so did mine. I don’t remember much, except screaming, like some animal being sacrificed, ripped in two for the amusement of some cruel God who could only be appeased by pain.
“It was all so clinical”
Giving birth was the plan. It’s what they did. It was all so clinical. As if it was the most normal thing in the world. Like any other medical procedure. Like any other day.
I must have told my son I’m sorry every moment between the minute I knew he was gone and the moment I last saw his face. I had failed the person I wanted to protect the most, who I had cherished the most.
Between the moment I knew he had died and the moment he was born, I bargained with God. I would repent daily. I would give anything. I would give my life. Anything. But, please, let it be wrong. Please, not my son. Please, not again.
“His breaths never came”
In the OB ward, it was a cruel juxtaposition. Women walking in–in labor. There were excited grandparents and proud fathers to be. People asking if it was a boy or a girl. And my heart catching in my throat with the inability to answer.
When I held my son, time stopped. I kept staring at him and gently held his hand in mine. I sang the story of “I Love You, Forever.” The nurses said I could have all the time I needed.
As I held him, I willed him to breathe. I begged his tiny heart to beat. To open his eyes and cry for me, even a fraction of how I was crying for him.
With every breath I took, I prayed I could feel his tiny chest move. With every pulse in my fingers, I begged God to let me feel his.
This time I would be better. This time I would protect my beautiful child. This time, it was all supposed to be better. God, if you can hear me, take me. If you can see me, see how I’d spend eternity in Hell for him to live.
His breaths never came. They were never going to.
“Mommy loves you”
“I love you. Mommy loves you.”
I said it over and over and over. My tears fell down his head as I put him to my breasts and held him close to me. There was never going to be enough time to say goodbye. There was never going to be enough strength to let him leave.
After they took him from my arms, I cried so hard I could barely breathe. And then I was empty.
People tell you the pain heals with time.
They lie. It changes.
It never leaves.
The grief comes in waves. It goes from being the constant presence to the backseat driver that speaks up and both times that you expect and times that you don’t. Forcing you to learn to plaster a smile on your face when you see a friend’s baby or pushing down the answer that you want to give to the question, “So, how many children do you have?”
And then there are the inevitable milestones—first steps, first day of school, First Holy Communion, graduation.
You wonder what he’d be doing. What he’d be like. Would he bother his sister? Would he be smart or funny or handsome? Would he be kind?
And when you don’t hear from your living child? When they are quiet too long, your mind skips 30 paces ahead.
Are they gone? Did something happen? And the fear courses through you like a bolt. Not again.
People tell you to not be afraid. To not be so protective. The chances of your child dying are so small.
The chance that my child died is 100%. The chance that I’ve held a dead child in my arms is 100%. And the likelihood of me wanting to do it again is less than zero.
There is a part of me still in the room holding my son. Still willing him to take a breath. Still telling him I’m sorry. Still telling him “I love you. Mommy loves you” and wishing to God he could say it back.