Mom to Noah Robert Wilkerson
June 26th, 2009 – June 30th, 2009
Colorado Springs, Colorado
The story of our family began on my 30th birthday. It was about that time, that after six years of marriage, my husband Chris and I finally began to feel baby fever. We threw a huge birthday party to celebrate this new decade of life for me with all our family and friends. Meanwhile, we secretly celebrated an end to life being only about just the two of us, and the beginning of an exciting new chapter of parenthood. What felt like two seconds later, I was pregnant.
It was such an amazing, joyful and scary time. Every symptom, every kick and squirm was just a miracle, and we poured over the baby books, classes and websites to try to understand every last part of it all. We found that we were having a boy, whom we named Noah. Noah grew fast, always measuring ahead of where the doctors said he should be. I remember being at the doctor’s appointments, hearing his strong little heartbeat. It would always make me laugh, which would make him move and the doctor would lose him! It was just such a joyful thing to hear it. She’d sigh with a smile, remind me to keep still, and find it again. Chris would videotape it so we could go home and watch and listen to it again and again.
Noah was due on July 16th, but three weeks earlier than his due date my water broke. I was outside walking during my lunch break from work. I was in front of a Subway sandwich store when it happened. It was such a surprise! I waddled into the Subway and found the ladies room to clean myself up as best as I could. I wasn’t having any contractions yet, so I decided to just walk back to my office to make the appropriate phone calls and figure out a ride home.
Chris and I had worked hard to prepare for a natural childbirth studying the Bradley Method. Once labor got going, he and I went into the routine that we had practiced countless times before. I relaxed and did the breathing techniques, while Chris read me the relaxation stories and mantras and helped me scan my body for tension. We worked beautifully together through the whole labor, and just before 3am on June 26, 2009 Noah was born without any medical interventions.
It was amazing to see him for the first time. Both of us couldn’t help but fall in love with him on the spot. His heart was beating a little bit fast for what it should have been, so the pediatric nurses took him to the nursery for some closer monitoring. Chris went with him. After a few hours, everything settled down the way that it should, and Noah was able to join me in our postpartum room. Chris handed him off to me so that he could sleep. I was eager to spend some time with Noah. That night is among the very best of my life, laying in bed with my boy and watching every movement, facial expression, and noise he would make. He was fascinating to watch, and even though I should have been sleeping and relaxing after having given birth, I couldn’t take my eyes off of my sweet boy.
After a couple of days in the hospital, we were deemed healthy enough to go home and begin our lives as a family. Chris’s parents had come out to stay with us that first week to help. We introduced Noah to his room, our dog Maggie, and the rest of the family. It was wonderful to have him home. There were so many interruptions and distractions at the hospital. Being home allowed us to just focus on caring for Noah the way that we wanted to. It was amazing being first time parents. I had no idea that kind of love existed in the world, and we both kicked ourselves for not doing it sooner!
On the fourth day of Noah’s life, suddenly and without warning, he stopped breathing. He was rushed to the hospital by ambulance, where a team of doctors and nurses worked feverishly on him for four hours. They couldn’t figure out what had happened, and just before midnight, he passed away. We were devastated. The most wonderful blessing had been handed to us, and then it was ripped away. The dream was over, and our hearts were broken and empty.
We spent the rest of that night agonizing over our four days with Noah, trying to think of anything that could have caused this. Our imaginations were our worst enemies that night. Being first time parents, there was so much that we were just learning to do. We were using our best instincts to care for Noah, and our best instincts had failed us. We were consumed with guilt and anguish, each accepting fault for any benign thing that we did or didn’t do. Not knowing what had happened was beyond miserable.
The next day, Noah’s pediatrician called to tell us that his newborn screenings had come back. They indicated that Noah had a very rare genetic disorder. The symptoms of it are subtle, which explained why no one had seen anything wrong with him. It is, of course, life threatening. The news came a day too late to be able to do anything to save him.
How do you move on after such a tragedy? We weren’t sure how we would survive it or how life would ever be meaningful again. A few days after Noah died, my mother took me shopping to try to find something to wear to his funeral. My body was still a mess from being pregnant and nothing fit. I sat alone in a changing room with a mountain of clothes she had tried to find for me, and I knew none of them would work. To sit there and to have to try to find clothes to wear to my son’s funeral was just absolutely overwhelming. I was about to fall apart right there in the middle of everything, when I looked down. I was wearing a bracelet that had pictures of Noah on it that my husband had put together for me. I saw Noah’s face looking up at me. I felt guilty for not trying harder for him. I felt a calling to be the kind of strong mother that he deserves – one who doesn’t give up. That thought gave me what I needed to get up and keep moving forward, as hard as it was.
Chris and I threw ourselves into counseling, grief groups, and other resources. We did it for Noah. We tapped into that strength of knowing that he deserved that much from us. He may not be here anymore, but we are still his parents and we can honor him by taking care of what mattered most to him while he was here: each other.
Through genetic counseling, Chris and I learned that we were both carriers of the rare illness that Noah had. Any other children we would have would be at high risk of suffering the same fate as him. The only way that we could ensure that we’d have a healthy baby would be to do IVF with PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis). Basically, they can test the embryos before they are implanted to see which ones are sick and which are healthy. We decided that to have another baby was the right plan for us, and after doing a successful cycle of in vitro, I became pregnant again. Our second son Aaron Noah was born on October 14, 2010. He looks just like his brother, and having him here has been so healing for both Chris and I. Every day, we learn to trust a little bit more again. Aaron has a number of “little brother” shirts that he wears to honor Noah with us. We are the parents of two amazing little boys, who both bring such unique gifts to the table to teach us and those around us about life in ways that I never could have expected.
Being Noah’s mother is such an honor. I loved my pregnancy with him. I cherished every moment that he lived in me and with me. Through a lot of hard work, I am finally at the place that I can fully embrace his place in our family, even though he exists with us in a way that I didn’t choose. He is one of the greatest loves of my life, and no matter how much time passes or what is thrown at me, I think of him all the time, every day and night. His memory and spirit are always with me. I don’t regret his life in the slightest. I would give anything to still have him here with me. There will always be a giant gaping hole in our daily lives where Noah should be. But, I hold onto his pictures and the mementos from his time here, and look forward to sharing them with his brother, and anyone around me who wants to hear about one of the very best times of my life.
Sarah blogs at www.maggiepaws.blogspot.com
You can contact her at SarahMo10@aol.com