Mom to Gary
Stillborn December 14, 2011
Cumberland, Rhode Island
We had been married for two weeks when we found out that we were pregnant. While we weren’t actively trying to get pregnant, we had made a conscious decision not to prevent pregnancy and we were thrilled to find out that we were expecting a baby! Because it was so early in the pregnancy we decided not to tell friends or family that we were expecting until after we returned from our honeymoon. We spent the whole trip telling strangers about our big news because we were so excited. When we got back from the trip and told our parents that they were going to be grandparents, they could not have been happier. If truly felt like everything was falling into place for us. We had a perfect wedding day, a dream honeymoon, were in the process of buying a house, and now our dream of becoming parents was coming true.
The pregnancy was completely normal for the first 29 weeks. I had terrible morning sickness right up to week 20, which I kept justifying to myself as the sign of a healthy baby. We found out at the anatomy scan that we were having a boy. My husband was beyond happy and we decided to carry on the family name. Our little boy would be named after his daddy and grandfather. We registered for nursery items and bought cute little blue and green clothes. While we were registering my husband found a little stuffed lion (affectionately named Leo) that he insisted we buy for our little boy. Baby Gary was very active and bounced around my belly morning, noon and night. But every time my husband put his hand on my belly he would lie completely still. This was something that I felt was so special at the time, that my baby just moved for mommy, and that is now one of my biggest regrets… that my husband never got to feel him living.
At 30 weeks I went in for my regular OB appointment and my previously normal blood pressure was sky high. My husband had been to every appointment with me, but of course he was out of town on business for this one. I called my mother and she brought me to the ER. I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life and by the time I got to the hospital my pressures were 170/110 and the doctors and nurses were worried that I may have a seizure. It took hours and multiple blood pressure and anxiety medications to get my pressures back to a normal level. In the meantime, by husband was racing home on the chance that our little boy would need to be delivered that night. He arrived at the hospital shortly before midnight. They had already given me one steroid shot to boost our baby’s lung function, but were sure that they had avoided having to deliver immediately. They kept us in the hospital for two more nights before telling us that we could go home but that I was to remain on strict bedrest. We were so relieved. It felt like we had dodged a huge bullet.
I was home on bedrest for four days. On the fifth day, we had an appointment with the OB to have my pressures checked. The day before the appointment my previously active boy was unusually quiet. Rather than the 8-10 kicks in an hour I was getting only one or two, then less and less as the day went on. When we went to bed that night I was very anxious. I told my husband about how I was feeling and he reminded me that we could talk to the doctor all about it the next morning. When I woke up I felt sick I was so worried. I just had a sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong with my little boy. We went to the doctor’s office and were taken into an exam room. The nurse started by putting me on the monitor. I told her that I was nervous about it but I didn’t know why. When she didn’t find a heartbeat immediately I burst into tears. I knew right then that my worst fears were coming true. Two other nurses tried to find a heartbeat before my doctor came in with the ultrasound machine and confirmed what I already knew. My baby was gone. There was no heartbeat. We would have to go to the hospital. They would induce labor. I would have to deliver my lifeless baby. We would have some time with him, but not much. I listened to her say these things as if I were hearing them under water. I was hysterical. My husband, always calm and collected, cried into my chest as I lay on the exam table. We left the office and drove home. We packed our bags and made the phone calls that needed to be made. Our parents were devastated. For some reason, at the time, I couldn’t understand why they were so sad. They had their children, I thought. They were fine. Why are they upset? Of course now I understand where their shock and pain was coming from, but right then I was so caught up in my own grief that I couldn’t see past it. It felt like the world had stopped spinning. It felt like my world was over. And still there were things that had to be done.
We drove to the hospital, where we were admitted and labor was induced. They gave me a number of blood pressure and anxiety medications and there is a lot of the night that I can’t remember. What I do remember seem to be the worst parts. I remember a lot of crying. I remember our minister coming and praying over us and wishing that he would just leave. I remember getting my epidural and then having it fall out. I remember dilating from 2 cm to 10 cm in less than an hour and the pain of the contractions that came with that. Then at 8:56 the next morning, on December 14, 2012 my son was born. It took only three pushes for my tiny baby boy to come into the world. He weighed only 2 lbs 12oz. He had my nose and ears, but otherwise looked just like his daddy. He was absolutely beautiful and I held him and whispered to him and kissed his little forehead for nearly two hours before he was baptized by the hospital chaplain and taken from us. Everyone at the hospital was so kind to us and they tried to give us as much time as we needed, but there was no amount of time that would have seemed like enough. When they brought me up to a recovery room I remember feeling completely numb. There was no pain from my labor and delivery. I wasn’t hungry or thirsty. A stream of family came and went from our room. I don’t remember who was there or when they came. What I do remember is an overwhelming need to be alone with my husband. We found out later that the cause of death was a cord injury. His cord was wrapped around his neck very tightly four times and had cut off blood flow to his brain. There was also a partial placenta abruption, however the doctor speculated that this was caused by the shortened cord and happened either during or shortly before delivery. My doctor told me that it was a terrible coincidence, but was likely not connected to my pre-eclampsia.
We had a service for baby Gary two days before Christmas. Planning his funeral was one of the hardest things that I ever had to do. We have a family friend who is a funeral director and she very kindly offered her services to us for free. All we had to provide was the cost of the tiny white casket we picked out and the stone that would be placed at his grave. We picked out a beautiful marker for him with a little angel boy kneeling to pray. The day before the funeral we brought a bag of things we wanted to go into the casket with him. We picked out a premie outfit for him to wear. We also brought a blanket that I had been knitting for him throughout my pregnancy, a small photo album we found at Babies R’ Us entitled “Who Loves Baby” with pictures of our family, and at the last minute my husband decided to add Leo the lion to the bag. He struggled with this a lot in the previous days. He wanted desperately to keep the little lion with us as a remembrance of our son, but ultimately decided that he had bought it for his boy and that’s where it belonged. The service was beautifully done. Our minister did a lovely job and my husband, who never fails to amaze me, got up in front of our friends and family and read a letter he had written to baby Gary telling him all of the things he wished he had had the chance to say. It was terribly difficult to leave my baby at the cemetery and drive away, but going to bed that night, I felt the most peace that I had felt since we found out we had lost him.
The weeks that followed were incredibly difficult. We both cried and screamed and shared our pain and anger with each other. It was so difficult for me to see my husband go back to work and get back to a “normal” part of his life while I sat at home, in both physical and emotional pain, feeling as if nothing would ever be normal again. But as the days and weeks have gone by, one day at a time, sometimes one second at a time, we have gotten back to normal. It’s a new normal. It’s not the same as it was before, it never will be the same as it was, and to be honest I wouldn’t want it to be the same. I never want to have to go through this again, but in some strange way I feel like I have grown so much from our loss. In his short little life, my tiny little baby taught me more about myself than I had ever known. He showed me qualities that I never knew I had and proved to me that I could do more and handle more than I ever thought that I could. I am so proud of my son and I hope every day that he sees his mommy and is just as proud of me. When I visit him at the cemetery I often tell him about the things that I’ve been doing. I ask him for his permission to continue to grow and move on and to give me the strength that I need to be a good mommy again someday. I’m terrified to be pregnant again. I’m terrified that this could happen to us again. But now I’ve had a taste of the kind of love that only a parent has for her child and that makes the fear seem less important. I want to have that love again. I have to have that love again. And now my husband and I are trying to give baby Gary a little brother or sister. And when we do they will know all about the little baby that came before them. They will see his pictures. They will hear the stories. I have to honor my son in this way. He is the missing piece of our family. We wouldn’t be complete without him. He is always loved and never forgotten. He is the piece of my heart that I have had to give up. But for him I would have given up the whole of it.