Mom to Ollie
July 25, 2015
Grantham, New Hampshire
We are a baby loss family. Our son was born, he was beautiful, and we left the hospital alone and with the most empty feeling imaginable. Our world was turned upside down, and we were left to continue moving forward, and define our new normal. Our family will forever be incomplete. Ollie’s physical presence will always be missing, but he will always remain our very much loved, oldest child. We’ll miss him on holidays, during family events, in family pictures, on Mother’s Day, on Father’s Day, and especially on July 25. We’ll always miss him as our baby, and we’ll also miss him as the age that he would have been. We’ll wonder what his personality would have been like, what his interests would have been, and what he would have looked like as he grew up.
Ollie was “stillborn” by definition, meaning that he never took a breath outside my body, but for 38 weeks and 2 days, he was a living member of our family. He kicked, hiccuped, and moved around so much, always letting us know he was there. We talked to him, and made plans for our life with him. He made the big move from Colorado to New Hampshire with us, so that he could grow up close to his grandparents, aunts, and uncles. He was the first grandchild on both sides of his family, and he was already so loved from the day we found out we were expecting him.
We could not wait to welcome him into our family, and after a “boring” pregnancy, where not a single thing was ever amiss, we never thought anything bad would happen…until it did. After my water broke, we calmly drove to the hospital, with his car seat installed in the back, and with a bag for him that included his going home outfit, diapers, and a blanket knitted for him by his great grandmother. We were so excited, knowing we’d meet our son in the next day.
After checking into the hospital, we were informed that we’d be spending the night, and I’d be induced in the morning if labor hadn’t started on its own. We were both able to sleep, and I was being monitored for contractions and to watch the baby’s heartbeat. Throughout the night, his heartbeat remained strong and steady, although I still didn’t have any contractions.
Around 7:15 am, a nurse told us to eat breakfast, because I’d be in labor all day. Around 7:30 am, I had my first contraction. It was very mild, but I was happy to have labor starting on its own. Within minutes, I was having very intense contractions, with no break in between. I asked for an epidural, but was told it was too early, and that I still had hours to go. After seeing how much pain I was in, it was not only realized that I was fully dilated, but also that he had suddenly turned breech and his umbilical cord was coming out. This condition, umbilical cord prolapse, is life-threatening, because the weight of his body was compressing his lifeline. We were told that I’d be having an emergency c-section, and that my husband could not come. At this point, they could still feel his heartbeat in his cord.
Once I got into the operating room, I remember being told to stop pushing, although I wasn’t. My contractions were just uncontrollable. I was anxiously awaiting being knocked out, so that they could get him out safely. That never happened. I was suddenly told to push, and soon he was out, but his heart was not beating. I only knew he was out when I heard him being passed off to the team that would work to get his heart beating again. For 30 minutes, I laid on the operating table, and helplessly watched a team of doctors work on him. They gave him CPR, and they intubated him, but nothing was able to get his heart beating again. Once the NICU team arrived from the larger hospital, they determined that nothing else could be done for him.
The head of the NICU team told me that he was gone, and asked if I wanted to hold him. I did, and I also wanted my husband, who had been left wondering if either or both of us were alright for almost an hour. A nurse took on the unfortunate task of going out to tell him, and soon he came into the OR. It was the beginning of our first and last day together as a family of three. We immediately named him, as we hadn’t made a definite decision on his name, and were waiting to see him to decide. We had already said that if we went with Oliver, we wanted to call him Ollie, and so that’s who he became.
We were then brought back to our room, to try and fit a lifetime of love into a single day. Our parents had all been at the hospital, anxiously awaiting the birth of their first grandchild, and all were there to love on him, and provide much needed support for us. My husband’s 3 sisters, one of his best friends, and my best friend also came to the hospital. They will forever be the only ones to ever meet Ollie in person, and we will always be grateful to them for that. As parents of a child who will only exist in pictures to most people, the few that met him in person, and held him and loved on him, will always be special to us. We also have some incredible pictures that a doctor at the hospital took, which perfectly capture how perfect he was, and how much love surrounded him. The rest of the day was filled with lots of tears, a few laughs, and some difficult decisions. We did not anticipate needing to choose a funeral home or decide what we wanted to do with our son’s body. We also did not anticipate needing to decide if he would be an organ donor, but were happy to be given that option, when we were asked if we wanted to donate his heart valves to potentially save another baby, or provide research opportunities for doctors to study them and further cardiac care for infants. Having to hand him to a nurse, to go into surgery to remove his heart valves, and then be passed off to the funeral home, knowing I would never see him again, was the most difficult and permanent moment of my life.
The past 9 months, since losing Ollie, have been a journey we never thought we would find ourselves on, and one that has forever defined who we are. A few days before what should have been Ollie’s first Christmas, we were given an incredible gift, and found out that we were going to have another baby. Allowing ourselves to be excited for this new baby, Ollie’s little brother, was not easy at first. It’s not easy to allow yourself to bond with a baby you’re so painfully aware can be taken away from you at any time. Getting excited and making plans for this baby can sometimes feel like we’re tempting fate, and being over-confident that we’re not capable of having another loss. We’ve reminded ourselves frequently that our second son deserves every bit of excitement that his brother had, even though there’s no way it’ll ever be the same, and that the excitement we had for Ollie did not jinx us or cause anything that happened to him.
Much of the past 9 months have been lived 1 day at a time. After Ollie died, I had a month to get myself together, before starting my new job teaching middle school. The process of transitioning from grieving mom to excited and prepared teacher was daunting, but was accomplished 1 day at a time. The days did not get progressively easier, as grief is not a linear process. I’d have some good days, that gave me hope, followed by one or two that would set me back, but the next day was always there waiting for me to get back on track. It’s still that way, and I’m sure will always be on some level. My good days far outweigh the bad ones, and I’ve learned to embrace that I have been forever changed by being Ollie’s mom. I would never trade any of the pain for never having carried or met him, an experience I will always treasure, or being his mom, a title I will always be proud to hold. A saying that sticks with me is “some things cannot be fixed, they can only be carried.” Ollie’s 9 months inside me, how perfect he was, and how much he is loved and missed will be carried in my heart forever.
You can email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.