Mom to Angel Baby & Connelly Harding
2013 and February 15, 2016
Dear Connelly Harding,
My sweet, sweet boy. This is your story. Some of the details are left out; some are tucked away in my private journal, some we do not know yet. Even though you never took a breathe in this world, your impact continues to live on. I receive messages a few times a week of people your name has reached. Your life may have ended, but your story will continue on.We found out that we were pregnant in October 2015. We had been trying for you for eight months; we were over the moon to be adding another baby to our family. From the very beginning your older brother, loved on you, snuggled my belly, kissed and gave you raspberries.
Granted, he was CERTAIN that you were a girl. Everything about this pregnancy was par for the course, although my morning sickness was not enjoyable! Cooking at all, made it impossible to eat. I had not been so sick with Beckett, but had been quite sick for the short amount of time we were pregnant the first time.
At our 17-week appointment I was so nervous, I told your Daddy that I thought they were going to tell us that something was wrong – but no, as soon as they put the doppler on my belly, there you were! Because of a heart defect I had when little, we get to see a genetic specialist every time we are pregnant. So, we waited until 20 weeks for our specialist appointment to do your gender ultrasound. The day before, I wrote to my friends telling them that I was growing increasingly anxious, and that I felt really disconnected from you suddenly. In the waiting room at the appointment, I kept looking at other mom’s bellies and feeling like something was wrong with the way I looked. I went to the bathroom at one point and stopped to look at my belly in the mirror.
We finished the genetics portion of our appointment with laughter and I was so ready to see you. We went back for our ultrasound and very quickly I could tell something was wrong. The tech seemed uneasy; she was looking for your heartbeat. She stood up abruptly and asked me to roll on my side while she quickly exited the room. At that point I grabbed for your Daddy’s hand and began to cry, telling him that they couldn’t find your heartbeat. But, he was so positive, he was sure it was just a fluke and we’d get it all straightened out. But, when the doctor entered the room, I knew it was terrible news. She came in and with a very soft and tender voice, began asking us questions that had nothing to do with you; like where we live, etc. Finally, she took over the ultrasound machine, but before she could speak – I asked, it’s bad, isn’t it? You were gone.
I immediately covered up my belly and pulled my knees to me. The tech and the doctor excused themselves. Then your daddy came over to comfort me. Your Daddy was crying too. I stood to hug him and let out a sound I can’t describe, my knees buckled and your Daddy had to hold me from hitting the ground. That moment will define us for the rest of our lives, there will always be – before we lost Connelly and after. I miss you so much.
I called your Nana then, and just asked her to come. I was crying, so she knew something was wrong – I just kept begging her to come, please. I didn’t know until later that she had me on speaker – thinking we were calling to tell them all if you were a boy or a girl. After that the doctor came back and talked to us about what the next steps would be, they had contacted our midwife and they were expecting to hear from us. We learned that we would be able to give birth to you. They weren’t able to get any pictures for us to take home that day. From there we went to get our car from the valet – that was SO hard. I was sobbing in the foyer and we had to wait for what seemed like forever, to get our car.
I called the midwife on the way home, but she wasn’t available at the moment – it’s possible she was talking to the mom who also lost her baby that morning, a woman I’d come to be best friends with over the next few weeks. WE got home and your Pops saw us through the window. Mamaw and Pops were watching your big Brother, Beckett. We had planned to have the ultrasound, then go to dinner together and reveal to each other what you were, and then go shopping for a doll for Beckett to match your gender.
They weren’t expecting us home so soon. We went inside and all I could say was that you were gone. Pops didn’t understand. He was confused, Mamaw burst into tears. There were lots of hugs. I had to keep excusing myself though, I was numb and I was planning. I needed to make plans, to figure out the next steps, to find every possible outlet to hold onto you as possible. I talked to the midwife and we discussed our options; waiting/inducing, homebirth/hospital birth. I called a photographer friend who could do maternity photos for us; I commandeered a friend to contact someone from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I called Nana and asked her to start making phone calls to others and let them know what had happened, but when I called her to ask her to do this, it was brought to my attention that I hadn’t told her anything, but to come. At the time, she was driving here and thinking that maybe you had a birth defect or you were going to be born with a disability, I hadn’t told her that you died.
Once Nana got here, Mamaw and Pops left and your Daddy went to bed. He had worked the night before and was so tired. I continued to go on with Beckett, making phone calls, taking breaks. I tried to keep your brother awake through nap so that I could hear his happiness and giggles. But, about 5:00 p.m., he crashed. He absolutely needed a nap. I took pictures of him that day, laying in bed, looking so big. He was what I was hanging on to.
That Saturday is a blur. I know lots of plans were arranged, I know I cried A LOT. That night, I rocked, nursed and sang you and your big brother to sleep together for the last time. For months, every time I sang him to sleep, I was singing to you too. It was all I could do to choke out the words – “I will keep you safe and warm.” I didn’t, I’d failed. You were gone. I still really have a hard time singing that lullaby. Today is April 24th [at time of writing], and I am just now starting to be able to sing that song again.
February 14, 2016. Valentine’s Day. I woke up that morning and began getting ready. I would rotate between getting ready for our maternity photos, packing the hospital bag, and crying. I don’t know how I was putting one foot in front of the other. Throughout the day I would keep asking people, how was I supposed to keep going forward? How I was I supposed to move forward knowing that with each item on our checklist for the day, we came closer to telling you goodbye? Had we not had other things to do besides go to the hospital. I don’t think I could have done it, but I was excited for photos. I NEEDED those pictures before we said goodbye. We told Beckett goodbye; he’d never been without me for more than a few hours at a time. And only just a handful of times at bedtime; and now we’d be leaving him for a couple of days. It was so painful to tell him goodbye, knowing that it would be the last time the two of you would be together.
We drove to the Diaper Fairy Cottage. The photographer had a dress for me set out in the bathroom, so that I didn’t have to think of outfits to wear. I changed clothes. Your Daddy had to stand in front of the mirror for me; I couldn’t bear to see my body. Daddy joined me for some of the pictures. They were so hard to do. I wanted to curl in a ball and sob, but I knew that once the dam broke, I’d never be able to keep stepping forward. Emily, the owner of the store, donated a swaddle blanket for you, later I would buy a matching one for Beckett. Just this week, I’ve put another on hold, in case we ever do decide to try to give you another sibling. We also bought you a special lamb stuffed animal, I still sleep with him every night. He held you in the hospital, and now I hold him. We hugged Emily, and we all cried, and then Daddy and I headed for our lunch date.
It was Valentine’s Day and we decided that the three of us should go on ahead and have the special lunch we had planned on having on Friday, when we were supposed to learn your gender. We chose a sushi place we both enjoy, thinking that their wouldn’t be any other pregnant women present. During lunch we worked on picking out names for you, we just talked, we teared up. At one point we nearly slow danced in the restaurant, both of us wish now that we had. I cried when a very jubilant pregnant woman came to lunch was so joyously proclaiming her pregnancy and asking for descriptions of all the items on the menu, and what was safe for her precious baby. It didn’t matter what I ate…..
After lunch we left to go to the hospital. I decided I wanted an adult swaddle blanket made by the same company your blanket was made by. So, we called the Sparrow’s Nest. They had one in stock but the store was closed. The owner asked if she could bring one to the hospital later. She gave it to us as a gift, an amazing and beautiful gift. We all drew comfort from that blanket in the hospital, and I still sleep with it, every night. It hasn’t been washed. We had some extra time, so we ran into Walgreen’s and loaded up on snacks and drinks. I kept asking your daddy, HOW are we supposed to go in there, HOW are we supposed to finish driving to the hospital?
But, we did. We sat in the car right up until the very moment we were supposed to be inside, 2 p.m. We went inside and asked for labor and delivery. I had forgotten to bring a cooler to save your placenta in, and my friend had taken it to the hospital. We ran into her coming downstairs as we were going up. I gave her a hug and she was teary. She was also hugely pregnant; she would go into labor the next night. Her son would be born the day after you. I can’t look at her, I can’t look at him. It rips my heart into shreds. That’s what you should be. He’s a day younger than you, that’s how big you’d be.
We went upstairs, and no one was at the front desk – it was a Sunday and we had forgotten to go to registration. The janitor saw us and grabbed a nurse; she would turn out to be an angel. I don’t remember her name, but she is in several of our photos from the hospital. She showed us our room, she hugged us, and she sat with us. She repeatedly reminded us that everything we were doing was at our own pace, there was no rush. She took care of registration for us. She acknowledged the heartbreaking step we’d taken by coming into the hospital. She answered all of our questions, and she talked through the next steps, all while ensuring that we didn’t feel rushed. She also let us know, that another family was in the exact same situation, they also lost their boy on Friday, and that we had the same due date (we were actually a day apart). She shared with us that the other family had found comfort in knowing that their son didn’t go alone. The Mother to that angel would soon become my best friend. That nurse was the only nurse we would share; I love her. She is an absolute hero in my book.
She left the room for a while and told us that it would be absolutely ok if we were still on the couch when she came back. And I was. We contacted the photographer from NILMDTS and let her know we’d arrived at the hospital. Danielle came with my blanket, but I couldn’t bear to see her. I felt so bad to send her away after such a beautiful gift, but I just couldn’t take seeing anyone.
Eventually I got up to use the restroom, and saw the giant birthing tub. My FAVORITE place to be with my babies in utero and out. Beckett and I still take baths together every week. When I was pregnant with him, I spent most evenings curled in the bathtub singing and talking to him. I didn’t get to do it as often with you because, well, Beckett. From there I formulated the plan for moving forward, discussed it with the nurse and we moved forward.
First, she summoned an ultrasound tech for us. He was an older gentlemen and he was so sweet. He brought his cart in and it was obvious that he had been crying. It took a minute for the machine to turn on, he went to the window and started talking about the snow, but I could see him wiping his eyes. Thankfully, he got us a photo of you, in my belly – we still didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl. He printed off two for us before he left. Our nurse patted his back as he wheeled the cart out of our room. I felt so bad for him; I just wanted to comfort and hug him. This would be a theme, but as our photographer would tell me, it wasn’t my time to apologize or take care of others.
The nurse drew me a wonderful warm bath and I moved into the bathtub with you. For a few moments I sat, just holding you in my belly, when suddenly I decided to pull up, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” on my phone. I used to sometimes sing it to Beckett too. My phone had very little battery, but for over an hour, I sat in the bathtub, holding you and singing to you.
Over and over I sang and my battery never died. Hearing me sing made your Daddy so sad. He turned a show on his phone and curled up on the couch with a blanket. His heart was so broken.
Next, I set up my space. I had brought a toy airplane Beckett loves and his stuffed animal. I had your swaddle blanket, my blanket, and your lamb. I opened up the journal I had brought and I wrote everything down, from Friday morning on. I wrote in that journal through the whole process and after we came home, but once it was full, I closed it and to this day I can’t bring myself to open it. I didn’t want to take any medicine and then forget details. I was so scared somehow you’d be lost and forgotten in all of this. It started to snow. I contacted our photographer and told her she didn’t have to come, I was worried about her driving in those conditions….but she insisted and had already left. She was on her way. After I filled in my journal, while continuing to play Somewhere over the Rainbow, they gave me the Ativan I had requested. I didn’t want to lose moments with you because I was panicked.
Then they began the process of inducing us. It was not pleasant and I cried a lot. A mother should never have to plan the way they say goodbye to their child, it was all in my hands….I felt like I was choosing to let you go. I, and only I, was taking the steps that would take you away from us forever.
Kennisha, our photographer came. She was just what we needed, we talked and briefly got to know each other, we even laughed back and forth. Your daddy did his thing and was being funny. After a while, Kennisha went to call her husband and spend some time in the waiting room while we got comfortable in our room. I took an Ambien and got some rest. But the meds continued through the night, every four hours. At some point your Daddy left the room to get a snack and found Kennisha, at which point she came back to our room. She sat by my bedside, she held my hand. She was sent straight from Heaven. I slept on and off, I remember at one point a contraction woke me from my sleep and I let out a groan. I saw her watching me from the bedside before I fell back asleep. It was comforting seeing her there. Sitting in the dark, watching over me. She was an angel. There is not a doubt in my mind she was sent straight from God. The lady that normally does the photos for Clark was out of town – But my friend knew Kennisha, or she’d never have been there. She was meant for us.
Things get pretty hazy in the early morning hours. I can remember the snow; we got 6 inches that night. It would all be gone by the time we left the hospital, only making the whole experience even more surreal. At some point the pain was unbearable. Even in all the natural labor I did with Beckett, these contractions were something else. But, I was certain I deserved the pain. I deserved to feel my body ripping apart physically; it matched how I felt on the inside. And my body had failed you, I had failed to keep you safe and alive – I deserved to hurt. I remember at some point your daddy and Kennisha, holding my hands as I tried explaining this to them. But, Kennisha quickly talked some sense into me about dealing with the pain; sadly I missed my opportunity for an epidural and had to begin IV pain meds. The moment the pain meds kicked in, I was asleep. I would maintain that drowsy state for the rest of your labor. In fact, when I had dilated to 9, the midwives suggested it might be time to birth you. But, Kennisha told them I wanted to be fully present and to give me time to get to ten and be more aware.
At ten centimeters I gave the midwife permission to break your water. Then I pushed. Your time of birth is different from the doctor, the death certificate, and Kennisha’s photo – but it was somewhere around 9:43. The midwife and the nurses took you to another part of the room and swaddled you for us. She brought you over and we held you – she showed us you were a BOY!!! Beckett had told us from day one that you were going to be a girl. I think seeing that you were a little boy, hurt Daddy even more. He was going to have TWO sons. Just like him and his brother….knowing what that relationship could have been like, and then to realize that it would never happen. The photo Kennisha took of us finding out that you were a boy was one of my favorites because in the midst of utter heartbreak, we’re both smiling. We were so happy. It sounds crazy. But we were, in a way it was amazing to get to meet you.
You were beautiful; you had the most adorable fingers and toes. Your hands were the size of dimes. Your eyes were closed, and your mouth was closed when you were born, but throughout the time we spent with you, your mouth opened. Your little nose was perfectly formed. You were precious. Tiny and long, but just like a very small baby. So perfect. For a while I noticed the snapping sounds of Kennisha’s camera, and then it faded away. I didn’t notice it anymore, I was just with you. I did have to continue medicine and labor because your placenta was not born with you. It would take another 5+ hours and my disobedience for that to occur. Every time the nurses came in, Kennisha would hold you. When I was holding you, I had you in front of me so that I could see you. When I needed to rest, I would wrap you in your blankets and lay you on my chest. I needed to feel the weight of you on me. Your urn is so similar in weight, I often lay in on my chest to fall asleep at night, if you aren’t on my chest, you are snuggled nearby.
There were also times that Kennisha took you to take photos I had requested. I wanted some of you with your brother’s stuffed animal so that you would be with something of his that he could then be with. After a while we invited your Nana, your Aunt, Mamaw and Pops to come meet you. Papaw was at home taking care of Brayden, and he didn’t feel comfortable coming to the hospital. I wanted those we invited to feel like they were able to do what felt right for them.
Nana came first, she held you and rocked you, and she loved you so much. Kennisha got some beautiful photos of the two of you. With Daddy, Nana, and Kennisha’s help, we found you a perfect name. I would throw out adjectives that described you, my perfect boy and we would all take turns googling baby names that matched those meanings. We had a short list of names; Kennisha wrote them on the dry erase board so that I could see them. Two of the first names we had picked, just sounded perfect to me. Your name means, LOVE, BRAVE, and RESILIENT. These words were you, and they were what we would need to survive losing you. They were the perfection combination of your coming and your leaving.
While Nana was still there, Pops and Mamaw came to see you. Mamaw held you for a while; I remember her talking about your little shoulders. You were really so perfect; everyone was over the moon about you. At this point, Kennisha led a beautiful prayer, sadly I can’t remember the words she spoke. I just remember feeling like she said all the right things. Nana left, to give Mamaw and Pops time with you and to get back to the house with Beckett and Rylee.
Then, due to complications with continuing to labor for your placenta, Mamaw and Pops had to leave the room. At that point I was finally able to labor your placenta, there were no obvious abnormalities with it, and you were so perfect, no reasons why you might have died. Mamaw and Pops stopped back in to say goodbye and at that time Pops held you for a little bit. I was so tired and still fighting the effects of all the medicine; I needed to rest. I slept with you on my chest again.
After I woke up, I continued to spend time with you. I moved to the rocking chair so that I could rock you outside of my belly, once. I sang you the lullaby I had sang to you all those nights in my belly, the song for you and Beckett. Then I bought a book for you, using my Kindle. Much like, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” I don’t know what made me choose the book. But, I bought and read, “Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You.” I choked through many of the words. I rocked you, I held you. The next step in the “plan,” was to begin. We would tell you goodbye. I moved back to bed and I held you under my chin while I curled my body around you, like I have done time and time again with Beckett. Like I had thought I would do with you. I held you, I breathed you, and I took every moment of you in.
The nurse brought me an Ambien and a small dose of Ativan. Kennisha said her goodbyes. I began saying mine. I cried over you, I talked and sang to you. I kissed your head. When I could no longer keep my eyes open, I asked your daddy if he was ready to say goodbye. He said his goodbyes and we rang the nurse. Then, I did the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I let you go. Nothing, nothing will ever be as hard as the moment I handed you over, knowing I would never see you again. It is one of my biggest sources of pain, if I could have kept my eyes open just another few minutes, I beg for more time with you. I miss you so much. Yet, I know that no amount of time would have ever been enough. I will always want more. Mommy’s and Daddy’s shouldn’t have to say goodbye to their children. The moment I let you go….I am so sorry.
The next morning, we packed our bags. As I was packing I realized I had not asked Kennisha for a photo I’d meant to get. I had brought a salt dough handprint I had made of Beckett’s hand for Christmas, I wanted a photo of your hand in it – so you could, in a way, hold hands. I rang for the nurse and she took my phone and Beckett’s handprint and created the photo for us. I knew, I knew if I brought you back into our room, I’d never let you go again. After that they put me in the wheelchair and we were going home. At that moment, Kennisha sent me a beautiful text message and a photo of you so that I would have something to hold on to as we left.
“Megan you’ve been on my heart all day. I can only imagine how hard it is to leave the hospital today and leave sweet Connelly behind. I edited one of your images for you so you don’t have to be without him. I pray it gives you comfort during what is quite possibly one of the hardest days of your life. I will continue praying for you and remembering your sweet baby boy. Please let me know if you need anything.”
I sobbed; I blew kisses into the air. How was I supposed to let them take me downstairs? How was I supposed to get in the car and go home? How was I supposed to leave you there? I don’t know how we did it, but we did. As your Daddy drove past the hospital, I continued to blow kisses back your way. When we arrived at home, I spent the day on the couch, in and out of sleep and despair. Beckett sat at my feet, he nursed. He was happy; my milk was coming back with full force, for you. Your milk gave Beckett such joy.
The story continues. I continued to journal. I write to you less now, because it has become normal to talk about you, to say your name, to talk to you through the day. There isn’t a moment you aren’t in my mind. I miss you with all of me. I still beg for you to come back. I know it’s illogical, but I beg nonetheless. Come back, come back, come back.
Since you died, your Daddy and I have lost 3 other family members. So I know you have some company up there. One, Lori, she was like my second mom. I am comforted by the love I know she is giving you. In that same breathe, I can’t wait to come and take care of you myself sweet boy. I miss you.
You can email Megan at email@example.com.