I’m sure many of you have seen the posts on Facebook about October being pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to write about this, as it is very personal to me and can make some people uncomfortable.
What do you say to someone who has lost a child? There is nothing you can say to help, so all you are left with is “I’m sorry”. That doesn’t help, but it’s all you can say.
I got pregnant in December of 2008. I knew right away, as I had always been hyper aware of my body, I knew almost right after Arthur was conceived and had to wait two weeks to take the test. I waited until I was actually late to discover I was pregnant this time too.
I had used a midwife with Arthur, one attached to an actual doctor, and I loved the relaxed way of dealing with my pregnancy, but having the comfort of knowing a doctor was on standby for any problems. It was such an amazing pregnancy and birthing experience that I found a doctor in Ohio with the same ideals.
Everything seemed to be bopping right along, I was growing the way I should be, the heartbeat was strong when they did the checks, so we had no worries.
It’s hard to tell in this picture, but I was just over three months pregnant. Arthur and I flew out to CA, with my doctor’s ok, for my brother’s boot camp graduation. That’s why I’m wearing the Marine hat!
April rolled around and it was time for my ultrasound to get approximate size and weight and maybe discover the sex of the baby. Tony and I went in, ready to know if we were having another boy or getting our little princess.
The ultrasound tech had barely started when he called in a doctor. The doctor took a quick look and said he wanted to refer us to a specialist. We didn’t think too much of this. While pregnant with Arthur I was referred to a specialist too. That had been because he was so cramped in there that one of his tube was a little more kinked than it should’ve been. He came out perfect, so no worries, right?
It seemed a little odd that they wanted us to go directly to the specialist, but still not a big deal in our minds. We made the drive to the specialist, a little miffed that we didn’t know what we were having, but not worried.
This doctor was a very straight shooter, which I can appreciate, even though he ripped my world apart. Their tech did a check, didn’t say anything and then we were put in the doctor’s office.
Our child, sex undetermined, was not going to live. The first words he actually said were, “This baby has a serious problem and will not make it.” What do you say to that? He went on to explain that there had been a blockage in the baby’s ureter, the tube that goes from the kidney to the urethra and it had burst, leaving waste inside the babies body and polluting the amniotic fluid as well. There was nothing we could’ve done to prevent it, again no comfort in that, and we should induce and deliver right away.
Leaving the hospital that day, after agreeing to set a date very soon, Tony broke down in the parking garage, devastated. He was fixated on the fact that even though we were losing the baby, we didn’t know what it was.
We made the calls to our parents, also determining the date of April 8, so that my mom could come and stay with us. It also allowed us a weekend to go and see Tony’s parents for more emotional support before we had to do this.
Before making the quick trip to NY to see Tony’s parents, I had to go back into the doctor’s office to sign paperwork. This was it’s own tragedy. Inducing labor at 20 weeks, constitutes abortion. I had to sit through all of this paperwork, they had to show me by law, and sign that, yes, I understood that this could kill my child, yes, I had been informed of the option of placing the child up for adoption. It was killing me. I was also given the horrifying decision of going through normal labor and delivery, giving me a baby to at least see and hold, or abortion procedures, meaning my baby would most likely be in pieces. I chose labor and delivery.
While in NY, I didn’t even want to be around anyone. My brother-in-law’s bride-to-be was having her wedding shower and I couldn’t stand to go. I laid around the house, cuddling my almost two year old.
When we got home, it all went so fast. My mom arrived and suddenly it was April 8th. We left Arthur with our sitter, made the drive to the hospital and began the medicine necessary to induce labor. They came in at one point, while mom had gone to check on Arthur, to check the baby’s location through the heartbeat and drain some excess amniotic fluid to speed up the process. The baby’s heart had stopped. That was when I had to stop hoping for a miracle.
The hits just kept coming as they probed my stomach with a giant needle. If you’ve had an amniocentesis, you know what I’m talking about. The drained a large amount of fluid.
My mom returned to me in tears. My baby was actually dead inside me. Not dying, but already dead.
The delivery went quickly after that. My child was born and taken from the room so they could get him cleaned up for me. They brought him back in a little basket.
They were able to tell me it was a boy, my little Gabriel Michael. He was 10 1/2″ long, 1lb 5oz. Half the length and a tenth of the size of Arthur at birth. I could hold him in one hand. They warned me before hand that he was discolored. When he died, his oxygen levels depleted, changing his color.
This image may be disturbing, but this is my son, the only way I’ve seen him, so please be kind:
Here was this tiny little boy that I would never get to raise. I would never breastfeed him as I did Arthur. He would never grow up and replace this one image I will always have of him.
The staff at Akron General was amazing. They gave me a memory book, containing his stats at birth and his footprints.
This and a few other things are in my Gabriel Box. There are hospital bracelets that he never wore, a blanket that he was never wrapped in and a hat that never sat on his head.
I had the option to stay overnight in the hospital, but all I wanted to do was get out of there. I wanted to go home to my living child and hold him tight. I wanted to grieve in private. Before leaving the hospital there was more paperwork to sign, allowing the funeral home to take Gabriel’s body for cremation.
After a night at home, we went to Things Remembered to find a container for his ashes. I found a beautiful container, intended for first communion.
Inside this tiny container are the remains of my son. It is engraved with his name and the day he was delivered.
The grief is hard enough to deal with. Unless you have lost a child, either a stillborn child you have held in your arms or a living child who has been lost, please do not tell anyone experiencing this that you understand. I’ve had a miscarriage, before Gabriel, and that is a sad and terrible thing. I would never take away from someone’s grief over a loss. A miscarriage is still a loss of a child, but to me it was the loss of the idea of a child. Tragic, yet undefined, is how it felt to me.
Losing Gabriel, knowing his heart stopped before he came into this world felt like a failure on my part. It didn’t matter what the doctors said, what my friends said or even other parents who had dealt with this said; this was my failure. My job as his mother was to let him grow, safe and warm inside me. My son never developed beyond 20 weeks. What had I done wrong?
There is no answer. It has been 6 1/2 years since I held Gabriel in my arms and I can tell you there are no answers. If you’re going through this, wondering when the grief will stop, it doesn’t. I don’t think it’s supposed to stop. Don’t worry, it doesn’t destroy your life.
I don’t think about him every day, not even every month anymore, but every once in a while, I will see something and he’ll pop into my head. It could be someone with 2 boys the right age, or it could even be meeting someone named Gabriel. Anything can trigger it and I don’t know what will bring it on.
You reach a point where you don’t want to talk about the loss. People don’t want to hear it, not out of meanness, but because they don’t know what to say. You learn to bring out those memories and grief in private. I’ve recently added to my back tattoo, the one with my children’s names, it now includes Gabriel.
The Celtic owl is the Guardian of souls, so that is why I chose that image, but it felt empowering to put his name on my body. He is my son, not was, but is my son. Whether he is here with me now or already gone from this world, he will always be my son.
If you have lost a child, I can sympathize with you. Do not let anyone tell you how to grieve. Do not let anyone even imply that you should be moving past your grief. If they have not experienced the loss first hand, and are offering anything other than sympathy or condolences, ignore them.
For all the parents dealing with loss, my condolences. You are not alone in your loss.