I’ve sat down to try to write this story many times and it was just too hard to go there again. But today is his birthday, so I gave it another shot.
For six months I carried your life inside me.
The year felt new in the most profound way that January. I waffled between dramatic excitement and disconcerted illness. I remember thinking, “How scary this must be for teenage moms… pregnancy feels like the plague.” I leaned heavily on that fierce desire for parenthood to get me through. You were so wanted.
We wrapped up one blue bootie and one pink, and sent them out to each of our parents. First child. First grandchild. First great-grandchild. You were already adored.
I wore denim overalls to the Victoria Day picnic, all the rage in maternity fashion in those days. But I felt beautiful, like the lyrics to “Natural Woman” suddenly made sense. Your Dad had more swagger in his step too, so I wasn’t the only one feeling the difference. You made us feel complete.
I felt something new that night. Something uncomfortable. Something alarming and outside the parameters of Baby Centre e-mails and our dog-eared copy of “What to Expect.” Although he looked right at me, I could HEAR the resident OB’s eyes rolling. He confidently diagnosed it as “bad Chinese food” and all but patted me on the head. After all, we were very young first-time parents, and the pain wasn’t even in the right place. He brushed off my past kidney problems and mollified us with a quick doppler exam. The steady wickety-wick of your heartbeat was beautiful. Nothing else mattered as long as you were okay. You were already the centre of our universe.
I’m not sure how we spent the next week. Most likely, packing up our little basement suite. Napping at my desk during lunch breaks. Planning furniture and paint colours and nursery themes with all the gravity of a proud new homeowner. Classic Beatrix Potter was in the lead.
When the nightmare hit, we were completely off guard. There was blood and pain and horrified looks on the faces of the nurses. There was good news – just a kidney problem. There was bad news – no one really understands what’s going on. The days and nights in the hospital should have been scary, but they weren’t really. I wielded my faith like a shield. I prayed with complete certainty. I basked in the prayers of others. You would be fine; there was no other option.
I had absolute confidence that this would one day be an interesting footnote in your baby book. I watched you suck your thumb on the hazy lights of the ultra-sound machine. I relished every kick and nudge.
My heart stopped when yours did. You were gone.
Sure, that traitorous muscle kept pumping blood through my veins like nothing was wrong, but my world, everything that made sense and held life together, simply ceased to be when the doppler fell silent. I can’t remember if I cried during the solemn scuffle of nurses and doctors and sad speeches and condolences. I know I waited for someone to say it was a mistake. I know I held your Dad’s hand. I know time passed for everyone else in that room but us. You really were gone.
For one week I carried your death inside me.
That time is mercifully clouded. Too broken to pray in words. Too hurt to care about my body. Too numb to feel alarmed about my kidney surgery. Too drugged to remember the ICU or the days that followed. Your Dad was so scared. Your Grandmas stayed and held us together.
They gave us pamphlets and advice and sent chaplains to talk to us. One was terrible. She said all the wrong things and made everything worse (Grandma Barb almost overcame her pacifist leanings when it came to this one… sending her away). The other woman was a Godsend. She was gentle and sad and understood how important you were.
It seemed strange and unnatural, to think of holding your tiny body and saying goodbye. But they were right. It was important. It was necessary. It was a gift. We counted your little fingers and your little toes and dressed you in the tiny premie clothing that was still much too large. Not every parent gets to hold their babies to say goodbye. You were beautiful.
For 14 years I have carried your life, and your death, inside me. They are sadly intertwined for me, the love and the loss, but I would not trade one to purge the other. I carry you with me, because the alternative is unthinkable.
There’s a little place in this mother-heart that is yours alone… where grief has softened, but remains… where maternal instinct lingers, unspent… where dreams are born of who you would-have-been, and who you-are-right-now, and what it will be like to hold you someday.
Each year I remember you. Each year I pull out your little treasures and your sympathy cards and your tiny blue sweater and celebrate the most unusual birthday. Another year without you.
But also, another year closer to seeing you again.
My belief in an afterlife is no longer academic.
Not since you slipped there ahead of me.
So here’s to you, my firstborn…
Happy Birthday Noah William!
You are loved!
June 3rd, 2013 at 8:00 am
Praying for you , and remembering also!
June 4th, 2013 at 8:57 am
June 3rd, 2013 at 8:32 am
As I said on your husband’s Facebook page, this is one of the most beautiful, tender, & brave accounts I’ve ever read. You truly inspire me & give me hope. Thank you for sharing this. I well know how painful & yet how liberating this must have been to write. I am carrying all 3 of you with me today & will be thinking of you often. Lots of hugs for you, my friend.
June 4th, 2013 at 8:59 am
Thank you again for your very sweet encouragement! I know this is a road you’ve been down too and I’m so sorry! Glad to hear you’ve started a blog of your own. We need your voice out here!
June 3rd, 2013 at 9:03 am
Praying, celebrating, crying with and for you today!
June 4th, 2013 at 9:04 am
I appreciate it!
June 3rd, 2013 at 9:16 am
I’ve been thinking about you and Noah today and I’m crying with you all over again. He will never be forgotten.
June 4th, 2013 at 9:05 am
You were right beside us for all of it. Don’t know how we would have survived without you!
June 3rd, 2013 at 10:01 am
A mother never forgets….remembering those days so well and praying for you today.
June 4th, 2013 at 9:06 am
Thank you. I remember talking to you about grief and joy and your own story shortly after – really helped! Thanks!
June 3rd, 2013 at 11:38 am
Wow… good for you Christie – so heartfelt and well said. Praying for you.
June 4th, 2013 at 9:07 am
June 3rd, 2013 at 12:33 pm
I am so very sorry for your loss. My son, who was also stillborn at 6 months, would have been 15 this past May, and I struggle each year with the “birthday” that isn’t. Each year it passes marked only by the hollow in my heart that feels bigger on that day. How can something that is so very much a part of me be something that I cannot bring myself to burden others with? I admire your willingness to bear it so honestly.
June 4th, 2013 at 9:09 am
I’m so sorry for your loss too. The “birthday that isn’t” (well put btw) is the hard day. You never outgrow the grief that, and maybe especially because, no one really sees.
June 3rd, 2013 at 10:09 pm
My heart goes out to you. I am so sorry for your loss. I firmly believe that he is indeed waiting for you, and that one day you will hold him in your arms.
June 4th, 2013 at 9:11 am
Thank you! That is what I hold onto!
June 3rd, 2013 at 10:51 pm
I am in tears. They are streaming down my face. May your bond with Noah be surrounded with light and lightness. Thank you for trusting us all with your story.
June 4th, 2013 at 9:12 am
Is it a terrible thing to appreciate your tears? It’s very touching. Thank you so much!
June 5th, 2013 at 9:24 pm
My mother lost my sister before I was born but has never really talked about it. Thank you for sharing this, I cried as I read it and now have a better understanding of why my mother never speaks about it. There are too many subjects that my family is silent on it seems.
My younger sister once wrote that ‘God only took our sister because she was too special to be here on Earth’, I like that thought.
God bless you and of course Noah,
June 6th, 2013 at 8:04 am
It’s a hard thing to talk about, especially if you’re worried people won’t understand. My brother was stillborn when I was 5 and I know my parents were gutted, but I didn’t really understand it until Noah. My mom was such a great support because of it, but I would rather we had Bradley with us all the same.
June 6th, 2013 at 12:55 pm
That’s all so true.
You are a gifted writer, I wish I had your talent.
Grateful to have found your blog
June 23rd, 2013 at 11:23 am
My wife and I lived the same experience. Was my first child. A son named Eric. Since then had a beautiful baby daughter who is now a young soon to be 21 yo woman. We lost Eric at 4 months of pregnancy. Why? Doctors said maybe just too weak. It was both exciting and so sad when labor induced. Born but yet not alive. All his parts were there. Just his soul and breathing had left for the eternity world in the afterlife.
We saw his sonogram month before. He was alive. Then something stopped. Eric went to be with the Lord. And when our time comes, he’ll be there to greet us coming home.
June 24th, 2013 at 10:04 pm
So sorry for your loss. No matter how many years go by you never stop missing him. Eric is with our Noah and Simon right now.
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