It was a crisp, early summer morning, June 14th, 2015. I was two days shy of my due date with my second son when I went into labor. Oh! The excitement. We made our way to the hospital, checked in, and got situated in our room. The nurse entered. “Climb onto the bed and let’s see how baby is doing,” she said. In between intense contractions, I maneuvered myself onto the bed; she placed the monitor to my burgeoning belly. Silence. Deafening silence. The nurse moved the monitor from place to place; with each movement her face fell and my heart raced.
“When did you last feel baby move?”
“Huh? Yesterday, I think? I don’t know for sure; we had a crazy weekend.”
Three professionals and an ultrasound later, it was confirmed – no heartbeat. My pregnancy was “textbook,” then it wasn’t. Sometime in the two days between my last prenatal appointment and going into labor, my son died. He was alive, and then he wasn’t.
The midwife checked my labor progression – dilated to 7cm. Because I was in active labor, we forged on. That’s one thing people don’t often understand – delivery of a still baby. People often say “…and you still had to deliver?!” The answer? Yes. At that point, my son’s home was my womb. His body needed to leave that space and make its entrance earth side. The best way to do this was through labor and delivery.
My plan for his birth was a natural, unmedicated one. I’d done it with my first and so desperately wanted it for my second. The midwife suggested an epidural – because “people in this situation often find it easier to deal with one kind of pain.” While I know this is true and have complete and utter respect for any woman who chooses to have an epidural (in any situation), I knew in that moment that I would regret not moving forward with my plan. I wanted – no needed – to feel everything. It was like an offering to my perfect son; one thing I could do for him. He deserved no less than what I had planned and knew I could give him.
Four and a half hours after my first contraction our beautiful son, Theo Gussie, was born still and silent. It was 5:36am. He was a 7lb 15oz , 22” long bundle of perfection. He had the longest little hands and feet, and beautiful dark, curly hair – the spittin’ image of his papa.
The day of his birth is one of the most tragic and beautiful of my life. Theo’s dad, Ben, bathed and dressed him, just as he had with our first. Family members who lived nearby came to the hospital and met our precious, sleeping son. We spent about 12 hours with our baby boy. We sang to him, kissed him, and showered him with love. We introduced him to his older brother; took pictures with him. Then we said goodbye.
We made our way home that evening with empty arms. There, we attempted to better explain to our three year old son why his much-anticipated little brother wouldn’t be coming home. I have never seen such wisdom, or appreciated the frankness of my son more than in those quiet moments. He has been instrumental in my journey toward healing.
After Theo’s death and birth everything changed, yet nothing changed. We are parents to two amazing little boys, but the world sees only one. I suddenly found a great need to put my hands to work. Since I did not have my baby to put my time and energy into, I had to find other things – things that would honor and remind me of him. I began embroidering monograms onto handkerchiefs to give to mothers and fathers experiencing loss – there is beauty in something soft to wipe away the tears. I tended to a vegetable garden – getting my hands into the earth was so grounding. Even now, I still find the most peace when my hands are at work.
Though his life was short, Theo taught me – and continues to teach me – so much about love and compassion; the love of family and friends, and perhaps more importantly the love of complete strangers. I’m learning to be compassionate with myself and to love without judgment. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m learning to let go. I see, even more now, the critical importance of human connection and vulnerability.
Here we are, almost a year later, and I still ache for my son. I will ache for him every single day of my life. Of this, I am convinced. That ache comes from a deep and abiding love. And through that ache, I see the world with new eyes. I am transformed.
We are now expecting our third son, our rainbow baby, due in July. What is a “rainbow baby”? In the real world, a rainbow follows a storm and gives hope. The rainbow is more appreciated having just experienced the storm in comparison. Our storm of pregnancy/infant loss happened and there is no changing that fact. Storm clouds still linger as our family continues to cope and incorporate our loss, but something colorful, bright, and hopeful has emerged from all the darkness. The decision to have another baby was one fraught with tears and a million what-ifs. Each week that passes fills me with relief and anxiety, simultaneously – one week closer to having a screaming baby in my arms, and one week closer to the time we lost Theo.
We are not replacing our lost son – he cannot be replaced. And the ache does not go away with the addition of another child – we will grieve him for a lifetime. We are simply adding to the love in our family. I know, now, that there are no guarantees in life. We hope and pray every day that this sweet baby will come home with us. Though we cannot know what the future holds, we choose hope over fear.
Our hearts have been so touched by Lindsey and her story and the incredible mother she is. If you have a second, visit her shop Remembrd where she’s bringing comfort to parents experiencing the same heartbreak. We can’t do this without each other, mamas and sharing our highs and lows together is everything.