I remember it like it was yesterday. Seriously, like it was yesterday.
I was excited to be sitting in that exam room. My back laid flat against the bed; belly exposed.
My hubby was unable to get out of work to accompany me to the appointment, so I invited my mother to come along.
We made small talk while the midwife prepared the fetal doppler. The warm goo spread abroad my swollen abdomen always carried a feeling of excitement for me.
I loved hearing the rhythmic sound of my baby’s heartbeat. The sure sign of life within the womb.
With the fetal doppler pressed against my tummy, we waited patiently; quietly, as she gently rolled the instrument from one side to the other. Searching. Listening.
During my last appointment, one month prior, my midwife was unable to hear the heartbeat via the fetal doppler, so she appealed to the help of her ultrasound machine. A highly welcomed alternative! Not only did I get to hear my baby’s heartbeat, but I also got to see it!
Oh, how I loved that sight! Though not much bigger than a little Lima bean, it was such a joy to view my sweet baby kick and squirm on the dark monitor!
As my midwife continued to listen for the heartbeat, I silently prayed that she would be unable to detect it, in hopes that I would get the opportunity to see my baby through the ultrasound again.
At 16 weeks, I was sure to have an even better view of my baby’s growing body!
The seconds turned into minutes, and she finally conceded. I shrieked with joy; unable to contain my excitement at the prospect of seeing my baby. I pulled my shirt up a little farther on my belly, in anticipation.
God had heard my silent prayers!
My midwife, however, didn’t seem as enthused. “I should be able to hear the heartbeat by now,” she calmly stated.
Wait a minute.
Is that a look of concern on her face?! Should I be worried?!
Nah, I brushed the thought aside. After all, I had two very healthy children at home. My prior pregnancies were perfectly uneventful. There was never a reason for alarm.
Even so, I couldn’t shake the idea that maybe something was wrong. This pregnancy had been different from the others.
Unlike my earlier pregnancies, I was unable to eat hardly anything. Not from the typical morning sickness that often accompanies the first trimester, but I literally had no appetite. I had to force myself to eat anything put in front of me, and a few bites was usually all I was able to get down.
There was also the fact that this baby seemed to be less active, and had noticeably less movement than I remember with my last pregnancies. But again, it was still early, and they say that all pregnancies are different, so I really didn’t think too much about it.
As soon as the ultrasound monitor was placed on my abdomen for the second time, all eyes turned towards the screen, scanning the picture for movement.
Before long, we were able to make out the reassuring image. My sweet baby…
But where was the heartbeat? Why was there no visible movement?
My eyes darted back and forth, from the monitor to my midwife, and back to the monitor again; desperately trying to make out something- anything that would calm my fears.
But to no avail.
My midwife, nodding her head in disappointment, slowly removed the fetal doppler from my belly, and whispered those fateful words that no one longs to hear. “I’m so sorry. I cannot find a heartbeat.”
But how could that be? I had just felt movement the night before. In fact, I remembered it so clearly because it felt unusually powerful- almost strange. I had jokingly commented to my hubby that our little one must be doing acrobatics in there.
No, no, no, no, no. This can’t be happening.
A rush of adrenaline accompanied by sheer guilt shot through my body, as I shamefully recalled my earlier prayer.
I take it back God! This is not what I meant. Not what I intended.
I shook my head in disbelief, as the tears poured down my face.
My mother held my hand, comforting me the best that she knew how.
The next several hours are a blur.
I vaguely recall driving to the hospital where the results from the ultrasound would be confirmed.
We were met by a doctor- and older gentleman, warm and kind, who confirmed that our child was indeed, without a heartbeat. He then proceeded to explain that it appeared the baby may have had Down Syndrome- a genetic disorder that is often accompanied by a heart defect.
Although merely a suspicion, he stated that this was likely the cause of death.
My body felt chilled underneath the glare of the fluorescent lights. The nurse attempted to calm my shaking body with the help of a heated blanket, but it became apparent that my shaking was not in relation to the temperature in the room.
We spent the next several minutes discussing our options, and being filled in about the details of what the next few days might entail. It was a lot to take in. Our doctor was sympathetic, and took his time. My mind struggled to comprehend it all, but once he felt I had a clear enough understanding, he offered me a warm hug, and left us to leave the labor room at our discretion.
On our way out, we walked past the hospital nursery, and I could no longer hold back the lump in my throat. I broke down, sobbing out loud.
My chest heaved, and my shoulders quaked.
Arms were wrapped around me; comforting.
A young mother in labor was being wheeled in through the double doors, preparing for the birth of her baby.
They should have an escape back door for mother’s like me, who don’t get to walk out of the hospital with their arms full of life, and hearts full of joy.
It is not supposed to happen this way. This is the place where couples come to have their baby, not be told that their baby is dead.
A place where dreams are birthed, not laid to rest.
The drive home was long and arduous.
I watched the world from my car window, resume as usual, while my world was falling apart.
My husband met me at home with open arms and tear-stained cheeks. He was devastated, and more than apologetic that he had not been there with me to receive the news.
It was not his fault. It was supposed to be a routine visit. Neither of us could have predicted the outcome.
We held each other, and cried, and tried to make sense of it all.
We spent the next week waiting; willing my body to go into labor on its own. I chose not to have a D & C (dilation & curretage) performed. I wanted to hold my baby before saying our final goodbye.
The waiting was difficult. I wanted time to slow down. As morbid as it may sound, I desperately wanted to enjoy the last of these few days with my precious baby, even though he was no longer alive.
It is a strange feeling waiting to go into labor when you know that the contractions will not lead to a healthy birth.
The days drug on and on.
I would often catch myself caressing my abdomen, the way women do when they’re carrying new life. Only I was caressing the swollen belly of a lifeless baby.
We celebrated Easter quietly and intimately with family, trying to make the best of it for our children’s sake.
The whole thing was so surreal. Even now, looking back at pictures of that day, I can see that my midsection is heavier than usual, and my clothes are tighter than typical. Yet, there was nothing to show for it, months down the road, except a small urn filled with tiny ashes.
Another week came and went. Eventually my midwife, concerned about the decomposition that was likely occurring, encouraged me to take a prescription medication that would help my body to induce labor. Frightened of what to expect, I took my first dose in the morning of that same day.
Later that evening, I began experiencing some light cramping.
At midnight I awoke to a balloon-popping sensation. I was initially alarmed, never having experienced my water breaking before, but was quickly clued in to what had taken place, when suddenly I was lying in a puddle of warm water beneath me.
I reached over and shook my husband awake from his slumber. Before long, we were en route to the midwifery center.
We expected things to happen rather quickly, but that was not the case.
The cramping, though persistent, took its sweet time to progress. My midwife monitored me throughout the night, and encouraged me to sleep while I could.
In the early morning, the cramping increased, in both frequency and severity.
Looking out the window of my midwife’s lake house, I could see that it was a beautiful, sunny, spring day. Not wanting to be stuffed up inside, I decided to take a walk along the shore, in order to encourage my cervix to continue dilating. But I didn’t get very far, before it became near impossible for me to walk.
Slowly, and with the help of my husband and mother, I made my way back to the delivery room, in just enough time. I suddenly felt a large gush, and within a few short minutes, I was holding my baby’s lifeless body in my hands.
A precious, perfect, sweet, baby boy.
Ten tiny fingers and toes, teensy ears, and the cutest little nose you can ever imagine!
He was perfect in every way…except that he was dead.
My mother and I mused that he appeared to be wearing a contented smile across his face.
He was at peace.
Oh, how I longed for time to stand still. I didn’t want that moment to end, because I knew that it would end with me saying goodbye.
I continued to hold him, kiss him, and talk to him. I even took pictures with him.
My husband, too devastated to look upon his frail body, sat at a distance, a few feet away.
We reminisced on God’s promises found throughout scripture, and we were awed by His profound love and care for us, even in this.
My midwife was tender and sweet, allowing us to take our time. We in no way felt rushed.
After some thought and contemplation, we decided to name our son, Jordan, which means to cross over.
Indeed he had crossed over, from death to life, and was now being cradled in the hands of our savior.
A few hours later, the coroner arrived. We said our final goodbye’s to our sweet boy. I kissed his cheek one last time, and wrapped in a hand towel, I reluctantly gave him over to the coroner, who gently placed him in a small shoe box.
He prayed with us, spoke words of comfort, and then turned and walked out the door with our baby boy.
In that moment, I was filled with such an incredible peace.
But that peace would not last.
The days, weeks, and months that would follow were some of the hardest.
Grief is lonely. And I think it is especially true in regards to pregnancy loss.
People just don’t know what to say, or what to do, or how to react.
One day you’re pregnant. The next day, you’re not.
One day you’re glowing with signs of new life. The next, you’re grief-stricken by death.
One day you’re dreaming and planning. The next day, those dreams have come to an abrupt end.
It makes people uncomfortable. And rightly so.
Grief is uncomfortable. Death is an unwelcome guest. Especially the untimely death of a child.
Friends attempted to comfort us with encouraging words. Some helpful. Others….well-intended.
Our house was flooded with an array of flower bouquets, and cards that were sent with love.
At church, we were surrounded with warm embraces, and thoughtful stares.
Yet at home, in the silence and the solitude, the darkness crept in.
I became bitter and angry.
Angry with God.
Angry with life.
Angry that I had friends who were pregnant with perfectly healthy babies, while mine was dead.
And then angry and horrified at myself for ever thinking such things.
Thankfully God never leaves us to grieve alone.
He sits with us.
Weeps with us.
Over time, and with God’s help, my heart began to heal.
Jordan would be 16 today. It is hard to believe.
Though so many years have gone by, we remember our sweet boy still. And we look forward to the day when we will be united with him again, but this time– for eternity.
Until then, we find our hope in the promises of a loving Father, who is all-too-familiar with the heartache associated with losing a son.
In honor of mom’s around the world who have suffered the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, or other causes.
And in remembrance of my son, Jordan, whom we hold- no longer in our arms, but forever in our hearts.