I honestly don’t even know how or where to start this post. And for a writer, it is a rarity that I ever run out of things to say. Something has been weighing heavily on my heart, not just recently, but for the past 9 years actually. I’ve held it in. I’ve journaled. I’ve cried. And now I share it…with all of you.
I had a son. His name was Brendan. He would have been 9 years old this September…actually, he wasn’t due until November. He was a vibrant baby…always kicking and rolling around. The kids were thrilled to be adding #8 to our beautiful family, especially Nathan. You see, everyone in our family has a “buddy”…Emily and Joan, Annabelle and Natalie, Michael and Jonathan…and Nathan was finally going to get his buddy. He was so excited. We couldn’t decide what to name the baby, so Nathan suggested “Baby Cookies”…because he really liked cookies, almost as much as he loved his baby brother.
To this day I can’t put my finger on exactly what happened. I know that the night before I lost my son, he was kicking and stretching, as usual, his active little self. The next day, the kids and I had to run errands. It was an exhausting day, to say the least. Almost 34 weeks pregnant schlepping 7 kids around town all day is no easy feat. I got the kids to bed and settled down in the rocking chair to watch the Ohio State vs Texas game while I worked on a crocheted afghan for the baby. I waited for him to start his usual evening gymnastics routine, but he was unusually calm. I tried moving around a bit, I ate a snack to try and wake him up a bit but still nothing. After about an hour, I started to get worried. It was about 10:30 at night. I wasn’t sure what to do so I called my husband who was out of town. He told me to go to the hospital and get checked out, so I asked my neighbor to come over and sit with the kids and I drove myself to the hospital.
The drive is only about 5 minutes but it felt like a life time. Part of me never wanted to get there because I secretly didn’t want to know. I walked into the emergency room, told the attendant what was going on and immediately a look of sadness fell over her face. I knew. She knew. We said nothing.
I was handed my paperwork, given a classy paper bracelet to wear, and told to head up to labor and delivery. “Do you know where that is ma’am?” the attendant asked. I just walked away. I had birthed 5 of my 7 children in this very hospital. I knew my way like the back of my hand.
Labor and delivery is much different when you are delivering a live baby than when they suspect you are carrying a stillborn. I slowly walked past all of the patient rooms that were decorated with pink and blue ribbons and diaper wreaths. I walked past the window to the newborn nursery. The blinds were closed, but I could hear the cries of several newborns who weren’t quite ready for a peaceful night’s sleep just yet.
I made my way to the nurse’s station and again was met with faces veiled in sadness. Every other time I had taken that walk, I was excitedly rushed into one of the rooms in the main hall as they prepared for my baby’s birth. Not this time. This time I was taken to a room towards the back of the floor behind the nurse’s station away from the other rooms. I lost it completely. I broke down crying. I kept thinking, “They’re taking me back here because they know my baby is stillborn and they don’t want me around the other moms who are delivering healthy babies.” That is the first time I have ever shared that thought with anyone.
Once in the room, the nurse asks the usual questions, writes them down in my chart (this was almost 9 years ago, mind you) and I’m given a gown and told to change. The doctor will be in shortly. I laid on that bed for what seemed like weeks before the doctor came in. He sat on the side of the bed and took my hand and talked for a bit before he did the ultrasound.
I will never forget the image on the screen. My little boy, lifeless. I knew when I saw him…it was all wrong. He was floating on his tummy, not in the usual position on his back. He was gone. There was nothing anyone could do to save him. The doctor took my hand and explained to me what I already knew. Then we prayed together. He asked if I had come with anyone and I told him I was alone. He asked if I wanted him to call my husband and tell him the news and I took him up on the offer. As he spoke to my husband, I still couldn’t believe it was real. My baby was gone. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He only had 7 more weeks until his due date. We were almost there! Everything was fine! What the hell? All I could do was cry.
As I drove myself home, I was completely numb. I laid in bed that night staring at my belly trying to will it to move. Staring for hours. Hoping against hope that the doctor was wrong and that at any moment my baby would move. The sun came up. Still nothing.
The days afterward were a blur. I had to wait until my husband got home to go back and deliver the baby. Those were the longest days of my life. I’ve never had to plan a funeral for a baby. It was devastating. I remember calling my mom and telling her I had lost the baby. It was one of maybe a handful of times I have ever heard my mom cry in my entire life. She, too, knew the pain of losing a child. As word spread, flowers and fruit baskets started arriving. With each delivery, I had to explain to the kids what was happening. Eventually, I just hid in my room and let my husband answer the door. It was all just too much.
His delivery was torturous. I know there was nothing the doctor or nurses could do…this had to happen. The baby had to be delivered. But going through hours of pain and agony of a delivery only to know your baby is not alive is something I don’t ever want to experience again. I wish no mother ever had to experience that kind of pain. The only crying when Brendan was born was mine. It just wasn’t fair. I went into the hospital with a son and left empty-handed. No car seat. No diaper bag. No formula samples or newborn diapers. I went in with a baby and came out empty, so very empty.
His funeral was small…just us and the kids and a very close family friend of ours who is like a grandmother to our kids. It was a perfect ceremony for a perfect little boy. I felt guilty leaving him there. Mothers don’t leave their children, but I had no choice. I was completely broken.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. I often wonder what his voice would sound like, what kind of trouble he and Nathan would be getting into. whether he would be a runner like the other kids, what his favorite kind of ice cream would be. I’ll never know the answers to these questions just like I’ll never know why God saw fit to take my son from this world. But one thing I do know is that I have an angel up in heaven who completely changed my heart and I will miss him dearly for the rest of my life.
I always struggle when people ask me how many kids I have. Do I say 8? I don’t want to exclude Brendan because his life was just as precious as my other children, but if I say 8 and they only see 7 then I have to explain…and I don’t know how to do that. Not yet. For now, I just say 7, take a deep breath, and hold that silent 8th one in my heart.
Moms like me don’t tell our stories to garner sympathy. We tell our stories to keep the memories of our little ones alive. I was honored to be Brendan’s mommy for 7 short months. No one else got to feel him move or got to know him the way I did. I share my story today to let other moms who have dealt with the loss of a child know that they are not alone in their pain and their grief. Our children will not be forgotten…not as long as we are here to keep their memories alive. God bless.