This is told from my point of view. I cannot say what was going through my husband's mind, except for what he told me.
I lost my son, Jeremiah Joseph, on April 17th, 2008. I was 37 weeks pregnant in what seemed to be a perfectly healthy pregnancy. In fact, my last doctor's appointment was April 16th, and all was well. On April 17th, around 3pm, I realized that I had not felt the baby move much, if at all, that day. So, I headed to the maternity ward at Holy Redeemer Hospital. I was worried and scared, but never really expected to hear what I heard in the triage that day. Or rather, what I didn't hear.
First, they tried to hook me up to the standard monitor, but could not find a heartbeat. At that point, I knew what had happened. My baby was gone. They tried to use a few other "more sensitive" monitors and ultrasounds, but as I feared, there was nothing to hear - my baby no longer had a heartbeat.
At this point, my husband was still on his way to the hospital. I had told him that I didn't feel the baby move that day and I told him I was in the hospital. I called him to say that they could not find a heartbeat. It was the single most difficult phone call of my life.
When my husband arrived, the nurse was in the room and said "I'm sorry." At that time, he didn't understand what she was saying sorry for. He thought no heartbeat just meant they would have to deliver the baby right away. It was then that it hit him what "no heartbeat" really meant.
We were taken down to the hi-tech ultrasound room to confirm our worst fears. There was no heartbeat, no blood flow, nothing. I knew they wouldn't find anything. But deep inside I still prayed for some miracle.
When we returned to the triage room, my husband had to make the calls no one would ever want to make - he called his mom, my parents and his dad. It was then up to our family to relay the horrible news to everyone else.
I remember talking to my husband, and not knowing what in the world to do. Should we find out if it was a boy or girl? Should we hold the baby? Should we take pictures? Do we have to bury the baby? Would we have a funeral service? Should we name the baby? If so, what in the world do we name him/her? Do we give it a name we really love, or save it for a baby who is alive? What did other people do in this situation? Our baby was healthy just yesterday. What the hell happened? How am I going to tell people at work? How in God's name were we going to tell our 2 and 3 year olds? They didn't even understand death. Never-ending questions filled my mind.
I remember deciding to hold the baby. It was my baby, after all, and this was my only chance. My only chance to kiss his/her face - something I had so longed to do and looked forward to greatly. I decided to take pictures as well, and we asked my mother-in-law to stop and pick up a camera. I remember it sounding weird. A camera, to take pictures of a dead baby? But, it just felt right and I knew I would regret it if I chose otherwise.
Because I had eaten around 2pm, they had to wait until at least 10pm to deliver the baby via c-section. They wheeled me to a room in labor and delivery, and for a split second, I was alone. At that time, I think I finally started to let it sink in. I must have been in pure shock before then, because I hadn't cried really. Finding myself alone for that brief moment, all I could say was "Baby, I'm so sorry." At that time, the nurse came back in the room with my husband not far behind. I haven't told anyone about that moment until now, as I am writing this. As a mom, I am supposed to protect my children, keep them safe. I felt like a complete failure. (And I'm not going to lie, at times I still do.)
So, we waited in the room for what seemed like forever. Our parents came before the baby was delivered. At first, there was plenty of crying. Then, I remember us talking about the upcoming election - almost like nothing had happened.
We spoke with the doctor a few times before the baby was delivered. I asked if there was anyway we could find out the baby's sex. It was going to be a surprise - supposed to have been one of the best moments in my life. The doctor said there really was no way, because the baby was too big and an ultrasound wouldn't be able to determine anything. They hadn't recorded it from any of our earlier ultrasounds.
When the time came for them to deliver the baby, our family waited in the waiting room while we were taken into the OR. It was all very somber. The nurses and other staff had been informed of our situation, so there were no congratulations. There was no excitement. The exact opposite of what a baby's delivery should be. Everything we were looking forward to was now dreaded. There would be no first cry. We would never get to hear our baby cry.
It didn't take them long to deliver the baby. During the delivery, the doctor told me that everything looked fine - which I thought was an odd thing to say during the delivery of a stillborn baby. But she clarified that she meant she didn't see any sign or indication of us not being able to have another healthy baby later on. The placenta, umbilical cord and uterus were all in good shape. Little comfort in the moment, when all you want is for your baby to be alive and that is the one thing you just can't have. Everything else could have been shot to hell, if our baby was alive, it wouldn't have mattered.
They took the baby over to the scale to determine the weight, and at that time my husband was asked if he wanted to see the baby. He came back to me and said it was a little boy. At that time, my heart broke and I started to cry. My son was gone. We didn't even know his name, and he was gone. I didn't cry for long. (I guess I have a problem crying in front of others.) They gave our son to my husband and proceeded to sew me up after they placed our son on the heat lamp. I wasn't able to hold him yet. But I saw him as he lay in my husband's arms. So sweet. Such a handsome little man - absolutely perfect.
Our little man still needed a name, but we were at a loss at that moment. They finished sewing me up and took the baby away. I am not sure where they took him at that point. I think they got him dressed. I lied on the table, trying to think of the perfect name - one that would say that God knows what He is doing. Something that reflected our favorite bible verse - Jeremiah 29:11. And then it hit me - what name says Jeremiah 29:11 better than Jeremiah? Before my husband left to go back to the room, I grabbed his hand - "Jeremiah" was all I said. He got it. A beautiful name for our beautiful little boy.
My husband arrived at the room to find our grief counselor there waiting. He asked that she inform our family that we had a little boy. They wheeled me back to the room to meet my husband. For a few minutes, we were alone. Then, they brought in Jeremiah. I finally got to hold him. I just didn't want to let him go. He looked so peaceful. Just like he was sleeping. We got to hold him for a little bit before our family came in. It was just our moms this time. My dad, apparently after finding out it was a boy, left to go home.
When our moms came in, we let them take turns holding him. They asked what we named him, and when we said Jeremiah, they were so impressed. What a beautiful, sweet name! My mom said we would have called him JJ. But I don't know if we would have named him Jeremiah if he had lived. Guess I'll never know. But Jeremiah sure did fit him. He looked like a Jeremiah. He also looked a whole lot like my dad. (Click here to see pictures of Jeremiah.)
The grief counselor suggested we perform a "naming ceremony." Basically, a prayer was said and we got a certificate. It was a nice ceremony. We took some pictures with our cell phones and the disposable camera and then our moms left to go home. At that point, it was after 12am, and everyone was tired. But my husband and I stayed up, holding our Jeremiah, until after 4am. Then, it was time to let him go. Forever. It was quite possibly the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I had to let him go, never to hold him again here on Earth. I would never kiss his sweet little face again. We said our final goodbyes after 4am, and let the nurses take him away. They took a piece of my heart with them. (1 year later, it still hasn't healed, and I know it never will. Nor do I want it to. It's the piece of my heart that belongs to Jeremiah - and only him.)
Once they took him away, we had to sleep. Thank God they gave me medicine to help me, or I never would have been able to sleep at all. I would have thought that when I woke up the next morning, my first reaction would have been that it was all a very bad dream, but that wasn't the case. I don't even remember what I dreamt about. But when I woke up, it was like I had never slept. I was right back where I left off the night before: missing my Jeremiah.
We had some visitors that day, and some people called to see how we were. I tried to be strong, and to this day I think I am too successful at it. It is really only when I am alone (usually listening to music) that I truly let myself break down. During that day, my husband and I had to decide what type of funeral service to have. We decided on a simple graveside service for close friends and family. We would not have a luncheon afterwards. We would bury Jeremiah next to his great-grandfather. He would have a headstone. Those are the types of choices you never want to make for your son. You want it to be the other way around. The natural way of things. Children bury their parents. But, as difficult as it was, we made those choices, trying to do what Jeremiah deserved and also keeping in mind our own broken hearts.
As hard as those choices were to make, and as hard as the night before had been, this day posed a new and even more difficult challenge for us. It was my husband's job to go home that morning and tell our two young children that their little brother had died. That was a job I never would have been able to handle, and I thank God my husband somehow had the ability to do so. Our daughter's first reaction was that it had to have been a girl, and that she wanted to hold the baby. Our son didn't react much - after all he was not even 3 years old. I can never imagine what was going through their little minds at that point in time. They came to the hospital to see me that day. And it was like they knew something was just not right. They didn't know how to react to me, in the hospital bed, barely able to sit up or move. This should have been a time of great joy and instead it was quite possibly the worst time of their little lives. As a mother who had no idea what to say to make her children feel better, it was quite possibly one of the worst of mine.