After Jeremiah's death, we tried to pick up the pieces as best we could and live a normal life. The problem is that now, our normal is someone else’s nightmare. Still, we have learned to lean on one another, be strong for each other and give each other the space and support we need. Somehow, we were making a life out of a bunch of broken pieces. But our family was still incomplete.
I spent a lot of time trying to make some meaning out of Jeremiah’s death. I found a lot of comfort in the bible verse he was named after, and in my faith in God.
I also found meaning in knowing that I would be able to have another baby. My husband and I were not going to have another child after Jeremiah if he had lived, but now we desperately wanted another baby. Before being released from the hospital, my doctor had told us she saw no reason why we wouldn’t be able to have a healthy child in the future, and she saw no real physical reason for us to wait. It was up to us to decide when we were emotionally ready to try again for baby number 4. We decided there was no benefit to waiting very long, and we started trying again that summer.
Before long, I found myself pregnant again. Throughout the healthy, normal pregnancy, I felt at peace with Jeremiah’s death because it had brought me another child to love. Surely, God had a wonderful plan for this new baby. I wondered what things he would accomplish in his life and how he would make the world a better place. I took every precaution to keep him safe – numerous ultrasounds, glucose screenings, non-stress tests, and blood tests. Finally, as I neared my 8th month, we set a date for an amniocentesis. We wanted to deliver a little early because we never found out what exactly happened to Jeremiah, and we didn’t want anything like that to happen to our new little man, who we decided to name Vincent.
The amnio was set for June 1st. I was being monitored closely after the amnio, and started to contract and remained in pain even when I wasn’t contracting. We awaited the amnio results in the triage unit, hoping Vincent’s lungs were mature enough. When the results came back, they said he wasn’t ready to be delivered, and my heart sunk. I just couldn’t imagine what I would do if something were to happen to him in the womb. After talking to my doctor, we decided that since I was contracting and in pain, and given my uncertain history, we would deliver early the next morning. Vincent faced some risks since his lungs weren’t fully ready yet, but we were certain that at most he would only require a few days in the NICU or a little extra attention.
The next morning finally arrived. I was elated to know I would soon meet my son. The c-section delivery went fairly smoothly, and he was doing well, but they took him back to the NICU to see how his lungs were functioning. It turns out he needed a ventilator so he didn’t get to come back to the room with me. He stayed in the NICU even after I was released. It was a day or two before I was able to hold him, but he kept getting better each day. He even removed the ventilator by himself!
Finally, a week after he was born, they said he was ready to come home! We brought him an outfit for his first official pictures and picked him up on June 10th and finally brought him home. Our children were so happy to be able to hold him, because they weren’t able to even see him in the NICU. We had the videos and pictures taken. (Click here to see pictures of Vinnie.) Grandparents came over to meet him. It was an amazing few days.
It was just 4 days after Vincent had come home and things were getting settled. I was so thankful for my beautiful baby boy and I spent the days in awe. Then, the worst happened. Vinnie cried for a second, so I picked him up to change his diaper. His body went limp in my arms. I called for my husband –something was wrong with the baby! We called 911 and he was rushed to the ER. We followed, with heavy hearts. How could this be happening? Was he going to be ok? Can we go through this again?
At the ER, it took quite a while, but they were able to resuscitate him. They were doing some tests and determined that his blood acidity was high and his potassium levels were high. They couldn’t figure out why. Eventually, he opened his eyes. I told him I loved him. Everyone said he was a fighter! He was sure to make it.
The hospital called CHOP and their team arrived to transfer Vinnie via ambulance to the NICU at CHOP. Everyone thought he would be ok there. They were the best hospital in the country! Surely they would know what happened and could make him better.
I rode in the ambulance to CHOP, but I had to sit in the front. On the way, the song Mama by Boys II Men played on the radio. I listened to the words, and felt like Vincent was somehow letting me know he loved me.
We arrived at CHOP and the doctors started asking me many questions, and they started more tests to see what was wrong. The doctor was baffled that his pH levels were getting even worse after treatment. She couldn’t figure out what was wrong. She thought maybe it was a genetic metabolic disorder. But nothing really seemed to fit. As the time wore on, it was obvious the doctor had very little hope of saving our Vincent. Even though his eyes were open every now and then, he finally went into cardiac arrest around 3:30am. We chose to have our parents say goodbye and then have the medical team stop providing CPR.
Everything I thought was difficult about losing Jeremiah – not being able to see his eyes, hear him cry or really get to hold him – I had with Vincent. Yet somehow this seemed even more difficult. I got to hear him cry, and look into his eyes. I was able to hold him and tell him how much I loved him. But now all those things made losing Vincent even harder.
This time, we knew we had to have a funeral, and this time many people showed up. Friends, family, work colleagues. Everyone came out to support us and say goodbye to Vincent. He was buried with his big brother, and they will share a headstone. One headstone should never have the names of two infants. It’s not right, and it’s not fair.
It has been almost over 2 years since Vincent passed away. And I still relive those last moments from time to time. So many doubts and questions fill my mind. What if we had just waited a few more days to deliver, would that have changed everything? Who would he be today? What would his smile look like? How could God do this to us again? Haven’t we already suffered enough?
I’d be lying if I said I only thought those questions every once in a while. But I am doing relatively well. There are even some moments when I am at peace with losing Jeremiah and Vincent. And there are those moments when I am not quite sure I can do this.
Now, every mundane moment can find me in a panic that something will happen and I’ll lose Kaitlin or Anthony too. Every mother has worries about her children. Every father does too. But this is different. Once you’ve lost a baby, no matter the circumstances surrounding that loss, you live your life in a different mental state. It’s not the same. I’ll never be the same. I’ll never be “normal” again.