I am honoured to share the following guest post by fellow loss mama Danielle Ridgway. You can read more about her journey on her blog, Jensen Grey.
I believe there are moments in all of our lives that define who we are and ultimately change our lives forever. For some, these moments involve getting married or landing a dream job. Thankfully, many of these events transform our lives for the better.
One such moment occurred when I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. My positive pregnancy test was the greatest birthday present I could have asked for, even if it was a big surprise. In the first moments after that smiley face flashed across the test screen, my mind began planning out the rest of my life. During the days and weeks that followed, I kept envisioning a future for the life that was growing inside me. I was never sick or tired throughout the first trimester; instead I was happily glowing from the inside out. We picked out possible names for a girl and a boy, even though I already felt that this baby would be my brave son.
At the twenty week anatomy scan, we discovered that my growing suspicion was correct. A little boy made himself known to the world, and we all yelled out his name through tears of joy: “Jensen!” In that moment I imagined years of football and catch games in the backyard. But this was not the only important piece of news we received that day. We learned that our precious boy, our Jensen, had a very thick neck, which could mean a number of different things, but most likely pointed to Down syndrome.
This defining moment threw a minor wrench in our future plans, but I could still see Jensen playing sports, reading, and letting his imagination grow to the highest of highs. I knew I would love him no matter what, and we were even going to be able to see him twice a week until he was born so that his growth could be closely monitored. What expectant mom doesn’t want to see her baby that often?
As Jensen and my belly both continued to grow, my love for him did too. I found out he loved chocolate milk and macaroni and cheese. He would dance whenever I played music, and he loved hearing me read to him. Each night I had to lay on my left side or he would kick me until I complied. Every spare moment I had was spent planning for his arrival. His dad and I attended all the prenatal classes and prepared the coolest navy and orange nursery I had ever seen. Our family threw a baby shower for the both of us and soon enough we were all ready for Jensen’s arrival. All we had to do now was wait for him to grow big and strong enough to take his first breath outside my belly.
On Thursday, March 31, 2016, I saw Jensen dance across the ultrasound screen for the last time. Just as he did at our previous appointments, he practiced his breathing and held his hand next to his face. Each time the ultrasound technician went to his face, he posed so they could get a good picture of him. As we walked out to the car afterward, I said to him, “The next time we’re here you’ll be making your arrival.”
I never could have anticipated the full magnitude of truth in those words.
My scan on April 4, 2016 started off as a regular appointment. However, this quickly changed when the technician called the doctor in. That’s when we heard the soul-crushing words: “There is no heartbeat.” My lively, brave boy had gone to sleep the night before and didn’t wake up. I was in shock. Surely this didn’t still happen to people in the twenty-first century. It especially didn’t happen to mothers who did everything by the book and had bi-weekly ultrasound scans. Maybe they made a mistake? This simply couldn’t be true.
We rushed to the hospital only to learn that his heart still wasn’t beating. I was induced at 11pm that night and went through a very quick labor. My Jensen Grey was born still on April 5, 2016 at 4:25am. With the exception of his curly blonde hair, he looked just like his mama. His pouty lips, button nose, and chubby cheeks could light up a smile on anyone’s face. He was absolutely perfect at 7 pounds 1 ounce and 19 3/4 inches long. His big hands and chubby fingers resembled his uncle’s, and his feet looked just like mine as well. I still cannot believe that I created something so beautiful.
The days following his birth were the darkest I’ve ever experienced. It felt like all the light in my life died with him. Jensen was cremated and returned to me the day of his funeral. The service and urn were almost as beautiful as my precious baby boy. Suddenly the life I had been planning since seeing that positive pregnancy test was over. I was left to pick up the pieces of my broken heart and figure out how to put everything back together—a process I’m still working through and probably always will.
It was during these early days of grieving that I first stumbled into the loss community. I have since found incredible love and support from other bereaved mothers who understand and share in my pain. Even on the most difficult days I am reminded that I’m not alone in my struggles. Similarly, my sweet Jensen’s spirit continues to give me the strength I need to keep going and share our story of love and loss with the world.
It’s been just over six months since my brave boy left my womb to venture ahead into the unknown. My love for him has only continued to grow during this time, just like any mother’s love expands with each passing day. This love allows me to wake up each morning and dedicate my days to him, as well as to help other bereaved mamas in their own journeys.
While Jensen’s death is a defining moment in my life, it does not solely define who I am or who he is. The choice to always love him, as well as to speak up for him and all his friends in heaven, ignites my passion each day. I choose to live my life for him and do all the things that he will never get to do himself. The moment that truly defines me is the one in which I became Jensen’s mother. Nothing and no one can ever take that away from me.