I am honoured to share the following guest post by fellow loss mama Lisa Addis.
It was a Wednesday. I was putting the finishing touches on the swing I had purchased for my second and much-loved baby boy, Elijah, who was due to arrive in just twelve days. After a tiring but otherwise healthy pregnancy, my boyfriend and I were beyond excited to finally meet the newest member of our family.
Like most expectant mothers, I had been keeping busy with preparations for my baby’s arrival. It was late in the day, nearly midnight, when I suddenly realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt him kick. I decided to warm up a bath and relax, hoping it would wake him up…but I still did not feel any movement. Slowly, the worry began to creep up on me. I changed my strategy and started walking around the house and talking to him, but still he did not move. Finally unable to suppress my fear, I messaged my family and asked for advice. They tried to console me with the words that are often said to women during their final weeks of pregnancy: “Babies always slow down at the end as they get bigger and run out of space. Don’t worry! Everything will be okay.”
Wanting to believe they were right, I calmed myself down and went to bed. But then Thursday morning came, still with no movements from Elijah. Fearing the worst, I broke into sobs and called my mother-in-law to take me to the hospital. On the drive there she kept trying to reassure me: “Everything is okay! Nothing is wrong.” But little did we know that everything was wrong.
Upon arriving, I was admitted to the Labour and Delivery unit. Terrified, I lay still as the nurse strapped the fetal monitor to my body. I so badly wanted to hear Elijah’s heartbeat…but she couldn’t find it. She told me not to worry, and proceeded to ask me routine questions while I cried.
Soon enough I was being wheeled out to have an ultrasound. I remember fighting back tears and thinking to myself, “These things don’t happen, not my baby,” as the technician scanned my belly and the nurse held my hand. They asked me more questions, trying to understand if there had been any complications during my pregnancy, but everything had been fine up to this point.
They wheeled me back to my room and told me the doctor would come soon to provide some answers. Words cannot express the excruciating feeling of waiting to find out whether my son was alive or dead. Some time passed before the doctor arrived. “I’m sorry,” he said, shaking his head. “There is no heartbeat. He’s gone.”
It felt as though I had been stabbed in the chest, and my heart shattered into a million pieces. Unable to believe the words coming from his lips, all I could do was scream and cry out in agony. I felt like I had stepped into a dreamworld as he proceeded to tell me I could go home and gather my things before returning to give birth to my baby boy, who would be born still.
I felt completely numb as we left the hospital and returned home. I packed Elijah’s bag, all the while thinking how surreal it was that I wouldn’t be bringing my baby home. I sat on the couch and stared at my belly, unable to understand how Elijah could be dead. How was this possible? Why was this happening to me and my son? Was it all my fault somehow?
When we returned to the hospital, the doctors, nurses, and social workers all came in to talk to me. I was advised about making funeral arrangements, something I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. No mother should have to think about her child’s funeral right before she is about to give birth.
My induction began and my labour started slowly, gradually picking up speed as Thursday night bled into Friday morning. Elijah’s father, grandmother, and aunt all stood by me as I gave birth to my beautiful son. When he came out I prayed that he would cry…I was simply dying inside, desperate to hear him cry…but he entered the world silently. They took him away and cleaned him off. That’s when I was told that there was a knot in his umbilical cord. They explained that there is nothing I could have done to cause or prevent it, and it cannot be detected on ultrasounds.
I was told that I could hold him for as long as I wanted. During those precious hours I talked to him, told him how much I love him, and kissed his beautiful face. I cherish every second that I got to spend with him, before they took him away from me forever. How do you say hello and goodbye to your child all at once? I cannot describe the pain of knowing I would never hold him again, see him smile, hear him laugh, or even know the colour of his eyes.
When I arrived back home, Elijah’s brother asked me where the baby was. I tried so hard to fight back my tears. I cleared my throat and said, “Elijah is in Heaven with God. He passed away.” I do not necessarily believe this, but my son does, and I wanted so badly to spare him the same unbearable pain I was feeling.
In the weeks and months that followed, my inconsolable grief for Elijah took me to very dark places. I felt suicidal, numb, angry, depressed, sad, and lonely—all at once. I felt like nothing in the world mattered and I could not go on in life without him. Eventually I went to counseling, and then a support group, where I connected with other loss parents who understood my pain. Gradually, I learned to live with the reality that is every parent’s worst nightmare.
Still, every day remains a struggle. Each morning I awake to a gaping hole in my heart and a silence in my home that should be filled with Elijah’s cries and laughter. I miss him every single day, and I will continue to miss him for the rest of my life. All I have is memories of my second son, when he should be here, safe in the arms of his family.
I love you, my sweet Elijah. You are everything to me.