Two LONG Years Later … My Angel’s Story

It has been 728 days since I have held my baby boy. For me, that’s 728 days too many. Delivering him stillborn has forever changed me.

The past two years have been very long, filled with many ups and downs.

There are some things that have gotten better for me. I don’t have nearly as many nightmares as I used to and my arms don’t ache to hold him like they once did.

But no matter how far removed I get from his death I will always yearn to have him here.

I think I will always watch children his age with wonder.  I will wonder what it would be like to have him. Would he be wrestling with his brothers? Would he be sleeping in a toddler bed? Would we be fighting him to give up his pacifier? Would he like to cuddle to his mom?

Sometimes I can’t help but feel bitter. Like when I see three brothers playing together at the McDonald’s play center or at the park. Why don’t my boys get to play with their little brother?

I’ve run into a strange phenomenon lately where new people have come into my life that do not know about my third son. It is so bizarre to me that there are people out there that don’t know about my most life-changing experience, my most heart-wrenching loss. And yet, how can I expect them to know?

Now that I am pregnant I get a lot of comments about having a “third” son. Most people laugh and tell me that I must be really good at “making boys.” They don’t quite know what to say when I tell them that this is actually my fourth son.

I hate that my family will never be all together – at least not in this life.

Sometimes I feel like the world is forgetting him – that his absence means nothing to anyone else. I feel like people must think I am crazy for missing someone who has been gone for two years. Especially when it’s someone I never got to know.

But that’s what people don’t understand – unless they too have buried their baby. Not getting to know Luca has been one of the hardest parts of the grieving process for me. I have no memories. No sounds. No smells. No happy moments. Only times filled with sorrow and loss.

On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I am actually defrosting. Like my sorrow is no longer crippling me and I am now only half numb.

Hopefully as time goes on I will continue to find my “normal” self again.

On Sunday, my family will celebrate Luca’s second birthday by floating wish lanterns to him in heaven – our Tangled-like tradition that I hope to continue until we find our lost prince.

In honor of Luca’s memory I am reposting his story:

My Angel’s Story

I was tired, I was huge and I was ready to have my baby boy. But not ready for the way it would all turn out. I would have happily carried him weeks beyond my due date if it meant he had a chance of being born alive.

Honestly? I wasn’t quite ready for a third child. I always wanted my kids close in age, but my two boys, ages 3 and 1, were a lot to handle. I was okay with waiting a while. But both my husband and I had strong impressions that we needed to try for another baby.

Despite those impressions, I was still extremely nervous about how I could be a good mom to three boys under the age of 3. Each day I grew, not only in circumference, but also in my confidence in being able to raise three tiny spirits.

On April 21, 2010 I had my 37-week check-up. Luca’s movement had been slowing down significantly for a while now and I was worried. I discussed my concerns with my doctor and we listened to his heartbeat, which appeared to be strong. So, my doctor and I decided that maybe little Luca was running out of room in my overcrowded womb.

The beginning of my pregnancy was a piece of cake. I felt better than I had with my other pregnancies and had virtually no morning sickness. But the end was pretty bad. I kept having sharp pains in my side and my muscles were aching.

Fearing the worst

My mother-in-law kept my other two boys while I went to my appointment so I decided to lie down and take a nap until she brought them home. That’s when I started panicking because I couldn’t remember the last time I felt Luca move.

I know what some of you are thinking? Why didn’t you rush to the hospital??? Knowing what I know now, my advice to any pregnant woman who is the least bit concerned about her baby, would be, GET TO THE HOSPITAL, NOW. Speed if you have to. What are they going to do? Tell you your baby’s fine and send you home? Hopefully. Laugh in your face about your unnecessary worries? Never. In all reality, even if I had been in labor and delivery when Luca’s heart stopped beating, they still wouldn’t have been able to save him. There wasn’t anything I could have done. I realize that now. But there are other reasons why babies stop moving. In my opinion it’s just better to get it checked out as soon as possible.

I literally worried all night about my Luca’s movement. I think the strong feelings and confirmations I had received that I was supposed to have another baby kept me waiting for his little legs to kick or his fists to punch. Luca’s pregnancy was my only pregnancy I haven’t run into problems conceiving. I thought that was a sure sign that this truly was meant to be. It was meant to be, just not in the way I hoped or expected.

I waited, and waited for him to move. Finally at about 2:30 a.m. I couldn’t take it any longer. I got up and sat in the bathtub for a long time. Travis came in and convinced me to go to the hospital. My mom came over to sit with my boys so we could run up to the hospital. When I got there, they hooked me up to a monitor and we found the baby’s heartbeat. Well, at least we thought we did — turns out the sound of my own heartbeat was reverberating back. We didn’t know that for sure until they hooked me up to a basic ultra sound machine and zoomed in on the heart. I knew immediately that my son had died. I looked at my husband and he knew it too. We had seen a number of live, beating hearts in ultrasounds. This one was still.

But the nurses said nothing. They tried to remain calm as they called my doctor and asked him to come in. He arrived at about 4 a.m. to confirm my baby’s death. We all cried — nurses included. He told me I could go home and come back later to deliver my baby or he could induce me right away.

The thought of leaving the hospital knowing that I was carrying my dead child made me cringe. I knew that having a stillborn was going to be the worst thing I had ever experienced. Delaying it wouldn’t change anything. They wheeled me into a corner room and posted a grieving sign on the door.

Shortly thereafter we started calling family members to let them know they were going to have to come in sometime that day to simultaneously tell Luca “hello” and “goodbye.”

Sharing the Heart-Breaking News

My poor mother. She was the first to hear of his death. And she had to take the news while watching over my other two little ones in my quiet, lonely home. I can’t imagine how alone she must have felt. She texted me awhile after I called to tell her he had died, asking what she should tell my other boys when they woke up. That literally broke my heart. What did I want her to tell them?

We didn’t want to tell him that their brother was “sleeping” or that he was “gone.” We decided to tell them the truth. That he had died. They were sad, but their grief was expressed differently than an adult. They didn’t cry much but they did throw more tantrums and asked to be held a lot more.

Telling people and hearing their reactions was one of the hardest things for me. I could handle the pain that I was going to have to bear, but having to inflict some of that pain on others made me so sad. It still makes me sad.

Our family members started gathering at the hospital and at our home waiting for the time when they would meet Luca. I knew we would only ever have a few short hours with him and so I prepared to face my nightmare with a smile on my face. This was the only time I was going to hold my baby. The only time I could take pictures of his beautiful face. I wasn’t going to let my grief overcome my ability to make the moments meaningful.

I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I don’t think I had the full power of my epidural during his delivery. It was by far my most painful delivery. Not only emotionally, but physically. Maybe that’s because I didn’t have the anticipation of meeting my healthy baby to pull me through. With each painful push, I knew I was a step closer to meeting a baby I wouldn’t take home. I’ll never forget the shock in my doctor and nurses voices and faces as Luca was born. They all gasped in unison. He had suffered a cord accident that was visible the moment he was delivered. The cord was wrapped around his neck several times and it contained a true knot. Umbilical cord knots are extremely rare and knots resulting in a baby’s death are even more rare. Although I will never be grateful for what happened to my son, there is something I am extremely grateful for: The fact that we found out why he died.

He was born at 5:13 p.m. and weighed 5 pounds 13 ounces. He was beautiful with curly reddish brown hair and rosy red cheeks. We each took turns holding him and taking pictures. Utah Share came and casted molds of his hands and feet. Pat Wimpee came and took dozens of priceless photos of him and our family. I don’t know what I’d do without those photos. I think I would forget the details of his face. The wrinkles of his toes. The size of his tiny fingers. At times I stared at his little body, waiting for his chest to rise or his eyes to open. He literally was perfect.

We had Luca in our hospital room for five short hours. My legs were still numb from my epidural, so I was forced to watch everyone’s encounters with him from the comfort of my hospital bed. That was really hard for me. I wanted to hug and comfort everyone and yet I was stuck on the sidelines. I am sure that those who came to the hospital to meet him will forever be changed. There was such a special spirit in the room. It was a terribly sad, yet wonderfully peaceful experience.

The next several days were a blur. I left the hospital on a Friday morning. That afternoon I sat in the mortuary office preparing a funeral. We had a very small service on Monday, just four days after I delivered. Thank heavens for pain medications. Without those my traditional delivery pains coupled with the pain of my milk coming in, would have been unbearable. I buried my baby and part of my heart on April 26, 2010.

How am I dealing with his death?

I believe, as my religion teaches, that I will raise little Luca someday. Sometimes that thought brings great comfort, other times it is little solace for a grieving mother who longs to hold her angel infant now. Although he is in a better place, free from sorrow and sin, I wanted the challenge of raising him in this crazy world. Wanted to see him wrestle with his older brothers or hear him giggle as the three of them cooked up mischief. I hate that we don’t get to have him now.

I have experienced all of the traditional grief stages at least once. I have felt depressed, angry, honored, jealous, comforted, tired, rude, bitter, overwhelmed, out of control, anxious, stressed and unmotivated. There have been times I have sat on my couch, not wanting to do anything. Then other times that I feel an urgency to give back to others in honor of my son’s memory. I have yet to find a happy medium. I have heard people say that the first year is the hardest. I pray that’s true.

This past year has literally been the year from hell. Yet despite the darkness I have felt, there are a few things that have relieved my sorrows.

What do I do when the grief is too much to bear?

I take long soaks in the bathtub where I blast Pink on my radio and cry until my eyes are strawberry red.

I watch movies like Tangled and sob when I see Rapunzel reunited with her parents. I wish I only had to wait 18 years to meet my “lost” baby.

I take my boys fishing. Fresh air and the beauty of nature clear my head and remind me of my place in the world.

I lay by my other boys while they are sleeping. I put my hand on their chest to feel their heart beating and their lungs filling with air. That reminds me of the beautiful boys I do get to raise on Earth. I can’t let myself take them for granted.

I start finding something I can do for others. I know it sounds cheesy, but sometimes serving others has been my saving grace. I understand the need to be still and internalize my grief and emotions, but sometimes it’s overwhelming. I have to find a productive way to patch over my grief until my emotions settle and I’m able to digest them.
Finally, I write through my heartache. Writing has always been a way for me to work through life’s problems. I imagine I’ll write through this problem my entire life.

I just have to keep reminding myself that life is hard, life is good and life is necessary.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. amourningmom
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 13:15:29

    I agree with you 728 days is too long (even 1 day is too long). Thinking of you and your sweet baby boy. Take care.

    Reply

    • Natalie
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 13:24:31

      You’re right. Even one day is too long. Thank you for your kind words. I’ve looked at your blog and know that you’ve been there too…

      Reply

  2. Crystalee
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 15:56:00

    Your story of heartbreak will surely help another mama in the same situation. Sharing these pieces of your soul truly will bless others. Natalie. Sending happy thoughts your way.

    Reply

  3. Elise
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 11:50:34

    It just kills me to see those sweet pictures. He really does look absolutely perfect, and if you didn’t know better, you’d think he was just asleep (I’m sure that was the intent, to some extent, of those pictures). Seeing his dark lips and fingernails, and even his cheeks in some of the pictures, is heartbreaking. So is seeing you and Travis dress him; was it like dressing a soft doll? I can’t imagine the pain of that day.

    Normally I try to not linger on the sad, but it’s okay sometimes, especially to remember someone so innocent and perfect. I absolutely love reading your writing and am glad you choose to share so much of yourself through it.

    Reply

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