Child Loss: This is Not Real!
We all know that the possibility of death is always there. We understand that, but somehow we just never combine that possibility with the death of a child. We’re thinking in terms of other people than children — grandparents, an aunt who lived to be nearly a hundred, or the neighbor we knew who lived in the nursing home for the past twenty years.
Never, ever do we think death is going to touch us in the form of child loss! And, when it does, our first reaction is often, “This is not real! It can’t be! My child is alive. This is some kind of mistake.” We freeze and won’t allow reality to enter our minds just yet because it’s just too painful. The thought of our child being gone forever is more than our hearts can bear to imagine! The monthly doctor’s appointment was in the evening and I drove myself as usual. It was in late April on a warm spring evening. I had an ominous feeling surrounding me — the kind when you know something is wrong, but you don’t want to reach out to that feeling and deal with it. I brushed off the fact that I had not felt the baby moving for a while. This was a routine check, and I told myself over and over in the waiting room that everything was going to be okay. The baby was just hiding in a position inside of me where I couldn’t feel his movements right now.
When I walked into the doctor’s office, I acted as though all was just fine. I didn’t plan on telling the doctor about not feeling movement for almost two days. I was too afraid. Facing the truth is often the most scary thing we will ever be called on to do!
As he placed the Doppler on my stomach, I waited to hear the rhythmic swoosh-swoosh of the baby’s heart beating, but the room was filled instead with a cold, dark silence. I sucked in my breath and held it as the doctor tried again and again to find the heartbeat. Finally he said, “Let’s see if we can look at the baby. I’m not able to hear his heart beating right now.” The doctor was calm. I was trembling. As I lay on the table, the room began spinning wildly out of control while the monitor was being wheeled beside me.
I had come face-to-face with the moment of truth. In seconds I would know if my baby was alive. “Yes, of course this baby is alive. Babies don’t just die inside of their mother.” My mind was wild with thoughts and my own heart was racing so hard I thought it would jump outside of my chest. “Babies don’t die! Babies never die! My baby is just fine!”
Time seemed to stand still and be racing wild all at the same time. I didn’t want to move beyond this moment. I didn’t want to hear what I knew was the inevitable.
As the doctor hooked me up to the monitor he asked me to look away. I turned my head with hot tears streaming down my face. I remember thinking, “God, I’ll never live. I can’t live without this child. Please don’t take this baby of mine.”
How could I pray for this child’s life when it had already ended?
I don’t remember much of anything after the doctor asking me if I wanted to look at my baby on the monitor. I didn’t let out with any loud wails. I said nothing. I simply stared and allowed the tears to quietly fall. In my mind the same words kept repeating, “This is not real. This is not real. This is not real.” It felt as though this was happening to someone else — like this was a very bad dream and when I awoke from it life was going to be normal and good!
Only, this wasn’t a dream. It was for real. My baby died.
I’m not sure how I did it, but I managed to drive myself home that evening. In thinking back, the doctor never should have allowed me to leave the office alone. I was in shock — total shock! I felt numb. My ears were ringing. My head was spinning. All I could think about was getting home where it was safe and good and all would be okay.
When I walked through the door, I remember hearing the kids in the other room. They were watching tv with my husband. He was sitting in the blue chair with his feet propped up on the ottoman. He had white socks on. Isn’t it amazing what details stick in your mind? The kids were engrossed in their show, and my husband looked up and simply said, “Well, did everything go okay?”
I just stared ahead. “I guess. There’s something I need to talk to you about, though. It can wait until after the kids go to bed.”
When the kids went to bed and we were alone, I was sitting in the dimly lit room with my husband. “My appointment didn’t go so well tonight.” He looked waiting to hear more.
“The doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat.” The words slid out of my mouth so easily. It was as though someone else was speaking. I had my hands rubbing my belly waiting to feel the thumps of my baby moving around.
All I can remember is silence for a very long time. No crying. No screaming. No sobbing. Just silence. We were frozen in a wall of disbelief.
I’ve replayed this scene over a million and one times in my mind over the years. My son was twenty-eight weeks old when I delivered him — his little heart had stopped beating and it was for real. He was dead. Child loss had entered our lives unexpectedly, without invitation, and the pain and suffering that followed was cruel.
It was months later when the full impact of the grief hit, and that’s so often how it is with the loss of a child. The pain is simply too much to bear all at once, so we stay frozen — numb to the realness of it all — and it isn’t until we begin to thaw that the realness settles in.
Many people don’t understand how a parent can suffer so much from the loss of a baby they never met. I will tell you that I firmly and fully believe that a child is joined to a mother on more than a physical level. Yes, a mother carries that baby inside of her body nurturing that child with her own, but that child is also joined to the soul of a mother and that bond is strong and alive and a mother’s heart never beats the same after she is joined spiritually to her child.
When my son Samuel died, a part of me went away, too. I will always have a place in my heart reserved “for Samuel only” and nothing or no one will ever fill that space!
I love you sweet child of mine!
I am so sorry for your loss. Just recently a very dear friend of my family, that I have always loved like a daughter lost her baby due to an ectopic pregnancy, a few days later a friend of my daughter’s lost her two month old son and I lost my 25 year old son on Jan 2, 2011 to PTSD and TBI due to his time in Iraq. The pain for each parent is the same, the hopes, dreams and love that you feel for that child is the same. I’ve been saddened that my friend who had the ectopic pregnancy was not getting the same support as the other young lady or myself because she had never held her child. Luckily, because of this wonderful age of social media, I was able to help her by explaining to people that just because she lost her baby before she had the joy of knowing him, she still felt that loss the same that I did. That she loved that baby and the dreams that she had for him had been taken away when she lost him. The loss that each parent feels when they lose a child will always be with us, as will the love, the reality that our child is really gone is so painful. As my son’s birthdays pass, I wonder, what would he be like now. Would he have married a wonderful young lady? Would he have added to the family with a little one that looked just like him? I miss his hugs, his smile and his laugh so much. My shattered heart goes out to any parent that belongs to this club where dreams and hopes were cut short for whatever reason. Sending hugs and kisses to all our Angel babies that carry a piece of our heart with them.
Sue, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son. And, I’m saddened, as always, to hear of so many other losses. This life sure can be full of pain at times!
You’ve stated so well that grief is grief and child loss is child loss. There is no measuring stick we can put to it, nor can we compare our loss with another’s. Every parent grieves deep and long — it doesn’t matter if we held our child or not, the void left behind by that empty place where our child should be shatters our heart.
Blessings to you for being such a wonderful, caring friend!
Thank u so much for sharing your tragic story w/us. So beautifully written.
Linda, Thank you for reading. Every time I share some of my story of loss I find that I’m diluting some of my grief. It helps so much to be able to share and have others listen.
This is almost identical to our story, we also lost our Lily Belle at 28 weeks, we have waited 16 years for her, how can she be gone? Its been 2 months and I still can’t believe that she’s not coming home. I can’t imagine anything worse than this, I can’t stop crying. I can’t sleep. Someone told me today to stop crying because all the tears in the world won’t bring her back,
Suzi, I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your Lily Belle. (I love her name — so beautiful!) When we experience this deep loss, it feels like the end of all of life for a long time. Cry and cry and cry all you need. That helps to release small bits of the pain.
I’m so sorry for the rude remark made to you. Obviously, that person has never experienced the type of loss that you have. Sending you a warm cyber hug today.
I want to Thank you with all of my heart. Your posts on Facebook have helped my daughter and I along these last couple of months when so many don’t understand.
Your comment has made my day. Every day without fail I always say a prayer before I post asking God to direct my words to help hearts that are in deep pain from child loss. Thank you for your comment.
I read you blog tonight for the first time. When I first saw it on facebook, I put off reading it, mainly because I thought it was about losing a child after it was born, you know an older child. I too lost 2 sons that way. The first one was almost 15 years ago & the second almost 11 years ago. Typing that kind of stops me in my tracks, that it could have been that long ago. Like you there are so many things that still stand out in my memory of that day even after the years. At times you feel like people don’t understand the bond that is there with a child that never left your body alive, and the deep grief of holding your child for the first & last time. I just wanted to say I appreciate your words, I guess to validate the way I feel & think about my 2 boys born asleep.
Debbie, I’m so very sorry for the losses of your sons. You’re so right — most people don’t understand the bond between mother and child. If we have normal pregnancies and all goes well, there is so much taken for granted. We miss so much of the rich experience of pregnancy and birth, but when something happens such as in your case and mine (and thousands of others), we grieve daily for the remainder of our days because there is such an emptiness in our hearts. It’s hard to explain, but we sure do feel that hole in the hearts!
Each of us needs validation for our losses. In some small way, it makes us feel like, “This was real. This was my child that I loved with all of heart, with all of my being.” It helps us to know that others understand — even if it is just a little bit.
Thank you for the comment.
I am truly apologetic for the lost of all of us being that i have lost one of my twins and knowing the day by day pain and hurt and mourning noone about the mother will truly know i thank you for giving me a place to share my hurt and not to say get over it .
Evelina, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your twin. I cannot imagine how your heart must be breaking. I hope that this place will provide you some support and encouragement.