How can eleven years feel like both a lifetime ago and at the same time, just yesterday? For me, it’s this way. The memories of a heart broken bonds that day to every day since. A thread unraveling from July 27, 2006 to today. It will continue to do so until the day when I draw my last breath. It was the day I said goodbye to my first son.
I found out I was pregnant again the same day I ordered the smash cake for Abby’s first birthday. Six short days until my baby turned one and there I was, expecting again. After the shit show that was my pregnancy with her, I was terrified. Part of me wanted to be happy but there was a devil on my shoulder whispering: you’re tempting fate. The thoughts gave me an uneasy feeling that I never quite shook. I’d only just begun to accept and embrace the possibility of new life when it was so cruelly ripped from me.
I was 21 weeks and 3 days when I went in for my big ultrasound. That gut feeling was alive and well. As the tech began to move the wand around my belly I tried as hard as I could to determine whether she was moving or the baby was. I’d still yet to feel him move, and this made my paranoia worse. She only looked for a minute or two before she said she would be right back and left the room. I looked at their father and said “something is wrong with the baby. I know it.” Before long she was back with my OB who confirmed that my baby had no heartbeat. In that moment, I didn’t think I did, either.
I endured labor and delivery that night. Just after I received an epidural the baby was born, easily, into a silent room- still encased completely in the amniotic sac. It was 10:50 PM. The nurse asked if I wanted her to break it open so I could see him; hold him. I put my face into my pillow and refused. They took him away.
The next morning a grief nurse came to see me. She told me that she’d taken pictures of him and that if I ever wanted them they’d be in a file marked with my name. She gave me a small pillow and lion that she said he’d laid on for her pictures. She also gave me a satin box with a memory book inside. On the front page was a set of tiny footprints, no bigger than a dime. How symbolic that I now have two sets of tiny footprints tattooed on me. I do have the pictures now. Arick and I have been together for nearly 5 years and he’s never seen them. Perhaps I will get them out today and show him the only piece of my heart that he’s never touched. Perhaps I won’t. They’ll still be there, and so will he.
I never thought that I’d become the poster child for pregnancy loss. That I’d go on to have five miscarriages and one more stillbirth. That 9 years later I’d again endure the labor and delivery of a baby that would never take a breath. That I’d be here writing this, trying and failing to put into words how it feels to walk around every day with literal pieces of you missing. How it feels to have your husband say to you: no more. It isn’t fair. How much your heart breaks when you realize that he’s right. The need for more that will never come.
Eleven years ago today I gave birth to a little boy. I named him Damian Alan. He existed. He was real. He lived, and he died. He was my son. Abby’s baby brother and Avery’s big brother.
I hope that one day I get another chance to hold him. I’m sorry, my son.
Happy Birthday. This will always be your birthday.
I have two sons…