"I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become." ~ Carl Gustav Jung
On January 2nd, 2015, my husband and I were shocked and ecstatic at the news that we were expecting our first child. Months later, more good news... The baby was developing perfectly and a bit to our surprise, was a little boy. "Definitely a boy!" I can remember the ultrasound tech confirming. Boy names were tricky for us, and for the rest of my pregnancy we debated names, even though we had basically landed on Ryan Kendrick. I was adamant I wouldn't know for sure though, until I met him. So he was "Baby R" for 20 more weeks. With no sickness, no great discomforts, no crazy cravings, no acne, and very few stretch marks to speak of, I relished my pregnancy. I proudly dubbed myself one of "those annoying women" who love being pregnant. Not even stifling summer heat wore me down. It may have swelled my feet, but my Baby R and I got along quite nicely for our nine months together. I read and sang to him. We took our dog for increasingly shorter walks as the summer got hotter and my feet got puffier. I patted him, snugly in my belly, every morning. He would energetically kick me back, and put on great shows for his dad and I in the evening hours.
So on the morning of September 6th, just one day before we were due to meet each other face to face, when he didn't wake me with a kick in the belly, or greet a few pokes and prods, I knew something wasn't right. But I didn't believe it. I drank some orange juice. Laid silently and motionlessly on the couch and was greeted with more silence and no motion in return. I called Labour and Delivery. They recommended what I had just done. We packed what we could think to grab, birth plans out the window, and headed to the hospital. It was only a 15 minute drive that felt like forever. I remember a few tears. And maybe apologizing to my husband. I didn't know what was wrong. "It's probably nothing." I remember telling myself. Telling myself knowing I was lying.
We were greeted at the hospital by the nurse I spoken to on the phone. She laughed a bit when she saw me. Said she knows how much new moms worry, but not to, and they'd get me checked out right away. I was soon hooked up to a fetal monitor. There wasn't much to listen to. The faintest of heartbeats that at the moment had me optimistic. The look on my husband's face was trying so hard to be positive, but I saw behind his eyes what I know now to be true. The heartbeat I heard was my own.
When the doctor was called in, he rushed me, literally ran with me in a wheelchair, to radiology. An ultrasound confirmed what I'd been fighting all afternoon against. Ryan's heart had stopped beating.
We had choices. Wait to go into labour naturally. Wait to be induced. Or be induced soon. We opted to contact family from the hospital, then be induced soon after. First round of induction meds were given around 5pm. 6 hours later my contractions were still not very intense and I was only 1.5 cm dilated. Sometime between 11pm and 12am (this is where it gets blurry), I got another round and everything happened really quickly. Within 10 minutes the contractions were intense (I realize now I was likely transitioning), and was given a shot of Demerol and a Gravol to help me sleep/relax. I guess none of us realized that only 10 minutes later when my husband called in a nurse because I seemed in "too much pain" I would be 10 cm dilated and ready to start pushing.
The doctor came in quickly, and Ryan came into the world sleeping soon after that.
My fears and dread about delivering a stillborn baby were unfounded. It was and is the single most amazing thing I have ever done.
He was cleaned and swaddled like any baby would be. And placed in his mama's arms. I stared down at him with so much pride I can still feel the swell in my chest at the memory. He was sleeping. He was an angel. And he was our baby. We created him. I carried him. And we love him more than anything left on this earth.
We had few precious hours with him and very few answers about what went wrong. Most likely a lack of fluid. Something had happened between my last ultrasound a few weeks before, my last OB appointment a few days before, and this day, to make him stop producing fluid. He had a bowel movement, and very likely suffocated. But there was no certainty. All I knew was that his body was quickly changing and I knew he couldn't take much more of our holding on to him. He got to meet his grandparents and one of his aunts. And we got to have him dressed in clothes we lovingly picked out for him the day we found out he was our baby boy.
And then we had to give him back.
The days and weeks that followed are simultaneously the most vivid and blurry memories of my life. Leaving the hospital with empty arms. Making his final arrangements. A stream of visitors to the house. Laying Ryan to rest. Having my husband head back to work. Putting away some Ryan's things we had set up around the house. Dealing with the silence of a baby-less home.
I didn't understand how you recovered from this. I only saw the darkness that had come into our lives. I didn't want to see light.
Time has healed nothing, and I'm not sure I ever want to be "healed" of his loss. But time has provided enough distance to help me gain some perspective. This certainly marked the end of life "before." But it began something new. This "after" life. It's not necessarily a new chapter. But more of a new book. Same characters. New challenges.
I don't know what all the challenges are. The same way I didn't know that 9 incredible months of pregnancy could end with such heartbreak. But I do know those 9 months made me a mom. Those 9 months made me happier than I've ever been. And in the time since losing Ryan I've found strength I didn't know I could have. I've found love for my husband deeper than I ever could have expected even if we were together 100 years. And I've found, on the good days, hope that something more is ahead for us. For our little family of three.
Ryan is not where my story ends. He is where it all begins.