Do you have a moment in your life where everything changed? I sure do. It plays over in my mind. The vivid images flashing in my head like a movie.
It’s like a bad dream I can’t awake from.
My husband and I had just found out that our first child was a little boy. Our minds were happily daydreaming about our life with our son. We sent messages to our entire family. The news filled everyone with excitement.
That’s when it happened. The doctor walked in, congratulated us on our boy and then said, “I’m sorry; there is something wrong with your baby”.
That was it. My entire world came crashing down around me. Those are the words that define the moment my world shattered in two pieces. Life’s now broken down into before and after.
Before I heard those words.
After my son with diagnosed with a fatal condition.
Before my son died.
After he was stillborn.
Before I said goodbye forever.
After I left his perfect, tiny, lifeless body in the hospital.
Before I had any living children.
My life before could be described as average, normal, and happy. Now I describe that time in my life as naïve. You see, I didn’t ever think it would happen to me. I wouldn’t have to live the rest of my life without my child. My child wouldn’t die before taking his first breath. I wouldn’t have to decide if I wanted to bury or cremate my son. I wouldn’t be the 1 in 16,000 carrying a child with this fatal medical condition.
It was blissful living that life. At times I would give anything to have that piece of me back; but it’s gone forever. My innocence is lost.
Pregnancy now is filled with fear and terror. Every pregnancy announcement I see leads to a sinking feeling and a quick prayer that they will get to bring their baby home. I now realize how little control I have over things like this. This is my reality.
In my life now, knowing the low chances something bad will happen does not comfort me. While pregnant with my third child, I was told that there was only a 1-2% chance that my daughter would have the same condition. I almost laughed out loud. Was that supposed to comfort me?
I had already been in the 1%, what’s to say that it wouldn’t happen again.
It’s been four years since my son was born still. I continue breathing and living in the “after”. I now have two living children and one that sits in his urn on the mantle. Although most days are filled with joy and laughter, some are filled with tears and sadness.
In many ways my life has gone on. There is another reality, though, one that is secret and sacred to me. A part of me is still in that hospital room holding my son. Feeling his soft skin and kissing his perfect cheeks.
While this might sound morbid, but it’s comforting to me. A part of me longs for it. That was the only time I ever got to hold him, touch him, see him, smell him, kiss him. Our time together consisted of eight short hours in that hospital room.
Those hours and memories, no matter how painful, are sacred to me.
Time stood still in that room and part of me lives there, holding him tightly before I had to say goodbye.
This is my life now. I realize that this can be a painful reality, causing anxiety and helplessness at times. But I don’t want the painful, yet beautiful experience of my first son to keep me from living. He wouldn’t want it to. Things cannot go back to the way they were before. Despite it being painful, I don’t want them to. I love him deeply and I’m a better person because of him.
So, I go on existing in two realities seemingly contradictory to each other. On one side is pain and heartache. On the other side is joy and hope.
He exists in both of those places; the joy and the pain.
So I welcome them both with open arms because this, along with a small box of mementos, is all I have left of him. This is my life now and I am grateful for all of it.
Kelly is owner and therapist at Evolve Counseling, LLC and proud mother to three children, including her son, Parker who was stillborn at 24 weeks gestation. At Evolve Counseling, LLC she provides counseling services to individuals and families healing after infant and pregnancy loss.