At the breakfast table, my wife told me something felt a little bit different. Without much concern, I told her to keep me posted, and if things changed to call the doctor.
What I did not know was over the next 48 hours, my life would go from heaven to hell. Not only did we lose our daughter to stillbirth, but we had to deal with the aftermath of her loss and all that came with it from a planning aspect.
I did not know the volume of logistical issues that come with losing a child, the unthinkable questions that had to be answered, and the plans that had to be made.
What started as an ordinary day, transitioned so quickly.
At about 10 am on Friday, March 1, my wife texts that she called the doctor, and that odd feeling at breakfast were contractions. It’s time to head home and closely track her progress for when to leave for the hospital.
I handle the fun logistics at that point; I book our dog at the vet for a couple of days, finish up phone calls, e-mails, and tell my boss that this looked like the day. I text and call family members and tell them the news and what our plan is for coming home as a family of three.
4:30 PM: Our world is upside down; we hear the words no parent should ever have to hear when a monitor is placed on a pregnant belly.
At that moment in the little triage room, our lives are destroyed. We lose our first and so far only child, our beautiful daughter.
I fall to the floor and have what I can only describe as an out of body experience. According to my Fitbit, my heart rate plummeted. I have no real memory of the next hour or so but know I called my dad and brother to break the news that the day that started with so much promise would end in tragedy.
5:00pm-6:00 am: My wife becomes my hero. For the next thirteen hours, she soldiers through the most rotten of delivery experiences, full of complications that we are told would not have happened had Olivia lived.
She knows all the pain she is going through, all the agony, will only lead to a worse place than we already occupied. She demands that I get something to eat to make sure that I am okay throughout the night.
I will never understand how she had the strength to care about me while she was breaking inside.
While going through the hell of delivery, knowing the outcome was the worst, we make calls to the rest of our family and friends. We worry about coming home and having to take down the nursery that we had built for her.
Luckily, we have nearby friends who rescue us from the horrors of coming home to a house prepared for Olivia’s arrival.
I will forever be grateful that on a Friday night, they dropped everything to empty our home to ensure that when we got back, we would not be greeted by her crib and her swing.
I could not imagine having to tear down even more than what I already lost.
6:05 am: Olivia is delivered, her perfectly imperfect body is wrapped in a blanket to cover the lesions on her skin, and a knit hat is placed on to her broken head. The nurse looks at me and says the second most devastating thing I heard in the hospital, “She’s tall and skinny, just like dad.”
I cut the cord, and my wife is helped through the after birth.
I know my beautiful baby girl was with me in body only; however, I rock her in my arms, make sure that her head is supported against me, and that her hat does not fall into her eyes.
I kiss her forehead and do everything I can to make sure that she is comfortable. We take pictures that show the most conflicting emotions, holding my girl for the first time, but knowing that she was already gone.
For a few hours or so, we are a family. Grandparents come in and hold her, more pictures are taken. Smiles crack through the tears. However, those few short hours with her give way when it is time to say goodbye and her nurses whisk her body away. We know that we will never see her again.
11:00 am: After Olivia is taken, my role as her father takes over. First, we are asked what would we want to happen next for Olivia. Did we want an autopsy? Would she be buried? Would she be cremated?
A terrible, horrible thing to think about when just hours earlier, you were wondering if you would make a mistake changing her first diaper or what the sound of her cry would be.
After the shock from her leaving our room subsides, I remember – her dresser is being delivered the next week. I have to make the call to the shipping company, “I’m sorry we won’t be needing that delivery.”
I’m asked why we are returning the item and explain to the stranger our daughter had passed and we would not need it. “I’m so sorry, we’ll cancel the order,” is all that is mustered on the other side of the call.
Next, I check my phone and check e-mails, hoping for a distraction. No, the first e-mail in my inbox is the daycare promoting an upcoming event. Another horrible e-mail to write: please take us off your e-mail list. Our daughter will not need her spot anymore.
Then I see the next e-mail: What to Expect at 39 Weeks from one of the baby websites or registries we signed up for. The next twenty minutes or so is spent unsubscribing from e-mail list after e-mail list on our phones.
You never realize the magnitude of how many e-mails and applications are out there for expecting parents until you are sitting alone in a hospital room uninstalling and unsubscribing from them.
All the e-mails and apps are full of happy people and smiling babies; some tech company should create something for bereaved parents to one-step remove them all. What a service that would be.
12:00-1:00 pm: Finally, our bodies quit for an hour, after nearly thirty-six straight hours of being awake, we collapse and nap for a bit.
The rest is broken; the funeral director and rabbi arrive to discuss arrangements for Olivia’s funeral service. We have to discuss where Olivia will be buried.
We decide with family, buried in the same plot as my mother, who Olivia’s middle name honors. Then we decide where and when her memorial service will be held. All this from the hospital room where I cradled her in my arms and rocked her body just hours before.
No one told me that this was coming; it was just part of the process.
By mid-afternoon, the funeral is planned. We open up our phones for some distraction, and again we are slapped in the face with targeted advertisements for baby products, as that is all we have been searching for the last few weeks.
Again, another hurdle that we did not want to jump. This time our pup Mario will be the beneficiary. The only way to change targeted ads is to buy different things, so we search for dog treats and toys and make plenty of purchases. These will become his reward for supporting us when we are at the lowest points of our lives.
10:00 am: Sunday, March 3, we check out of the hospital and start the trip home. The car seat that we came to the hospital with inspected and safe has already been moved to storage, and we sit in the back seat as my wife’s parents drive us home.
The drive is quiet and sad, reflecting on what could have, what should have been — a miserable half hour.
When your baby dies the day she should have been born, nobody tells you of all the other things that you must attend to.
You cannot hide from reality for even a moment as plans need to be made, and as her parents, we are the only ones that can make those plans. You realize you have gone from heaven to hell.