I couldn't even begin to fathom how to handle this situation or what to do. You don't go into pregnancy thinking about what you'll do if something goes wrong, you simply assume that the end will bring a live and healthy baby. Now we were suddenly faced with questions of what would a 20 week old baby look like, did we want a burial or cremation, pictures and keepsakes, bringing the kids up to see the baby, even a name because we didn't know what we were having at that point. Things that had I had not had time to prepare for or really consider. Things that if I had known what I do now, I would have done differently.
We were blessed with a great nurse that night who tried her best to answer our questions and to help us to know what to expect. And perhaps the one thing I'm most grateful for was that she didn't act uncomfortable around us or like she couldn't wait to be finished with her shift. She also was the only one to ask if I wanted to hear my baby's heartbeat because he was still alive at that point. The most precious sound in the world to me, in that moment, was my son's heartbeat and it was the last time I would ever hear it. Saturday night I began labor and in what would be one of the most bittersweet moments of my life, I felt my baby move for the first time. So precious and yet so heartbreaking at the same time. How ironic that the first outward signs of life from my son would come just hours before his death? Yet what seems to be cruel and unfair, is one of the memories that I hold onto because it is also so precious.
I had never wanted so badly for a labor to go faster and yet, at the same time, want to never deliver because once he was born our hello's would be goodbye. But, inevitably labor had to end and on Sunday, July 16, 2006 at 10:45 am I gave birth to our son. In the time leading up to going into labor we had finally decided on names for a boy and a girl. Our son would be named Robert after his daddy and Allen after my daddy. Our precious little boy never took a breath and his heart never beat outside of my body but he was so perfect! Tiny but perfect! At only 8 1/2 inches and 6.8 ounces he was small enough to fit into my hand with his feet hanging at my wrists. Rob's and my wedding bands were so big on his tiny arms. And his feet were about the size of my pinky fingerprint. His miniature hands had beautiful little fingers and his feet...I still remember just those perfect little arches and heels! How could such a perfect little baby have been stillborn? What could have possibly gone wrong? So many questions and still, even today, no really good answers. Pathology would later determine that I'd had a 25% placental abruption but not when or why it led to my water breaking. No reason has ever been determined for why I lost my baby boy. So many questions and so few answers.
We spent several hours just holding and looking at our sweet baby. Trying to memorize everything about him. Wanting to fit a lifetime of love into hours. It was impossible. The most agonizing moment came when it was time to go home and the nurse took my son for the last time. Walking out of the hospital, childless, knowing that I would never know my son in this life was painful beyond words. It's a moment etched into my memory that still tears my heart into millions of pieces today.
We ended up taking Sterling up to the hospital later that night to meet his baby brother because he was so distraught at not getting to see him. Watching him sob, inconsolable as Rob held him was gut wrenching. How do you explain to a 5 year old what death means? How do you also explain hope and resurrection to someone who can't even comprehend time very well? Taking him there was the best decision we could have made though. To see the joy on his face as he held his baby brother brought some peace and comfort to me. I only regret that we didn't also bring Emmy, Joe and Cori. We thought they were too young and might be frightened by Robert Allen's appearance but I know better now. Emmy still talks about how she wishes she could have met and held her brother. And Sterling holds those memories and the pictures of his few moments with Robert Allen as some of his most precious. I only wish I had given the same to my other kids.
In the end, I was left with a scrapbook, some pictures and a few mementos that includes Robert Allen's bracelet, hat, robe and blanket. My son's entire life can be fit into a small, round box. With so little evidence that he ever existed it's amazing the impact he's had on my life. I miss him everyday. I long to hold him everyday. I wonder at the purpose of his life, of the whole experience. I question why God took him, why He didn't intervene to save him. I love this child, a child that I never knew, so completely and as much as the ones that I have here and I wonder how that is possible. How do you love someone you never met with such intensity that it hurts?
Ten years may have lessened the frequency with which I cry and breakdown but it hasn't changed the sorrow that I feel or the love that I have for my little boy. The grief is less raw, usually, but still there. And there are times, like tonight, where it is fresh. I expect that in another ten years I will feel much the same as I do now except that I will miss my angel even more.
I love you, my dear, sweet Robert Allen. I think you know that. I look forward to seeing you again one day and getting to hold you and see your smile for the first time. I can't wait to hear you say , "Mommy" and give me a hug and a kiss. And I know that your brothers and sisters look forward to meeting you too. Know that you are always in my heart and that I love you more than I could ever express. Happy 10th birthday Robert Allen. I wish I could be celebrating it with you instead of just dreaming of it. I miss you and love you my baby boy!
"I carried you every second of your life and I will love you every second of mine."