The day was April 18, 2016. It was a normal Saturday afternoon. We were planning to run by Marshalls, then catch an early dinner. We decided on BBQ at the Smoke Shack. There were only a few months left for us in San Antonio before PCSing to North Carolina, better eat up all the Texas BBQ we possibly can!
We had 3 boys at the time, ages 5, 3 and 1. I was 17 weeks pregnant with baby number 4, and finally getting over the “blehhhh” that encompasses the first trimester. We always said we wanted three or four children, but this pregnancy was a complete surprise! The initial shock had passed, and we had quickly made space in our hearts for another sweet baby. We don’t find out the gender of our children, but I want a girl (and suspect a boy). Four brothers! Our family would be complete.
“Can we run by the clinic for a quick ultra-sound?” I ask my husband. He briefly suggests another day, but then agrees. Lucky for me, he’s a physical therapist and has access to an ultrasound machine at his office. Now, I’m not usually a worrier, but when it comes to pregnancy, I become a worry machine full of What If’s. So, it’s not an unusual request when I ask him to scan me. Again. He’s actually gotten pretty good over the years!
Minutes pass. We’re no OBGYNs here, but after 4 pregnancies, we know what the flicker of a heart looks like. There’s no flicker. He doesn’t speak, but continues to diligently reposition the wand over my belly. I finally quietly say “It’s not there, Brad. There’s no heartbeat.”
We go to the ER and triage. Everyone is polite, but not there’s no sense of urgency. It’s gotta be human error, right? I mean, this guy’s just a Physical Therapist. Insert joke about all the times they scanned so-and-so in med school. I try to appear hopeful, but I know there’s no error.
The nurse taps on her ultrasound wand and says “Oh, these things never work. Let’s just get you over to the doctor.” The doctor says “I’m so sorry, but I can’t find your baby’s heartbeat.” Even though I knew it a few hours before, the tears flow for the first time. No way. NO NO NO NO. The doctor gives us the choice to admit to the hospital, or return in the morning to induce labor and deliver the baby. OH my God. I have to deliver this baby. I don’t know what else I expected to happen, but the reality of labor and delivery hit me like (another) ton of bricks.
We still need to get in with radiology, just to confirm. Somewhere between the sobs, I manage to ask the gender. In my head I think Please don’t be the girl. “It’s a boy. I’m so sorry for your loss.” If at all possible, the sobs come harder. Oh God, it was the brother. There were 4 brothers! My heart is crushed for the 4 brothers that will never be.
We spend the rest of the night in a blur; cradling and rubbing my belly. The thought of separating his tiny body from mine is unbearable. I hope he feels safe is the thought that runs continuously through my mind.
As I walk into the room that I know will end my pregnancy, I notice the door is marked with a single rose. The door next to mine is the same. These are not happy rooms. Do not congratulate us. There is one more ultrasound to confirm. I see my lifeless boy for the last time. The induction begins and it feels so wrong. Thank goodness for reruns of Reba to get me through the next 15 hours. The feeling of wanting something to just be over, but all the while never wanting it to end, is strange.
He was born after a very short labor and delivery. The pains and symptoms of labor were the same as with my other children, and although I didn’t have to push, I felt his 4 ounce body leave mine. The room is eerily quiet, except for the sounds of a mother and father mourning their child. There is no hustle, no newborn cries, no beeping of machines as vitals are checked, no discussion of length or weight, no “good job, mama” or congratulations.
The kind doctor wraps up our boy in a blanket and hands him to me. My heart is comforted now that he’s in my arms. He’s safe now, I know. We name him Ryder Houston (because he lived on Ft. Sam Houston). Since he is under 20 weeks gestation, there is no death certificate or rules about what to do next. This is a relief. I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me he died. We chose cremation. We couldn’t fathom leaving him buried in a place where we do not live; we are military after all. I am his home, anyway.
As I reflect on the events of those 48 hours, I realize that there were 3 distinct emotions that I felt (pretty much in this order). Three years later, and I still feel these same emotions at times.
1. Sorrow. Deep, gut-wrenching sorrow. For myself, for my (also brokenhearted) husband who is trying his best to console me, and for my 3 boys who will never meet their brother. Sorrow for my empty arms that long to hold my newborn on my empty chest. Oh! What I’d give to feel the dark swirl of hair on top of his head tickle my chin! I can even smell his newborn smell. I miss him. I can understand how some may also feel anger here. For me, there was no room for anger. The sorrow was to deep.
2. I’m sorry. I tried hard, but I can’t think of a single word that encompasses this emotion. I’m sorry you weren’t safe in the one place you were supposed to be safe. I’m so sorry I didn’t know you were sick. Were you in pain? What was I doing when you heart beat for the last time? I hope I wasn’t out grocery shopping, or at the gym. Oh God, please let it be a time when I was daydreaming about your face and thinking of names, or when I was rocking your brother to sleep. I’m sorry you’ll never jump on the trampoline with your brothers, or wrestle on the floor with daddy. And, No boys, Mommy doesn’t have a baby in her tummy anymore. I am so sorry. Maybe this one should be combined with sorrow.
3. Gratitude. I’d do it all again. Had I known we’d say goodbye to soon, I’d still do it. A thousand times over again, I’d do it. I’m so incredibly thankful God blessed me with Ryder’s sweet, little life. I’m thankful for the neighbors that came together to fill our house with home cooked meals and care for our children without hesitation. I feel gratitude in my heart for each of the doctors, nurses and other staff that took the time to hold my hand and pray with me. A few of them even shared stories of their own loss. I saw and felt the Holy Spirit move in the body of the Church. And he was moving for me. It was nothing short of miraculous.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart!
I have overcome the world.
I am thankful that only 3 months later, we were blessed with another new life in my womb. A Rainbow Baby girl named Sunnie. I like to think maybe they crossed paths in heaven.
The days and weeks that followed Ryder’s birth were a whirlwind of phone calls, text messages, tears, cards and flowers. Life slowly returned to our new normal. It’s an awkward conversation to have, when you see other moms out and about. “I’m sorry for your loss” is all most were able to get out, followed by an uncomfortable silence and not-so-smooth change of topic. And I can’t blame them. Heck, I probably would’ve done the same exact thing. But the thing is, I want to talk about it. I do not have stories of Christmas and birthdays past to share with you. I cannot reminisce about Ryder learning to ride a bike, or his first time splashing in the waves at the beach. This story is all I have. This is Ryder’s story.
Welcome to The MOMBOX! We’re Tori and Sarah, a couple of stay at home moms with a passion for faith, family, food and fitness. We are each military wives, and moms to 4 amazing little ones! We believe being Strong: Body, Mind and Spirit makes us better moms. Join us along our wellness journey!