The evening had that kind of warmth to it that as the sun had set the world continued to bask in the heat rising from the ground in the Colorado desert town I lived in. I usually loved to soak in the warmth of the sun before it began to cool for the evening. This night however; I felt uneasy, fidgety, even. I stretched out in a recliner in the living room waiting for my favorite show to come on. I can’t remember exactly what sit-com it was at the time, but I’m sure it was entertaining.
As I relaxed I felt the baby in my burgeoning belly start to stretch out. This wasn’t the first time it ever happened. He stretched and I could see the outline of his little body through my belly. My heart skipped and I felt love pour out of my soul for this little human being. As my baby boy settled down after painfully jabbing me in the lung and went to sleep I was finally able to relax.
Four more days and my son would be in my arms. At least I hoped it would only be a few more days. My body was taxed from carrying my child. From 5 months along I had been bedridden by my doctor with concerns that the sudden increase in my blood pressure could cause me to go into seizures causing damage to my unborn child. The pregnancy sickness refused to allow me to eat anything of nutritional value and the gestational diabetes caused me to gain more than 60 pounds. All in all my body was miserable and I was ready for some relief.
So….there I lay, most of the days and all of the nights waiting for the moment I could bring my child into this world. Almost every day I would play with the child in my belly watching all the responses, kicks, turns and rolls the little acrobat could manage. I recalled at that moment the very first time I felt my baby move inside of me. I was lying on my stomach (before the bump arrived) and felt the tiniest butterfly movement within my abdomen. I immediately sat up pressing into my pelvis with my hand hoping to feel it again…and it did happen again. Butterfly Kisses!
That night as I fell asleep I could only think of the hope I would have raising this child and to feel his unconditional love for me. All of my hopes for affirmation and value were waiting on the arrival of this infant. I had been waiting all my life for someone to need me. My self esteem had never been healthy. I struggled to value myself. I didn’t even know what it meant to love myself always hoping for someone to show me what that meant. What did it look like? What did it FEEL like? I was in a severe state of co-dependency upon my child and all the love I could give and receive through our bond.
During the night I was woken by the cold. This was odd…for some time I could not sleep with any covers because I was always so hot. Oh well, maybe a cold front had come in to bring me some relief. I pulled the covers at the foot of my bed up to my chin and snuggled in to sleep until the next morning.
When I did wake the next day I went through my morning routine. Shower, shave (what I could reach), brush, dress, makeup and hair. You know, the typical girl stuff. Finally, breakfast! I was so hungry! This was different! I actually wanted food! So I ate whatever I could find until I was full. I couldn’t believe that the smell of bacon didn’t turn my stomach. I relaxed on the couch waiting for the rest of my family to get ready to leave for our Sunday church service.
While I waited I began pressing on my stomach hoping to feel my son move wanting to cherish his movements. Nothing happened. I pressed again, feeling his little body within mine and still nothing happened. I knew something was incredibly wrong! My son was not moving, kicking or rolling like he usually did when I played with him. I called my Mom into the room and told her. Her eyes grew wide open as she also tried to touch him to make him move. Still nothing, then…fear.
Fear crept in and began to wash over me as the reality of what might be happening started to settle into my mind. Phone calls were made and the physician on call at the clinic recommended I go to the hospital nearly two hours away. Fear gripped me as I tried to come to the reality that my son was in danger.
The car ride to the hospital was filled with questions and misery. My heart felt like it wanted to stop. My body started to heave as tears filled my eyes and came splashing down my cheeks and neck. I couldn’t take any more and finally had the car stopped so I could empty my stomach of the breakfast I had just eaten less than an hour before. The drive seemed to last an eternity as we rounded curve after curve of the mountain roads taking me to the hospital. I was in denial. My whole life’s hope of being validated by unconditional love wavered and flickered like a candle wick drowning in wax. What on earth could I have done to have this happen to me?
The hospital staff rushed me into a cold examination room. While I waited on the table with nothing but my hospital gown and identification bracelet on the reassuring hugs and encouragement that my Mom gave me began to overwhelm me yet again. How could this be happening? I felt my baby in my belly again and still nothing.
The ultrasound technician came into the room looking at my Mom hugging me on the table with tears filling her eyes. She tentatively approached asking for me to lie down so she could begin the exam. The moment the wand touched my abdomen my attention was immediately drawn to the monitor to see my son’s image. The technician moved the wand several times over sections of my belly. She sighed and I knew what she was going to say would break my heart. The technician looked at me and quietly said, “I cannot find his heartbeat. I am afraid your baby is gone”. Tears fell from her eyes as she watched me cry out as my Mom held me in her arms.
Grief is not the word I could use to describe how I felt in that moment. Agonizing, emotional pain and emptiness filled my entire being as all my hopes for love died with my son in that cold room.
The delivery room was prepared and my family and I joined together to speak with the physician about what would happen next. I was scheduled to be induced within the hour. My mind was reeling, not only had I lost my son, now I would have to give birth. I retreated far into my mind, staring at the wall, not wanting to think any more. I felt weak and useless.
Person after person began to show up in the delivery room to encourage me, pray for me and try to give me strength for what I was about to do. One woman in particular, I can’t remember her name, came to the room as a friend of a friend. She felt she had to come and share her story with me because it would help me heal. She previously miscarried six babies and still birthed three others. Her sad eyes told me she knew exactly how I was feeling right at this very moment. But this wasn’t just the loss of my child; this was a loss of me. My identity was wrapped up in being someone, my son’s Mommy. Maybe she did know exactly what I was feeling.
After the visitors had gone and my family had stepped out to get food I laid on the bed looking at the IV waiting for the medications to begin working. My mind was dark. For the first time since this morning I was alone with my thoughts. I couldn’t do this. I did not have the strength to give birth to my dead son. I felt ashamed and guilty for my son’s passing. The pain in my soul pulsed within me and I cried silent tears. I was not strong enough.
The moment came for my son to be born. The pain of delivery had been excruciating even with the epidural. With the last push my son was brought into this world and my heart shattered on the floor. The cry that escaped my lungs permeated the room with grief that could not be described with words, only feeling. The delivering physician immediately began to cry as she placed my son in the arms of the attending nurse. The death in the room was so thick I could barely breathe. My parents held me in their arms hoping to take away any small part of the pain they could to relieve me. I cried for what seemed like hours. I cried even after the tears dried up. And then I slept.
I woke the next morning to the light coming in from the nearly closed blinds. My eyes came to rest on the bassinet in the corner of the room. My mom was sitting on the chair near the foot of my bed holding my son. She told me he had blue eyes. Her tears fell onto my son’s face as she told him how much she loved him and would see him when it was her turn to go to heaven.
I held my son. I named him Devyn Craig. He was my strong place.
Through counseling and learning to grieve I was able to regain myself. I was able to build my self esteem and learn to love myself. My memories of Devyn and the emotional path I have travelled since that day have changed me forever.
To those who have ever experienced the loss of a child, my heart is with you. You are not alone.