Sometimes, I feel like it makes me crazy. Like I should be over it, or at least it should be lessening.
But then I remember the magnitude of our loss.
It wasn't just that we lost a baby.
Our loss was so much more than that.
It was traumatic.
It started with a hemorrhage. I bled throughout my entire pregnancy. In the ER, I was told that the baby died. That was the first loss. But then, they changed their mind, the baby was still there. It was alive and well and swimming around safely in my womb. In one moment, I went from grieving and in the next, celebrating. Trauma.
But then, I was told it was just a matter of time. My hemorrhage was large and eventually the baby would go to sleep and never wake up. It was just a matter of time before the blood supply was cut off. I waited and I waited. I spent every moment wondering if that was the moment that my baby died. I laid on the couch through a kitchen fire and remodel- watching my husband care for our 2 children, work full time, and repair the fire damage to our home. I was helpless, but determined to do anything I could to save the life growing inside me- as if his life was truly up to me to save. I was told that our goal was to get him to 23 weeks and then we would prepare for an early delivery. Trauma.
And then, just weeks after gushing ungodly amounts of blood, and spending 2 months bleeding, we were told that our baby had the most severe heart defect a person could have. Without multiple open heart interventions, and life long care, he would die. We were given the option to abort, pursue the surgeries, or provide palliative care. I was poked and prodded and given an amniocentesis to determine any chromosomal abnormalities. I was told that if our baby survived the pregnancy, he would need intervention immediately. I wouldn't be able to nurse him. I wouldn't even be able to hold him. Trauma.
And then he was born. We had to travel 2 hours away to deliver him. We had to find care for our other children. We had to find housing for ourselves while our son was cared for. We had to give up our firsts- the doctors fed him through a tube, the nurses changed his first diaper, he was whisked away to the NICU before I even got to smell his sweet head or hear his first cry. I didn't get to see him for 3 hours after he was born, and he wasn't brought to me- I had to go to him and lean awkwardly over his bassinet on wobbly post birth and post epidural legs. Trauma.
And then came handing him over to the surgeon. At that point in time, I had only held him for, at most, an hour. My children only got to spend literally minutes with him. He had a 40%-60% chance of surviving the surgery that lasted 6-8 hours. He was 3 days old. Trauma.
|Shane's first time holding him.|
|My first time holding him.|
|Caleb and Hannah's first time seeing him.|
We watched his heart beat inside his chest. Trauma.
We helplessly watched him code 3 times. Trauma.
We watched the nurses administer paralytic drugs and narcotics so powerful that he would shake and sweat when he came off of them. We watched our infant son withdraw from Methadone. Trauma.
We watched him choke and turn blue when he tried to eat. Trauma.
We watched him poked and prodded. Bruised from all the needle sticks. Trauma.
Our family was seperated for 2 months. Over a hundred miles between us. Shane, working full time and caring for a 2 and 4 year old. Me, fighting with the social worker for meal tickets and a place to sleep to be near my baby, trying to convince her and others that I did not need to go home- I needed to stay there with my baby. I had to choose between time with my husband and older children, and time with my sick baby. Trauma.
And then, finally, after watching him struggle, I watched my child die. Trauma.
|Holding him just moments after he died, waiting for Shane to arrive at the hospital.|
I watched him die. Not only did I watch him die, but I had to make the phone call to my husband who was at work two hours away and tell him that his son, that he had only seen a handful of times, was dead. Trauma.
I carried his lifeless and cold body in my lap, in the van, for 2 hours. We carried our dead baby into our living room to tell our unexpecting children that their baby brother was not home to stay- he was gone. He was never coming back. Trauma.
|Carrying him in my lap on the way home.|
I watched my husband carry his tiny 24 inch casket out to the hearse waiting for him. I watched my children try to comprehend what was going on. I begged the funeral director to allow us to have an open casket, even though his body was already showing signs of death. I watched the line of people form in a room with gold plated birds hanging on the wall with ugly wallpaper, all there to see my lifeless child- the first and only time most ever got to see him. The last time we would ever get to see him. I hugged as many people as I could, despite the pain in my breasts from engorgement. Knowing that I would need to let my milk dry up because there was no baby to feed. I could not bring myself to pump again- I had done it for 2 months straight. I bound myself tightly with an ace bandage and some towels and cried for 3 days because of the pain of engorgement and the pain of our loss. Trauma.
|I donated all of my frozen milk to the Indiana Mother's Milk Bank.|
And then, we endured the attacks. The attacks of strangers who accused us of killing our child. The attacks of strangers who told us we deserved for our baby to die. The attacks of strangers who called the coroner "on our behalf"requesting an autopsy. The attacks of strangers who called our local newspapers, which in turn called for an interview about what happened, literally moments after we came home from planning his funeral. Our son's pictures were stolen, and his name, along with my name became forever "Google-able," for a cause that we didn't and continue to not want any part of. Trauma.
So when I talk about my grief, I'm not just talking about Joshua's death. I'm talking about trauma. Unimaginable trauma and loss.
When I'm in church and sobbing so hard that my body is convulsing, or when I share that I feel like I'm drowning in anxiety and grief, this is why.
The magnitude of our loss is sometimes incomprehensible to me.