Feeling like this bump is bigger than my other pregnancies at this point. A lot fuller higher up and pretty round. I feel lots of kicks mostly in the morning, after lunch and when I lay down at night. Jax is an active little boy. I love feeling him and seeing how he reacts to our voices.
The 24th week started off great as I was excited to be at the first viability milestone. We went to our OB apt. and then had an excruciatingly long ultrasound during which my OB was quiet, as usual, so I was praying so hard for God to please make Jax be perfect still as I gripped Josh’s hand. All these scary thoughts circling in my head made me feel like I was going to have a panic attack! I could feel my heart beating outside my chest. Thankfully at the end we asked if everything was still fine and our OB said Jax was ok. There was an area he was measuring over and over in the brain but he said that space was still within normal limits. I started to cry after, mostly from relief but also worry.
I asked if we could start the NST’s early to begin monitoring our baby’s heart. He said that we could if it would make me feel better and suggested 30 weeks, but I asked for 28, since we lost our son, Owen, at 32 and I wanted to have a little more reassurance that everything was okay with Jax.
The rest of the week was nice, getting dropped off at Naomi’s school to watch her graduate and having a relaxing Father’s Day weekend at home. I gave daddy a shirt that said Big Man and a Little Man onesie. I pray Jax and Josh get to wear them together some day. It’s been a bumpy ride and though we are still worried we have faith Jax will make it.
Josh and I were both saying how we just didn’t picture Owen coming home (such a strange premonition), but we do see Jax here. So hopefully this is God’s plan for us now and we can experience the joy of having our second son home with us. He is not a replacement for Owen, but we have been dreaming of the day we could give Naomi a living sibling to grow up with and both of us have been so eager to raise a son, it would be wonderful for all of us if this wish comes true this time.
First thing about this week is that I finally left the house (for something other than a doctor apt.) to go see Naomi’s classwork at her kindergarten Open House. I knew it was as important to her as it was to me that I go too even though Josh thought I shouldn’t, or should ask the doctor. But I knew it would be quick, though when we got home I ate on the couch to rest and felt exhausted so I went to bed right after.
This week was also my birthday, which turned out to be a special one. I didn’t want Josh to invite guests over because I would have to lay there and it just seemed stressful to have him plan something for me. I’m going to see all my friends soon for Jax’s Sprinkle so I didn’t want anything crazy. But I still had several sweet friends pop by to visit who brought dinner, flowers, cakes and gifts. I asked the neighbors to come join us for cake last minute too since we had so much (plus the Sprinkles red velvet cupcakes Josh brought home the day before). He got me a pretty blue orchid, Owen’s color, and I asked my mom to take Naomi to the dollar store to let her pick out a gift for me (crossword puzzle books, good for bedrest, and a cute little blinged out hand mirror). She’s always so proud to give us gifts and I love everything she’s ever picked out for me. I wear the Your Are My Sunshine heart necklace she got me for Mother’s Day every day now. She is definitely my Sunshine through all we’ve been through lately.
I also left the house briefly (with OB’s approval) to help comfort her when she had to get a dermatology procedure done to her leg. We applied a numbing cream before but it was still painful so she held me tightly the whole time. I’m so glad I could be there for her and was so proud of her for letting the doctor do the dry ice therapy to all her molloscum spots this time. Now hopefully they’ll go away in a month so she can go swim with her friends next month (even though I’m sad I won’t get to go watch her)! She got a bouncy ball as a prize that she wanted and she’s been hopping around the house on it, which is good for using up her energy! She’s been better about playing on her own, with her grandma, the neighbor or daddy but I still wish I could do more with her. I know it’s going to be different when Jax is here too, but I will do whatever I can to still give her quality time and attention. She’s always going to be my first baby and I adore her as much as she tells us she loves us. “You know who I love most? You and daddy” she says sweetly all the time. To which I respond, “I love you and daddy more than anyone too baby”. So thankful for the bond we have with her and I hope that we’ll get a chance to experience that with her baby brother Jax too! Of course we love Owen just as much though we don’t get the joy of raising him.
This week was good other than the bit of a worry I had over the discharge I was still having post surgery (it was not thick like a yeast infection or a lot but yellowish and had a chemical type smell so I thought it was unusual). I finally decided to just go to my general practitioner mid-week because she was closer and my OB’s office said she can conduct the same tests and provide medicine if needed. Thankfully I went in because it turned out I did not have a UTI but there were white blood cells detected in my urine which meant that I had Group B Strep in my urine (I had already been tested and told I had it in my vaginal area which can be left untreated until delivery when I would get antibiotics to make sure it wasn’t passed on to Jax). They gave me antibiotics to get rid of it since it’s potentially dangerous if found in my urine (could trigger preterm labor). I’m very thankful that I followed my instincts and kept bringing up this issue so I would be tested. God is always looking out for us and I feel that this little baby is here to stay.
I’ve been reading about life in the womb and just marveling at the fact that there is life inside of me. It’s so hard to wrap my head around that and yet such a wonderful miracle, I just want to really let that sink in.
I got to take a short break from bedrest to watch Naomi perform twice at her recital (as well as with with Josh in the dad and daughter dance. It was so cute!). She made me so proud how well she remembered her steps especially being the youngest of her group. I’m so glad I got to go and support her.
My MIL is here now helping out since my mom had to leave to go to Mexico and she’s been taking Naomi to school and back and enjoying time with her granddaughter.
I caught a cold two days ago which has been making my sleep even worse lately. I’m anxious for our appointment tomorrow, I just pray for good news and that Jax continues to be growing healthy and perfectly.
This week was all about bedrest. Figuring out how to do it and getting used to it. After the cerclage surgery I was told to be on bedrest with bathroom privileges. Thankfully my pregnancy body pillow arrived the day after I got home as it’s made laying around a little more comfortable. Also the nurse said I didn’t have to wear these uncomfortable and hot compression tights the hospital gave me because I was getting some circulation walking to and from the bathroom.
5/24/17 (21 weeks 1 day)
End of the 20th wk! Wow, this one was a hard one. Pretty much was smooth sailing but then we went in for our 20 wk anatomy scan (see previous post). We had the usual fears but it seemed to be going well. All of Jax’s measurements were normal, but then the doctor tried to measure my cervix. After switching to a transvaginal ultrasound I asked if my cervix was short (something I had heard about but didn’t necessarily think it would happen to us) and he said it was (2.2-2.4 cm). Scared out of my mind, he said to get dressed and he’d come discuss the options: Progesterone shots (didn’t think that’d work for us since mine was already getting short and that’s used more to prevent it when you have prior incidents of IC or catch it around 14 weeks), termination (not at all an option we would ever consider), and cerclage (75% effective, but in his opinion the best chance for saving the baby). So of course we went with the last option and booked my surgery for Saturday morning.
I spent the next two days on bed rest at home and had a friend take Naomi to and from school. Good thing we decided to do that despite the doctor not requiring it because my cervix shortened to 2 cm and was 1 cm dilated by the surgery time. We had a wonderful nurse Juliet who prepped me for surgery with a kind and reassuring anesthesiologist Dr. Hong. I prayed so much for my son’s life. During the 15 minute surgery I didn’t stop praying and asking God to work a miracle through Doctor Tabsh’s hands. That they were His hands, not the Doctors (because humans are imperfect but God could make sure the surgery was successful). Thankfully the Shridokar transvaginal cerclage surgery went well and the cervix length was lengthened to 3 cm.
Recovery was very painful, meds didn’t seem to work. But they said in 24 hours the pain would be a lot less, which was true. By day two I didn’t need the meds after the morning dosage. However that early morning I noticed some wetness and pointed out the discharge to the nurse. She said it had some blood and could be amniotic fluid. We tested positive but they said it could be a false positive. Again totally not what we were expecting and we were so afraid that after all that our baby was still going to come. As we waited for Doctor to come in to check on me (was supposed to be early morning but ended up being 5 pm), we prayed constantly and had many people praying for us. I was watching Hillsong United and the pastor said to write down your goals and prayers specifically. So I did – I declared Jax’s amniotic fluid did not break, he would come to full term and be born healthy, we would Baptize him, we would raise him with our daughter and so on. Then I refused to listen to anyone who said otherwise. By a miracle of God the doctor said it was not amniotic fluid and we asked for an ultrasound to confirm, which he did for us and everything was fine. Stitch looked good on my cervix and there was no fluid in the vaginal area leaking from the sack. I have never felt so happy and relieved in my life! Since that moment, the weight of all the fear of this pregnancy that I’ve been carrying around was lifted. I now knew God’s promise was to help our son live and was so grateful as I walked in the door from the car that I was home that Sunday night with our baby still with us. I cried so many tears of gratitude and held onto hope.
Also since this happened, my mom and dad came to take care of Naomi for us and my mom is staying for weeks. Many of my friends have come by for a visit bringing flowers and food. My Real Life church mom group coordinated a dinner train and have been blessing us with meals all week and next week. Before this I was feeling so alone and like I had no support but God showed me that I have a village ready to help if I am willing to accept it and that many people are so happy for us and eager to meet our son. I will never forget how wonderful they have all been and how God has restored my faith that He can do all things, even in moments when it seems impossible, because He does the impossible! He is a miracle worker and the birth of my son at full term will be a testimony to His greatness.
End of the 19th week! Officially half way there. Minus a few panic attacks here and there worrying over movement (or lack of), I did pretty well this week. Remember, Owen was always an active baby until the day he stopped, so I have no choice but to obsess over every movement his brother makes and hope I don’t miss a change at some point. So this period before babies have a set pattern is so hard for me!
We celebrated our first Mother’s Day with Jax in my belly going to church, having lunch at Portos (bringing home lots of yummy pastries for later too) and visiting Owen’s graveside.
It was a very emotional day, obviously I was happy to be expecting Jax, but I was well aware that his big brother was missing. I’m just so heartbroken still and maybe even more so knowing that Jax will be growing up without his brother, as Naomi is. But knowing Jax is on the way is very exciting and I’m feeling hopeful even though I’m still worried not knowing what happened with Owen. I know God can do all things, so I can’t wait to see the miracle He has in store for us.
We took a trip up North to visit my side of the family in San Jose. This was good because the business of all the kids together is a distraction from my worries. Though, as anyone who’s been pregnant after loss can probably relate, it still was in the forefront of my mind no matter how hard I tried to be in the moment. Taking it one day at a time, is my best advice.
End of the 18th week! Felt like a long one, mainly because I’m having to wait an extra week to see Jax since my doctor is on vacation. I’ve had several waves of anxiety the last couple days that have been hard to shake and lots of tearful moments too, still coping with my grief. A high has been feeling Jax move more and more. I even have been counting some of his kicks, though I know it’s too early to note a consistent pattern. We are still listening to his song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” just about every day and though I haven’t had much time for naps this week I am trying to keep taking it easy.
Josh has been so sweet doing grocery shopping for me and doing more in general so I can get a little extra rest. He talks to Jax more often now too and kisses my belly. (This is a big deal for a dad after loss. His anxiety and worry over something happening again has made it harder for him to open up his heart and bond with our babies in pregnancy.) Naomi is getting excited as well, mentioning baby brother all the time.
Our dentist office ladies found out from Josh and they’re all so happy for us knowing what we’ve been through to have another baby. Will be an amazing day to finally see our baby, and fun to bring him by to meet everyone! (Fingers & toes crossed! I know there’s no guarantee, but trying to be positive.)
Little Jax finally decided to give me a few good kicks this morning! I felt the little thumps while laying in bed before getting up. Daddy gave me his extra egg and toast with strawberry jelly, maybe Jax likes daddy’s cooking? Makes me feel so much better to feel him move finally.
Our apt is today and I feel a little less anxious now, though I always worry on apt days. First day taking the new van, so I’m excited Naomi won’t be miserable on the long ride to Santa Monica anymore watching her movie in her big comfy van. We bought if for the kids but I’m loving all the convenient features too.
Can’t wait to see you Jax! Praying you’re growing perfectly in there. Been singing you your song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, every morning and during the day. Hope you hear it and love it, although I’m not the best singer but Judy Garland is singing along with me so I think it probably sounds good to you! Love you to the moon and back.
Dreamt I was feeling Jax move like crazy. Woke up happy but realized it was a dream. Felt like I had some movement the night before but I couldn’t tell if it was my food digesting or the baby. (Oh the joy of the traumatized loss mom brain! I was so anxious to start feeling movements so I could begin tracking them!)
Today I had to come in to an OB appointment I scheduled to look into some issues I’ve have with my period (truthfully since my first miscarriage, but none of my OB’s offered to help me find a cause until now). Whoever thinks your PTSD lets up after you’re done TTC is wrong!
Waiting in the same room as several women, pregnant with hope and most likely unaware of the risk of stillbirth, is my literal hell. I’m squirming and screaming inside, but holding it in. Let them enjoy their naive state, I tell myself. No, I would’ve wanted to know! My heart screams to me again. The horrible tug a war ends promptly as my name is called.
As I waited for the OB to go over my ultrasound results, I prayed fervently. “Please let me be ok. My kids and husband still need me. I know you and Owen want me to keep saving babies and I have more to do before I’m back with him”. A little melodramatic for what I went in for, but anything medical related becomes a worse case scenario fear in my mind now. Thankfully all went well. No bad news today. 🙏🏼
I scurry out, keeping my gaze straight ahead to avoid locking eyes with a pregnant couple that I pass. I say a little prayer, “Lord please keep their baby safe”, and I hop into my car. The wheels couldn’t take me away faster from that office.
I look to the clouds, as I often did after losing Owen. I noticed the sun shining, much like the day I left the hospital after delivering him holding only a small box of mementos. I take this as a reminder that my boy is with me telling mommy everything is ok, we can keep going together.
Anytime I get out of an OB appointment without an awful diagnosis is a good day for me and now I’m back to attending the ISA Conference to learn how I can help others keep their babies safe!
Have you ever wondered “why me”? When tragedy strikes it’s ruthless, cold and fast. It cuts you like a sharp blade then leaves you alone bleeding out, struggling to hold on for dear life. In the blink of an eye, my once perfect world was turned upside down. Of course, nothing is completely perfect, but I had it pretty good: A wonderful, adoring husband, a beautiful and sweet daughter, a long-awaited baby boy on the way, loving family and friends, good health, and all our basic needs more than met by our respective dream jobs. We had our share of stress, marital bumps, irritation with traffic, work issues and other dramas, but not anything major that we couldn’t handle. Looking back I can honestly say we may have even taken it for granted at times how lucky we were.
Yes, you could say life had treated me kind. Then the unimaginable occurred. I had recently quit my job, which was becoming increasingly more stressful, to take care of my health and that of my baby (as it had gotten to the point where my energy was so low I couldn’t physically make the hour commute to work anymore). One day, a day like every other since becoming a stay-at-home mom, I spent the entire day running around outside of the house with my four-year-old daughter. I had returned to work when she was only six weeks old with the support of family who helped watch her, but I always felt mom-guilt for having missed so much with her in those early years, so now I wanted to pack in as much as I possibly could before she was no longer the only child. This misguided notion makes me sad, even now, because I was so sure it was her last year as an only child and I was so worried about her having to share our attention, it never occurred to me that our second child was not coming home with us. That morning I took her to story time and the Tinker Lab at the library, followed by lunch at her favorite Mexican fast food place, Chipotle, then shopping for her dance shoes at a consignment sale before whisking her off to dance class where we met daddy.
Then we had dinner together at a Chinese restaurant we had never tried before (unfortunately that made my husband sick to his stomach that night) and I remember again thinking this could be one of the last family dinners out as a family of three.
I headed over to my friend Myra’s flower shop for the rest of the night to help her prepare for a bridal show that weekend then drove her half an hour out of my way to her house before finally getting home and crawling into bed. As my head hit the pillow, immediately my mother’s intuition kicked in. It was as if someone had sucked the blood out of my body, I felt a wave of fear so strong I jumped out of bed to go downstairs and stay up for a bit. Then I realized my son wasn’t moving inside of me. This wasn’t like him, he always moved. He moved so much that though I had heard of kick counting (not from my doctor, but from all the articles you read as an internet era mom), I rarely did it since he reached 10 kicks quickly, in under a minute. He was strong, vibrant, always moving about. Not today. I couldn’t remember if he had moved all day now that I was sitting down to think about it. I had been running around so much, I imagined it was my movement that kept him lulled to sleep. But after texting my sister, Karen, and my good friend, Mayla, freaking out about his lack of movement and following their suggestions (ice cold water, sugary drinks, sugary anything, shake him, make him move), I knew that something wasn’t right. I called the ER but they suggested to eat actual food then after another hour or two if nothing changed I should come in (ridiculous advice, I should have been told to come in immediately having had no movement for as long as I did). I stuffed my face with cold turkey meat and crackers. “Screw this, this isn’t working”, I thought. I ran upstairs with tears in my eyes and started dressing to run to the ER while my sick husband, Josh, woke and asked me what was wrong. I told him our baby wasn’t moving through my tears. He told me to calm down, lay down beside him so he could feel the baby. Placing his hands on my stomach for what felt like forever, Josh suddenly exclaimed that he had felt him. He wasn’t moving much, but it was nighttime, so he must be sleeping he concluded. I still didn’t feel okay. I had to go check his heart rate at the ER, then I could come back home to sleep. So, I told Josh to stay home with our daughter, Naomi, who was fast asleep while I ran over to the nearest hospital (only 5 minutes away) to check on the baby. Josh still felt like he had food poisoning and we didn’t have anyone to watch Naomi, but I honestly didn’t expect anything to be wrong and didn’t see the point of dragging her out of bed at 2 AM just to make a quick trip to the hospital.
Then followed the longest 5 minute drive of my life, followed by a short greeting at the ER desk, “my baby isn’t moving” the words sounding foreign even to me as I spoke them, tears swelling. They tried to calm me down, assured me that everything would be fine and quickly got me in to a room. The nurse hardly acknowledged me and told me to change into a hospital gown in the restroom and come back out to lay down for her to check the heart rate. I sat there for what felt like forever as she finished inputting my information in the computer. Why wouldn’t she check the heart rate first? Isn’t this serious? Nothing was done yet. Finally, she strapped the monitor on me. With my husband on the speaker phone, we heard it. There’s the heartbeat! He’s okay! Is he okay? The nurse told us his heart rate was at 80 secs. Is that good? I didn’t know, but they will do something if not I expected. Right? Is he alright? Nothing. I lay grasping for hope, but full of fear with my intuition kicking in again. It doesn’t feel right.
They had a woman do an ultrasound on me while they waited for the doctor on call to arrive (Dr. Nguyen, who also happened to be the doctor I saw most during my pregnancy from Facey Medical Group). Nothing. No conversation, no clue of what she was seeing. I tried to lighten the mood by asking, is it still a boy? She dryly replied, “That is not what I look at when I do these”. What does that mean? Okay, I waited. And waited. Then another nurse came in. The doctor is here, he wants to know the heart rate. “Now?” the ultrasound tech asked annoyed that she was being interrupted. “Yes now, the doctor wants to know” the nurse replied. Shouldn’t they have been monitoring that the whole time I wondered? “50 beats per minute” the tech responded. I’m not a doctor or nurse but that didn’t sound good and from the looks on their faces, it wasn’t. Shortly after, in what felt like a split second, the room was full of nurses and my doctor shouting out orders to prepare me for delivery. I was so stunned by the sudden decision, I could only utter, “What”? The doctor said this was the best chance for our baby, he needed to come out now because they didn’t know what was happening to cause his heartrate to plummet so drastically. I was panicked. Thoughts flew through my mind; My husband wasn’t even here, it’s too soon, he’s not old enough to come out yet. The doctor allowed me to call my husband as they quickly wheeled me into the delivery room to prep me for surgery. I can barely remember what happened next, though I know Josh tried to keep me calm and said not to worry he would be there soon and everything would be okay. Next thing you know, they were placing a mask on my mouth and nose to put me to sleep. I wasn’t aware that they had to put me under and instantly I was fear stricken asking the nurse what they were doing. She said this is what they had to do to get the baby out faster and instructed me to relax and count backwards. All I could do was pray to God in that moment to please let me live, I needed to be here for my husband and daughter, and please protect our son. Right then I was going to say his name, Jackson, which is the name we had decided on, but I heard a voice speak the name, Owen Nathaniel, then everything turned black.
Josh got my friend Mayla (who had been texting with me earlier and was waiting up to hear back from me) to hurry over to our house to stay with our sleeping daughter while he flew over to the hospital. When he arrived, frantically running, he ended up in the elevator with the NICU doctor (Dr. Zaman) that was supposed to be in charge of our son’s care after delivery. She was casually wandering to the nurse’s stations, catching up, meanwhile my husband in a frenzy was sprinting towards them trying to figure out where we were. He was finally told where to go and he walked into the most traumatic scene a father and husband could witness; several NICU nurses huddled around our tiny son pumping on his chest trying to bring him back and his wife laying lifeless on an operating table. He will never get over that sight. They told him they had tried for thirty minutes to resuscitate (the first half of that time without the NICU doctor and the nurses having no success; It was only after she arrived that they were able to get a heartbeat with medication, but by then it was too late) and they announced his time of death. Nothing can prepare you for that moment. My husband was destroyed as they handed him his perfect, but lifeless son. Our whole world was just demolished in an instant and the only person he wanted to talk to, his wife, was still being closed up from the crash c-section surgery and unconscious on the table beside him. I can’t imagine that horrific feeling and how awful it was for him to have to wait for me to wake up to relive the tragic news as they told me what had happened.
When I awoke, I was in a dark haze from the medication, but I knew something was wrong. Josh sat silently, but I could tell he’d been crying and the doctor was asked to come in to speak to us when they saw I was waking up. It was as if I was hearing them talk under water. It didn’t make any sense. I wailed like a wounded animal. How could my son be gone? NO, this wasn’t true! It was almost his due date (two months exactly to the date), he was supposed to be with us soon. We cried together; Josh holding me literally keeping me from crumbling onto the floor. I can’t remember much more than that. I was asked if I wanted to hold my son. I said no at first, I couldn’t bare to see him dead. But they insisted that I would want to and my husband encouraged me saying he was beautiful still, or something to that effect, which would make me feel like it was alright.
When they handed me my baby, I was instantly in love. I don’t know if I cried or just held him and kissed him. I was devastated that he wasn’t living, but I was so thankful to see him and be able to hold him. I know I cried inconsolably for the days to come, but whenever I held my baby, all I could feel was peace and the deepest love.
I knew my time with him was short, but I didn’t know what I was allowed to do or could do with my dead baby. So, in my list of regrets is that I never got to bathe him, dress him in an outfit, take a lock of his hair or a mold of his hands and feet, sing or read to him, and of course so much more that I won’t get to do now that he’s buried. But thankfully a kind nurse that was watching over us offered to baptize my boy for me in the hospital and though I was too broken to be there, my little brother, Amado, offered to go along and participate in this ritual. He said, “He deserves to have one of us there”, which was sweet coming from my little brother who normally isn’t very emotionally expressive.
Amado also stayed overnight with me in the hospital because we had decided that Josh needed to go home to sleep with our daughter, who at that time didn’t know what had happened and might be afraid if all of a sudden her dad and mom weren’t with her. My brother held me as I wailed in the middle of the night, completely devastated and reliving the moment of finding out I had lost my baby every time I awoke. It was a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. As was his style, he didn’t say much, but I was comforted by his presence. Since my family all live a five hour drive away in San Jose, they were slowly trickling in to visit me and Owen in the hospital (my sister didn’t get to come though because she had just given birth the month before me). I also had a handful of close friends pop in too.
Those visits meant the world to me because in that extremely sad and uncomfortable situation for them, they decided to show up for us and sat with me as I held my son and talked to them. I remember my florist friend, Myra, sat beside me for a long time and I was holding Owen feeling so full of love for him and just happy that I could chat with someone who let me feel like a normal new mom with my baby in my arms. She didn’t bat an eye at the fact that he wasn’t alive and she sweetly confirmed that he was such a beautiful baby as she held him too. Although he had turned purple long before most of us saw him, he was still the most adorable, perfect little boy in the world to us. Owen looked just like his big sister and dad with a handsome split chin, a long skinny body, his toes curled on the side like his daddy’s, and he had dark blonde hair (which was wet when I saw it and then hidden under the beanie that volunteers had donated to the hospital and the nurses put on him before they handed him to me wrapped in a matching blanket). I wish I knew the color of his eyes, but I imagine they were brown like mine. I also don’t know if he had dimples like Naomi and Josh, since we never got to see him smile, but I have a feeling he did because that trait runs prominently in my husband’s family. Everyone who held our boy was silent, deeply saddened but also admiring how big and fully formed he was at 31 weeks and 2 days. Though he was born two months early, he was already a big, healthy boy at 4.1 pounds and 18 inches long, thanks to his genes from his 6’7” tall daddy. That’s part of the reason why the doctor said they tried to resuscitate for so long. They said they thought he should have made it and they didn’t know why he didn’t survive. We were talked out of having an autopsy by the NICU doctor when she came to see us soon after I had awoken. She described the process in a gruesome way and also emphasized that they don’t always find answers from the autopsy and insurance doesn’t cover it so many parents wish they hadn’t done it or opted not to. I wish now I had so I would at least have a little more closure knowing what could’ve been wrong or if the report came back with nothing, then I would know it was all due to the slow reaction of the hospital in getting him out and the way the NICU doctor failed to arrive to help resuscitate him until it was already too late for him to survive. To this day I think that’s why she encouraged us not to have the autopsy, so we wouldn’t have any legal recourse or proof of her negligence. But in that moment, we agreed not to autopsy because we wanted to keep our baby’s perfect little body intact and let him rest in peace. In truth, no reason for his death would have given us any additional solace. He was still gone, it didn’t matter why at that time.
In the moments that followed we had to make all kinds of difficult, definite decisions for our son’s burial. Of course we had never imagined ourselves in this situation and had no idea what to do. They had a sweet older woman come speak to us about options, so we quickly selected burial at the Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Cemetery because she said they had one of the cheapest prices and it was nice there. I wish we had thought more about cremation because now that we have moved across the country we are far away from him, but Josh still insists that he wouldn’t have wanted to cremate. It’s a hard, nearly impossible decision to make with such little time and no matter what it still is horrible that our son isn’t alive. Another blessing was that the nurses had offered for a volunteer photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep to come take professional pictures for us. I denied the offer several times because I thought Owen had changed so much and I wasn’t sure how those photos would look or what I would even want them for since my son was dead. Luckily another nurse that came in on a later shift convinced me to do it because as she said if I didn’t want to see them right away, I could just put the photos away and if I ever wanted to look at them at least I had them. I finally agreed to let the photographer, Tony Berru, come the morning before we were discharged, but I asked for him only to photograph Owen’s little feet and hands, nothing else. However, as I was awake early (I couldn’t sleep knowing it was my last day with Owen), I had time to think and felt an urge to take a photo with Owen, so I called Josh to tell him since we had already said our final goodbyes together the night before and I wanted to check if it was okay with him if I saw Owen again to take the photo. He said of course I could do whatever I wanted to. By the time the photographer was ready for me to come in having taken the photos of Owen’s hands and feet, Josh had arrived to pick me up. I asked if he’d like to join me, which he decided to do and I’m so glad he did because it’s one of the only photos we have now of us together with our son. It was done very tastefully in black and white and using only the light of the window because Tony had not come prepared to take portraits. He was so kind to photograph us on the spot like that. I remember him sweating and working hard to set us up just right by the window. He later told us he wasn’t even sure how it would come out because he didn’t bring lights and he was just praying to God to please let the picture turn out for us. They really are stunning photographs that captured our love for our baby and each other. Tony even had canvases of the pictures he took made for us to display at the funeral; This man was an angel. He also provided me with the compassionate feeling that he saw our son as a beautiful, sweet baby, and didn’t seem to be at all phased by the fact that he was no longer living. I’ll never forget every person who gently held him or spoke to me while I had Owen in my arms and gave me that proud momma moment of knowing I had birthed this precious child of God and they were blessed to be meeting him, even if for just a short while.
Thankfully my good friends took over with helping me coordinate the funeral services too. They handled the flower arrangements (of course Myra created the most beautiful casket and burial flowers with a brown stuffed animal that we still use in photos today as Owen’s stand-in) and Mayla helped put together a lovely program that Myra and her daughter made for me with everything I wanted in it.
When I was discharged, I remember that bright sun shining on me again as I waited to get into the car sitting with empty arms in a wheelchair. The weather was in stark contrasts to how dark I felt. It cruelly pointed out how the rest of the world was moving on as my life was completely torn apart. My saving grace was Naomi, my sweet four year old whom I had the honor of being a mother to and had to now find a way to be a good mom to still. If it weren’t for her sparkling smile and the responsibility I felt for not letting this loss take her parents away from her, I don’t know if I could have come out from the darkness. Mayla came along to our meeting at the cemetery to help us make choices since I knew we would be emotional and not able to decide. I made myself leave the hospital as soon as they would clear me after my c-section because I didn’t want Josh to have to go there by himself.
In the terrible days that followed, I was overwhelmed by flowers, cards, texts, and calls from those who knew and loved us. I could barely get out of bed because I was still recovering from my c-section and had milk coming in that was excruciatingly painful and a cruelty of nature to still produce milk when I had no baby to feed. But also, my spirit was so crushed, I felt like doing nothing more than trying to sleep to let my mind rest from thinking about what had happened. To call it depression is an understatement, but doctors offered me medications for that, which I refused. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to medicate this loss away, the grief had to be felt and I would have to find a way to live with the pain of losing a child, so suppressing those feelings with medication didn’t seem like a solution to me. I did eventually see a therapist, who thankfully was able to get me disability pay (for post partum depression, which was only part of what I was going through, but what the government approves as a reason for financially assisting a family), so I didn’t have to return to work. I don’t think I could have faced any of my former colleagues or clients after having left on maternity leave without returning with a living baby. Most of my clients were young couples planning their weddings at our venue, preparing to embark on the first of the hopefully many joyful occasions of their lives together. The thought of having to tell them about how I had been pregnant, but lost my son at almost full term made me want to avoid conversation with them at all costs. I didn’t want to be the one to burst their bubble by bringing to their attention that sometimes our lives don’t turn out as perfectly as we had envisioned and in the real world, terrible things can happen to anyone. Not to mention, who wants to listen to a bride or a planner complain about something so trivial as the flowers they want being unavailable when your baby just died? I didn’t have it in me at all to pretend to care and I am just so thankful for my therapist who gave me the ability to have some money coming in, so we could then rearrange our finances, downsize to a smaller home, and live off Josh’s income, to allow me the time I needed to heal (physically and somewhat emotionally) and redefine what I wanted my life after loss to look like. Unfortunately, Josh didn’t have the same opportunity and as the sole provider, he did have to return to work (after a short time off that his employer graciously extended to him). I am sure the burden of caring for his broken wife, his toddler that still needed our full attention, and keeping our family afloat financially made it impossible for him to even think about dealing with his own grief. Everyone would ask how I was doing, which was very kind, but I know they hardly ever checked on him. Also, he didn’t like to talk about it because that was truly the most traumatic, worst day of his life, which he did not wish to relive. This was painful to me since I wanted to know he was hurting as much as I was and missing our son too, but I know it was Josh’s survival mechanism to just push through the emotions and try to be normal, strong, and level-headed for the rest of us. That’s not to say he didn’t grieve. I know he did. In his own private moments and at our son’s funeral, where I took my turn trying to be the strong one.
The day we buried our son was one I wish to forget, yet I will always cherish. It sounds weird to say the later part of that admission, but there were so many blessings that day, I can only explain it as “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding”-Philippians 4:7. I knew that morning would be difficult, so I had asked a makeup artist friend of mine, Alex, to come to my house to help me get ready. I’m not shallow and I rarely wear makeup, but I for some reason felt if I could just get myself to look like I wasn’t crying all night and pull myself together to put on this event for my boy, I would somehow survive what I had to do; Bury my son and say goodbye to him forever. As it turns out, Alex had also survived losing a baby, so she knew firsthand what I was going through and in her sweet manner made sure I felt cared for and prepared me to face the world outside of my room (which I hadn’t left except to eat and see my daughter for the past few days). I remember us laughing, comparing our Mexican grandma’s feisty personalities, and distracting ourselves from the reality of what was to come. Alex was another angel that God put in my path to guide me through the darkest of my days. I put on a dress my mother-in-law bought me, which was a little big, but it was something I knew I would never want to wear again, so that didn’t matter. Our family all got to the funeral home where we had our son’s casket open for a viewing for the immediate family and close friends to say their goodbyes. Owen had been dressed in a little blue fleece bear outfit that was one of the few clothing items we had bought for him since we had all his sister’s gender neutral newborn outfits to use. He also had a striped onesie with a knight on it (his first name, coincidently means Little Warrior).
They also put makeup on him, so his skin tone was more natural and he looked more beautiful and peaceful than ever laying there in his tiny white casket. Slowly as everyone went up to see him, they all spoke loving words and prayers over him and I felt nothing but pride. I knew our son was the most perfect angel they ever saw in their life. My dad sobbed over Owen’s casket when it was his turn and my mom prayed and walked them back to their seats. I myself didn’t cry when I saw Owen because like every other time, all I felt was my love for him and complete peace when I was close to him. Plus, I’m sure I was trying my best to remain in control because I didn’t want to cause anyone else further pain by seeing me fall apart.
Josh, on the other hand, finally got to release some of his grief when we spoke to the crowd of friends and family gathered around the burial site; He could barely thank them for coming through his broken-hearted sobs. I didn’t want to say goodbye once we were preparing to lower Owen’s casket; Knowing that we would never be able to be physically close to him again tore my heart right out.
Our daughter was there, watching the ceremony, so I told the priest I wanted to keep the message upbeat and happy, then release balloons at the end so all the kids could enjoy sending Owen’s balloons up to him and avoid being too aware of all the crying around them.
We didn’t have Naomi meet her brother in person. I always wonder if she would have been traumatized seeing his dead body or felt just like we did, so happy and proud that she wouldn’t have noticed. But to protect her, we decided not to and so the only memory she has of him was in my belly (which she kissed and loved on every day), at his graveside, and in photos we showed her after. When she finally saw a photo of Owen by my bedside and asked whose baby that was, she was sad to know that it was her brother and that she didn’t get to hold him like we did. She was so little, I don’t think until that moment she realized that he was actually here at some point, but I also don’t believe she realized that we didn’t get to hold him alive, that he was dead when we saw him. So as a parent, I think we just did what we thought was best for her at the time and add it to our list of what if’s, not knowing if it would have been better for her to get to hold her brother too.
After releasing the balloons to a song my husband chose for Owen, “Hero” by Family of the Year (played by my amazing DJ friend, Richard, who was an angel to download all the songs we chose last minute for the service), we left to eat at McDonald’s with our immediate family. That may seem like a strange choice, but honestly, I didn’t have it in me to plan where we would all eat after and I didn’t want everyone coming over to our house, so when we asked the kids where they wanted to eat and they shouted “McDonald’s!” that worked for me. If anything, it was already a surreal day, so where we ate (especially since I had zero appetite) was of no consequence to me and anything we could do to make my daughter happy was perfectly fine by Josh and I. So the whole crew of us, dressed in our Sunday finest, piled in to the McDonald’s off the freeway by our house and watched glazed-eyed as the kids ran around the playset completely unaware of the gravity of what we all had just experienced burying our precious newborn baby.
That was one of many moments to come where I felt like the rest of the world was still spinning, while my world had come crashing to a halt. No one seemed to notice my bleeding heart that was so tender to every trigger that kept reminding me of our loss, which at that time was everything and anything. As C.S. Lewis wrote and I can relate, his “absence is like the sky, spread over everything”.
There wasn’t one thing that didn’t remind me of Owen: a beautiful sunset, the warm breeze on my face, the sight of a butterfly, a baby or little boy, a pregnant belly, my daughter’s smile, children laughing…he was in it all. In time those signs of his presence would give me the same peace he did when he was here, but it was a constant up and down battle just to push through those first days, months, and years after loss. I remember clearly in the early days, not being able to stop crying, except when my daughter snuck into my room and sat quietly on the rocking chair beside my bed to be with me. I was comforted by her presence and also reminded that I still had her to live for and try to be the same mommy she had before, somehow, because she didn’t deserve to lose that mom. She held my face and forced me to look in her eyes then would give me the biggest smile, which made me instinctively smile back through my broken heart. Naomi, my purest, truest love, was the angel that saved me and brought me back to life. God knew I would need her, and I would do anything I could to be the best mother to her no matter the trauma we had endured. I would pick up the pieces of our broken lives and somehow show her that we would survive this together as a family, and we did. Grief is a long, lonely road. But I have found so many angels have come into my life along the way to keep me from losing hope, push me forward, and give me purpose. Our son, Owen Nathaniel, whose name stands for Little Warrior, Gift of God, is the angel that continues to light my way. I will never be able to understand why God took him home before his first breath, but I do believe Owen’s life will continue to give meaning to mine and I will forever be grateful that I got to hold him in my arms and be his mother forever until the end of time.
To end on a positive note, because my boy is one of the main reasons for everything good that I do and all that I aim to be. I wanted to share in this post that we have officially launched a non-profit with other bereaved families who lost their children to stillbirth and we are so excited for the change we are going to make in their memories. Though it’s too late for us now, we’ve learned so much in the five years after our loss and are determined to make sure we fight to end preventable stillbirths. Our son may not have a voice, but we’ll do everything in our power to make sure other families do not have to endure the loss of a baby if it can be prevented (which many can be). If you made it this far, I know you have a caring heart and will want to know what you can do to help us.
You can support us by following PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy on our social media pages and sharing our posts so that anyone who is a healthcare provider or is pregnant can hear our message before another baby dies that could have been saved.
In the U.S. 1/160 pregnancies end in stillbirth, which is 26,000 babies per year (more than SIDs and yet it is still taboo to talk about it so little is being done to prevent these losses). Silence and shame have kept families from speaking out, but no more! We’re here to share our experiences with prenatal care and our loss stories, so that we can save babies in honor of our babies that should still be here.
Thank you for all your love and support throughout the years. It truly means the world to us to know our son lives on in your hearts and is impacting the future in a meaningful way. There is no greater joy for a mother than to see her children’s purpose fulfilled, and I will always be Owen’s mom, the keeper of my son’s memory, and the creator of his legacy.
It’s strange being pregnant after loss in your second trimester of pregnancy. You no longer have that feeling of relief you did before when you felt you were in the “safe zone” because you made it past the first trimester when everyone tells you there’s a risk of miscarriage. Your concerns over suddenly finding out your baby died are no longer at bay. You know, there is no safe zone. There are many second trimester losses, including those that find out there’s a life-threatening diagnosis at the 20 week anatomy scan so they have to make the heart wrenching decision of ending a wanted pregnancy. Not to mention other natural losses that may be explained or not. Including my own at 31 weeks, the final trimester. So needless to say at this point I was a ball of nerves. But as you can see, I still made myself document every moment and tried my best to make memories because no matter how long I would get to carry this baby I wanted him to know how loved he is.
If you’re pregnant after loss, know that I get your complicated experience of pregnancy and I’m sorry. I wish it could be easier. I wish I could tell you that the baby at the end of the rainbow is guaranteed, so just enjoy this time. It’s hard to say that when we know that it’s not true. But I hope and pray it will be. Take this pregnancy one day, or one hour at a time. You can borrow my mantra, “today my baby is safe and healthy”.
If you need any resources for support or medical research on complications, please feel free to visit our non-profit’s website: http://www.pushpregnancy.org