For my Son in Heaven, on His Birthday

August 25, 2015 was without a doubt the most difficult day of my life. At times, I have said that it was the worst day- and while it certainly felt like it then, looking back I have found tremendous healing over what we experienced and have seen the goodness of the Lord in ways I didn’t expect. Worst- maybe not, but definitely the most difficult.

I woke up early in the morning in what I couldn’t deny was labor- after all, I had experienced it before- though I was barely out of my first trimester. The bleeding was intermittent but the contractions, the intense pain- it was unmistakable. This wasn’t a complete shock, as I had had some unexplained bleeding in the days prior- but a quick ER visit had shown a healthy, moving baby and no indication of why I was bleeding. I was put on bed rest and told to come back in 3 days to run blood panels again.

But that morning- I knew it was over. By the time I got to the hospital I couldn’t walk, the contractions were so strong. A quick ultrasound showed that our baby’s heart was still beating, but barely- and that my cervix was half dilated and the baby was very low- there was no stopping what was happening. My baby, healthy and moving around last night, was going to be born that day. At 14 weeks. There was no hope or comfort.

I was given morphine, zofran, and a myriad of other drugs to try to calm me and help the birth go quickly and help me be in less pain. You know what I was never given? An OB consult. I was left laying flat on my back in an ER room for hours- many times, totally alone. The morphine didn’t have any effect until the third try. I was in absolute hell.

Multiple times, I thought I had birthed the baby when I had really just passed massive blood clots. That feeling- something slipping from my body, was it the baby? and having to call for a nurse to come and check and identify and clean because we were too scared to look, for fear of what we would see- I will never forget it. After several hours of this passed, I begged for a d&c to just get it all over with. Put me out, let me wake up and be done. I was mentally at the end of my ability to comprehend what was happening and I needed an escape.

Thankfully, the cold and unfeeling ER doctor that I hate for every other reason but this one, told me he wanted to try breaking my water before he took me to surgery. And with that- the baby was born. A son, he confirmed for us after we begged him to please look and tell us (he didn’t want to). For all of his faults, I only got to meet my son because of his persistence and willingness to keep trying for a regular delivery. I am forever grateful.

The next half an hour was both a dream and a nightmare. Our son was placed in what is basically a medical grade tupperware container- and we were told that we couldn’t take him out or touch him. While I am sure the nurses had the best of intentions, there is nothing I regret more in my entire life than not taking him out and holding him. I think about it every day. At the time, I justified it, saying that I wouldn’t have had the emotional capacity to hold him. I wish I had pushed back. I wish I had done it.

We sang to our son through our tears and we prayed and we cried until we couldn’t anymore. It was the most intense and heartbreaking time of my life. We named him Hudson Robert- Hudson, after Hudson Taylor, a noteworthy missionary, and Robert after my grandfather and Matthew’s father. Hudson had always been our agreed upon boy name and it seemed right to give it to our first son.

In a moment of grace and clarity, our nurse encouraged us to take a photo of our son before his body was taken away. This photo- it’s all I have of him, besides my own hospital bracelets. It’s impossibly hard to look at and dwell on, and I guard it closely. But his tiny hands, fingers, nose- I can see them, even right now. My first thought was how morbid it was to take a photo- but I am so, so thankful that we did.

And then it was time to let him go- to the lab? For testing? and then to where? I don’t know, and it’s something that haunts me to this day. I now know that I could’ve fought to have his body returned to me so that we could’ve buried him. I didn’t know that then, but I will make sure that no one else makes the same mistake. If this ever happens to you, please- fight for your baby. Bury them like any other child. It will do your heart so much good.

I didn’t deliver the placenta so I ended up having to have surgery anyway. I was taken home soon after and basically laid on the couch and watched movies and ate ice cream and tried not to think about what had happened. Distraction was my best defense. The next hours and days were a blur- I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep, my hormones were totally out of whack, I was anemic, and I developed severe stress ulcers in my mouth that made it impossible for me to eat solid food for about 2 weeks. I lost almost 20 pounds. I oscillated between denial and depression and truly don’t know how I made it through. With the help of family, by the Lord’s grace.

The next few months were a blur of panic and trauma. Where we lived required me to drive past the hospital to go anywhere, which would immediately make my heart race and my eyes well up. I was intensely worried about Halle’s safety and struggled with debilitating anxiety and panic attacks many times when we would be in public. I swore I would never let myself get pregnant again. That I couldn’t handle it, anyway.

I also experienced (and, honestly, still continue to experience to some extent) some of the most intense doubt and questioning of my faith that I ever have. Church didn’t feel like a place that acknowledged or had room for pain like mine. Too many happy songs, encouraging sermons, fluffy prayers. Not enough rawness and honestly and doubt and pain.

The Lord placed some really incredible therapists in my life that helped me work through my anxiety, process my emotions, and take intentional steps to healing. I quickly realized that there were both good and bad things about Hudson’s birth day that I wanted to be able to either a) make sure that others experienced, should they go through a similar trial or b) make sure DIDN’T happen to others in the same situation. I entered into a training for birth ad bereavement doulas, where I learned how best to support families going through a loss like mine. The training was grueling and full of stories of loss- I truly cried every day that I worked through the material. Every exam. But it was worth it- and it helped me process through my emotions and experience much more quickly than I might have otherwise- though those months were emotionally draining and left me raw with pain.

Looking back on the past year- I don’t have any answers as to why this happened to our family. I can’t justify the pain that we felt- feel- “so that others might not have to go through this”, but it does take the edge off, sometimes. But when it comes down to it, I still just want to hold my son. I want to know him, be able to sing him to sleep and change his diapers and watch him learn to crawl soon and be exhausted at the end of the day from having two kids so little. I wanted to move to Rwanda with two babies. I miss him. I miss what he would’ve been, even if I will never know what that was. It doesn’t feel okay and I won’t pretend that it does. No one should have to go through pain like this- and if you’re reading this and you have a similar story, I am so sorry. It’s okay to sit in your pain sometimes. It’s real. Let it be real.

And so today, on the year anniversary of the birth of our son, Hudson- on his birthday- I will keep crying the tears and feeling the pain. I will be grateful for the gifts that a doctor and a nurse gave us, and yet be angry at the things the hospital took away from us, too. I will continue to question and be honest about my pain. I will remember every detail the best that I can. But most of all- I will continue to tell the hard story. I will be willing to share Hudson’s life and I will plead with the Lord that it will impact others in some way and that some kind of redemption will come out of this terrible thing. It’s all I know to do.

Hudson, I wish it was a comfort to me to think about you celebrating your first birthday in Heaven, with the Lord and with your siblings- and I wish that I could honestly say that I rejoice in that and that I think it’s better. My heart just isn’t there yet. I wish you were here with us and that you could bury your face in a blue cupcake and have a party and maybe sleep through the night (but probably not) and that we could celebrate a year of miracles and joy. I wish I could take a picture of you- “last night before he turns one!” or a special birthday hat or something. But I don’t get to do that for you- we don’t get to share those moments, and I guess coming to this day and this place it just all part of the grieving and healing process. Maybe next year, I’ll have it more together. Maybe not. I don’t even know if that’s what I want.

What I do want you to know is that you are so loved- and that you are remembered every day. We cherish the tiny memories we have of you, even in their difficulty, and we talk about you to your sister. You will always be out first son, even after your little brother comes in a few months. You’ll be here with us, with him- and we do take comfort in that.

Happy birthday, little one. You are never forgotten. You are so loved.

Mama

If you’d like to join us in remembering Hudson’s birthday today, we have decided to plant a tree or some kind of plant around our home each year on his birthday. While the transient nature of our life made me initially resistant to this idea, I have come to take a lot of comfort in thinking about leaving memorials to his life wherever we go. So plant a tree, or sow some flowers, get a little garden statue or bird feeder or something and say a little prayer of gratefulness for our son’s life. If you do, would you share it with us?

We are so grateful for the support and love of our friends and family over this past year. Words can never do justice to your kindness and grace. We love you endlessly.

If you are reading this and are experiencing or have experienced a similar loss, please feel free to reach out to me. I would be blessed to pray for you, answer any questions you might have, and offer any support or encouragement that I can.