Yesterday was the first day of school. I was excited to get mini me ready, yet I found myself down and in a fog with zero energy and being very snappy. It was as if I had something I needed to do, and get ready for but I had no idea what it was. I was on edge. Something WAS missing. All the Back To School stuff reminded me of my baby who would be in 4th grade. Ten years ago today I went into preterm labor at 23 weeks. I ended up in the hospital for 6 days when I had to give birth to Caleb at 24 weeks. He lived his life in the NICU for 9 days before we said goodbye to our sweet little victim of the complications that arose with his severe preterm birth. I have grieved and “moved on” the best I could, but its funny how, BAM out of nowhere it hits again. The scar of the the loss resurfaced as it does from time to time, this time because of the time of year focused on kids.
Its hard to believe its been 10 years. It seems like yesterday I was doubled over on my bed wondering why my back hurt so much and if I should call my OB. Andy called and when he handed the phone to me, I screamed in pain and was unable to talk. I knew something was wrong, but did not realize I was in labor.
I remember vividly Andy driving like a mad man to get to the hospital with me screaming in agony with each contraction. He looked so scared as he wheeled me into the hospital labor and delivery. A super smiley new dad thinking I was your normal in labor mom, gave me a “Good luck….” on the elevator. I snapped very angrily in reply “Its too soon!” as I knew something was horribly wrong. I am truly sorry to that happy new Dad as I wiped that wonderful joyous new parent smile off of his face for a moment – a smile beaming with excitement of the delivery I assumed I would have too.
When the doctor saw me, I was 4cm dilated with contractions 4 minutes apart. I received a steroid shot to strengthen my baby’s lungs along with a shot of progesterone and slow mag drip to calm things down in my labor. I was on wait and see mode, strict hospital bed rest in the inverted position – my feet were higher than my head to see if gravity could work for my baby and not against my pregnancy.
Caleb’s foot was in the birth canal when we arrived at the hospital. At 24 weeks he dropped, his rear was also. He was born to a family who loved him and hoped for the best. We hoped he would make it and be “normal”. We had not known anyone who had experienced what we were going through so we were confused, scared yet always hopeful. In the end of his short life, Caleb left very quietly in my arms. He was looking at me as he took his last breath.
The depth of sadness as we walked out of the hospital with empty arms cannot be verbalized. I cried the biggest and heaviest tears in my life. I joined support groups both local and online and cried with other moms who lost their babies. I felt the support of a vast network of family and friends, many who struggled with what to say or do. I mean what CAN you say, the situation quite frankly sucks for those who so desperately wanted to be parents.
It was a long process for me to accept what happened, especially since I will never know why I went into preterm labor. Caleb was healthy, no idea why he felt the need to be born so early. I have a scar from the c-section to remind me of his arrival and one on my heart that reminds me of the intense pain of the early grief. The profound sadness has healed, but it can surface as it did last week in school prep for my daughter.
I learned in my grief from other moms who are members of this very sad sorority life goes on and yes you go with it. Your child’s memory will never leave your heart and just when you least expect it, the grief comes back to haunt you like some lost soul with no where to end up. Certainly milestones, holidays and rites of passage bring it – Kindergarten, First Communions, Bar Mitzvah’s, Graduations, Drivers License time, the list goes on.
I honestly had no idea 4th grade back to school would hit me so hard, but perhaps there is something about a decade without my son in my arms and missing watching him grow and share a laugh. Once again I must accept I only was given 9 days, though from the moment I saw the two lines on the stick, I envisioned watching my child grow up with our family.
While I try not to compare myself to others, it can be hard to see in others what is missing from your family yet lives on in your heart. This fall, as kids buy their pencils and get ready to ride the bus, remember moms like me who have been through an infant, pregnancy or child loss. If you sense a friend who has been through a loss is having a hard time, please reach out and say “I remember” and “I care”.
Life does go on yet the love stays.
Some helpful links:
- Resources For Family and Friends from SHARE
- SHARE Atlanta Grief Support for Parents who Have Experienced Pregnancy or Newborn Loss
- The Compassionate Friends – Supporting Family After a Child Dies
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