I think it’s hard to explain this kind of grief to others who have not experienced it. Babies aren’t supposed to die. Pregnancy is supposed to result in a baby at the end – a breathing, pink, full-term baby. I wasn’t supposed to bring my firstborn into the world in a toilet at 3 a.m. in the ER. I wasn’t supposed to hemorrhage and need a blood transfusion. My husband wasn’t supposed to experience the birth and death of his daughter in the same instant. He wasn’t supposed to be afraid that his wife was going to die the same day that he lost his daughter. I wasn’t supposed to hold my sweet baby, lifeless in my arms. My mom wasn’t supposed to hear her daughter’s guttural cries as she walked back to that room in the ER, unassuming and unprepared for what lay inside. I wasn’t supposed to experience the most significant medical trauma of my life coinciding with the birth and death of my daughter. I wasn’t supposed to go to that ER pregnant and leave without my Nora still safe inside of me.
But I did. My husband did. Everything happened. My sweet baby, my firstborn was born in a toilet in the ER at 3:40 a.m. No one told us that I was in labor, although looking back I have no idea how not one person didn’t pick up on this. My baby was perfect. Ten minutes before I delivered her she was safely in her sac, breathing with a beating heart. My baby did not stop breathing inside of me. My baby did not have chromosomal abnormalities that would result in incompatibility with life. I developed a subchorionic hematoma that was found at 10 weeks and 6 days gestation. We were told that they usually reabsorb or bleed out and that it doesn’t usually affect the pregnancy. We were told that this was “bad luck.” For the next 45 days I bled every single day. The last 10 days of her life, I was bleeding so significantly that the maternal fetal medicine specialist that we saw for the first time five days before we lost Nora, thought I needed a blood transfusion and admitted me to labor and delivery for the day.
I want to blame my body for not keeping my baby safe, but my body kept her safe much longer than anyone thought it should have based on the amount I was bleeding. I’m mad at my body for forcing me to throw up, resulting in her birth, but I understand that my body was trying to keep me alive. I’m angry at God that he allowed us to experience infertility, then the unbridled joy of finding out that we had conceived our sweet Nora, just to take it away in the most painful way I could imagine. But I understand that our God weeps with us, He has a purpose that I cannot see and cannot understand, and Nora’s short life will have unbelievable impact in this world through her mom and dad.
I’m angry that I had to bury my child. No one should have to bury their child. I’m angry that she had to be taken away from me. I’m broken that she had to be taken away from me. I am her mama, my baby should never have had to be taken from me. But she did. This is my story, her story, and our family’s story. I refuse to allow the grief to overtake me. I am absolutely broken, but I have life that my sweet Nora would want me to live. My husband needs me. My family needs me. Nora still needs me to be okay. I miss her more than I could ever express to anyone. I will always miss my sweet girl, all of the what-ifs and should-have-beens. I will always wonder what she would have liked to do, what her laugh would have sounded like, who she would have become. I will always want to hold her in my arms and comfort her, I will always want to wipe her tears and kiss her cheeks and show her how much her dad and I loved her.
I think losing your firstborn is a unique kind of pain. Of course every single loss of a child, regardless of gestation, or reason, or manner, is horrible and unfair and full of grief. For my husband and I, we will never know pregnancy without fear. We will never again believe that pregnancy equals healthy baby at the end. We do not know the joy of having a living child with us. Instead, we will know the great value in those that come to hold space for our grief and pain. We will know how deeply you can desire to protect and provide for a child that is not here. We will know a bittersweet kind of love for one another, strengthening our bond in a way that neither of us ever wished, but that will make our marriage stronger. We will know the grief of others experiencing the death of their baby.
We hope to one day know the sweetness of having a baby earthside with us. We understand the value of life in a way that we didn’t before. We, at 26 years old, have a deep understanding of the brokenness of the world, an understanding that I wish we did not have to know right now.
Please, if you’re still reading this and you have a child here on earth. If you have never experienced the pain of child loss. I beg you to hold your children close, to understand the fragility of life, to understand the great blessing that you have been given in the gift of parenting children here on earth with you. Please, if you are someone who does not believe that a baby is a baby until they are born, I implore you to consider that my child had 10 perfectly formed toes on each little foot, 10 long-spindly fingers like me on each hand, she had a perfect little nose and lips, her ears were perfectly formed – she was a baby, albeit a small still forming baby, but a baby in every single way. I beg you to consider the value of life, as soon as conception has happened. I ask that you are considerate when asking things like “how many children do you have” or “when are you planning on having children.”
You are human. You have every right to feel angry or annoyed or tired. Please, in your tiredness when you are waking up to feed your baby, remember that there are those of us who wish to be tired, not from insomnia spurred on by trauma of losing our child, but from waking up to feed our sweet babies. Please, in your frustration when your child does something that they should not do (because they will, because they are human), remember to add thankfulness that you have a child to teach right from wrong to your experience. Please realize the immensity of the blessing that your children are here on earth with you. Before we lost Nora, I would not have considered this so deeply, but now that I understand the pain of losing a child, I beg you to recognize the graciousness of being a parent to a child on earth.