‘3…2…1.’ Darkness. I awoke to women in overalls. ‘Do you know where you are Mrs. Knowles? Elvis didn’t make it. Would you like to see him?’ I just wept and nodded.’: Mom to angel baby details journey, ‘Grief is love with nowhere to go’

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Disclaimer: This story includes details of child loss that may be triggering to some.

“As parents of one gorgeous boy named Gustavo—named after my husband’s late brother—we decided to expand our family. Being a mom is the one thing in life that came completely naturally to me. Sure, there are highs and lows, but having a family with at least 3 kids is something we have always longed for since my husband and I met 10 years ago. When Gus was almost 2, we decided it would be the perfect age gap and we should start trying. We weren’t in a rush, but anyone who is trying knows that each month when your period comes you get this feeling of disappointment.

A few months went by and I still wasn’t pregnant, so I booked us a trip to visit my aunt in Ibiza and have a little downtime to relax as I thought the lack of a positive test was due to stress. My assumption was right, or maybe I just have spot-on ovulation and vacation coordination, but we came back from Ibiza with our growing baby in tow on his first of many flights. I love pregnancy and I am one of those annoying glowing pregnant women. I do not get morning sickness. I get a nice round bump, but generally don’t put on any excess weight. I don’t get strange cravings. My whole pregnancy was beautifully straight forward, and dare I say it, easy. Elvis was due on the 27th of May. That date came and went, but I wasn’t worried. I knew he would come when he was ready.

Courtesy of Tahnee Knowles

On the 10th of June 2020, the life I had planned and dreams of our complete family came to a tragic end in the early hours of the day, before I had started having regular contractions. Labor was starting at 41.6 weeks with my second son. We had my older son’s nanny come and pick him up while we prepared for the birth of his little brother. At the time we did not know the sex—we wanted it to be a surprise. My time in labor is somewhat of a blur, but a happy memory. I meditated my way through the hours of contractions and enjoyed every surge as I knew it was bringing my baby closer. I enjoyed the labor the same way I did my pregnancy, embracing every moment of it and feeling fully connected with the human I had grown. As things progressed, I remained calm. Before we knew it, his head was there—I could feel it with my hand. He was so close. I was in awe of my body and surrendering to the magic of birth.

Courtesy of Tahnee Knowles

As the last hour passed by, things began to change and the contractions were tailing off. It did not feel like that should be happening at this stage of labor. The midwife suggested I go to the bathroom and try to get things moving. As I sat down, I felt a searing pain in my abdomen. Nothing like the gradual surges I was feeling throughout the hours of labor. His heart rate changed dramatically, and it was clear there was great urgency to get me to the OR. My uterus had ruptured and my baby was losing oxygen by the minute. This was the most traumatic experience of my life. I just remember trying to stay focused in case I had to make any decisions. I also had to be present for my baby—he needed me. There was so much to take in: conversations between staff, bright lights, monitors beeping, saying goodbye to my husband, seeing my stomach change shape, and thinking the worst. The anesthetist counted me down, and then there was darkness…

I felt a tingling of cool air being pumped into my nose. My eyes began to adjust to the light, and at the bottom of my bed, I saw two women in overalls. ‘Do you know where you are Mrs. Knowles,’ one of them asked. Both with a deeply sad expression. At that point, I think I knew he was gone, but I really did not want to hear it. Like if the words left her mouth, it meant it was true. She continued, ‘Mrs. Knowles, your uterus ruptured and you were operated on. You gave birth to a little boy via emergency c-section. Your husband said you liked the name Elvis. Mrs. Knowles, I am so sorry, but Elvis didn’t make it.’ I just wept and nodded. Those who know me, know it is impossible for me to be speechless, but this time, for the first time, I was. Completely and utterly speechless. Just hours before, I was at the end of a beautiful, spiritual labor, touching his head with my hand, and now I was being told my baby had died.

‘Would you like to see him?’ she asked. I managed to squeak out a yes. My husband wheeled a grey bassinet into the room. His eyes were so empty. Before I looked at Elvis, I just held my husband and told him how sorry I was. So, so sorry. I am a Hypnobirthing teacher, and after the birth of my first son, I had spent the last 2 years of my life teaching women how to birth their babies positively, and I could not do it. Elvis was already cold when my husband put him in my arms, but he was so beautiful. All 10 lbs 2 oz of him were just perfect. I could not believe this big strong boy was dead. I was holding him trying to catch my breath and thinking that he never got to take his first breath. If I could take back every breath I have ever drawn and give it to him, I would.

Courtesy of Tahnee Knowles

I’ve always co-slept with my eldest son Gus, so I made sure the night of Elvis’s birth I held him with me all night, and I held him so tight. I Facetimed some of my closest friends so they could see him. I wanted them to have more than just a picture. I lifted his eyelids so I could see his eyes. I took in every single detail so I could savor it. Holding your child and knowing you will have to leave them behind in a few days is so wrong. You NEVER want to say goodbye.

We had 3 beautiful days with him. I sang to him, I held on so tight, we bathed him, and we just tried to help him feel at least some of our warmth. There were times when he was in the cold cot beside me that I could have sworn I saw his little chest rise or could hear him make a little grunt, but it was just my mind playing tricks on me. On the final day, I could feel the last pulses of energy leaving his little body and decided it was time to go home. Those last hours, knowing I was going to have to leave him behind was unimaginable; I did not know grief like this could be possible. I remember people telling me in the early days that I seemed like I was on autopilot and things would likely get worse, but nothing, absolutely nothing could be worse than walking out of that hospital and taking one last look at my baby. Every step out of that hospital echoes in my mind. There was a point when I held him in my arms and laid him down for the very last time.

Courtesy of Tahnee Knowles

On the day of Elvis’s funeral, the white was the whitest of whites and the green the greenest of greens. Butterflies fluttered, the sun shone, and the breeze was just right. You do not expect your child’s funeral to be as beautiful as a wedding, but this day was ever so special.

We asked that none of our friends wear black. Instead, we wanted everyone to dress as if they were coming to a child’s party. This was to be a celebration of life because Elvis lived a beautiful existence. Short, but oh so sweet. The 10th of June 2020 was Elvis’s birth and death, but his life started way before that. He lived 9 beautiful months with his family.

Elvis was conceived in Ibiza, traveled to mainland Spain, attended his great-great uncles funeral in Northern Ireland, had a stopover in Amsterdam, spent 5 beautiful weeks enjoying the Brazilian summer, went snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, spent Christmas with his grandparents, heard his big brother’s laugh, felt his hundreds of tummy kisses, ran a retreat with me, did yoga with me every day, moved houses, and most of all, enjoyed 42 wonderful weeks experiencing life from the best seat, cocooned in his mommy’s tummy, feeling his family’s love every single day.

Courtesy of Tahnee Knowles

The weeks and months that followed have been a combination of immense emotional hurdles and vast spiritual growth. I am not a woman of God, but what great loss teaches you is to look beyond our human ideologies of life and death. You learn to feel the one you love and can no longer hold in your arms all around you. The First Law of Thermodynamics, the law of conservation, everything is in transformation, the total energy of a system is constant, the energy can be transferred, but not lost, because energy can be neither created nor destroyed. The universe is infinite, with no beginning and no end, no past, and no future. Everything that ever existed is the universe, and for a time we express ourselves as human beings. When that ends, we simply return to the universe. While Elvis’s body died, that was merely his vessel. Elvis is in all of us, and every day that we survive and breathe another day we are the continuation of him.

Was Elvis’s life short? Elvis did not know our constructions and dynamics of time and space. If we measure life by its qualities and not it is quantity, then Elvis’s life was full! And that is all a parent can ask for their children. Living life to the fullest, never feeling a day of pain, and surrounded in love.

We aren’t taught that sadness and happiness can coexist. I am a happy person. I always have been, and I still have all the conditions that made me happy before, here now, alive and well. So, although most of the time I am carrying this heavy burden of deep sadness, I also revel in the beauty of all happiness surrounding me every day.

Some advice to anyone who is new to this grief journey is to be kind to yourself. No one can tell you how to grieve, what to feel, or when to feel it, but when the storm passes, which it will, you will emerge as a new version of yourself and you will carry your child’s heart in yours. Being kind to yourself is being kind to your child. Grief is love with nowhere to go, so channel it and give it a place to flourish. Forever with you and always in your heart.”

Courtesy of Tahnee Knowles

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tahnee Knowles of Ryde, Isle of Wight, England. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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