“For anyone who knew me before I had kids, they would know that having a family was the furthest thing from my radar. It wasn’t even one of those things I thought it could be a possibility one day. I was so against the idea, and I was very sure there would never be a point in my life where I would consent to having to put anyone before myself.
I was a proud, foul-mouthed, self-involved nineteen-year-old, who was definitely not looking too far out. At this point, I was already six years into my battle with anorexia. The only thing that kept my eating disorder at bay was alcohol abuse. While dealing with highs and lows of Bipolar Disorder on top of that, my mind took me to such dark places that even if I eventually wanted a family, I was convinced it would never be a dream to come to fruition.
I lived for the moment, not the future. Quite honestly, it was mostly because I was unsure if I would have one.
It didn’t help I involved myself with someone who was doing just the same. Chris (my now husband) made me happy, though just like everything else, he was temporary and disposable. We were both just two service industry free spirits, not looking at the bigger picture. We knew we had fun together, yet we also enjoyed our relationship without any commitment. We were two selfish people who were looking for a good time. We liked to drink, we liked to stay out late. We liked to laugh at the sinful and scold the appropriate. We walked the streets at night and binged on McDoubles. Then I found out I was pregnant.
When I looked down at that stick for the first time, it felt as though my stomach was turned inside out. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t upset. It was like all of a sudden, I could finally feel my body underneath my skin. I felt an emotion I had never felt before. I knew as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I was having my baby. Terrified and self-assured all at the same time, I knew what I had to do. I had to take care of myself for him, something I had never learned or wanted to do.
As the months passed by, I fell more and more in love with my little baby. I was seeing one of the most sought after OB’s in Toronto. He was very curt, yet still weirdly well-mannered with his appointments, but I didn’t mind. Once I passed the first trimester, ‘the safe zone,’ I had virtually no fear. I felt invincible with Rossi, like all the pieces were finally coming together.
I remember hearing his heartbeat for the first time. It sounded sweeter than my favorite songs. I kept his ultrasounds in my purse, even when he looked like just a little peanut. I cradled my belly and sang songs to him while waiting for his dad to get home from work. My mental health took a turn for the better, as being Rossi’s mom was enough to keep my mind at ease. For the first time, I didn’t feel alone.
I had the family I didn’t dream of, yet desperately needed. It was the first time in my life I could love another human being so immensely and not be scared of that feeling. If anything, finally allowing myself to feel that love completed me. We never got tired of hearing at every appointment that he was remarkably healthy. He kicked and turned constantly, and always moved when his dad would put his hand on my belly. He seemed so ready to meet us, and I just couldn’t wait to meet him.
On July 18th, 2016, I went into the hospital because I couldn’t feel Rossi move, no matter how many things I tried. We were seen immediately by optimistic nurses. They had seen many cases of worried mothers who ended up delivering healthy babies. They did the Doppler first, and there was no detection. They put on the ultrasound machine, but there was no reading ether. They assured me it was an old machine and they would get a newer model. I was shaking. The only thing keeping me together was the faith these nurses were experienced enough to not give me false hope. One nurse stayed while the other left to register me. The attending nurse brought the other machine, her hands trembling as she brought the wand to my belly. She frantically scanned, her voice trembling, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t find a heartbeat.’
I instantly fell from the gurney to the floor, slamming my head against the cold, discolored hospital walls in the process. I covered my face and just sobbed. I screamed. I kept screaming to get her to try again. She cradled me like the baby I knew I would never get to keep. That was until Chris returned. He approached the scene, bewildered.
I can’t even begin to describe what it is like to know you are going to give birth to a dead baby. You don’t know what to expect. You’re just hurt, lost, in-between a daydream and a nightmare. I was numb through it all. The next day, I didn’t cry much while I was in labor. I disconnected myself as I watched the same news stories on repeat. I pushed through the pain, with no epidural, because I needed to feel pain. I needed to feel something. My baby boy came out butt first. I pushed for 20 minutes. That was the only fight I had because I needed to meet him more than anything.
I pushed one last time, and what followed was silence — a silence that still deafens me to this day. He went from between my legs into my arms immediately. I sobbed as I held him and sang quietly the same songs I had when he was alive.
I scanned every part of his tiny body, kissed all ten fingers and all ten toes. I brushed his hair with my fingers and gave him smiles and kisses he’d never get to feel or see. I opened his shut eyes and saw the most beautiful shade of brown. I tickled his button nose that matched mine and curled my fingers over his pouty lips. I was in complete awe. I brushed every dimple and every wrinkle. I felt his warmth on my chest. My god, I would have held him so much longer if I could have cognitively realized that was the last time I would feel his warmth.
I was discharged the next morning with only footprints and a card.
My perfectly healthy and active baby died. I had no answers. I looked for him everywhere. In the sky, in my home, at the end of every bottle. I couldn’t feel him anymore and I wanted to die. I constantly was tortured with wondering… why couldn’t they take me? Why him? Why my sweet and precious baby boy, who was nothing but perfect? Why?
In the weeks and months that followed, our dear boy was in a little glass bottle instead of our arms. His crib and his future life were taken down, and I was left doing everything I could to not repair myself. I prayed every day for the grief to catch up with me and take me wherever he was.
My beautiful, happy, active baby boy died. I have to live with that. I have to live every day with him in my heart instead of my arms. I have to live knowing and wondering if even one ripple in the water faltered, would he have been here? I try not to question it. Some days are better than others. All I know is I loved him, I still love him. I love him so much it hurts. It hurts having so much love for someone and not being able to give it to them. It hurts staring at his ashes instead of his beautiful face. It hurts every time I have to remind everyone I have a son. It hurts every day where I see stretch marks where my baby grew yet I have no baby to hold. It f*cking hurts. It is excruciating.
All I have is hope. I hope he is warm, I hope he is held. I hope he was met with all of his family that arrived before him. I hope he is happy and safe. I hope he knows he deserved to be here and he is so loved. I hope he knows I will meet him someday, and I will remember him every day until that time comes.
It felt like I died when Rossi did. I convinced myself his death was a result of every poor decision I had made before him. I wasn’t meant to be a mother, and the tragedy I had to endure was just a higher power playing a cruel joke on me. I felt ripped away from the life and identity I found because of him. I thought going back to my old life was the answer to bypassing my sadness and yet, it only made me feel further and further away from my child. I eventually did decide Rossi’s absence was not a free pass to destroy myself again. Who I became when I was with my son was in me all along. My pregnancy finally allowed me to set her free.
Exactly 13 months after Rossi was born, his little sister Madeline was safely brought into this world at 35 weeks of pregnancy. I suddenly developed severe preeclampsia, and we were fighting the clock to get her out on time before it developed any further. I wasn’t able to acknowledge or love Madeline in the same way I did with Rossi while she was inside of me.
Pregnancy after loss was a turbulent and terrifying quest. It’s sad to say most of the memories I have of my pregnancy with my daughter are me preparing for the worst. I knew if something happened to Madeline, too, I would have probably not survived another loss, knowing I didn’t give her the love I should have while she was here. This realization wasn’t enough to combat the trauma response I had felt imprisoned to when I was going through the most wished for and fearful thing of my life.
My daughter is the sweetest, funniest, sassiest little human I know. I’m grateful every day for her presence and her health. She loves to be loved. She took my breath away when she was born, and I never really got it back since. To this day, though, I mourn the pregnancy I never had with her. I wish I had believed celebrating her life was not going to jinx my chances of having her in my arms. I wish I knew loving her didn’t mean I was forgetting her big brother along the way.
It has taken a long time to unlearn a lot of the doubts and insecurities I had with myself and my ability to mother. I found myself often ruthlessly comparing to other moms who had it ‘together’ and criticizing myself for not having it ‘together.’
The truth is, I’m not like other moms. I’m a mom who has suffered. I’m a mom who has had to live every other mom’s worst nightmare. I am a mom who has had to win battles against myself, and I’ve had to choose faith over fear to bring my babies into this world. I’m a mom who has lost everything, just to find it all again, even though my grief and my recovery are still very much a work in progress. I’ve come to learn this messy version of motherhood I’m living in is okay. I might not have expected to be a mom, I might not be the mom I expected to be — though I’m sure if Rossi was around, he would tell me to save myself some grace. It is no easy feat mothering my daughter and mothering my son’s memory, yet every single day, I do so, even on the days I want to admit defeat.
This summer, we are welcoming a second daughter, our third child, into the world. I’m so happy I listened when I was told, ‘It gets better,’ because it SERIOUSLY did. If I didn’t hold onto that glimmer of hope in the midst of doubt, I would have never got to see it.
It’s that same hope that lets me know Rossi and Madeline’s little sister will be just fine, as I know our little angel above will protect her the same way he protected our baby before her. We’ll forever be in his debt, as he will always be the reason we are the family we are today, something that will never change, despite the universes between life and death that keep us apart.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Franky Hunter. You can follow their journey on Instagram, Facebook, and their website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. 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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