‘I know you can get through this.’ This nurse was the age of my mother. She embraced me in a warm hug, and peace came over me.’: Mom recalls heartbreak as first son is born still, ‘he would’ve been an amazing human’

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“Derrek Anderson Jr. aka DJ, was going to be our first child after three years of wedded bliss. My husband Derrek and I dated long distance for four years living in completely different states until the day we walked down the aisle and said our ‘I Dos.’ We were not in a rush to expand our family because we wanted to enjoy each other’s company after spending years apart in separate cities, counties, and states. Once we felt settled in our relationship as a married couple, living in the same living quarters, we set our eyes on having children. We were stunned to find out we were expecting one month after trying to get pregnant. This is where our story began on our journey to parenthood.

Courtesy of Alishia Anderson

My pregnancy went on for 7 months without a hitch. I had no morning sickness, no crazy cravings, my skin was glowing, my hair was growing, and pregnancy was an all-around amazing experience. Although this was grandchild number 8 for my parents, and the first grandchild on my husband’s side, both of our families were ecstatic about our bundle of joy cooking in the oven.

The rose-colored glasses, and blinded pregnancy bliss came to a streaking halt on Friday, January 15, 2016. It is a day which will forever be tattooed into the memory bank of my mind. I went into my doctor’s office for a routine ultrasound at 28-weeks gestation. I remember this day vividly because they were going to test me to see if I had developed gestational diabetes. I had just downed the sugary drink and the nurse set her timer for the drink to work it’s magic. In the meantime, the sonographer called me back. I was accompanied by my husband, who never missed an appointment, to get a glimpse of our growing munchkin. We were 12-weeks away from our official due date and I was so excited to see DJ. It had been eight long weeks since I had last seen him moving about on the ultrasound screen. So to say my excitement was bubbling over is an understatement.

Courtesy of Alishia Anderson

The sonographer lifted my shirt, rubbed the cold gel on my belly, turned on the machine, and began to wave her wand across my protruding belly. She located DJ swiftly. The first thing I remember her saying was, ‘Hmm, there isn’t a lot of fluid around the baby.’ As first time parents, my husband, nor I, knew what it meant. We gazed on blissfully as she explored the anatomy of our little bean. She did a few scans and measurements, and again mentioned how the baby’s amniotic fluid levels were low. Hearing it the second time peaked my parental antennas and I asked her, ‘What does it mean?’ She simply responded, ‘Not good.’ The sonographer said she was going to get the doctor to come have a look at my baby. When she said those words, my intuition told me something definitely wasn’t right. I wasn’t quite sure to what extent, but I knew this amount of fanfare was not normal for a ‘routine’ ultrasound.

My husband tried to calm my developing concerns and reassured me everything would be just fine. Except it wasn’t the case. Just then the sonographer came back into the room, cleaned off my belly, pulled my shirt back down and asked us to follow her across the hall to meet with the doctor. When we walked across the hall we saw two doctors sitting in an office…one holding a box of tissues. That is when I knew something went awry. ‘We could no longer detect a heartbeat.’ Those seven words pierced my heart as if an army of bees stung me all at once. In a matter of minutes I went from a mother excitedly awaiting the sight of her growing baby boy to a mother who had found out she just lost her firstborn son. I let out the most piercing wail I could muster from the depths of my soul. I was inconsolable. The doctors walked out of the room for about 10 minutes to give us a chance to process exactly what just occurred. I had hoped I was just sleeping through a nightmare and I would soon be awakened with my son living and still growing healthily. After hearing the knock on the door after ten minutes had passed I knew the nightmare I prayed I would wake up from was my new reality. After hearing those seven life-altering words, my mind went blank and everything started moving in slow motion.

I was told not only had my son died in the one place which was supposed to protect him, but now I would be tasked with delivering his lifeless body. I was given the option to be admitted into the hospital that evening, to be admitted sometime that weekend, or just wait until my body naturally went into labor (although this option was highly frowned upon by the medical staff). My husband and I decided we would go home, talk it through and set up a date to be admitted into the hospital for delivery. After somehow leaving the office and driving in a clouded funk, we made it home. My husband was tasked with calling each of our parents individually with the devastating news. It was like dropping and detonating a bomb with each phone call. After the calls, we ordered some food, sat on the couch in silence and just stared in space. After eating, I asked my husband, ‘Can we pray?’ We stood up in the middle of our living room, held hands, and my husband began to pray. It was the one time I physically saw him break down in regards to our son’s death. Halfway through the prayer his voice got shaky and his eyes welled up with tears, which then set off my waterworks. We both buckled at the knees and just held each other and cried in a silent embrace.

After our long, silent, tear-filled embrace I went into our bedroom, showered, then pulled out my journal and just began writing until my hands got tired. I wrote down EVERY raw emotion I was feeling. The last thing I remember writing is a small prayer, asking God, ‘Please grant me peace,’ as I had to have my labor induced 24 hours later to deliver my son. After chronicling my feelings of the evening, I tried to get some rest. I laid down, and bawled the entire night, until I eventually cried myself to sleep.

When I woke up the next day I was still stunned that just the evening prior I was told my son had passed, but I was ready to deliver my special gift. We drove to the hospital at 8 a.m. in silence, while gospel music poured into our psyche, and tears streamed down our faces. We were buzzed into the Women’s Center and asked to fill out forms, which prompted more waterworks. I was lead back to a corner room at the end of the hallway. It was already prepared for us and our stay. There was a nurse who was probably the age of my mother or a little older, who told me, ‘I am sorry for your loss. I know you can get through this.’ She then embraced me in a warm hug, and a peace just came over me, even though tears welled up in my eyes. I knew from that moment God had answered my prayers of peace which I had jotted down in my journal the night prior.

I was in labor for 3 days. Finally, Monday, January 18, 2016 at 6:48 a.m. my sleeping angel, Derrek Anderson Jr. aka DJ was born. He was the cutest baby I had ever seen. It was like he had an aura around him, an angelic light radiating behind him. Although he was not breathing, crying, or moving, I could tell by his energy he would’ve been an amazing human. To this day, I am not quite sure how much time my husband and I spent with DJ that incredible day, but I do know my encounter with him was like sitting at the feet of an angel. During our time together, they weighed, measured, and cleaned DJ’s body. We took family pictures and he had his pictures taken by a professional. As his body was getting stiffer, colder, and began changing colors, we decided we would let our son get his eternal rest, so we called the nurse to come get his body. Before she took DJ, we prayed over him and dedicated his body back to God. We hugged and kissed his tiny 1 lb 5 oz frame and placed him in the incubator to be rolled away for good. Imagine having to say hello and goodbye to someone you loved and anticipated for seven months all in the same day. That goodbye was the toughest thing I had to do in my entire life.

Courtesy of Alishia Anderson

We authorized our medical staff that they could do an autopsy on DJ’s body to see if we could receive any answers about his passing. We also decided to have him cremated so he could be with us wherever life took us. Having DJ was the biggest life-altering moment which has happened to me to date. His passing changed the trajectory of my life and introduced me to my true purpose and calling. Upon getting home, I was hit with an array of emotions ranging from sadness, anger, jealousy, envy, heartbreak, gratitude, thankfulness, and much more. After about 6 months of grieving nonstop, I decided I needed to seek professional help. I found a counselor at my school as I was in my last semester of college waiting to receive my 2nd bachelor’s degree in Apparel Textile Technology at Kennesaw University. Through my counseling sessions I was able to give voice to my emotions, work through the loss and how it changed me, and use the non-biased view of my counselor to make a pivot in my grief.

Courtesy of Alishia Anderson

Throughout my grief process I discovered DJ’s loss was bigger than my husband or me and while horrific to us was used as a learning tool. It turns out by speaking my unfiltered truth about my loss (the good, bad, and ugly), I began to help countless people who were silently dealing with some form of baby/child loss. Our story of loss became a beacon of hope for others following in our footsteps. While I would trade it all in just to have a healthy, living DJ in a second, I know it was not the plan for his life. I choose to live through loss with intention and purpose. Even though his loss still hurts (and always will), I choose to cherish those moments he dwelled within me, and the quiet moments we interacted as a family after his delivery. Not a day goes by I don’t think of DJ in some capacity but I know his life and legacy will always matter, because I will continue to share my story. If you don’t receive anything else from hearing my journey remember this…SHARE YOUR STORIES! Share your stories of hurt, loss, triumph, love, failures, successes, etc., because you never know how honest dialogue can impact or help someone else navigate their journey. Your story can become someone else’s survival guide, so don’t be afraid to speak up and live in your truth!”

Courtesy of Alishia Anderson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alishia Anderson. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, her website, and her book, Still Here: A Memoir of Love, Loss And Triumph After Stillbirth. 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.

Read more touching stories of life after loss here: 

‘Can I see my boy for one more goodbye?’ A nurse gave him his first and only haircut. He was truly perfect.’: Couple loses son to stillbirth, anxious about new pregnancy, ‘My first is in heaven, I’ll meet him there someday’

‘Are you serious? I’m going to be a dad!’ Then all of it was gone, just gone! I tried to stay strong, but all I could do was cry.’: Dad emotionally recalls pain of stillborn son, ‘My heart was full knowing I got to hold my little boy’

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