Trigger Warning: This story contains child loss and images of child loss that may be triggering
“It is 2:40 p.m. on June 16, 2020, and my healthy newborn daughter, Amelie Autumn, has just been placed on my chest, all 7 pounds, 5 ounces of her, chubby and complete with adorable fat rolls. She cries and nestles into my neck. I glance over at my husband and I sob and tell her how much I love her. This is the most exquisite moment.
But it hasn’t been a simple journey to get to this point. Just over one year earlier at 6:37 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1, my lifeless son was placed into my hands.
In January of 2019, I found myself in a state of disbelief as a pregnancy test unveiled I was, in fact, carrying a child. I spent the day in total excitement waiting for my husband to return home from work to be able to share the news with him. We spent a small number of weeks musing about what it would be like when we brought a baby home: where they would sleep, what we would name them, and how we would furnish the nursery. A few weeks passed by and while I was at work, something didn’t feel right. I headed to the bathroom and there I noticed I had started to bleed. A few years earlier, I had experienced an early miscarriage. I felt physically sick. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I couldn’t catch my breath. I stumbled out of the bathroom and called my husband.
The next day, we were summoned into a cold and clinical ultrasound room. I lay on the bed, my eyes captivated by a screen, and I observed in black and white an image on the screen. I was preparing myself to hear the words, ‘I’m sorry but there’s no heartbeat.’ Rather, I was met with, ‘There’s your baby.’ My eyes flitted across to my husband. We were both saturated with love for something that, just a number of weeks ago, didn’t exist. We left as gratified parents with an ultrasound photo that later would become one of the most cherished tokens we would own.
At almost 20 weeks gestation, we found ourselves in another ultrasound room, this time for reassurance. A few weeks earlier, we had found out we were going to welcome a little boy into our family. The sonographer chuckled with us as we watched him bounce around on the screen. There was so much joy in the room and then—
My heart was in my stomach. I knew something was wrong. I could feel my eyes stinging as tears began to fill them. She said nothing for so long. I couldn’t get any words out of my mouth. Eventually, I managed to let slip, ‘What is it? Is something wrong?’ She wouldn’t say anything, and I knew she was too horrified to give parents earth-shattering news. Finally, out tumbled words I will never forget. They are engraved deep into my heart, ‘There’s something wrong with your baby’s brain.’ We were told to go sit in the waiting room and to wait for a medical report. We sat, fastened to firm plastic chairs, no emotion able to be read on our faces. We were thoroughly numb. We watched smiling families leave with black balloons packed full of pink and blue confetti and heard the mumbles and rumbles of heartbeats from beneath the door. The receptionist cheerily asked me to choose some photos of our son. I couldn’t. Everything had changed in a matter of minutes.
We walked in silence to our car. My husband sat behind the wheel, both of us gazing into the horizon. I glanced at him and whispered, ‘I’m scared he’s going to die.’ He clutched my hand, ‘I know sweetheart, I’m scared too.’ We drove to a friend’s house through a sea of tears, intensely Googling what the report could mean. I have no idea how we made it home that day. It is all a blur.
The next day, we attended another scan with a consultant. I had been so excited previously to see our little boy but I was filled with trepidation I never knew to be possible previously. I knew it was grave news as soon as the probe brushed across my neat football-shaped bump.
‘It looks like your baby has a life-limiting condition. I’m sorry — I know it’s not good news.’
I knew he wasn’t well but nothing could have prepared me for being met with those words. I had some invasive testing and awaited a phone call, one I never wanted to receive but I also lived waiting for. Finally, Monday rolled around and my phone buzzed in my pocket while I was out walking my dog. ‘I’m so sorry, but your baby is incompatible with life’ — words that made me physically freeze. I fell even deeper into a spiral of desperation as I learned my life was also at risk. My son had been diagnosed with a rare chromosomal condition called triploidy. He was going to die.
Two days later on May 1, we made our way up to the delivery suite. This should have been such an exciting time, but my hospital bag wasn’t packed with nappies or a coming home outfit. Instead, it was filled with tissues, mementos, a hat too small for a newborn baby, and a blanket my lifeless son would be clothed in when he quietly entered the world.
I was met by two midwives, their faces displayed compassion, empathy, and pain, knowing I was about to endure something no one should have to. Then I was induced. People often forget when you lose a baby, you still have to give birth to them. You still have to experience the agony of contractions and pushing to meet your child; except this time, no one in the room is excited. Everyone is dreading the moment when they have to hand a dead child to their parents.
It was different, though. My husband and I were excited — terrified, but excited. We were about to meet our son, the son we had been loving and daydreaming about for twenty weeks, the one I had been carrying. I held him in the palms of my hands. We analyzed his tiny, dainty, and perfect features. There was indescribable lamenting in the delivery suite that day, but there was love and so much of it.
Around midnight, my husband and I said goodbye to our little boy for the last time. We painstakingly handed over our son to a midwife, knowing this would be the last time we would see him. I went into the hospital with a baby in my stomach and instead of leaving with him, I left with a box. A box full of memories: footprints, handprints, candles, seeds to plant, and a tiny hat that had minutes earlier been on his tiny head. We walked out of the doors without our baby. The anguish that comes with knowing once you leave, that’s the last time you are going to see your child is incomprehensible for those who haven’t experienced it themselves.
In a dreamlike state, I scaled the stairs and lay down on the bed. My husband had packed away all of the baby clothes the day before but I had kept a onesie in my bedside cabinet. I pulled it out, held it tight, and wailed into the soft grey fabric. I was grieving. I would never see my little boy again. All I could think about was where he was. Was he cold? Was he with someone? Was he safe? I didn’t know.
A week later, I left the funeral home with a gift bag. Enclosed were the ashes of my son. No parent should have to see their child in a heart-shaped urn on their mantelpiece and not in their Moses basket with the sun beaming down on them.
I miss Zachary. I miss him every single day. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about him. I am still mourning. I grieve his first smile, his first laugh, his first steps, his first day at school, his university graduation, his wedding day, his first child, the list is endless. When you lose a baby, you don’t just lose them at that age, you lose a lifetime of memories.
The bittersweet truth is my daughter would not be here now if I hadn’t lost Zachary and that can bring up some incredibly complicated emotions. I feel blessed I have both a son and a daughter I love so dearly. I can’t wait to tell Amelie all about her big brother. He is very much so a part of our family. We talk about him often and we smile. We feel joy we were able to meet him and snuggle him. That was such a privilege for us and we don’t take it for granted.
So while I hold one child close to me physically and another in my heart, I am reminded about the beauty of motherhood and the path I have walked to get to this point. My children are my greatest adventure.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Michaela Taylor from Wigan, England, UK. You can follow their journey on Instagram. 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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