Disclaimer: This story includes images of child loss that may be triggering to some.
“Tommy and I have been married for five years. We have always wanted to be parents.After trying for quite some time, our first pregnancy ended quickly in 2016 with an emergency surgery due to a tubal pregnancy. We finally became pregnant again in 2018 with Ren. At 17 weeks we found out through genetic testing that Ren would be born with Down syndrome. It was quite a shock but we quickly acquainted ourselves and were more than willing to bring this special spirit into the world.
I absolutely loved being pregnant I had never felt closer to my husband. I was way more lovey dovey than agitated like some can get. It was literally the ideal pregnancy. We found out the gender by an airplane drop. We watched as blue powder streaked the sky. We were so ready for our baby boy to arrive. Nursery finished, hospital bag packed, and we even had diaper stations stashed around the house. Due to the fact that Ren had Down syndrome and me already being high risk with my tubal, we had multiple stress tests done throughout my pregnancy, and at the end we were getting them done twice a week for precautions. We thought the surprises were over. We definitely did not expect this.
April 4th, 2019
We get to the hospital to check-in, then head to my regular room where I’m seen every time. We get started just like we usually do. But this time was different. The nurse searches around and around and around for his heartbeat. I told her where we usually find it, thinking she was just in the wrong spot, and no luck. At first, I wasn’t too nervous. We were both assuming that he was in a funky position and she even said: ‘He’s kind of flipped.’ She actually picked up MY heartbeat through an artery that runs by the baby. I felt slight relief until she quickly stated, ‘That is your heartbeat.’ The nurse stopped what she was doing and looked up at me.
‘It’s time to call in the ultrasound tech,’ she said.
I texted Tommy telling him that they can’t find Ren’s heartbeat and he rushed over from work immediately. It felt like years before the tech came. I wanted her to come of course so that we could see what was going on, but I also dreaded that knock on the door. We were finally getting our ultrasound and it felt like the silence could have gone on forever. My nurse was already holding onto my leg like she knew what was to come.
As the tech began to adjust the angle on the monitor, you could see Ren’s little feet and legs. She then began to work up his little legs to his belly and finally rested on his chest. She held the picture there, pointed at the monitor and said, ‘That’s his heart right there, and there’s no heartbeat.’ I’ll forever remember her finger sitting over his still little heart on that monitor. My heart literally felt like it was being squeezed. I had never felt such an ache in my entire life. I then looked down at Tommy who was at the foot of the bed holding my other leg. I could clearly see the shock in his eyes, and I began to let out the most awful cry that I’m sure anyone else in the labor and delivery could hear (a detail that I don’t remember but Tommy does).
Our doctor came in shortly after with tears filling her eyes. She gave us our options that we knew we would have to soon face, our delivery plan. She explained the different ways I could be induced, and we chose the fastest route out of the options she gave.
April 5th, 2019
I was able to make it to about 11 a.m. before I got an epidural. Minutes after getting my paralyzed body adjusted back on the bed, an ultrasound tech comes in to see the position he was in. Ren had been head-down at just about every appointment we had up until this day. They found out that he was transverse which means he was lying on his back in my pelvis almost like it was cradling him. After yet another ultrasound, he still wasn’t in a good position. The doctor sounded very doubtful and prepared me mentally that we were most likely be looking at an emergency C-section.
Labor continued for a few hours and I started feeling my contractions. Though it wasn’t unbearable, the anesthesiologist wanted to reposition the tube before I had to push. I was sitting on the edge of the bed in position for that to be done and I started feeling pressure. Like something was sticking out of me to be honest. He was able to replace the tube successfully before I mentioned to the nurse about what I was feeling. She lifted the sheets and said, ‘Oh, I see parts,’ and immediately went out to get the doctor. Ren was coming. The doctor came in, lifted my gown, and started delivering. It all happened so fast that when the nurses tried to glove her up and she said, ‘no gloves, no time,’ and started asking for things she needed while literally holding Ren inside with her bare hands. Now I bet you’re dying to know how he came out after all of the commotion! He ended up coming out butt AND feet first, so he was in the fetal position and his knees were up. Thank goodness! Ren Michael Register was born at 3:45 p.m. on April 5th, 2019, weighing 4Ibs 5oz at 35 weeks and 6 days.
‘Can you clean him up and get him wrapped in his blanket first?,’ I asked them before they handed him to me.
I guess, like anyone else that has never seen a dead baby, I was afraid. But after getting him into my arms, it was the complete opposite. I wanted to unwrap him and look at all the details like whose feet he had and what his little belly looked like. His skin was extremely fragile, we thought we might tear his skin. Uncomfortable right? Thinking you might actually tear your baby’s skin. The baby that was completely fine in your mind 24 hours prior. The baby you carried for 35+ weeks waiting every day to meet. Now I’m carefully unwrapping him, trying to take in every detail before they take his tiny little body. Trying to get every picture, pose, handprint, all while trying to remember his newborn smell. After he dried off a bit, we took off the cap they gave him and we got to see that he had tiny little blonde curls – that’s my absolute favorite part about him.
We were very fortunate to spend the night with Ren. We got to keep him for about 24 hours. I don’t think I’ve told anyone this before, not even Tommy, but I kept the room that night as cold as it could possibly go to preserve his little body the best I could. I wanted him of course, but I also felt guilt. Guilty that I wasn’t putting him to rest? I’m not exactly sure. But I wanted to protect him the best way I knew how. His little lips were drying out so I spent a lot of the time with a wet paper towel dabbing his tiny mouth.
The next day dreadfully came and we knew what we had to do. I wrote this to Ren before we gave him up:
‘Ren, I’m sitting here in my hospital bed next to you and I can’t help but feel all the emotions at once. Your lips have turned dark and you’ve lost all the color in your face. They keep coming in to ask about our funeral arrangements and when they should take you. I can’t help but to be triggered when I hear the new baby cry’s coming from down the hall. That was supposed to be you. That was what we planned for. You were supposed to come home in your brand new car seat we got for you. You were supposed to sleep in the bassinet we already have ready for you next to our bed. You were supposed to keep us up all night for feedings and make us exhausted. You were supposed to wear the tiny newborn diapers we already have stashed around the house. You were supposed to meet your big sister Teva. You were supposed to be in our lives. I’m afraid to go home. I’m afraid to see your perfectly set up room and be there without you. I’m afraid to see all the gifts you were blessed with that are still in boxes. I’m afraid for our families to trickle back home to their lives. I’m afraid for what has to become our new normal. I’m afraid to be without you. When you were born I was still in shock and I was afraid to look, and for that, I’m sorry. You’re so beautiful. I’m grateful for the way you have changed me and the way I see life and people. I’m grateful for the hours we are able to hold you and touch your sweet face before they take you. I’m grateful that you were apart of our plan. I know your spirit is where you’re truly supposed to be. I know you’re surrounded with love and family in heaven. I’ll keep Daddy company and you do the same with your future brothers and sisters. Your spirit is sweet and we feel your peace. You’ll always be our baby boy. Until we meet again sweet baby. Love, your Mama.”
Shortly after writing this, we got a knock on the door. It was the man who was sent to get Ren. He said, ‘I’m John, I’m sorry for your loss, I’m here to take Ren back to the funeral home where he’ll be kept until he is taken to his autopsy in Seattle.’ We asked for a few more minutes to say our final goodbyes, which consisted of many, many tears, cuddles, and ‘I love you’s.’ When the time came, I couldn’t get myself to physically lay Ren in the box that would be used to transport him. I turned to Tommy and asked him if it was okay with him to do it. He agreed, but I could see his heart rip in two. As tears streamed down his face I could hear him whisper, ‘I’m sorry buddy’ as he laid him down. And just like that, Ren was gone.
Leaving the hospital empty-handed was very emotional. I tried hiding my face in Tommy’s chest on our way out because I was sobbing uncontrollably. We were supposed to be proud parents walking out with a new baby in his new car seat and in his brand new newborn outfit that we had pre-picked for him. That was where our journey with our sweet boy ended.
I hope that through me and by sharing Ren’s story I can help be an uplifting and supportive friend in many of other bereaved parents’ lives. Advice I would give is if you have experienced this or something similar, first and foremost you are loved, and you are not alone. You will make it even when you can’t see through even your darkest days. Something that completely changed my grief journey was reaching out to other mamas who understood. If you haven’t reached out yet, please do. Grief and happiness can coexist. It’s okay to feel fine one day and be a complete mess the next. Your feelings are 100% valid. Give yourself grace and don’t be afraid to share your story. You never know who it could help, but more importantly, it will help you heal. Speak their name and trust you are right where you’re supposed to be.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Toni Register of Sequim, Washington. You can follow her 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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