“There is a very distinct sound the world makes when it comes crashing down. It is an all-encompassing, deafening sound. I was unfortunate enough to experience this firsthand on May 7, 2017.
I will never forget that day for as long as I live. At 33 and a half weeks, my water had broken. Due to complications with the baby, they wanted to keep me pregnant as long as possible. After being in labor for over 48 hours, my doctor came in to check on me. I kept telling her the contractions were getting worse and more unbearable than they had been. It was just the doctor, nurse, and I in the room. I remember my doctor’s face as she quietly said to the nurse, ‘We’re at five! We’re going now!’ My baby was breech. She said she was feeling an arm or leg and they needed to get me to the OR quickly. That was the moment I had my meltdown. It was too soon. She wasn’t ready. Up until this point, she was safe with me. I knew after this moment, I could not protect her anymore.
To back up a bit, we received the news at 18 weeks our baby had some very serious complications. Our doctors weren’t sure she if would survive after birth. There was a lot of information thrown at us and diagnostic testing done. Nothing but worry ensued after getting the initial diagnosis: ‘not compatible with life.’ Our baby had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CHD) and a lung lesion (CPAM). As scary and devastating as this news was to us, we decided to continue on with the pregnancy normally, whatever normal was at that point. We had struggled to get to this point. After two miscarriages and having to go through fertility treatments to finally get pregnant, terminating this pregnancy was not even a considerable option for us. Regardless of the diagnosis or outcome, we wanted to meet our baby.
I remember being in the operating room just before delivery, literally shaking because of the terror and nerves. I had to believe I had done everything I could to protect her. Now it was out of my hands. I could not take my eyes off my husband, who was eagerly standing next to me, watching every step the doctors were taking. Was he scared? He seemed so calm. I was desperately trying to read his face to get some kind of information about what was going on. Then finally it happened. The smile that I will never forget. He looked at me and said, ‘She’s here!’
The next few hours were a blur. After surgery, they took me to recovery, and we waited for the neonatologist to come and update us on Natalia’s condition. He had said in the OR it wasn’t good and he wanted to get her to the NICU as quickly as possible to assess her condition. He would come to update us as soon as he could. He came in and I could tell by his demeanor, it was not the news we wanted to hear. He said she was just too sick. He suggested we just spend all the time we could with her, love her, and keep her with us. She could have been transported to the children’s hospital, but he did not think she would survive to make it back to us. We had to make the most difficult decision any parent — any human being for that matter — should ever have to make. We decided we would just hold her, hold her as long as we could.
I was back in my room after surgery. We had asked our family to be with us. I vividly remember the doctor walking into the room with Natalia. He placed her in my arms and every piece of my being fell completely in love with this tiny human. She was my baby, my daughter, and she was the most perfect thing I have ever seen. How could it be possible they were telling us we would lose her?
I was in a complete trance. I was lost in her. I could only stare at her. I was in awe of her perfection. How could I have made something so beautiful and perfect? I couldn’t even believe she was mine. I was so overwhelmed with emotion, with love. My husband has described it as the best and worst day of our lives. We held her for hours. It was important for us to allow our family time with Natalia as well. Man, the sight of seeing my family hold my baby was pretty amazing. To see the love they had for her. Then there was my husband. I thought I loved him before, and then I saw him holding our baby. I had so much love for him at that moment, it physically hurt. The way he looked at her and smiled is something I will NEVER forget.
We knew our time with her was very limited. It was all a blur to me. I can’t remember all of the things I said to her. I just know I kept kissing her and breathing in her sweet newborn smell. I kept telling her how much I loved her. I thanked her for choosing me. There is something I will forever want more of: time. People I have talked to who have gone through this have said there is never enough time. Truer words have never been spoken.
I knew at some point I would have to give her up. How do you ask a mother to do that? How do you ask me to give up my baby? I remember telling my husband I could not give her up. I didn’t want to. I just couldn’t. I told him he was going to have to take her from me because there wasn’t one part of my being that could just give her away, knowing I would never hold her again.
I am broken. Completely broken. My faith has been tested. My heart is in a million pieces, and it will never be put back the same way ever again. The next few days were as to be expected. It was nice to have the company of family and friends, but every second I was falling apart.
I knew the time was coming when they would send us home. I would be leaving the hospital but without my baby girl. That was something I could not wrap my head around. Even though the doctors had told us throughout the pregnancy this would be a possibility, nothing had prepared me for the heartache I was feeling. I had already imagined life with Natalia. I had hopes and dreams for her. Things we would do together, watching her grow, seeing her play with her cousins. All of that was now gone, and I was left with a broken heart. She would never hear me say her name. I would never hear her giggle or listen to her cry. I would never hear her voice or watch her play sports. Never see her graduate, get married, or become a mother herself. Instead, I was left to put the pieces of my heart back together and figure out how to continue on with our lives.
It has been 5 months. 153 days. Not one day has gotten any easier. I think of Natalia most of each day. I see babies who are the same age she would be. I see things they are doing and I long to hold my baby, to kiss her and tell her I love her. I long to have baby blankets, diapers, and all the ‘baby clutter’ fill my house. Instead, we have a nursery that’s not quite finished, a stuffed animal on our bed, and a drawer full of memories.
I’m not quite sure if I have completely come to terms with the loss of our child. Every day, I wake up and continue to try to move forward. Some days are better than others, and some days I completely fall apart. I was told my life from now on would be like the ocean. I will have days the waves will be constant and so strong, I won’t be able to stay afloat. As the years go by, the waves will get further and further apart. I will eventually be able to stand on my two feet.
So where do we go from here? I have to take comfort in many things. I will forever have Natalia as my angel. I know she will be in good hands because there are so many people who were there to welcome her with open arms. I will be forever grateful to Natalia because from that day forward, she changed my life… she made me a mother. We will have to continue on, continue to say her name, think of her often, and figure out how our lives will move forward. Things will be different. My entire being is different. From now on I will have stretch marks on my hips, a scar on my belly, and the most giant hole in my heart.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bernadette Wise. 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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