Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Alexander's Story

The story of Alexander really began many years ago....

When Earl and I were newly married, we decided we wanted children.  10 months and 10 days after our wedding Anna was born and our parenting journey began.

When Anna turned 3 we thought a little brother or sister would be great for her.  It took a bit longer this time, but still, less than a year later along came Libby.

For a few years we felt we were complete.  And then one day, we realized someone was missing.  Since our babies came quickly and without complication, it was surprising to not have success after the first couple of months.  As more months and months passed, I was so very disappointed, and thought that maybe a third baby wasn't to be.  Just when I had about given up, a tiny sprout popped up with a big promise.  Gabriel was on his way!

We enjoyed sharing our news with the girls, and dreaming of what he would be like.  We discussed names, and picked out soft, blue baby things.  We talked about what his nursery would look like, and the girls practiced dressing baby dolls in his tiny sleepers.  We felt like we had won the lottery.  I thanked God daily and prayed only that Gabriel would be born healthy.

He wasn't. 

Just when everything seemed to be going so well and we were counting the days until our "big" ultrasound, he stopped moving.  Ultrasounds at two doctors' offices confirmed our worst nightmare: our baby boy's heart no longer beat.

 Mine was broken.

Going to the hospital to deliver a stillborn has to be one of the most heart wrenching events in life.  There is no joy, only fear and sadness. 

Gabriel's death remains somewhat of a mystery, but we were assured by doctors that it was a one time fluke, and for it to happen again would be like getting struck by lightening.  We were given options to decrease the chance of a fetal death reoccurring.  There was no reason to believe we couldn't go on to have a healthy baby if we wanted. 

And we wanted.

What I never understood about grief is that it is not just a state of mind.  It's a physical presence. It follows you through the day, and like a wave, can try to drown you when you least expect it.  Those first hours, then days, seemed to drag by in a blur of pain and tears.  "Milestone" days were hard.  Seeing other people go through pregnancy so easily was hardest.

One day at a time, we traveled through it.

And then one day in November we saw a rainbow.  A new beginning.  A new baby.

Instead of being happy, this time I was fearful.  The night before the first ultrasound I was convinced we would see no heartbeat.  But we did!  Seeing the little bean with a beautiful, beating heart was so overwhelming I cried.  My doctor saw how anxious I was and scheduled appointments every two weeks.  By the time our next ultrasound came our little bean had sprouted legs!  His presence got me through the dark days of Christmas, when I was missing Gabriel so much it hurt.

Two weeks after that my OB tried to listen with the Doppler for the first time.  We heard nothing.  A quick ultrasound showed a wiggling, perfectly formed little baby.  I think the entire office breathed a sigh of relief.

We opted for extra testing and had a meeting with the perinatologist (pregnancy specialist) for an in depth ultrasound at 13 weeks.  At this point, our bean had ten perfect fingers, ten perfect toes, and awed us by stretching and rolling and yawning.  The ultrasound tech guessed Bean was a boy, and the doctor pronounced him a "perfect fetus".

The weeks passed and with each one my heart healed just a bit more.  Our bean was healthy and active, and when I was feeling down, he'd give me little kicks and nudges to cheer me up.

Slowly, very slowly, I accepted Gabriel's death, and began to dream about this new little life.

It's an odd thing to mourn one child, while at the same time finding happiness in the life of another who wouldn't be if the first had been.

But there was still fear.  Every day, every moment.  We weren't ready to share our news yet.  Maybe when we passed "that day" - the day everything changed before.

IT was coming.  In just ten days IT would be here. 

I was trying to combat anxiety by really believing in our little rainbow.  We had booked an ultrasound to just watch our baby and confirm the tech's guess....and to tell the girls, who would be so very excited.

The day was only 4 days away.  Four days to count to see our bean again.

And then......I noticed our bean wasn't moving one afternoon. 

I was scared.

Just like Gabriel, I couldn't find the reassuring beat of his heart with my Doppler.

Just like Gabriel, our rainbow baby died.

Alexander Robert Smith was born still on Wednesday, February 20.

Unlike Gabriel, his death is not a mystery.  Our perfect, healthy, active boy had twisted his umbilical cord around his neck and arm 5 times, cutting off his supply of oxygen. 

We've been struck by lightening twice.

It was a rare occurrence, something like 1/5000 births and to have it happen 6 months after a previous second trimester loss is....unbearable.

This time my heart is not only broken, it's shattered. 

This time the pain is all consuming.  To just reach a place in accepting the death of Gabriel to this?  How can this be? 

This grief is an ocean and I don't have a life raft. 

I struggled with my faith after losing Gabriel.

Now I feel there is just no faith left.

I'm grateful to already have two healthy children, which I realize is more than what some people have. 

But my baby boys are gone, and so is a piece of me.