Today, thirteen years ago, my husband and I had a really hard day. On October 23, 2000, I delivered our son, Ethan Joshua, who was stillborn. We were newlyweds and had only been married 13 months. It was the hardest day of our marriage. Ever.
At my standard 20 week check up, we found out that our first child together was going to be really ill. He had a congenital birth defect that was going to be really hard to overcome. Our main obgyn had recommended for us to terminate the pregnancy. I knew there had to be more options. With the Internet becoming more prolific in people's homes, I went to my friend's house and got to work. I found a specialist in Florida, Dr. Kays at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Repairing our son's condition was his specialty and he had a great success rate.
My husband and I flew to Florida within a few weeks to meet with him and his team. They were amazing. Informative and compassionate, they helped us to navigate their facility and to mentally prepare, as best we could, our new reality. We left there feeling a lot of hope.
On Friday, October 21, I took a nap. The house was quiet. Ethan was tossing in my womb and I felt a really large kick. I fell asleep, and awoke refreshed. The next day while at a family party, I realized I hadn't felt Ethan move since my nap the day before. We called our doctor, went for an emergency ultrasound and were told the devastating news that our son had died at 32 weeks. We went home feeling numb and defeated. We had to get Alex and Alayna situated so we could stay at the hospital for the induction process. We stopped for breakfast and all I could think of was how good a blood Mary would taste but I knew how it would look and I could not deal with any confrontation at that point.
At the hospital the series of events sound almost comedic had the situation not been so tragic. We had an awful nurse who got into a screaming match with my husband. I almost died from a complication with pain medication. Also, the pain and trauma from the induction medication was horrendous. And I still had to deliver our son.
After eight hours of labor, I delivered our son in a relatively quiet and dark room. I remember how perfect he looked. My husband had the foresight to bring his film SLR. Those photographs are the most precious things I own. Without them I would not have realized how small he was and how much Abigail, our youngest daughter, resembles him. I keep them in a box with a pair of booties, a small hat and a blanket volunteers made to comfort families like mine. Parents that will always mourn. His hat still smells like his sweet head.
When it was finally time to release his small body, when I could see him no more, I remember feeling low, like I could crawl inside myself. I wanted the whole world to go away and just let us mourn in peace. Our family, both related and from church were amazingly supportive. They respected our space when I needed to be alone with my husband and children. I don't think I've ever thanked them for that. If you are one of those people, please know that your friendship and understanding are a huge contributing factor to what got us through this.
We had a small funeral for Ethan with our family and congregation and buried him at Randhill Cemetery in Arlington Heights. My father-in-law took care of procuring his space. For that, I am eternally grateful. It took me 5 years to buy his headstone. I just couldn't come to terms with it.
The first few years after Ethan's death were really hard on our marriage. My husband had received some bad and antiquated counsel about protecting me, the delicate vessel, and not over share his feelings and/or struggles with me. This was terrible advice and drove a wedge between us. There was this unspoken angst that didn't get handled for a long time. I'm glad we are so much better.
Today, like every October 23 lately, we went to say hi to Ethan and to let his spirit know that we remember him. He rests under a beautiful oak tree and even though it was chilly today, my kids were so great to let me stay and cry as long as I needed. He would have been a teenager today.
This is a loss that will always be with me. The pain has softened over time, but it will never leave me. It's amazing to me the people whom I have met that know my sorrow. Losing a child, at any age, is a something no parent should ever have to bear, but I think experiencing that loss has shaped me into the parent I am today. I am so thankful for my amazingly awesome, cantankerous, opinionated, self-reliant, healthy children and my husband, who while hiding his own pain, helped me through mine.