I wrote this as a submission to Newsweek for their 'My Turn' column. I'm not surprised I never heard anything back. Not only am I not a professional writer, but who would want to publish an article or read an article on stillbirth?
I also published this as a note on my Facebook page. Again, I'm not surprised to have received no feedback. Who wants to read or think about stillbirth?
But October is our month too. The month where we try to raise awareness of the tragedy of loss during and right after pregnancy. Our month of remembrance.
A Life Not Measured
My son, Owen Christopher, died on November 5, 2007. He was born three days later. My husband and I had been married a little over two years when we found out I was pregnant. It wasn’t exactly the timeline we had in mind, but we were thrilled. During our anatomy scan in July, we got our first look at our tiny miracle. It was easy to see we weren’t having a little girl. Owen was so proud, so excited to show his daddy that he was a boy. We were ecstatic. The months passed quickly and soon we were just weeks away from bringing home our little boy.
Late one Monday night, four weeks before Owen’s due date, I noticed a change in movement. I was working full-time and there were so many things left to do before our little bundle arrived, but I distinctly remembered feeling him move that afternoon while at work. When I got home that evening, my husband and I went shopping for last minute baby items. I was less concerned with his movement as we busied ourselves around the apartment, having just put sheets decked out with cars and trains on his crib and finishing his laundry; little clothes, tiny onesies, blankets and hats.
Tuesday morning, I woke up in a full-blown panic. I knew something was wrong. Owen was always a big mover. He loved to push his tiny baby butt out and dig his heels into my ribs while I slept. Of course, Owen had scared me before this particular morning. I was told it was normal for babies to sleep for a period of time in the womb and that sometimes movement slows before labor. I figured he was doing what little boys did best: worrying mommy. I decided to do what all the books tell you. I drank cold water, ate blueberry oatmeal chased with cranberry juice and as soon as my doctor’s office opened, I made an appointment for that morning. After showering and dressing, I had calmed down. Not much, just a tiny flutter, but Owen had moved enough to quiet my fears. My husband, Chris, and I made our way to the doctor’s office. We talked excitedly about Owen and speculated that his change in activity might mean oncoming labor.
Fifteen minutes…fifteen heartbreaking minutes later, we knew he was gone.
There was no movement on the screen, no flutter of his heart beating. Silence and stillness, this is how I remember my son’s birth.
Owen was born November 8, 2007 at 11:08 in the morning. When the doctor laid him on my chest, a fragile little doll with pink skin and delicate fingers, I couldn’t help but smile. He was beautiful, perfect. We had been waiting eight long months for this day. The day we would finally meet our son, our firstborn, face to face.
It was supposed to be the happiest day of my life.
We left the hospital alone, while mothers all around us were nursing their new arrivals. Walking back into our apartment, the reality of his death hit me all over again. All of Owen’s things were gone; the crib we had spent hours putting together, his tiny baby clothes, books, and stuffed animals. Everything was gone. It was as if he never existed. The first few weeks after his death I woke up every morning with the devastating reality pounding me over and over again: my son was dead. Every time I instinctively reached down to touch my stomach, expecting to feel my child moving and living inside me, I was inundated with fresh waves of his absence. I wondered how I could go on living after my heart had been shattered into a million pieces.
It will be three years soon. Three years since Owen’s death and birth, but I can still feel the weight of him in my arms and smell his new baby smell. I remember the feel of his tiny fingers and toes, the soft skin of a newborn. His face, adorned with a tiny button nose and a dimple in his chin, is a carbon copy of my own.
His life is not something I can measure by birthday parties or growth charts. I have only a few pictures of him on the day he was born. His life, a mere 36 weeks in the womb, may not seem like much of a life to some, but I could not have loved him more if he had lived sixty years. To those of us who knew and loved him, he is special; an irreplaceable little boy whose life impacted and changed us.
Grief is complex, unpredictable and ever changing. It is a different creature for each of us who have experienced the loss of someone we love. I cannot pretend to be an expert, even of my own personal grief. I pass landmarks and places that look familiar but I am ever moving forward, albeit slowly sometimes.
Moving forward does not mean that the grief has lessened or that I have moved on. His life has changed me irrevocably and I can never forget him. I wouldn’t want to.