The following blog revolves around the day that we lost our son, Robert William. It is filled with raw, emotional recollections and probably not easy to read; but this is real and from my heart. These are the details of what happened on the day that forever redefined who I am.
I remember everything like it was yesterday, and I do mean everything. I remember the final exam I took that morning; I remember how many pages it was and what pencil I used. I remember every piece of clothing I was wearing, and I remember the moment that I felt and knew something wasn’t right. I remember the hot flash through my body and the incessant pain, the dizziness and disorientation, the couch I lied on while my professor called 911, and the ambulance ride to the hospital. I remember the worried looks on everyone’s faces – my husband, my parents, then the doctors. I remember staring at the screen of the ultrasound, seeing nothing and not understanding why, and the prayer that was said over me by the hospital chaplain while she held my hand. I remember the gray GAP sweatshirt that the doctor who saved my life was wearing when she ran into the room, and I remember her telling me that she was going to try to save my life. I remember, hardly audibly, asking her about the life of my unborn baby – and I remember her grim response when she said she was going to do everything she could – for me. I remember the oxygen mask, the anesthesia IV, the table (it was cold), the light, then the relief from the pain.
5 hours later: 4:00.
I knew him because I saw him, a little blue bundle safe in my grandpa’s arms. My grandpa was my best friend and I knew when I saw him that he was going to take care of my Robert William; he held him for me to see, but all I saw was a blue bundle and I felt incredibly safe knowing he had him.
Then I woke up. There was no confusion as to where I was or why I was there, and I remembered; but most importantly, I knew what I couldn’t have known before.
Seeing Jake in front of me as I opened my eyes was heartbreaking. His face was clearly the face of someone who had just been through hell, and all he could manage to say was “Do you remember? Do you know what happened?” He knew that this news would kill me. “I know, he’s gone” was my only reply. My mom came in, obviously a wreck, and I felt terrible. These people that I love were hysterical because of what had just happened to me, and it made me feel so bad for them. I looked at my mom and told her something I was too drugged to censor: “It’s okay, Mom. I saw him. He’s with Papaw, he’s safe.” I guess with emotions racing and the relief of my safe return to the world, no one thought anything of that remark. No one realized that I made that comment not having been told what the baby was.
People came in the room two at a time to visit – every one of their faces streamed with tears and I knew that what had happened must have been really bad. Jake had explained to me what the doctors had to do, how bad it was, and how close I came to dying – but it didn’t feel that way. I was still numb, and would continue to be for several days, both physically and mentally. So when family and close friends were holding my hand and telling me how grateful they were that I made it, I had no clue. Point A to point B, I knew what had happened: I didn’t feel good, I fainted, we went to the hospital, and I woke up with no baby. But it was like telling a blind person to decipher between colors – I couldn’t make sense of what had happened – or rather, why. All I ever wanted was to be pregnant and have children, to be a mom. It was gone, and never coming back, and I would never feel that joy again. I wanted to know everything, the why’s, the how’s, and the what-now’s.
Dr. Rollins came in to check on me in the ICU after family had a brief visit. I remember knowing her sweet face and feeling safe with her around me – it was a relief to see her. I knew she would have answers, even though I had hardly even met her. She saved my life – and witnessed Robert’s brief life – so she was my only lifeline to him and his memory. She gently checked my surgical site and then explained to me, medically, what happened. She said that my uterus had ruptured which is what caused me to faint and that the pain was caused by the internal bleeding; she said I lost over half of my blood. Robert William had grown in only half of a normal sized uterus – mine was a completely separated “bicornuate” uterus – a one in a million medical anomaly. When she performed surgery there was no way to repair the damage – which resulted in a partial hysterectomy. She explained that I still had my ovaries, and that it would be an option to have biological children through a surrogate carrier (gestational carrier).
I asked her what the baby was, since we had not gone to our appointment for the gender reveal yet, we hadn’t known. But I had forgotten what I had told Jake and my mom when I woke up an hour earlier – I knew it was a boy before I even asked, because I saw him. “Robert William” I said – looking at Jake. I could feel the sadness in the room and I couldn’t handle the reality of the situation – so I drifted off, and woke up sometime in the early hours of the next morning – Thursday.
Standing against the wall, deep in thought, Jake said “we’re going to start a foundation; we’re going to help people like us. No one should go through this. We’ll name it after him, Robert William”. I had no idea; Jake had researched on his phone everything Dr. Rollins had told him. He learned about IVF, gestational carriers, and adoption; along with the financial requirements for them all.
I was moved out of ICU and spent the rest of the week in a regular recovery room, closely monitored. I remained in my bed for most of the week, unable to so much as even lift my head; I had to relearn to eat, walk, everything. My body had shut down when everything happened, and so machines had breathed/fed/relieved my body for me. The last 3 days of my hospital stay I began taking a few steps, progressing towards walking down the hallway on our floor in order to be able to go home. The doctors and staff said they didn’t know how I was progressing and healing so quickly; some doctors even came by my room just to meet “the miracle girl” they called me. Jake and I grew close with the nursing staff at CMC University in the time I was there – you could feel the sympathetic heartbreak as soon as each nurse came into my room. Those women helped Jake and I (and the rest of my family) survive that week and for that, they are permanently on my prayer list.
Sunday – 12.18.11
Then the day came when I was released. The surgeons had estimated I would be there for at least 8 days in recovery, but my body had other plans. To be honest, I was terrified of going home; I would have rather stayed in the hospital another week. I didn’t want to go home to a brand new house we had just moved into with nothing. I didn’t want to see the baby things I had already received, the ultrasound picture on my dresser. The maternity clothes in the closet, the “What To Expect” book in our room. The room that was to be the nursery we had intended to paint over the next few weeks that now would remain empty. Everywhere I looked and everything I thought was painful. When we entered the house, my loving gymnastics studio family (Acrofitness) had transformed our house for us. Christmas decorations were up, rooms were unpacked and set, and our bedroom was transferred to the downstairs guest room because I wouldn’t be able to climb stairs for a month. Talk about love and Christmas spirit – we were being lifted up beyond anything we thought possible.
I knew I would smile again eventually. I also knew that we were loved and taken care of by a community filled with caring, compassionate, kind, thoughtful people. I knew that the foundation would grow from the same love that grew our Robert William. So here we are today, smiling through the pain we will always feel and know from the loss of our son, but hopeful for the future we’re blessed to have with Baby Liam. With every day that passes I think of Robert William; I’ve always heard that the love between a mother and child is something unlike anything else. This love, the love between a precious soul I didn’t meet physically but knew in those precious tragic moments – is indescribable, indefinable, sublime and perfect. I feel privileged and honored to have carried that angel and to have a permanent reminder on my body of his short life. This is our life – our path to walk, through the ups and downs – our path to parenthood – our journey.