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stillbirth

Giving Birth to My Stillborn Son at 40 Weeks Is the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

hospital bed

Like many pregnant women, I received a positive pregnancy test, developed some food aversions, and nausea. I traded my regular clothes for maternity. Like many pregnant women, I gained some weight and had a relatively unremarkable pregnancy. I was fortunate enough to make it to my due date at 40 weeks. Like many pregnant women, I packed up my bag and headed to the hospital to deliver my baby. And that is where my story changes. I am no longer like many pregnant women.

On March 14, 2016, I went to the hospital to deliver our baby. That morning, we installed the car seat and put together our stroller. We were so excited for our new arrival. I put on a hospital gown, sat down on the delivery bed, and waited patiently for the nurse to hook me up to many machines. She placed a device on my stomach in order to monitor the heartbeat of our baby.

It took her a while to detect the heartbeat. I thought she didn’t know what she was doing. I prayed that she didn’t know what she was doing. Then, she brought in an ultrasound machine to confirm my worst nightmare, something that I thought was impossible to happen at 40 weeks—something that I never heard of happening so late in a pregnancy.

“There’s no more heartbeat.”

“How can that be?” “This can’t be happening!” “We were just here two days ago for an ultrasound and everything was fine!” “I feel fine!” “How is this happening?”

I didn’t cry. I was in complete and utter shock. I kept screaming, “This can’t be happening.” I recognized that I would need to deliver the baby, and pleaded for a C-section, because undergoing a vaginal delivery under such grief, pain, and shock seemed nothing short of impossible. The doctor quickly persuaded me, explaining that I have to think about the future and having a regular delivery was the best option.

For the first time in my life, I really thought that I was going to die. Between all the pain, shock and delivery, it just seemed to make sense that I would die along with my baby that day.

Several hours later, I gave birth to a beautiful, yet lifeless, baby boy. We did not know the gender before, so finding out at the delivery was incredibly emotional. In an instant, all of the dreams that we had for our son disappeared. Prior to delivery, the nurse asked if we would like to see or hold our baby.

I was so scared to hold a baby who was no longer breathing. My husband Ariel was strong enough to recognize that our baby needed us. He needed to be held and kissed like any other baby. So we made the decision to spend some time with our beautiful baby boy.

Ariel was the first person to hold him. He sang to him, hugged him, and kissed him. I think he gave our baby more love in those few short hours we had with him than some children receive in a lifetime. I held him too. I was scared and still heavily medicated. I tried my best to love him. It was a surreal experience.

Our baby was born still, yet still born. It was so emotionally overwhelming to meet the baby that had been kicking inside me, living inside me, breathing inside me, now all of a sudden so lifeless. We took pictures of him so that we would never forget his beautiful face. The hospital provided us with a memory box, in which they put pictures, his footprints, and garments. That’s all we have left of him, memories in a box.

box

Sometime during our hospital visit, the doctor came in to tell us that the death certificate would be easier to fill out if we had a name for our baby. It didn’t take us too long to come up with a name, as that is all we thought about for nine months. That coming Shabbas, we were to read Parshat Zachor. How appropriate would it be to name him Zacharia? The meaning “God remembers.” So we named him Zacharia and refer to him as Zachary.

The weeks following our delivery through the present day, I have been grieving. Grieving for the baby I have lost, grieving for the milestones that would no longer be, grieving for the dreams that we had for our baby. I have learned that grief will come, and grief will go. I have learned that there are many different “triggers” throughout the day that may catch me by surprise. Sometimes, it’s a Vista stroller, another baby boy, or a pregnant belly. Depending on the day, these can all be triggers. What’s really difficult about grief is that you don’t necessarily know when or how it will strike.

Since our loss, I have read many books and essays from others who have suffered from loss. Through my reading, I’ve learned that time heals. I’ve learned that there is no way around grief. You need to stare it in the face and work through it; the only way around it, is through it. One person wrote something that really stuck with me, “The quality of your grief will determine the quality of your life.” I have tried my best to be patient with myself and recognize that time will heal, and an event like this requires an immense amount of time in order to heal.

So what can you take away from my experience? How should you respond to pregnancy loss or any other type of loss? Should you ignore it? Pretend that my Zachary never existed? Pretend my baby simply disappeared? Should you assume we don’t want to talk about it?

All we ask is that you acknowledge our baby and the life that we lost. Send a message every now and then to let us know that you are thinking about us. Even though we are back to our routines, when the pain hits, it hits hard since it is still so raw. We ask that if you know someone who went through a pregnancy loss, reach out to them. They may not respond, but will surely appreciate the message.

I don’t know why God chose for this to happen to us. I will never know the reason. What I do know is that we will move forward with Zachary in our heart always.


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