I remember standing in my bathroom with three pee-soaked sticks all saying I was pregnant. I turned around and puked in the toilet. Not from morning sickness but from pure shock.
My husband was at band practice. It felt like he was gone for eternity.
I was a wreck waiting for him to come home and had no idea how he would react to the news. I showed him the test, and he wrapped his arms around me and said, “We’ll do this together.” And we did.
All nine months of our pregnancy were perfect. At 20 weeks we found out we were expecting a boy.
At 37 weeks, my legs were in stirrups and my son was well on his way. I remember nurses surrounding me in the hospital, attaching wires to my tummy. I was so far along that every single touch to my stomach hurt. After fussing around for what felt like days, our son’s heartbeat popped up on the screen. “Everything looks good, are you ready?”
“Get this fucking kid out of me already,” I replied.
After four hours of straight pushing, the moment was about to happen. I remember the doctor telling me this was the last push. I had my eyes closed and was putting all my energy into that last push. I remember screaming to get through it.
Once his body escaped mine, I let out the biggest sigh of relief. Maybe even a chuckle to boot. I didn’t have a care in the world — my boy was out and the deep pressure of his body was lifted from me.
It took me several moments to realize he wasn’t crying. After a few seconds, I looked over to my husband, who had tears pouring down his face.
Our son was stillborn.
All our excitement and happiness was replaced with grief and anger. The next day we left the hospital empty handed and broken-hearted.
We opted to have an autopsy done. Results showed nothing. The heartbeat they were monitoring during our delivery was mine.
For the next few weeks, we walked the earth as zombies, numb to everything. The nursery was emptied and the contents shoved in a closet. We picked up his ashes that were the size of a ring box.
Sympathy cards trickled in, yet no one wanted to call us to see how we were doing. No one knew what to do. We didn’t know what to do.
Everything just hurt. Leaving the house hurt. It seemed like everywhere we went pregnant women were stalking us.
Once at the grocery store, a lady with two young children and one on the way was screaming and cussing at her son, who wanted a pack of gum. It took everything I had not to say, “Bitch, I hope your baby dies. You don’t deserve another one.” Instead I bought the pack of gum for her son.
Anger always gets the best of me, even now. I find myself judging others mothers and asking why this happened to me and not them. Was it karma? Did I tell one too many dead baby jokes? None of my questions had answers.
One year later, we're all in a much different place. Saturday is my son’s first birthday. And while there will be cake, balloons and maybe a card or two, the birthday boy himself will be missing. We still have to find a way to celebrate his existence.
We still struggle with grief, and there are so many firsts beyond his first birthday we'll never experience. We never heard his first cry, changed his first diaper, saw his first smile or first steps or find out what his first word would have been. He'll never have a first love or first kiss. He was our first child, and he's gone forever.
Pregnancy and infant loss happens to tens of thousands of families a year. We're just another number at this point, but it’s my job as a mother to keep my son’s legacy alive. He changed my life, and I wanted to do something beautiful in his honor.
And so after networking with other babylost parents, Grieve Out Loud was conceived — my new baby.
Grieve Out Loud is a pregnancy and infant loss support organization. Our pen-pal program matches mothers and fathers together that share similar loss(es) such as miscarriage, stillbirth, loss of multiples, SIDS and genetic disorders. I also put together care packages for families dealing with loss.
While nothing we say or do will bring our son back, helping others helps us. My husband and I hope to one day try again, but for now we're just trying to enjoy life and spread the word of Grieve Out Loud.
In loving memory of Evel McAnary, stillborn on Sept. 18, 2009.
CONTACT JULIE MCANARY: firstname.lastname@example.org