I shrieked. I shrieked so loud that I startled my husband Brian, who was sitting in the next room enjoying his New Year’s tradition of watching “The Twilight Zone” marathon. I didn’t mean to be so loud, but as I stared at the stick, I could barely contain my excitement.
I exited the bathroom quickly and assured Brian all was okay. No, I didn’t spot a mouse, I reassured him. I was having a baby! We were having a baby. We waited so long for this moment.
Brian and I had been married for over three years. We didn’t want to start a family right away. At 34 and 39 years old, we weren’t exactly youngins. However, we wanted to have all of our “ducks in a row” first. Home ownership and job security were just two of the goals that we sought to accomplish. Regardless, we knew that the clock was ticking. We knew that we couldn’t wait forever. It was time.
We were blessed.
I almost felt too blessed. By the time my first trimester was over, I was feeling great. Everything looked good and I had no morning sickness. What else could I really ask for? The next step in our journey was to find out the baby’s gender. I couldn’t wait.
It was April 29, 2008 – a date that will be engraved in my mind forever. For weeks and days before, I entertained myself during daily commutes with a countdown. I stared religiously at my cell phone calendar. At last, I didn’t have to wait any longer. The day was finally here.
The plan was for Brian to pick me up after work and we would go for the anatomy scan. Secretly, I didn’t need a test to tell me what I already suspected: We would be having a boy. I knew it. I could just feel it.
While on the table, I became agitated. Brian was late, as usual.
It wasn’t his fault, though. Parking in NYC is always tough. When he finally walked in, all was forgiven. He even had his lucky green tie on, which was a nice touch.
“Your baby likes to hide,” the sono tech said right before she ran right out of the room. She mentioned something about getting the doctor to “take a look at something.”
There was something wrong. I just knew.
“I think I found something wrong with the baby’s heart.”
Those words would haunt me forever.
After a visit with a pediatric cardiologist, Brian and I went home in complete and utter shock. I never in a million years thought this could happen to my baby. However, I was right about one thing.
We were having a boy.
The heart defect was called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and it was serious. In a nutshell, our baby’s left ventricle was severely underdeveloped. There was no cure. He would need three palliative surgeries and eventually a heart transplant.
In the days that followed, I began to blame myself. The doctors didn’t know a great deal about the cause but they did know it had a genetic link. I tortured myself in trying to find out the real cause. I had many theories. One of them was the age factor. Should we have waited so long? Did our selfish decision result in a horrible birth defect?
The pre-birth guilt was nothing compared to the pain that I would feel after. On September 8, 2008, I gave birth to Liam. They took him right away to the NICU. I was absolutely shattered.
A baby full of tubes, lots of hand sanitizer, and the unnerving sound of machines. That was life in the NICU.
I kept a vigil with my baby for that first week. I couldn’t believe the nightmare I was living. Mostly, I couldn’t believe the nightmare Liam was living. My own heart felt as if it was being ripped out piece by piece.
He was doing well, they said. In a few days he would be coming home.
He never did.
The pain of losing a child is unfathomable. I felt as if I was living in my own personal hell. I didn’t think I wanted to go on.
I wanted to die.
In the months that followed, Brian and I kept vigil at the cemetery. It was the only way that we were able to spend time with our newborn baby.
We also met other bereaved parents at both support groups and the cemetery. Some of them went on to have other children. Moving on was the farthest thing on my mind. How did they?
Around the holidays, we spotted two parents at a grave. They had another child with them. Their angel had a little brother: a rainbow baby. I looked at Brian and cried. I immediately knew what our next move was to be: We would have another child.
This time, we weren’t waiting.
11 months later our tears would turn to joy upon the arrival of our baby girl. Two and a half years later, another boy would join her. We were blessed yet again.
In the age of parenting on social media, there are a few questions that seem to come up in mommy groups the most frequently:
“How old were you when you had your first?”
“How old were you when you had your last?”
“I am over 35 and pregnant, should I be worried?”
It will always be a touchy subject for some moms.
At this point in my life, I take nothing personally. I don’t question. I don’t engage in debate.
Most of all, I don’t blame myself for waiting.
The reality is that what happened was not our fault. It didn’t have anything to do with age, ethnic background, or anything else.
Brian and I just happened to get unlucky. In meeting other grieving families, we realized that we were not alone.
My experiences, even the painful ones, have brought me exactly to where I want to be in my life. I have a loving husband and three beautiful children.
I have learned to live with the heartache of a bereaved mom.
That doesn’t mean that it is easy now. At almost nine years later, it never will be.
My living children are fully aware that they have an older brother. Sometimes they get angry. Other times, they are sad. I realize that all those emotions are normal.
Not that it ever will bring my son back. However, he does live in my heart and soul.
I am so grateful that I was chosen to be his mother.