“I will never forget the moment your heart stopped and mine kept beating.” Angela Miller
I’d like to start by telling you a story. I want to tell you how it all began. Not with a death, but with a birth. A silent birth. He didn’t cry.
It was 2011, the month of August. Nineteen and a half weeks pregnant, I didn’t blink much when the bleeding first started. This is normal, I told myself. I’d bled plenty during my first pregnancy, and when all was said and done, had given birth to a happy, healthy baby boy.
But I think I paused–sharply?–when the cramps came. Wait…let me rephrase that. I meant, when the contractions came. Because I didn’t know that they were contractions. My first son, Julian, had been born by cesarean section, two weeks before he was due. I’d had no contractions before his birth, had no perceptions of what they even felt like, although, despite my fierce denial, I should have known what was happening when my “cramps” left me in a painful heap on the floor.
Fast forward to his birth, to his life: forty-eight minutes, to be exact. It was a life that, in my eyes, fought to stay. His legs kicked, his arms reached, his forehead wrinkled, and his tiny heart continued to beat for forty-eight unbroken minutes, all while we gently held him and watched. Because that was all that we could do, watch…and love. The ache I felt as his inevitable end grew near was unrecognizable to me, yet even then, somehow, I knew in my heart that we were…lucky. Lucky to have been given that time. Lucky to have had those fleeting forty-eight minutes to soak up every single detail of him. Because most parents who lose their children at birth have little to none.
It was the silence in the hospital room that night that most haunted me, the absence of noise, the ability to “hear a pin drop.” Nothing had ever prepared me for that shock. No one had warned me that because my son was coming too early, that he wouldn’t have the ability to cry. No one had told me that I would never hear my child “speak.”
Except that I did hear a child speak.
My first son, Julian, age three at the time of his brother’s birth. It was his beautiful sweet voice, saying…
He spoke tenderly, not yet knowing nor understanding that his new baby brother, Gabriel, was dead. Then, as my heart broke even further, I watched as Julian reached out to touch Gabriel’s cheek. “Hello,” he said, with a shy smile.
And I remember silently screaming…Why!!! I remember thinking, feeling, living and breathing the question “Why?” every single moment of every day and night for, God only knows how long, until I was finally too numb, too tired, too dead inside myself to question anything, anymore.
And that was the moment…maybe that was the moment, when I started to heal.
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