Every baby is special, every life is important, and every Mom wants to show off her baby. For those of us who lose our babies too soon, we don’t ever get to show them off and we rarely get to say their names or tell people about them. In our country, thousands of babies are stillborn every year, roughly one every twenty minutes. There are even more miscarriages. Here on my blog, I want to remember all of the lost babies and give their parents an opportunity to show them off. These Mamas are so proud of their babies and are going to share them with us here. We honor these little lives by acknowledging their presence with us, even if it was for a very short time. Do you know how these babies are loved? Do you know that each baby was cherished by their families, even if they left only after a few weeks? Do you know how these babies are missed every single day? Please pray for these families, who have to live every day without their precious children.
CONNER AND BENJAMIN SULLIVAN
I was a happy mama. I had an uncomplicated pregnancy, but that does not mean it was uneventful. I was sick for 16 weeks, and my baby boys were good eaters. I lost a lot of weight in the first trimester. I twisted my ovary (still the worst physical pain I’ve felt, including labor and childbirth). But, I was HAPPY. Little baby “A” and baby “B” were floating along in increasingly cramped quarters but were active little boys who I’m pretty sure would have made really great gymnasts or hockey players. I was trying to be diligent of their kicks and movements, waiting patiently for those butterfly kisses that everyone says that they feel. That is not what my boys gave me. Roll…roll…PLOP! They sure liked fighting for a prime piece of real estate. Even so, I could tell they were best friends. They reacted to each other’s movements and slept and woke at the same time. We even had an ultrasound where they were kicking away… and both stopped at the exact same moment. Two sleeping little babies, blissfully unaware of the world outside of the womb but aware of each other. I often imagined them plotting their escape together with every powerful kick. Two minions, eating their bananas (no joke), laughing hysterically at the fact that mama would have her hands full with two bouncing and somersaulting boys.
On Tuesday, January 7th, the day after my 29th birthday and the day after the boys turned 22 weeks old, I started feeling contractions. Here’s the thing though: who the HELL knows what a contraction feels like if you’ve never had them before? I didn’t. And no freaking way was I looking for signs of preterm labor this early. It was the start of the new year. Their due date wasn’t even until May 12. Chalking them up to round ligament pains, I slept through the night. And just to be clear: I am the type of woman who called the doctor’s office when I was pregnant when I was coughing. Twice. It never crossed my mind these were contractions. I watched Despicable Me 2 that night, laughing at the thought of my boys being curious little minions and wreaking havoc.
Wednesday, January 8th. I felt contractions through the day, but sporadically. Here’s what I know about contractions: the movies always show some poor sweaty woman threatening to kill her husband. Here’s what I felt: uncomfortable for five seconds.
But that night, the contractions starting getting closer together. My best friend urged me to call the doctor. Dr. D didn’t sound worried. “Let’s meet at the hospital, just in case.” No problem. I called my husband to come home from the FD, with a plan to make him get me a smoothie on the way home. We would be home, hop into bed, and laugh that I thought this was anything significant.
I was two centimeters dilated when we got to the hospital. They handed me a horse pill to stop the contractions, but less than an hour later I was at a full 10 centimeters. I had already been unnerved, trying to swallow the guilt of not coming in earlier or knowing what contractions felt like. The bitch of a resident OB told me that I had no cervix left and it was time to move me. That was all the information I got from her. Any questions I asked were promptly followed with, “Let’s wait until Dr. D gets here.” She was a robot. Absent of emotion or caring, she made me feel like a waste of her time. Was she insane? I was a mother on the brink of giving birth to her babies. No one had to tell me that they weren’t at the point of viability; I already knew. But in that moment, hormones crazy and the unacceptable happening, I wasn’t thinking clearly. Thank God my doctor was on his way. I found out later that he rushed to the hospital, scared he wouldn’t make it in time. How wrong we were…
They wheeled me into a labor and delivery room. Up until this point, I had been given almost zero information on what the hell was going on. Maybe, just maybe, there was hope. I could lay here, cervix open, until the babies were bigger and ready to come out. It’s 2014. They can do all kinds of crazy things that used to only exist in science fiction. But then, as I was being wheeled in, I glanced to my right and saw a baby warmer. FUCK THAT BABY WARMER. That stupid fucking baby warmer. I knew what that baby warmer meant: we were going to deliver my babies. I was hysterical. My husband tried to calm me down, and with the lack of information we had been given I think he was still holding on to hope, too. Here’s what I learned about emotion in that moment: it is completely possible to be numb to a situation due to shock, and still feel guilt, anger, and overwhelming sadness. When my doctor arrived, he looked distraught. He explained that I would probably deliver that night. My contractions were a steady at 2 minutes apart, I had dilated quickly, and nothing was going to stop it. At this point, the contractions were worse. Way worse. I was starting to feel like I would be one of those insane movie women. Did I want an epidural? There was a chance, he explained, that when I got the epidural that I could break my water. That was enough to bring clear my mind. I had to get it together. I was a mother. No epidural. I had to give these boys a chance.
Thursday, January 9th. No babies. I was still having contractions, this time every 3-5 minutes. But it seemed like my body had stalled. Dr. D was floored. He stayed all night, prepared to deliver. Dr. F (my other ob – the are partners in their practice), came in. He called the MFM in to talk to me, as they both believed I had an infection. At that point, I had “soft markers” for infection. It wasn’t until later that day that I started to get a fever, a high heart rate, low blood pressure, and an incredibly high white blood cell count. They both decided not to play God. I could tell they wanted to get our boys to 23 or 24 weeks. I did, however, finally give in for the epidural. I made Dr. F promise to stay outside the room in case my water broke. That stuff is liquid gold. Not only did it not cause my water to break, but it finally ceased to feel like a miniature world war was taking place in my belly.
My poor boys. I was so terrified of making my water break, I had stopped rubbing my belly. They loved it when I rubbed my belly. Whenever they were kicking away furiously, I would rub my belly and it would put them to sleep. I feel so guilty – they probably wanted their mommy’s comfort right then, but I just remember not wanting to move an inch in an effort to buy them more time. By this time, Tim and I had decided to name them Conner and Benjamin. I wasn’t going to have them be born baby “A” and baby “B.” The high risk ob, Dr. Z, came in. She explained their chances of survival. Hospitals consider 24 weeks to be viability. They have a chance of survival, but this is not without high risk for profound or severe disabilities. However, at this hospital they can save about 10% of babies at 23 weeks. Again – this is just a survival rate. This 10% can live with seizure disorders, never walk or talk, have cerebral palsy, be blind and/or deaf, require round the clock care… the list goes on. At 22 weeks, they have no chance. Most are too small for intubation. They would attempt to resuscitate them at our request, or we could swaddle them and make them comfortable and have them die in our arms.
To this day, I still have no idea how I was thinking so clearly. Maybe it was the same feeling I had when I initially denied the epidural, a motherly instinct. I just wanted to make them comfortable and let them pass, straight from my arms to Jesus. There would be no brain bleeds, no IVs in their head, no organ failure, no struggles to stay alive in an incubator. We knew if we requested that they try save them, it would only add, at most, days to their life. Those hours would be filled with pain, drugs, and isolation in a plastic world. And for what? So we could selfishly have more time with them? We could never do that to them. What if the intubation didn’t even work? We would have done ugly damage to their trachea and pained them for nothing. Dr. Z said, as a mother, she respected our decision. It was an easy decision for me, but also the most heartbreaking. I can’t look back at this without thinking that I gave up on my boys. I also think if we had made the decision to try to save them, I would regret that as well. I loved (love) my babies. They were and still are my whole world. I had to hand my babies over to God.
You would think that the thought of heaven would be reassuring or relieve some of my pain, but I have to say that on most days it doesn’t. It was not their time yet. They should have been brought home, stolen pacifiers from each other’s mouths, played with their fire trucks, gotten dirty in our backyard, gone to school, graduated, gotten married… they should have done all of those things before going to heaven. They were 22 weeks. Their eyes were still fused shut. They wouldn’t even have a chance to see the world around them for their short time here.
Friday, January 10th. 4:30 a.m. Baby B’s water started to leak, and the rest happened quickly. Our pastor arrived at 5:30 a.m. so that he could be there to baptize them. Contractions got stronger and closer together. I felt like I needed to push. By then, it was evident that I had an infection. The babies could not survive the infection, even if I could carry them a couple weeks longer. The decision was made jointly by Dr. Z and Dr. F that they needed to break Baby A’s water bag to deliver. Dr. F couldn’t even look in the eye when he told me that. I could tell it was breaking his heart to have to do this. We knew what the end result would be. I told the nurse I didn’t want my babies cleaned before she handed them to me. We didn’t know if we had minutes or hours with them, and I wasn’t going to let them take time to clean them if that was the only time we had with them. Then it was time to push. Our pastor cried. We cried. I think our doctor cried. The boys were born into a bright hospital room, full of crying people.
Conner Timothy was born at 11:27 a.m., weighing 1 pound 2 ounces and measuring at 11.5 inches. I cried at every push, knowing that every effort my body made to get them out into the world was the same energy that was bringing them closer to their deaths. Tim cried and told me he looked like me, sounding like a proud daddy. Conner came to me, swaddled and perfect. I know I told him he was perfect, beautiful, and the best 22 weeks of my life. I know I told him I loved him. I know I told him how sorry I was. He was baptized in my arms. And then it was time to hand him to Tim so that I could deliver his brother.
Benjamin Michael was born at 11:43 a.m., also weighing 1 pound 2 ounces and measuring at 11 inches. Tim laughed as he told me they looked exactly alike. It wasn’t until we looked at them side by side that we realized they looked nothing alike. Benjamin looked more like a mix of both of us. I told him all the same things I told Conner, making sure that they both felt equally loved. Benjamin was baptized, and I couldn’t help thinking that God better hear this prayer and come get my babies before they struggle or suffer. I delighted in the fact that I had two sons. I sound crazy, I know. I knew the circumstances. But there is no way to look at your children and feel anything but joy. I was so proud of them.
Conner and Benjamin both passed quietly. Tim was holding Benjamin, watching his heart beat slower and slower until it finally stopped. Benjamin passed first. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to him. The nurse took them over to that baby warmer that I hated so much to hear their heartbeats. Tim quietly came over to me and told me Benjamin was gone, but Conner was still with us. He handed Conner to me, and I sobbed quietly, then loudly, over his body. I didn’t want to know when he passed, so I didn’t watch his chest. I wanted to be saved of this agony. I silently asked God to take him before he suffered. Both of them had lived about 2 hours. The whole time, I worried about what they were feeling. Their nervous systems so immature, every source of stimuli probably overloaded their tiny bodies. They had taken a few breaths, and while it was incredible and beautiful to watch, I could not help but think how awful it was to take in such precious air only to be denied it immediately afterwards. Their skin was thin, and the warmth of the blankets were nowhere near as warm or as soft and soothing as the womb. The nurse and doctor said they were not suffering. I begged to differ.
Before they passed, Tim and I cradled our babies and told them how much they were loved. I may have said I’m sorry as many times and I said I love you. I stared at Benjamin’s beautiful face, thinking how much he reminded me of his father. His features were so well defined and delicate, with his little hand always reaching for his face and his head snuggled into his shoulder. I couldn’t bear to hand him to Tim, but I needed to spend time with Conner. Conner had made a couple of noises that sounded like hiccups. I wish I had a recording of this sound. It was beautiful: short and sweet, but it was probably a struggle for air. He stuck his little tongue out, almost in a playful manner. I had always worried with IVF that there might be an embryo mix up, but if Conner wasn’t my kid then I don’t know who else could be. My baby boys were so brave, so strong, and so handsome. Yes, every mother thinks their babies are the best looking babies in the world. But seriously, these boys deserve some sort of award.
Angel babies – we will meet again. Mommy can’t wait to hold you. Until then, may you never go a day without knowing my love for you.
Thank you to Krystal for sharing Conner and Benjamin’s story with us. Her writing is so vivid, I felt like I was there. Her boys sound like amazing little daredevils, full of energy and love. I imagine Lucy likes playing with them in heaven because they probably act a lot like her brothers on earth. I can’t imagine having to make such a heartbreaking decision of whether to try to keep them for several extra days with tons of medical intervention, or to let them pass peacefully in their Mommy’s arms. What a loving and selfless choice she made. Conner and Benjamin are lucky to have such a wonderful mother.
If you would like to share your baby’s story, just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org You can share whatever you want about your baby, and you don’t have to include your name if you don’t want to. Also, I think your baby is just as important if you lost him/her at 6 weeks or at 40 weeks. Even if you never knew the sex of your baby, you might have had names picked out, a due date and lots of hopes and dreams for that child. All of that is important and is welcome here.